Presidential Assassins: Born Under an Unlucky Star

Monday, February 15, AD 2016

Hattip for the above video to commenter Greg Mockeridge.

I have never liked Presidents’ Day. Why celebrate loser presidents like Jimmy Carter and James Buchanan, non-entities like Millard Fillmore, bad presidents, like Grant, with great presidents like Washington and Lincoln? However, most presidents, for good and ill, have shaped the story of America.

To say that presidents have had a large impact on our history is to merely recite a truism. Presidential assassins, regrettably, have also had a large impact on our history.

On this President’s day we will look at the murderer of Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth. The rest of the week we will look at other successful assasins of presidents.

On July 4, 1835 Junius Brutus Booth, founder of the Booth theatrical family, sat down and penned a letter to President Andrew Jackson. Booth and Jackson knew each other and were friends, which makes the letter quite odd indeed. The text of the letter:

To His Excellency, General Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, Washington City,

You damn’d old Scoundrel if you don’t sign the pardon of your fellow men now under sentence of Death, De Ruiz and De Soto, I will cut your throat whilst you are sleeping. I wrote to you repeated Cautions so look out or damn you. I’ll have you burnt at the Stake in the City of Washington.

Your Master, Junius Brutus Booth.

You know me! Look out!

Booth was one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of his day, and he often gave unforgettable performances. However, he was often noted for his off stage escapades, usually fueled by copious amounts of alcohol. I have little doubt that when he penned this missive Booth was quite drunk. De Ruiz and De Soto had been convicted of piracy. Many Americans had asked for clemency for the men. De Soto did receive a Presidential pardon on July 6, 1835 after an interview with De Soto’s wife and defense attorney with Jackson. In 1832 De Soto had saved the lives of 70 Americans aboard the burning ship Minerva in 1831 and that made him a sympathetic figure to the American public and Jackson. De Ruiz and the other men convicted of piracy were hung. Go here for the details of the piracy trial.

And what happened to Booth? Nothing apparently. I assume that Jackson probably laughed off the letter, assuming that his friend was drunk when he wrote it, and in any case threatening to assassinate the president was not a crime in 1835. One fervently wishes that Booth’s son, John Wilkes Booth had merely written a letter threatening to assassinate Lincoln.

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4 Responses to Presidential Assassins: Born Under an Unlucky Star

  • Thank you, Sir. This was a fascinating read on a subject with which I had only passing familiarity.

  • Interesting stuff… I agree about President’s Day; in Virginia it is officially “Washington’s Day”.

    Lincoln’s assassination was one of the most immoral, tragic events in our history. I’ve often wondered how Lincoln would have handled Reconstruction, and if he would in fact have “let them up easy.” Andrew Johnson pretty much agreed but the radical Republicans rolled over him. I suspect Lincoln would have had much firmer control of the party. Fascinating to imagine what his actual steps would have been in the aftermath of the war.

  • “Initially Booth and his co-conspirators had planned to kidnap Lincoln and smuggle him South…”
    One recalls King Charles I’s prescient remark, “I know that there are but a few steps between the prison and the grave of princes.”

  • Well, the Union had similar plans for a hit and run strike on Richmond whereby they could kill Jeff Davis and the Confederate cabinet: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dahlgren_Affair

Theodore Roosevelt: A Force of Nature

Monday, February 16, AD 2015

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt

 

I have never liked Presidents’ Day.  Why celebrate all presidents when only a select few of them, like Washington and Lincoln, deserve to be celebrated?   Officially the date is still the commemoration of George Washington’s birthday, which actually won’t occur until February 22.  One of the few presidents worthy to be mentioned in the same breath as Washington and Lincoln is Theodore Roosevelt, and today we will look at his truly remarkable life.

I love Roosevelt as a man. He was always optimistic and led life at the charge. Whatever he did, he did with explosive energy. He was never half-hearted about anything. He was a good family man and a good husband. He loved God, his country and his family, and genuinely seemed to like most people who came into contact with him. As one of his enemies said, “Someone would have to hate him a lot, not to like him a little.”

In this look at his life we will list some of TR’s accomplishments, but I do not think that gets to the heart of the matter. Most presidents are smaller than their great office. A precious few, Washington and Lincoln for example, loom larger than the office. TR was in this class. The phrase bully-pulpit came about to describe how TR used the presidency as a giant mega-phone to get his views across to the American people and persuade them. He had a deep patriotism and a belief in the greatness of this country that resonated with the country. Some presidents debase us and some ennoble us, and none were better at ennobling us than TR. He understood that life is a grand adventure. Sometimes it is a hard adventure and sometimes a joyous adventure, but always an adventure. TR imparted this sense of wonder and grandeur to many of his contemporaries.

The complexity of TR makes writing even  a brief biography of him a challenge: scholar, historian, writer, naturalist, legislator, rancher, cowboy, hunter,  civil service commissioner, police commissioner, soldier, governor, vice-president, president, daredevil, adventurer, explorer, etc. He combined about a dozen lives into sixty brief years.

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One Response to Theodore Roosevelt: A Force of Nature

  • A couple more anecdotes of McKinley’s character:

    -McKinley always wore a red carnation for good luck. An hour before he was shot, he took it off to give to a little girl who asked if she could have it.

    -Just after being shot, while the crowd attacked Czolgosz, McKinley called out “Be gentle with him, lads! He’s obviously not right in the head!”

Mister, We Could Use a Man Like Calvin Coolidge Again

Monday, February 18, AD 2013

A wholesome regard for the memory of great men of long ago is the best assurance to a people of a continuation of great men to come, who shall still be able to instruct, to lead, and to inspire. A people who worship at the shrine of true greatness will themselves be truly great.

Calvin Coolidge

Time for my usual Presidents’ Day rant.  Although still officially Washington’s Birthday this day has become commonly known as President’s Day.  I see no reason to honor the various incompetents, low lifes, grifters and public thieves who have too often sat in the Oval Office on the same day that should be reserved for truly great Presidents like Washington, Lincoln and Coolidge.  Coolidge?  Yep, Silent Cal was a truly magnificent President and in this post we will examine why he deserves to be ranked among the very best of our Chief Executives.

Born on the fourth of July in 1872, in Plymouth Notch in the Green Mountains of Vermont, John Calvin Coolidge, (he was always called Calvin by his family so his first name fell by the wayside) was a rock-ribbed Vermont Yankee descended from a line of Yankees that had first set foot in New England in 1630.  Thrift was not a virtue in the Coolidge family, but a way of life.  His mother died when he was twelve.  He would carry a locket with her portrait until the day he died.   “The greatest grief that can come to a boy came to me.  Life was never to seem the same again.”  His beloved sister died only five years later, not the last loss of a loved one that would come to Calvin Coolidge.  Graduating from Amherst College, he took the advice of his father and skipped law school, too expensive, and became an attorney through the traditional route of “reading law” under an experienced attorney.

In 1898 he opened a law office in Northampton, Massachusetts and gradually attracted business as a transactional attorney rather than an attorney who did litigation in court.  He met his wife Grace, a teacher at a local school for the deaf, when she spied him one day in 1903 through an open window at the boarding house where he was staying.  Coolidge was shaving, and was wearing his long johns and his hat.  (He later explained to her that he used the hat to keep his unruly hair out of his eyes while he was shaving.)  In this case opposites did attract, and for life.  Grace was talkative and lively, Coolidge quiet and withdrawn.  They had a very happy marriage that was blessed by two sons.  Shortly after their marriage Grace was presented by Calvin with a sack with fifty-two pairs of hole filled socks in them.  She asked him if he had married her so she would darn his socks.  He replied no, but that he found it mighty handy that she could darn his socks!  (And she did not kill him!)

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5 Responses to Mister, We Could Use a Man Like Calvin Coolidge Again

  • Great article, Donald. Thank you very much for posting it. I’m looking forward to sharing some of your insights with my US History class in a couple of weeks, as we hit the “Roaring 20s”.

    BTW, have you read Amity Shlaes’ book on Coolidge? I enjoyed her treatment of the Great Depression, The Forgotten Man, and was considering getting this one.

  • I picked it up last week Nicholas although I haven’t done much more than glance through it at the present time.

  • ” He cut Federal spending to the bone. For Coolidge this was not just a fiscal matter, but a moral matter:

    ‘I favor the policy of economy, not because I wish to save money, but because I wish to save people.

    The men and women of this country who toil are the ones who bear the cost of the Government.

    Every dollar that we carelessly waste means that their life will be so much the more meager.
    Every dollar that we prudently save means that their life will be so much the more abundant.
    Economy is idealism in its most practical form.’ ”

    Carelessly wasting dollars, and ideals, is the modus operandi in this administration.

    ” Our problems today are not larger than those that confronted Coolidge. Unfortunately our leaders lack the persistence, determination and honesty that Coolidge brought to the tasks that he confronted. May our nation know his like again. ”

    “… and honesty …” Good hope in the last sentence. Thing is that ‘honesty’ is becoming an unknown from a young age due to the quality of public education.

