Obscure presidents worth remembering

June 23, 2010

Okay, I admit to having a fondness for obscure presidents. I mean, who isn’t fascinated by the Fillmore administration? And Chester Arthur? Enough said, know what I mean?

Kidding aside, Alan Snyder at Big Government draws our attention to two nearly forgotten presidents who nevertheless have good advice for us, more than a century after they served: Presidents James Garfield (R) and Grover Cleveland (D). Snyder briefly tells their stories, showing why they were men of good character (fighting corruption and sticking to the Constitution, for example) and then gives quotes from each that are remarkably applicable to America’s present dilemmas. One of Garfield’s from before he was president serves to illustrate:

Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature. …

If the next centennial [of the Declaration of Independence] does not find us a great nation … it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.

Take a good look at Congress the last several years and, especially, since the Democrats took over in 2007. Don’t Garfield’s words seem prescient? And don’t they point the way to fixing it, and who has to do it?

Be sure to read the rest.

PS: Back to being an obscure-presidents geek! Here are some fun trivia about James Garfield and the story of Grover Cleveland’s secret surgery.