President Obama’s War on Civil Rights

For civil libertarians, it appears that “Hope and Change” means more of the same. Last week, President Obama announced his intention to sign into law a bill that “would deny suspected terrorists, including U.S. citizens seized within the nation’s borders, the right to trial and subject them to indefinite detention.”

President Obama’s War on Civil Rights?

Human Rights Watch summed it up pretty well when it stated that “President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law.” Not surprisingly, the only presidential candidate who’s voiced disagreement is Ron Paul, who recently pointed out that the bill is “literally legalizing martial law.” Here’s Glenn Greenwald for more on this sinister development:

In one of the least surprising developments imaginable, President Obama – after spending months threatening to veto the Levin/McCain detention bill – yesterday announced that he would instead sign it into law (this is the same individual, of course, who unequivocally vowed when seeking the Democratic nomination to support a filibuster of “any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecom[s],” only to turn around – once he had the nomination secure — and not only vote against such a filibuster, but to vote in favor of the underlying bill itself, so this is perfectly consistent with his past conduct). As a result, the final version of the Levin/McCain bill will be enshrined as law this week as part of the the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). I wrote about the primary provisions and implications of this bill last week, and won’t repeat those points here.

The ACLU said last night that the bill contains “harmful provisions that some legislators have said could authorize the U.S. military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians, including American citizens, anywhere in the world” and added: “if President Obama signs this bill, it will damage his legacy.” Human Rights Watch said that Obama’s decision “does enormous damage to the rule of law both in the US and abroad” and that “President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law.”

(See Obama to sign indefinite detention bill into law for the rest)

The Plot to Assassinate Jefferson Davis?

On March 2, 1864, William Littlepage was searching the pockets of a dead Union officer just outside of Richmond, VA. But instead of a pocketwatch or other baubles, Littlepage discovered two mysterious documents. These papers, now known as the Dahlgren Papers, cast light on a plot designed to bring an end to the Confederate States of America. Were Union leaders planning to assassinate President Jefferson Davis?

The Dahlgren Affair?

By March 2, 1864, the Union had taken control of the Civil War and Confederate hopes of victory seemed increasingly dim. Ulysses S. Grant was just a week away from taking over the responsibilities of Commanding General of the United States Army. And President Lincoln, along with his top generals, had reached the conclusion that the only way to break the South was to wage total war.

It was with this backdrop that 13-year old Littlepage found himself searching the dead body of Colonel Ulric Dahlgren, who’d been killed earlier that day in a failed raid on Richmond, VA. After discovering the documents, Littlepage took them to his teacher, Edward Halbach. Halbach quickly examined the papers and realized he had a veritable bomb in front of him.

The papers described a plan to raid and torch Richmond, VA. The idea for the attack had originated from Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick was known as “Kill-Cavalry” due to his willingness to sacrifice his own troops as well as Confederate troops in order to achieve his goals. The plan was for Dahlgren’s cavalry to enter the city from the south. After stopping to free Union prisoners and meet up with Kilpatrick, the enlarged force would descend upon Richmond in order to “destroy and burn the hateful city.”

The Plot to Kill Jefferson Davis?

A second set of orders, which were probably intended for Captain John Mitchell (Dahlgren’s second-in-command), provided more detail on the plot.

“We will try and secure the bridge to the city, (one mile below Belle Isle,) and release the prisoners at the same time. If we do not succeed they must then dash down, and we will try and carry the bridge from each side. When necessary, the men must be filed through the woods and along the river bank. The bridges once secured, and the prisoners loose and over the river, the bridges will be secured and the city destroyed. The men must keep together and well in hand, and once in the city it must be destroyed and Jeff. Davis and Cabinet killed.” ~ Dahlgren Papers, as published in the Richmond Sentinel (3/5/1864)

Although the Civil War was horrendous and bloody, it had been fought as a sort of “Gentleman’s Affair” up until that point. However, the Dahlgren Papers appeared to change that by targeting Jefferson Davis for assassination.

