Kansas-Nebraska Act

American Presidents And The Institution Of Slavery

Yesterday, the author was watching the reenactment of the funeral of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois, on C Span 3–American History TV, and the question has arisen, while watching the event, of the truth about America’s Presidents and the institution of slavery.

It turns out, through further research, that more Presidents than once thought, owned slaves in their lifetime, and that others showed lack of concern about the institution, and compromised on it in their Presidencies.

So it turns out that 12 of the first 18 Presidents owned slaves, including

George Washington
Thomas Jefferson–some expressed discomfort in his writings, but sill benefited from the institution
James Madison—some expressed discomfort in his writings, but still benefited from the institution
James Monroe
Andrew Jackson
Martin Van Buren
William Henry Harrison
John Tyler
James K. Polk
Zachary Taylor
Andrew Johnson
Ulysses S. Grant.

Additionally, three Presidents, all Northerners, referred to as “doughfaces”, who went along with the institution through their actions, also supported continuation of slavery, including

Millard Fillmore–the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850
Franklin Pierce–the Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854
James Buchanan–support of the Dred Scott Supreme Court Case, and the Kansas LeCompton Constitution of 1857

It should be pointed out that Martin Van Buren had a few slaves at one point through family members but not while being President, but defended the institution while in office, and theh later had a change of heart, and ran as the Free Soil Party candidate for President in 1848, at that point opposing slavery,

Also, James Buchanan, technically, owned one slave for a brief period of time through his family, but not while President.

The same holds for Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant, ownership of slaves through family at some point, but neither while President. Grant, in particular, felt uncomfortable about the slavery heritage of his wife’s family.

The point is that only THREE Presidents always condemned slavery and worked against it

John Adams
John Quincy Adams
Abraham Lincoln

JQ Adams was extremely active against slavery, participating in the Amistad Supreme Court Case of 1839-1841 as one of the lawyers defending the slaves on that slave ship, in their bid for freedom, and sponsoring the move to condemn slavery in the House of Representatives, in his years after the Presidency. While a member of the House from Boston, he was censured for fighting the “gag rule”, which forbade discussion of the institution in House debate from 1836-1844. He also opposed the Mexican War as a war for slavery expansion.

Civil Liberties And The Presidency: From John Adams To Barack Obama

When it comes to the issue of the Presidency and the Bill of Rights, many Presidents have scored at an alarmingly low rate, often despite many other virtues that these Presidents have possessed.

John Adams set a terrible standard when he signed into law the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.

Andrew Jackson forcibly decreed the removal of five Native American tribes (The Trail Of Tears) from their ancestral lands and relocation in Oklahoma, supposedly forever, but with the discovery of oil in Tulsa, the territory was opened to whites in 1889, and reservation life became the norm.

John Tyler, through negotiation to add Texas to the Union, and accepting its institution of slavery, helped to create the slavery expansion issue as one which would divide the nation and lead to Civil War, and Tyler was part of the Confederate government and gave up his American citizenship.

James K. Polk further promoted the expansion of slavery through war with Mexico, and had no issue with slavery anywhere and everywhere.

Millard Fillmore, signing the Compromise of 1850, allowed the South to pursue fugitive slaves in the North.

Franklin Pierce, signing the Kansas Nebraska Act in 1854, made the expansion of slavery develop into the Kansas Civil War, which led to the Civil War.

James Buchanan endorsed the Dred Scott Decision, which allowed expansion of slavery everywhere in the nation, if a slave owner chose to move to the North with his slaves.

Abraham Lincoln suppressed press freedom; allowed preventive detention; and imposed a military draft that one could escape only by paying a fee that only wealthy people could afford.

Andrew Johnson wanted to restrict the rights of African Americans after the Civil War, and was an open racist, much more than anyone.

Grover Cleveland promoted the reservation life and adaptation to white culture for Native Americans through his signing of the Dawes Act in 1887.

Theodore Roosevelt spoke and wrote often about superior and inferior races, seeing only intellectual accomplishment and military strength as the basis to admire individuals of other races, but believing in white supremacy and the “Anglo Saxon” race.

Woodrow Wilson backed restrictions on citizens during World War I, and presided over the Red Scare under Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer after the war, as well as showing racist tendencies toward African Americans and Japan. He signed the Sedition Act of 1918, and issued an executive order segregating African Americans in Washington, DC.

Franklin D. Roosevelt interned Japanese Americans under executive order during World War II, and did little to deal with the racial problem in the South.

Richard Nixon arranged for bugging and wiretapping of his “enemies”; arranged break ins and “dirty tricks”; and became engaged in obstruction of justice and abuse of power, leading to moves toward impeachment and his eventual resignation from the Presidency, due to the Watergate Scandal.

Ronald Reagan cut back on civil rights enforcement, and showed insensitivity on the issue of apartheid in South Africa.

George W. Bush pushed through the Patriot Act, and the government engaged in constant civil liberties violations as part of the War on Terror.

Barack Obama also promoted violations of civil liberties, as part of the continued threat of international terrorism.

So 17 Presidents, at the least, have undermined our civil liberties and civil rights, often overlapping.

Presidents And Alcohol Issues

There are many ways that scholars and Presidential “junkies” evaluate Presidents, and one not often thought about is the problem of alcohol issues, Presidents who have had problems of drunkenness that affected their ability to do their job.

Three are well known for having major alcohol problems, and at least for two of them, it affected their performance in office.

Franklin Pierce (1853-1857) had a massive alcohol problem, made worse by the fact that his last and only child was killed in a train accident shortly before the inauguration in 1853. His Presidency is seen as one of the absolute worst, and his signing of the Kansas Nebraska Act in 1854 was a major step toward the Civil War.

Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877) was a great General who won the surrender of Robert E. Lee, and yet, it was well known that he drank too much, although it was claimed that he made better military decisions when drunk. But this massive drinking problem undermined his ability to do his job, and his Presidency became one of massive scandals, generally known as the Credit Mobilier Scandals, which along with the Panic of 1873, undermined his historical reputation.

George W. Bush was also a certifiable alcoholic, although it seems as if he had stopped drinking after his wife, Laura, threatened to leave him in 1986, when their twin daughters were still very young. But some have wondered about whether some of his decision making was influenced either by “stealing” a drink, or the damage done by the alcohol dependency that he had become captive of in earlier years.

Additionally, there are many who think that the following Presidents may have had too much dependency on liquor, while not maybe at the level of Pierce, Grant, and George W.

John Adams (1797-1801)
Martin Van Buren (1837-1841)
James Buchanan (1857-1861)
Chester Alan Arthur (1881-1885)
Grover Cleveland (1885-1889, 1893-1897)
William Howard Taft (1909-1913)
Warren G. Harding (1921-1923)
Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969)
Richard M. Nixon (1969-1974)

The strongest cases would be Cleveland and Taft, both of whom were very overweight, and evidence of their extensive drinking is found in different sources about their lives. Also, it was known that Harding drank liquor every day in the White House, despite Prohibition being in effect

The evidence against Adams, Van Buren, Buchanan and Arthur is less extensive, but all three were known to be drinking a lot more than would be safe for one’s health.

The situation of Johnson and Nixon is more based on their personality traits, that under stress, they were likely to drink excessively, but not apparently an habitual problem.

At the same time, those who would be seen as least likely to lean on alcohol would include Rutherford B. Hayes, whose wife was infamously known as “Lemonade Lucy” for banning alcohol at White House gatherings; Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, who were vehement in their enforcement of Prohibition of liquor; and Jimmy Carter, who avoided alcohol, although his brother Billy was an alcoholic.

The Kansas Nebraska Act (1854) Compared To ObamaCare? George Will And Michael Barone Lose ALL Credibility!

Conservative columnists are starting to lose their sanity, and two of those are George Will and Michael Barone.

Will has always been seen as an “intelligent” conservative, who used to be on ABC News, but is now on Fox News Channel, which may explain his loss of intellect recently!, Michael Barone has published, on an even year basis for the past 42 years, the great research work, THE ALMANAC OF AMERICAN POLITICS, of which this author owns all 22 volumes proudly. But Barone, also on Fox News Channel often, is also writing ridiculously lately on many issues.

Both of these gentlemen, who should know better, are comparing ObamaCare to the Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854, calling ObamaCare the biggest disaster since that infamous law which allowed the expansion of slavery into the territories. The Kansas Nebraska Act destroyed the Whig Party, created the Republican Party, and helped to provoke civil war in Kansas, which eventually led to the Civil War.

How could anyone, supposedly intelligent, compare a law which promoted expansion of slavery to one providing basic health care to tens of millions of Americans who have not had access to health care which has caused the death of millions over decades unnecessarily?

It is obscene that anyone could make such comparisons, but this is the silly, reckless season of total demagoguery.

And this includes the esteemed African American surgeon, Dr. Benjamin Carson, who is now seeking political ambitions, and has the gall to compare ObamaCare to slavery! How can he expect to be taken seriously, and in so doing, he is condemning millions of poor people, white and minority, to the continuation of inferior health care access, or none at all!

These three gentlemen need to realize they lose all creditability when they state ridiculous, asinine statements such as the above, and need to apologize, but will they? The answer is NO, as they all benefit economically by their demagogic statements! What a disgrace!

The Tea Party Put Into Action: The Tragedy Of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback

Kansas is the state that helped to bring on the Civil War, due to bloodshed in that territory after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, allowing the possibility of the expansion of slavery into that Great Plains state.

Kansas was one of the centers of the Prohibition Movement, which led to the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act, outlawing the manufacture and sale of intoxicating beverages in 1919, although Prohibition was ended by the 21st Amendment in 1933.

Kansas was the center of the segregation battles, as the only truly non Southern state to allow segregation of the races, becoming the center of attention in the Brown V. Board of Education Of Topeka, Kansas case in 1954, outlawing school segregation nationally.

Kansas was also the state of some of the major anti abortion battles, the murder of an abortion provider, Dr George Tiller, and the present attempt to prevent all abortions in the state, contestable in the federal courts right now.

And now, Kansas is the center of the greatest experiment of all in the promotion of the Tea Party Movement, with former Senator Sam Brownback now the new Governor of Kansas, and determined to promote its basic principles.

The goal of Brownback is to cut expenditures for education; take action against the Obama Health Care legislation; promote massive cuts in social service agencies and the arts; reduce the number of laws and regulations and state agencies; cut the number of state workers; and take advantage of the biggest Republican dominance in the state in a half century by working to eliminate even moderates in the party who oppose such drastic change.

Brownback is promoting the virtues of limited government, but his critics accuse him of “slash and burn” tactics, and a level of arrogance tied to his devout religious beliefs. The influence and support of the Koch Brothers, Charles and David, is clearcut in Kansas.

The critics believe Kansas will be damaged long term by what Brownback is doing, and that his hope of promoting economic growth in a state that has not seen for decades any major population surge will fail to be achieved.

Meanwhile, Kansas will continue to be at the center of some of the major controversies in the nation, as it has been since its beginning!