Liberty survives and flourishes in the United States thanks, in part, to the decisions of six presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt. That's the belief of a historian in his compelling new book. The author notes that the vision, character and life experiences of the men led to decisions vital to the cause of liberty at home and abroad.
"For the Survival of Liberty: Great Presidential Decisions" details how specific presidential decisions by men of vision led to a strong federal government and an internationalist foreign policy critical for liberty to flourish. Author Elton Klibanoff describes Washington's founding of a national economy; Jefferson's diplomatic strategy leading to an "empire of liberty" via the Louisiana Purchase; Monroe's establishment of America's mission of liberty as a result of the Monroe Doctrine; Lincoln's life-long battle against slavery; Wilson's struggle for democracy and world peace, and against isolation, culminating in creation of the League of Nations; and Roosevelt's efforts to democratize the economy in the wake of the Great Depression, creating federal commitments to work relief, and social and economic security.
As he writes, "These six presidents took up the challenge left open by the Constitution and provided the basic principles that have given American liberty its meaning." These six presidential decisions have had a defining impact on the country from the time they were made to the present, and should continue to do so into the future. For instance, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, Klibanoff maintains, set the stage for the complete abolition of slavery, the eventual desegregation of public schools and the civil rights legislation of the 1960s. Wilson's League of Nations, he writes, prompted the formation of the United Nations, creation of the Marshall Plan, and the ratification of Kennedy's nuclear test ban treaty and Reagan's Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty. In the 21st century, the author calls for renewed commitment to liberty, internationalism, and equal opportunity as Americans face debate over terrorism, foreign conflicts, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, man-made threats to the environment, societal discrimination, and an ever-widening economic gap between the poor and middle class, on one hand, and the very rich, on the other.