How Many Good U.S. Presidents Have We Had?
This is an objective look at the presidents of the United States and how good of a president each one was. Below is a ranking of the presidents from
best to worst. Considerations included effectiveness, leadership, and the challenges that each one faced (with
little regard to their ideology or political party). In many cases, their challenges weighed
heavily in this ranking and some were just victims of the times and events. It could be possible that one man was a better
leader than another, but he ranks lower because his administration just didn't happen to include
larger challenges and obstacles that he was able to overcome. However, it is also true that one man with
few challenges could rank higher than one who was unable to overcome
his obstacles. Also, a president's ability to be re-elected serves as a direct show of confidence by the people
for that man's proven leadership. (Twelve presidents served eight years or more.) History
also shows a president's effectiveness by what kind of impact he made
upon the country and the presidency. Finally, each man's moral character was considered, including his honesty, his
integrity, and the moral code by which he lived and led.
The presidents are grouped into four categories: best; great; good; and, poor. Of
these 43 presidents, only two are included as our best presidents; five were great presidents; and, two were good
presidents. As a result, surprisingly, we have had only nine presidents (about 20%) which ranked as good or
higher, and 34 presidents (about 80%) are included in the poor category.
The Best Presidents
Two presidents stand above the rest as being our best presidents: Abraham
Lincoln and James K. Polk. Both men were war-time presidents,
called upon to use their office of Commander-In-Chief, and both served
admirably in this role. Both men had
high moral standards of honesty and integrity. In addition to the positive aspects of their
presidencies, neither man had a negative aspect that was so severe as to overshadow his accomplishments.
1) Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln became the 16th president in 1861 as a member of the new Republican Party. He
was a humble man, and he was often able to disarm people with self-degradation
humor. No president faced greater challenges than Lincoln. After the
election of 1860, but before Lincoln took office, South Carolina and
six other states seceded from the Union, and the ensuing Civil
War consumed his entire presidency. His leadership and decision making during the most difficult time in our
history made him the best president in history. He achieved his goal to preserve the Union in
spite of the atrocities of the Civil War. More than 600,000 people died during the Civil War, when the population
of the U.S. was only 31 million. He had strong convictions against slavery, and he felt that it was absolutely
critical that the Union be saved, restored, and preserved. Although he had no military background,
during his first year in office he studied and taught himself the strategies of
war. As president, he worked 18-hour
days. During his presidency, his 11-year-old son Willie died of Typhoid
Fever. In 1863, he abolished slavery with
the Emancipation Proclamation. He was re-elected in
1864, and in his second inaugural address in 1865, he promised "malice toward none and charity for
all." He wanted to restore the south and allow the blacks to vote. He
was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth shortly after his second term began.
2) James Polk
James Polk became the 11th president in 1845 as a Democrat. It could
easily be argued that he was the best president in history. Like Lincoln, he was a war-time president, but
his leadership during the war with Mexican pales when compared to the challenges that Lincoln
faced. Polk said that he would serve only one term, and he kept good on this promise,
not running for re-election in 1848. He was the most accessible president,
meeting with ordinary citizens who would come to the White House and
were willing to wait in line to talk with him. He was the hardest working president,
even having gas lights installed in the White House so that he could work through the night. He
was careful to understand the details of the budgets that he presented to Congress. He was responsible for the
Manifest Destiny, the great westward expansion of the U.S. Upon taking office, he had four
major goals: 1) The annexation of Oregon, from Great Britain; 2) The annexation of
California; 3) Fixing the credit mess; and, 4) Lowering federal tariffs. He successfully achieved all four of
these goals in addition to the annexation of additional Southwest territories
through the war with Mexico. He won that
war and fixed the credit mess by setting up an independent Treasury. It
was because of President Polk that we sing of the United States as a
continental nation "from sea to shining sea," words penned for the song America the Beautiful in 1895.
The Great Presidents
Our great presidents include five men who had a positive impact upon the country and the presidency. They made things better for the American
people while also strengthening the position of our country on the global scene. They set precedents that were felt far beyond
their own administrations. As it happens, all of the great presidents and good presidents served for more than four years.
3) George Washington
George Washington became the first president in 1789 as a Federalist (liberal). He elected to
serve only two terms, setting a precedent for
his office. He avoided getting involved in the war between France and England. He put down the Whiskey Rebellion in
Pennsylvania, insisting that taxes must be paid and that this was different from the taxes that had
previously been imposed by England. He was re-elected in 1792.
4) Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt assumed the presidency upon the assassination of President McKinley when he became the 26th president
in 1901 as a Republican. However, some would say that he was actually a Democrat. He
had a high-energy and charismatic personality; he was an electrifying
politician; and, he worked hard and was always busy. He believed that corporate America had become
too powerful. He halted industrialist J. P. Morgan's monopoly of the railroads. Through his Square
Deal, he enacted social reform against unsafe
conditions in sanitation, child labor, and unsafe conditions for coal miners
(he favored labor in the coal strikes). Regarding foreign policy, he believed that the
U.S. needed to civilize the rest of the world (similar to
McKinley and Bush 41). He supported local rebels in a revolution in Latin America, clearing the way for the
building of the Panama Canal. He
invoked the Monroe Doctrine, putting the U.S. in charge of the Western Hemisphere. In 1904, he won re-election with
the biggest majority of the popular vote in any presidential election, but he promised not
to seek another term after that one. He continued increasing business regulations
on unsafe and unfair labor conditions. The
Meat Inspection Act addressed the unsanitary conditions in the meat packing industry, and the Pure Food
and Drug Act addressed unsafe conditions in the processing of food and drugs. He greatly expanded conservationism through
the Antiquities Act. In 1908, he honored
his pledge not to seek another term, although he did run again in 1912.
5) Ronald Reagan
Ronald R. Reagan became the 40th president in 1981 as a Republican. He was known for being a
great patriot, and he reduced the size of government through cutbacks in
many federal programs. He drastically lowered
taxes through major income tax reform,
and he saved Social
Security from insolvency. He built up the military and introduced the
Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), and this resulted in the end of the
Cold War and the end of Communism in the U.S.S.R. He supported anti-communist governments
and forces around the world. He was
effective in getting legislation through Congress by reaching
across party lines, as the Democrat Party held a majority in the House
throughout his whole presidency, and the Democrats also held the Senate during part of his
second term. In his re-election victory in 1984, he won
the electoral vote for every state except for one. The low point of his presidency was his
involvement in the Iran Contra
Affair, where his administration secretly violated the Boland Amendment by facilitating
the sale of arms to Iran in order to secure the release of hostages and allow
U.S. intelligence agencies to fund the Nicaraguan Contras.
6) Harry Truman
Harry S. Truman assumed the presidency up the death of Franklin Roosevelt. He became the 33rd president in 1945 as a Democrat. He
is the only president to have used a nuclear bomb when he effectively brought
about the end of World War II by dropping
two atomic bombs on Japan. He instituted the
Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of
Europe. He ended
segregation in the armed services and the civil service. When war broke out in
Korea, and China supported North Korea, he sent troops to South
Korea, although this war ended in a stalemate. He was the first president to become involved
in the struggle in Vietnam. He was re-elected by
a narrow margin in 1948.
7) Franklin Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the 32nd president in 1933 as a Democrat. He
came from a wealthy family, and his personality included both charm and arrogance. He contracted polio at the
age of 39, which rendered his legs almost useless, even with the aid of ten-pound leg
braces. He was very charismatic and he exuded public confidence. He signed a
huge amount of legislation into law, but this was facilitated by a
Democrat majority in both houses of Congress throughout his entire
administration. In his New Deal, he signed legislation to fight the depression,
including bills on banking, investments, home building, and employment. He signed the Social
Security Act to provide for a safety net for the elderly and the
disabled. In an attempt to prevent any of his legislation from being overturned by Republicans, he tried to have additional members
added to the Supreme Court. Although this power grab failed, he did break with the precedent set by George Washington in
being the first man to run for a third term as president.
World War II had not yet touched the U.S. directly by 1940. However, just as Americans are reluctant to
change presidents during war, they also proved to be reluctant to change presidents during a depression. They
re-elected FDR to an unprecedented third term in
1940. Furthermore, FDR won a fourth term in 1944, although he probably
should not have run again because his health was so bad. This gave rise to the Twenty-Second Amendment
which says that no person shall be elected to the office of President more than twice. Although FDR had promised
neutrality, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he asked Congress for a declaration
of war against Japan and Germany. Perhaps the low point of his presidency was his internment
of 100,000 Japanese-Americans. Also, FDR knew about the Jews in German
concentration camps as early as 1942 although he made no concerted effort to help the Jewish
prisoners. FDR and his generals planned and executed D-Day in 1944
which eventually led to the end of the war in Europe, although he
died before the war ended, just three months into his fourth term. FDR's planning with the
Allies resulted in the formation of the United Nations after the war.
The Good Presidents
There are three other presidents who rank as good presidents. Any weak aspects of their presidencies were far outweighed by their strengths.
8) William McKinley
William McKinley became the 25th president in 1897 as a Republican. His opponent was William
Jennings Bryan, a Democrat who unsuccessfully ran for president three times. McKinley's
presidency had many similarities
to that of George W. Bush over 100 years later. He
was a spiritual man
with high standards of morality. At a time when corporate America ruled
political America, he believed that America should take a stronger leadership role
in the world, including American colonization, military power, and use of the world's resources. He believed that an
expansion of U.S. power would be good for the U.S. as well as for the rest of the world (much
like Bush believed in promoting democracy in other countries).
