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Underwood Defeats Trump

Well, looks like Frank Underwood would defeat Donald Trump in a landslide, based on the responses to my last post. Gregg Hartmann finished a distant third, and many comments ignored his candidacy entirely... which is mostly a result of name recognition, I think. Trump is, alas, real, and Underwood is featured in a hit television show. A character from a series of books just cannot compete, even when the series is as long-running and popular as Wild Cards has been.

Plainly, many of you need to read more Wild Cards. Get right on that, please! A new year is a great time for a new addiction! (And you can get signed copies from the Jean Cocteau bookshop).

One aside before I return to the subject of presidents. I was disappointed by how many of the comments chose to ignore my request to stay on topic and stay off real world politics. By now, of course, I am used to the people who will send comments about GAME OF THRONES and WINDS OF WINTER, no matter what the actual topic of the original post is, so that was no surprise. But when I say "no real world politics, please" and still get long screeds about Hilary with nary a mention of Underwood or Hartmann, that displays either a lack of reading comprehension or a certain fundamental discourtesy. If you want to play here, you need to play by my rules.

Getting back to presidents... one point raised by a number of comments got me curious. Several persons observed that Underwood was a murderer; that is, that he had actually killed people with his own hands. True enough. But that started me wondering -- how many actual American presidents and presidential candidates have done the same? How many of our presidents have been killers?

(Note that I say 'killer' and not 'murderer,' which is a somewhat different thing).

I am a history junkie, as many of you know, but as much history as I've read, I'm unsure of the answer to that question. There's only one president that I know for certain took a life himself, personally (as opposed to commanding troops in combat, or declaring war). That would be Andrew Jackson, who once killed a man in a duel. If we broaden the field to include vice-presidents and candidates, you also have Aaron Burr, who rather famously shot Alexander Hamilton.



Yet surely there must be others. Many of our presidents came from a military background. Grant, Washington, and Eisenhower were famous generals before reaching the presidency, and they were far from the only ones. William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor were also famous generals, and a lot of the presidents after the Civil War had served as generals in the Union army. There were also plenty of presidents who fought in one war or another in less exalted ranks. JFK and PT 109, for instance. Even Lincoln fought in the Black Hawk War in Illinois as a young man.

Serving in the ranks and commanding troops is not the same as killing with your own hands, however. Not having read all of their various memoirs or biographies, I have no idea whether Grant or Eisenhower or Washington or any of our other commanders in chief ever mentioned having shot someone in the face or stabbed them in the belly with a bayonet when they were still captains or corporals or whatever (generals don't usually actually gets their hands bloody, at least during the modern era) during their long military careers.

I know there are history wonks out there even more obsessive than me. Does anyone know? How many of our past presidents and presidential candidates were killers? We have Andrew Jackson and... anyone else?

(And please spare me comments like 'FDR was a killer because he brought us into WWII.' That is NOT the question on the table).

Once again: please stay on topic.

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( 61 comments )
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Matthew Masterson
Jan. 9th, 2017 08:28 pm (UTC)
Grover Cleveland
I believe Grover Cleveland killed someone while he was a sheriff in NY.
dlgood
Jan. 10th, 2017 12:15 am (UTC)
Re: Grover Cleveland
Indeed. While sheriff of Buffalo, he performed hangings himself.
MikePalmer_
Jan. 9th, 2017 08:28 pm (UTC)
Killer Presidents
Hi George,

Grover Cleveland executed at least two, if not more, people when he served as Sheriff of Erie County, New York.

William McKinley served in the Ohio infantry during the Civil War, and saw considerable action. This would suggest it is likely that he personally killed people.

Teddy Roosevelt may or may not have directly killed people during his time with the Rough Riders.

Edited at 2017-01-09 08:31 pm (UTC)
Duane Freese
Jan. 9th, 2017 11:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Killer Presidents
Theodore Roosevelt killed one man in the Battle of San Juan Hill.
RE: Re: Killer Presidents - Chance Holley - Jan. 10th, 2017 04:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
bjogilvie20
Jan. 9th, 2017 08:30 pm (UTC)
Not exactly on topic - SORRY!!
First, I'd like to preemptively apologize for going slightly off topic here (I enjoy history as much as the next guy, but unfortunately I cannot add anything of value to the question at hand!); but I could really use some new reading material. Is there any particular order in which the Wild Cards stories should be read?
grrm
Jan. 9th, 2017 10:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Not exactly on topic - SORRY!!
There are twenty-three books published to date.

