I’ve been reading this fascinating book, Almost Presidentby Scott Farris. So far, I’ve read about Henry Clay, Stephen Douglas, William Jennings Bryan and Al Smith. Here are some observations:
- Henry Clay—thus far, the best man who was never president. He would have definitely been a better president than some of the men who won. Abraham Lincoln considered him a mentor of sorts—though I don’t think they ever met. They were, however, like–minded on most issues, including slavery—even though Clay owned slaves. Clay’s political philosophy was the “grandfather” of what would become the Republican party. He and Andrew Jackson hated each other. On his death bed, Jackson’s one regret? “That I didn’t shoot Henry Clay.”
- Stephen Douglas—he died trying to save the Union. Even though he was Lincoln’s opponent in 1856 for Senate and in 1860 for President, he was a stanch unionist who did all he could, including traveling, that even by today’s standards would be exhausting, throughout the country to try and head off the Civil War. His stance on the secession (against it) probably cost him the election of 1860 and his traveling certainly did contribute to his early demise.
- William Jennings Bryan—he probably did more than any man, until FDR, to make the Democratic party what it is today. He introduced the progressive platforms that have continued to shape the party even today. His beliefs in the progressive movement were firmly rooted in his Christian beliefs. He was big on social justice. His stance against liberalism in the church caused him to distrust modern interpretations of Scripture and anything to do with evolution—thus his involvement in the Scopes-Monkey trial.
- Al Smith—first Roman Catholic to be nominated and it raised quite a storm! The Ku Klux Klan lead the charge against Smith, claiming, among other things, that if Smith were elected that all Protestant marriages would be annulled and Protestant women would be sterilized! Smith barely garnered 40% of the popular vote, but he did pave the way for John F. Kennedy and others. His nomination also lead to greater understanding of Catholicism and saw numerous Protestant convert to RC, including some of Herbert Hoover’s top advisors!
More to come as I continue reading.