Discover more from Okay History
If I May, Mr. Lincoln.
Lincoln received a letter from Grace Bedell on this day, October 15, 1860. It would change the course of his facial features and perhaps helped him win the White House.
On this day, October 15, 1860, Abraham Lincoln, the Republican candidate for president, received a letter from 11-year-old Grace Bedell. The young girl from Somewhereville, New York, was eager to assist the Congressman from Illinois in achieving the presidency. This budding political campaign manager advised Mr. Lincoln, keeping it simple – suggesting he grow a beard.
Grace’s father returned from a fair where he had brought back a picture of Lincoln. Immediately concerned over his youthful look, Grace penned a letter that stated important insights:
1. She wanted Mr. Lincoln to become president.
2. She has four brothers, many would vote for Lincoln, but she could convince the remaining holdouts if only he would let “his whiskers grow.”
3. Ladies like guys with beards.
4. She has a sister who is nine weeks old.
5. She requested that Abe write her back.
Lincoln did. He informed her that, regrettably, he had no daughters of his own. While he made no promises to grow out his beard, he wished her well.
What a fun story.
Now let’s take a moment to continue our rankings, which feature one man who went beardless and served one term, while another wore partial facial hair and was elected twice. Grace knew what she was talking about.
19: Grover Cleveland
22nd and 24th President
2017 Ranking: 22
2019 Ranking: 22
2021 C-SPAN Ranking: 25
Term – March 4, 1885 – March 4, 1889 & March 4, 1893 – March 4, 1897
Cleveland is regarded as the father of the Progressive Era. Meaning, he broke traditional ties of patronage to party workers for government jobs and vetoed bills from Congress like he was working a crossword puzzle.
Cleveland signed the Dawes Act, which effectively legalized the stealing of Native American lands – which reminds me, a reader would like me to write more about this. I haven’t forgotten, Aunt Joan!
Cleveland was the last Democratic president elected for a while. He solidified the south as a Democratic stronghold until Nixon.
Why did I rank him here?
Cleveland is generating much support recently to move up any rankings. Most of that has to do with his incorruptible view of how government should work. He lacked a college education, so he did not fit in with intellectuals of the time who wanted vision from their leader. Cleveland came up through the ranks as a mayor, and his focus was always on the present. He drew a line between branches, which is a good thing to me.
18: John Adams
2017 Ranking: 21
2019 Ranking: 21
2021 C-SPAN Ranking: 15
Term – March 4, 1797 – March 4, 1801
Adams was a cautious, thoughtful, stubborn, prickly, and transparent politician. He was dedicated to central and formal power and picked fights with his associates, the Federalists, and his opposition, the Democratic-Republicans.
Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Act, which put heavy restrictions on immigrants entering the country and allowing the imprisonment and deportation of non-citizens deemed to be a threat. This was done for national security and later used to justify the Japanese internment camps during World War II.
Despite signing it into law, Adams never enforced it – which is wild.
Why did I rank him here?
I appreciate Adams’s independence from his contemporaries. It seemed like he was always frustrated, which for some reason, appeals to me. He also never owned slaves. Finally, my oldest brother bought me David McCullough’s biography on Adams, which I have started a few times to read. Sucker is huge.
I have never lost an election. Having been elected Student Council President in 8th grade until becoming Vice President of Student Government at Xavier University, I went 7-0 when my name appeared on a ballot. Amazingly, I can’t grow facial hair to save my life.
Has anyone watched the HBO miniseries John Adams? I haven’t. Is it any good? Tell us below!