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David Herbert Donald

May 2024
1min read


Charles Warren Professor of American History, Harvard University

Most overrated:

John Adams. It is astonishing that Adams, whose whole career was one of frustration and failure, should be considered one of our most important Founding Fathers. I do not minimize his intelligence or his devotion to his country, but his lack of tact and his wooden literary style should be weighed against these assets. And as President he had one of the most unsuccessful administrations in American history.

Most underrated:

Ulysses S. Grant. It is easy to see why Grant is so often belittled. He was not well educated, was not articulate in arguments, was not flashy, and had no connection with the Eastern world of intellect and power. On the other hand, he was not merely a remarkable general but, as the evidence shows, a skillful and successful politician. After all, he was the only President between Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson to be elected to two consecutive terms of office. His enemies ridiculed him and belittled him, but he survived them all.

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