The Last Words and Final Moments of 38 Presidents
Although watching your teenage cousin duct tape firecrackers together is always a sure-fire way to hold your attention, allow us to suggest another form of Fourth of July entertainment.
While they’re enjoying the delicious taste of potato salad and freedom, regale your fellow revelers with the last utterances of our Commanders in Chief. Some are eloquent quotes worthy of the holders of the highest office in the nation, and others... aren’t.
1. George Washington
2. John Adams
"Thomas Jefferson survives." What Adams didn't know was that Jefferson had actually passed away several hours earlier.
3. Thomas Jefferson
His last recorded words are "No, doctor, nothing more," but the three people present at the time of his death all noted that he either stated or asked about the date shortly before his death. The date: July Fourth, of course. History likes to remember him as closing out his time on earth with this fitting speech: “Is it the Fourth? I resign my spirit to God, my daughter, and my country.”
4. James Madison
“Nothing more than a change of mind, my dear.” It was his response when one of his nieces asked him “What is the matter?”
5. James Monroe
“I regret that I should leave this world without again beholding him”—"him” being James Madison, one of his best friends.
6. John Quincy Adams
“This is the last of earth. I am content.” JQA actually had a stroke on the floor of the House of Representatives and died in the Speaker's Room in the Capitol Building.
7. Andrew Jackson
“I hope to meet each of you in heaven. Be good, children, all of you, and strive to be ready when the change comes.”
8. Martin Van Buren
“There is but one reliance.”
9. William Henry Harrison
Spoken to Veep John Tyler: “I understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more.”
10. John Tyler
“Perhaps it is best.”
11. James K. Polk
“I love you, Sarah. For all eternity, I love you.” Sarah, as you might have already assumed, was his wife. Sarah lived for another 42 years.
12. Zachary Taylor
“I regret nothing, but I am sorry to leave my friends.” I bet what he really meant was, “I regret nothing, except for snacking on those cherries.”
13. Millard Fillmore
“The nourishment is palatable.” He was commenting about some soup he had just been fed. By the way, does Fillmore look particularly attractive to you? Queen Victoria once said he was the most handsome man she had ever laid eyes upon.
14. Franklin Pierce
No last words seem to have been recorded for Pierce, though given his tragic life, perhaps they were words of relief that it was finally ending. In lieu of Franklin Pierce, I give you Ben Franklin's final words: "A dying man can do nothing easy,” he said, after his daughter asked him to change positions in bed.
15. James Buchanan
“Oh, Lord God Almighty, as thou wilt!”
16. Abraham Lincoln
“She won’t think anything about it.” His remark was to his wife, who was wondering what their female theater companion would think if she saw Mary Todd "hanging" on her husband so.
17. Andrew Johnson
“Oh, do not cry. Be good children and we shall meet in heaven.” Rather similar to Andrew Jackson's last words, aren't they?
18. Ulysses S. Grant
“Water.” Grant was suffering from throat cancer and couldn't speak much, but he did write something more poignant shortly before his death: "There was never one more willing to go than I am."
19. Rutherford B. Hayes
“I know I am going where Lucy is.” His wife, teetotaling "Lemonade" Lucy, had died four years before.
20. James Garfield
“Swaim, can’t you stop the pain?” Garfield, who had been shot by an assassin months before, was napping in his room in the company of good friends General David Swaim and Colonel A.F. Rockwell. About 15 minutes into his nap, he awoke, clutching his heart, and spoke his final words to Swaim.
21. Chester A. Arthur
They’re apparently not recorded, a friend said “almost” his last words were, “Life is not worth living.”
22. Grover Cleveland
“I have tried so hard to do right.”
23. Benjamin Harrison
“Are the doctors here? Doctor, my lungs...” Harrison died of pneumonia.
24. William McKinley
“Goodbye, all, goodbye. It is God’s way. His will be done.”
25. Teddy Roosevelt
“Put out the light.” He was speaking to his valet right before he went to sleep. He died sometime during the night.
26. William Howard Taft
His words were not recorded for posterity, but I thought you might enjoy a picture of him anyway.
27. Woodrow Wilson
“When the machinery is broken... I am ready."
28. Warren G. Harding
“That’s good. Go on, read some more.” His wife had been reading him an article about himself from the Saturday Evening Post.
29. Calvin Coolidge
“Good morning, Robert.” He greeted a carpenter working on his house, then died of coronary thrombosis shortly thereafter.
What he told a friend not long before his death is perhaps more fitting: "I feel I no longer fit in with these times."
30. Herbert Hoover
We don’t know the last words he spoke, but the last words he is known to have written were a get well message to Harry Truman, who hit his head on the bathtub after slipping in his bathroom. In a telegram, Hoover wrote, “Bathtubs are a menace to ex-presidents for as you may recall a bathtub rose up and fractured my vertebrae when I was in Venezuela on your world famine mission in 1946. My warmest sympathy and best wishes for your speedy recovery.”
31. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
“I have a terrific headache.” He suffered a cerebral hemorrhage a few minutes later.
32. Harry Truman
Truman's words are unknown, but his Vice President's last words were actually caught on tape. Veep Alben W. Barkley was giving a keynote address and had just said the words, "I'm glad to sit on the back row, for I would rather be a servant in the House of the Lord than to sit in the seats of the mighty," when a heart attack struck him on stage.
33. Dwight D. Eisenhower
“I want to go. God take me.”
34. John F. Kennedy
"No, you certainly can't." Kennedy said this in response to his fellow passenger, Nellie Connally, the wife of governor John Connally. She had just remarked, "You certainly can’t say that the people of Dallas haven’t given you a nice welcome, Mr. President."
You'll occasionally read that Kennedy's last words were “My God, I’ve been hit."
35. Lyndon B. Johnson
“Send Mike immediately.” Mike was his Secret Service agent who was housed in a compound 100 yards away from the main house at Johnson's Texas ranch. When agents arrived in Johnson's bedroom, he was already dead.
36. Richard Nixon
“Help.” He said this to a housekeeper as he had a stroke in 1994. Though he remained alert for a period of time after he was taken to the hospital, he was unable to speak.
37. Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford's last words are not known.
38. Ronald Reagan
Reagan's last words have not been shared with the public, but his daughter Patti shared his final moments:
At the last moment when his breathing told us this was it, he opened his eyes and looked straight at my mother. Eyes that hadn‘t opened for days, did. And they weren‘t chalky or vague. They were clear, and blue, and full of love. If a death can be lovely, his was. In his last moment, he taught me that there is nothing stronger than love between two people, two souls ... It was the last thing he could do in this world to show my mother how entwined their souls are ... and it was everything.