37 ANDREW JOHNSON

This is a post in My Presidential Rankings series, linked here: https://sdu754.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/presidential-rankings/ 

Andrew Johnson became president upon the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. With the Civil War over and Congress out of session until December (Congress met much less often then) Johnson had a decision to make on what to do about the former Confederate States of America. He could either commence reconstruction unilaterally, wait for Congress to reconvene in December or call a special session of congress. Johnson chose to act unilaterally without congress to reconstruct the union. This was the worst possible of the three choices, by not working with congress Johnson seriously undermined any chance congress would agree with his proposals. Johnson’ s reconstruction goals was speedy restoration of the states, with the states deciding on voting rights for freed slaves. Johnson also wanted to secure election in his own right in 1868, this would require a unified south under democratic control.

Johnson’s leniency led to southern arrogance. Southerners seen they could get what they wanted without giving any concessions to freed slaves. This led to the enactment of “black codes”, a series of laws which severely restricted African American rights forcing them into a slave labor class. When Congress reconvened in December of 1865, most men elected to congress from the south were former confederates. Northerners were outraged at the idea of unrepentant confederate leaders rejoining the federal government at a time when emotional wounds from the war remained raw. They saw the Black Codes placing African-Americans in a position barely above slavery. Because of these abuses, Congress decided not to seat members from the former confederate states. Johnson’s reconstruction policies led to Jim Crow laws and white supremacist groups, most notably the Ku Klux Klan, holding power in the south until the civil right era of the 1950s & 1960s. 

In early 1866 Johnson made a series of decisions that pushed Congress into the hands of the radical republicans. On February 18, 1866 Johnson vetoed bill extending  the freedmen’s bureau, which was created to assist former slaves after the civil war. On February 22, 1866 Johnson gave speech condemning Pennsylvania Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, and abolitionist Wendell Phillips, and accused them, among other things,  of plotting his assassination. finally on March 27 1966 vetoed Civil Rights Bill In his veto message, he objected to the measure because it conferred citizenship on the freedmen. The veto was overridden 3 weeks later, the first veto overridden in US history. Many moderate Republicans saw the Freedmen’s Bureau and the Civil Rights Act of 1866 as the minimum needed to protect former slaves. Had Johnson been willing to sign these two laws and work with moderates, he wouldn’t have lost complete control of the situation. Instead his actions guaranteed that the Radical Republicans would dominate congress. Many former confederates, including Robert E Lee, stated that if Johnson could have made guaranteeing freed slaves rights part of the settlement of the war, but Johnson refused. He did this because he wanted to retain the presidency after 1868 election, and he needed the south to vote Democrat. If former slaves were allowed to vote, they would likely vote Republican, which would jeopardize the Democrats winning a solid south.

Johnson continued vetoing nearly everything congress passed stating that any laws passed without southern representation in congress were unconstitutional. As Johnson’s overly obstructionist vetoes were getting overturned more frequently, Congress started to get bolder. Eventually congress passed the Tenure of Office Act over Johnson’s veto. This law stated that the President couldn’t remove any executive officer who had been appointed by the president, that required Senate approval, unless the Senate approved the removal during the next full session of Congress. Rather than trying to eliminate the law through judicial means, by bringing suit against the law in court, Johnson decided to break the law by removing Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. By doing this he created a constitutional crisis, in which he was impeached, and narrowly missed being removed from office. Had Johnson’s gamble not paid off, a precedent may have been set for the removal of “obstructionist” or “unfit” Presidents, of which Johnson was both.

The one positive of Johnson’s term was the purchase of Alaska from Russia, often referred to as Seward’s Folly. Due to his extreme racism, and his boldening of the south against the federal authority, Andrew Johnson severely hurt the lot of African Americans for over a century. This combined with his uncompromising obstructionists ways qualifies him as our third worst president. The only thing that saves him from last place  is that two others had a more negative impact.

38 Andrew Jackson

This is a post in My Presidential Rankings series, linked here: https://sdu754.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/presidential-rankings/ 

Andrew Jackson rose to power by building a coalition of Southern and Western states. This coalition controlled the politics of Jackson and his democratic party, creating the pro-south, pro-slavery antebellum Democratic party. The main tenants of the party were as follows:

1) Lower Tariffs – This would benefit the south, as most tariffs were on manufactured goods that were produced in the northeast. The biggest benefit would go to rich southern plantation owners, who had the most money to purchase the resulting cheaper goods from a lower tariff. The biggest losers would be northern factory workers whose jobs would be threatened by the new competition.

