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Happy Birthday Abraham Lincoln

On February 12, 1809 (208 years ago today) Abraham Lincoln was born in a one-room log cabin on the Sinking Spring Farm in Hardin County, Kentucky (now LaRue County). He is ranked by many as the greatest President and almost everyone places him in the top three. His leadership through the Civil War and the tragedy of his assassination, as well as his enduring oratory and wit make Lincoln precisely what he was described by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton at the time of his death, as someone who belongs to the ages.

Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his death on April 15, 1865. Lincoln successfully led the nation through its greatest constitutional, military, domestic and moral crisis – the American Civil War, which resulted in his goal of preserving the Union.

Lincoln was raised in a poor family on the western frontier and was mostly self-educated. He became a country lawyer, a Whig Party leader, an Illinois state legislator during the 1830s, and a one-term member of the United States House of Representatives during the 1840s. After a series of debates in 1858 that gave him a national profile and brought his opposition to the expansion of slavery to prominence, Lincoln lost a Senate race to his opponent Stephen A. Douglas. Lincoln, a moderate from what was then a swing state, secured the Republican Party presidential nomination in 1860. With almost no support in the South, Lincoln swept the North and was elected president in 1860, with less than 40% of the popular vote. His election was the signal for seven southern slave states to declare their secession from the Union and form the Confederacy. The departure of the Southerners gave Lincoln's party firm control of Congress, but no formula for compromise or reconciliation with the south was found. When the North rallied behind the national flag after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, Lincoln concentrated on the military and political dimensions of the war effort. His goal was to reunite the nation. As the South was in a state of insurrection, Lincoln exercised his authority to suspend habeas corpus, arresting and temporarily detaining thousands of suspected secessionists without trial.

Lincoln's efforts toward the abolition of slavery include issuing his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, encouraging the border states to outlaw slavery (mostly as a war policy). This led to Congress passing the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which finally freed all the slaves nationwide in December 1865. Lincoln closely supervised the war effort, especially the selection of top generals, including his commanding general Ulysses S. Grant. Lincoln brought leaders of the major factions of his party into his cabinet (forging what historian Doris Kearns Goodwin would term a "team of rivals") and got them to cooperate. Under Lincoln's leadership, the Union set up a naval blockade that shut down the South's normal trade, took control of the border slave states at the start of the war, gained control of communications with gunboats on the southern river systems, and tried repeatedly to capture the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia. Each time a general failed, Lincoln substituted another until finally Grant succeeded in 1865.

An exceptionally astute politician, Lincoln reached out to War Democrats and managed his own re-election in the 1864 presidential election under the banner of the coalition "National Union" Party. As the leader of the moderate faction of the Republican party, Lincoln found his policies and personality were attached from all sides: Radical Republicans demanded harsher treatment of the South, War Democrats desired more compromise, Copperheads (northerners wanting a negotiated peace) despised him, and irreconcilable secessionists plotted his death. Politically, Lincoln fought back with patronage, by pitting his opponents against each other, and by appealing to the American people with his powers of oratory. His Gettysburg Address of 1863 became the most quoted speech in American history. At the close of the war, Lincoln held a moderate view of Reconstruction, seeking to reunite the nation speedily through a policy of generous reconciliation in the face of lingering and bitter divisiveness.

Six days after the surrender of Confederate commanding general Robert E. Lee, Lincoln was assassinated by actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln's death was the first assassination of a U.S. president and it sent the nation into mourning. Lincoln has been consistently ranked by scholars and the public as one of the three greatest U.S. presidents. For many he was the greatest of all.
On May 26, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge signed the Immigration Act of 1924, also known as the Johnson–Reed Act. This was a federal law that limited the annual number of immigrants who could be admitted from any country. The limit was initially set at 2% of the number of people from that country who were already living in the United States as of the 1890 census. The law was primarily aimed at further restricting immigration of Southern Europeans and Eastern Europeans, especially Italians and Jews from Eastern European nations. The law also restricted the immigration of Africans and banned the immigration of Arabs and Asians. Contemporary documents in the U.S. Department of State give the purpose of the act as being "to preserve the ideal of American homogeneity". Despite its stated purpose, the Act did not set any limits on immigration from other countries of the Americas.

This Act governed American immigration policy until the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, which revised it completely. For the first four years, until June 30, 1927, the 1924 Act set the annual quota of any nationality at 2% of the number of foreign-born persons of such nationality resident in the United States in 1890. That formula reduced total immigration to the United States from 357,803 in 1923–24 to 164,667 in 1924–25. The law's impact varied widely by country. For example, immigration from Great Britain and Ireland fell 19%, while immigration from Italy fell more than 90%.

The Act also established preferences under the quota system for certain relatives of U.S. residents, including their unmarried children under 21, their parents, and spouses aged 21 and over. It also preferred immigrants aged 21 and over who were skilled in agriculture, as well as their wives and dependent children under age 16. Exempted from quotas were wives and unmarried children under 18 of U.S. citizens, natives of Western Hemisphere countries, with their families non-immigrants and certain others.

The 1924 Act also established the "consular control system" of immigration. It divided responsibility for immigration between the State Department and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. It also required that no alien should be allowed to enter the United States without a valid immigration visa issued by an American consular officer abroad. It provided that no alien ineligible to become a citizen could be admitted to the United States as an immigrant. The Act also imposed fines on transportation companies who landed aliens in violation of U.S. immigration laws.

The Act followed concerns amid the Post-World War I recession held by many Americans who believed that bringing in more immigrants from other nations would make the unemployment rate higher. It was also in part the product of "The Red Scare" of 1919–1921, in which Woodrow Wilson's Attorney-General Mitchell Palmer warned about rampant foreign radicals migrating to undermine American values, wanting to provoke an uprising like Russia's 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

Congressman Albert Johnson and Senator David Reed were the two main architects of the act. They knew a popular political issue when they saw one and the Act passed with strong congressional support. There were only nine dissenting votes in the Senate and even fewer in the House. One of these was freshman Brooklyn Representative and Jewish-American Emanuel Celler, who made the repeal of the Act his personal crusade during the rest of his career.

In speaking in the Senate in support of the bill, Reed said that the previous immigration legislation "disregards entirely those of us who are interested in keeping American stock up to the highest standard – that is, the people who were born here". He said that many immigrants arrived from their homeland in a sick and starving condition and were less capable of contributing to the American economy, and unable to adapt to American culture.