Cuba was a Spanish colony at this time, and the people there
were being subjected to much human suffering (much like the
humanitarian argument for invading Iraq in 2003). McKinley was greatly influenced by Theodore
Roosevelt, his Assistant Secretary of the Navy. In 1898, the
U.S.S. Maine was sent to patrol the waters near Cuba, but it
mysteriously exploded, and it was assumed that this was the result of hitting a
Spanish mine. (Later it was confirmed that there
had been a malfunction in the engine room.) The U.S. declared war on Spain, and the Spanish-American
war ensued. The U.S. quickly won the war and became an imperial power by taking control of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the
Philippines, and Guam. McKinley won re-election in 1900, with Roosevelt as his vice president, but McKinley was assassinated in
Buffalo, New York by Leon Czolgosz on September 6th, 1901. (As
another parallel to the Bush administration, it was almost exactly 100 years later when the
terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 occurred.) McKinley became the third president to be
assassinated in 36 years.
9) Calvin Coolidge
Calvin Coolidge became the 30th president in 1923 as a Republican. He believed in a small federal government. He
vetoed many spending bills, he lowered taxes, and the
U.S. enjoyed a prosperous and growing economy. However, he failed to
anticipate the coming depression. He was re-elected in 1924. He
chose not to run again in 1928 simply because he
felt that no man should hold the office for ten years.
The Poor Presidents
By far, most of our presidents have been poor presidents. Although
some of them had positive accomplishments, each one had net negative impact as president. Of these 34 poor
- Two were impeached.
- One resigned.
- One was censured by Congress.
- Five were never elected by the people as president.
- One never registered to vote.
- One was kicked out of his own party.
- One was accused of treason by his critics.
- (At least) six were pro-slavery (racists).
- One was mentally unstable.
- Seven actually hated the presidency.
- One had an illegitimate child.
- One was married to a woman who was not yet divorced from her previous husband.
- 17 were unable to be elected to an additional term.
- Six were not even re-nominated by their own party.
- 10 served less than a full 4-year term in office.
- Eight died in office.
This is a sad commentary on our presidents because the bar
for being a good president is really quite low. As it turns out, to keep from being on the
list of poor presidents, each one had only to:
- Serve at least a full four years as president, and show an
eagerness to be president and a patriot.
- Be re-elected (as long as he was still eligible to run),
or honor his promise not to run for re-election.
- Not resign; and, not be: impeached; accused of
treason; a racist; or,
- Serve admirably as Commander-In-Chief; minimize fraud in
his administration; and, do more good than harm.
10) Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower became the 34th president in 1953 as a
Republican. He didn't seek the presidency, but he was recruited by both major parties.
He was reluctant to
he thought he could bring about some positive
changes, and he was so popular as a World War II hero that he won easily. He
was a much better general than a president. As president he seemed
determined to make peace, and his presidency was a relatively leisurely
one, allowing him to play a lot of golf. His
greatest achievement as president was probably the Federal
Highway Act, enabling the construction of the interstate
highway system. He was not
proactive in civil rights, and he showed no real
support for de-segregation.
He suffered a heart attack in 1955, but his administration oversaw a time
of peace and prosperity, especially during his first term. He ended the Korean
War with an armistice instead of a victory, and he downsized the
military. He increased U.S. involvement in the Vietnam
crisis by siding with South
Vietnam, sending "advisors," and setting the stage for U.S.
escalation in the Vietnam War for the next twenty years (which also
ended without victory). During his second term, the Cold War
escalated, the U.S.S.R. gained a lead in the space race, and Castro took over in Cuba. His interactions
with Korea, Vietnam, U.S.S.R., and Cuba made for a relatively weak administration in foreign
affairs, especially for a five-star general.
11) George W. Bush
George Walker Bush became the 43rd president in 2001 as a
Republican. He was the son of the 41st president--the only father and son to serve as president other than
John Adams and John Quincy Adams. In the 2000 election, he
lost the popular vote (the third president to do so) to
Vice President Al Gore, and there was extensive controversy over the vote count in Florida, where that state's
electoral votes would decide the election. Vote recounts
repeatedly showed that the race there was within just a few hundred
votes. Finally, in December, 2000, the Supreme Court gave the election to Bush.
When Osama Bin Laden
killed nearly 3,000 Americans in the 9/11 attacks in 2001, Bush launched the War in
Afghanistan. In 2003, he also invaded
his father’s prior struggle with Saddam Hussein)
based upon questionable evidence, including: Iraq's ties to
terrorist activities (not well documented); Iraq's violation of UN
sanctions; and, the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq (which
proved to be incorrect). The War in Afghanistan defeated the Taliban, and the Iraqi War
brought down Saddam Hussein. However, Al Qaeda remained as a terrorist entity.
Bush believed in expanding democracy throughout the world. His
spending as well as the
deficit. He expanded
the centralized federal government, including the creation of
the Department of
He was easily re-elected in 2004.
12) John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy became the 35th president in 1961 as a
Democrat. He had been a hero in the South Pacific during World War II, and he was the first Roman Catholic
president. Although he was the youngest president ever elected, he suffered from multiple chronic health problems,
including back pain and Addison's disease. Although the press did not report on his many
extra-marital affairs while he was in office, history has since shown that his standards for character and morality were
quite low. He supported the
Bay of Pigs, which was
an effort to have Cuban exiles overthrow Castro, but it failed miserably.