    All these ‘racism’ epithets thrown at the very people (Republican) who worked against racism – and most ironically from whom they, the Republicans, protected from the Democrat oppression.

    Grim looking posterity developing in Federal government.

  • Reportdly a revial preacher was coming to town and his wife wanted to here him, but she came down with a cold. She sent Cal instead,

    Q. how was it?

    A. he preached for 3 hours.

    Q. what did he talk about.

    A.Sin.

    Q. What did he say apout it.

    A. He’s against it.

Rate that President! : Part II

Tuesday, February 21, AD 2012

The second part of my rating of US Presidents.  The first part may be viewed here.

24.  John F. Kennedy-From a moral standpoint perhaps the worst man ever to sit in the White House, the recent revelations of his teenage White House intern mistress during that time period helping to cement that status.  Kennedy was a strong advocate of the space race and set the country the goal of landing a man on the moon which the nation met in 1969.  He presided over a prosperous economy, helped along with a reduction in marginal rates which he pushed through.  In foreign policy he presided over the Bay of Pigs fiasco, and our widening involvement in South Vietnam, lending support to the coup that toppled Diem. He will always be best known for the Cuban Missile Crisis which he successfully navigated, but it was a very close shave for the world.  On civil rights, he gave much lip service to it, but it would be his successor who would push through the key civil rights legislation.  The second most over-rated president in our nation’s history.

25.  James Garfield-A Union Civil War general with a superb combat record, Garfield was also a canny politician with seven terms under his belt in the House.  During the brief four months he held the office before his assassination, he staked out positions in favor of civil service reform, the hot domestic issue of the day, and reform of the post office.   He refinanced a substantial portion of the national debt at a lower interest rate, saving the nation millions in interest payments.  An ardent advocate of civil rights for blacks, he sponsored a bill to provide for universal federal education to combat the fact that in many Southern states no provision was made to educate blacks.  It failed in Congress after Garfield’s death.  He appointed many blacks to federal office, and began to reverse President Rutherford’s policy of conciliation white Southerners at the expense of blacks.  Garfield began the policy of modernizing the Navy carried forward by President Arthur.

26.  John Tyler-Known as “His Accidency” by his critics after he took over when President Harrison died just after thirty days in office, Harrison set the mold for Vice-Presidents who assumed the office.  It was by no means clear that he would be called President and that he would have the full powers of the President or be considered to be simply conducting a caretaker “regency” until the next election for President.  Harrison had none of that.  He insisted on being called President and was quite clear in his own mind that he had all of the powers of an elected President.  Aside from this setting of precedent, the most signficant event in his presidency was the annexation of Texas at the very end of his term.  Tyler was a former Democrat and he acted like a Democrat as president, vetoing almost the entire Whig agenda, including vetoing a proposed national bank twice.  The Whigs in the House, for the first time in the nation’s history, began impeachment proceedings.  Tyler probably would have been impeached if the Whigs had not lost their majority in the 1842 election in the House.  Tyler died in 1862, shortly after his election as a representative to the Confederate Congress.  Stunningly, he still has two living grandsons.

27.  Herbert Hoover-Hoover rose from poverty to become a self-made millionaire as a mining engineer.  He was a noted philanthropist, organizing relief efforts in Europe throughout World War I, saving tens of millions of lives.  His administration was dominated by the Great Depression.  To combat the Depression Hoover initiated policies that set the precedent for Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.  Like the New Deal, Hoover’s policies were largely unsuccessful in combating the Depression.  Out of office, Hoover became an outspoken critic of the New Deal which he regarded as socialism by another name.  Hoover lived on until 1964, staying active in various causes, and being called upon by all his successors as president for advice and to conduct special missions for them.  The only exception was Roosevelt, who shared with Hoover a cordial enmity.

28.  Gerald Ford-Our only president never to be elected either president or vice president, Ford was left to pick up the pieces after Nixon resigned in disgrace.  Pardoning Nixon was probably the right thing to do to avoid the nation having to go through several more years of the Watergate melodrama, and Ford took immense grief for doing so.  In foreign affairs his hands were tied by a Democrat leftist dominated Congress that came to power in the election of 1974, and 1975 witnessed the fall of South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to the Communists, and set the stage for Soviet adventurism in Africa and Afghanistan.  Domestically, the country went through a short but sharp recession in 1974 largely caused by the Arab oil embargo.  Inflation was still a great problem, but the economy had vastly improved by 1976 and Ford probably would have beaten Carter but for Ford making a verbal mistep in one of their debates, claiming that Poland was not under Soviet domination, and stubbornly refusing to correct himself for several days.  He died in 2006 at 93, making him the longest lived president, beating Reagan for that distinction by 45 days.

29. Millard Fillmore-Fillmore took over as the last Whig president following the death of Zachary Taylor.  He helped push through the Compromise of 1850 which delayed the Civil War for decade, and after you have mentioned that you have largely accounted for any historical importance of the Fillmore administration, other than the opening of Japan by Commodore Perry which occurred under President Pierce but which Fillmore initiated.  In retirement Fillmore turned down an honorary degree from Oxford, saying that he was unworthy of it, and noting that it was written in Latin and that a man should never accept a degree that he was unable to read.

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43 Responses to Rate that President! : Part II

  • I have Carter = 42 and Obama 43. Neither idiot could carry Buchanan’s dirty laundry.

    The liberals at “Public Policy Polling” asked “Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of” each president by name?

    The results: Pharaoh worse than Dubya: who up to this poll was worse than Hitler.

    The poll has 45% favorable for Bush 43, while 46% are unfavorable = net unfavorable -1.

    Obama now 46% favorable and 49% unfavorable = higher net unfavorable -3.

    Another four years of Obama and we are ruined.

  • The worst president of your lifetime? I’m glad you are hopeful that you won’t live to see another Obama.

  • In the fall Whimsy, I think we will give him a beating that he, his party and the country will long remember.

  • I still would hold off rating W and Clinton as they are still of too recent a vintage to judge objectively, but otherwise I think this is spot on. I think Pierce may have even been worse than Buchanan considering that he was completely feckless and was the first president to have his vetoes regularly overridden by Congress. Still, it’s astounding that the worst presidents in history are all clustered around the greatest.

  • I posted this at Almost Chosen People before I saw this part of the ranking:

    “I just hope that you don’t rank poor Warren Harding last or near last. The guy gets a bum rap. My son is currently doing his project for our school’s Ohio Fair on WGH (he drew the name out of a hat).

    “At first, I was bummed about his getting a man whose name has become synonymous with scandal. But the more we have studied Harding, the more we have come to realize that he has been unfairly maligned by history. The guy was beloved by the American people during his presidency. And the scandals, which only came to light after his death, were not perpetrated by him or on his behalf. I suppose he’s responsible for appointing shady people, but he should also receive a great deal more credit than he gets for actually returning the country to some semblance of “normalcy” after the fairly turbulent decade that preceded his term.”

    I’m thankful to see that you agree.

  • Just signing in for updated comments.

  • “In the fall Whimsey, I think we will give (Obama) a beating that he, his party and the
    country will long remember”. Oh Mr. McClarey, from your mouth to God’s ears…

  • “it’s astounding that the worst presidents in history are all clustered around the greatest”

    That makes sense. Difficult circumstances give top-notch people the opportunity to shine. Lincoln’s and Reagan’s greatest achievements consisted in undoing the damage caused by their predecessors.

    Two things struck me when reading these articles. First, just how morally bankrupt the three presidents elected in the 1960’s were. I usually think of “the sixties” as beginning in 1968, and being the result of baby-boomers’ excesses, but the country had some pretty bad problems from the beginning of the decade. Secondly, just how important the choice of the VP is. Too often the vice-president is chosen out of electoral calculation, a practice that offends me no matter which party does it.

    I should stop there and not get into an argument with a historian about history, but I’ve got to ask: was TR really so amazing? I’ve never been able to square his great reputation with what I see as modest accomplishments.

  • Harding Inaugural:
    “We must face the grim necessity, with full knowledge that the task is to be solved, and we must proceed with a full realization that no statute enacted by man can repeal the inexorable laws of nature. Our most dangerous tendency is to expect too much of government, and at the same time do for it too little. We contemplate the immediate task of putting our public household in order. We need a rigid and yet sane economy, combined with fiscal justice, and it must be attended by individual prudence and thrift, which are so essential to this trying hour and reassuring for the future. . . .

    Justice prudence and thrift– can ideas like that become politically correct again?
    help yourself to Thomas Woods article at First Principles, and a much quicker read from National Review

    http://www.firstprinciplesjournal.com/articles.aspx?article=1322

    http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/261173/reassessing-warren-g-harding-ryan-cole

  • I would have George W. Bush a little higher.

  • Thanks for those Harding links, Anzlyne. They’ll make outstanding resources for my son’s presentation.

  • Barack Obama is the worst President ever. Look at our economy. Look at our national debt. Look at our budget deficits. Look at our unemployment. Look at our military and our standing around the world.