The papers were swiftly transported up the Confederacy’s chain of command. And by March 4, they’d reached President Jefferson Davis. Jefferson Davis agreed to release them to the press and by March 5, the Richmond Daily Dispatch was blaring the headline, “The Last Raid of the Infernals.”

Northerners were skeptical of the papers and declared them to be fraudulent. But the Confederacy was not swayed. Angered by the assassination plot, President Jefferson Davis decided to release Confederate prisoners into Northern cities. He hoped that this would create fear and chaos, thus buying valuable time for his fledgling nation.

Were the Dahlgren Papers Authentic?

On March 30, General Robert E. Lee sent a copy of the Dahlgren Papers to Northern General George Meade and expressed his desire to know if the orders had been authorized by the U.S. government. Meade asked Kilpatrick to investigate. Kilpatrick responded that he’d endorsed the Papers…or at least part of them. He claimed that the sections about burning Richmond and killing President Jefferson Davis and his cabinet had been added after the fact. With that, the official investigation pretty much came to an end.

But privately, General Meade was suspicious. He thought that the Dahlgren Papers were authentic. And since Kilpatrick was Dahlgren’s superior officer, it stood to reason that Kilpatrick might’ve been the one to issue the order. Thus, as Stephen Sears said in his book Controversies and Commanders: Dispatches from the Army of the Potomac, relying on Kilpatrick to handle the investigation was “equivalent to ordering the fox to investigate losses in the henhouse.”

What happened to the Dahlgren Papers?

In July 1864, Dahlgren’s father went public to declare the Dahlgren Papers “a bare-faced atrocious forgery.” He based this upon a photographic copy of the original orders, in which his son’s signature was misspelled as “Dalhgren.” Others pointed out that the orders had been written on both sides of thin paper. Thus, the misspelling might’ve been nothing more than ink leaking through the paper. Unfortunately, it was impossible to say for certain…

…because the Dahlgren Papers had vanished.

At the end of 1865, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton requested the Dahlgren Papers from Francis Lieber, who headed up the Confederate archives. In 1879, Lieber requested the papers back. But they had gone missing. In his article, “The Dahlgren Papers,” James Hall sums up current opinion on the fate of the papers.

“Perhaps it is an uncharitable thought, but the suspicion lingers that Stanton consigned them to the fireplace in his office.” ~ James Hall, “The Dahlgren Papers,” Civil War Times Illustrated (November 1983)

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

While the origin of the orders remains in question, there is a growing consensus, led by historians such as Sears, that they were probably authentic. And if this is the case, there is a decent chance that President Lincoln himself was aware of the assassination attempt on Jefferson Davis. Interestingly enough, this may have indadvertedly led to his own death.

The targeting of President Jefferson Davis was, in effect, a declaration of total war upon the South. The South, led by the mysterious Confederate Secret Service, responded in kind. As reported in Come Retribution: The Confederate Secret Service and the Assassination of Lincoln, this shadowy organization set out to kidnap President Lincoln in order to sue for peace. But when that effort fell short and General Lee was forced to surrender in April 1865, the Confederate Secret Service enacted one final operation…the assassination of President Lincoln.

“Judson Kilpatrick, Ulric Dahlgren, and their probable patron Edwin Stanton set out to engineer the death of the Confederacy’s president; the legacy spawned out of the utter failure of their effort may have included the death of their own president.” ~ Stephen Sears, The Dahlgren Papers Revisited

The Presidential Death Curse?

In 1811, General William Henry Harrison fought Tecumseh’s Confederacy to a draw at the Battle of Tippecanoe, thus putting an end to the Native American military movement. According to legend, Tecumseh responded by setting a curse upon Harrison and the office of the President of the United States. What was this mysterious Curse of Tecumseh?

The Curse of Tecumseh (aka The Curse of Tippecanoe or the Presidential Death Curse)?

