Who would win in a Presidential knife-fight to the death? So asks Reddit, and blogger Faceinthe blue delivers with a full accounting for the relative strengths and weaknesses of all presidents, both living and deceased.
(image above is a hunting knife presented to Theodore Roosevelt – via Rock Island Auction)
One of my most-visited sites on the web is Reddit.com, and one of my favourite subreddits is HistoricalWhatIf, an online community that debates historical hypotheticals. Earlier today someone asked the question, In a mass knife fight to the death between every American President, who would win and why? Someone beat me to the obvious answer that a final showdown would see Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt doing a dagger-wielding version of a Mexican standoff, so I took it too far and walked through how I thought every president would turn out. An hour later the result greatly exceeded the maximum 10,000 character limit for a post, so I’ve decided to blog about it instead.
So begins an epic breakdown of the complete pantheon of Presidents. Of course our hypothetical deathmatch must have rules, we aren’t a bunch of savages. “You can’t fight in here. This is the War Room.”
To begin, here were the original conditions of the hypothetical, as suggested by the redditor Xineph:
- Every president is in the best physical and mental condition they were ever in throughout the course of their presidency. Fatal maladies have been cured, but any lifelong conditions or chronic illnesses (e.g. FDR’s polio) remain.
- The presidents are fighting in an ovular arena 287 feet long and 180 feet wide (the dimensions of the  Roman Colosseum). The floor is concrete. Assume that weather is not a factor.
- Each president has been given one standard-issue  Gerber LHR Combat Knife , the knife  presented to each graduate of the United States Army Special Forces Qualification Course. Assume the presidents have no training outside any combat experiences they may have had in their own lives.
- There is no penalty for avoiding combat for an extended period of time. Hiding and/or playing dead could be valid strategies, but there can be only one winner. The melee will go on as long as it needs to.
- FDR has been outfitted with a  Bound Plus H-Frame Power Wheelchair, and can travel at a maximum speed of around 11.5 MPH. The wheelchair has been customized so that he is holding his knife with his dominant hand. This is to compensate for his almost certain and immediate defeat in the face of an overwhelming disadvantage.
- Each president will be deposited in the arena regardless of their own will to fight, however, personal ethics, leadership ability, tactical expertise etc., should all be taken into account. Alliances are allowed.
(Note: The redditors who originally came up with this historical what if contacted me asking if I could update this post to reflect their authorship of the points above. Of course I am happy to do so. Thank you Zach Ehrlich and Luke Conley for creating this fun writing prompt.)
As I said, the author breaks down each President’s strengths and weaknesses. I would not want to spoil the fun of your reading the whole thing, but here are two from the middle of the pack.
13) Millard Fillmore. Let’s be honest: Weak character, unmemorable fellow, a little stout all his life, boring. No part of this guy suggests he’s going to come out well. Dead early, and only the presidents alive during his lifetime are even going to know whose corpse they keep tripping over.
14) Franklin Pierce. In his prime he was a soldier in a era where bayonets were the main thing that got the job done. He also has a touch of madness in his eye in his official portrait. I’m going to say he makes it to the middle of the fight. Beyond that, I can’t say.
I loved this. I hope you do too.