Abraham Lincoln

Ranking the Presidents from a libertarian perspective

I remember some time ago – maybe as far back as a couple of years ago – I saw a link pointing to a list ranking the presidents on a libertarian scale. I did some digging around tonight, and I believe that this is that list I saw.

Of course, it’s all subjective. There are several lists like this one, and they all vary a little bit depending on the views of the person who wrote the list. I say that to stress that while I’m linking to this list, I didn’t write it, so don’t assume that I endorse everything in it.

His top five U.S. Presidents:

  1. Martin Van Buren
  2. Grover Cleveland
  3. John Tyler
  4. Calvin Coolidge
  5. Zachary Taylor

And, of course, no “best of” list is any good without an accompanying “worst of” list. Here are his list of the worst 5 presidents:

  1. George W. Bush
  2. Abraham Lincoln
  3. Franklin D. Roosevelt
  4. Ronald Reagan
  5. Harry S. Truman

A few of my thoughts on the list:

Secession…an American Tradition

Texas Governor Rick Perry raised a few eyebrows recently when he used the “S” word in public. Secession, he said, was always an option on the political table as far as Texas was concerned.

Exposing the Racist Underbelly of the Democrat Party

As we near the end of February, this article also closes a series in honor of Black History Month. In previous articles, we’ve reviewed the establishment of the Republican Party for the express purpose of ending the moral failure of slavery. We’ve looked at the accomplishments of Republicans in securing liberty for black Americans, from the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, to the 1866 Civil Rights Act (with Democrats refusing to uphold the law, and a Democrat-appointed Supreme Court later repealing the laws). We also looked at the violent, bloody history of Democrats and their sister organization, the Ku Klux Klan, which terrorized and murdered thousands of blacks.

Despite the clear facts outlined in history, somehow the Democrat Party has audaciously claimed the mantel as the party that protects blacks, a claim as ridiculous as it is incredulous. Granted, the Democrat Party no longer relies on cross-burning and lynching to keep blacks in their place. However, today it uses far more subtle and sinister tactics to keep blacks on the government “plantation”. And despite their public proclamation of love for blacks in America, their private comments, and the disastrous results of Democrat policies, show us that the Democrats are not now, nor have they ever been, a friend to blacks.

The Republican Fight against the KKK Tyranny

February being Black History month, we continue a review of the long relationship between the Republican Party and black Americans. In the previous two articles, we discussed the establishment of the Republican Party for the specific purpose of ending slavery, and the backlash from pro-slavery Democrats (including a slavery critic being beaten almost to death by a pro-slavery senator) which ultimate led to the commencement of the War Between the States.

We noted the 13th (ending slavery), 14th (extending rights to former slaves) and 15th (securing voting rights for blacks) Amendments, as well as the first Civil Rights Act (passed in 1866) all have a common thread…they were passed by Republicans and viciously opposed by Democrats. Democrat President Andrew Johnson would refuse to enforce the law, and a Democrat-appointed Supreme Court would later rule them unconstitutional. Over the next hundred years following the passage of these amendments and the Civil Rights Act, Democrats fought Republican efforts to secure equality for blacks at every turn, often by violent means.

When Republicans began impeachment proceedings against Democrat President Andrew Johnson, he famously declared “This is a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am President, it shall be a government of white men!” It surely must have galled Johnson when, less than two months later, Pinckney Pinchback and James Harris attended the Republican National Convention, the first black men to ever serve as major party delegates. In the fall of that year, the Democrats announced the slogan for their national convention, “This is a white man’s country: Let white men rule”. It was roundly denounced by the Republican Party.

Blacks and Republicans: A Historic Alliance

In honor of February being Black History Month, I thought it might be informative to look at one aspect of the history of blacks in America; namely, the history of blacks and the Republican Party. Though black voters in America have in recent decades become a monolithic voting block for the Democrat Party, such has not always been the case. In fact, I think it would come as a great surprise for many blacks today to learn that not only have Republicans not always been thought of as their political enemies, they once had a political and ideological alliance. Even today these two groups agree on a wide range of issues, from educational choice and traditional marriage, to the importance of religion, specifically Christianity, to our history and culture.

