The Presidents’ War

DeRose-coverI’ve been spending time with an interesting and highly readable book by Chris DeRose called The Presidents’ War: Six American Presidents and the Civil War that Divided Them.

These days, former presidents tend to keep their noses out of the business of the current president, but that wasn’t always the case. When Abraham Lincoln became a candidate for the White House, the five living ex-presidents opposed his candidacy for various reasons (for those keeping count: Van Buren, Tyler, Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan). Once Lincoln was elected, they all second-guessed him in various ways and with various degrees of publicity and effectiveness. 

Former president Millard Fillmore probably sums it up best: “Unsolicited advice is often deemed officious if not offensive, and therefore is quite likely to do harm as good.” 

I don’t typically repost links here (although we do more of that on our Facebook page, so you should be following us there if you’re not!). However, DeRose published a feature in The Washington Post that summarizes his book. It’s definitely worth checking out.

(As a related aside: Van Buren died during the war, while the outcome was still very much in doubt. As it happened, I spent a little time with “Old Kinderhook” exploring that story on the sesquicentennial of his death. You can check out that story here.)

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