[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]
Was David Rice Atchison President of the United States for a day – or at least for a few minutes?
Maybe. Here’s an argument for the affirmative, and here’s one for the negative.
But if he was President, he was a pretty darn good one.
Not that he was a particularly good man. (A vigorous proponent of slavery, he advocated executing abolitionists without trial. This seems a mark against him.) But during the course of his presidency, such as it was, he did absolutely nothing.
That may put him ahead of William Henry Harrison (not an especially good man either) as least harmful president, since unlike Harrison, Atchison neither convened a special session of Congress to enact mercantilist legislation nor subjected anybody to a two-hour inaugural address in the winter wind.
An old Simpsons episode inspires my belief that the best President would be a chimp. He would really only care about getting bananas and old episodes of Lancelot Link. And if an aide defied him he would brutally savage him, prompting a witness to remark, “that’s what you get for not hailing to the Chimp.”
It’d be nice for textbooks to refer to him as the twelvth president if for no other reason than that would mean there was one president from Missouri who hadn’t dropped atomic weapons on civilian populations.