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Four Re-Ranked Presidents
Revision is not an obscene expression. When new information comes to light, when the interconnectedness of events is examined, actions which might have appeared base or righteous are reassessed.
The quality of the incumbency of these four American Presidents has been reexamined, and those who were lauded are now being excoriated, while those who were often listed as the worst have been re ranked as one of the best.
One cannot predict if the rankings will hold for another sixty years or be revised in light of new developments..
I have listed the re-ranked Presidents in chronological order of their Presidency.
Martin Van Buren, the 8th
President, of the United
States was rated 15th in 1949.
In 2008 he was rated 40th in a field
This change is due to the re-
examination what actually
transpired during his Presidency.
Van Buren was the 8th President,
taking office after the highly popular
He announced he would
"to follow in the footsteps
of his illustrious predecessor",
and retained all but one member
of the cabinet.
Van Buren was quite ineffectual. He had none of Jackson's ability. He was, unable to deal with the Panic of 1837 and denied the formal request of Texas to join the United States.
In the case of the ship Amistaad, Van Buren sided with the Spanish Government
that the Africans who had taken control and reached America were property and
should be returned to Spain.
Van Buren oversaw the "Trail of Tears," which involved the expulsion of the
Cherokee tribe in 1838 from Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and South
Carolina and relocated in the Oklahoma territory.
All this was 'accomplished' in one four year term. Hence he only served one term.
All that remains of his legacy is the expression; "O.K." which stands for
'Old Kinderhook', his nickname and has come to mean that everything is alright.
Taking office during the second half of reconstruction, Ulyssess S. Grant supported amnesty for former Confederates and signed the Amnesty Act of 1872.
He favoured limiting the number of Federal troops stationed in the South, sufficient to protect Southern Freedmen, suppress the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), and prop up Republican governors.
He focused on the plight of African Americans and native Indian tribes. He made many advances in civil and human rights.
In 1869 and 1871, he signed bills promoting black voting rights and prosecuting Klan leaders. He won passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave freedmen the vote, and the Ku Klux Klan Act, which empowered the president "to arrest and break up disguised night marauders."
He pressed for the former slaves to be "possessed of the civil rights which citizenship should carry with it."
In 1874 a new wave of paramilitary organizations arose; The Red Shirts and White League, which conducted insurgency in Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Louisiana.
They were better organized than the Ku Klux Klan
In response, Grant was the first President to sign a congressional civil rights act which entitled equal treatment in public accommodations and jury selection.
His attempt to provide justice to Native Americans marked a radical reversal of what had long been the government's policy: He lobbied, though not always successfully, to preserve Native American lands from encroachment by the westward advance of pioneers.
During his administration there were a number of scandals and a great deal of corruption, which has historically been used to obliterate the important strides made in civil rights.
He was ranked 28th in a field of 29 in 1949, but has continued to advance as recognition of the value of his Presidency and in 2008 placed 18th in a field of 42.
Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President, is still thought by some to be a great man. Those who have studied his presidency know what a backwards step it was in human rights.
Firstly, he came from a family that was so pro-slavery they moved South in 1851 and bought slaves. His family supported the Confederacy.
When he was President of Princeton University in New Jersey not a single black student was admitted. When he became President in 1912 segregation became official in federal offices. In some, for the first time since 1863.
Many Blacks were fired.
Full racial segregation was implemented in Washington D.C
In his book, History of the American People he lauded the Ku Klux Klan. His words were enshrined in the movie, Birth of a Nation;
“The white men were roused by a mere instinct of
self-preservation… until at last there sprung into
existence a Great Ku Klux Klan a vertiable empire
of the South, to protect the Southern country.”
He was anti-immigrant, save when it got him votes.
He implemented the draft and drug prohibitions. He had the Federal government take control of the Railroads, suppressed the anti-war movement and Women's suffrage movement.
It was only when the world became aware of the political prisoners filling American jails, that at the end of his second term, Wilson signed the Bill to extend the franchise to women.
The terms of the treaty of Versailles, which he took some credit for, led inexorably to the Second World War.
The Buck Stops Here
Taking office on the death of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman had been pretty much left out of the loop. When he was sworn in he knew nothing of the Manhattan project.
Never expecting to become President he asked all members of FDR's cabinet to remain in place, but told them he was open to their advice, but he would be the one making decisions.
It was his decision to use the Atomic Bomb on the Japanese and he never evaded responsibility for it.
After the war, during a railway strike Truman threatened to draft the striking workers into the military.
He was blunt is nothing else.
Harry Truman was a key figure in the recognition of Israel, doing so eleven minutes after it was declared a nation.
There were many events during his Presidency from the Soviet Unions blockaged of Berlin to the too rapid demobilisation of troops which left the U.S. Militarily weak.
Harry Truman racially integrated the armed forces, backed civil rights, was a strong supporter of NATO.
He was highly unpopular when he left office during his turbulent term from 1945 - 1952.
As time passed and historians analysed his Presidency, he has reached fifth best President in 2009.
History is not an objective lens; it is manipulated by what is the currently morality. What is right/wrong, acceptable/not acceptable depends on when one was born
and how events are understood.
Woodrow Wilson, for example, was not merely racist, but sexist, and was
virtually a dictator. The laws and practices that existed during his terms in
office could have been imported from any repressive regime which opened
mail, monitored association, curtailed free thought.
The only reason he granted women the right to vote was because the rest of the world was watching the brutal treatment of suffragettes.
Yet, unrecently, he was considered one of the best Presidents, as if he 'won' World War I, when America only entered near the end so as to share in the victory.
Twenty years from now; how will the world view George W. Bush and Barack Obama?