He created the Peace Corps, escalated our space program, and cut taxes. During
the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the U.S.S.R. was
establishing bases for nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba, he stood up to
the Soviet Union by blockading the region and preparing for an
invasion of Cuba. This was the closest the world has
ever been to a nuclear war, but the crisis was settled diplomatically.
He was weak
on civil rights until
1963 when television news showed the nation the awful white-on-black violence in the South.
Kennedy escalated U.S. involvement in the Vietnam
War by approving the assassination of the
President of South Vietnam. Oddly enough, only one week later he was assassinated himself--in Dallas, by
Lee Harvey Oswald. He was the fourth president to be assassinated, and he had served only about 1,000 days in
office. Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby only two days after Kennedy's assassination. Much controversy remains about the motive for
his assassination, including the following theories:
- Oswald acted alone, suffering from various personality disorders.
- Kennedy was assassinated on orders from the Mafia because
of Attorney General Robert Kennedy's crackdown on organized crime, and
the president's rebuff of Mafia-related personalities such as Frank
- He was killed by Castro
or by communist sympathizers who opposed his actions against Cuba.
- He was killed by anti-communist sympathizers who thought
he should have invaded Cuba.
- His assassination resulted from his desire to pull out of
Vietnam, as he didn’t think we could win the war. Such theories include
corruption among high level officials in the FBI, the CIA, the military, and other government
entities, along with defense contractors, in a vast conspiracy to
escalate the war for political and economic gain.
- JFK was killed because of where he stood on the civil
rights issue (again, as with the communist conspiracies, either because he was
too strong or too weak on civil rights).
Kennedy is not here considered to be a good president,
largely due to both his shortened presidency and his low standards for
13) Rutherford B. Hayes
Rutherford B. Hayes became the 19th president in 1877 as a
Republican. In the election of 1876, he lost the popular vote, and it took four months to settle disputes and
recount the votes in several states (much like the
election of 2000).A commission
was appointed to decide the outcome of the election, and the House of
Representatives had to confirm the decision.
During his administration, reconstruction
in the South was ended.
Although Hayes himself was not a racist, blacks were treated as second-class citizens,
setting the precedent for the next 85 years. The Civil Service was started under his administration.
During his campaign, he had promised not to seek re-election after one term, and he
honored that promise. He hated
However, after his presidency, he continued to
fight for civil rights for blacks.
14) James Monroe
James Monroe became the 5th president in 1817 as a Democratic-Republican (conservative). He
had previously served as Secretary of State. The issue of slavery
became a factor when Missouri became a state, and it had to be determined whether it would
be a free state or a slave state. With the Missouri
Compromise of 1820, Missouri was admitted to the Union as a
slave state, and Maine was admitted as a free state. Monroe favored returning slaves to Africa. Monroe's administration is
best known by the Monroe Doctrine, ensuring that none of the U.S.
would be subjected to colonization by other countries. He was re-elected in
15) James Madison
James Madison became the 4th president in 1809 as a Democratic-Republican. He had previously served as Secretary of State. He
usually dressed in black. During the War of 1812, the British burned the president's mansion and forced Madison to
retreat from Washington. Although the U.S. essentially lost that war,
it was ended with the Treaty of Gent in 1814. Before the news of the treaty reached New Orleans, Andrew Jackson won one last battle
at the Battle of New Orleans. He was re-elected in 1812.
16) Benjamin Harrison
Benjamin Harrison became the 23rd president in 1889 as a Republican. Although
President Cleveland won the popular vote, Harrison won the electoral college
(like the year 2000). Harrison was the grandson of former president William Henry Harrison, and the
only president who was the grandson of another president. Harrison nearly
bankrupted the Treasury. He secured pensions for Civil War veterans,
but there was widespread abuse when
these pensions were implemented. He also raised tariffs by
signing the McKinley Tariff Act, resulting in fewer imported goods, monopolies by U.S. companies, and
rampant inflation. He was unable to be re-elected in 1892.
17) Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant became the 18th president in 1869 as a Republican. The election of 1868 was the
first election where blacks were allowed to vote, and most blacks voted for Grant. In fact, he
wouldn't have won without their vote because he did not receive the majority of the white
vote. He was a loyal and humble man, and he
essentially crushed the KKK. However, his administration was filled with
scandals, corruption, and abuse of power. He
appointed his cronies to most positions,
and he was responsible for the Whiskey Ring fraud (concerning
tax revenues), the Credit Ring fraud,
and the many frauds associated
with the Department of Indian Affairs. (Custer's Last Stand occurred during his administration.) In
1873, he dealt with the economic depression in the North while tolerating
extensive violence in the South. He was re-elected in
1872, but history has viewed his as a failed administration.
18) Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson became the 3rd president in 1801 as a Democratic-Republican. He
had previously served as Secretary of State. He came
into office believing that a small federal government was best, but he
ended up substantially increasing the
reach of the federal government. His administration
brought about the Louisiana
Purchase, for only $15 million, essentially doubling the size of the U.S. However, he was criticized
for this, and questions arose concerning the constitutionality
of this purchase. He refused to become
involved with the war between France and England, essentially taking an
isolationist stand. He also signed the
Embargo Act, stopping all foreign trade. He
had an affair with
a slave woman, but he dealt with the bad publicity by just ignoring it. He
was re-elected in
1804, but he hated the
presidency so much that he omitted it from his
19) John Adams
John Adams became the 2nd president in 1797 as a Federalist. He dealt with the XYZ Affair
when the French interfered with U.S. trade ships and attempted bribery
during their war with England, and Adams eventually made a treaty with France. He signed the Alien
and Sedition Acts, making it a crime to speak out against
the government--possibly the low point of his presidency. Although he did establish a strong U.S. Navy,
his presidency was probably the low point of his distinguished political career. He was unable
to be re-elected to a second term, and this was so upsetting to
him that he snubbed the incoming president, Thomas Jefferson, and
he probably hated the presidency.
20) Grover Cleveland
Grover Cleveland became the 22nd president in 1885 as a Democrat. He was unable
to be re-elected in 1888, but he was re-elected in 1892,
making him the only man to serve two non-consecutive terms as
president. During the campaign of 1884, his morality was questioned when it was discovered that he had had an illegitimate child,
and he confessed to this. He was the only president ever to be married in the White House. As
president, he had the most vetoes (414) of any president so far. He supported the gold
standard, but the economy became even worse in the Panic of 1893. He was not
re-nominated by his own party.
21) Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton became the 42nd president in 1993 as a
Democrat. He balanced
the budget for the first time since the Jackson
administration. However, he failed to
take action against terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden,
even after the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole. Furthermore,
his administration included many scandals such as White
Water, and numerous sexual harassments suits against the president. He did reach across party
lines when he had no other choice. He
was re-elected in
1996, but in the Paula Jones case, Monica Lewinsky was called as a witness, and this uncovered more
incidents of the president's extra
marital affairs. When he lied under oath, he was accused of perjury
and abuse of power. He
became only the second president to be impeached,
but he was acquitted by the Senate.
22) Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama became the 44th president in 2009 as a
Democrat and the first African-American president. He came out of nowhere to
win the election in 2008 after being a national figure for only three years as a U.S.
senator. His far left views implied that he supported socialism
over capitalism. He won the Nobel peace prize in 2009 despite
having no foreign policy experience. He was an arrogant man, and he seemed to despise America's history of
colonization. He apologized to
the nations of Europe for American actions of the past. He implied that American
exceptionalism was no more special than that of other
countries such as Greece (a country that went bankrupt during his administration). He declared that the U.S.
was no longer a Christian nation.
Obama bailed out large banks and auto manufacturers. During
his presidency, the credit rating
of the U.S. government was downgraded for the
first time in history, although he blamed most problems on the previous
administration. He ran up historic deficits. His
2012 budget was voted down in the House by a vote of 414 to zero, and
in the Senate by a vote of 99 to zero. He spent
$800 billion on a failed stimulus package, later laughing about his
"shovel-ready" projects not being so shovel-ready after all. He said that unemployment
would top out below 8%, yet his administration was the only one in history to see
unemployment near or above 8% for four years. He promised
that his administration would be the most transparent in history, but
it was probably the least transparent--basically
bringing the dirty politics of Chicago to Washington. He passed Obama-care (national healthcare)
through a series of back room
deals. Although he promised not to raise taxes on
the middle class (anyone making less than $250K), Obama-care did just
that, as the Supreme Court ruled that the mandate for everyone to purchase
healthcare insurance was indeed a tax. He
was unable to effectively reach across party lines when
there was a Republican majority in the House. He
did get Osama Bin Laden, and he was re-elected in
23) Jimmy Carter
James Earl Carter became the 39th president in 1977 as a Democrat. He
negotiated peace between
Israel and Egypt in his Camp David Peace Accords. He expanded the federal
government by adding the departments of Energy and Education. During his administration,
the economy was awful, with double-digit inflation,
unemployment, and interest rates. When 52 Americans were taken hostage
from the U.S. embassy in Iran, he appeared to be a weak
president when he was unable to negotiate their safe return. After more than a year of imprisonment, the
hostages were finally released on his last day in office, and many
surmised that this was because Iran was fearful of the new president (Reagan). He was unable to be re-elected.
24) Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson became the 28th president in 1913 as a Democrat. His wife died in 1914, he
remarried in 1915, and he was re-elected
in 1916. He created the Federal Reserve to control monetary policy and stabilize U.S. currency. Wilson signed the Sedition
and Espionage Act, making it a crime to criticize the government. When
War broke out in Europe, he pledged to remain neutral, even when Americans were killed aboard British ships
that were attacked by Germany. However, in 1917, when Germany began attacking American ships, he had to renege on his
promise of neutrality. The U.S. declared war on Germany, but Wilson insisted that the U.S. maintain a separate Army
(instead of just being a part of an allied effort with Great Britain). Wilson desperately sought
to form the League of Nations, believing that it would put an end to war forever, and he
successfully negotiated the origin of the League of Nations at the Treaty of Versailles. However,
when he backed legislation for the U.S. to become a part of the League of Nations, it was
defeated in the U.S. Senate, so the U.S. never joined it. Wilson's legacy was an administration that
was unable to compromise (with Republican
leaders such as Henry Cabot Lodge). With the onset of World War II, the League of Nations lost credibility since
it had been proven to be unsuccessful in ending war forever, but it was
essentially replaced by the United Nations after the war. Wilson suffered a stroke
in 1919 and he was unable to govern effectively during his last 18 months in office.
25) William Howard Taft
William Howard Taft became the 27th president in 1909 as a Republican. He had no real desire to be president,
but he was pressured into running for president by President Roosevelt, as well as his own wife who
desperately wanted to live in the White House. Shortly after taking office, his wife suffered a stroke and was unable
to enjoy her role as first lady. President Taft hated the spotlight, and
the stress of the job caused him to over-eat until he weighed 355 pounds--our heaviest president. He was quick to
delegate responsibility as he was a weak leader and a poor decision maker. During the
election of 1912, President Roosevelt ran for the Republican nomination against President Taft, but Taft won. As
a result, Roosevelt ran in the general election as a member of the progressive
Bull Moose Party. This split the Republican
vote (much like Ross Perot's third-party runs in 1992 and 1996), paving the way for a victory for
the Democratic Party,
so he was unable to be re-elected. President
Taft later became the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
26) John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams became the 6th president in 1825 as a Democratic-Republican. He
had previously served as Secretary of State, and he was the son of John Adams, the
second president. The election of 1824 was the first presidential election to test the constitutional direction of
controversial elections. This was the first election where the popular vote was counted. Andrew Jackson had the most electoral votes,
but he didn't have a majority. The election then went to the House of Representatives where Henry Clay was
the Speaker of the House (and he had ended up in fourth place in the election). John Quincy Adams was the
winner of the vote in the House, and he chose Henry Clay as his Secretary of State. This brought
accusations of scandal and corruption, as some thought that Clay had
guided the election in the House in order to bargain with Adams. As a result, during Adams'
term in office, the Jacksonians in Congress blocked all of his legislation, making for a miserable administration for
Adams, and he hated the presidency. Jackson also thought that the election had been rigged.
The presidential election of 1828 was a repeat of the 1824 election between President John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, so it
was a very dirty election. The Adams campaign dug up dirt on Jackson by noting that Jacksons wife
Rachel had not been legally divorced from her first husband when she
married Jackson in 1791, 37 years earlier. Still, Adams was unable
to be re-elected, and Jackson won in a landslide. However,
his wife Rachel had endured much stress during the campaign. After the election, and
after she had picked out her dress for the inauguration, she died of a heart attack in
December, 1828, before ever seeing her husband as president. John Quincy Adams was so aggravated by
Jackson and the election that he
refused to attend Jackson's inauguration. However,
Adams went on to become a member of the House of Representatives, the
only president ever to serve in the House after his presidency. Also, Adams was the first
president to ever be photographed, in 1843.
27) George Herbert Walker Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush became the 41st president in 1989 as a Republican. He was a World War II
hero. His presidency oversaw the end of the Cold War. When Saddam Hussein
invaded Kuwait, President Bush led a UN coalition to oust Hussein from
Kuwait in the Gulf War. He promised not to raise taxes, but large deficits forced him to renege on
this promise. Largely because of this, as well as third-party
candidate Ross Perot’s splitting of the Republican vote, he was unable
to be re-elected.
28) Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren became the 8th president in 1937 as a Democrat. The Panic
of 1837 was the first economic depression that the U.S. suffered, resulting in high unemployment and many bankruptcies.
The Panic of 1839 was even worse, due to a glut of cotton on the market, the major product and export. Van
Buren was incapable of making tough decisions. He
spoke out against the annexation of Texas, basically because this allowed him a way of ducking the slavery
issue. He was unable to be re-elected in
29) Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon Baines Johnson assumed the presidency when JFK was
assassinated. He became the 36th president in 1963 as a Democrat. In his
Great Society, he signed a flood of legislation, second only to FDR,
including the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicaid, Food stamps, EPA
laws, National Public Radio, and the Public Broadcasting System.
Like FDR, his legislative victories were made possible by a Democrat majority in both houses of Congress throughout
his entire administration. Although his legacy may be the Civil Rights Act, politics may have overruled his
compassion and sincerity, as he sometimes referred to it as the "N... bill." He
greatly escalated the Vietnam War, in a losing cause. He was so unpopular for this that he decided not
to run for re-election in 1968. He would have been unable to be re-elected, as he had no chance of winning.
30) Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover became the 31st president in 1929 as a Republican. When
World War I veterans marched on Washington, demanding bonuses, he ordered General MacArthur to stop
the march, and this ended in violence against the
protesters. Hoover was a business man and a hard worker, but he had no charisma and he was unable to do
anything to pull the U.S. out of depression. He hated
(detested) the presidency, and he was unable to be re-elected
31) Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson became the 7th president in 1829 as a
Democrat (a Jeffersonian). His opponents nicknamed him Jackass, and this image stuck as the mascot of the
Democratic Party. He supported slavery and he was a slaveholder himself.
Although he was a good general, he was actually a poor president. He blamed the politics of the opposing party
(and perhaps politics in general) for his wife's death. He fired his whole
Cabinet, and he went through four Secretaries of State. He signed the Indian
Removal Act of 1830, leading to the infamous Trail of Tears where many peaceful Indians lost their lives during
their "removal." He
in 1832. During Jackson's presidency, the
state of South Carolina nearly seceded from the Union
over the Nullification Crisis (an issue of taxation). During
"The bank War," Jackson closed the Bank of the United States,
causing him to be censured by Congress.
32) Richard M. Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon became the 37th president in 1969 as a
established diplomatic relations with China, and he agreed to weapons
limitations with the U.S.S.R. However,
his administration goes down in history as one that abused the power of the presidency
on many fronts. He escalated the Vietnam War and used it for political advantage. He
in 1972. He wire-tapped phones at leisure, including those of politicians and reporters, and he
apparently considered himself to be above the law. The Watergate burglary and cover-up proved to be his downfall. With impeachment and
prosecution looming, he resigned in 1974, becoming the only president to resign from office.
Although he was a master politician and he
reached across party lines, he ranks near the bottom of
the list due to his abuse of power and impending impeachment.
33) Gerald R. Ford
Gerald R. Ford assumed the presidency upon the resignation of President Nixon. He
became the 38th president in 1974 as a Republican. He
granted a full pardon to President Nixon. Although he wanted to
escalate the war in Vietnam, Congress would not oblige, and he was in
power when Saigon fell to the Communists. Since he was unable to be re-elected in
1976, he was never elected by the people as president. He
served less than two-and-a-half years in office.
34) Chester A. Arthur
Chester A. Arthur assumed the presidency upon the assassination of President Garfield. He
became the 21st president in 1881 as a Republican. He was the third president to serve in
1881. He was competent, but he liked to party, and he was
not a hard worker. He
signed the Pendleton Act which reformed
the Civil Service, and he upgraded the Navy. He was not
re-nominated by his party in 1884, so he was unable
to be re-elected, and he was never elected by
the people as president, and he served less than
three-and-a-half years in office.
35) Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson assumed the presidency upon Lincoln's assassination. He became the 17th
president in 1865 as a member of the Democrat-Union (liberal) Party. He had no formal schooling
at all. He was probably the most racist of
all presidents and he hindered the reconstruction
of the South. He fought for
amnesty for veterans, but he sought no rights for blacks. He executed his veto
power 29 times, more than any other president to that time, indicating an inability to reach across party lines.
Congress charged that he violated the Tenure of Congress Act,
which required Congressional approval for appointed officials, by firing Secretary of
State Stanton and replacing him with Ulysses S. Grant. As
a result, he was the first president to be impeached. He
avoided conviction and removal from office by only one vote. His tenure as president
weakened the office of the presidency considerably. He
was unable to be re-elected,
so he was never elected by
the people as president, and he served
less than four years in office. After his presidency, he became the first
former president to become a U.S. Senator.
36) James Buchanan
James Buchanan became the 15th president in 1857 as a Democrat. He never married and it's
quite possible that he was gay. He was one of the worst presidents, and some of his critics even thought that
he was guilty of treason. During his oath of office,
he omitted the pledge to "preserve, defend, and protect the Union." He was pro-slavery. He
re-nominated, so he was not able to be re-elected, but hated
the presidency and was happy to leave it.
37) Warren G. Harding Warren G. Harding became the 29th president in 1921 as a Republican. He was
a poor leader. He signed the Budget and Accounting Act which
gave the executive branch greater control over spending, and required
the president to submit an annual budget. He
first arms limitations by
promoting world naval disarmament.
Harding died in 1923, presumably
of natural causes, after serving only two years and five
months in office. After his death, many scandals of
his administration came to light, including the Teapot Dome scandal where members of his
administration were involved in the illegal leasing of oil reserves.
38) Millard Fillmore
Millard Fillmore assumed the presidency upon the death of President Taylor. He became the 13th
president in 1850 as a member of the Whig Party.
He was a poor president. He signed the Compromise of 1850 as a
supporter of slavery. He was not even
re-nominated by his own party for the next election, so
he was unable to be re-elected,
he was never elected by
the people as president, and he served
only two years and eight months in office.
39) Franklin Pierce Franklin Pierce became the 14th president in 1853 as a
Democrat. He was a poor president, and an alcoholic; and, he was mentally
unstable. Just after he was elected, his 11-year-old
son was killed in a train accident. He had previously lost two other children, and this was his last surviving
child. During his presidency, his vice president also died. He
was pro-slavery, and he was not re-nominated by
his party, so he was unable to be re-elected. After
leaving office, he lived out the rest of his life as a recluse.
