Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Et tu, Brute?

A couple of weeks ago, just in time for our 237th Independence Day celebration on July 4th, a website published the last words of 38 presidents of the United States. Here they are:

1. George Washington -- “’Tis well.”
2. John Adams -- “Thomas Jefferson survives.”
3. Thomas Jefferson -- “No, doctor, nothing more.”
4. James Madison -- “Nothing more than a change of mind, my dear.”
5. James Monroe -- “I regret that I should leave this world without again beholding him.”
6. John Quincy Adams -- “This is the last of earth. I am content.”
7. Andrew Jackson -- “I hope to meet each of you in heaven. Be good, children, all of you, and strive to be ready when the change comes.”
8. Martin van Buren -- “There is but one reliance.”
9. William Henry Harrison -- “I understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more.”
10. John Tyler -- “Perhaps it is best.”
11. James K. Polk -- “I love you, Sarah. For all eternity, I love you.”
12. Zachary Taylor -- “I regret nothing, but I am sorry to leave my friends.”
13. Millard Fillmore -- “The nourishment is palatable.”
14. Franklin Pierce -- unknown
15. James Buchanan -- “Oh, Lord God Almighty, as thou wilt!”
16. Abraham Lincoln -- “She won’t think anything about it.”
17. Andrew Johnson -- “Oh, do not cry. Be good children and we shall meet in heaven.”
18. Ulysses S. Grant -- “Water.”
19. Rutherford B. Hayes -- “I know I am going where Lucy is.”
20. James A. Garfield -- “Swaim, can’t you stop the pain?”
21. Chester A. Arthur -- unknown
22. Grover Cleveland -- “I have tried so hard to do right.”
23. Benjamin Harrison -- “Are the doctors here? Doctor, my lungs...”
24. William McKinley -- “Goodbye, all, goodbye. It is God’s way. His will be done.”
25. Theodore Roosevelt -- “Put out the light.”
26. William Howard Taft -- unknown
27. Woodrow Wilson -- “When the machinery is broken... I am ready.”
28. Warren G. Harding -- “That’s good. Go on, read some more.”
29. Calvin Coolidge -- “Good morning, Robert.”
30. Herbert Hoover -- unknown, but here are the last words he is known to have written, a get-well message to Harry Truman, who had hit his head on the bathtub after slipping in his bathroom: “Bathtubs are a menace to ex-presidents for as you may recall a bathtub rose up and fractured my vertebrae when I was in Venezuela on your world famine mission in 1946. My warmest sympathy and best wishes for your speedy recovery.”
31. Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- “I have a terrific headache.
32. Harry Truman -- unknown
33. Dwight D. Eisenhower -- “I want to go. God take me.”
34. John F. Kennedy -- “No, you certainly can’t.”
35. Lyndon B. Johnson -- “Send Mike immediately.”
36. Richard Nixon -- “Help.”
37. Gerald Ford -- unknown
38. Ronald Reagan -- unknown

Since Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, William Jefferson Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama are still with us, their final words have not yet occurred. Adding these five men to the list seems to bring the number of U.S. presidents to 43. That is not correct, however. Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States. The difference is that Grover Cleveland served as U.S. president twice, but since he uttered his final words only once, he appears only once in the list above.

If you would like to see any of the 38 Presidents in the list, or if you would like to learn why they said what they said, click here.

In the title of this post are the last words of Julius Caesar, who was assassinated in 44 B.C. on the Ides of March.

In case you were wondering, I identify most with the last words of presidents Richard Nixon and Calvin Coolidge.


  1. I have it on good authority that Harry Truman's last words were "What the hell did the S stand for anyway?" and Ronald Reagan's last words were "Facts are stupid things." Bill Clinton has already planned his last words - "Being president is like running a cemetery: you've got a lot of people under you and nobody's listening."

  2. Sir RWP, thank you for sharing. Such a pity so many unknown, but then why should they be known?

    I found myself thinking as I read them, is this a joke? Surely not.

    I could not imagine we Aussies making a list of the last words of our Prime Ministers. Research shows that most of us don't even know who they are, let alone their last words. But you have given me a task to do now :)

  3. Yorky Puddy, Harry Truman's S did not stand for anything; Ronald Reagan once said, on the possibility of being offered the vice-presidency in 1968, "There is absolutely no circumstance whatever under which I would accept that spot. Even if they tied and gagged me, I would find a way to signal by wiggling my ears."; and anything Bill Clinton says becomes a double entendre automatically.

    Carol in N.E. Australia, do send me a copy of your list when it is complete!

  4. Sir RWP, I just found these alternative dying words for George Washington on a website, which I think I prefer.

    “ I am just going. Have me decently buried and do not let my body be into a vault in less than two days after I am dead. [...] ”

    My initial research for Aussie PMs has come up empty, but I will persist and publish something to your satisfaction in due course.