"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Colonel Roosevelt

I just got as a Christmas present from my mother-in-law Edmund Morris' Colonel Roosevelt.  It's the third volume of what has been a great biography of Theodore Roosevelt, who must rank in the small pantheon of truly great Presidents.   My own ranking would be:

1.   Abraham Lincoln
2.   George Washington
3.    Franklin Delano Roosevelt
4.    Ronald Reagan
5.    Thomas Jefferson
6.    Theodore Roosevelt
7.    Dwight Eisenhower
8.    John Adams
9.    Ulysses S. Grant
10.   George W. Bush

This is my top 10, but I think there's a big drop off after #3, and another big drop off after #6.   Grant is the one in the top 10 whom I can least defend as President, but being the winning general in the Civil War -- the greatest test of our country's character in its history -- gets him on my list.   As for GWB, I am just getting out ahead of the historians, who I believe will come around to view him as a great leader in the Global War on Terrorism.  

Morris' book is great so far.... the Prologue about Roosevelt's safari to Africa in the year after he left the Presidency is fascinating.   On the same topic, a couple of years ago I read a really neat book about Roosevelt's exploration of an unknown tributary of the Amazon in 1913, after he lost his bid to win the Presidency as a third-party candidate, Candace Millard's The River of Doubt. 


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