The Curse of Tecumseh (also known as the Curse of Tippecanoe) is shrouded in mystery, its exact origin having been lost to time. Perhaps the most popular version of the story is that Tecumseh sent an oral message to General Harrison via released prisoners, stating that, “Harrison will not win this year to be the great chief. But he may win next year. If he does … he will not finish his term. He will die in office.” When informed that no President had ever died in office (the United States was only on its fourth President at the time), Tecumseh supposedly said:

“Harrison will die, I tell you. And when he dies you will remember the deaths of my people. You think that I have lost my powers: I who caused the sun to darken and red men to give up firewater. But I tell you Harrison will die. And after him, every great chief chosen every twenty years thereafter will die. And when each one dies, let everyone remember the death of our people.” ~ Tecumseh, 1811

Another version of the legend is that the Curse of Tecumseh was actually uttered by Tecumseh’s brother Tenskwatawa. Tenskwatawa was known as the Shawnee Prophet, in part for correctly predicting a solar eclipse in 1806. That prophecy humiliated General Harrison, who’d staked his reputation with other Native American leaders on Tenskwatawa being a fraud. Supposedly, Tenskwatawa uttered the Curse of Tecumseh in 1836, just months before his passing.

There is also a third version of the story. In this telling, Tecumseh realized that he would die at the 1813 Battle of Thames. Before he left to meet his fate, he gave away his things and stated one final prophecy to his brother:

“Brother, be of good cheer. Before one winter shall pass, the chance will yet come to build our nation and drive the Americans from our land. If this should fail, then a curse shall be upon the great chief of the Americans, if they shall ever pick Harrison to lead them.

His days in power shall be cut short. And for every twenty winters following, the days in power of the great chief which they shall select shall be cut short. Our people shall not be the instrument to shorten their time. Either the Great Spirit shall shorten their days or their own people shall shoot them.

This is not all. Each contest to select their great chief shall be marked by sharp divisions within their nation. Within seven winters of each contest, there shall be a war among their people, either within their nation or with other nations, I know not which. Our people shall prosper only if they can avoid these wars.” ~ Tecumseh, 1813

The Curse of Tecumseh…120 Years Later

Three decades later, William Henry Harrison won the 1840 U.S. Presidential election. One month later, he was dead, a victim of pneumonia. The Curse of Tecumseh had begun. And for the next 120 years, every U.S. President elected at the end of a 20-year cycle (and during a year ending in “0”) died tragically while still in office.

  • 1840: William Henry Harrison, Pneumonia (1841)
  • 1860: Abraham Lincoln, Assassination (1865)
  • 1880: James Garfield, Assassination (1881)
  • 1900: William McKinley, Assassination (1901)
  • 1920: Warren Harding, Heart Attack, Stroke, Possible Assassination (1923)
  • 1940: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Cerebral Hemorrhage (1945)
  • 1960: John F. Kennedy, Assassination (1963)

In the 1980 U.S. Presidential election, Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter. 69 days later, on March 31, 1981, John Hinckley Jr. shot and wounded him, puncturing his lung. But unlike his predecessors, Reagan survived the attempt and lived out two full terms in office. Twenty years later, George Bush defeated Al Gore in the 2000 U.S. Presidential election. In 2005, he survived an assassination attempt of his own when Vladimir Arutyunian’s hand grenades failed to detonate.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The Curse of Tecumseh is a modern-day example of dating mining and numerology. For centuries, people have attempted to create models linking up number sequences with real world events. But while such models look promising when backtesting old data, they tend to fall apart when subjected to new information.

In 1980, the Library of Congress supposedly researched the Curse of Tecumseh story and concluded that “although the story has been well-known for years, there are no documented sources and no published mentions of it.” (On a side note, I was unable to find any confirmation of this study so take it with a grain of salt).

In the unlikely event that the Curse of Tecumseh was something tangible, it appears that it was lifted with President Reagan’s term of office. But some observers believe differently. They claim that the Curse of Tecumseh encompasses both death as well as mere assassination attempts. Thus, they think that future presidents could very well suffer from the curse, either with deaths or near-death experiences.