2) Selling of Public Lands – by selling public lands rather than giving them away, as done under the homestead act, Jackson was protecting land values for plantation owners. If free lands were available to the west, it certainly would have deflated the value of lands in the east. Selling of public lands also made it harder for poorer people to lift themselves up through their own labor.

3) Opposition to Internal Improvements – Internal Improvements at the time were the proposed government building of roads and other means of transportation. A better road network would have made both poorer citizens and run away slaves more mobile. This would help to protect southern plantation owners other “property”, slaves. Internal Impovements would also make the poorer southern citizens less dependent on rich plantation owners.  

4) Indian Removal – The removal of Indians would help both westerners and southerners, by removing the threat of attacks and opening up Indian property to white settlers.

Andrew Jackson was definitely the first pro-slavery president. When abolitionist started sending  anti-slavery mailings into the south, Jackson’s  postmaster general, Amos Kendall, allowed the burning and destruction of these mailings. When Jackson learned of the anti-slavery mailings, He denounced the abolitionists as “monsters” and wanted their names recorded and released to newspapers, as a way of “outing” them. Jackson even recommended to congress to pass an act prohibiting abolitionists papers in the south, a clear attack on the freedoms of speech and press. Jackson also pushed through the House of Representatives the famous “gag rule”, that made bringing any anti-slavery petitions illegal.

Jackson’s policy towards Native Americans was far harsher than that towards slaves. Jackson’s Indian Removal Policy would be termed as ethnic cleansing today. The basic policy was to force all Native Americans as far west as possible, resettling them in what today makes up the Dakotas, Oklahoma, Kansas & Nebraska. To accomplish this goal Jackson got congress to pass the Indian Removal Act, which allowed the president to negotiate with Indians east of the Mississippi to withdraw from their lands, it was supposed to be voluntary. Jackson’s application of the law was to forcibly remove the Native Americans who wouldn’t do so voluntarily. When the state of Georgia tried to forcibly remove the Cherokees, they sued the state in court. In the supreme court case Cherokee Nation v Georgia the supreme court ruled that the Cherokees couldn’t be forcibly removed from their lands. In response Jackson said “Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it”. Jackson then started forcibly removing the 5 civilized tribes along the “Trail of Tears”. First were the Choctaw in 1831, the Seminoles in 1832, the Creek in 1834, the Chickasaw in 1837 (under Van Buren) & then the Cherokee in 1838 (again under Van Buren). Between 1/3 & 1/4 of tribe members lost their lives along the trail of tears.

Many Seminoles, however, stayed behind in Florida. Jackson sent the army to enforce the treaty. Thus began the second Seminole war (1835-1842), the longest Indian war in US history. The Seminoles utilized guerrilla tactics and killed as many as 2000 troops, and costs the government $40 million, a huge sum at the time.

The Black Hawk war (1832) started when the Sauk & Fox tribes tried to resettle land taken from them under the disputed treaty of 1804. In a non aggressive move, chief Black Hawk moved the tribes across the Mississippi. The war broke out when soldiers fired upon a delegation from the Native Americans. The tribes were defeated at the battle of Bad Ax River, sometimes referred to the Massacre at Bad Ax. This resulted in most Native Americans fleeing what is today the Midwest.

Jackson also created the spoils system to further cement his political power. The idea of the system was to replace all governmental employees with loyal Democrats. Those who received jobs would also be required to campaign for or give political donations to the Democratic party. Jackson stated “If you have a job in your department that can’t be done by a Democrat, then abolish the job.” and “to the victor goes the spoils”. The system inevitably led to corruption in every department within the government.

In 1832 South Carolina passed an Ordinance of Nullification in response to the “tariff of Abominations” (Federal Tariff of 1828). South Carolina basically stated that it could say a law was unconstitutional and therefor “null and void” within its borders. Jackson’s response to the initial crisis was to push through congress the Tariff of 1832 to placate southerners. In November of 1832 South Carolina sensing weakness and willing to push it’s advantage now declared bot the tariffs of 1828 & 1832 “null & void” within their borders after February 1, 1833. Jackson then passed through Congress the “Compromise Tariff of 1833”, which put rates back where they were before the Tariff of 1828. Congress also passed the “force Bill” to stop any further pressure from nullifiers. Jackson’s buckling in to South Carolina during the nullification crisis, giving South Carolina exactly what it wanted in a greatly reduced tariff, fostered future rebellion. It should also be noted he lowered the tariff before he sent troops. The compromise tariff was basically the same as the parent who gives into a petulant child who throws a tantrum, and the force bill was like saying “you better behave now” once the child gets what it wanted all along. It only teaches the child to throw a tantrum the next time.

