Who was the most divisive President in history?

Who is the most divisive President?

  • Reagan

    Votes: 4 4.0%
  • Nixon

    Votes: 10 9.9%
  • LBJ

    Votes: 5 5.0%
  • JFK

    Votes: 3 3.0%
  • Truman

    Votes: 2 2.0%
  • FDR

    Votes: 2 2.0%
  • Wilson

    Votes: 2 2.0%
  • Jackson

    Votes: 4 4.0%
  • Lincoln

    Votes: 50 49.5%
  • Other?

    Votes: 19 18.8%

  • Total voters
    101

Fiver

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
3,776
The collapse of States Rights has not been the universal good that some believe. Probably the biggest wound the United States and constitutional government ever suffered was when the South sought to use the incredibly important concept of distributed political power that Jefferson and Madison had enunciated to defend what could not be defended – human slavery. We have seen a massive centralization of political power and a diminution of what Ortega y Gasset called “social power” ever since.
The South actively supported increased federal power and suppression of States Rights so long as it was in their own sectional interests. For example, the Gag Rule, the Fugitive Slave Law, the LeCompton Constitution, and the Dred Scott Decision. The Confederacy was at least as centralized as the Union. In The Confederacy as A Revolutionary Experience, Emory Thomas noted that "...by 1863 Confederate civil servants were 70,000 strong. Ironically the Richmond government employed more civil servants than its s counterpart in Washington." Historian Gary Gallagher, history professor at the University of Virginia notes in the following video (at about 45:25) - "There's a whole literature now about how Abraham Lincoln can best be understood as someone whose main goal was to create a big central government that could bedevil people for the rest of American history. Well here's a little flash for you - Lincoln didn't do anything that Jefferson Davis didn't do, and he didn't do nearly as much. In many ways, the biggest, most intrusive central government in our history until deep into the 20th century is the Confederate government."

 

Fiver

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
3,776
So, as the North had been doing consistently since Alexander Hamilton, it concluded that the tariff which fell so heavily on Southern planters while it protected Northern industry should fill the gap left by reckless Northern banks – an inflamed debate that had being going on since 1820. It is hard to blame the South for not wanting to bail out the North’s foolish banks.
None of the tariff money bailed out any Northern banks. The tariff did not fall "heavily on Southern planters" - the US Customs data for 1855-59 shows that in 1859, 91.2% of all customs duties were collected in the free states. Since both the importer and the buyer benefit from minimizing transportation costs, that shows the vast majority of imported goods were being purchased by people from free states. Tariffs protected all industry, not just Northern industry.
 
Jul 2019
113
Pale Blue Dot - Moonshine Quadrant
The Confederacy did forbid import tariffs be used to protect industry, but the phrase "all duties, imposts, and excises shall be uniform" was copied word for word from the US Constitution. The other major change about tariffs was that, unlike the US Constitution, the Confederacy allowed tariffs on exports.



Taxes and government loans increased significantly in both the Union and the Confederacy. "The USA was able to use borrowed funds and monies raised from taxes to supply almost 90% of its financial needs." "The CSA was able to borrow a bit more than one-third of its financial needs, it was forced by circumstances to print and issue promissory notes (money) for slightly more than half of its war-related expenditures." The Confederate preference in funding led to spiraling inflation and a ruined economy.



European importers were not paying theses tariffs, US or Confederate citizens were paying these tariffs. The US Customs data for 1855-59 shows that in 1859, 91.2% of all customs duties were collected in the free states. Since both the importer and the buyer benefit from minimizing transportation costs, that shows the vast majority of imported goods were being purchased by people from free states. US citizens would have the choice of buying imported goods directly, paying the US import tariff, or buying goods trans-shipped though the Confederacy, where in addition to paying the US import duty they would also pay the Confederate import and export duties. Those additional taxes mean no one would be transshipping through the Confederacy, so there would be no decrease in the imports coming into Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.



Antebellum southern politicians claimed that the existing financial structure resulted in wealth transfer from South to North. They provided no evidence to back their claims. Since then NeoConfederates and some Libertarians have echoed these claims, but they have also provided no evidence that the postebellum financial structure resulted in wealth transfer from South to North. The free states were expanding faster than the slave states, but that was due to greater willingness to invest in infrastructiure and public education, as well as being more welcoming to immigrants. (In 1860, about 1 person in 40 in the future Confederate states was an immigrant, as opposed to about 1 in 6 for the states that stayed with the Union.)

Agree that much of the Confederacy’s Constitution was a direct copy – but that does not change the point that the Confederate Constitution had large financial implications for the North and the northern newspapers talked about them at length.

The section on the Confederacy’s war-finance failures was during the war itself when the Confederacy’s economy could not take the strain. However no one disagrees that an industrial economy can conduct killing on a larger more efficient scale than an agricultural one. The South could not match the North in killing potential - for whatever that is worth.

The tariff reduced industrial imports from Europe where the South exported their products. So industry was protected and agriculture was not – the same problem that racked western farmers in the Gilded Age to the point as wealth concentrated at the top why farmers had to buy equipment and transportation at tariff-protected prices.

