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Bernanke, Coolidge, and Buchanan: On Timing Your Departure

Written by Gary North on August 5, 2013

In American history, there have been two Presidents who have been perceived as time-servers who knew that a crisis was coming: James Buchanan and Calvin Coolidge. Buchanan did not get out in time. Coolidge did.

Buchanan is generally rated by American historians as among the worst Presidents in American history. This has been true ever since 1948.

Credit, or blame, for the first scholarly ranking of the presidents usually goes to Harvard historian Arthur Schlesinger Sr., who conducted a poll for Life magazine in 1948. He asked 55 specialists in American history to rate the presidents as great, near great, average, below average, or failure. Abraham Lincoln topped the list, followed by George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Claiming the cellar of that list were Warren G. Harding and, in ascending order, Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Calvin Coolidge, John Tyler, Benjamin Harrison, and Herbert Hoover.

U.S. News updated this in 2010. The bottom: Andrew Johnson. The next-to-last: Buchanan.

Polling of conservative and liberal historians produced the same result for the best: Lincoln. So, the two worst were the men who preceded and followed Lincoln.

My conclusion: do not send your child to major in American history in college. I speak as someone with a Ph.D. in the field.

Lincoln made a decision to bring the South back in because, as he said in his first inaugural address, he wanted to make certain that the union could collect tariffs.

In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it be forced upon the national authority. The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere.

It was not this phrase that made him the supreme master of rhetoric, but it surely identified him as a faithful Republican Party office-holder in 1861.

He fought the war for tariffs, and yet he is regarded as the greatest President of American history. The historians make this assessment by means of a 150-year strategy: they never mention why he fought the war. He said why, but they refuse to cite his first inaugural address. They elevate his second inaugural to holy writ: “with malice toward none, with charity to all” — and high tariffs. It cost about 750,000 lives, but he surely was able to secure those tariffs.

(For the rest of my article, click the link.)

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18 thoughts on “Bernanke, Coolidge, and Buchanan: On Timing Your Departure

  1. “Paging Mr. DiLorenzo to the white courtesy phone, please!”

  2. RivahMitch says:

    Actually, I'd put Washington at the top of the list as, without him, both as a military leader and a political leader, our Republic would not have come into being. Lincoln, on the other hand, marked the beginning of the federal Imperium.

  3. Harding may have held the worst spot , UNTIL NOW.

  4. Gloria Sterling says:

    Some of what reconstructionist historians proclaim is a lot of baloney and they have not been taught true history. A true historian is one who writes without bias. One very good book to read is "The Light and The Glory" by Peter Marshall and David Manuel and the sequel "From Sea to Shining Sea".

  5. Lincoln was a tyrant, and the greatest anti-Washington since our nation was founded. Whoever thinks Lincoln was great also thinks the tyrant Cesars of Rome were great. I compare Lincoln to Hitler.

  6. huey6367 says:


    No one compares to Hitler. Maybe Napolean. Maybe Atilla the Hun. But not Presidents. You obviously hate this country.

  7. Perhaps, but Lincoln's generals Sherman and Grant compare "favorably" to several of Hitler's henchmen.

  8. The Bernanke Bubble will burst. Probably after the 2014 elections. His monster was created to give cover to the Obama economy. (See ho great the Dow is doing, the economy must be improving.) Except for the Dow the economy is getting worse. Hopefully, Bernanke will never escape this most venal of sins and it will bear his name forever. See my blog at http://cranky-conservative.blogspot.com

  9. Sorry Buchanan gotta take a back seat to the present WASTE OF SPACE!

  10. Patsy A. says:

    You are right about Lincoln…He was not the greatest president. It is interesting to see how history has been twisted. Wonder
    how history will report Obama…I can't say now how I actually feel, and unless it is written with huge bias, it could be the total
    worst ever…in the history of the United States… It would be really good…for our children, for our students, if history could be
    written as history, not just someones' opinions…we were not there, probably no one living able to recount what really happens or happened in or around the beginning or end of the Civil War……

  11. It will be no surprise what is written in history about Obama. His praises will be on the level of Washington, Jefferson and the like. Future generations will not know the whole truth, thats for sure.

  12. Harding should be rated higher than he is…his policy of cutting the federal budget by 1/3 and allowing the correction of 1922 to run its course was far superior to Roosevelt's performance in the '30's…unless you measure performance by how much federal power has been increased, which seems to be the real criterion. By that measurement, Lincoln and Roosevelt surely rank at or near the top. I'm with Gary–the ranking is perverse. Historians seem to go gaga for presidents who destroy the Constitution and undermine the Republic.

  13. Not a Paper Patriot says:

    PND –

    Your statement reeks of ignorance. Lincoln was one of the WORST Presidents ever but the MSM and pediatric indoctrination centers (formerly called 'schools') have succeeded in successfully duping those of your ilk into believing the opposite. Lincoln is little better than Baroke Hussein O'Bomber. I suppose you think he is great, too. Who is good? Thos. Jefferson, Silent Cal, and JFK.

  14. GOP Family 1860-> says:

    What a bunch of hooey. I agree with the poster who asserts that Washington was a our greatest president — indeed, I would assert he is the greatest American period. However, there is so much pure nonsense here about Lincoln and why we fought the Civil War that it is mind-boggling. Lincoln wrote and spoke a lot about why he fought to preserve the Union and the Confederate leaders wrote and spoke a lot in 1860 and 1861 about why they were seeking to secede. I agree you can forego the historians. Go straight to the original sources. This is pure horse hockey.

    Oh, and by the way, I've grown weary of folks whose ancestors fought to end the Union calling Lincoln or Theodore Roosevelt or Dwight Eisenhower a RINO. The RINOs are the Dixiecrats who Nixon mistakenly invited into the party. Now we have Democrats and Dixiecrats, but no true Republicans to resist their insanities. And then there are the many descendants of Union soldiers who may not even realize it who defame their ancestors' memories every time they regurgitate such nonsense.

  15. FoundersDescendant says:

    Awesome and right on target! Our ancestors must all be rolling in their graves to see modern politics in the US! We rarely study or know the real history of our nation. Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it!

  16. Buchanan took a back seat to a lot of people. It was common knowledge that he had an "Aunt Nancy" who was the vice president in the previous administration. The footnotes of history just say that James Buchanan never married, but they don't mention that he kept the company of the certain gentleman.
    Even that reprehensible president still takes a back seat to the current resident, for the title of the worst occupant of the White House.

  17. Gloria Sterling says:

    LBJ saved his skin by not running again. Too bad he had already caused much damage, like SS going into general fund.

  18. BM Wheeler says:

    I've been here for 86 years – seen many presidents come and go. I always thought Carter the worst, that is until now