Andrew Jackson, purely for political reasons, decided to star a war on the Second Bank of America. The bank was a cornerstone of his main political rivals, Henry Clays, American plan. He also seen the attempt at an early re-chartering of the bank in 1832 as a personal attack on him. Jackson went relentlessly after the bank like a mad man, especially after his re-election. Jackson sought to have the federal deposits illegally removed from the bank, but he ran into a roadblock. His secretary of the Treasury, Louis McClain, refused to break the law by removing the deposits. Jackson then replaced McClain with William J. Duane , who also refused, and was dismissed. Jackson then used a recess appointment to name Roger Taney as treasury secretary, who then removed the deposits and put them into corrupt pet banks. When the senate refused to confirm him, Jackson appointed Taney chief justice of the supreme court. The senate censured Jackson for his actions in the bank war.

The corrupt pet banks that Jackson used in place of the Second Bank of the United States irresponsibly issued paper currency. This worthless paper money started to flood the market causing rampant inflation. To remedy the situation, on July 11, 1836 Jackson ordered the treasury to issue the “specie circular” which required that all federal land purchases were made in gold. This combined with the bank war threw the economy into a tailspin that resulted in the panic of 1837, the worst recession in American History until the great depression.

The Peggy Eaton Affair was another major occurrence during Jackson’s term. Peggy Eaton was a widow who married Jackson’s secretary of War John Eaton soon after her husband John Timberlake died. It was rumored that the Eaton’s had an affair before Timberlake had died. When several cabinet members wives snubbed Peggy Eaton, Jackson took the side of the Eaton’s. This wouldn’t matter accept that Jackson allowed the affair to interfere with official government business for over two years. In April of 1831, both Van Buren & Eaton resigned their cabinet posts so Jackson could clean out the rest of the cabinet.

Jackson supervised several unconstitutional Acts during his presidency. His outright defiance of the Supreme Courts decision in Cherokee Nation v Georgia was an impeachable offense. Jackson also had the federal deposits illegally removed from the Second Bank of America and supervised the destruction of the US mail, a federal offense. He even broke his own Indian Removal Act, when he forcibly removed Native Americans when the law allowed for only voluntary removal. Jackson also allowed personal prejudiced and political vendettas to get in the way of being president. He even stated “My only two regrets in life are that I did not hang Calhoun and shoot Clay”.

 

 

 

 

#39 Woodrow Wilson

This is a post in My Presidential Rankings series, linked here: https://sdu754.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/presidential-rankings/ 

I rank Woodrow Wilson as the worst ever president as he was the most damaging.

Wilson is mostly known as president for his involvement in World War I. Many times he is even portrayed as an unwilling participant who had war forced upon him. This characterization is totally false. Through increased economic involvement and preferential treatment towards the Allies, Wilson got the US sucked into a war that cost the over 119,000 American lives needlessly. Even Wilson’s Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, resigned due to Wilson’s pro Allies bias. Long before Germany broke any neutrality laws, Great Britain cut the trans Atlantic cable and was stopping US ships Heading into the North Sea, France similarly was blockading the Mediterranean sea, in an attempt to starve out the central powers. Had Wilson been truly neutral between Britain and Germany, World War I would have been shorter, and the United States would have never gotten sucked into it. Britain and France both hung on knowing that the United States would eventually enter the war on their side militarily, as it was already on their side economically.

The punitive treaties forced upon the central powers led to economic chaos in eastern and central Europe, that eventual spread westward, helping to trigger the great depression.  The punishment was especially bad against Germany and helped lead to the rise of Hitler. These treaties also had a hand in the pre World War II appeasement policies, as Britain & France undoubtedly realized that they had overstepped their bounds with the treaties and saw, giving a little ground back as being reasonable. They cut the Austrian-Hungarian Empire into several weaker nations that were first dominated by Nazi Germany, then Communist Russia. The Allies promised Italy and Japan territory in exchange for joining them against the central powers, which could have wetted their appetites leading into WWII. The treaties also gave Serbia, the country that started WWI, exactly what it wanted in the formation of Yugoslavia. Lets not forget the post cold war problems in Bosnia and Kosovo. The Allies further cut up the Ottoman Empire into several British and French colonies, making Turkey all that was left of the empire. Most people would agree a strong and unified middle east under Turkey would be preferable to the current mess as it stands today. 

