The People's Choice, from Washington to Harding: A Study in Democracy

The People's Choice, from Washington to Harding: A Study in Democracy

The People's Choice, from Washington to Harding: A Study in Democracy

The People's Choice, from Washington to Harding: A Study in Democracy

Synopsis

A candid inquiry into the policies & personalities of America's presidents, sweeping away popular misconceptions. A U.S. history as seen from the White House.

Excerpt

The lives of the American Presidents call attention, with dramatic sharpness, to a problem in their country's history. No one can consider the careers of these twenty-nine men without wondering why it is that, whereas six out of the first seven were men of great ability, only four out of the remaining twenty-two are above the common average of politicians. The answer to the question -- which is one of the chief subjects of this book -- involves a discussion of the whole history of the United States.

Under the first six Presidents the Government was an oligarchy, dominated by a little group of privileged and public-spirited men. About the time of Andrew Jackson, the seventh President, the country became a democracy, or rather three separate democracies: a thorough-going social and political democracy in the new Western States, where conditions of life reduced inequality to a minimum; a Greek democracy in the South, based on slave labour and accepting the leadership of the educated class; and lastly, in the Northeast (where the new industrialism had brought wealth and power), a democracy of city mobs bossed by politicians who took their orders from the rich. The last Presidents of this second period were Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, representatives of the Western and Southern forms of democracy. Both forms were destroyed by the Civil War, which left the country in the hands of the plutocrats. Theodore Roosevelt and Wilson stood for a protest against the drift of events. The effectiveness of the protest is suggested by the fact that the last President on the list is Harding.

A shocking tale loses force if told too often, which explains why I have closed with the death of Harding. The two Presidents who succeeded him merely proved, with growing unpleasantness, the need for a new order in American political life. Possible forms of that new order, in the light of history and the present trend of events, are discussed in the Conclusion to this book.

HERBERT AGAR

June, 1933.

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