Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Ten Most Important Americans In History




From The Top Ten Corner:

1 George Washington – George Washington is the Father of our County. As Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, General Washington singlehandedly held together that rag tag colonial army throughout the humiliating defeats of 1776. His courage and inspiration led to the miraculous survival of our rebellion and triggered the complete reversal of fortune that allowed Washington to cast the decisive strategic maneuver of the war – the defeat of the English at Yorktown. These efforts alone saved our revolution. It was the subsequent prestige lent by George Washington to the Constitutional Convention that led to the establishment of our historic democratic government, which saved the infant Nation from the otherwise inevitable disintegration dictated by the feckless Articles of Confederation. A true democrat, Washington resisted the call to establish an American monarchy and provided the template for a temperate statesman. Washington capped off his career by walking away from power and establishing the precedent of a term-limited president.


1B Abraham Lincoln – It is a testament to the greatness and importance of Abraham Lincoln that he is 1B to our Founding Father, George Washington. Abraham Lincoln’s outspoken desire to stop the spread of slavery triggered the attempted succession of the southern states and the resulting civil war. His devotion to our country saved the Nation. Last, it was Lincoln’s fundamental decency in the face of vigorous opposition that ended the unforgiveable evil of American slavery.

3 Ulysses S. Grant – Without General Grant the North would not have won the Civil War. As the Nation endured one losing bloodbath after another, the public’s support for the war began to plummet. In the darkest days of 1863, the idea that President Lincoln could win re-election seemed remote at best. Defeat for Lincoln defeat for the Union and recongnition of the Confederate States of Amercia. Generals Scott, McDowell, McClellan and Halleck had all failed. However, in our country's hour of need, Grant arrived on the scene. After victory upon victory in the west, Grant was named General in Chief of the Union Army in March 1864. Grant’s strangulation of Southern forces in Virginia combined with Sherman’s march through Georgia won the war and saved the Union.

4 Thomas Jefferson – “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.” The American Revolution was the first in history inspired by civic idealism as opposed to religious belief, nationalism or economic gain. This inexpressible spirit was somehow rendered into the written word through the brilliance of Jefferson. Had Jefferson and the Nation fully lived up to this Declaration, Jefferson would be on par with Washington and there would never have been the need for a President Lincoln. His swift and pragmatic decision to negotiate the Louisiana Purchase certainly merits mention as well. This now “no brainer” was no by no means an obvious call in 1803. As a result of the Louisiana Purchase the United States doubled in size and the seeds of Manifest Destiny and a true continental power were sowed.


5 John Marshall – As powerful as an American president can be from time to time, the Supreme Court always is powerful. The Supreme Court has the power to declare any law unconstitutional, i.e., null and void. At any given time, one Justice can represent 20% of the vote needed to determine what our constitution “says” – even when the written word is plainly silent on the issue in question. John Marshall is here on this list because neither the Constitution nor Congress gave the Supreme Court this power, it was deemed – or more plainly put – taken by Marshall.

6 Franklin Delano Roosevelt – While economists and historian’s debate whether FDR ended the great depression, there should not be any argument as to how fortunate America was to have such a giant in the White House during this grave period of our history. While his detractors call Roosevelt a socialist, the reality is that Roosevelt’s relative moderation helped forestall the social disintegration that devastated Europe and percolated here at home. Roosevelt’s greatest achievement however, was as America’s inspiring wartime leader. FDR early recognized the mortal danger that Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany represented and through his ingenuity and leadership took every step constitutionally allowed to confront Hitler until Pearl Harbor made war for America a fait accompli. FDR’s grasp of the dangers faced by America is demonstrated by his immediate and unequivocal support for Albert Einstein’s request that America develop atomic weapons before Nazi Germany.

7 Alexander Hamilton – Hamilton first rose to prominence as a twenty-two year old Lt. Colonel and George Washington’s aide-de-camp during the Revolutionary War. His next crucial role in American history was his suggested compromise between large and small states that paved the way for the adoption of our Constitution. Hamilton’s greatest legacy, however, may be his stewardship of America’s fledgling economy as our country’s first Treasury Secretary. America would never have risen to become the world’s greatest economic power had Hamilton not successfully fought for the Federal Government’s assumption of the various states’ pre-existing, largely revolutionary war, debt. Hamilton’s victory came at a high personal price: the abandonment of Hamilton’s New York as the Nation’s capitol.

8 Benjamin Franklin – This author, political theorist, scientist and inventor was a true Renaissance man and giant of American colonial life. As one of our founding fathers, Franklin, like Washington, brought instant credibility to the cause of the American Revolution. Along with John Adams, Franklin assisted Thomas Jefferson in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. Thereafter, Franklin spearheaded the successful courting of French support for the American cause, which proved to be pivotal in the American victory. Franklin later joined Washington in bringing his gravitas to the Constitutional Convention, providing this effort the legitimacy it needed to succeed in stabilizing the modern world’s first great democratic government.