The law had support from many politicians from California, where a majority of Japanese and other East Asian immigrants had settled. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 had already put an end to Chinese immigration, but Japanese, Korean and Filipino laborers were still arriving in Western states, which created an exclusionary movement among locals who feared that their jobs would be lost to these immigrants who provided cheaper labor. Despite some hesitation from President Calvin Coolidge and strong opposition from the Japanese government, the act was signed into law on May 24, 1924.

Despite putting his pen to this restrictive law, President Coolidge did not appear to be motivated by prejudice or racist attitudes that many in his day possessed. Coolidge realized that he faced majorities too strong in Congress for a president to override supported the act. When he signed the bill, he said in his accompanying message that be found the provision concerning the exclusion of Japanese immigrants the Act to be "unnecessary and deplorable", adding “If the exclusion provision stood alone I should disapprove it.”

Coolidge was a supporter of the concept of immigration controls. In his 1923 State of the Union message, he said: "New arrivals should be limited to our capacity to absorb them into the ranks of good citizenship. America must be kept American. For this purpose, it is necessary to continue a policy of restricted immigration."

Coolidge later reaffirmed his abhorrence of prejudice against immigrants in a couple of speeches that he gave. Speaking at the 1925 American Legion convention in Omaha, Nebraska, Coolidge said "Whether one traces his Americanism back three centuries to the Mayflower, or three years of the steerage, is not half so important as whether his Americanism of to-day is real and genuine. No matter by what various crafts we came here, we are all now in the same boat." In another address given in 1926 at the dedication of the statue of John Ericsson (the Swedish immigrant who pioneered the technology for the Monitor class of ships were used in the Civil War) Coolidge said "When once our feet have touched this soil, when once we have made this land our home, wherever our place of birth, whatever our race, we are all blended in one common country. All artificial distinctions of lineage and rank are cast aside. We all rejoice in the title of Americans."

With the imposition of the 1924 quota, the number of annual immigrants from Italy was reduced from an average of 200,000 to just 4,000. 86% of the 155,000 permitted to enter under the Act came from Northern European countries, with Germany, Great Britain, and Ireland having the highest quotas. The new quotas for immigration for Southern and Eastern European countries were so restrictive that in 1924 there were more Italians, Czechs, Yugoslavs, Greeks, Lithuanians, Hungarians, Portuguese, Romanians, Spaniards, Jews, Chinese, and Japanese that left the United States than those who arrived as immigrants. The quotas remained in place with minor alterations until the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.
Between 1880 and 1925, there was a mass emigration of Jewish peoples from Eastern and Southern Europe. in that period 2,800,000 Jewish Europeans immigrated to the United States, with 94% of them coming from Eastern Europe. There had been previous periods of Jewish immigration going back to colonial times, but the number of such immigrants grew at the end of the 19th century. The pogroms, which were anti-Jewish uprisings in Russia that occurred in the early 1880s and the rise of anti-semitism motivated a continuing flow of Jewish immigrants from Russia and Central Europe.

The Russian pogroms increased at the start of the 20th century, causing large numbers of Jews to seek refuge in the US. Most of these immigrants arrived on the Eastern seaboard, but many also came as part of what was known as the Galveston Movement, in which Jewish immigrants settled in Texas as well as the western states and territories. By 1915 the circulation of the daily Yiddish newspapers was half a million in New York City alone, and 600,000 nationally. Yiddish theater became popular. By 1924, two million Jews had arrived from Central and Eastern Europe.

Growing anti-immigration sentiment in the United States at this time resulted in the National Origins Quota of 1924 which severely restricted immigration from many regions including Eastern Europe. The American Jewish community tried to lobby to the opposition to these immigration restrictions, but had very little success. The restrictions remained in effect until 1965.

Thriving Jewish communities spring up in cities such as Clarksburg, West Virginia, Wichita, Kansas, New Orleans, Louisiana and both San Francisco and Oakland, California. The influx of Jews from Central and Eastern Europe caused many members of the Jewish community to affiliate with labor and socialist movements. Numerous Jewish newspapers such as Forwerts and Morgen Freiheit had a socialist message and organizations such as the The Workmen's Circle and the Jewish People's Fraternal Order played an important part in Jewish community life until World War II.

One of the predominant members of the Jewish-American community in the late 19th century was Jacob Schiff, a wealthy immigrant from Germany, who supported the concept of Jewish Americanization. A Reform Jew, he supported the creation of the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He favored a modified form of Zionism, in which the American Jewish Community tried to strike a a balance between their traditional cultural history and their new home.

When the first world war broke out, Jewish American sympathies were divided on whether or not the US should enter the war. Many in the German-American Jewish community were opposed to it. Many regarded Britain as hostile to Jewish interests. In spite of this, 250,000 American Jews served during the war, representing approximately 5% of the American armed forces, whereas Jews only constituted 3% of the general population. The American Jewish community also mobilized its resources to assist the victims of the European war. Various segments of the American Jewish formed the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. They raised $63 million in relief funds during the war years and became more immersed in European Jewish affairs than ever before.

Anti-Semitism sentiments rose in the middle and late 1930s, as some factions Jews for the Great Depression and the international crises in Europe." As persecution of Jews in Germany worsened, before and during World War, some in Congress and in the Roosevelt Administration expressed concern about the fate of Jews in Europe but consistently refused to permit large-scale immigration of Jewish refugees. President Franklin Roosevelt has been criticized by some, including author Jay Winik in his book 1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History (reviewed here in this community) for permitting many in his State Department, including Assistant Secretary of State Breckenridge Long, to willfully obstructed the provision of aid and rescue to European Jews who were bound for Hitler's Death Camps. According to Winik, Long and others in the Roosevelt administration not only sought to prevent the release of news about the atrocities being committed, but also threatened those who tried to bring these atrocities to the world's attention. They prevented the immigration of Jews fleeing the death camps from coming to the United States and other safe havens, prevented military aid that could have been accomplished with little effort, and ran bureaucratic interference on those seeking to provide rescue and humanitarian aid to the persecuted. Winik describes this as a national disgrace.

The SS St. Louis sailed from Germany in May 1939 carrying 936 (mainly German) Jewish refugees. On June 4, 1939, it was refused permission to unload on orders of President Roosevelt. The ship returned to Europe. 620 of the passengers were eventually accepted in continental Europe, of these only 365 survived the Holocaust.

