James Buchanan was the 15th President of the United States and by nearly universal assessment the worst we’ve ever had. He dithered while the Union came apart, helped precipitate Bleeding Kansas and did nothing to help Lincoln during the succession crisis in the last days of his administration. Mark Buchanan as a near complete failure…except as it turns out the guy was a great reader.
The Daily Beast website has a fun series of short profiles of the presidents who were most in love with books. You would guess, of course, Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and the two Roosevelts, but Buchanan or Rutherford B. Hayes? Hayes amassed a personal library of 12,000 volumes and Herbert Hoover, a very smart man and not a very effective president, had a library of rare books on obscure science subjects and many were in Latin.
The same website has a Presidential Trivia Quiz today.
Who was the first president to fly in an airplane? Hard to believe, but true, only one president is buried in Washington, D.C. and, believe it or not, Jimmy Carter was the first president born in a hospital.
So…on President’s Day, a toast – a rare toast – to James Buchanan, a bad president, but a book lover. With that knowledge, he can be modestly redeemed in my eyes.