Three Indispensable Presidents
the United States’ 44 presidents, there have been some good ones and
some bad ones. But, I believe there have only been three indispensable
first, of course, was George Washington, who after leading the
Revolutionary Army to victory had the most difficult job of all, leading
a new nation in a new system of governance. Just a few missteps by
Washington could have sent the nation off track and careening into
despotism. It’s difficult to imagine being in a position of leadership
of an entirely new type of government of a brand new nation. Everything
Washington did set a precedent for those that followed him in the
presidency, for good or bad.
the greatest challenge and feat of all that Washington did was setting
aside his power and choosing not to run after his first two terms. When
his former enemy, King George III, heard that Washington intended to
voluntarily step down as President, he said to the painter, Benjamin
West, “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.”
Washington was thereafter often characterized as Cincinnatus, the famous
Roman dictator who served Rome in a time of crisis from 458 BC to 432
BC and then, when the crisis had passed, set aside his power and stepped
down as Roman dictator. Indeed, George Washington was elected the
first President General of the Cincinnatus Society in 1783 and served
until his death in 1799. The Cincinnatus Society exists until this day
and maintains offices in Washington, D.C. George Washington was the
indispensible President of the 18th Century.
second indispensable President was Abraham Lincoln, who ended the
horrible scourge of slavery in the United States and saved the Union.
Lincoln was a man of steadfast character and unwavering principle. As a
man of strong Christian convictions, he sought freedom for slaves for
moral reasons and because he knew that slavery was incompatible with the
principles of individual freedom upon which the nation had been
founded. He knew that to continue slavery would have made a mockery of
the Declaration of Independence itself, which contains these words, “We
hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That
to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving
their just powers from the consent of the governed…” Abraham Lincoln
was the indispensible President of the 19th Century.
third indispensable President was Ronald Reagan, who was elected at a
time of great financial and international crisis. But the real crisis
which Reagan faced was the growing threat to the very principles of a
Republican form of limited government that is the foundation of a free
society. America and Americans had lost their way. Beginning with the
election of Woodrow Wilson in 1912, a new anti-Founders philosophy had
taken root in America. It was a rejection of the concept of limited
government replaced by a belief in bigger and stronger and more
centralized government that personified the Wilson presidency. Wilson
expanded government’s power dramatically by persuading Congress to pass a
Constitutional Amendment saddling the American with the income tax.
This one step alone put massive amounts of money in and thus shifted a
massive amount of power to the federal government. The income tax was
central to the creation of a powerful, centralized government.
continued his attack on the federal system by urging Congress to repeal
the 17th Amendment and replacing it with the direct election of US
Senators. This step dramatically weakened the power of the individual
states and once again added to the power of the federal government.
Under Wilson’s leadership, the Federal Reserve System was created. The
Fed, as it is known, is essentially a national bank which had and has
the power to arbitrarily regulate the supply of money.
“Progressive” attack on the principles of the Founders was renewed with
a vengeance under Franklin D. Roosevelt who further expanded the
central government, giving it more power and control over the lives of
everyday Americans. Wilson and Roosevelt saw government as the solution
to America’s social ills, not the danger that our Founders understood.
Roosevelt even tried to stack the Supreme Court by adding more members
just to get his way. It was an expression of his contempt for the rule
of law. The same kind of contempt we see today as liberals mock and
scoff at the meaning of the words of the Declaration of Independence and
the Constitution of the United States.
was no Washington. He wanted to be President for life and he was. He
flaunted the Cincinnatus example of Washington, running for President
four times. The “Progressive/Liberal” wave of attack on limited
Constitutional government continued under Harry Truman with his Fair
Deal and Lyndon Johnson with his Great Society that created a permanent
black underclass in America, kicking the ladder of opportunity right out
from under the people he thought he was helping. Jimmy Carter was
another progressive/liberal in the mold of Wilson and Roosevelt, and his
disdain for the principles of the Founders was combined with a
stumbling ineptitude. All these Presidents sought and succeeded in
expanding the role of government, and their Republican counterparts
interspersed between their terms were only marginally better. The toll
on individual freedom was immense. This rejection of Founding
principles continued unabated until the election of Ronald Wilson
was critical to the founding of our nation, Lincoln re-affirmed
Founding principles, and Reagan, in turn, championed those principles.
That is what made these three presidents indispensable to our nation.
All three are classical liberals in the sense that they understood the
greatest threat to human freedom is the concentration of power in the
hands of a few. In Federalist paper 51 James Madison wrote,
men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to
govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would
be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by
men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable
the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it
to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary
control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the
necessity of auxiliary precautions.”
James Madison and the other Founders, along with Abraham Lincoln and
Ronald Reagan understood is that men are not angels. They understood
the Christian concept that men are imperfect, and sinful by nature. Men
and women have to be constrained from following their baser instincts.
They will either be constrained by their fear and love of God or they
will be constrained by growing, more powerful government.
Lincoln, and Reagan were Christian men who understood that a big, all
powerful government is the greatest threat to human freedom that exists
in the world.
am thankful that during my lifetime I lived when America was blessed by
an indispensable President, Ronald Wilson Reagan. He wasn’t perfect,
he was sinful just like you and me, but because he believed in someone
who was perfect and because he understood the danger posed by the
frailty of human nature, he helped to get our nation back on course.
Even though he faced powerful political opposition he successfully led
our nation from the brink of financial collapse to new heights of
prosperity. He defeated the Soviet Union by being the first President
who executed a plan to bring down that evil, totalitarian state. And he
made Americans once again proud to be Americans. Ronald Reagan was the
indispensible President of the 20th Century.
Reagan was a President for the ages. I salute him on his 100th
birthday and look toward the next indispensable President who will take
the reins of government and re-establish the Founders’ principles of
limited, Constitutional government in the 21st Century. It is only by
clinging to those principles that my children and my grandchildren will
live in freedom as did those who came before me. May God continue to
bless the United States of America!