Thursday, February 16, 2012

Who is the most underrated American President?

The Washington Post asks the question here.  These much-praised presidents are off-limits: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.

My vote goes to Chester Arthur.  Little was expected of him when he succeeded President Garfield after his assassination in 1881.  But he became the best of the Gilded Age presidents.  He was scrupulously honest in an era when this was not normative in public officials. 
  • He infuriated his party by pushing through the first civil service reform (the Pendelton Act).
  • He vetoed the Chinese Exclusion Act for being the racist piece of trash that it was (his veto was overridden).
  • And he began rebuilding the Navy which had been allowed to largely disintegrate after the Civil War, by constructing modern steam powered warships made of steel and iron.  He is quite probably the father of the modern American Navy.
It is also worth noting that before he entered politics he was a well known New York lawyer who made a name for himself by leading a lawsuit in the 1850's that resulted in the desegregation of New York City's public trollies.

1 comment:

The Archer of the Forest said...

In terms of productivity, I go with James K Polk. He was the only President to get his entire legislative package passed through Congress. He said he'd start a war with Mexico, and he did. He said he would create an independent treasury, and he did. He said he'd only run for one term, and he did. When offered a pension, he said he just wanted to go back to Tennessee, and he did (and died 3 months later.)