Vilified and ridiculed throughout the second half of his long life—he died in 1964 at the age of ninety—Herbert Hoover was a great and good man. Statesmen often find themselves required to kill, earning their reputations in part by fighting and winning wars. Hoover’s statesmanship consisted first of all in saving lives, literally by the millions. His biographer and editor George Nash estimates that the relief efforts Hoover managed between 1914 and 1923 fed 83 million people in twenty war-ravaged countries. With that sense of the apt historical allusion we no longer have, Europeans of Hoover’s day called him “The Napoleon of Mercy.” During his one, ill-starred term as president, when the Great Depression for which he was blamed left Americans hungry, he again organized food supplies that sustained lives. And although Franklin Roosevelt refused to allow him to reprise these efforts during...


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