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Who Were the Presidents’ Favorite Presidents?

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getty images/istock

Everyone’s got their role models, and world leaders are no exception. Among U.S. presidents, many—including these eight—have professed a deep admiration for some of their predecessors. Which commander-in-chief would top your list?

1. James Buchanan

Born during George Washington’s administration, Buchanan regarded the first president as his personal hero.

2. Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln took Washington fanboyism to a whole new level. In Honest Abe’s mind, the man was more than some great leader or national hero. Washington, he felt, also deserved to be remembered as nothing less than a completely flawless person. “It makes human nature better to believe that one human being was perfect,” Lincoln reasoned, “… that human perfection is possible.”

3. Theodore Roosevelt

Teddy admired Abraham Lincoln so much that, during his 1905 inaugural ceremony, the “Bull Moose” wore a ring that contained an actual lock of hair from the 16th president. When Roosevelt’s first daughter, Alice, happened to be born on Lincoln’s birthday (February 12th), he was positively elated by the coincidence.

4. Harry S Truman

Having grown up in Jackson County, Missouri, Old Hickory always held a special place in Truman’s heart. Thanks to his lobbying efforts, a dynamic statue of Andrew Jackson on horseback was mounted before the local courthouse, where it still stands today (a miniature version later went on display in Truman’s Oval Office). The 33rd president also admired Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Polk, Cleveland, Wilson, and both Roosevelts.

5. Dwight Eisenhower

Who did Ike like? Washington. Eisenhower began admiring his fellow general-turned-president at a very young age, and devoured several texts on his revolutionary battle strategies. He was also quite captivated by the lives of Julius Caesar, Socrates, and Hannibal.

6. Lyndon Johnson

Johnson campaigned so energetically for FDR’s social programs in 1937 that he dropped 40 pounds while doing so. Later, he got to meet his idol when Roosevelt visited the Lone Star state shortly thereafter. During their chat, 28-year-old Johnson (ambitious as always) straight-up asked the president for an Appropriations Committee post, a request FDR politely dodged.

7. Richard Nixon

Even as a young boy of 11, Nixon waxed poetic about Abraham Lincoln, calling him a “martyred patriot” in his childhood diary. While running for office, Nixon frequently called upon his Republican colleagues to help unify the party as Lincoln once had.

8. Ronald Reagan

The Gipper was quite fond of Calvin Coolidge. “I happen to be an admirer of silent Cal,” he said, “and believe he has been badly treated by history… I’ve done considerable reading and researching of his presidency. He served his country well and accomplished much.” Reagan’s decision to replace the Cabinet Room’s long-standing Truman portrait with Coolidge’s likeness caused a brief media uproar in 1980.

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Christie's Images Ltd. 2017
Abraham Lincoln Letter About Slavery Could Fetch $700,000 at Auction
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Christie's Images Ltd. 2017

The Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, in which future president Abraham Lincoln spent seven debates discussing the issue of slavery with incumbent U.S. senator Stephen Douglas, paved the way for Lincoln’s eventual ascent to the presidency. Now part of that history can be yours, as the AP reports.

A signed letter from Lincoln to his friend Henry Asbury dated July 31, 1858 explores the “Freeport Question” he would later pose to Douglas during the debates, forcing the senator to publicly choose between two contrasting views related to slavery’s expansion in U.S. territories: whether it should be up to the people or the courts to decide where slavery was legal. (Douglas supported the popular choice argument, but that position was directly counter to the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision.)

The first page of a letter from Abraham Lincoln to Henry Asbury
Christie's Images Ltd. 2017

In the letter, Lincoln was responding to advice Asbury had sent him on preparing for his next debate with Douglas. Asbury essentially framed the Freeport Question for the politician. In his reply, Lincoln wrote that it was a great question, but would be difficult to get Douglas to answer:

"You shall have hard work to get him directly to the point whether a territorial Legislature has or has not the power to exclude slavery. But if you succeed in bringing him to it, though he will be compelled to say it possesses no such power; he will instantly take ground that slavery can not actually exist in the territories, unless the people desire it, and so give it protective territorial legislation."

Asbury's influence didn't end with the debates. A founder of Illinois's Republican Party, he was the first to suggest that Lincoln should run for president in 1860, and secured him the support of the local party.

The letter, valued at $500,000 to $700,000, is up for sale as part of a books and manuscripts auction that Christie’s will hold on December 5.

[h/t Associated Press]

3 Fascinating Items in Abraham Lincoln's Newly Released Archives

The Abraham Lincoln collection in the Library of Congress just got a major boost. The 16th president’s full papers are now entirely available online in full color for the first time, giving you high-resolution access to his letters, campaign materials, speeches, and more.

Lincoln’s papers took a roundabout route to the Library of Congress. After his assassination, Lincoln’s son Robert Todd Lincoln sent the president’s papers to one of the former congressman’s associates in Illinois, Judge David Davis, who worked with Lincoln’s presidential secretaries to organize them. Robert Todd Lincoln gave them to the Library of Congress in 1919, and in 1923, deeded them to the archive, mandating that they be sealed until 21 years after his death. They were opened in 1947.

This isn’t the first time some of these documents have been available online—scanned images of them first appeared on the Library of Congress’s American Memory website in 2001—but this 20,000-document collection provides higher-resolution versions, with new additions and features. Previous papers were uploaded as image scans from microfilm, meaning they weren’t particularly high quality. Now, researchers have better access to the information with scans from the original documents that you can zoom in on and actually read.

There are searchable transcriptions for about 10,000 hand-written documents in the collection, including those written in Lincoln’s hand, along with annotations that provide contextual explanations. Here are three items in the collection not to miss:


Lincoln read this early version of the Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet in July 1862, telling them he was going to propose freeing slaves held by Confederate rebels. Secretary of State William Seward convinced him that he should wait until there was a major Union victory to announce the proclamation.


In the fall of 1862, Mary Todd Lincoln wrote her husband during her month-long trip to New York and Boston about her dressmaker and confidant, a former slave named Elizabeth Keckley, asking him for money to give to her to buy blankets for escaped slaves, then referred to as “contrabands.”


This may be the only copy of Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg address that was drafted before he delivered it. There are five known drafts of the speech, but three were written out for people who requested copies afterward. It’s unclear if one of the other copies was made before or after the speech, but this one was definitely drafted beforehand. It belonged to Nicolay Hay, Lincoln’s secretary, who also helped organize his papers after the president’s death. It differs a little from the speech we’re familiar with, so you should definitely read the transcript. (Click “show text” above the image on the Library of Congress page for the text and annotations.)

You can see all the documents here.


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