40) John Tyler
John Tyler assumed the presidency upon the death of President William Henry Harrison.
He became the 10th president in 1841 as a member of the Whig Party. He was a poor president,
and he was kicked out of his own party. During
his administration, the modern day border with Canada was established, and the state of Texas was
annexed. He was not re-nominated in 1844, so he was unable to be
re-elected, and was never elected by the
people as president, and he served less than four years
41) Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor became the 12th president in 1849 as a member
of the Whig (conservative) Party. He was not a politician. He was a Mexican War
hero, and his nickname was Old Rough 'n Ready. He
never registered to vote, and he
didn't even vote in his own election. He
died in 1850, probably of
cholera, after serving only 16
months in office.
42) James A. Garfield
James A. Garfield became the 20th president in 1881 as a Republican. He had narrowly defeated
Ulysses S. Grant in the Republican convention. He was the only preacher to ever become
president. He was perhaps the most detail-oriented of all presidents. In July, 1881, he was
shot by an assassin, Charles G. Guiteau, although he lingered for two months
before he died, after serving
only six months in office. He was the second
president to be assassinated in 16 years.
43) William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison became the 9th president in 1841 as a member of the Whig Party. His campaign
slogan had been "Tippecanoe and Tyler too," commemorating the heroics
of Harrison and his Vice President in the Indian Wars. Harrison was 68 years old when he became
president. At his inauguration, he gave
a two-hour speech, in the outdoors, on a very cold day. As a result, he contracted pneumonia, and he died after serving only one month in
Please note that this
list currently ends at 43 presidents, but we have had 45 presidencies.
This is due to the following:
Grover Cleveland had two non-consecutive presidencies; and,
2) Donald J. Trump, our current president is still
in office and yet to be evaluated.
The Presidents in Chronological Order:
1) George Washington, 1789 – 1797, Federalist
2) John Adams, 1797 – 1801, Federalist
3) Thomas Jefferson, 1801 – 1809, Democrat-Republican
4) James Madison, 1809 – 1817, Democrat-Republican – The War
5) James Monroe, 1817 – 1825, Democrat-Republican
6) John Quincy Adams, 1825 – 1829, Democrat-Republican
7) Andrew Jackson, 1829 – 1837, Democrat
8) Martin Van Buren, 1837 – 1841, Democrat
9) William Henry Harrison, 1841 – 1841, Whig
10) John Tyler, 1841 – 1845, Whig
11) James K. Polk, 1845 – 1849, Democrat – Mexican-American War
12) Zachary Taylor, 1849 – 1850, Whig
13) Millard Fillmore, 1850 – 1853, Whig
14) Franklin Pierce, 1853 – 1857, Democrat
15) James Buchanan, 1857 – 1861, Democrat
16) Abraham Lincoln, 1861 – 1865, Republican – The Civil War
17) Andrew Johnson, 1865 – 1869, Democrat-Union
18) Ulysses S. Grant, 1869 – 1877, Republican
19) Rutherford B. Hayes, 1877 – 1881, Republican
20) James A. Garfield, 1881 – 1881, Republican
21) Chester A. Arthur, 1881 – 1885, Republican
22) Grover Cleveland, 1885 – 1889, Democrat
23) Benjamin Harrison, 1889 – 1893, Republican
24) Grover Cleveland, 1893 – 1897, Democrat
25) William McKinley, 1897 – 1901, Republican –
26) Theodore Roosevelt, 1901 – 1909, Republican
27) Howard Taft, 1909 – 1913, Republican
28) Woodrow Wilson, 1913 – 1921, Democrat, World War I
29) Warren G. Harding, 1921 – 1923, Republican
30) Calvin Coolidge, 1923 – 1929, Republican
31) Herbert Hoover, 1929 – 1933, Republican
32) Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933 – 1945, Democrat – World War II
33) Harry S. Truman, 1945 – 1953, Democrat – World War II, Korean War
34) Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953 – 1961, Republican – Korean War
35) John F. Kennedy, 1961 – 1963, Democrat – The Vietnam War
36) Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963 – 1969, Democrat – The Vietnam War
37) Richard M. Nixon, 1969 – 1974, Republican – The Vietnam War
38) Gerald R. Ford, 1974 – 1977, Republican – The Vietnam War
39) Jimmy Carter, 1977 – 1981, Democrat
40) Ronald Reagan, 1981 – 1989, Republican
41) George Herbert Walker Bush, 1989 – 1993, Republican – Gulf War
42) Bill Clinton, 1993 – 2001, Democrat
43) George W. Bush, 2001 – 2009, Republican – Afghan War, Iraq War
44) Barack Hussein Obama, 2009 – 2017, Democrat – Afghan War, Iraq War
45) Donald J. Trump, 2017 – , Republican – Afghan War, Iraq War
Green = Positive
Red = Negative
Blue = Historical Re-occurrence
Owen Weber 2017