So, has the Curse of Tecumseh been extinguished? Or will more lives feel its wrath?

Only time will tell.

FDR’s Lost Subway Car?

Deep below Manhattan, an abandoned subway track gathers dust. At the end of Track 61, a rusty subway car rests quietly. Popular rumor holds it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s personal car. Supposedly, it was used to help him secretly enter the Waldorf=Astoria without revealing that he was partially paralyzed. This subway car is considered by many to be the Holy Grail of urban exploration. But is it the real deal? Or just a myth?

The Chaos Book Club

Today is Day 8 of the Chaos book club. Chaos is an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy at one of the following locations:

Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iBooks * Smashwords * Paperback

The Invisible Track 61?

Track 61 is invisible to the average subway rider. It’s part of a hidden layup yard connected to Grand Central Terminal and lies beneath the Waldorf=Astoria. Many years ago, the Waldorf had a small cement platform installed next to the track. An elevator was built to connect the platform to the hotel. In effect, Track 61 became “an exclusive platform for the Waldorf’s use.”

According to legend, President Roosevelt used the platform whenever he was in New York City. He would take a private subway car to Track 61. Then his driver would drive FDR’s armor-plated Pierce Arrow car from the subway car into the elevator. From there, the car would ride up to the hotel’s garage, allowing the President to access the Presidential Suite without anyone knowing about his paralyzed legs. Later, Track 61 fell into disuse although it was used by the famous artist Andy Warhol when he hosted “The Underground Party.”

A Lost Subway Car?

On May 8, 2008, Matt Lauer of the Today Show visited Track 61 for a segment called “The Mystery of Track 61.” At one point, he examined a mysterious bulletproof car located at the end of the track. An MTA spokesman declared that it was FDR’s private subway car. Is this true?

Although it made great copy, most rail historians consider the story to be false. President Roosevelt did ride in a private subway car called the Ferdinand Magellan. But the Ferdinand Magellan now resides in Florida, not New York. Also, there is no evidence that FDR ever used the platform. According to Joseph Brennan, the earliest surviving story to that effect came from author William Middleton in 1977. So far, Brennan has been unable to find confirmation of the story.

So, what is this car then? The most likely theory is that it’s an old Pennsylvania Railroad express-baggage car from the 1940s. It was probably left behind for servicing. Thus, it appears that FDR’s lost subway car is, in fact, nothing more than a legend.

FDR’s Lost Subway Car & Chaos

The story of FDR’s lost subway car has taken on a life of its own and as I mentioned earlier, it is considered somewhat of a Holy Grail to urban explorers. When I wrote Chaos, I wanted Cy Reed to pay a special visit to the subway car. Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t the only one in the area.

Cold, stiff fingers wrapped around my neck, choking off my reply. My head flew to the side, bashing into the door.

Foggily, I reached for my belt.

But my machete was missing.

With my head plastered to the door, I twisted my eyes to the side, seeing a murderous gaze staring back at me. My eyes bulged as they caught a glint of light.

It was my machete.

I didn’t know the man who held it. But I knew what he wanted.

He wanted to kill me.

And he was going to use my own blade to do it. ~ David Meyer, Chaos

Chaos by David MeyerIn real life, the area around Track 61 once held a squatter community, similar in some respects to the Colony from Chaos. According to Brennan, “inflation and a poorly thought-through campaign to cut down on single room occupancy buildings” caused an increase in homeless people, some of whom relocated to the Waldorf platform.

Well, that’s all for today. Tomorrow, we’ll be moving to another New York City topic from Chaos, one that touches on cryptozoology. Alligators in the sewer! I hope to see you then!

 

Chaos Book Club

President Lincoln’s Greatest Nemesis?

If you were to ask the typical American about President Abraham Lincoln’s greatest enemy, he or she would most likely answer with Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States of America. But recent scholarship suggests that Lincoln faced a far more hated enemy much closer to home…Judge Roger Taney, the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. In 1861, Lincoln’s hatred of Taney nearly exploded into a Constitutional crisis of epic proportions.

