Take a look at some of the presidents who are considered "great" by historians. Certain of their actions may have you rethinking their inclusion on the country's honor roll.
Andrew Jackson is considered by some historians as one of our greatest presidents, but he managed with an economy of effort to leave a legacy that included vetoing the recharter of the Bank of the United States. This set off a chain reaction of economic instability culminating in Jackson issuing an order that required buyers of public land to pay in gold, thereby precipitating the Panic of 1837.
Jackson's most notorious act in eight years of the presidency was his support of The Indian Removal Act. Jackson was responsible for the forced march of 15,000 Cherokees from Georgia to a reservation in Oklahoma. One out of four died en route on what is called the "Trail of Tears."
Thomas Jefferson said it well when he stated that Jackson “is a dangerous man.” But Jackson defined himself more specifically in 1821: “ I know what I am fit for. I can command a body of men in a rough way; but I am not fit to be president.”
After his inauguration, President Ronald Reagan placed a portrait of Calvin Coolidge in the Oval Office. He praised Coolidge’s political style andhands-off leadership for producing seven years of prosperity, peace, and balanced budgets.
This symbolic act foretold both the style and legacy of the Reagan presidency. In his first Inaugural Address, regarding the country's economic malaise Reagan stated, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.”
Indeed, Coolidge’s policies were based on an almost religious belief in
doing nothing. Coolidge said it best: “It is much more important to kill bad bills
than to pass good ones.” “Don't you know that four fifths of all our troubles in
this life would disappear if we would just sit down and keep still?”
Coolidge was also a worshipper of capitalism. Again, he said it clearly, “The man who builds a factory builds a temple, that the man who works there worships there, and to each is due, not scorn and blame, but reverence and praise.” , and, “Don’t expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong.”
The economic collapse of the Great Depression were directly related to Coolidge’s
policies; a familiar recipe of tax cuts for the wealthy leading to an uneven
distribution of wealth, failure to aid the agricultural sector, the resultant bankruptcy of thousands rural banks, the loss of land by thousands of farmers and an adamant refusal to regulate business inevitably led to disaster.
Herbert Hoover, who followed Coolidge as president, reacted to the October 24 1929 stock market crash stating that, "the fundamental business of the country, that is production and distribution, is on a sound and prosperous basis.”
Hoover’s actions in the wake of the stock market crash were premised on his
belief that the economy faced a mere downturn rather than the prospect of
complete collapse. Likewise, Hoover's actions accorded with his faith in
voluntarism and rejected calls for more aggressive government actions (like relief bills or bond sales to fund unemployment benefits.) He opposed federal intervention in the economy or the construction of a welfare state.
Hoover wanted to close the federal government's budget deficit, which had grown during his presidency, by raising taxes. Hoover and his advisers did not want to raise taxes primarily on wealthy Americans and businesses because they were the job creator. Instead he wanted to spread tax increases between rich and poor Americans.
Congress passed (over Hoover's veto) the Bonus Bill in the winter of 1931.
The bill allowed veterans to borrow up to one-half the value of life insurance
policies that Congress had purchased in 1924; with the policies set to mature
in 1945. Early access to these funds came to be regarded as a
In the summer of 1932, several thousand unemployed men, many of them veterans of World War I, gathered and camped in Washington to demand immediate payment of war bonuses amid widespread sympathy for their plight.
On July 29, Hoover issued written orders to Chief of Staff MacArthur to clear and destroy the camp. The military led by MacArthur, and his assistant Dwight Eisenhower, attacked the veterans with tanks, tear gas, bayonets, and guns and burned the camps killing one bonus army member. Americans from around the nation saw the horrific images of the attack in their newspapers.