I guess those Northern newspapers were talking through their hat demanding a blockade – and so were the Jeffersonians earlier and William Jennings Bryan later.

The issue here is the relative prices of industrial and agricultural products. If industry is protected and agriculture is not then everyone in industry can receive higher prices and wages than in an agricultural operation. After slavery was ended the tariff policies stayed with the result that agrarian populism erupted in the generation after the war and farmers suffered in the 1920’s as well.


Historian Ray Ginger's brief discussion of the tariff situation looks like this:

"In 1865 the import duty on kerosene — the chief product of Standard Oil two decades later — was fixed at 40 cents a gallon, and domestic producers of kerosene enjoyed tariff protection continuously until 1909. And what protection. The wholesale price of illuminating oil in New York City in 1890 was less than 10 cents a gallon. Or consider steel, in which Andrew Carnegie was piling up a colossal fortune. An act of 1870 fixed the tariff on steel at $28 per gross ton. When the railroads expansion jumped upward in 1879, American steel men could kick the price of rails sky high without fear that foreign mills would take their customers. In 1881 the price of steel rails in England was about $31 a ton, and a man could pay the import duty of $28 a ton and still make money shipping rails here because the American price was more than double the price in England; it reached as high as $67 a ton. Men like Carnegie were earning net profits of 100% a year and more on the capital invested in their plants."


The North was growing faster and much of that growth was because a slave economy is far less efficient and creative – no doubt about that. But if industry is protected and agriculture is not then it makes no sense to assert that the South was not disadvantaged by tariff policies.

I am not defending the South here. Its position on slavery was indefensible. But the economic implications of the corporatist policies of the Republicans were very large in 1860, corporatist policy implications were large in the next generation, in the 1900s, in the 1910's, in the 1920's, the 1950's, the 1980's and right up to the current day.

My essential point is that those policies were first initiated by Lincoln Republicans who derived there political strength from the South's self-induced death.

Sometimes debates like this one go on far too long with almost no chance of either side changing their view while everyone else gets bored. So I will continue to monitor this thread, but I am pretty sure I have said enough about my views on this topic.
 
Jun 2017
2,974
Connecticut
No. The South started this idiotic war and got what it deserved.
Agreed. They had every demand catered to for decades of temper tantrum throwing and left to fight a statistically near unwinnable battle that got about a million of their young men killed. Even if the CSA wasn't fighting for slavery that decision was evil and irresponsible to the tenth degree because the outcome was pretty clear. What ended up happening was it going close to as well as it could have went(and they got some unlucky breaks but they also got some lucky ones like the Johnston injury getting Lee promoted and the existence of McCllellan which were necessary for the war to last as long as it did) also and they still got obliterated.
 

JoanOfArc007

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
3,902
USA
With the 1990 rule the question can not truly be answered...it can still be answered but we are at a disadvantage.

That being said we are discussing all POTUS before 1990. So the question is whom was the most divisive POTUS(if any) prior to 1990. IMO FDR should not be on the list. FDR is btw consistently voted by Americans of all stripes as a top 3 POTUS along with Lincoln and Washington.

Because of FDRs leadership The USA through WW2 climbed to become the strongest country in the world economically and militarily. That key fact gets FDR the title the greatest man to ever live IMO.

FDR was a hero for Black Americans as well. Roscoe Brown the Black American Pilot praised FDR as a great leader for the black community. When FDR died, even the EOJ of Japan sent there condolences. That is the kind of man FDR was, respected by even his enemy. But otoh Reich leadership celebrated FDRS death which was IMO a disgrace. Over 500,000 Americans payed homage to FDR after Roosevelts death on April 12, 1945... Americans lined the streets in Washington DC after FDRS death to see FDR for one last time before being laid to rest. According to various scholars , FDR was the most beloved POTUS of all time. 1:06:00 mark of the following video shows the proof of how loved FDR was. We hear testimony from white and black Americans, as well as scholars all in praise of FDR. Churchill wept at the house of commons upon hearing of the death of FDR. I think FDR was the greatest American and greatest man to ever live.


So IMO FDR should not be on the list. I would remind that FDR worked with GOP to bring the nation out of the depression. FDR brought on board Wendell Wilkie as an adviser in 1940. Wilkie was the GOP frontrunner whom lost to FDR in the 1940 POTUS Election. That is the kind of man FDR was , he was thinking you know what I will do, I will invite my opponent to be a part of the team...that is amazing leadership to learn from today. Before WW2 the US was ranked 17th in military strength, after WW2 the USA was ranked #1 in military strength. Americans of the post WW2 generations owe everything to FDR and the common American, black, white, conservative, liberal that Under FDR helped to save the free world.
 
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MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,969
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
If the OP asked who IS the most divisive president, the answer most people choose would always be the president in power at the time because various groups would be currently criticizing various of his actions and people would be starting to forget the criticisms that previous presidents faced.