The best starting places are volume one, WILD CARDS, and volume eighteen, INSIDE STRAIGHT. Volume twenty-one, FORT FREAK, will also work, but maybe not as well as the other two.
Nicholas Grubbs
Jan. 9th, 2017 08:30 pm (UTC)
PresidentS Who Killed
According to this one website, Grover Cleveland hanged two men when he was a sheriff. And George H.W. Bush was in a fighter in the Pacific Theater in WW2 and apparently dropped bombs, but it's unknown if he actually killed anyone.
Anthony DeMarco
Jan. 9th, 2017 08:33 pm (UTC)
Ike
To my knowledge, Eisenhower was never actually in a combat situation, despite his exhaustive military experience. George HW Bush, however, probably killed a bunch of people as a bomber pilot in WW2.
Patrick Snyder
Jan. 9th, 2017 08:34 pm (UTC)
TR with his rough riders
Teddy Roosevelt talked about killing a man in his charge up Kettle Hill in the Spanish American war. He saw the man in front of him as he shot and killed him.
Erik Solomonson
Jan. 9th, 2017 08:39 pm (UTC)
Wonderful! Now I can gloat
I will think of derogatory things to say about supporters of the other candidates and log in as another user name and say them.

Spoils of victory and all that.

For Killer Presidents, Jackson does seem to be the only legal murderer (some considered dueling more of disturbing the peace than murder). Though there are some questionable ones in History.

Harry S. Truman got his start in the Tom Pendergast machine of Kansas City, Pendergast was one of the many politicians of that era that flitted between Politics and Crime, especially during Prohibition. Maybe Harry did some "work" for him back in the day, but that is a bit beyond speculation.

Speaking of Mobsters, The Kennedy's connections were well known, but JFK suffering from Addison's like he was is unlikely to have been an underworld assassin, though in my more tinfoil moments I wish it was true.

Apparently Bill Clinton used to punch people out when he was Governor of Arkansas, people who he was friends with, while arguing with them. I remember reading something by the late Alexander Cockburn 20 some years ago about an account of him doing this to a friend of his. Not exactly a Vince Foster type conspiracy but perhaps more believable.

Theodore Roosevelt used to like to latch on to real Wild West types, maybe when he was hanging around Deadwood's Sherrif Bullock (IRL, not the show) he might have gotten a bit into character, but I never read anything to confirm this....He did seem to have a bit of a rich, short man's macho syndrome that was compensated by shooting things.
dlgood
Jan. 10th, 2017 12:21 am (UTC)
Re: Wonderful! Now I can gloat
If we were to list all the presidents who have thrown punches at someone, it would be long. Taft and Lincoln were both boxers and wrestlers...

Theodore Roosevelt ....He did seem to have a bit of a rich, short man's macho syndrome that was compensated by shooting things.

As to Teddy Roosevelt - it wasn't that he was short and rich. (He wasn't much shorter than the average man of his time - whereas Lincoln at 6'4" was a towering giant in his)

It's that TR had a very, very sickly childhood and became obsessed with strength, health, and vigorous activity as he grew to manhood. It's pretty well documented.
Re: Wonderful! Now I can gloat - Erik Solomonson - Jan. 10th, 2017 02:31 am (UTC) - Expand
dragonborngurl
Jan. 9th, 2017 08:40 pm (UTC)
funny you should mention that because just today I was thinking about your query and was pondering which of the choices I could "ethically" vote for. I realized I don't know what murders or atrocities Trump has committed because the others are fictional and we KNOW what they've done though the fictional people of those world don't know. So, it's impossible for me to vote, I think the choices are one evil or another! Can you add SOMEONE else?

Edited at 2017-01-09 08:43 pm (UTC)
chazmccl
Jan. 9th, 2017 08:40 pm (UTC)
I think with this many presidents as military men, or serving in military, it would be hard for all of them not to have killed. After all, they were not always generals and fought with their troops. As lieutenants or Captains, they led their troops from the front. Most fought in more than one war. Almost all the civil wars fought against the Mexicans and/or the native Americans. So, without researching, I would bet some did.

Charley McCloskey
NikoWeis08
Jan. 9th, 2017 08:43 pm (UTC)
President Cleveland
President Cleveland personally hung two men while serving as sherrif in New York.
Dan Koifman
Jan. 9th, 2017 08:44 pm (UTC)
George Washington

Washington was a career soldier, was involved in several engagements early in his career in which he fired his weapon in close order combat. As you might expect in such circumstances, it is difficult to know if Washington actually killed someone, but it would seem highly probable.

