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.
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.)