    Look at his arrogance. Look at his policies. Look at the people who he has surrounded himself with. Look at his supporters.

    57 states, his Muslim faith, Austrians speak Austrian, ad infinitum.

    James Buchanan and Jimmy Carter were not underwritten by the disgusting George Soros.

  • Peggy Noonan once said that an accurate popular assessment of JFK will not be made until the last baby boomers who vividly remember his assassination are dead. Until then, he will always reliably (and ridiculously) end up being named in polls as one of the 5 top presidents. I am not old enough to remember JFK (I clearly remember RFK’s assassination), and so I have always been startled by the hold the myth of Camelot retains on the minds of people just a few years older than me. You can not criticize JFK in the presence of my conservative Republican brother-in-law, who is from a large Irish American family. He has plenty of negative things to say about Teddy, but (I think) admitting that JFK really wasn’t the great man many took him for amounts to an emotional betrayal of a childhood idol. No matter what sort of slime comes out about JFK, people can’t bear to give up the tattered romance of Camelot.

    And, Don, you left out one of the worst things Kennedy did: permitting public employees to unionize, which even FDR believed unneccessary and against the common good. We are discovering nowadays what a ruinous mistake that was.

  • I forgot about that one Donna! In regard to Kennedy part of the warm regard that he was held in after his death was the fact that he was assassinated at a young age, and therefore an emotional sense of loss for the entire nation. I was 6 at the time and I remember the wall to wall tv coverage which was unprecedented and the great sense of national mourning. Another part of course was Catholic pride that one of us made it to the Presidency. Among our family pictures hung in our house when I was growing up, was one of the Pope and one of JFK. After his death many Catholics in this country gave him martyr status. Another factor was that he was an authentic war hero. Finally, college educated journalists on the GI bill were coming to the fore in the media, and tended to be partisan Democrats. Kennedy’s many sins were concealed and he was given usually complimentary coverage. I agree with you that a balanced assessment of Kennedy will not occur until the boomers have shuffled off this coil. (Alas, I will be among them!)

  • “Barack Obama is the worst President ever.”

    Get thee behind me PF! Do not tempt me!

  • “I would have George W. Bush a little higher.”

    As the years roll by Jasper he might. It is difficult giving an assessment of a president this close in, and without the advantage of historical perspective.

  • “I should stop there and not get into an argument with a historian about history, but I’ve got to ask: was TR really so amazing? I’ve never been able to square his great reputation with what I see as modest accomplishments.”

    Pinky, I could list TR’s accomplishments, but I do not think that gets to the heart of the matter. Most presidents are smaller than their great office. A precious few, Washington and Lincoln for example, loom larger than the office. TR was in this class. The phrase bully-pulpit came about to describe how TR used the presidency as a giant mega-phone to get his views across to the American people and persuade them. He had a deep patriotism and a belief in the greatness of this country that resonated with the country. Some presidents debase us and some enoble us, and none were better at enobling us than TR. He understood that life is a grand adventure. Sometimes it is a hard adventure and sometimes a joyous adventure, but always an adventure. TR imparted this sense of wonder and grandeur to many of his contemporaries. As one of his worst enemies once said about him, “Someone would have to hate him a lot, not to like him a little!” This quotation from him is key to understanding him and why he is in the very forefront of our presidents:

    “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

  • “I just hope that you don’t rank poor Warren Harding last or near last. The guy gets a bum rap. My son is currently doing his project for our school’s Ohio Fair on WGH (he drew the name out of a hat).”

    There was much that was great in Harding, Jay. Here is a little anecdote. In the 1920 campaign the Democrats started a whispering campaign that Harding was a mulatto. This was a time of virulent bitter racism. When Harding was asked one would have expected him to bitterly deny it. Instead he merely shrugged his shoulders and said that he had no idea if one of his ancestors had jumped over the wood pile. (Successfully passed for white.) That took considerable political courage, in that he did not kow tow to the race baiting tactics of the Democrats.

    Another anecdote. In one of the scandals that beset his administration he got his hands on one of the perpetrators, called him a dirty rat, and shook him like a terrier. Like Grant Harding was personally honest, but like Grant he was too easily taken in by corrupt politicians. Harding was unlucky in that he died before he could before he could completely clean up his administration, but he had made a good start before his death.

    The historical scholarship on Harding is weak, and the need for a full blown scholarly study of this presidency is great.

  • “I still would hold off rating W and Clinton as they are still of too recent a vintage to judge objectively, but otherwise I think this is spot on. ”

    Ratings of most presidents, as with most historical figures, should have stamped on them PROVISIONAL until we are at least a century out.

  • I think the first part of your rankings are right on…however, I think more time will be necessary to properly place the Presidents of the last 50 years in proper perspective. Just as some have mentioned, Kennedy is way over valued by many. I think the same could be said for Reagan (and certainly Bush I). I think Clinton will actually move up a bit. And as far as Bush II, I think quite honestly that he will fall down to the bottom to reside where Obama seems to be now. The saddest thing about Obama is that while he has been everything we, on the right, feared he would be. He has truthfully done none of the good things I hoped he would accomplish. All of the worst things about Bush, he has maintained (Gitmo, torture, the escalation of the attack on our rights started with the Patriot Act, multiple wars, etc.) Given an opportunity to truly do something for the poor and those in need — he extending from Bush — has championed big bailouts to industry and Wall Street, while championing a health care bill that solves none of the problems of health care and actually provides less than the system he tried to undo. Bush II and Obama will go down as the worst Presidents in our time. Together.

  • Instead he merely shrugged his shoulders and said that he had no idea if one of his ancestors had jumped over the wood pile. (Successfully passed for white.)

    I don’t think that’s an accurate explanation of the expression. I’ve never heard that expression before, but I’m sure it’s a cleaned-up version of “having a nigger in the woodpile”, which refers to having a fling with a black person.

  • The precise phrase used by Harding was apparently “jumped the fence”.

    http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/question/nov08/

  • Warren Harding was pretty good on matters of race; I like to think he was a pretty fair man… smart enough to turn his back on the League of Nations.
    among other issues he had to deal with Wobblies, the growing socialist movement,… he did pardon the dying Eugene Debs —
    He remained a person of calm and peace. I will say he was too loyal to his friends though!

  • Also, some of the greatest/highest rated presidents didn’t appear all that great when they were elected or took office. Lincoln was just a one-term congressman and failed Senate candidate, whom abolitionists regarded as too soft on slavery and Southerners regarded as dangerously radical. Truman was merely a “machine” politician and onetime haberdasher whom nearly everyone thought would be trounced by the much slicker Thomas Dewey. And Reagan, of course, was “only” a has-been actor.

  • “In regard to Kennedy part of the warm regard that he was held in after his death was the fact that he was assassinated at a young age, and therefore an emotional sense of loss for the entire nation.”

    I do not remember the JFK assassination as I was still 2 months away from being born at the time, but I do recall my mom telling me that she cried quite a lot during those four days even though she was a staunch Republican and did not vote for him. I presume this “warm regard” for JFK passed down to the other Kennedys, and was magnified further by RFK’s tragic death. That is probably the biggest reason why Ted Kennedy got a “pass” throughout his life with regard to his womanizing, other bad habits and his extreme leftism. Also, because JFK died before Vietnam, urban rioting and social unrest really got out of control it’s easy for people to assume or fantasize that those things would never have happened had he lived and been reelected.

  • well I was 12 when he was elected– we loved him at my house– it was also around that time that I became something of a Catholic apologist– if you weren’t around in those days you might not be so aware of the really strong fears of a Catholic president– depending on where you lived I am sure. but I knew intelligent well educated people who talked about a Catholic takeover– even thinking Catholics were arming and keeping their magazine of arms in parish halls and church basements. In recent years I heard a famous evangelical admit watching the people file past the coffin in the rotunda, fully expecting the corpse of the ‘anti Christ” to somehow sit up in the casket

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49o3LSFwvso
    this link shows you a JFK press conference– interesting because I think we all get a little anachronistic sometimes– and interesting because I think it is probably the first time BIRTH CONTROL was the subject of a question during a presidential press conference!

  • looks like I am busy defending two presidents I think you have underrated!
    This interview with Walter Cronkite is wide ranging and informative– interesting about the economy and the job situation. I liked the civility.
    And the depth of thinking of those days– it wasn’t such a bumper sticker world.

  • In 2012, I think JFK would be far too conservative for the GOP. He would make liberals’ head explode. I believe his fiscal policy included tax cuts and emphasis on private sector job creation: 180-degrees opposite today’s Dems. Tax cuts . . .

  • In my opinion, McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt should rank lower. During the Philippine-American War, hundreds of thousands of Filipino civilians and soldiers died, if only for the crime of wanting to be independent.

  • Theodore Roosevelt was the man that brought the war to an end and established the first elected legislature in the history of the Philippines. The idea that the Philippines would have remained independent if the US had withdrawn is fanciful. They would quickly have found themselves a colony of Japan. Of course the idea that any local group would have been recogized as the government by all Filipinos at the time is also fanciful.

