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Robert Crunden

July 2024
1min read

Director of American Studies Program and professor of history, University of Texas, Austin

Most overrated:

Woodrow Wilson. He was a provincial who appeared cosmopolitan, an academic who could not tolerate the free play of ideas or the minds of any women, and a world leader whose obsessions befouled human discourse and contributed materially to the chaos of the succeeding decades.

Most underrated:

Stephen A. Douglas. His sensible principles of the 1850s would have prevented the Civil War if anything could have, and I at least feel that we would have been not too far behind, say, Russia, in freeing our slaves in most areas in the succeeding decades. “Popular sovereignty” didn’t have the nice moral ring of “irrepressible conflict” and “a house divided,” so people failed to rally to it. It ought to be a first principle of politics that rugs are for sweeping things under; popular sovereignty was a good way of doing this. The alternatives were hardly attractive then and hardly seem more so now. Douglas was no great prize as a person, but then most politicians aren’t.

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