The Rankings of the Presidents

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    Brion, I’ve listened to this series of lectures before. I’m listening to it now for a second time and I’ve gotten through Washington, Jackson, and Lincoln. I’m now listening to the lecture on Teddy Roosevelt.

    Frankly, I don’t understand your ranking of the 10 worst presidents. You have very clearly shown that Lincoln above all others grossly abused the constitution and effectively re-wrote laws of this land based upon his arbitrary interpretation of precedence. Lincoln ignored the constitution when it came to the secession of the southern states and really just did as he pleased, using his interpretation of the constitution to invade the South and then suspend habeas corpus. Jackson was little better when during his administration he used the presidency as a weapon against his antagonists by vetoing the charter renewal of the national bank, and by his imperial actions such as sending troops in to South Carolina to enforce the tariff acts. Washington, on the other hand, was merely a bumbling leader who lacked the philosophical rigor to defend the constitution and therefore let Hamilton and other members of his administration have their way with him. Look at how he conducted the Revolutionary War. Murray Rothbard’s characterization of him is the worst possible General on the American side during the Revolution, and only was able to win because the British were being led by the worst possible General in the British Army. So in spite of the fact that he lost most of the battles, the other American Generals were able in the end to divide and trap the British Regulars in a way that ended the war. So, in my view, Lincoln HAS to be the worst president, given the terrible gutting of the constitution that he did and the catastrophic outcomes that were cemented in the governing body of this country after the civil war and emancipation proclamation. It seems pretty clear that if Lincoln would have been the first President of the United States that he would shredded the constitution in the very beginning anyway. Had Washington been the President of the US during the Lincoln time frame, he probably would have let the succession of the South proceed. Therefore, Lincoln HAS to be the worst president. Jackson is only better because he was never in the position to make such monumentally bad decisions as those of Lincoln, and Washington is not so bad because he was just a bumbler. In fact, as the section on Teddy Roosevelt unfolds, its pretty clear that he also will rank above Washington as someone with a malicious intent to dismantle the constitution. None of this is a direct defense of Washington, but the decisions and outcomes of the other presidents are so egregious that a relative ranking has to place them above someone who lead by simply following the poor advice from other members of his administration.


    I think you’re kind of missing the point with Washington. It’s not that he thinks he’s truly one of the worst Presidents, it’s that his allowance of the Great Evil called Hamilton to do as he pleased laid the groundwork for the truly bad Presidents to begin expanding executive power. You can even hear in a recent podcast Brion did with Tom Woods where he says Washington was one of the best Presidents we ever had, however it’s still important nonetheless to recognize what happened during his administration that lead to what we have today. He does the same thing with Madison in his annexing territory in a way that opened the door for Polk to start the Mexican American war. I’ve found that learning about history is often like seeing dominoes after they’ve already fallen; it’s about tracing what domino lead to the falling of each one.

    Also he’s not going in order of which President is worst, he’s going in order of when they served because again it’s about tracing how each one lead to the problems of the next one.

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