Skip to comments.“Recarving Rushmore” Reranks American Presidents
Posted on 02/28/2010 7:43:02 AM PST by Borges
If you saw Libertarian/Republican Ron Paul doing the interview with author Ivan Eland on CSpans BookNotes, you probably would have guessed that Elands new book Recarving Rushmore was not about to rank Presidents with the usual suspects (Lincoln, Washington, FDR, JFK, and other purveyors of big government) at the top.
Eland does not disappoint. The book is subtitled, Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty and that in itself should provide a clue that this is no ordinary tome of sycophantic praise for the big names Prezes.
Lovers of liberty and small government and Libertarians (both small and big L) everywhere should read Elands book. I brought it to the State House yesterday to show the Republican sponors of that Jeffersonian principles resolution we heard earlier this year. As someone who never lived up to Jeffersonian principles, Jefferson could not possibly rank high in Elands study. He does not. Hes 26th of 40 presidents, and the chapter number three (Eland takes the Presidents in historical order) is titled a hypocrite on limited government.
Two other Jeffersonian founders, Madison (28th) and Monroe (25th) are in the poor category. Thats because Eland is not fond of presidents who who led us into unnecessary wars. Of all the unnecessary wars (and there have been many), Madisons War of 1812 ranks right up there, and Monroe gets marked down for the doctrince which bears his name and attempts to foist United States power throughout the hemisphere.
Eland also doesnt like presidents who tried to expand excecutive power or central government power (FDR is 32nd), and the third grading criteria, usurping individual freedoms, helps relegate John Adams (Alien and Sedition Acts) to 22nd. Adams would be even lower but he did manage to keep us out of war with France in 1799.
In this 200th anniversay of Abraham Lincolns birth, I made a New Years resolution to read a biography of each and every American President. The Eland book is a pleasant interlude from a very interesting assignment, and once you grasp the thesis of the book, there should be few surprises. (Jimmy Carter at number eight is surprising but then despite his flaws, Jimmy did fight his own party to keep government smaller and was an advocate of deregulation).
So who tops Elands list. Since this is not a mystery, Ill reveal the answer. The virtually unknown John Tyler, who succeeded William Henry Harrison after he died 39 days into his term, is number one. Its an interesting choice to be sure. Tyler fought against the big government tendencies of his own Whig Party to such an extent that Henry Clay and Company virtually threw him out of the party while he was in the White House.
Having just completed a biography of Grover Cleveland, I was not surprised that this exemplar of honesty and limited government was ranked number two by Eland. Cleveland was a Democrat before the party was hijacked by tax and spend big government progressives.
It should come as absolutely no surprise that the President ranked last by Eland is the one who is hailed by those very tax and spend progressives today, but who deserves a place in ignominy by all lovers of feedom. Yes that would be the clueless Woodrow Wilson who expanded government, involved us in the war to end all wars and then sold out his own principles at the peace conference in Versailles, and did more to destroy individual liberties than anyone including Adams.
I generally agree with Eland.
Its always great to see do nothing Presidents ranked so high. Do nothingism is a rare honor indeeed, both in my book and in Elands book. Thus chisel in Dwight Eisenhower at number nine and Silent Cal at number ten.
Agree or not, you should find this book at lot of fun. The worse the president, the more pages devoted to him since it takes more time to explain the mischief he got us into. Its around 450 pages and inclues forumlaic economic rankings from a previous study.
Sorry Reaganites, this conservative writer does not rank Reagan well at all (34th). Why? Because, revisionist history notwithstanding, Reagan was not really all that conservative. Sad by true for may reddites reading this.
Heres the list. Only the top four are rated excellent; 5-10 good; 11-14 average; 15-24 poor; and 25 and lower bad.
1 John Tyler
2 Grover Cleveland
3 Martin van Buren
4 Rutherford B. Hayes
5 Chester A Artur
6 Warren G Harding
7 George Washington (expanded central power but did after all refuse a third term thus setting the trend till FDR went for three and four)
8 Jimmy Carter
9 Dwight D Eisenhower
10 Calvin Coolidge
11 Bill Clinton (more fiscally conservative than Reagan and the Bushes)
12 John Quincy Adams
13 Zachary Taylor
14 Millard Fillmore
15 Benjamin Harrison
16 Gerald Ford
17 Andrew Johnson (yes, the impeachable one)
18 Herbert Hoover
19 U.S. Grant
20 William Howard Taft
21 Theodore Roosevelt (interventionist and government expansionist to be sure)
22 John Adams
23 James Buchanan (I would have placed him lower)
24 Franklin Pierce (I would have placed him lower)
25 James Monroe
26 Thomas Jefferson
27 Andrew Jackson
28 James Madison
29 Abraham Lincoln (mihandled the civil war, trampled on freedoms, etc, etc, this chaper alone makes the book worthwhile)
30 Richard Nixon
32 LBJ (Great Big Spending Society)
33 George HW Bush
34 Ronald Reagan
36 George W Bush
37 James K Pok (Mexican War was totally our fault!)
38 William McKinley (ditto Spanish American War!)
39 Harry S. Truman (a real surpiseI would have placed him higher)
40 Woodrow the overt racist Wilson
It should be clear that Eland is not doing the bidding of any particular party. In fact, since Democrats used to value less government and lower spending, many Democrats rank very well. This survey is based on the principles of who maintained peace and prosperity and didnt usurp individual freedom. Eland lets the chips fall where they may in Recarving Rushmore. Other historians should be so honest.
I guess William Henry Harrison didn’t get enough at bats to qualify for the batting title. :)
Jimmy Carter at #8? I’d say the author smoked too much hash during Carter’s term.
Clinton only spent less once he was hemmed in by a conservative GOP Congress. It doesn’t seem right to grade him well based on what he didn’t really want to do.
I stopped reading when I saw that they ranked Jimmy Carter the 8th best president. I was alive when that incompetent was president and there couldn’t have been 3 US presidents WORSE than he was, much less 36.
Vaillancourt = Nuts!
Libertarians don’t get the basic truism that liberty and small government begins with a safe and secure homeland.
That that requires more than a just a nod to national defense.
Jimmy Carter is #8, Reagan is #34.
And that’s all that needs to be said about that.
Didn’t you catch that when they ranked Ronald Reagan at the bottom? The President who defeated Communism in Eastern Europe? And who inspired one of the greatest economies in our history?
This author is a complete idiot.....
Filed under *garbage in, garbage out*.
Not to mention he slashed the military budget.
Honorable mention for sideburns:
U.S. Grant was always my favorite. The more i read about him, the more i realize what a great man he was. His main flaw was that he trusted some people who were better not to be trusted. His autobiography is an absolute masterpiece. And when so many people wanted the south whipped forever, he did not cooperate and reunited the nation.
His only flaw was that he was too decent of a man for the S.O.B.s in DC. That’s not much of a flaw if you think about it.
Any ranking that puts Ronald Reagan behind FDR is
totally bogus at best.
Not entirely. Carter was seen as a failure because he came into DC with all sorts of ideas about how the place should work, was confronted with how it actually worked, and accomplished basically nothing.
Since the metric here is “presidents who did nothing” - Carter ranks pretty well up there.
Mark Twain helped him with that autobiography.
“Any ranking that puts Ronald Reagan behind FDR is
totally bogus at best.”
I guess this history scholar never heard of "The Era of Good Feeling." And Reagan 34th? This list isn't eccentric, it's psychotic.