Next to Virginia, the state of Ohio has provided the most Presidents of the United States. Numerous historical studies have attempted to place value upon the ‘successes’ of past Presidents, based on certain criteria. While it is most likely impossible to develop a streamlined, impartial analytical process for valuating Presidents, studies have shown that Ohio-born presidents rated as ‘lower’ than Virginia-born.
In his biographical piece Buckeye Presidents: Ohioans in the White House, Philip Weeks explains how each of the Buckeye Presidents was influential in the transformation of the United States from a rural and farming nation, to an industrial powerhouse. This paper will briefly discuss four Presidents that made their mark in United States history. Ulysses S. Grant was originally born Hiram Ulysses Grant in the small rural town of Point Pleasant in 1822. Son of a tanner, Grant grew up in the fields of manual labor before joining the United States Army at the West Point Academy when he was 17 years old.
He performed moderately well at West Point, ranking 21 out of 39 in his graduating class. Grant served in the Mexican-American War before retiring to pursue a life of commerce. For the next seven years, Grant would try his hand at farming, real estate and eventually returning to his father’s roots to become an assistant tanner. In 1861 however, Grant was summoned by the Governor of Ohio to lead the Illinois army into battle against the Confederacy in the Civil War. Grant was quickly promoted from Captain to General with each Fort that he defeated.
During and after the Civil War, Grant was heralded as a hero and military strategist. He was soon granted the title of General of the Army. Even without having any political experience, the Republican Party offered Grant a bid to be the presidential candidate for the 1868 Presidential election. Grant successfully won the bid for the 1869 presidency and served two whole terms. Grant’s presidency was riddled with tax related scandals. However, Grant was able to establish the United States as an international presence by opposing the wrath of the Roman Catholic Church and its Pope Pious in the Edgardo Mortara situation.
Although Grant spent most of his presidency deflected Cabinet-related scandals, he was able to begin reconstruction of a destroyed nation in the Confederacy. After his presidency, Grant would travel the world and participate in various entrepreneurial ventures. He passed away of throat cancer in 1885, but not before opening the first free municipal library in England and publishing an autobiography. In 1865, Warren G. Harding was born at the local infirmary in Corsica. Like Grant, he group up with rural roots.
In contrast, Harding was a gifted writer, resuscitating an old town newspaper company that he bought in a matter of a few months. After attending college, Harding pursued state politics, winning a seat as a State Senator, serving as Lieutenant Governor and losing a close election for Governor. The Republican Party awarded Harding with the Presidential bid for the 1920 election, which he won in an embarrassing landslide. Like Grant, Harding had surrounded himself with power-hungry bureaucrats that shattered his “Return to Normalcy” image.
In an effort to scale down the Woodrow Wilson era of public administrative policies, Harding made large attempts to removed massive federal spending. Unfortunately, Harding wasn’t remembered for reviving a depressed economy. He is more remembered for his weakness to act against the staffers that took advantage of their station of power. Before Harding was able to go public with the Cabinet scandals, he died of a heart attack in 1923 after a continental tour of the United States. William McKinley was born in 1843 in Niles to a large family with seven brothers and sisters.
After the Civil War, McKinley attended law school, practiced in Canton and went on to pursue a life in politics in his early 30’s. McKinley served nearly two decades in the House of Representatives and one term as Ohio governor. In 1896, on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution, the Republican Party gave McKinley the opportunity to win the Presidency. McKinley defeated the Democratic candidate in a historical landslide. McKinley’s legacy is well known because of his foreign policy. He was a strong advocate of protecting the wealth and interests of the United States, developing a tariff system that would surpass any in history.
McKinley was also a supporter of the gold standard, and eliminating the production of silver as a form of currency. While his financial initiatives were aggressive, McKinley will be remembered as being the President during the Spanish-American War. He battled constantly with the Cabinet to stay isolated from any international incidents. However, the United States became involved in the war, sparking the first American entry into an international skirmish. While the United States obtained Hawaii, the Philippines, Guam and Cuba, unrest was frequent.
McKinley also sent troops to China to quell the Boxer Rebellion and was the author of the controversial Open Door policy. McKinley’s family life was tragic and shaky. His wife developed epilepsy and mandated that she never leave his side during presidential business. In 1901 at the Pan American Exposition, William McKinley was shot and he died eight days later of blood poisoning. William H. Taft was born in Cincinnati in 1857. Son of an affluent and educated family, Taft engaged in an easy and simple childhood, only to be met with a few minor instances such as a mild case of typhoid and severe sun burns on hot sunny days.
Taft pursued his education in law at Yale University before moving up the state and federal judicial ranks. Eventually he was summoned by President McKinley to implement a democratic government in the Philippines and later to serve as Secretary of War to President Roosevelt. He was given the Republican bid to the Presidency to succeed Roosevelt. For all intents and purposes, he mirrored his successor in all facets of policy. In an effort to regulate monopolies, Taft implemented anti-trust procedures and streamlined the federal postal system.
Taft lacked the political savvy of President Roosevelt and McKinley, but was able to establish some consistent legal-related policies that still affect the judicial system today. The four presidents in this brief paper not only have Ohio in common. Each has served to shape the United States in specific ways. It can be argued that some of these presidents have failed image-wise to protect their legacy, Grant, Harding, McKinley and Taft all implemented policies and took actions that would forever change the country that they served. References Weeks, Philip 2003. Buckeye Presidents: Ohioans in the White House. Kent: Kent State University Press.