Judge Roger Taney versus President Lincoln?

On May 25, 1861, a Confederate sympathizer named John Merryman was arrested and charged with treason. He petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus, a judicial order forcing the Union Army to appear before a judge and justify his imprisonment. Judge Roger Taney granted the writ.

But General George Cadwalader refused, stating that he was under no obligation to do so since President Lincoln had ordered the suspension of habeas corpus. This led to the famous Ex parte Merryman ruling, in which Judge Taney stated that only Congress had the power to suspend habeas corpus.

“And if the President of the United States may suspend the writ, then the Constitution of the United States has conferred upon him more regal and absolute power over the liberty of the citizen than the people of England have thought it safe to entrust to the Crown–a power which the Queen of England cannot exercise at this day, and which could not have been lawfully exercised by the sovereign even in the reign of Charles the First.” ~ Judge Taney, Ex parte Merryman

President Lincoln orders Roger Taney’s Arrest?

The judgment was an embarrassing repudiation to President Lincoln and Confederate sympathizers seized upon it as an example of Lincoln’s tyranny. In either May or June 1861, President Lincoln’s anger inspired him to call for the arrest of Judge Roger Taney.

“After due consideration the administration determined upon the arrest of the Chief Justice. A warrant or order was issued for his arrest. Then arose the question of service. Who should make the arrest and where should the imprisonment be? This was done by the President with instructions to use his own discretion about making the arrest unless he should receive further orders from him.” ~ Ward Hill Lamon

According to his own words, Ward Hill Lamon, who was a friend and bodyguard to President Lincoln as well as a United States Marshall, was given the warrant and ordered to arrest Roger Taney. Strangely though, the warrant was never served.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Nobody knows for sure why Lamon never followed through with the arrest. President Lincoln certainly wasn’t above arresting his political opponents, as the cases of Clement Vallandigham and Judge Merrick have shown. But we do know that the two men continued their bitter feud over Lincoln’s efforts to curtail civil liberties for several additional years.

I should point out that Lamon is the sole primary source for this story. Interestingly enough, most current Lincoln scholars consider it ridiculous. They dismiss Lamon as an alcoholic and point to the fact that he didn’t include the story in any of his published books (which, by the way, are highly treasured by these same scholars). Still, there is some corroborating evidence. Records indicate that Roger Taney himself as well as a colleague named Judge Curtis were aware of the near-imprisonment.

We may never know for certain how close President Lincoln came to arresting Judge Roger Taney. But we can all be thankful that he didn’t follow through on it. The ramifications might have been disastrous.

“It would have destroyed the separation of powers; destroyed the place of the Supreme Court in the Constitutional scheme of government. It would have made the executive power supreme, over all others, and put the President, the military, and the executive branch of government, in total control of American society. The Constitution would have been at an end.” ~ Charles Adams

The Mysterious Treasure of Oak Island

Oak Island is a small island located four miles off the coast of Novia Scotia. It is the home of the infamous “money pit.” For more than two centuries, treasure hunters have attempted to unearth its treasure. Even Franklin Delano Roosevelt participated in one expedition decades before he became President of the United States. Does Oak Island really hold a treasure? And if so, how has it managed to elude treasure hunters for so long?

The Oak Island Money Pit?

In 1763, residents in nearby Chester reported “strange lights and fires” on Oak Island.  Then in 1795, a 16-year old boy discovered a circular depression on the island’s southeastern end. With the help of two friends, he began to dig and uncovered a stone platform and two layers of logs. Although they found nothing, they would return to the island eight years later with the Onslow Company. They found platforms of logs every ten feet as well as charcoal at 40 feet, putty at 50 feet, and coconut at 60 feet. At 80-90 feet, they recovered a large stone with strange symbols on it. One translation of these symbols read, “Forty feet below, two million pounds lie buried.” The group continued to dig but at about 98 feet, the pit mysteriously flooded with seawater.

