Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

The least qualified US President.

  1. Apr 13, 2011 #1
    150 years ago today Ft Sumpter, near Charleston, South Carolina, fell. The least qualified president in US history (before or since) was now faced with the imminent de facto dissolution of the USA. Why least qualified? Mr Lincoln had served several terms in the Illinois state legislature and a single two year term in the US House of Representatives, that term having ended over a decade before he took office as president. A few presidents (Taylor, Grant, Eisenhower) had never held political office, but were military heroes. One, Herbert Hoover, only held a previous cabinet position, but had a stellar reputation as the administrator of huge European relief programs (Belgium, Russia). However, his presidency was not exactly the model of success.

    Abraham Lincoln was the compromise nominee of the Republican Party in 1860. The splitting of the Democratic Party into northern and southern factions virtually guaranteed the election of Lincoln. Other powerful party members extracted promises from Lincoln for cabinet positions from which they expected to run the country with the affable Illinois lawyer serving as a figurehead. Lincoln himself accepted the situation since his political and administrative experience was so meager.

    While in office Lincoln did take command. He had to. The war was not going well and he could not find competent generals to take overall field command until 1864. In 1863 he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. It was a limited document that probably did not free a single slave on the day it went into effect, given all its exceptions. In part this was due to constitutional issues regarding seizure of "property" without "due process". But in part it was also the choice of Lincoln based on military and political considerations. Nevertheless it was an extremely unpopular move; reviled in the South where a full scale slave uprising was expected, and criticized in the North as a deviation from the 'true' purpose of the war, which was to preserve the union.

    Very few people living at the time would have ever thought that Abraham Lincoln would eventually be recognized a the US's greatest president (or at least on a par with George Washington). A London Times piece covering the dedication of the Gettysburg battlefield on Nov 17, 1863 praised the two hour speech of Edward Everett, but described Mr Lincoln's remarks as: "Anything more dull and commonplace would be hard to imagine."


    The American Civil War was the bloodiest in US history. The 600,000 deaths would be 6 million relative to the current US population (2010 census). Was it worth it ? I'd say it was, but I'd like to hear the views of others.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 13, 2011 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    That's an interesting and appealing perspective.
    It also can offer some hope that even what seems at the time to be weak lackluster or compromisey can (by some unexpected marvel of providence) turn out to be a valued presidency. I need some of that hope right now. So thanks.
  4. Apr 13, 2011 #3


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I'm guessing you would disagree with Howard Zinn:


    I suppose the question is what was the intended outcome of the war and does it justify the suffering. Ending of slavery did not need a war IMO, that could have been achieved through peaceful means. Preservation of the Union? My gut reaction is yes, but there can be no way of telling really. Then I suspect, as with most wars, it is not fought for the good of the people, so then the question is what were the real reasons, and were they worth it?
  5. Apr 13, 2011 #4
    Well, I watched the whole lecture, and do agree that (if I'm allowed to say this) war sucks!

    But what do you do when the other party wants to make war? Hitler invaded Poland. Were the Poles supposed to say "Please stop and let's talk about this." ? Poland had mobilized 2,000,000 men and fought back. They inflicted 50,000 causalities (11-14,000 killed) on the Germans. If the Soviets hadn't also invaded from the east, the Poles possessed ample territories in that direction to fall back on. The longer the Poles held, the more Hitler would have had to worry about an allied attack in the west. He had inferior forces there in defensive positions along the rather porous Siegfried Line. However the British and French were following Howard's advice and hoping this would all blow over before any "real" war developed.

    I can't give as stark an example in the case of the ACW except to say the South blundered by firing on Fort Sumter. That's just what Lincoln wanted (that blood lusting war monger). This was about the only federal installation remaining in union hands in the seceded states. If the Confederacy had simply set up a police line and offered to negotiate a settlement for federal properties seized (time payments in cotton and bourbon maybe) the whole thing might have been averted. As far as slavery is concerned, Howard says it would have disappeared eventually. Perhaps. But we know that the new CSA was talking about more war; war to expand slavery into Cuba, the Caribbean, Mexico and even into Central and South America. Slavery was very profitable. It was the backbone of the Southern economy. That's why the South seceded and went to war in the first place.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2011
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Discussions: The least qualified US President.
  1. Muppets For President (Replies: 10)

  2. The Presidents series (Replies: 3)

  3. Musician for President (Replies: 14)

  4. Qualifying Exams (Replies: 1)