  • The conflict had many of the marks of an unjust war. American diplomats informally and clandestinely promised the Filipinos that if they rebelled against Spain, they would help the Philippines become independent. Unsurprisingly, American foreign policy had ulterior motives all along. When the Filipinos realized that a fast one had been pulled on them, they did what they did.

    And let’s not forget that the American military used concentration camps on the Filipinos.

  • Also, the Germans were very interested in obtaining the Philippines, even as Dewey was trying to enforce a blockade of Manila Bay. Certainly, if the islands would not have remained in American hands, it would have ended up as a possession of an imperial power.

  • Well, then, the conquerors who end up owning the Philippines by force of arms will have blood on their hands, and they will be the wrongdoers.

    Why don’t you start a post – Was the Philippine-American War an unjust war?

  • An interesting question Nathan.

    Additional interesting questions:

    Was the US unjust in depriving Spain of the Philippines as a colony?

    What was the overall impact of American institutions imported to the Philippines?

    The record of the US as a colonial power in the Philippines?
    How would the Philippines have fared as a Japanese colony?

    Self government extended to the Philippines, beginning with the elected legislature in 1907, through Commonwealth status in 1935 and full independence in 1945: too slow, too fast or just right?

    Why did the Filipinos and the Americans fight so fiercely against the Japanese invaders in 1941-1945?

    Should the Philippines have been kept as a unitary state or would it have been fairer to have portions, notably Mindanao, as an indepedent state?

    What does it say about the Filipino colonial experience that a popular way of describing it in the Philippines is four centuries in a convent and forty years in Hollywood?

  • I think a fair assessment of the American involvement in the Philippines is at the link below:

    http://www.americanheritage.com/content/america%E2%80%99s-first-iraq?page=2

  • Some quick assessments:

    “What was the overall impact of American institutions imported to the Philippines?” The obvious answer is that the Philippines was pulled into the English-speaking world, which opened some doors culturally and economically. The non-obvious answer is that Filipino Catholicism became better connected to the people (an unintended consequence, perhaps). A grievance Filipino Catholics had against Spain was they wanted more Filipino priests to minister to them. When the Americans took over, they (slowly) allowed more Filipino priests to serve.

    “How would the Philippines have fared as a Japanese colony?” It depends on how the colonizers gain control. In 1941, the Japanese arrived as invaders, ensuring that the Filipinos would view them with enmity. Generally, it is better to acquire colonies non-violently than violently.

    “Why did the Filipinos and the Americans fight so fiercely against the Japanese invaders in 1941-1945?” I think Filipinos would have a simple answer – because their homeland was invaded! As for Americans, it was the right thing to do, and they really did not expect any mercy from the Japanese if they surrendered.

  • Actually Nathan the united fierce resistance by Filipinos and Americans to the Japanese was unusual. Throughout Asia the Japanese posed as liberators, come to free their Asian brothers from their white overlords. Most native populations intially collaborated with the Japanese and put up no fight against the Japanese, later learning to their sorrow that the Japanese came as new masters and not as brothers. Such was not the case in the Philippines with resistance never ending until liberation in 1945, and with Americans joining in the valiant guerilla war waged by the Filipinos against the Japanese.

  • Well, you have to remember that by 1941, the Americans had already promised to grant independence to the Philippines, and that promise was backed by the Tydings-McDuffie Law. When the Japanese invaded in 1941, Filipinos trusted the Americans more than the Japanese. Also, you have to consider the cultural factor. Culturally, Filipinos as a Christian and English-speaking people would have felt more affinity to America (and the broader Western world) than to the Japanese. The Philippines is geographically in Asia, but in many cultural aspects it belongs more to the West.

    I will also add that many Americans stationed in the Philippines grew fond of their adopted country, among them being General Douglas MacArthur.

  • In fact, General MacArthur is remembered more fondly over there than in his native country.

  • Quite right Nathan. I think over the years many Americans in the Philippines grew to think of that country as home, and many Filipinos grew fond of aspects of American culture and society. The relationship between the two countries got off to the rockiest of starts, but by the time of the Japanese invasion it had developed into a fruitful partnership. A quarter of a million Americans live in the Philippines and there are 3.4 million Filipino Americans.

  • Say hello to one of those 3.4 million, and a descendant of one of those guerillas for good measure.

  • I suspected as much Nathan! Bravo! Two of my uncles participated in the liberation of the Philippines. They came back enchanted by the country and the people and their stories awakened in their nephew an interest in the history of that faraway land.

  • I didn’t see Woodrow Wilson or FDR on this list, which means they must be in the top 23. This list loses all credibility immediately.

Rate That President! : Part I

Monday, February 20, AD 2012

Time for my annual rant about Presidents’ Day.  I see no reason why great Presidents like Washington and Lincoln should share a date with miserable failures like James Buchanan and Jimmy Carter.  Technically the federal holiday is still George Washington’s birthday, although that makes absolutely no sense as the holiday has to fall between February 15-21, and thus can never occur on February 22, Washington’s birthday.  A popular sport for Americans has always been rating their Presidents.  All such ratings are of course subjective and mine is no exception.  I weigh the good and the ill that a particular president did and that determines his place in my ranking.  Feel free to note your disagreements in the comboxes.  Here is Part I of my list from best to worst:

1.  George Washington-The Father of our Country is the standard by which all presidents should measure themselves.  Victory in the American Revolution would have been impossible without his leadership.  At the Constitutional Convention, his quiet leadership was a steadying force for the often quarrelsome and contentious drafters.  His presence ensured that the constitution drafted would be taken seriously by the States.  As President he established endless precedents for his successors to follow, dealt successfully with the huge national debt left from the Revolution, and knit the Union together.  None of his successors come close to him except for Lincoln.

2.  Abraham Lincoln-In just a little over four years he fought and won our Civil War, ended slavery and preserved our Union.  His speeches are masterpieces of the English language.  The great tragedy for our nation is that he was slain before he could attempt to guide the nation through Reconstruction.  Washington and Lincoln are in a class by themselves.

3.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt-I believe that his policies during the New Deal were truly voodoo economics and that much of what he did was wrongheaded and retarded recovery and economic growth.  However, only a fool could deny that his raising of American morale through the New Deal was anything less than brilliant.  As a war president he was wise enough to let the generals and admirals fight the war, and, in general, he chose them wisely.  He is largely responsible for the creation of modern America, a fact that will earn him both boos and plaudits.

4.  Theodore Roosevelt-With the first Roosevelt to occupy the oval office, America strode onto the world stage.  From building the Panama Canal, resolving the Russo-Japanese War to the sailing of the Great White Fleet around the globe, Roosevelt set the framework for the American Century.

5.  James K. Polk-He settled the Oregon dispute with Great Britain and successfully waged the Mexican War which added vast territories to our country.  Few presidents have accomplished as much in two terms as Polk did in one.  He also had the good grace to die shortly after he left office, a policy some other former presidents would have been wise to emulate.

6.  Ronald Reagan-The successor to one of our worst presidents, Ronald Wilson Reagan restored American prosperity and morale.  His policies initiated an economic boom which, with minor lapses, endured for almost a quarter of a century.  He masterfully brought the Cold War to a successful conclusion with an American victory.  The best president of my lifetime.

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24 Responses to Rate That President! : Part I

  • 1. George Washington – “First in war; first in peace; first in the hearts of his countrymen.”
    2. Abraham Lincoln – Made the GOP. Caused the Civil War. Won the Civil War.
    3. James Madison – The Constitution, the War of 1812, The Star Spangled Banner.
    4. Ronald Reagan – Destroyed the evil empire; put 25 year speed bump on the road to serfdom.
    5. James Polk – Mexican War and expansion. Mexico can have CA and NM back. We were on the wrong side in 1917.
    […]
    43. Carter. His stupidity led to the deaths of millions of Iranians and Iraqis and around others around the World.
    44. Barack Hussein Obama. I was going to put 689 because I cannot imagine a worse villain in the Oval Office; but there may be nothing left of America.

  • Very, very happy to see Arthur so high on your list; people always overlook him, but I’ve always considered him one of the great successes, who did what a president should do: kept things organized, pushed for reforms that really did improve things, tried to do what was right, and respected the limits of the office. It’s not as flashy a form of greatness as that of the obvious candidates, but it’s the kind of greatness we should all be rooting for. (Much the same can be said for Cleveland, too, of course.)

  • Happy President’s Day!

    Q: Who are your favorite 43 US presidents?
    A: Anyone but Obama.

  • i looked through your list in vain for Warren Harding. I think he was better than he is generally thought to be. Plus his mother has the foresight to give him the second name of Gamaliel which you know is a reference to a very wise rabbi! Also, he advocated a “return to normalcy” rather than a lot of government intervention.

  • He will be in part II tomorrow Anzlyne.

  • I know I’m jumping the gun here, but I still think that James Buchanan belongs at the bottom of the list, though Obama is closing the gap more quickly than I thought he would.