In 1849, the Truro Company dug a new shaft parallel to the flooded one. This shaft also flooded. In 1851, workers made an astonishing discovery. A nearby beach was fake. Someone had removed the original clay and created a drainage system. Round stones were covered with dead grass and coconut fibres and then topped off with sand. Five drains were connected to the area, leading to speculation that whoever built the pit had also constructed an ingenious flood-trap. The tides caused seawater to flow into the pit while the grass and fibres kept sand from clogging the drains. Bailing the pit out proved useless as more water just rushed in to take its place.

An 1861 effort by the Oak Island Association caused the bottom of the original shaft to collapse into what may have been a natural cavern. Over a dozen separate expeditions would follow, leaving the area around the Money Pit a nearly unworkable mess of mud and debris. Starting in 1967, Triton Alliance, Ltd. used a steel caisson to excavate 235 feet into the ground. Supposedly, workers lowered cameras into a natural cave and recorded images of chests and a human hand. But the shaft collapsed and yet another expedition walked away empty-handed.

What’s Hidden on Oak Island?

Like many treasure stories, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. Early accounts mention marks every ten feet. Later accounts change these marks into wood platforms. The stone with strange symbols on it has not been seen since the early 1900s and the corresponding translation remains highly controversial. Most importantly, after so many excavations, its impossible to tell if structures within the pit were created by the original builders or by earlier expeditions.

Numerous theories abound as to what might be hidden on Oak Island. Everything from pirate treasure to Shakespeare’s true identity to the Ark of the Covenant has been speculated to sit at the bottom of the money pit. And of course, there’s also the very strong possibility that the pit is nothing more than a natural sinkhole which leads to an underground cave (similar geological features exist on the mainland). The flooding, in this scenario, was caused by underground cavities filled with water. Dye tests conducted by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution add support to that theory. However, the artificial beach as well as other clues make it hard to deny the possibility that someone built the pit centuries ago, presumably to hide something within it.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Recently, Oak Island Tours, Inc. began using electrical resistivity in order to detect underground tunnels. The process involves pulsing current through the ground in order to find unusual structures. According to Rick Lagina, the process has proved fruitful.

“There are interesting anomalies, yes…There are more than several sites that we are very excited about.” ~ Rick Lagina

Lagina and his fellow treasure hunters plan to analyze the data in order to determine promising drilling spots. So, is this just the latest in a long line of failures? Or will Oak Island Tours, Inc. finally get to the bottom of the money pit mystery? Either way, we should know the answer very soon.

Who was the Greatest President?

While conservatives and liberals disagree on many issues, they tend to share some common ground when it comes to ranking U.S. presidents. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or Franklin Delano Roosevelt receive the top honor in most polls. However, a recent book argues that none of these Presidents deserves to be ranked #1. Its choice is…John Tyler?

Who was John Tyler?

John Tyler was the 10th President of the United States. He was known as “His Accidency,” on account of the fact that he took over after William Henry Harrison’s untimely death. Most of his cabinet resigned during his term and his own party expelled him from its membership. According to Wikipedia, an aggregate of various scholarly polls rate Tyler as one of the worst presidents of all time. Heck, even the extremely controversial George W. Bush outranks him. Who would possibly consider President John Tyler #1?

Reevaluating the Presidency of John Tyler?

In his book, Recarving Rushmore, Ivan Eland argues that the reason most historians overlook John Tyler is because of flawed ranking systems. He points out four particular biases exhibited by historians:

  1. Effectiveness: Scholars tend to focus on a president’s ability to enact an agenda without considering the positive or negative results from that agenda.
  2. Charisma: Historians place undue emphasis on exciting personalities at the expense of dull ones.
  3. Service during a Crisis: Many historians will only rank a president highly if he served during a great war or financial crisis, giving little credit to those who avoided war or kept crises from happening in the first place.
  4. Activism: Presidents who did a lot are ranked higher than those who preferred minimal government.

