Great Moments in American Statesmanship

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Everyone knows that the United States of America is the greatest nation in human history. It is the land of the free and the home of the brave, whereas the people of other countries are for the most part caged and cowardly. So it comes as no surprise that the American people, being themselves so supremely admirable, have always advanced to positions of political and military leadership individuals who not only mirrored, but magnified the people’s own radiant character. But do not take my word for these leaders’ extraordinary virtues. Let their own words testify to their exemplary capacity to show the world just what Americans are made of. In regard to honesty, integrity, humanity, and selfless devotion to the general public interest, America’s leaders have always shined like beacons in a dark and depraved world.

Your people, sir, is a great beast.

~ Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, 1792

I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.

~ U.S. Senate candidate Abraham Lincoln, 1858

We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women and children.

~ General William Tecumseh Sherman, 1866

It may be necessary to kill half the Filipinos in order that the remaining half of the population may be advanced to a higher plane of life than their present semi-barbarous state affords.

~ Major General William Shafter, 1899

Just because we fight without rancor and without selfish object, seeking nothing for ourselves but what we shall wish to share with all free peoples, we shall, I feel confident, conduct our operations as belligerents without passion and ourselves observe with proud punctilio the principles of right and of fair play we profess to be fighting for.

~ President Woodrow Wilson, 1917

I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again; your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.

~ President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1940

The question was how we should maneuver them [the Japanese armed forces] into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.

~ Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, 1941

We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.

~ President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964

John [Erhlichman], we have the power. Are we using it now to investigate contributors to Hubert Humphrey, contributors to Muskie — the Jews, you know, that are stealing in every direction? Are we going after their tax returns? I can only hope that we are, frankly, doing a little persecuting.

~ President Richard M. Nixon, 1971

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Robert Higgs [send him mail] is senior fellow in political economy at the Independent Institute and editor of The Independent Review. He is also a columnist for LewRockwell.com. His most recent book is Neither Liberty Nor Safety: Fear, Ideology, and the Growth of Government. He is also the author of Depression, War, and Cold War: Studies in Political Economy, Resurgence of the Warfare State: The Crisis Since 9/11 and Against Leviathan: Government Power and a Free Society.

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