  • Although my respect as a two-time, non-consecutive Executive rates him very highly, I hadn’t thought of putting Grover Cleveland so high as you did. I’ll need to do some close reading about him.

    I like Zachary Taylor, as he’s Louisiana’s lone presidential office holder.

    And, a request: Thomas Sowell (whom I respect) has recently written a series of opinion pieces that lump T.R. and Wilson together as one, under the category of “Progressives Who’ve Ruined This Country”. I was wondering if you’d consider writing a series teasing out their similarities and differences.

  • “He also had the good grace to die shortly after he left office…

    I can’t wait to see how you rate those who’ve had the poor form to die shortly after taking office. (Harrison, Garfield)

    Will they “Not Rated”? Will they be rated higher than Carter or Obama for at least doing no harm?

  • I am not sure it is the best system to rate on one scale men who presided when the functions and expectations of the central government were so different.

  • “I know I’m jumping the gun here, but I still think that James Buchanan belongs at the bottom of the list, though Obama is closing the gap more quickly than I thought he would.”

    You read my mind Ellen!

  • “I can’t wait to see how you rate those who’ve had the poor form to die shortly after taking office. (Harrison, Garfield)”

    I had fun rating both of them Nicholas.

  • “I am not sure it is the best system to rate on one scale men who presided when the functions and expectations of the central government were so different.”

    Their are numerous criteria that could be used Art, but I think an overall rating still has some utility. Of course the order chosen for the presidents says just as much about the person making the ratings as it does about the about the presidents being rated.

  • Since I think FDR’s policies actually served to extend and worsen the Depression. I would rank him lower than you do. He was a great war president however. I’m not sure exactly where I’d place him, but I’d give Reagan the 3 slot.

  • If I had gone with my heart Donna, Reagan would have been number three! It is difficult rating near contemporary presidents since we lack the historical perspective that time gives. I would not be surprised to see Reagan rise on Presidential rating lists as the years roll by.

  • “I like Zachary Taylor, as he’s Louisiana’s lone presidential office holder.”

    And he may not be the last, if Bobby Jindal should ever run for POTUS 🙂

  • Elaine,

    As it just so happens, I think he’s planning for a 2016 run, should Obama win. He’s built up a pretty good war chest for the last gubernatorial election; but, he didn’t have to spend, as the Democrats didn’t really put up a fight.

    Plus, he’s pushing an agenda to burnish his “get tough” conservative credentials. (I’m not very happy with all of them.)

    I even think that he’d be willing to sign on as a VP candidate on a losing ticket to gain some national recognition.

    But, of course, this is all off-topic. Maybe Donald (or Paul) can start a post on the 2016 race sometime soon. 🙂

  • OT, but since you’re around, Nicholas – a few years back, I read an interesting article about how Mardi Gras is celebrated in the small towns in Cajun Country. According to the article, Cajun country Mardi Gras is more of a family affair and does not have much resemblance to the licentious goings on on Bourbon St. I recall the article said that in some communities there are songs and foods and traditions which can be traced back to medieval France. I found the article quite interesting and since I take it (judging from your last name) that you’re a “real” Cajun, I’m curious if you can let us know about a festival which is, after all, rooted in Catholicism, although you would never guess that looking at the zoo in New Orleans!

  • Some complaints:

    1. FDR was a failure as a war President. Winning the war was never in doubt – American military might was sufficient, un-aided, to beat both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. That we had the USSR and Britain as allies just hastened the inevitable. It is, indeed, true that FDR left the fighting to the generals and admirals – which is always complete folly on the part of a political leader, war being far too serious a business to be left in the hands of generals. While FDR awoke, a bit late, to Stalin’s pretensions, he never fully grasped that his whole view of the post-war world (a world which was supposed to be dominated by the US, Stalin’s Russia, Great Britain and Chiang’s China) was cockeyed from the start. The lack of a rational vision for where we were going in the war led to the nearly sterile results of the war – and the resultant half-century of Cold War and on-again/off-again hot wars in various places.

    2. Wilson was also a failure as a war leader. For crying out loud, he mid-wifed the breakup of the Hapsburg Empire on the basis of some Czechs who managed to gain his ear! All he did with that policy was ensure a weak, divided central Europe ripe first for Hitlerian and then Stalinist conquest. Additionally, his insistence at the end that the Kaiser’s regime be overthrown (rather than, say, merely calling for his abdication in favor of one of his younger sons) ensured that Germany would be unstable and ripe for dictatorship. His whole policy demonstrates what happens when a man who thinks he knows gets to be in charge.

    3. Truman does get some credit for having the courage to go ahead with the atomic bomb, but overall his foreign and defense policies were all wrong. He let Stalin get away with it in the Berlin Airlift; he demonstrated to Stalin that even under extreme provocation, we wouldn’t go to war with the USSR. The result was the Korean War – which he then blew completely by the mere expedient of assuring Mao that we wouldn’t allow Chiang to raid or invade the Chinese mainland…thus freeing up a million Chinese soldiers to attack us in Korea.

    4. Ike – entirely blew it over the Suez crisis. Here was a breach of international law by a gangster regime and instead of backing those who were rising in defense of international law, we backed the gangsters! This was just one of our earliest efforts to get some foreign son-of-a-bitch to be “our son-of-a-bitch”. How has that worked out for us over the decades? Never, never, never allow someone to get away with doing something he shouldn’t – you do that, and you’re besmirched and also morally weakened when ever you try, at later times, to uphold international law.

    The rest of the analysis I pretty much agree with.

  • ” While FDR awoke, a bit late, to Stalin’s pretensions, he never fully grasped that his whole view of the post-war world (a world which was supposed to be dominated by the US, Stalin’s Russia, Great Britain and Chiang’s China) was cockeyed from the start. The lack of a rational vision for where we were going in the war led to the nearly sterile results of the war – and the resultant half-century of Cold War and on-again/off-again hot wars in various places.”

    No, that is wrong. The Soviets, and aid to the Soviets, were essential to the defeat of Nazi Germany. The Red Army as a result seized Eastern Europe. There was absolutely nothing that FDR could have done to alter this, except by planning for an immediate start to World War III after World War II, which only Patton advocated after the conclusion of the War. The Cold War was inevitable given the nature of Stalin’s regime, and the presence of native Communist parties in Third World countries.

    “. Wilson was also a failure as a war leader. For crying out loud, he mid-wifed the breakup of the Hapsburg Empire on the basis of some Czechs who managed to gain his ear! All he did with that policy was ensure a weak, divided central Europe ripe first for Hitlerian and then Stalinist conquest. Additionally, his insistence at the end that the Kaiser’s regime be overthrown (rather than, say, merely calling for his abdication in favor of one of his younger sons) ensured that Germany would be unstable and ripe for dictatorship. His whole policy demonstrates what happens when a man who thinks he knows gets to be in charge.”

    There was no way that “The Prison of Nations” was going to survive the War, as German officers indicated when they noted throughout the War that Germany was “shackled to a corpse!” If the Allied powers had wished to preserve Austria-Hungary they would have had to provide armies to put down the national regimes that were already in power in that dead empire. The Allies were not going to expend any blood to attempt to revive that coprse.

    By the time the Kaiser abdicated, Germany was in the first throes of a socialist revolution. His own High Command told him that the Army would no longer fight to preserve the throne. The Hohenzollern monarchy was gone, and there was no bringing it back, with or without Wilson.

    “but overall his foreign and defense policies were all wrong. He let Stalin get away with it in the Berlin Airlift; he demonstrated to Stalin that even under extreme provocation, we wouldn’t go to war with the USSR. The result was the Korean War – which he then blew completely by the mere expedient of assuring Mao that we wouldn’t allow Chiang to raid or invade the Chinese mainland…thus freeing up a million Chinese soldiers to attack us in Korea”

    If Truman had decided to fight World War III with Stalin, our forces would, in all likelihood, have been chased out of continental Europe by a much stronger Red Army. After 1948 we no longer had a monopoly on nuclear weapons. If one’s goal was to stop Soviet Expansion and to avoid World War III, Truman got it just right.

    ” Ike – entirely blew it over the Suez crisis. Here was a breach of international law by a gangster regime and instead of backing those who were rising in defense of international law, we backed the gangsters! ”

    No, Ike realized that neither the Brits nor the French long term had the will to hold the Suez Canal, and he was correct on that score. The Israelis had the will to be sure, but they would have been unwilling to do so by themselves. Ike decided, quite rationally, that if the Suez Canal was to be held long term it would require US troops to do so and the Canal simply wasn’t worth it to the US in exchange for antagonizing the entire Arab world.

  • Donna V,

    I’ll quickly say that as recently as 20 years ago there was still an easy way to find a family-friendly “country” Mardi Gras. But, even back then the culture had already turned to the prevailing vulgarity throughout the general culture.

    Today, there are some family-friendly celebrations around, but one will have to travel to get there. Mardi Gras celebrations are, today, mostly bacchanalia, separated from any consideration of the upcoming Lenten season. (Such was the theme of the homily this weekend.)