On March 20, 1854, a group of people opposed to the Democrats’ policies supporting slavery met in Ripon, Wisconsin with the express purpose of organizing to end the moral evil of slavery. Just ten days later, on March 30th, President Franklin Pierce, a Democrat, signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, a law which authorized the expansion of slavery into U.S. territories. As a result, these anti-slavery members of the Whig and Free-Soil Democrats would form the Republican Party, and within a few short years had established a major power base in the northeastern and Midwestern states.

In 1856, the Republican Party held its first national nominating convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where it nominated John C. Freemont as their presidential candidate. Freemont ran under the slogan “Free soil, free silver, free men, Fremont”. He would lose that election to Democrat James Buchanan after Democrats warned the election of the anti-slavery Freemont would lead to civil war, but despite the loss in the 1856 election, the Republicans had established themselves as a major party, and would win the presidency just four years later with Abraham Lincoln.

Where Is Thaddeus Stevens Now That We Need Him?

Written by David Boaz, executive vice president at the Cato Institute. It is cross-posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

The radical abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens is enjoying a rediscovery as the moral center of Steven Spielberg’s film Lincoln. As portrayed in the film, he confronts the sort of dilemma faced by many people of strong ideological convictions forced to deal with political reality: Will he disavow his radical belief in full racial equality in order to ease passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery? (No spoilers here.)

Stevens’s belief in equality under the law went beyond race, as Karen Tumulty notes in a Washington Post article on the fiscal cliff negotiations:

House Ways and Means Chairman Thaddeus Stevens (now enjoying a return to popular consciousness as Tommy Lee Jones’s character in the movie “Lincoln”) denounced the idea of a graduated rate structure as a “strange way to punish men because they are rich.”

When Libertarians Forget History

David Boaz has a great piece over at Reason today on the historical blinders that some libertarians seem to have when looking at America’s past:

When we look at our own country’s history—contrasting 2010 with 1776 or 1910 or 1950 or whatever—the story is less clear. We suffer under a lot of regulations and restrictions that our ancestors didn’t face.

But in 1776 black Americans were held in chattel slavery, and married women had no legal existence except as agents of their husbands. In 1910 and even 1950, blacks still suffered under the legal bonds of Jim Crow—and we all faced confiscatory tax rates throughout the postwar period.

I am particularly struck by libertarians and conservatives who celebrate the freedom of early America, and deplore our decline from those halcyon days, without bothering to mention the existence of slavery. Take R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., longtime editor of the American Spectator. In Policy Review (Summer 1987, not online), he wrote:

Let us flee to a favored utopia. For me that would be the late 18th Century but with air conditioning….With both feet firmly planted on the soil of my American domain, and young American flag fluttering above, tobacco in the field, I would relish the freedom.

I take it Mr. Tyrrell dreams of being a slave-owner. Because as he certainly knows, most of the people in those tobacco fields were slaves.

Redefining a Nation

My last article, “Secession… an American Tradition,” elicited some good questions from readers. The whole issue of secession seems to beg the larger question of what constitutes a nation anyway.

To answer this requires a brief overview of modern nationalism.

Here are a couple of definitions to start:

Nation:

A large body of people, associated with a particular territory, that is sufficiently conscious of its unity to seek or to possess a government peculiarly its own: The president spoke to the nation about the new tax. (www.Dictionary.com)

Nation:

James Buchanan: The Worst President?

In honor of Presidents Day, CSPAN released the results of their poll asking who is the best president in American history.  Not surprisingly, Abraham Lincoln (once again) topped the chart, but the regular last place finisher, Andrew Johnson, was replaced today by the last president born in the 18th century, James Buchanan.

Why is he considered the worst president?  Reading through several sources, it appears that President Buchanan is seen as the man who could have stopped the War Between the States (or Mr. Lincoln’s War, as it’s known here in the South).  His “lack of action” is what earns him last place.

(D) Fantasy DC: Senator Will.i.am Clinton?

I just about spit my coffee up when I read this yesterday, but apparently some people are calling on David Paterson to replace Hillary Clinton - with Bill.

While I seriously doubt that is going to happen - even the CNN article agrees that Bill would likely not be interested in becoming a Jr. Senator - I was a bit tickled by the prospect of seeing “Teflon Bill” heading to the Senate.

That whole “change” thing really was just good branding huh?

This morning Clinton said that he had no real interest in the seat.

From the history books:

 


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