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Experts rank the best U.S. Presidents of all time

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    Experts rank the best U.S. Presidents of all time

    Over the course of 240 years, our presidents have made many integral and difficult decisions to help shape this country. Civil and international wars, economic crises, and deep-rooted bigotry are just a few major installments that our presidents have had to tackle. But the expectations of the president have evolved over time. In his book The Impossible Presidency, Jeremi Suri asserts that the White House has taken on infeasible demands of the president, such that he (or she) cannot possibly please everyone. 

    Despite these increasingly impossible expectations, some presidents have certainly made more of a mark than others—and Stacker draws on C-SPAN’s ranking of all 43 U.S. presidents to show you how they line up. Each president was rated based on their performance in 10 categories: political persuasion, crisis leadership, economic management, moral authority, international relations, administrative skills, congressional relations, ability to set an agenda, the pursuit of equal justice for all, and overall performance within the context of the times. Continue reading to see the reasons why some presidents remain household names, while others all but fade into the background of American history.

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    #43. James Buchanan

    15th President (March 4, 1857 _ March 4, 1861)
    Political Party: Democratic

    Political Persuasion: #43
    Crisis Leadership: #43
    Economic Management: #42
    Moral Authority: #43
    International Relations: #43
    Administrative Skills: #41
    Congressional Relations: #42
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #43
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #43
    Performance within Context of the Times: #43

    Though he intended to maintain peace between the pro-slavery south and anti-slavery north, Buchanan did little to prevent the conflict. A few days before he was elected, the Supreme Court passed the Dred Scott decision, denying the federal government power to regulate slavery in U.S. territories and depriving African–Americans of the rights of citizens. Hopeful that this decision would somehow smooth over the issue of slavery, Buchanan had worked to lobby a fellow Pennsylvanian Supreme Court justice to vote with the Southern majority. The Supreme Court gave Buchanan a heads up as far as their decision, and it became public that Buchanan supported it—arousing a heated reaction among abolitionists. Congressional Republicans were not happy with Buchanan’s proposed legislation, and did everything they could to hinder his agenda. This set the tone for what become Buchanan’s unfortunate legacy—his inability to calm the explosive relationship between the North and South that led to the Civil War—and his low marks for crisis leadership are what landed him at the end of this list.

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    #42. Andrew Johnson

    17th President (April 15, 1865 _ March 4, 1869)
    Political Party: National Union

    Political Persuasion: #42
    Crisis Leadership: #42
    Economic Management: #37
    Moral Authority: #41
    International Relations: #39
    Administrative Skills: #43
    Congressional Relations: #43
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #42
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #40
    Performance within Context of the Times: #42

    Johnson took office upon the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. His main presidential task was to reconstruct former Confederate states while Congress was not in session. While Johnson re-established many Southern states and slavery was on the way to being eradicated, new Southern governments, led by ex-confederates, quickly passed codes that controlled newly freed black citizens. Congressional Radical Republicans fought bitterly with Johnson over what they considered was a weak approach to post-war reform—including his vetoes within the Freedmen's Bureau and Civil Rights bills, and his efforts to convince the South not to ratify the 14th amendment (which awarded black people citizenship). Johnson’s actions created so much tension between himself and Congress that the House of Representatives tried to impeach him, but their attempts failed. Johnson’s strained congressional relations put him at 42nd place.  

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    #41. Franklin Pierce

    14th President (March 4, 1853 _ March 4, 1857)
    Political Party: Democratic

    Political Persuasion: #41
    Crisis Leadership: #41
    Economic Management: #41
    Moral Authority: #39
    International Relations: #40
    Administrative Skills: #39
    Congressional Relations: #40
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #41
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #42
    Performance within Context of the Times: #41

    When Pierce became president, the country was experiencing well-being as well as relative peacefulness. But his desire to expand the nation annoyed Northerners, who thought he was acting in the interest of those who supported slavery. However, the Kansas–Nebraska Act was what was most likely the biggest issue to arise during Pierce’s presidency. The legislation established Kansas and Nebraska into territories, making them available for the building of settlements and railroads, while also reversing the prohibition of slavery in Kansas. Pierce’s support for this bill led Kansas, formerly a free state, to become a battlefield for pro- and anti-slavery citizens. Pierce received his low rating primarily for his failure to pursue equal justice in his neglect to resolve this civil rights issue.