Eland takes a unique approach to evaluating presidents. Instead of ranking them on the usual stuff, he ranks them on how well they achieved peace, prosperity, and liberty. Presidents earn points for avoiding “wars of choice,” pursuing economic freedom, and respecting individual freedoms as well as limits on presidential powers.

His analysis leads to some interesting conclusions that differ wildly from most polls. George Washington is still fairly high at #7. But he ranks Abraham Lincoln (#29) and FDR (#31) far lower than any historian I’ve ever read. His top five are John Tyler, Grover Cleveland, Martin Van Buren, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Chester A. Arthur. These presidents are barely remembered by most Americans today which, in a way, is the point. Their terms were boring, thanks to their decisions to avoid wars and pursue policies that led to economic success as well as personal freedom.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So what about John Tyler? Well, he ended the Second Seminole War and exhibited restrained responses to an internal rebellion and a border dispute with Canada. He also vetoed his own party’s wishes to enact high tariffs and create a national bank, which ultimately cost him a second term. His record on preserving individual liberty is considered “very good.”

Eland’s book is a decidedly libertarian look at American presidents. Conservatives and liberals alike will find much to debate within its pages. However, while some may disagree with his criteria or his rankings, his study is an important one. It forces us to take a whole new look at how we judge presidents and whether the ones we choose to remember are really deserving of that honor.

The Strange Case of President Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor is not exactly a household name.  He served as President of the United States for just sixteen months, from March 4, 1849 to July 9, 1850.  He is best known for his service as a former general in the Mexican-American War as well as his rather long nickname (“Old Rough and Ready”).  So, why does he matter today?  Because 161 years after he died, rumors persist that his death was no accident.  In fact, many believe that President Zachary Taylor was assassinated.

The Odd Death of Zachary Taylor

On July 4, 1850, President Taylor became overheated.  To alleviate his symptoms, he drank a pitcher of milk and ate both a bowl of cherries and several pickles.  Five days later, he died.  Almost immediately, rumors spread that he’d been poisoned.  However, for more than a century, historians blamed various ailments for his passing, including cholera, typhoid fever, and food poisoning.  Then, in the late 1980s, an author by the name of Professor Clara Rising decided to challenge established history.

The (Flawed) Exhumation?

Professor Rising theorized that unknown persons assassinated President Taylor via poison, specifically arsenic.  She convinced his distant relatives to exhume the body.  On June 17, 1991, his lead coffin was removed from the ground.  Soon after, Dr. George Nichols and Dr. William Maples discovered that Taylor’s remains were in remarkably good shape.  They proceeded to gather tissue samples.  Initial tests showed relatively high arsenic levels.  However, they were proclaimed too low to indicate a deliberate poisoning.

But the rumors didn’t end.  In 1999, Michael Parenti revisited the arsenic theory in his book History as Mystery and reported numerous flaws in the autopsy.  He also provided a convincing mass of circumstantial evidence that pointed to a poisoning.  For example, Zachary Taylor’s hair showed a suspicious amount of antimony, which is poisonous.  Also, the amount of arsenic revealed in a sectional analysis of his hair was similar to that of other poison victims.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Why would anyone assassinate Zachary Taylor?

One possible motive for assassination was the issue of slavery.  Although he owned slaves, President Taylor was considered a moderate on the issue.  As such, he didn’t support the Compromise of 1850, which required the return of runaway slaves.  Henry Clay, the bill’s author, attacked Taylor within the Senate.  Threats of secession rang out across the nation.  In response, Zachary Taylor threatened military action against the “traitors”.  Civil war seemed like a near certainty.  But President Taylor’s death paved the way for a temporary peace.  Also, it enabled Millard Fillmore, a known supporter of the Compromise, to take office.  Fillmore later passed a revised version of the Act.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

President Taylor doesn’t seem all that important today.  However, if it weren’t for that fateful July 4, the name Zachary Taylor might have been etched indelibly into Civil War history, rather than that of Abraham Lincoln.  Evidence for an assassination is credible.  Also, numerous pro-slavery advocates, including many powerful ones, had strong motives to kill President Taylor.  Historical detectives need to revisit this case.  When they do, it’s quite possible that they’ll find that the first assassination in American history wasn’t of Abraham Lincoln but rather, of a little-known military hero named Zachary Taylor.

