James Leroy Wilson's blog

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Van Buren Principle

This is my latest at the Partial Observer. Excerpt:
But how could Van Buren be great? He wasn't even re-elected! One could also condemn him, like all Presidents and most politicians of the time, for compromising on slavery and mistreating the Indians. But if we judge Presidents by these sins, then Washington, Jefferson, and Jackson can't be considered "great" either, and Van Buren actually held on to the original American ideals more consistently than they did. But, of course, that's the problem moderns have with Van Buren. In the face of a banking crisis, he de-regulated banks all the more. In the face of a recession, he cut government spending. In the face of war, he chose negotiation. The country was better off for all of it, but the office of the Presidency wasn't elevated in the process. Since History is largely about wars, personality cults, and increased government power, Van Buren's Presidency is too, well, boring.

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