what if it didn't work out? It was a great theory. Like Miss
Clara Rising, I, a long-time fan of historical whodunits, had
long been suspicious of the remarkably sudden death of Zachary
Taylor, twelfth president of what used to be called These United
States. The difference is that Miss Rising, a descendant of
Old Rough-and-Ready, had the moxie to do something about it.
Getting the necessary bureaucratic clearances, she plunked down
$1,200 to get old Zack's body disinterred and exhumed, to find
out at last what done him in.
facts of the case are these. Zack, though a man with no political
experience, was inflicted on the country in 1848 by the increasingly
desperate Whig Party, purely on the strength of his being a
hero of the Mexican War. It proved, indeed, to be the last presidential
election won by the Whigs. At a July 4 picnic, after eating
a bowl of cold cherries in milk, he was taken violently ill
and died several days later. As in every other case of a president
dying in office, his death was minimized. The invariable rule
has been: if a president is not visibly shot, then his death,
though sudden, must have been by natural causes. If actually
and visibly shot, then the perpetrator must have been a "lone
nut." God forbid that more than one person might have been involved
in the assassination, because that, heaven forfend, would be
a "conspiracy theory," and we all know that the Establishment
in the U.S. has virtually outlawed any such theory. Or, at the
very least, it has been quite beyond the pale of correct thinking
and permissible discourse.
return to old Zack: his death had always seemed peculiar to
me. If ptomaine or whatever had run rampant at this presidential
picnic in the July heat of our nation's capital, why is it that
only Zack Taylor, of all the picnickers, had caught this disease?
Was the stomach disease aimed only at him? In short, was he
peculiar that no one else seems to have even thought of this
possibility. Miss Rising reveals that the Taylor family has
long been rife with such speculation, but it took until 1991
for a family member to do something about it. The suspicion
is that Taylor had been put under by a massive dose of arsenic,
and the body was now exhumed to test for that poison.
Establishment historians, as always, sniffed at the very idea.
Take, for example, the reaction of Professor Roger Brown, distinguished
expert, at American University, on the history of violence in
the United States. "If you're going to construct a theory of
assassination, you've got to find somebody who would stand to
gain from killing Taylor, I'm not sure that she has constructed
a persuasive hypothesis about what somebody would gain." Cutting
through the convoluted English, this strikes me as an astonishingly
silly remark. Look, Professor Brown: In any death of a president,
there is always one person who clearly stands to gain: the vice
president, in this case Millard Fillmore, who, because of these
possibly lethal cherries vaulted to the august office of the
this being outrageous? But as everyone knows, in any murder
or suspicious demise, the first suspect that the police investigate
is the person who most stands to gain by the death. Who is the
beneficiary of granddaddy's will? Etc. Now, this does not of
course mean that the main beneficiary was actually responsible
for grandpa's death. But at least the theory has to be investigated.
So why not also in a sudden death of someone who means more
to most of us than one wealthy individual: the president of
the U.S.? Shouldn't the vice president always be the first suspect,
his whereabouts checked, etc.? So why has this never happened?
Why, for example, did not Lyndon Baines Johnson immediately
become the first prime suspect in the indubitable murder of
John F. Kennedy?
anything, Miss Rising's own theory of the assassination is a
bit too broad. Zachary Taylor, though born in Orange County,
Virginia and himself a slaveholder, surprised everyone by leading
the battle to prohibit any admission of western slave states
into the Union. He also opposed the Compromise of 1850, which
managed to delay the War Between the States for a number of
years. So Miss Rising postulates that Southern slaveowners bumped
off this dangerous traitor to his region and culture. Well,
that's certainly interesting, but where's the evidence? Surely
Millard Fillmore is a more plausible a priori bet.
turns out that the exhumation shows only normal trace quantities
of arsenic in Old Rough-n-Ready's remains. Shucks. The terrible
thing is that this result might discredit the exhumation movement.