Because of the date limitations, the only questions that can be allowed are questions about which past president WAS most divisive, and people can be more objective about past presidents. But it is a lot easier to be objective about a president that lived much longer in the past than one whose administration was during one's own lifetime. If the Administration of President A was five times as far in the past as the administration of President B, it would be a lot easier to be objective about President A.

For example, since George Washington's administration was from 1789 to 1797, it was about 7.4 to 8.8 times as far in the past as the administration of George H. W. Bush from 1989-1993 so people can probably be a few times as objective about Washington as about Bush.
 
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Fiver

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
3,776
The tariff reduced industrial imports from Europe where the South exported their products. So industry was protected and agriculture was not – the same problem that racked western farmers in the Gilded Age to the point as wealth concentrated at the top why farmers had to buy equipment and transportation at tariff-protected prices.
Wealth concentrated at the top in the less-industrialized slave states as well - that had nothing to do with tariffs. Where or whether the South or any other part of the country exported their goods is also irrelevant - the US Customs data for 1855-59 shows that in 1859, 91.2% of all customs duties were collected in the free states.

And the idea that only industry was protected by tariffs is wrong. Actual period tariff rates shows their were import duties on acorns, ale,, almonds, bacon, barley, beans, beef, beer, berries, brandy, butter, cheese, chocolate, coffee, corn, cotton, dates, figs, fish, flax, flour, fruit, ham, hemp, honey, indigo, jute, lard, leather, lemons, limes, linseed, molasses, mushrooms, mustard, nutmeg, oats, olives, onions, oranges, peanuts, peas, pepper, pickles, pork, potatoes, pumpkins, rhubarb, rye, soy, straw, sugar, tea, timber, tobacco, vanilla, vegetables, wheat, wine, and wool.

I guess those Northern newspapers were talking through their hat demanding a blockade – and so were the Jeffersonians earlier and William Jennings Bryan later.
The US Customs data for 1855-59 shows that in 1859, 91.2% of all customs duties were collected in the free states. Since both the importer and the buyer benefit from minimizing transportation costs, that shows the vast majority of imported goods were being purchased by people from free states. Any politician or newspaper arguing the tariff fell mainly on the South is provably wrong.
 

royal744

Ad Honoris
Jul 2013
10,702
San Antonio, Tx
With the 1990 rule the question can not truly be answered...it can still be answered but we are at a disadvantage.

That being said we are discussing all POTUS before 1990. So the question is whom was the most divisive POTUS(if any) prior to 1990. IMO FDR should not be on the list. FDR is btw consistently voted by Americans of all stripes as a top 3 POTUS along with Lincoln and Washington.

Because of FDRs leadership The USA through WW2 climbed to become the strongest country in the world economically and militarily. That key fact gets FDR the title the greatest man to ever live IMO.

FDR was a hero for Black Americans as well. Roscoe Brown the Black American Pilot praised FDR as a great leader for the black community. When FDR died, even the EOJ of Japan sent there condolences. That is the kind of man FDR was, respected by even his enemy. But otoh Reich leadership celebrated FDRS death which was IMO a disgrace. Over 500,000 Americans payed homage to FDR after Roosevelts death on April 12, 1945... Americans lined the streets in Washington DC after FDRS death to see FDR for one last time before being laid to rest. According to various scholars , FDR was the most beloved POTUS of all time. 1:06:00 mark of the following video shows the proof of how loved FDR was. We hear testimony from white and black Americans, as well as scholars all in praise of FDR. Churchill wept at the house of commons upon hearing of the death of FDR. I think FDR was the greatest American and greatest man to ever live.


So IMO FDR should not be on the list. I would remind that FDR worked with GOP to bring the nation out of the depression. FDR brought on board Wendell Wilkie as an adviser in 1940. Wilkie was the GOP frontrunner whom lost to FDR in the 1940 POTUS Election. That is the kind of man FDR was , he was thinking you know what I will do, I will invite my opponent to be a part of the team...that is amazing leadership to learn from today. Before WW2 the US was ranked 17th in military strength, after WW2 the USA was ranked #1 in military strength. Americans of the post WW2 generations owe everything to FDR and the common American, black, white, conservative, liberal that Under FDR helped to save the free world.
I fully agree with the sentiments expressed in this post.
 
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Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,581
Dispargum
Any politician or newspaper arguing the tariff fell mainly on the South is provably wrong.
The Southern objection to the tariff was in the area of retaliation. If the US put a tariff on its imports then other countries would put tariffs on US exports. Southern cotton was often exported to Europe. Did European tariffs hurt Southern planters?
 
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sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,189
Sydney
Cotton is a raw material , the South had a quasi monopoly on the stuff , any tariff on it would have hurt the importers without affecting the producers

the War policy and embargo created a cotton "famine" in Europe , partly by the South preventing exports and partly by the North blockade
the result was the development of the cotton cultivation in Egypt and India , those production grew large enough to break the South monopoly

The cotton trade during the war is a fascinating subject ,
there even was military operations to get some for the Northern mills and some very dodgy business with "permits" to purchase it
leading to corruption , smuggling and the US Navy gleefully taking prize
 
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