The one bright light within Roosevelt's cabinet was his Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr., who lobbied for the implementation of the World Jewish Congress' plan to rescue Jews through the use of blocked accounts in Switzerland. He was met with resistance from the State Department and the British Foreign Office. Morgenthau and his staff persisted in bypassing State and ultimately confronting Roosevelt in January 1944. He obtained the presidential creation of the US War Refugee Board in January 1944. The Board sponsored the Raoul Wallenberg mission to Budapest and allowed an increasing number of Jews to enter the U.S. in 1944 and 1945. Because of Morgenthau's efforts, as many as 200,000 Jews were saved. Prior to that, according to a report issued by the State Department, the United States accepted only 21,000 refugees from Europe and did not significantly raise or even fill its restrictive quotas, accepting far fewer Jews per capita than many of the neutral European countries.

The United States' immigration policies were expanded during the Holocaust. It has been estimated that 190,000–200,000 Jews could have been saved during the Second World War had it not been for bureaucratic obstacles to immigration deliberately created by Breckinridge Long and others. The Holocaust was largely ignored by America media as it was happening. In 1943, just before Yom Kippur, 400, mostly Orthodox, rabbis marched in Washington to draw attention to the plight of Holocaust victims. A week later, Senator William Warren Barbour, a Republican from New Jersey, who had met with the rabbis, proposed legislation that would have allowed as many as 100,000 victims of the Holocaust to emigrate temporarily to the United States. Barbour died six weeks after introducing the bill, and it was not passed. The US did not change its immigration policies until 1948.

Happy Birthday William Henry Harrison

On February 9, 1773 (244 years ago today) William Henry Harrison, the 9th President of the United States, was born in Charles City County, Virgina. His father Benjamin Harrison V had been one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. William Henry hold the distinction of being the President to serve the shortest time in office, a mere 31 days. He is also the first President to have died in office. He was 68 years, 23 days old when elected, the oldest president elected until Ronald Reagan in 1980, a record since surpassed by the current incumbent. Harrison is also the last President to be born before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

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Harrison died of complications from pneumonia on April 4, 1840. His death caused a brief constitutional crisis, one that ultimately resolved many questions about presidential succession left unanswered by the Constitution until passage of the 25th Amendment.

Before election as president, Harrison was a soldier, the first territorial congressional delegate from the Northwest Territory, governor of the Indiana Territory and a U.S. representative and senator from Ohio. He originally gained national fame for leading U.S. forces against American Indians at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, where he earned the nickname "Tippecanoe" (or "Old Tippecanoe"), but historical accounts of that battle tell us that this really wasn't his most shining moment as a general. But in the subsequent War of 1812, his military praise is better justified, especially as the result of his victory at the Battle of the Thames in 1813, which brought an end to hostilities in his region.

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After the war, Harrison moved to Ohio, where he was elected to the United States Congress, and in 1824 he became a member of the Senate. He also served a brief term before being appointed as "Minister Plenipotentiary" (or what we would today call and Ambassador) to Colombia in May 1828. After being removed from that job for political reasons, he returned to his farm in Ohio, where he lived in relative retirement until he was nominated for the presidency in 1836. He lost that election because of an ill-conceived scheme in which the Whig Party ran several candidates, but he ran as the lone nominee for the Whig Party in 1840 and defeated incumbent President Martin Van Buren in what was perhaps the first presidential campaign in which spin doctoring reigned supreme. Even though he had been born into relative wealth, he was portrayed as a poor country boy from a log cabin (pure fiction) running against the silver-spoon candidate Van Buren. Whether it was this or his opponent being saddled by a poor economy, Harrison won the election handily.

It is said that Harrison died because he failed to dress warm enough when he gave what would become the longest inaugural address on a cold wet day. But in fact his illness did not arise until more than three weeks later when he developed a cold that worsened, rapidly turning into pneumonia. He sought to rest in the White House, but could not find a quiet room because of the steady crowd of office seekers. His doctors tried cures, that included opium, castor oil, leeches, and Virginia snakeweed. But, surprise surprise, these treatments only made Harrison worse.

He died nine days after becoming ill, at 12:30 am on April 4, 1841. His last words were to his doctor, but historian assume that they were meant for his Vice-President, John Tyler. He said "Sir, I wish you to understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more."


Harrison would have another distinction: he would be the only President (so far) to have a grandson become President. That happened in 1888 when his grandson Benjamin Harrison would win the White House.
Before 1890, individual states regulated immigration into the United States, although the federal government had jurisdiction for dictating what the national immigration policy would be. The Immigration Act of 1891 changed matters by establishing a Commissioner of Immigration in the Treasury Department and transferring responsibility for regulating immigration to the federal government.

One of the first issues that this body had to deal with was immigrants who entered the country by crossing the Canadian border. During the 1880s and 1890s, the U.S. began tightening its immigration laws by barring certain ethnic groups from entering, for example the Chinese. Transportation companies that brought these barred individuals to the U.S. were responsible for the return of these people to their country of origin. To circumvent this, transportation companies landing barred people at Canadian ports. The immigrants would then come into the United States through what was then a porous Canada–United States border. During the last part of the nineteenth century, this was the preferred method of entry to the United States for Scandinavians, Russians, and other northern Europeans immigrating to Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, or other states on the Upper Great Plains. By 1892, Canadian carriers were advertising in Europe that entry at Canadian ports was a hassle-free way to enter the U.S.

To address this problem, the government of Grover Cleveland entered into an agreement with the Canadian government on September 7, 1893. Under this agreement U.S. immigration inspectors were allowed to monitor immigration at Canadian seaports and deny entry into Canada of any immigrant deemed excludable under U.S. immigration law. The U.S. placed inspectors at Quebec City, Halifax, Montreal, Vancouver, and Victoria. The system wasn't a perfect one, but it was the initial means of controlling the problem of those immigrants who would otherwise be denied entry into the United States from taking the Canadian route.

In 1907, Congress set up the Dillingham Commission to investigate the effects of immigration on the country. The Commission, chaired by Republican Senator William P. Dillingham of Vermont, produced a 's 40-volume report analyzing immigration to the United States during the previous three decades. It concluded that the major source of immigration had shifted from Central, Northern, and Western Europeans to Southern Europeans and Russians. The Commission proposed that there be a "reading and writing test as the most feasible single method of restricting undesirable immigration"

During the decade that followed, Italian immigration to the United States increased significantly. Over two million Italians immigrated to the US during the 1910s, with a total of 5.3 million between 1880 and 1920. About half of these people returned to Italy, after working an average of five years in the U.S. About 1.5 million Swedes and Norwegians also immigrated to the United States during this decade, due to poverty and religious oppression in united Sweden-Norway. They settled mainly in the Midwest, especially Minnesota and the Dakotas. Danes came in lesser numbers, due to a better economy, but many Danish immigrants were Mormon converts who moved to Utah. Over two million Central Europeans, mainly Catholics and Jews, immigrated between 1880 and 1924. People of Polish ancestry are the largest Central European ancestry group in the United States after Germans. Immigration of Eastern Orthodox ethnic groups was much lower.

The first influx of middle-eastern immigration began at the end of the 19th century as Lebanese and Syrian immigrants began to settle in large numbers. The vast majority of these immigrants from Lebanon and Syria were Christians, but smaller numbers of Jews and Muslims also settled. Many lived in New York City and in Boston. In the 1920s and 1930s, a large number of these immigrants set out West, with Detroit getting a large number of Middle Eastern immigrants, as well as many Midwestern areas where the immigrants worked as farmers.

From 1880 to 1924, around two million Jews moved to the United States, many fleeing the pogroms of the Russian Empire. After 1934 Jews, along with any other above-quota immigration, were usually denied access to the United States.

To deal with this steady influx of immigrants who did not speak English, Congress passed the literacy requirement in 1917 that was recommended by the Dillingham Commission. The Immigration Act of 1917 (also known as the Literacy Act) was the most significant immigration act the United States had passed up to that time. It was the first bill aimed at restricting, and it reflected a return toward nativism. The law imposed literacy tests on immigrants, created new categories of inadmissible persons and barred immigration from the Asia-Pacific Zone. It governed immigration policy until amended by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952.

Various groups, including the Immigration Restriction League had supported literacy as a prerequisite for immigration from its formation in 1894. In 1895, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge had introduced a bill to the United States Senate to impose a mandate for literacy for immigrants, using a test requiring them to read five lines from the Constitution. The bill passed, but was vetoed by President Grover Cleveland in 1897. In 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt lent support for the idea in an address he gave on the subject. Once again this proposal was defeated in 1903. Yet another attempt to impose a literacy was passed again in 1912 and though it passed, it was vetoed by President William Howard Taft. By 1915, yet another bill with a literacy requirement was passed. Once again it was vetoed, this time by President Woodrow Wilson because he felt that literacy tests denied equal opportunity to those who had not been educated.

Up to this time, legislation had banned certain immigrants not based on their nation of origin or race, but because of the attributes of the immigrant. For example the Immigration Act of 1882 prohibited entry to the U.S. for convicts, indigent people who could not provide for their own care, prostitutes, and "lunatics or idiots". The Alien Contract Labor Law of 1885 prohibited employers from contracting with foreign laborers generally and bringing them into the U.S. (Despite this, many U.S. employers continued to recruit Mexican contract laborers assuming they would just return home). After the assassination of William McKinley, several immigration Acts were passed which broadened the defined categories of "undesireables". The Immigration Act of 1903 expanded barred categories to include anarchists, epileptics and those who had had episodes of insanity. Those who had infectious diseases and those who had physical or mental disabilities which would hamper their ability to work were added to the list of excluded immigrants in the Immigration Act of 1907.

On February 5, 1917, Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1917 with an overwhelming majority, overriding President Woodrow Wilson's December 14, 1916 veto. This act added to the list of undesirables banned from entering the country, including: "alcoholics", "anarchists", "contract laborers", "criminals and convicts", "epileptics", "feebleminded persons", "idiots", "illiterates", "imbeciles", "insane persons", "paupers", "persons afflicted with contagious disease", "persons being mentally or physically defective", "persons with constitutional psychopathic inferiority", "political radicals", "polygamists", "prostitutes" and "vagrants".

This was the first time an immigration law impacted European immigration, because of the provision in the law which barred all immigrants over the age of sixteen who were illiterate. The Act continued the ban on contracted labor, but made a provision for temporary labor, which allowed laborers to obtain temporary permits, because they were inadmissible as immigrants. The waiver program, enabled continued recruitment of Mexican agricultural and railroad workers. The terms "mentally defective" and "persons with constitutional psychopathic inferiority" was interpreted to include a ban on homosexual immigrants who admitted their orientation.

One section of the law designated an "Asiatic Barred Zone", from which people could not immigrate, and included much of Asia and the Pacific Islands. The zone was described on longitudinal and latitudinal lines, excluding immigrants from Afghanistan, the Arabian Peninsula, Asiatic Russia, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, and the Polynesian Islands. Neither Japan nor the Philippines were included in the banned zone. The law also increased the head tax to $8 per person and eliminated the exclusion of paying the head tax from Mexican workers.

The provisions of the new law were unsuccessfully challenged by Southwestern businesses. US entry into World War I, a few months after the law's passage, led to a waiver of the Act's provisions on Mexican agricultural workers, as well as Mexicans working in the mining and railroad industries and the exemptions continued through 1921.
The American Presidents Series are a series of brief (around 150 pages) essay-style biographies of all of the Presidents of the United States published by Times Books. (To date all books about all presidents have been published except for William Howard Taft and Barack Obama). The series was edited by former JFK aide Arthur Schlesinger Jr. until his death in 2007, following which this task was taken over by former New Republic editor Sean Wilentz. Past volumes in the series have been written by distinguished historians such as H. W. Brands, Robert Remini or John Eisenhower. In recent years, the series has turned away from academics in favor of journalists as authors of the biographies, and sometimes this has resulted in the failure to appreciate the distinction between history and politics.

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In the latest volume, Daily Beast editor-in-chief Michael Tomasky tells the story of Bill Clinton, whom he correctly describes as "a president of contradictions". Tomasky rushes through Clinton's early life and antecedents before describing Clinton's odds-defying 1992 victory over incumbent President George H. W. Bush, a man whose record setting approval ratings of 1990 didn't seem to matter two years later. The author covers Clinton's two terms in office, describing how Clinton confronted daunting challenges both on the international front as well as at home on domestic issues. He tells the story of how Clinton governed at a time when control of Congress was ceded to a very partisan opposition party and how the former Arkansas governor was able to achieve extraordinary success in deficit reduction (and eventual surplus budgets), while compromising on social issues such as welfare reform, all by adopting the stance of a centrist middle-of-the-road Democrat. Tomasky describes how Clinton insisted on his relevance as President despite operating with a hostile Republican Congress and how his capable political skills allowed him to achieve much in this environment despite numerous and frequent challenges.

The most challenging aspects of the Clinton Presidency come from Clinton's own poor judgement and what Clinton himself describes as the "double life" that he tried to lead. It resulted in the public humiliation that came from the frank disclosure of his sexual indiscretion with Monica Lewinsky and was exacerbated by his efforts to prevent discovery of his folly, leading to his impeachment. A central theme of the book is the acrimonious partisanship that injected itself into the independent counsel process and into the impeachment proceedings, as well as into Clinton's dealings with Congress on a number of issues. Tomasky illustrates how Clinton was indeed a mass of contradictions, showing great skill and adeptness on issues such as international peace negotiation and management of the economy, while behaving poorly in his personal life and compromising his integrity. He also describes the perplexing issues facing a president, such as the competing problems involved in dealing with international terrorism and the foreign entanglements that present themselves when genocidal maniacs exist, as they did in Yugoslavia and Rwanda during Clinton's tenure.

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Tomasky also writes an interesting account of Clinton's post-presidency that is current up to and including the recent election of Donald Trump. He is critical of some of Clinton's actions as a former president, an offers an interesting post mortem on the reasons for Hillary Clinton's defeat.

It is controversial for The American Presidents Series to chose to pass judgement on the legacy of recent presidents so soon after they leave office, when passions have not yet cooled and the conditions are not yet conducive for an objective assessment, and before the long-term impact can be properly understood. Tomasky has strong opinions on Bill Clinton, and even stronger ones on Ken Starr, and on Clinton's critics. Regardless, he does a good job of describing and assessing the many accomplishments of Clinton's presidency, and of how Clinton's negotiating skills and political street smarts enabled him to do so in spite of his opponents in Congress. For him to do so in such a concise volume is an impressive achievement.
The influx of Chinese immigrant workers to the United States that followed the gold rush provided cheap labor for miners and railroad builders. It was also beneficial in that these immigrants did not appear to be a drain on any of the government infrastructure programs. These immigrants were predominantly made up of healthy adult males. But the presence of these immigrants attracted resentment from those who felt threatened due to lost jobs and a lowering of general wages. This led to violence against the immigrants in cities such as Los Angeles.

In 1878 Congress decided to respond to the protest from non-immigrants. Legislation excluding the Chinese was passed by Congress that year, but was vetoed by President Rutherford B. Hayes. Hayes vetoed the bill, because it amounted to the country refusing to live up to its obligations under the Burlingame Treaty, which permitted unrestricted Chinese immigration.

The veto was supported by eastern moderates, but Hayes was bitterly denounced in the West. Democrats in the House of Representatives attempted to impeach him, but narrowly failed when Republicans prevented a quorum by refusing to vote. After the veto, Assistant Secretary of State Frederick W. Seward suggested that both countries work together to reduce immigration. He led negotiations with the Chinese to accomplish this.

In 1879, California adopted a new Constitution, which explicitly authorized the state government to determine which individuals were allowed to reside in the state, and banned the Chinese from employment by corporations and state, county or municipal governments. This law was held to be unconstitutional because immigration was considered to be a matter of federal jurisdiction.

In 1882, after China had agreed to treaty revisions, Congress tried again to exclude Chinese immigrants. Senator John F. Miller of California introduced the Chinese Exclusion Act. This bill denied Chinese immigrants United States citizenship and banned their immigration for a twenty-year period. The bill passed the Senate and House by overwhelming margins. But President Chester Alan Arthur vetoed this bill. Arthur's reason for the veto was that the 20-year ban was a breach of the renegotiated treaty of 1880. That treaty allowed only a "reasonable" suspension of immigration. As had been the case with Hayes, eastern newspapers and moderates praised Arthur for the veto, while he was condemned for it in the Western states. Congress was unable to override the veto.

Congress then passed a new bill, one which reduced the immigration ban to ten years. Arthur objected to this denial of citizenship to Chinese immigrants. Ultimately however, he viewed the reduced immigration ban to be a compromise measure that he would have to live with and he signed the Chinese Exclusion Act into law on May 6, 1882. The Act excluded Chinese laborers, meaning "skilled and unskilled laborers and Chinese employed in mining," from entering the country for ten years under penalty of imprisonment and deportation.

The Chinese Exclusion Act required those few Chinese non-laborers who sought entry to the country to obtain certification from the Chinese government that they were qualified to emigrate. However, in practice, this group still found it difficult to prove that they were not laborers. The 1882 act defined a category of persons known as "excludables" as “skilled and unskilled laborers and Chinese employed in mining.” Thus very few Chinese could enter the country under the 1882 law. Diplomatic officials and other officers on business, along with their house servants, for the Chinese government were allowed entry as long as they had the proper certification verifying their credentials.

The Act also affected the Chinese who had already settled in the United States. Any Chinese person who left the United States had to obtain certifications for reentry, and the Act made Chinese immigrants permanent aliens by excluding them from U.S. citizenship. After the Act's passage, Chinese men in the U.S. had little chance of ever reuniting with their wives, or of starting families in the United States.

Amendments made in 1884 tightened the provisions that allowed previous immigrants to leave and return. The amendments made this more difficult. They also made it clear that the law applied to all Chinese persons regardless of their country of origin. Then, in 1888, the Scott Act expanded upon the Chinese Exclusion Act, prohibiting all reentry for Chinese persons after leaving the U.S.

The Chinese Exclusion Act and the Scott Act were challenged as being unconstitutional, but both were upheld by the Supreme Court in Chae Chan Ping v. United States, an 1889 decision of the Court. The court held that "the power of exclusion of foreigners [is] an incident of sovereignty belonging to the government of the United States as a part of those sovereign powers delegated by the constitution."

The Chinese Exclusion Act was renewed for ten years in 1892 by the Geary Act. It was extended in 1902 and required "each Chinese resident to register and obtain a certificate of residence. Without a certificate, he or she faced deportation."

Between 1882 and 1905, about 10,000 Chinese appealed against negative immigration decisions to federal court. Congress responded by barring these petitions by an act that passed Congress in 1894 and was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. vs Lem Moon Sing (1895).

A vocal critic of the Chinese Exclusion Act was Republican Senator George Frisbie Hoar of Massachusetts who described the Act as "nothing less than the legalization of racial discrimination." The laws did appear to be motivated by racial concerns, as there was no other restrictions on immigration of persons of other races during this period. Nevertheless there was significant public support for the law, especially from a labor group known as the Knights of Labor, who believed that industrialists were using Chinese workers as a tool to keep wages low. Among labor organizations, only the Industrial Workers of the World were openly opposed to the Chinese Exclusion Act.

In 1891 the Government of China refused to accept the U.S. Senator Henry W. Blair as U.S. Minister to China due to his abusive remarks regarding China during negotiation of the Chinese Exclusion Act.

This law froze the size of the Chinese community until the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1943. The Chinese Exclusion Act gave rise to the first significant incidences of commercial human smuggling. It also affected Canada's immigration policies Pressure from the U.S. government caused Canada to pass its own Chinese Immigration Act, 1923 which banned most forms of immigration by the Chinese to Canada. Conversely, Chinese immigration to Mexico was welcomed because the Chinese immigrants filled Mexico's labor needs. The Chinese Exclusion Act actually led to heightened Chinese immigration to Mexico.

The Immigration Act of 1924 restricted immigration for other Asian immigrant groups. These restrictions forced Chinese immigrants into a life of seclusion and to the creation of ethnic enclaves known in many cities as "Chinatowns".

The Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed by the 1943 Magnuson Act, during a time when China became an ally of the U.S. against Japan in World War II. The Magnuson Act permitted Chinese nationals already residing in the country to become naturalized citizens. The Magnuson Act only allowed a national quota of 105 Chinese immigrants per year, and did not repeal the restrictions on immigration from the other Asian countries. Large scale Chinese immigration did not occur until the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.

On June 18, 2012, the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution, introduced by Congresswoman Judy Chu, to formally expresses the regret of the House of Representatives for the Chinese Exclusion Act. The resolution was approved by the U.S. Senate in October 2011.
Shortly after the Civil War, some states started to pass their own immigration laws. This especially became an issue in California, where the state was faced with an influx of immigrants from China. Immigration from China to the Western United States increased in the middle of the nineteenth century, starting with the California Gold Rush. This led to hostility towards the Chinese immigration on the part of many California natives, especially among labor unions. The government of California passed a number of laws unfriendly to Chinese immigration, including the Anti-Coolie Act of 1862.

Prior to the California gold rush, the Chinese population in the west was small. The pejorative works used to describe these immigrants was “coolie”. The California gold rush led to a huge increase in Chinese immigration to the West. In 1852, California experienced an influx of 20,026 Chinese immigrants as compared to 2,716 just the year before. The large of influx of immigrants were met with race riots as white miners became frustrated with the increased competition for mining jobs.

When a recession hit between 1853 and 1854, this recession caused low growth in the United States economy as interest rates rose and railroad investments decreased. The decrease in railroad investments drastically slowed down investments in California. Commodity prices, including gold, dropped during that period. The decrease in railroad investments coupled with falling gold prices, worsened economic conditions in the west. Those native to California became increasingly hostile to the Chinese, who offered a cheaper source of labor causing a loss of jobs for many native Californians. Segregationist “coolie clubs” sprung up, designed to discourage the use of Chinese immigrant labor.

As the recession hit, the Californians who owned the rights to the land on which the gold was mined were looking for cheap labor to maximize profits. They found this in the Chinese immigrants who came to America. Many Chinese immigrants made the voyage on credit, and upon arrival in California had no choice but to accept lower wages to repay their creditors. Domestic miners responded formed these “anticoolie” clubs that sought to create clear divisions between white workers and Chinese workers. The clubs almost served like unions that represented the interests of the white miners in the west. Chinese workers were working for wages between one and two dollars less than their white counterparts.

The California legislature joined the native Californians, first by imposing a foreign miners’ tax that called for a three-dollar monthly tax on foreign miners in the state. This was passed in 1852. Then, inn 1855, the California legislature passed another act entitled Discourage the Immigration to this State of Persons who cannot Become Citizens thereof. The passage of the Anti-Coolie Act, was ratified by California’s state legislature on April 26, 1862. It was an attempt to increase the scope of their authority by levying a $2.50 tax on anyone of Chinese origin who applied for licenses “to work in the mines, or to prosecute some kind of business”. Chinese workers subsisted on wages of $3 to $4 a month, so the tax was a significant burden to shoulder. This was followed by other anti-Chinese discriminatory legislation.

This trend was contrary to what the United States federal government wanted to happen. It was pursuing a more friendly approach to the Chinese government. In 1868, the governments of the United States and China agreed on the Burlingame Treaty, whereby China was granted most favored nation status for trade, and both countries would freely permit immigration of the citizens of the other country, but with no promise of a path to citizenship. Abraham Lincoln had appointed Anson Burlingame as minister to the Qing Empire. Burlingame worked for a cooperative policy rather than the imperialistic policies of force which had been used during the First and Second Opium Wars and developed relations with the reform elements of the court. The United States wanted to gain access to profitable trading opportunities and foster the spread of Christianity in Asia. The treaty was ratified under the administration of Andrew Johnson.

In 1875, the State of California passed a statute authorizing the immigration commissioner to inspect passengers arriving in California at a cost of 75 cents per inspection (levied on the passenger) and giving him the authority to deny entry to passengers suspected of being lewd and debauched. Those suspected thus could be allowed entry if the captain of the ship paid a bond for them.

The legislation was challenged when 22 women from China, including a woman named Chy Lung, were among the passengers on a steamer that journeyed from China to San Francisco, arriving in 1875. The immigration commissioner examined the passengers and identified Chy Lung and the other women as "lewd and debauched women." The captain of the ship had the option of paying a $500 bond per woman to allow her to land, but the captain refused to pay the bond, and detained the women on board. They sued for a writ of habeas corpus, which led to them being moved into the custody of the Sheriff of the County and City of San Francisco, where they stayed, awaiting deportation. The women appealed the decision to deport them. The California High Court upheld the constitutionality of the statute used to deny them entry, and upheld their deportation. They appealed the decision in the United States Supreme Court.

Justice Stephen Johnson Field ordered the release of all the women from the Sheriff's custody. However, Chy Lung still pressed the case in the Supreme Court, seeking to test the constitutionality of the statute that had been used to imprison her. On October 1, 1875, the Supreme Court decided unanimously in favor of Chy Lung. Its primary argument was that the United States federal government, as opposed to state governments, were in charge of immigration policy and diplomatic relations with other nations, so it was unconstitutional for the state of California to impose restrictions on Chinese immigration. The Supreme Court said that this action by the government of California could jeopardize foreign relations for the United States government insofar as it ran afoul of treaty obligations.

To address this issue, the government of President Ulysses Grant passed its first official policy significantly restricting immigration. This law, called the Page Act of 1875, prohibited the entry of immigrants considered "undesirable", a category intended to include forced laborers and female prostitutes, and applied to people of Chinese citizenship and descent. The bar on female prostitutes was the most heavily enforced aspect of the Act. The implementation involved pre-screening of Chinese women in Hong Kong to ascertain their good moral character and certify that they were not prostitutes. This was very different from the operation of the California statute, which involved inspection by the immigration commissioner after the ship had landed.

This would not be the last time that the issue of Chinese immigration would be a contentious issue. In the next decade, the administration of Chester Alan Arthur would address the issue as Congress sought to pass the Chinese Exclusion Act.
In the middle of the 19th century, pro-American, anti-immigrant sentiment became political with the formation of the Native American Party (renamed the American Party in 1855, but better known as the Know Nothing party). This party arose in response to an influx of immigration and the rising political influence of immigrants. The Know-Nothings promised to "purify" American politics by limiting or ending the political influence of Irish Catholics and other immigrants. They played off of the contemporary nativist and anti-Catholic sentiment that existed in many circles in America at the time. It was fed by popular fears that the country was being overwhelmed by German and Irish Catholic immigrants.

Anti-Catholicism was not really a factor in American politics until the arrival of large numbers of Irish and German Catholics in the 1840s. Many of these immigrants were Catholic and this elicited a prejudiced response from the Protestant majority. In New York, in 1843, the first navitist political party emerged, calling itself the American Republican Party. The nativist movement spread to nearby states, using that name or Native American Party or other similar names. These parties succeeded in a number of local and Congressional elections. For example, in 1844 in Philadelphia, following the Philadelphia riots, anti-Catholic orator Lewis Charles Levin was elected U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania's 1st District.

In the early 1850s, numerous secret nativist groups formed. The most prominent were the "Order of United Americans" and the Order of the Star Spangled Banner. These two groups merged in New York in the early 1850s as a secret order that quickly spread across the North, reaching non-Catholics, particularly those who were laborers or skilled workmen. They became known by the name "Know Nothings". The name originated from when a member was asked about its activities, he was supposed to reply, "I know nothing." In 1855, the Know Nothings first entered politics under the American Party label.

The immigration of large numbers of Irish and German Catholics to the United States in the period between 1830 and 1860 made religious differences between Catholics and Protestants a political issue. Violence sometimes erupted at the polls. Protestants accused Pope Pius IX of being an opponent of liberty. Catholicism was portrayed as tyrannical, opposed to material prosperity, the enemy of the railroad, as a group that wanted to take over schools with the intention of indoctrinating American children into Catholicism. Nativists spread conspiracy theories about the Pope wanting to subjugate the United States through a continuing influx of Catholics controlled by Irish bishops obedient to and personally selected by the Pope.

In 1849, one oath-bound secret society, the Order of the Star Spangled Banner, was created by Charles B. Allen in New York City. Fear of Catholic immigration led to a dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party, whose leadership in many cities included Irish-Catholics. They formed secret groups, throwing their support behind candidates sympathetic to their cause. When asked about these secret organizations, members were to reply "I know nothing", which led to their being called Know Nothings.

In spring 1854, the Know Nothing candidates swept the state of Massachusetts in the fall elections. The Whig candidate for mayor of Philadelphia, editor Robert T. Conrad, was a Know Nothing who promised to appoint only native-born Americans to office. He won the election by a landslide. In Washington, D.C., Know Nothing candidate John T. Towers defeated incumbent Mayor John Walker Maury. After the 1854 elections, they showed political strength in Maine, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and California. Stephen Palfrey Webb was elected as Mayor of San Francisco, and J. Neely Johnson as Governor of California. Nathaniel P. Banks, former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, was elected to Congress as a Know Nothing candidate. (He later aligned with Republicans and was elected Speaker of the United States House of Representatives).

The results of the 1854 elections were so favorable to the Know Nothings that they formed officially as a political party called the American Party. They attracted many members of the nearly defunct Whig party as well as a significant number of Democrats. Membership in the American Party increased significantly, from 50,000 to an estimated one million plus during the course of the year. This was in part due to the collapse of the Whig Party, weakened by internal dissent and sectional factionalism.

In San Francisco, a Know Nothing chapter was founded in 1854 to oppose Chinese immigration. One judge of the state supreme court, who was also a member of the party, ruled that no Chinese person could testify as a witness against a white man in court.

In the spring of 1855, Levi Boone was elected mayor of Chicago for the Know Nothings. He barred all immigrants from city jobs. Abraham Lincoln was strongly opposed to the principles of the Know Nothing movement but also needed the votes of its membership to form a successful anti-slavery coalition in Illinois, so he did not protest this. In Ohio the party gained strength in 1855 with the support of German American Lutherans and Scots-Irish Presbyterians, both hostile to Roman Catholicism. Know Nothings scored victories in northern state elections in 1854, winning control of the legislature in Massachusetts and polling 40% of the vote in Pennsylvania. Although most of the new immigrants lived in the North, the American Party also polled well in the South.

The party even spread its brand to products as Nativism became a new American rage. These included Know-Nothing candy, Know-nothing tea, and Know-Nothing toothpicks. In Trescott, Maine, a shipowner dubbed his new 700-ton freighter, Know-Nothing.

The new party was well-received in rapidly growing industrial towns, where nativist workers competed with new Irish immigrants for jobs. It was strongest in poor districts. They tended not to attract the traditional wealthy political leadership class, especially lawyers and merchants. Their appeal was to working class men, farmers, and a large number of teachers and ministers. Their leadership showed incomes, occupation and social status that were about average. Few were wealthy. The party's voters were by not all native-born Americans. It received support from German and British Protestants as well as the Lutherans, Dutch Reformed, and Presbyterians.

The party also opposed slavery, called for an expansion of the rights of women, regulation of industry, and support of measures designed to improve the status of working people. It supported legislation to regulate railroads, insurance companies, and public utilities, free textbooks for public schools, and appropriations for local libraries.

The party attacked the civil rights of Irish Catholic immigrants. They called for public schools had to require compulsory daily reading of the Protestant Bible. In Massachusetts, the governor disbanded the Irish militias, and replaced Irish holding state jobs with Protestants. They tried and failed to reach the two-thirds vote needed to pass a state constitutional amendment to restrict voting and office holding to men who had resided in Massachusetts for at least 21 years. The legislature then called on Congress to raise the requirement for naturalization from five years to 21 years, but Congress never did so. The Know Nothing legislature appointed an investigating committee designed to prove widespread sexual immorality underway in Catholic convents, but the media mocked the move, especially after it was discovered that the key reformer was using committee funds to pay for a prostitute. The legislature shut down its committee and ejected the reformer.

Nativist sentiments sometimes became violent. On 6 August 1855, in Louisville, Kentucky, where a hotly contested race for the office of governor was underway, 22 were killed and many others injured in violent riots between Know Nothing activists and Catholics. In Baltimore the mayoral elections of 1856, 1857 and 1858 were all marred by violence and well-founded accusations of ballot-rigging. In Maine, Know Nothings were associated with the tarring and feathering of a Catholic priest, Father Johannes Bapst, in the coastal town of Ellsworth in 1851 and the burning of a Catholic church in Bath in 1854.

in Louisiana and Maryland, the Know Nothings tried to enlist native-born Catholics. In Maryland, the party's influence lasted through the Civil War. American Party Maryland Governor, and later Senator, Thomas Holliday Hicks and others all supported the United States in a State which bordered the Confederate States.

The party declined rapidly in the North after 1855. In the presidential election of 1856, it was bitterly divided over slavery. The main faction supported the ticket of presidential nominee Millard Fillmore and vice-presidential nominee Andrew Jackson Donelson. Fillmore, a former President, had been a Whig, and Donelson was the nephew of Democratic President Andrew Jackson, so the ticket was designed to appeal to both major parties. It won 23% of the popular vote and carrying one state, Maryland, with eight electoral votes. Many were surprised that Fillmore accepted the nomination of the party, since he had sent his daughter to a Catholic school to be educated. Nathaniel Banks left the Know Nothing Party for the more anti-slavery Republican Party. He took a large portion of its members with him.

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Abraham Lincoln expressed his disgust with the Know-Nothings in a letter to Joshua Speed written in August 24, 1855. Lincoln never publicly attacked the Know Nothings because he relied of anti-slavery members of the party for political support. But he told Speed, "I am not a Know-Nothing – that is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that 'all men are created equal.' We now practically read it 'all men are created equal, except negroes.' When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read 'all men are created equals, except negroes and foreigners and Catholics.' When it comes to that I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty – to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy."

After the Supreme Court's controversial Dred Scott v. Sandford ruling in 1857, most of the anti-slavery members of the American Party joined the Republican Party. By the 1860 election, they were no longer a serious national political movement. Most of their remaining members supported the Constitutional Union Party in 1860.

The Nativist movement was revived in later political movements, such as the American Protective Association of the 1890s and the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s. George Wallace's 1968 presidential campaign was called the "neo-Know Nothing banner" by Time magazine. Recently Fareed Zakaria wrote that politicians who "encourage Americans to fear foreigners" were "modern incarnations of the Know-Nothings."

Happy Birthday Ronald Reagan

On February 6, 1911 (106 years ago today), Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, was born in Tampico, Illinois. Prior to his presidency, he had served as the 33rd Governor of California from 1967 to 1975, and before that he was a well-known film and television actor.


Reagan was raised in Dixon, Illinois and attended Eureka College, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and sociology. After graduating, Reagan moved first to Iowa to work as a radio broadcaster and then, in 1937, to Los Angeles where he began a career as an actor, first in films and later in television. Some of his best known films include Knute Rockne, All American (1940), Kings Row (1942), and Bedtime for Bonzo (1951). He served as President of the Screen Actors Guild and later became the spokesman for General Electric. He got his start in politics during the time that he worked for GE. Originally he had been a member of the Democratic Party and was an admirer of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But his positions began shifting to the right in the 1950s, and he became a member of the Republican Party in 1962. As Reagan later stated, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party, it left me."

Reagan delivered a very memorable and rousing speech in support of Barry Goldwater's presidential candidacy in 1964. He was persuaded to seek the GOP nomination for Governor of California and he was elected to that office two years later. He won re-election in 1970. Reagan sought his party's nomination for President in 1968, but finished third behind Richard Nixon and Nelson Rockefeller. He tried again in 1976, losing to incumbent President Gerald Ford. Persevering, he won both the nomination and the Presidency in 1980, defeating incumbent Jimmy Carter.

As president, Reagan was proactive both politically and where the economy was concerned as well. His supply-side economic policies (called "Reaganomics" by the media) advocated reducing tax rates to spur economic growth, controlling the money supply to reduce inflation, deregulation of the economy, and reducing the size of the federal government. In his first term he survived an assassination attempt on March 30, 1981, only 69 days into his term. He also took a hard line against labor unions, threatening to fire striking air traffic controllers if they didn't return to their jobs. He also announced a "War on Drugs" and ordered an invasion of Grenada.

Reagan was re-elected in a landslide in 1984, running on a campaign which declared that it was "Morning in America". He won every state except for his opponent's home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia. His second term was primarily concerned by foreign policy matters, such as the ending of the Cold War, the 1986 bombing of Libya, and the revelation of the Iran–Contra affair. He publicly called the Soviet Union an "evil empire" and supported anti-communist movements worldwide. He moved away from his first term the strategy of détente, and ordered a massive military buildup in an arms race with the USSR. Reagan negotiated with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, culminating in the INF Treaty which decreased both countries' nuclear arsenals.


Reagan left office in 1989. Five years later, in 1994, the former president disclosed, in a public letter (shown above) that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease earlier that year. He dropped out of the public eye and died ten years later on June 5, 2004 at the age of 93. He remains a conservative icon, and generally ranks highly in public opinion polls of U.S. Presidents. He is credited for bringing about the end of the cold war with the Soviets, with generating an ideological renaissance on the American political right and for bringing the nation out of one of its worst economic periods, a time when interest rates were extraordinarily high and public morale was extraordinarily low.


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