    If an etranger wants to celebrate the real, local, country Mardi Gras, stay away from New Orleans; and contact a local Knights of Columbus chapter to ask where a good one is.

  • Now – instead of listing “favorite” presidents in order of personal historical perspective, I wonder what a list would look like if the criterion was “Presdients who embodied Scriptural values and best heeded Christ’s words.”

    Obama would still be 689th, but the rest could be interesting.

  • Donald,

    Nasser has unilaterally violated the various and long-standing international agreements regarding the Suez Canal – if treaties are to be of any use, at all, then it cannot be permitted that one contracting party can unilaterally alter the agreement. Nasser’s duty – supposing he wasn’t the gangster he was – would have required him to enter in to negotiations with all interested parties…and he probably would have got control of the Canal in such open and equal negotiations. He did wrong and he was justly being hammered for it – and then Ike stepped in and saved his bacon, thus ensuring the ’67 and ’73 Arab-Israeli wars; Nasser (and all those like him) was taught that he can do whatever he wanted.

    The USSR did not obtain an atomic weapon until 1949 and did not obtain the ability to seriously threaten the United States with nuclear attack until at least a decade after that. In 1948 the USSR was still a burned-over wasteland; Russia had lost about 8.5 military-aged males 1941-45 and, at most, they had a military manpower reserve in 1941 of 15 million…at best, if they mobilized everyone they could in 1945, they still would have been outnumbered 2 to 1 by a fully mobilized United States. Stalin knew this – it is why he didn’t attack West Berlin but blockaded it…he wanted to see if Truman would fight. He found out – as long as America is not directly attacked, you can do what you like; including using proxies to attack American allies. The Korean War was born in Berlin in 1948. And then Truman doubled down on dumb by essentially giving permission to Mao to move his best troops from the Taiwan Straights to Korea.

    There was no reason for the Hapsburg Empire to break up – do you really think that the Slovenes and Croats were hankering to switch from Hapsburg to Serbian rule? That the Slovaks really wanted to be ruled over by Czechs? That Ruthenians wanted to be ruled by Poles? They might not have entirely loved the Hapsburg monarchy, but it at least protected them from predatory neighbors. The reason the Hapsburg Empire dissolved is because it lost a war to people who hated dynasties. The pat answer of today is that the Hapsburg Empire was breaking up, anyways – I ask, on what evidence? Where was the internal subversion? Where were the armed, internal opponents of the Hapsburg regime? Why until the very end did the Hapsburg army remain true to its oath? Most of it wasn’t German, after all…and yet it stood and fought in the most titanic struggle to that point in history and only dissolved when it became clear that the price of peace with the Allies was the dissolution of the Hapsburg Empire…only then did it break up in to its component nationalities as they sought to at least defend their own people as best they could. It was a terrible catastrophe that the Hapsburgs were swept in to the ash heap of history…it first just allowed petty tyrants to run rampant (the reason the Croats went for Hitler and fought against the Serbs was because they had had two decades of Serb oppression between the wars, for instance) and then one after another of major tyrants to take over. If Wilson had had the least knowledge of history, he would have know that the duty of a statesman was to preserve the Hapsburg empire…liberalize it, to be sure; make it more of a federal system, of course…but keep it in being even if it meant assisting the Hapsburg authorities in doing so.

    I maintain that Germany and Japan could be beaten single-handed by the United States. For instance, the United States produced 88,000 tanks and self-propelled guns; the Germans 67,000, Japan 2,500. Artillery USA 257,000, Germany 159,000, Japan 13,000. Trucks, USA 2.4 million, Germany 346,000, Japan 166,000. Aircraft, USA 325,000, Germany 119,000, Japan 76,000. On and on it goes, and the United States, alone, had more military-aged manpower than Germany and Japan combined. I’m not saying it wouldn’t have been a long, hard fight…but at the end of the day it was sheer impertinence on the part of Germany and Japan to go to war with the United States. Furthermore, those in the know in the US government also knew, for certain, that the war could not be lost by the United States – the Japanese were actually a bit shocked to learn after the war that we never for a moment entertained the thought of a negotiated peace. We knew we’d win; there was never the least doubt of it. Given this – and given that the addition of the USSR and Britain on our side just made our power more overwhelming – the whole purpose of the war was to set up a post-war system which ensured against renewed war and ensured American predominance as the one nation which could be counted on to not seek self aggrandizement. So, what did we do? Insist upon a too-early dissolution of the British Empire and partner up with Stalin’s hideous regime and Chiang’s failing regime. Brilliant.

  • “He did wrong and he was justly being hammered for it – and then Ike stepped in and saved his bacon, thus ensuring the ’67 and ’73 Arab-Israeli wars; Nasser (and all those like him) was taught that he can do whatever he wanted”

    I have absolutely no doubt that if Ike had intervened the US troops would have quickly found themselves in a futile guerilla war that would have accomplished nothing. The Brits and the French were not in it for the long term and it served no interest for the US to fight a useless war for them on this point.

    “at best, if they mobilized everyone they could in 1945, they still would have been outnumbered 2 to 1 by a fully mobilized United States.”

    Untrue Mark. In World War II when we were as fully mobilized as we have ever been in our modern history, the ground forces of the Red Army always vastly outnumbered ours. Of course the forces we had in Europe in 1948 were vastly outnumbered by the Red Army historically and would have been routed quite quickly. This discussion has an air of political unreality. The American people simply were not willing to fight World War II if it could be avoided, which, thank God, it was.

    “There was no reason for the Hapsburg Empire to break up –”

    Nationalist tensions bedeviled the dual monarchy from 1848 forward. By the end of the World War I the subject minorities were in open revolt and the Allies were simply not going to use military force so that the Emperor in Austria could keep his job.

    “Why until the very end did the Hapsburg army remain true to its oath?”

    Acutally it remained true to its oath by routinely being beaten by the Russians. Outside of certain elite units the peformance of most of the Austro-Hungarian Army was truly pathetic, except when they were fighting the Italians who were even more pathetic. The Germans had to continually strengthen fronts held by Austrian forces with their own troops, which aroused a great deal of resentment among the German office corp.

    “So, what did we do? Insist upon a too-early dissolution of the British Empire and partner up with Stalin’s hideous regime and Chiang’s failing regime. Brilliant.”

    The Soviets held down two-thirds of the Wehrmacht Mark and ultimately defeated that two-thirds. I can imagine how many several hundred thousand more Americans, if not millions, would have died, but for the war waged by the Soviets. Of course we gave lend lease to the Soviets so they could defeat the Wehrmacht. We would have been fools not to. In regard to Chiang and the Nationalists, they held down about two million Japanese troops. Our aid to the Chinese was peanuts to accomplish this, especially since until we had the bomb we assumed that we would have to invade the Home Islands and take them in an immensely bloody invasion. In regard to the British Empire dissolving that was the decision of the Brits. They were bankrupt after World War II they were bankrupt and had no more money for imperial games. After Labor came to power in 1945 it was obvious that the days of the Empire were numbered. Churchill and the Tories came back into office in 1951 and the dissolution of the Empire continued under them. It was not the US that dissolved the British Empire, but rather economic reality.

  • Donald,

    Air of unreality? Perhaps; but I have pondered over these issues for quite a long time. Perhaps getting it wrong – but there is still no answer to the fact that in World War Two we, alone, massively out-produced Germany and Japan combined. Material isn’t all there is to war, of course, but it stands to reason that the side with the larger population and the greater productive capacity will eventually defeat the side with the smaller population and productive capacity. I’m not saying that the aid provided by the USSR and Britain was unimportant, just that it wasn’t necessary to ultimate victory, and this could clearly be seen (and was, indeed, seen – by no less a person than Winston Churchill) right from the moment the first bomb dropped on Pearl Harbor. Given this indisputable fact (that victory was inevitable), the shape of the post-war world should have governed all actions…including as to whether or not we should have gone in for a close alliance with the Stalinist regime (which did, in the event, attempt to betray us by making a separate peace with Hitler in 1943…only to be thwarted in this attempt by the unwillingness of Hitler to surrender any conquered territory).

    There has always been a great lack of foresight in American foreign and military policy. Lincoln had it; Reagan, too. Most American Presidents have not had it; neither have most American military leaders (only MacArthur really had it). There has been bravery and competence, but only in narrowly limited ways. No grand vision – no attempt to devise a strategic plan for the long term security of American interests. Of course, such a thing may not be possible given the nature of American government and politics…but that doesn’t excuse, in my view, those who volunteer to become our leaders. If someone seeks the office of the Presidency, it is his job to know precisely where we need to go and how to get there…Wilson, FDR and Truman failed in this regard. And the blood price for their lack of vision was high – and looks to go higher, still.

Millard Who?

Monday, February 15, AD 2010

Time for my annual rant on Presidents’ Day.  I see no reason for a day to honor all presidents.  The great presidents, my personal list includes Washington, Jefferson, Polk, Lincoln, both Roosevelts, Truman and Reagan, are deserving of  honor, and should not be lumped in with bad, mediocre and justly obscure presidents.  One of our worst presidents is also perhaps our most obscure president, Millard Fillmore.  Therefore, on a holiday I dislike, I will write about a President who deserves to have something toxic named after him.