It shouldn't. Let's find out, at long last. Let's follow the
path blazed by the courageous Miss Rising; let's exhume the
body of every president who died in office, and let's take another
more scientific look.
go down the list. First was "Old Tippecanoe" William Henry Harrison,
another verdamte war hero (the War of 1812), who allegedly
spoke too long at his inaugural, walked out in the rain, caught
the flu, and died, only a month after his inaugural. Supposedly
natural causes. Humph. Let's exhume Old Tippecanoe and look
for poison. Beneficiary? John Tyler, a Democrat when Harrison
was a Whig. Another Southern Democratic plot?
came Zack Taylor. The third death in office, of course, was
the sainted Abraham Lincoln. Oddly, even though his killing
was clearly a conspiracy, the Establishment has injected into
the popular consciousness the image of a lone nut, John Wilkes
Booth, declaiming wildly after he shot Lincoln. Moreover, the
conspiracy was hushed up, military courts delivering summary
justice in secret. There is a substantial revisionist review
that the major conspirator was Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton,
who contrived to have every one above him in the line of succession
to the presidency shot at (only the assassination of Lincoln
was successful). I don't know exactly how an exhumation of Lincoln's
body would help test the Stanton thesis, but since the body
is being exhumed anyway (to test for Marfan's Syndrome, and
why should anyone care whether Abe had Marfan's Syndrome or
not?), they may as well poke around further and see what they
can find. It sure can't hurt.
came James A. Garfield, bumped off by someone eternally tarred
with the epithet "disappointed office-seeker." Another lone
nut. Charles Guiteau was apparently driven off his nut by not
getting a job in the Garfield administration, and this was then
successfully used by the Establishment to inflict the monstrous
Civil Service system on this country, protecting every bureaucrat
for life in his invasion of the pockets and the liberties of
the taxpayer. Let's exhume and investigate. Beneficiary? Vice
President Chester A. Arthur, a New York corruptionist and protectionist,
opposed to Garfield's relatively laissez-faire wing of the Republican
Party. Or maybe the civil service reformers were responsible,
using Guiteau as an excuse for pushing through their Civil Service.
president to die in office was William McKinley of Ohio, long-time
Rockefeller tool. Another lone nut was responsible, the "anarchist"
Leon Czolgosz, who, like Guiteau, was quickly tried and executed
by the Establishment. Even though Czolgosz was considered a
flake and was not a member of any organized anarchist group,
the assassination was used by the Establishment to smear anarchism
and to outlaw anarchist ideas and agitation. Various obscure
anti-sedition and anti-conspiracy laws trotted out from time
to time by the Establishment were passed during this post-McKinley
assassination hysteria. Beneficiary? The vaulting to power of
Teddy Roosevelt, longtime tool of the competing Morgan (as opposed
to Rockefeller) wing of the Republican Party. Teddy immediately
started using the anti-trust weapon to try to destroy Rockefeller's
Standard Oil and Harriman's Northern Securities, both bitter
enemies of the Morgan world empire. Exhume McKinley, and also
start a deep investigation of the possible role of Teddy and
the Morgans. Was Czolgosz only a lone nut?
sudden death in office was that of my favorite president of
the twentieth century, Warren Gamaliel Harding, in the camp
of the Rockefellers. His death was quickly dismissed by the
Establishment as of natural causes, but Gaston Means, a Secret
Service agent in the Harding White House, wrote a sensational
Strange Death of Warren Harding, charging that Harding
was poisoned by his wife, for two possible, though somewhat
contradictory reasons: (a) Harding's notorious womanizing, and
(b) to spare Harding the scandal of the Teapot Dome revelations,
which were just emerging. Means's charge was brusquely dismissed
on the grounds that he was an unreliable character. Perhaps,
but so what? Surely, the grounds for exhumation are overwhelming.