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    #40. Warren G. Harding

    29th President (March 4, 1921 _ August 2, 1923)
    Political Party: Republican

    Political Persuasion: #36
    Crisis Leadership: #39
    Economic Management: #35
    Moral Authority: #40
    International Relations: #37
    Administrative Skills: #42
    Congressional Relations: #34
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #40
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #33
    Performance within Context of the Times: #40

    As a Republican president, Harding cut taxes for the wealthy and for corporations, passed high protective tariffs, and restricted immigration. He also signed the Budget and Accounting Act, which integrated the federal budget system, and called for the General Accounting Office to analyze federal expenses. Harding’s presidency was also marred by scandal, particularly the Teapot Dome issue, in which Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall made a secret deal that allowed oil companies to tap the Teapot Dome oil reserve in Wyoming in exchange for monetary compensation, as well as other embezzlement-related scandals. However, Harding himself was never found to be tied to any of these dealings. It was Harding’s administrative skills that were most likely responsible for his ranking, as he hired untrustworthy officials who corrupted the executive branch.

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    #39. John Tyler

    10th President (April 4, 1841 _ March 4, 1845)
    Political Party: Independent

    Political Persuasion: #39
    Crisis Leadership: #36
    Economic Management: #39
    Moral Authority: #37
    International Relations: #28
    Administrative Skills: #38
    Congressional Relations: #41
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #37
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #41
    Performance within Context of the Times: #36

    Tyler was the first vice president to assume the presidency because of the death of his forerunner. In fact, he was nicknamed “His Accidency.” As he ran for office on the same ticket as Harrison, the Whig Party viewed him as representative of the common man, one who fought against the American Indians along with Harrison. Though he maintained Harrison’s cabinet, he was against much of the Whigs’ legislative program, which led the party to disown and attempt to impeach him. Their efforts failed, and Tyler continued to carry out his agenda—which included legislation that allowed a citizen to purchase 160 acres of public land, solving a boundary conflict between the U.S. and British North American colonies, and annexing Texas, which joined the Union later the same year. Tyler placed 39th because of his failed pursuit of equal justice; he was later elected to the Confederate House of Representatives. 

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    #38. William Henry Harrison

    9th President (March 4, 1841 _ April 4, 1841)
    Political Party: Whig

    Political Persuasion: #28
    Crisis Leadership: #38
    Economic Management: #38
    Moral Authority: #31
    International Relations: #42
    Administrative Skills: #40
    Congressional Relations: #38
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #36
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #37
    Performance within Context of the Times: #38

    Harrison passed away just 32 days into his presidency, so his accomplishments are limited. Leading up to his time in office, he served as governor of the Indiana Territory, where he negotiated the U.S. acquisition of land with American Indian tribes. Negotiations were rocky, which led to war with the Indian confederacy—in which Harrison famously defeated Shawnee leader Tecumseh in the battle on the Tippecanoe River. Considered a war hero, Harrison served as commander of the Northwest army in the War of 1812. From there, the Whig Party nominated him in the 1840 election. He died of pneumonia after delivering an extremely long inaugural address, during which he did not wear a coat or hat. He gained his ranking due to his shoddy crisis leadership skills, according to CBS News, perhaps due in part to the fact that he left it to the states to deal with the issue of slavery, and believed that antislavery movements threatened states’ rights. 
     

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    #37. Millard Fillmore

    13th President (July 9, 1850 _ March 4, 1853)
    Political Party: Whig

    Political Persuasion: #40
    Crisis Leadership: #34
    Economic Management: #34
    Moral Authority: #36
    International Relations: #34
    Administrative Skills: #36
    Congressional Relations: #36
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #39
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #39
    Performance within Context of the Times: #37

    Fillmore took office upon the death of Zachary Taylor. Leading up to his presidency, Fillmore had been supervising the debate surrounding the Compromise of 1850, made up of five laws that addressed the issue of slavery—California joined the Union as a free state, New Mexico joined as a territory, Washington D.C. saw the abolition of slavery, Utah gained a territorial government, and the Fugitive Slave Act made it so runaway slaves could legally be returned to their owners. Although Fillmore opposed slavery in his personal convictions, he believed the Compromise was a way of preserving the Union, and passed it to the disapproval of Northern states. He comes in 37th because of his pro-slavery legislation. 

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    #36. Herbert Hoover

    31st President (March 4, 1929 _ March 4, 1933)
    Political Party: Republican

    Political Persuasion: #38
    Crisis Leadership: #40
    Economic Management: #43
    Moral Authority: #29
    International Relations: #31
    Administrative Skills: #14
    Congressional Relations: #31
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #38
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #28
    Performance within Context of the Times: #39

    Months into Hoover’s presidency, the infamous stock market crash of 1929 transpired, sparking the Great Depression. Many people lost their jobs and homes, and resorted to living in run-down communities that came to be known as Hoovervilles. Though the actions of previous presidents undoubtedly contributed to the crash, the American people largely blamed Hoover. While he did take some measures to try to stimulate the economy, he believed in limited federal involvement and for relief to be delivered on a local level—he even vetoed bills that would have eased some of the economic woes. It’s no surprise that Hoover’s economic management is at the crux of his 36th place.