9 Martin Luther King, Jr. – America, all of America, was very fortunate to be blessed with the arrival of Martin Luther King. The “American Gandhi” inspired millions of Americans, black and white, to fight for justice exclusively through nonviolent methods. That achievement is so easy to underestimate. The savagery, brutality, humiliation and degradation of slavery and segregation was an ever-present reality faced by all Black Americans. That King was so successful in quelling the natural and understandable anger in America’s Black people is the stuff of wonder and permitted the remarkable reversal of fortune in our country’s race relations. Proof of King’s achievement was the election of our 44th president, Barack Obama.

10 Thomas Edison – We all know that Edison was one of history’s greatest inventors. However, the invention of the light bulb, phonograph, stock ticker, electrical power transmission, recorded music and motion pictures (amongst many, many other inventions), only tells part of the story. Edison was one of the first inventors to apply the principles of mass production and teamwork to the process of invention, thereby creating the world’s first industrial research laboratory. Edison also pioneered implementation of electric-power generation and distribution to homes, businesses, and factories – a crucial development in the modern industrialized world.

4 comments:

  1. From John Mulligan:

    If you’re going to pair Lincoln and Grant, then maybe do the same with Roosevelt and Eisenhower. While he didn’t have the on-the battlefield impact that Grant did, his day to day management of the war was brilliant. The Supreme Allied Command in Europe would never have worked without Eisenhower. He conceived the idea of Allied unity of command and persuaded the British to accept it instead of a committee system which they preferred. He led the invasion of North Africa, Sicily, Italy as well as France and Germany. If we include the presidencies of both, then Eisenhower’s star shines even brighter. As President, he ended the Korean War; founded NASA to compete against the Soviet Union in the space race. He quietly helped to remove Joseph McCarthy and he sent federal troops to enforce the Supreme Court's ruling to desegregate schools. Unlike Grant, his two terms were mostly prosperous and peaceful. Grant’s first term was dominated by nearly a dozen major scandals.



    Also an honorable mention goes to James Madison, our 4th President and a Founding Father. He wrote the Federalists Papers (along with Hamilton and John Jay), served as a US Congressman, drafting many laws including the first ten amendments to the Constitution and is also known as the "Father of the Bill of Rights". He was Jefferson's Secretary of State and he supervised the Louisiana Purchase.

    Of course Washington was sacked and burned by the Brits under his watch. Still, you have to love a guy whose wife was named Dolley.

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  2. John Mulligan:

    My thoughts were to recognize those American's whose actions most impacted history (fortunately they were all for the better!).

    Of the ten people on the list, only FDR, Franklin and Edison, in my view, were not truly unique or irreplaceable (at that moment in history). While I would rank Eisenhower very high on a longer list, I would still rank him below those three. He was one of four or five great generals in WWII with Patton, MacArthur, Marshall and Bradley and a good, perhaps very good president. The sum total in my view did not equal FDR, Franklin or Edison.

    Grant certainly is the wild card here. I think Lincoln would not have won re-election if not for Grant considering the failures of all those generals before Grant - I would say he was unique for his place in history.

    Madison was one of my bubble guys. However, I thought Hamilton deserved the lion share of the credit for getting the Constitution passed and did not credit Madison for his writing like I did Jefferson with the Declaration of Independence. We really don't quote the Constitution for inspiration. Come to think of it, most Supreme Court Justices don't quote it for anything! To be honest, he should be ahead of Edison, but I guess it sounded like a better list with one non politician.

    ReplyDelete
  3. John Mulligan:

    My thoughts were to recognize those American's whose actions most impacted history (fortunately they were all for the better!).

    Of the ten people on the list, only FDR, Franklin and Edison, in my view, were not truly unique or irreplaceable (at that moment in history). While I would rank Eisenhower very high on a longer list, I would still rank him below those three. He was one of four or five great generals in WWII with Patton, MacArthur, Marshall and Bradley and a good, perhaps very good president. The sum total in my view did not equal FDR, Franklin or Edison.

    Grant certainly is the wild card here. I think Lincoln would not have won re-election if not for Grant considering the failures of all those generals before Grant - I would say he was unique for his place in history.

    Madison was one of my bubble guys. However, I thought Hamilton deserved the lion share of the credit for getting the Constitution passed and did not credit Madison for his writing like I did Jefferson with the Declaration of Independence. We really don't quote the Constitution for inspiration. Come to think of it, most Supreme Court Justices don't quote it for anything! To be honest, he should be ahead of Edison, but I guess it sounded like a better list with one non politician.

    ReplyDelete
  4. alright, where is Henry Clay?

    The man issued multiple comprimises between the North and South that postponed the war till a time in history the North could win.

    ReplyDelete