A Modest Proposal for Princeton and Yale

Richard Epstein reviews the sorry record of Woodrow Wilson over at Ricochet, but concludes correctly that it is a stupid idea to start stripping names off of university programs. But if the prissy Princetonians insist on renaming the Woodrow Wilson School for Public Affairs, here’s a modest suggestion: Rename it for Warren Harding!

Harding was the anti-Wilson in all of the ways the campus protesters could want. He pardoned most of the political dissenters Woodrow Wilson had jailed during World War I, especially the socialist firebrand Eugene Debs, whom Harding then invited to the White House, saying afterward that he rather liked Debs. He also proposed civil rights protection for blacks, in a speech in Birmingham, Alabama, that drew boos and jeers from the mostly Democratic audience. “I want to see the time come when black men will regard themselves as full participants in the benefits and duties of American citizens,” Harding said in the speech; “We cannot go on, as we have gone on for more than half a century, with one great section of our population . . . set off from real contribution to solving national issues, because of a division on race lines.” Harding also urged Congress “to wipe out the stain of barbaric lynching from the banners of a free and orderly, representative democracy,” but southern Democrats made sure this suggestion died swiftly in Congress.

His support for advancing the interests of black Americans went beyond mere words. He appointed blacks to senior positions in the Departments of Labor and Interior, lobbied his entire cabinet to more blacks, and over 100 blacks to lower ranked administration posts—a high number for the time, especially after Wilson had purged blacks from government jobs and bestowing permanent civil service status of their white replacements a few years before.

So how about it, Princeton?

Second, if Yale can’t abide having one of its residential colleges named for John C. Calhoun, then the obvious thing to do is to rename it for Calvin Coolidge—one of the pre-eminent defenders of the document Calhoun disliked and repudiated—the Declaration of Independence. Of if this is too bold for Yale, then Amherst, currently in knots aver the fact that its namesake, Lord Jeffery Amherst, was politically incorrect, could rename itself for its most distinguished alumni.

Nah—I’m quite sure the only thing worse that having a college named for a racist-imperialist is having it named for a Republican. That’s would be too much diversity to tolerate.