Fillmore was born on January 7, 1800, in Moravia, New York,  the first of the American presidents to be born after the death of George Washington.  At the age of 14 he was apprenticed to a cloth maker.  Not wanting to spend his life making cloth, Fillmore attended the New Hope Academy in New Hope, New York for six months in 1819, and began to study law, that never failing route of social advancement for people who are glib but have no other discernible talent.  Admitted to the bar in 1823, he hung out his shingle in East Aurora, New York.   In 1826 he married Abigail Powers who he had met at the New Hope Academy.  They had two children, Millard Powers Fillmore and Mary Abigail Fillmore.  Fillmore prospered as a lawyer and in 1834 he formed a law partnership, Fillmore and Hall, which eventually became one of the most prestigious law firms in western New York.

In 1828 Fillmore took his first step into politics by being elected to the New York state legislature as a member of the anti-Masonic party.  The anti-Masonic party came into being to oppose Freemasonry after the disappearance of a William Morgan in 1826 in Batavia, New York.  Morgan had left the Freemasons and had made it known that he intended to write a book exposing them.  After he disappeared, a public furor erupted, with many people suspecting that Freemasons had murdered Morgan.  The anti-Masonic party was the result, with members vowed to oppose the influence of freemasons in society.  The party grew in strength as it became a vehicle for protests against social and political ills, and waned in strength as anti-Masonry lost its saliency as a driving issue, with most of the members of the party becoming Whigs, opponents of the Democrat Party established by Andrew Jackson.

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23 Responses to Millard Who?

  • Today isn’t Presidents Day but Washington’s Birthday (Observed).

  • I know BA, and the Civil War is officially designated The War of the Rebellion.

  • For a slighlty more favorable view of Millard Fillmore see these extensive posts

    http://elektratig.blogspot.com/search/label/millard%20fillmore

  • Fascinating jh. I guess all historical figures, no matter how inept and ill-intentioned, will find defenders.

  • “Fascinating jh. I guess all historical figures, no matter how inept and ill-intentioned, will find defenders.”

    LOL, well I think he has a point. I mean it is all how you look at it. Was the take over of the Know Nothings a cyncial move for personal power or a attempt to have a Pro Union non sectional to preserve the country?

    I mean even the authorization of the Expedition to Japan was no minor thing in its goals and its final result.

    I look far more kindly on Fillmore than om James Buchanan to say the least

  • My point jh is that Fillmore’s hastened the Civil War through his policies of appeasing the South and set the tone for the Fifties. Appeasement rarely works long term, as Bleeding Kansas demonstrated in our run up to the Civil War.

    James Buchanan gets my nod for the second worst president of the US, with his saving grace being some of the actions he took after the secession crisis began.

  • Yankees make me laugh, y’all are a hoot. Most Presidents prior to Lincoln restrained themselves within the limits of the Constitution. Thanks to Lincoln the flood-gates were opened for the worst tyrants imaginable: Roosevelt, Wilson (House), Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Carter, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama. These presidents have trampled the Constitution, flagrantly enacted tyrannical executive orders that are treasonous and have handed the uSA over to foreign powers.

    As much of a misguided man as Filmore appears to be he was much less harmful than the above list.

    What happened to great leaders like Washington (whose birthday we celebrate today, as well we should), Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Jackson, Taft, Reagan? The problem we have here is that we elect ideological pragmatists instead of men of virtue.

    Who wants to celebrate treasonous ideologues? Celebrating men of virtue that have led the country to higher levels of integrity, prosperity and decency is a rightful federal holiday. Celebrating the virtuous with the rest of that gallery of rogues is a disaster. On that point we agree.

    Happy birthday President Washington, General, Farmer, Virginian (certainly not a Yankee). 🙂

  • Actually AK two Southern presidents of the US, Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor, took precisely the same view of preserving the Union through military force that Lincoln did.

    As for your view that Lincoln opened the era of big government, that is a popular view among neo-Confederates, but betrays a complete lack of knowledge about how quickly the government of the Union shrank back to its pre-war size after the Civil War. The excesses of the growth in government during the last century have nothing to do with Mr. Lincoln. Additionally, your calling any American president a tyrant is simply silly.

  • “Thanks to Lincoln the flood-gates were opened for the worst tyrants imaginable”

    Well I am not sure how Lincoln was responsible for all the alleged sins you mention 🙂

  • Thanks to Lincoln the flood-gates were opened for the worst tyrants imaginable: Roosevelt, Wilson (House), Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Carter, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama.

    Yeah, because normally when you open the floodgates you have to wait a half century before anything happens.

  • It’s interesting to note that the Whigs won two presidential elections, and in both instances the elected President died and was replaced by a VP who essentially opposed the Whig platform, or at least were not exactly in lock step with their running mate. John Tyler regularly locked horns with the Whig Congress after Harrison died, and as Donald details Fillmore was much softer in his approach to the slave power than the southern, slave-holding Taylor. There were many causes of the death of the Whigs, but these unfortunate historical circumstances may have played the biggest part.

  • The fact that someone takes the same view as someone else doesn’t excuse anyone from setting the precedent. Perhaps Lincoln was a victim of circumstance; it really doesn’t matter. He struck the blow to destroy federalism.

    Precedents set do not necessarily bear fruit immediately. The enemies of America, I am referring to the barbarians that are already within the gates, employ a slow, gradual approach to tyranny. Most of the precepts of Communism have already been made into law in our lands. Calling the figure-head perpetrators of this evil conspiracy tyrants is doing them a kindness.

    In case you haven’t noticed we have been socially engineered into an immoral society of servitude to government at all levels. Graft, abuse of privilege, envy, greed, deceit, murder (not to mention child sacrifice) are all pervasive because they have become institutionalized in order to subjugate us. There are men responsible for this and there are powers and principalities behind those men. Ultimately, the fault is ours, each and every one of us when we sin. That does not let the institutional perpetrators off the hook.

    This is not how America is supposed to be unless you prefer the Masonic religion to the our Catholic faith.

    Presidents who are virtuous despite their sins, who have a servants heart irrespective of their personal wealth, who love the people of the united States and are wary of government are the people we should be celebrating today. Men like Washington who could have become king and chose to go back to his Virginia farm. Men like Jackson who destroyed the money power’s hold through the evil central bank. Men like Reagan who spoke in bold primary colors and restored hope in a dying nation. In some way Bush 43 was like that, but he was bulldozed by the trans-national banksters including Geithner, Bernanke, Paulson and his father’s legacy of a new world order.

    We need men like Washington, Jackson and Reagan to be President and we need men of virtue in our legislatures. The President has a few Constitutional functions and he needs to do them well. What we have now is an out of control office and men of low moral character hiding their true masters and ruining the states and commonwealths.

    Again with the neo-Confederate. I am not for disunion! I am for federalism. I am not a secessionist. I think we need a strong USA, we just don’t need a national government – I want one that is federal. Despite the myriad of issues that led up to the War for Southern Independence the sovereign right of the sates and the commonwealths is the overriding issue and losing that has cost all of us a great deal, in many ways Catholics especially.

    Additionally the rules are black and white, men are gray, even the best of the Saints. As much as I think Lincoln was a tyrant I can still consider him a man of decent moral character who failed in his duty to keep the union without war. He could have ended African-slavery without bloodshed and without deporting the Negros, which seem to be the only two options he considered. I do like that he strongly disliked the trans-national money power that rejoiced at the Americas going to war, in fact, may have been one of the largest contributors.

  • “This is not how America is supposed to be unless you prefer the Masonic religion to the our Catholic faith.”

    Actually AK, two of your presidents you admire, Washington and Jackson, were masons.

  • “He struck the blow to destroy federalism.”

    No Lincoln did not destroy Federalism. It should be recalled that the true breaking point was the Dem Convention in Chareleston. Where Douglas refuse to budge on SOuthern Dem demands for basically a Federal Slave Code which would have been one of the biggest expansion of Federal power ever

    “Independence the sovereign right of the sates and the commonwealths is the overriding issue and losing that has cost all of us a great deal, in many ways Catholics especially.”

    I actually think Slavery was. However I know how that battle will go. While we talk about Federal Power it should be recalled that State Govts themselves and local govts could be a oppressive lot even to Catholics.

    “He could have ended African-slavery without bloodshed and without deporting the Negros, which seem to be the only two options he considered”

    How would he had done that? I mean every compromise was on the table short of allowing slavery to expand into Federal Terrorties

  • jh, African-slave ownership in the South was detrimental and African-slave trading in the North was detrimental to all the Sates as well as to the African slaves. It is an offense against the dignity of man and the sovereign right of ownership that God has over every man. Nevertheless, losing state sovereignty is the most detrimental because it eliminates the power of the smallest minority, the individual human being. Catholics who are persecuted in New York can move to Maryland and find more freedom unless Washington institutionalizes New York’s persecution.

    Lincoln invaded a sovereign country because he determined that those States had no right to voluntarily remove themselves from the voluntary federal compact. After conquering those States the North enacted a military occupation of those State’s governments and people and impaired ‘rebellious’ legislators from Congress. Washington reigns supreme and that has led to the problems we are facing today. Every time we have a ‘crisis’ what is the solution? More National government. That is the antithesis of federalism. Washington is a National government deceitfully operating under a Federal charter. Sure the groundwork was laid in the Constitutional compromise, exacerbated in 1850 and it exploded in the 1860s. However, the loss we (Southerners) suffered in the 1860s led to the so-called Progressive era and all the damage since then. Was Lincoln solely responsible? No, but he was Commander in Chief of the Union when it invaded the Confederacy. What seemed like a victory for Union was actually a victory for Hamilton’s view of American – a Masonic view – hence, a terrible turn of events for Catholics.

    Don’t fool yourself into thinking Lincoln cared about the African-slaves. He did not, he considered them inferior to the white man and would have preferred to ship them all off shore, short of the feasibility of that, killing them was just fine, unless they were useful in his war. He emancipated African-slaves in a country in which he had no jurisdiction and kept them enslaved in the USA. How is that helpful to the plight of the slaves?

    Would I prefer that we celebrate two presidential offices today, one in Richmond and one in Washington? No. I would prefer that we celebrate the office of the President and the honorable men who held that office with full knowledge that, other than in times of war, it is the office of the Executor of the laws of Congress restrained by the Constitution; rather than a despotic Administrator ruling for a hidden cabal of would-be global feudal lords. If you want a glimpse of the designs of these men, read E.M. House’s Philip Dru: Administrator, Cecil Rhodes, the Fabian Socialists, especially the Sodomite J.M Keynes.

    Washington, Jackson and Reagan are the kind of men we should honor today. Do we agree with all they did? No. But they served for the sake of the people of North America and not the pleasure of foreign powers.

  • Donald,

    Your encyclopedic knowledge never ceases to astound me. You must have a large cranium, you are carrying a massive library up there combined with an acute analytical mind. It truly is a pleasure to disagree with you – I always come out the better for it. Thank you. I mean that sincerely, I am not trying to earn debating points.

    I am aware that Washington and Jackson were Masons. I also believe that not all Freemasons are initiated into the higher degrees that probably date back to Lucifer, Joseph Weishaupt, the Illuminati, Jacobins, Fabians, and so on down the line. Secret societies tend to keep secrets from everyone including each other.

    Judging by the fruits of their actions, Washington and Jackson were not conspiratorial Masons and probably had a Protestant Christian world view and believed the Freemasons to be a benign fraternal organization. We know differently.

    Washington stepped down although he could have been Executive for life with the title, Your Majesty. Jackson stood form against the central bank. Neither of those actions bodes well for a society that desires to rule the world. Permanent, powerful dictators loyal to the conspiracy and central banks are integral parts of the plan for global domination. Incidentally someone informed Marx of this as those are two components of a Communist takeover of a nation.

  • The idea that Lincoln is somehow responsible for the New Deal or whatever is just silly. FDR didn’t rely on Lincoln as a justification for his actions; he cited the emergency of the Great Depression. TR and Wilson were confederate sympathizers. The Southern states weren’t particularly interested in states rights except when it was to their advantage (nothing special there) and the economic interventions by the government during the Civil War exceeded anything in the North. Talk about how Lincoln started the war is ahistorical and frankly tedious.

  • I am not suggesting that if we were being ruled by the Confederacy we would be better off. I am confident that as a non-Anglo Catholic I would not fair well in that country. I am stating that the loss of the Confederacy was practically a death blow to federalism. It is the federalism (subsidiarity) that I am defending. From a historical perspective it is the CSA that fought for federalism no matter how hypocritical that is on the parts of some. The North fought for a national structure.

    FDR did not rely on Lincoln, he relied on his old boss Wilson (House) and although Wilson was a Southerner he preferred the absolutism promoted by Lincoln. It is all of piece and the piece stinks of despotism.

    I am picking on Lincoln because it is President’s Day. I am not laying all the blame on him. In fact he, like most presidents since, was mostly a pawn.

  • “You must have a large cranium”

    Could be, I have had people call me a fat head on occasion.

  • I am stating that the loss of the Confederacy was practically a death blow to federalism. It is the federalism (subsidiarity) that I am defending.

    I disagree on two counts. First, I don’t think federalism was destroyed or even seriously damaged by the defeat of the Confederacy. The Civil War established that you couldn’t secede from the Union, not that the federal government had plenary power to legislate. That change came much later and was, I think, primarily a result of the 17th Amendment, which took away state representation in Congress.

    Second, I would dispute that the South or Confederacy somehow represented federalism. The South was quite eager to use federal power to its own advantage wherever the opportunity arose. I quote Henry Adams:

    Between the slave power and states’ rights there was no necessary connection. The slave power, when in control, was a centralizing influence, and all the most considerable encroachments on states’ rights were its acts. The acquisition and admission of Louisiana; the Embargo; the War of 1812; the annexation of Texas “by joint resolution” [rather than treaty]; the war with Mexico, declared by the mere announcement of President Polk; the Fugitive Slave Law; the Dred Scott decision — all triumphs of the slave power — did far more than either tariffs or internal improvements, which in their origin were also southern measures, to destroy the very memory of states’ rights as they existed in 1789. Whenever a question arose of extending or protecting slavery, the slaveholders became friends of centralized power, and used that dangerous weapon with a kind of frenzy. Slavery in fact required centralization in order to maintain and protect itself, but it required to control the centralized machine; it needed despotic principles of government, but it needed them exclusively for its own use. Thus, in truth, states’ rights were the protection of the free states, and as a matter of fact, during the domination of the slave power, Massachusetts appealed to this protecting principle as often and almost as loudly as South Carolina.

  • You can no more blame Lincoln for the abandonment of federalism than James Madison or Alexander Hamilton. What the Civil War did was to finally eradicate the last vestiges of anti-Federalist notions of dual sovereignty and the idea that the states were independent entities. The Civil War confirmed the fact that we are one Nation, but again this is simply what the Federalists assumed to be true already.

    The only tangential blame that can even be remotely laid at Lincoln’s feet is that because anti-Federalist beliefs about state independence were completely eradicated, this somehow weakened resistance to further incursions into federalism. But I cannot blame Lincoln for the perversions of Wilson, FDR, Johnson and others.

  • First, I am genuinely impressed with how popular Professor Tom Woods is.

    Second, I agree with Donald and Blackladder.

    And finally, what Paul said.

  • Paul,

    Madison shares some of the blame although I doubt that he intended it. Hamilton certainly shares in the blame, in fact, he shares in it more than Lincoln.

    The loss of federalism while retaining the veneer of it was probably inevitable due to the Constitutional compromise, but it actually did occur during the War for Southern Independence and Lincoln was the Commander in Chief of the invading force. If not for the military acumen of Gens. Lee and Jackson and the incompetnece of the Army of the Potomac – Manassas may have been the end of the war and the end of federalism. That was not the case and the CSA and her sons fought valiantly against the valiant sons of the North. As horrible as the loss of life was it is far worse to shackle countless generations since.

    And shackled we are. When State sovereignty is usurped by the National government and the foreign money power rules the Nation from the shadows and men vie to see who can best who with no sense of virtue in the acquisition of public largess we are all slaves.

    Lincoln recognized the interference of the money power and yet he invaded the Confederacy probably to keep the Union together. He was not the only one in favor of union. Gen. Robert E. Lee was a unionist but when push came to shove he turned down the command of the Army of the Potomac in order to serve his home country as general of the Army of Northern Virginia. Pres. Jefferson Davis ended up as Commander in Chief of a confederation invaded by a Department of War that he himself modernized. These men are not traitors, they are heroes, despite Davis’ views on slavery. Else why would they pledge their lives, their fortunes and their Sacred Honor for the independence of the South knowing that they served the Union so well?

    They knew that a National government unchecked by the vertical separation of powers would eventually lose the horizontal separation and the Republic would devolve into a democracy and then into tyranny. We are on our way to that. Eventually we will lose our National sovereignty for a regional union like Europe and then a hemispheric union and finally a one world government. If I am not mistaken that is exactly opposite of subsidiarity. That global government will most certainly be tyrannical, anti-Catholic and will eventually be the instrument of Satan. We cannot desire that end. We are to hasten the return of the Lord, but we are not to actively work to subjugate the world through the powers of men. See Eph 6:12.

    All this blame is not Lincoln’s. But some of it certainly is his. As for Wilson, FDR, Johnson and the rest of their ilk. I am confident as an honorable man Lincoln would not have liked any of them, yet he is partially responsible for the power that they gained. He acknowledged as much after assuming despotic powers. He may have been repentant after the war and God willing he died in God’s Grace.

    Nevertheless, as far as I am concerned yesterday was President Washington’s birthday.