Chief beneficiary of Harding's death? Vice President Calvin
Coolidge, member of the prominent Massachusetts family long
in the Morgan ambit. (Hmmm. Another sudden death that replaced
a Rockefeller person with a Morgan man?!)
next presidential death in office was of course that of the
revered Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This is perhaps the most
mysterious death of all. FDR's health had long been swathed
in layer after layer of official and medical lies. And when
he died, in his fourth term, the official mystery was unprecedented:
his coffin was covered, and an autopsy was never performed on
the body. All sorts of rumors abounded: that he died of syphilis,
or of a gunshot wound, either self-inflicted or inflicted by
someone else. Was Mrs. Lucy Mercer there when he died? And what
was the role of the mysterious Russian painter, Mrs. Elizabeth
Shoumatoff? The cause of historical truth and justice cries
out for exhumation and deep analysis of FDR's remains.
beneficiary of FDR's death was, of course, Harry S. Truman.
In broader political terms, a pro-Commie president, manipulated
as we know now by brain-truster, top foreign policy adviser,
and unregistered KGB agent Harry "the Hop" Hopkins, was
suddenly replaced by the first launcher of the Cold War, at
the behest of such venerable Establishment "Wise Men" (as they
modestly called themselves): Henry L. Stimson, W. Averill Harriman,
Dean G. Acheson, and John J. McCloy. Exhume, exhume!
of course, matching FDR in mystery is the last president to
die in office; the shining prince of Camelot, whose shine gets
more tarnished every year: John Fitzgerald Kennedy, allegedly
assassinated by lone nut Lee Harvey Oswald, who in turn was
promptly assassinated by another, independent lone nut: Jack
Ruby! This is the shakiest, most convoluted Establishment theory
of all: for the two lone nuts had to be independent, couldn't
have known each other so that this kooky official theory could
work. So much so in fact that the mysteriously sudden deaths
of all those who knew both Oswald and Ruby and who knew that
the two were linked, is one of the most powerful counter-indications
to the official doctrine. Here the number of books and investigations
rebutting Establishment theory is legion, although orthodox
writers still act as if dissenters are somehow tetched: powerful
works from such writers as Mark Lane, the bullet-and-body revisionism
of David Lifton (in his Best
Evidence), the work of the smeared Jim Garrison, etc.
the case for a new investigation with subpoena power is overwhelming.
Not only is there persuasive evidence that the Parkland autopsy
report was to say the least deeply flawed, as well as the possibility
that the Kennedy body was switched, but also we find that Kennedy's
brain is mysteriously "missing" from the National Archives.
Hell, libraries lose books all the time, right? Exhume, investigate!
As I indicated, Lyndon Baines Johnson, who as Texan students
of his career know, was not above using a little hanky-panky
to advance his political career. And what about that intrepid
Kennedy assassination researcher who, analyzing the motorcade
with Zapruder, etc. films, concluded that Lyndon hit the deck
of his car 2.7 seconds before the sound of the first shot? More
broadly, the assassination of Kennedy removed from power, by
force and violence, a representative of the "Yankee" Eastern
Establishment, and replaced him by a leader of the Sun Belt
(Florida, Texas, southern California) "Cowboys" as explained
in Carl Oglesby's perceptive work, The
Yankee and Cowboy War. On this analysis, the Watergate
Affair consisted of a counter-coup leveled by the Yankees, installing
Establishment rep Gerald Ford, and ousting Cowboy (southern
California) Richard Nixon (see Carl Oglesby, The Yankee and
Cowboy War, Kansas City: Sheed Andrews & McMeel, 1976).
this is not only of fascinating interest to the history buff.
Who knows: there might come a time when yet another beloved
president dies, unexpectedly and quite suddenly, in office.
What we need to adopt is a mind-set that, if and when such an
event occurs, we better be prepared to cast a cold eye and ask
all the right and the upsetting questions.
N. Rothbard (19261995) was the author of Man,
Economy, and State, Conceived
in Liberty, What
Has Government Done to Our Money, For
a New Liberty, The
Case Against the Fed, and many
other books and articles.
He was also the editor with Lew Rockwell of The