Thursday, September 16, 2010

President's List part 1

The so called founding fathers were generally men of stellar character and intellect. Our founding documents were conceived in their minds and written by their hands. Other than John Adams they were all slave owners or believed that slavery could continue to exist in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Since they believed so passionately in freedom it is hard to believe they could have overlooked the freedom of so many people living in their own country. John Adams and John Q. Adams were the only ones to see the moral defect in the thinking of the others.

Andrew Jackson was the war hero of New Orleans and somehow that qualified him to be president. He was notoriously anti-native American and pro-slavery. Certainly the worst of our early presidents and one of the worst of all time. His reign - and it was a reign - he pretty much did what he wanted to do - was followed by several other war heroes - from border wars with Mexico and Indian wars. Van Buren was not but he continued Jackson's Indian Removal policies and sided with Spain on returning the slave ship Amistad. His claim to fame is called "the trail of tears."

Harrison was not able to continue the governments brutal Indian policies because he only lasted in office for 32 days. His main qualification for the post was fighting Indians.

Tyler, Polk, and Taylor were presidents during the war years with Mexico as their governments attempted to annex more territory for the United States. Taylor was a war hero under Polk. Indians continued to be removed, slavery continued to spread (Taylor owned slaves), and many Mexicans were killed in an unprovoked war over territory.

Fillmore was a western New Yorker and I used to go to a state park named after him that included a log cabin he supposedly lived in when he was young. He became very rich later in life. The log cabin was not much of a tourist attraction, it didn't even have a caretaker or charge a fee to visit it. It just stood there, ignored. Much like Fillmore's presidency. He was pro-slavery and anti-Catholic. He did found the University of Buffalo but they don't even have a good football team. He became president when Taylor died in office. He couldn't get re-elected.

Pierce was a northern Whig but his pro-slavery views appealed to the south. He fought in the Mexican war and beat Scott for the presidency who also was a war hero. Polk didn't like Scott and spread rumors that seriously damaged his reputation. By all other accounts he was a pretty decent guy. Almost certainly he would have made a better president than Pierce. Pierce saw slavery extended further west through the Nebraska-Kansas act of 1854. Historians have claimed that Pierce may be our worst president.

Hard to beat out Buchanan though for that dishonor. Another pro-slavery president he presided over the Dred Scott supreme court decision. Not that he decided it but he never said anything against it. Whereas, Lincoln derided it as the worst decision ever. Buchanan, presided over many disasters during his way too long four years - Bleeding Kansas, and the panic of 1857. He vies with Pierce for worst president.

Finally, we get to Lincoln. After such a run of poor presidents it was providential that our country got the right person for the time. Lincoln was elected even though the south was not happy with his anti- slavery views, so he was the first anti-slavery president elected in a long time. Pretty much up until Lincoln presidents needed the support of the South to win. Just how was he elected? Providence. My vote for the best US president.

Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln after his assassination, was another low point in the US presidents list. A southerner, former Governor of Tennessee, he botched up Lincoln's reconstruction plan and made sure emancipated slaves knew they were still very much second class citizens.

U.S Grant, the Union Civil War Hero, has been much maligned for his ineptitude. A Pulitzer prize winning biography by William McFeely portrayed Grant to be a drunk and too tolerant of corruption in his administration. However, other biographers since McFeely believe his portrait to be inaccurate. His administration did elicit charges of corruption and nepotism was rampant, but he stuck to his guns in putting some federal firepower into the enforcement of reconstruction and fighting the Klan. He served two terms, reviving his popularity on a worldwide tour and writing a best selling memoir. One of our better presidents in my view.