Ordeal of the Presidency

Ordeal of the Presidency

Ordeal of the Presidency

Ordeal of the Presidency


". . . and as to you, sir, treacherous in private friendship and a hypocrite in public life, the world will be puzzled to decide, whether you are an apostate or an imposter; whether you have abandoned good principles, or whether you ever had any?"

This is what Tom Paine wrote to George Washington in July, 1796, when Washington was wearily finishing his second term in the Presidency. It is a fair sample of the kind of language that has poured over the head of many a President since Washington's time.

Today we can read Tom Paine's heated language with a cool mind; we do not feel it necessary to prove that Washington was no scoundrel. In 1796, neither his enemies nor his friends could consider such a question absurd. Similarly, in our own times we have seen the President of the United States called names that his enemies felt to be richly deserved but his friends took as indecent outrages. It may be useful under such conditions, or at least a comfort for the friends of a President, to recall the outrages of former generations. To aid in such a cooling exercise is the main purpose of this book.

In the following chapters are given samples of the treatment meted out to ten of our most-maligned Presidents, from Washington to Franklin Roosevelt.

The reader will observe that through all the changes of spelling and style, the insults offered to Presidents show traces of a pattern. Lying is perhaps the most common accusation, largely because a successful President has to deal with facts as they are, no matter what he may have expected, and promised as a candidate. He will also be solemnly charged with plotting to subvert the Constitution and make himself King, for the fear of royalty still lurks deep in the American breast--at least in the breast that specializes in hating Presidents. And in times of foreign tension or war, the President is commonly charged with treason.

A story written for this purpose cannot of course be the same thing as a history of the times or even a condensed biography of the vari-

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