A Bum Rap
In reading biographies of the Presidents, I've come across a huge surprise. One author claimed the 1840s and 1850s were the two most important decades in USA history. He said if the Civil War is the most pivotal event in our history, we must admit it did not happen in a vacuum, and need to investigate what caused it.
In pondering this possibility, I have come to an unexpected conclusion. The Presidents of these two decades (between Jackson and Lincoln) were not nearly as ineffective as history has commonly painted them. They had a deck stacked against them. They were fighting against the Czar, Dictator Slavocracy. I have dealt with this in a former blog, but want to point how impossible it made for the Presidents to be hugely effective during its ascendancy.
Not until LIncoln, who was elected with only 42% of the vote and who due to the secession of southern states did not have to be handcuffed with slavocracy, was a President able to effectively undertake issues with proper Executive authority. I have now finished the bios of Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, and Fillmore. Were these men potential Washingtons or Lincolns? No. But they were gifted men who were effective in many aspects of their administrations, often in foreign affairs. They were not incompetents.
I was recently talking to a friend about my reading of the Presidents. He instantly remarked, "Isn't it amazing how little we really know about history?" Profound. His words ring especially true in my studies thus far of the 1840s and 1850s.