To the editor:
Outgoing presidents have seen or created a variety of situations during their final months, weeks and days in office. Our incumbent president, for example, is departing amid a deeply divided country that recently saw an assault on its democracy like never before. (I will let others assign blame.)
Here’s a look at what was going on during the end of some previous presidential administrations:
Federalist John Adams, bitter about his defeat by his Democratic-Republican vice president, Thomas Jefferson, appointed “midnight judges” by quickly filling judgeships with the intention of denying the Jefferson administration the opportunity to leave its mark on the courts and to guarantee a strong Federalist check on Jefferson’s executive actions.
John Tyler signed a joint resolution from Congress annexing Texas, the first instance in American history of an international agreement being brought into effect by resolution instead of by a treaty.
James Buchanan saw seven states secede from the Union. Although he did not believe they had the right to do this, he also thought it was illegal for the federal government to stop them.
Ulysses Grant did not know who his successor would be until two days before Inauguration Day, thanks to the disputed election of 1876 when 20 electoral votes from four states were in doubt along with allegations of vote fraud. The Compromise of 1877 ended this with the withdrawal of federal troops from the South and an end to Reconstruction.
Herbert Hoover ended his administration amid the Great Depression, and not on good terms with his successor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, during the transition.
Jimmy Carter began what is known as “midnight regulations” (a take on Adams’ “midnight judges”) by publishing more than 10,000 pages of new rules.
Outgoing presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama actually did versions of this as well.