James Buchanan: A Rock Between Two Hard Places

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Usually when historians are asked to rate the U.S. Presidents, they put James Buchanan at the bottom.  I think this is very unfair.  He was a very good President, who just happened to be elected at the very worst time in U.S. history.

The country was on the verge of Civil War when he was elected in 1856.  Abolitionists in the North desperately wanted to crush slavery and the South along with it.  Secessionists in the South were afraid of the dire consequences they would have to face if slavery, which had legally existed in America for 200 years, was outlawed and 4 million negroes were suddenly free to take merciless revenge on their masters.  Buchanan had to use everything he learned during his forty plus years of public service to keep the powder keg from exploding, and he managed to do so.  Then the election of Abraham Lincoln lit the fuse, and all Hell broke loose.

Rather than acknowledging Buchanan’s peace keeping efforts, both sides immediately blamed him for the war.  Though Buchanan had strong sympathies for the South, he was also a strong Unionist and, for the sake of the preservation of the Union, he had to endure the lies that were spread about him by both sides.  He didn’t want to further incite the South, so he couldn’t level blame on them for seceding, and he didn’t want to cast aspersions on the new President during wartime by blaming Republicans and Abolitionists for driving the South to secede.  He was literally a rock between two hard places, and for the sake of the Union had to take the abuse that was heaped on him without defending himself.  His silence only caused both sides to increase their level of abuse until his reputation was utterly destroyed.

He did not wish to stand idly by, though, and he wrote his memoirs to correct all the lies that were being spoken and printed about him.  He loved his country so much, though, that he refused to publish his defense until the War was over.  Then the Civil War dragged on and on for years and by the time he published his memoirs in 1866 it was already too late to save his reputation.  History had already painted him as the villain, and he knew that a century would have to go by before his name could ever hope to be cleared.  Unfortunately, a century and a half has gone by, and historians still fail to give him a fair trial.  I’m sure they feel that removing blame for the Civil War from Buchanan would force them to place some of the blame on Abolitionists and Lincoln, and that just ain’t gonna happen.  Lincoln had already been made into a god.  After all, Lincoln freed the slaves, and he was the victim of an assassination.  He’s one of the four Presidents on Mount Rushmore.  His place in history was literally and perpetually carved in stone.  So, Buchanan has to continue suffering “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”  Maybe, it will be another century before James Buchanan can get a fair hearing with historians and escape the bottom ranking…unless, of course, if Donald Trump continues the way he’s going.

Our representatives are chosen in free elections.  The best way to get good representatives in government is for the people to study the issues, study the candidates, and be sure to vote.  Tomorrow is Election Day.  Vote wisely.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

 

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HAPpy Birthday

Before the Army -Bottom Row, 2nd from right;  Lieutenant Paulson

My Dad, Harold A. “HAP” Paulson, was born on November 4th 1918, a hundred years ago, one week before World War I ended.  So, HAP missed that war, but he wound up spending 6 years in the Army when World War II came around.  He was a tank commander, and managed to get all his men home alive, except for one, Earl R. McCleary.  Their unit was under attack and Earl made his way to a foxhole, but a ricocheted bullet ended his life.  When I was born years later, Dad gave me the middle name Earl in honor of his fallen comrade.

Dad maintained close contact with his fellow members of the 3rd Armored (Spearhead) Division for the rest of his life.  He dragged my Mom to the reunions every year, and after she passed away, I went with him to a couple.  Finally, when he was in his 90’s, he no longer had the strength to handle the travelling, but he used the Internet to keep in touch.  His eyesight was going so he had to use a magnifying glass to read their emails, but he read each one faithfully.  I put together a collection of the poems he wrote while in the service and he gave it the name Dogface Doggerel.  I submitted it to the 3rd Armored Division and they named him their Poet Laureate and published all his service-related poems.  HAP’s been dead for six years now, but his poems are still proudly displayed on their website.

http://search.freefind.com/find.html?id=68806174&pageid=r&mode=ALL&n=0&query=paulson

One of my favorite stories was about when his family came to visit him the day before he graduated from Officers Candidate School.  They drove around the base looking for him, to no avail.  So, my grandmother hailed a passing soldier, “Yoohoo, soldier boy.  Oh, soldier boy.  Can you help us?”  It turns out that the soldier they stopped was none other than the base commander, General Scott.  Not only did he help them find their son, but he gave HAP a two-hour pass to spend time with his family.

Another story I enjoy was about the time when his tank crew was out on maneuvers during training.  After a few days they were all worn out.  When they brought the tank back to the base the exhausted driver fell asleep at the wheel and clipped an officer’s jeep.  Since my Dad was responsible for the tank, they were going to Court Martial him.  Fortunately for him, though, HAP was a damn good right fielder and he played for the army team.  They had a big game coming up, and they couldn’t afford to lose him in their lineup.  Strings were pulled and all charges were dropped.  They won the big game.

After the fighting was over in Germany, Dad came home, met my mother, and they had three boys.  I’m sure that for the next 64 years of his life, we gave him more trouble than the Nazis ever did.

Happy 100th Birthday, Dad.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl