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In response to a statement that California had implemented the 1619 Project in public schools, President Trump tweeted Sunday: “Department of Education is looking at this. If so, they will not be funded!” That is welcome news, as the 1619 Project is an elaborate and much-lauded (Pulitzer Prize-winning, in fact) exercise in historical; according to political science professor Peter C. Myers, it is “animated by the same conviction that animates BLM and the rioters: America is and always has been a racist tyranny, and there can be no black liberation absent its radical transformation, by any means necessary.” The general acceptance of this propaganda today makes it vitally important to tell the real story of our country, and now Robert Spencer, the historian who wrote The History of Jihad: From Muhammad to ISIS, has offered the 1776 Project in the form of a book entitled Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster.
This book is a brisk and engaging introduction not just to the Presidents of the United States, but through Spencer’s evaluation of their various administrations, to the history of the United States itself, not told this time by those who hate it, but by an unabashed and unapologetic patriot. One overarching impression one gets from Rating America’s Presidents is not that the United States of America has been inherently racist from over a century and a half before its founding, as the 1619 Project would have us believe, but that its trajectory has been in exactly the opposite direction: admittedly imperfectly, but nevertheless steadily toward racial justice and a truly color-blind society.
Spencer discloses a great deal about this that is surprising. It was no shock to discover that the Democrats, the party of slavery and Jim Crow, in 1868 ran New York Governor Horatio Seymour for President with the slogan, “Our Motto: This is a White Man’s Country; Let White Men Rule.” It was surprising, however (and would come as a salutary shock to those who believe the 1619 Project), that the man who defeated Seymour, Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant, rejected the racism of Seymour and the Democrats at a time when today’s potted U.S. history would have us believe that everyone was racist. “I have no prejudice against sect or race,” President Grant stated, “but want each individual to be judged by his own merit.”
Grant was, Spencer tells us, a strong supporter of the Fifteenth Amendment, which stipulates that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Spencer adds that Grant also “approved an act stipulating that the word ‘white’ be struck from all requirements to hold office or serve as a juror in the District of Columbia. When Southern states resisted Reconstruction measures, denied blacks the right to vote, and allowed the Ku Klux Klan to terrorize black populations, Grant sent federal troops to restore order and enforce the law.”
There is a great deal more of this; Grant is not in any way unique in his championing of civil rights. Spencer quotes President James A. Garfield in his inaugural address in 1881 saying: “The elevation of the negro race from slavery to the full rights of citizenship is the most important political change we have known since the adoption of the Constitution of 1787. No thoughtful man can fail to appreciate its beneficent effect upon our institutions and people.” He added: “There can be no permanent disfranchised peasantry in the United States. Freedom can never yield its fullness of blessings so long as the law or its administration places the smallest obstacle in the pathway of any virtuous citizen.”
How many Americans today know that an American president spoke that way as far back as 1881, when the 1619 Project would have us believe that Democrats and Republicans were united in their determination to deny basic rights to black Americans? In today’s overheated political climate, knowing that there have always been American leaders who have stood for racial justice could have a substantially beneficial effect. But the 1619 Project is dominant, despite Trump’s threat, and that ascendancy isn’t going to end any time soon. At least in Rating America’s Presidents, Robert Spencer has provided some much-needed pushback.
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