These presidents didn't attend inaugurations of their successors

These presidents didn't attend inaugurations of their successors

January 22, 2021

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President Trump has said he will not attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, joining only a small group of former presidents who skipped their successors’ ceremonies after losing reelection.

The first was John Adams, the nation’s second president, who was also the first to lose a reelection bid. He skipped town before the swearing-in of his longtime rival, Thomas Jefferson. Years later, the two Founding Fathers each died within hours of one another on July 4, 1826.

Portrait of John Adams (1735-1826), American politician, United States of America, engraving by Vernier from Etats-Unis d’Amerique, by Roux de Rochelle, L’Univers Pittoresque, published by Firmin Didot Freres, Paris, 1837.
(Getty Images)


John Quincy Adams repeated his father’s move and skipped the 1829 inauguration of Andrew Jackson, after a bitter campaign that was a rematch from four years earlier, when Jackson won the most states and received the most electoral votes — but failed to secure a majority in the Electoral College.

Portrait of John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), American diplomat and politician who served as the 6th President of the United States from 1825 to 1829, engraving after a painting by George Peter Alexander Healy (1818-1894).
(Getty Images)

Because none of the four candidates, all in the same party, secured an Electoral College majority in the 1824 election, the House of Representatives decided on a winner. Jackson later labeled the end result as a “corrupt bargain” struck between his rivals, Adams and Henry Clay.

Jackson, a war hero and the first president not to have come from an aristocratic family (unlike the Adamses), went on to host a massive public inauguration ceremony and raucous reception at the White House, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Martin Van Buren, President of the United States, Published by Chs Fenderich, Washington City, Printed by PS Duval, Philadelphia, 1839. (Photo by: GHI Vintage/Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Two terms later, Jackson’s vice president, Martin Van Buren, had succeeded him in the White House. But he lost reelection in 1840 to William Henry Harrison, and skipped that inauguration. Although they were opponents, Van Buren wrote that they were on good terms, and it’s unclear why he didn’t attend. One possible reason was that his son was sick, according to the University of Illinois.

And Andrew Johnson, who was from the South, skipped the swearing-in of Union war hero Ulysses S. Grant in 1869 amid a Reconstruction fight and following a failed impeachment that Grant had supported.

Engraving of the American President Andrew Johnson from 1890.

Johnson was vice president under Abraham Lincoln and came into office after the latter’s assassination. Then in the next election, he failed to earn the Democratic nomination, and therefore did not even run against Grant.

Johnson was also the first president to face impeachment, although the Senate acquitted him by just one vote shy of the required two-thirds majority. The House had filed 11 articles of impeachment against him, nine of them for alleged violations of the Tenure of Office Act, which he flouted in order to appoint Grant as Secretary of War in place of Edwin M. Stanton.


Despite trying to install Grant to his Cabinet, the two did not get along at all, according to the Washington Post. Grant refused to even ride in the same carriage with Johnson, and he had supported the push for impeachment.

Grover Cleveland, on the other hand, is the only president who got to attend his immediate successors’ inaugurations twice, after being elected to the White House in nonconsecutive terms.


Workers put up bunting on a press riser for the upcoming inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, on Pennsylvania Ave. in front of the White House, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Although Trump will skip the Jan. 20 ceremony for Biden, Vice President Mike Pence is expected to attend the event.

Fox News’ Louis Casiano contributed to this report.

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