Presidents Day invariably sets off another round of competing rankings. Sorting presidents is inherently arbitrary and therefore very fun, but I don’t have time to make a comprehensive list. A few quick thoughts:
- The best presidential biography I’ve read so far is The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. Edmund Morris is an elegant writer, and the source material is pretty fantastic. Favorite anecdote: A wife showing off her big family under the sign “No race suicide here, Teddy!” at a whistle stop in Montana (or was it Wyoming?).
- I’m baffled by the rise of anti-Lincoln sentiment on some quarters of the Right. Freeing the slaves ought to count for something. Moreover, letting the South go and hoping for the best (voluntary manumission, perhaps?) seems like wishful thinking. I’d also argue that Jim Crow would have been a lot more durable had the South gained independence. Patrick Deneen’s assessment is a bit more balanced.
- Placing Bill Kauffman’s defense of Millard Fillmore alongside John Hood’s entry on the war-mongering James K. Polk was a nice touch. Well done, National Review.