Who Killed JFK?

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. Authorities blamed the JFK assassination on a man named Lee Harvey Oswald. However, legions of conspiracy theorists, as well as the vast majority of the American public, remain unconvinced. Now, newly-announced tape recordings from President Kennedy’s wife have added a new wrinkle to the case. Who did Jackie Onassis blame for her husband’s death?

The JFK Assassination?

John F. Kennedy was the thirty-fifth President of the United States. His term was marked with chaos and controversy, including the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the deepening of American involvement in Vietnam. These days, he’s a mythic figure in American politics, one who engenders cult-like fascination, thanks in no small part to his untimely death.

The story of the JFK assassination is a long one and indeed, thousands of books and tens of thousands of articles have already told the tale. So, I’ll stick to the basics of the official version. In 1963, President Kennedy was shot while riding in a motorcade in Dealey Plaza. Thirty minutes later, doctors pronounced him dead.

The police were provided with a suspect’s description. A short while later, Officer J.D. Tippit spotted Lee Harvey Oswald three miles from the crime scene. Since Oswald matched the description, Tippit attempted to engage him. But Oswald killed Tippit instead and fled to a movie theater where he was eventually arrested. Despite claims of being a patsy, he was formally charged that evening. But he never made it to trial. Two days after his arrest, he was shot and killed by nightclub owner Jack Ruby.

The Lone Gunman Theory

President Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson, established the Warren Commission to investigate the JFK assassination. Ten months later, the Commission famously concluded that Oswald acted alone, driven by insanity and a love for Marxism.

But the mystery was just beginning. The Lone Gunman Theory quickly came under attack and holes began to pile up. Then, in 1975, Good Night America showed Abraham Zapruder’s film of the assassination. It appeared to depict Kennedy being shot in the front rather than from the rear where Oswald had been positioned. Further bombshells followed, including the fact that Special Agent James Hosty of the FBI had been in contact with Oswald prior to the JFK assassination. Even more suspiciously, the FBI attempted to cover up this information.

Who was behind the JFK Assassination?

Despite the passing of nearly five decades, President Kennedy’s assassination continues to captivate the public. Conspiracy theorists have pointed to numerous suspects, including the CIA, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the KGB, Fidel Castro, Anti-Castro Cubans, and the Mafia. It seems that practically everyone had a motive to kill the President.

New theories appear frequently, along with supporting circumstantial evidence. The latest theory arrives from Jackie Onassis herself, who at that time was President Kennedy’s wife. And her testimony promises to reignite even more interest in the case, especially since it comes from beyond the grave.

Jackie Onassis’ Theory?

You see, a historian named Arthur Schlesinger recorded an interview with Jackie back in 1964. She agreed to the interview although she stipulated that it was not to be made public until fifty years after her death. Since Jackie died in 1994, that meant a release date of 2044. However, her wishes have been subverted. Supposedly, her daughter Caroline agreed to release the tapes in exchange for ABC dropping a drama series about the Kennedy family. That’s a conspiracy in its own right, especially since there was never any word that ABC planned to show the miniseries in the first place.

Anyways, according to early reports, Jackie believed Lyndon Baines Johnson along with a group of southern businessmen were behind the assassination. While its not evidence, this revelation is nonetheless quite significant. Conspiracy proponents are often depicted as being on the fringes of society. As far as I know, Jackie is the first member of the so-called establishment to declare her belief in a prevailing conspiracy.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, where do we go from here? About 98% of all documents surrounding the assassination have been released to the public. The remaining documents will be released in 2017. It seems unlikely that these documents will add much to the debate. It will be up to independent researchers to continue investigating the case. If a conspiracy did exist, let’s hope they are able to uncover the necessary evidence. After all, America deserves to know who perpetrated it…

And why.