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    #35. Chester A. Arthur

    21st President (September 19, 1881 _ March 4, 1885)
    Political Party: Republican

    Political Persuasion: #37
    Crisis Leadership: #32
    Economic Management: #31
    Moral Authority: #35
    International Relations: #35
    Administrative Skills: #28
    Congressional Relations: #29
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #34
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #27
    Performance within Context of the Times: #32

    Arthur assumed the presidency upon the assassination of James Garfield. In office, he signed the Pendleton Civil Service Act into law, which created a bipartisan Civil Service Commission, declared that certain government jobs be appointed based on merit, and prevented government workers from being fired based on political reasons. Though he initially vetoed the Chinese Exclusion Act, Congress pulled rank and limited the ban on Chinese immigrants to 10 years, at which point Arthur passed the bill. It also excluded immigrants who were paupers, felons, or considered insane. Arthur’s placement at #35 is due mostly to his rating in the pursuit of equal justice—the first major immigration law was passed under his administration, and it excluded people based on race, financial status and mental health.

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    #34. Martin Van Buren

    8th President (March 4, 1837 _ March 4, 1841)
    Political Party: Democratic

    Political Persuasion: #30
    Crisis Leadership: #35
    Economic Management: #40
    Moral Authority: #33
    International Relations: #26
    Administrative Skills: #26
    Congressional Relations: #28
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #33
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #30
    Performance within Context of the Times: #33

    While Van Buren was serving in the Senate leading up to the 1828 election, he spearheaded an oppositional party to John Quincy Adams: a coalition of Jackson-supporting Republicans that formed the basis of the Democratic party. Shortly into Van Buren’s stint as president, America was hit by financial upheaval, caused in part by the moving of federal funds from the then-obsolete Bank of the United States to state banks. To remedy this problem, Van Buren planned to create an independent treasury to deal with the funds that were moved to state banks, and to stop government expenses. But his plan sparked drawn-out debate and alienated conservative Democrats. Not surprisingly, Van Buren’s economic management is responsible for his low ranking. His upholding of Jackson’s economic policies did not help the country’s financial turmoil, and he blamed the state of the economy on American and foreign businesses and banks.

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    #33. George W. Bush

    43rd President (January 20, 2001 _ January 20, 2009)
    Political Party: Republican

    Political Persuasion: #25
    Crisis Leadership: #25
    Economic Management: #36
    Moral Authority: #34
    International Relations: #41
    Administrative Skills: #34
    Congressional Relations: #25
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #26
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #19
    Performance within Context of the Times: #35

    During his first term in the White House, Bush was preoccupied with the September 11th attacks, in response to which he sent U.S. troops into Afghanistan in attempts to disband the Taliban government and by extension, defeat Osama Bin Laden. Bush also established the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to combat further terrorist attacks. In 2003, he made the controversial decision to invade Iraq and take down Saddam Hussein, whom he argued had been linked to international terrorist groups and harbored weapons of mass destruction. Hussein was captured, but the U.S. ultimately found that the Iraqi government did not possess nuclear weapons. Many Americans accused Bush of exaggerating Iraq’s threat to the U.S. to justify invasion of the country, especially given that his father, President George H. W. Bush, had also waged war against Saddam Hussein during Operation Desert Storm. His low rating in international relations garnered him 33rd place.

     

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    #32. Rutherford B. Hayes

    19th President (March 4, 1877 _ March 4, 1881)
    Political Party: Republican

    Political Persuasion: #29
    Crisis Leadership: #30
    Economic Management: #25
    Moral Authority: #32
    International Relations: #33
    Administrative Skills: #29
    Congressional Relations: #30
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #32
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #32
    Performance within Context of the Times: #28

    Hayes’s main job in office was to reunify the nation at the tail end of the Reconstruction era. In fact, the only states that were still in need of reunification were Louisiana and South Carolina. Hayes planned to remove soldiers fighting for Republican governments in those states if leading Democrats promised to abide by the civil and voting rights of black and white Republicans. He leaned on healthy local self-government to do the job. But this plan backfired—racism remained prevalent and African Americans didn’t gain voting rights for some time. Hayes hoped for a “new Republican party” in the South that would attract conservatives and white businessmen. But ultimately, Hayes couldn’t win the support of the entire South. He ranked low because of his pursuit of equal justice—particularly because he did not involve himself enough in securing rights for African Americans (instead leaving it up to the states).   