James Monroe.

The Battle of Trenton was the turning point of the American Revolution and James Monroe was one of its greatest heroes. He was badly wounded while conducting an heroic act and would have died had his wound from being shot not been treated quickly and well. Many sources say that he killed one or more Hessians during the battle.

Grover Cleveland.

He who passes the sentence should pull the trigger. Sheriff Grover Cleveland carried out the death sentence on 3 condemned prisoners.

A man of staunch integrity, Cleveland, as Sheriff of Buffalo, carried out 3 orders of execution personally. While the law did not require the Sheriff to personally carry out the execution, Cleveland believed it was his duty.

Theodore Roosevelt.

TR claimed to have killed men during the Battle of San Juan Hill. One thing that distinguishes Theodore Roosevelt from the other presidents on the list is that he boasted proudly of his "accomplishments."

Harry S Truman.

Our only president to serve during World War I, Truman’s courage under fire saved the lives of many of his men. His biographer does not record any instance in which Truman was believed to have killed anyone, but, as with any soldier in combat during wartime, it is certainly possible.

Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and George H. W. Bush

All of them served during World War II. Given the nature of his assignment, it is very likely that George H. W. Bush killed numerous people while serving as a bomber pilot. He earned his wings as the youngest Navy pilot at the time and all tolled, he flew nearly 60 missions. He was shot down and then rescued and earned his Distinguished Flying Cross for his service. Due to the nature of their assignments, none of the others would have killed anyone.

John F. Kennedy:

When asked how he became a war hero, Kennedy replied, “It was easy – they sank my boat.” Kennedy’s first brush with the morbidity of war was when his transport ship, taking him to his PT base in the Solomon Islands, was attacked by Japanese airplanes. When the crew tried to rescue an enemy pilot floating in the water, the man started firing at the captain and crew with a pistol. Kennedy admits to having been “Praising the Lord and Passing the ammunition” with the rest of the men. But everyone was too surprised to shoot straight. In the end the pilot was killed by an older sailor with a rifle. Kennedy commanded PT-109. The boat sank when a Japanese destroyer split it in two, apparently while the crew was sleeping.

So what is the final total of Presidents who killed someone?

Definitively: Monroe, Jackson, Cleveland, T. Roosevelt, G. H. W. Bush

Probably: Washington, W. H. Harrison, Taylor, Grant, Kennedy

Sources:
http://barrybradford.com/how-many-presidents-have-killed-a-man/
http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/160144#sthash.7hIWX2dQ.dpuf
Chris Wernecke
Jan. 9th, 2017 08:47 pm (UTC)
Theodore Roosevelt!
Hey Mr. Martin,

Great read! I am also a serious fan of history and I even made Presidential Rhetoric the focus of my master's degree.

When the Spanish American War broke out, Theodore Roosevelt, the future president, resigned his postion of Assistant Secretary of the Navy, formed the "Rough Riders," and famously charged up San Juan Hill. While the details are still being debated, it is conceivable that TR did kill someone.

I know you're an avid reader, and clearly an incredible student of history, so have you read any of Doris Kearns Goodwin's work?

I hope all is well! Sorry about your Giants (off topic, I know, but I'm a Packers fan)

Chris
gregcellent
Jan. 9th, 2017 08:48 pm (UTC)
I think George Washington had a kill, here's why ..
From what I remember George Washington faught in several wars and move up rank pretty quickly..
I also have heard that he lead his army from the front lines. Now, I don't think a general is standing on the front line shooting a musket , I would think he is just shouting out orders. Maybe a history buff can explain what George washingtons role was and if he actually led from the front lines..
My assumption of George's Washington having a kill is based solely on the amount of wars he was involved in .
Side note. Does Abraham Lincoln being a vampire hunter count as being a killer ??
jcherry
Jan. 9th, 2017 08:49 pm (UTC)
I have an answer!
George I unlike you am not a history buff. That being said I did look for an answer to your question and found an article from the history channel that claims that 10 former president's have personally killed people. George Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman, George HW Bush, & John F. Kennedy. Now most of the killers on this list are attributable to war, with a few exceptions. In any case here is the link if your interested. http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/160144
William Gicking
Jan. 9th, 2017 08:57 pm (UTC)
Hmm
Well bush killed many lines of cocaine and Clinton certainly murdered some vagi--um nevermind. Those jokes land? No? Ok. This is a really interesting topic though I'll enjoy lurking and reading what the history buffs have to say.
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