When the Russia czar abdicated the throne on March 15 1917, the provision government led by Alexander Kerensky took over. After entering the war, Wilson gave the Kerensky government $325 million to remain in the war. Russia launched the disastrous “grand offensive” against Germany. This disaster led to the rise of the Bolsheviks led by Lenin taking over the government and installing a communist regime. Had Wilson not interfered in Russia, the Kerensky led government would have probably survived. When the Bolsheviks signed a peace treaty with Germany, Wilson Blockade Russia and sent troops and supplies into Russia in support of anti-Bolshevik forces. Wilson’s invasion of Russia against the Bolsheviks, which prolonged that war and led to soviet mistrust of western democracies. This was definitely one of the causes of the cold war.

Woodrow Wilson had the worst record of any president on human rights to date. He imposed segregation into the federal government, and supported the South’s right to deal with racial issues without federal interference. Wilson, upon screening the movie “Birth of a Nation”, which glorified the Ku Klux Klan, Wilson stated it was “history writ with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.” Many see his actions as catalyst for the birth of the new Klan. Wilson vigorously opposed woman’s suffrage, going as far as arresting peaceful protesters for assembling too close to the White House. Wilson Further attacked free speech with the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918. He used both laws to arrest political prisoners who disagreed with him.

He invaded one Caribbean or central American country after another during his term forcing them to “elect” good leaders and went about re-writing their constitutions and forcing treaties upon them. He even stated “I’m am going to teach the South American republics to elect good men.” He invaded Mexico and caused their President Huerta to be disposed, which led to chaos and the Pancho Villa raids. He then sent General Pershing deep into Mexico to catch Villa with no success. These acts seriously undermined relations that the United states has had with Latin American countries .

Wilson failures aren’t just limited to foreign policy. He also left the country in an economic mess as he left office. The causes can be traced to three main causes. 1) Wilson hugely increased the debt, which went up tenfold 2) A failure to demobilize more than a year after WWI had ended 3) He greatly increased taxes, imposing the first income tax with rates as high as 77% and the first inheritance tax. Milton Friedman has clearly shown how the Federal Reserve, a creation of Wilson, was a main cause of the Great depression. The federal Reserve continues to cause economic calamity by throwing the economy out of balance periodically. Wilson also passed the redundant, more restrictive and unneeded Clayton Anti-Trust Act, when the Sherman Anti-Trust Act was working just fine under Roosevelt and Taft.

Upon having a stroke, and being unable to carry out his duties as president, Wilson did one of the most selfish things a president has ever done. He refused to step down as president as the country crumbled for no reasons other than vanity or to stubbornly hang on to power.

Presidential Rankings

Upon reading several presidential rankings online I have decided to post my own rankings here. I will be adding atleast one new president weekly to the ranking. I will only consider things that were done as president and the effects of those actions. There will be given no wieght to accomplishments done either before or after thier presidency, as many raters often do. I will also judge the entire presidency and judge all presidents on the same standard. Many rankers tend to get caught up on one aspect of a certain presidency, and ignore the rest. I will being doing a count down style ranking, going from worst to best.

There are four presidents i will not be ranking: William Henry Harrison, James Garfield, George W Bush & Barack Obama. My reasoning for these exclusions is as follows, both Harrison Garfield didn’t serve long enough to bee ranked.Barack Obama has not finished his term yet, so to rank him yet would not be fair. Enough time has not passed to give an accurate historical ranking of Bush.

#24 William Howard Taft https://sdu754.wordpress.com/2016/08/14/24-william-howard-taft/

#25 Zachary Taylor https://sdu754.wordpress.com/2015/07/20/25-zachary-taylor/

#26 John Quincy Adams https://sdu754.wordpress.com/2015/01/18/26-john-quincy-adams/

#27 James Polk https://sdu754.wordpress.com/2015/01/11/27-james-polk/

#28 Jimmy Carter https://sdu754.wordpress.com/2014/10/07/28-jimmy-carter/

#29 Herbert Hoover https://sdu754.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/29-herbert-hoover/

#30 Franklin Pierce https://sdu754.wordpress.com/2014/05/04/30-grover-cleveland/

#31 Grover Cleveland https://sdu754.wordpress.com/2014/04/27/31-franklin-pierce/

#32 James Buchanan https://sdu754.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/32-james-buchanan/

#33 Martin Van Buren                                                                                          https://sdu754.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/33-martin-van-buren/

#34 John Adams                     https://sdu754.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/34-john-adams/

#35 Theodore Roosevelt     https://sdu754.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/35-theodore-roosevelt/

#36 LYNDON JOHNSON   https://sdu754.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/36-lyndon-johnson/

#37 Andrew Johnson https://sdu754.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/37-andrew-johnson/

#38 Andrew Jackson https://sdu754.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/38-andrew-jackson/

#39 Woodrow Wilson https://sdu754.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/39-woodrow-wilson/