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    #31. Zachary Taylor

    12th President (March 4, 1849 _ July 9, 1850)
    Political Party: Whig

    Political Persuasion: #27
    Crisis Leadership: #28
    Economic Management: #28
    Moral Authority: #28
    International Relations: #30
    Administrative Skills: #35
    Congressional Relations: #35
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #30
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #34
    Performance within Context of the Times: #30

    Taylor, a past military hero, was president in the years leading up to the Civil War, when slavery and its expansion into America’s Western territories caused significant conflict between Northern and Southern states. Although he himself owned slaves, Taylor’s nationalism was the basis of his aversion to creating new slave states. His idea to have the Mexican Cession territories immediately become states and leave decisions about slavery to state constitutions led to extensive debate. Taylor is yet another president from the pre-Civil War era who has earned low marks in the pursuit of equal justice due to inaction regarding slavery.

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    #30. Benjamin Harrison

    23rd President (March 4, 1889 _ March 4, 1893)
    Political Party: Republican

    Political Persuasion: #32
    Crisis Leadership: #33
    Economic Management: #32
    Moral Authority: #30
    International Relations: #27
    Administrative Skills: #30
    Congressional Relations: #26
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #31
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #24
    Performance within Context of the Times: #31

    Leading up to his election, Harrison was known for creating the first “front porch” campaigns, in which he gave short talks to visiting delegations in Indianapolis. In office, Harrison’s backing of protective tariffs have been said to cause the foundation for future economic turmoil because of its impact on consumer prices. He signed the Sherman Antitrust Act, the first legislation that banned certain types of industrial monopolies. But he did show initiative in terms of foreign affairs—his state department communicated with Britain and Germany to establish terms for an American protectorate in the Samoan Islands, and prevented Britain and Canada from over-hunting Bering Sea seals. His economic and crisis management skills earned him his placement: in the wake of an existing economic depression, his administration set aside a billion dollars in a peacetime economy—a decision with which many Americans disagreed.

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    #29. James A. Garfield

    20th President (March 4, 1881 _ September 19, 1881)
    Political Party: Republican

    Political Persuasion: #21
    Crisis Leadership: #31
    Economic Management: #29
    Moral Authority: #22
    International Relations: #36
    Administrative Skills: #32
    Congressional Relations: #27
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #25
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #20
    Performance within Context of the Times: #27

    The former Civil War General spent just 200 days in office before meeting an untimely assassination. During the time he did have, he assembled his cabinet and made political appointments. Just as he was about to set his plan of civil service reform in motion, an embittered attorney who had been denied a political appointment shot Garfield while he was on his way to Williams College, injuring him to the extent that he died less than three months later. Garfield’s rating for international relations most heavily contributed to his 29th place—the man he appointed Secretary of State was preoccupied to the extent that he didn’t have time to deal with Latin American affairs, the issue of Chinese immigration and other pressing international issues.
     

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    #28. Richard Nixon

    37th President (January 20, 1969 _ August 9, 1974)
    Political Party: Republican

    Political Persuasion: #26
    Crisis Leadership: #27
    Economic Management: #23
    Moral Authority: #42
    International Relations: #10
    Administrative Skills: #24
    Congressional Relations: #37
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #24
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #21
    Performance within Context of the Times: #34

    Nixon is probably best remembered as having resigned from office as a result of his involvement in the Watergate scandal—when a group of individuals associated with Nixon’s campaign broke into the DNC at the Watergate complex to place listening devices and steal documents. Nixon denied having knowledge of the break-ins, but audio tape revealed that he attempted to cover up the crime. Facing impeachment, Nixon chose to resign. His actual presidential accomplishments include negotiating weapons control with Russia, making diplomatic headway with Communist China, pulling troops out of Vietnam, and enforcing anti-crime efforts. While his international relations skills were notable, his moral authority ranking is what placed him at #28 on the list.

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    #27. Calvin Coolidge

    30th President (August 2, 1923 _ March 4, 1929)
    Political Party: Republican

    Political Persuasion: #24
    Crisis Leadership: #29
    Economic Management: #22
    Moral Authority: #21
    International Relations: #29
    Administrative Skills: #25
    Congressional Relations: #18
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #29
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #29
    Performance within Context of the Times: #26

    “Silent Cal,” as he was nicknamed, took office when Warren Harding passed away halfway through his term. Coolidge worked to rectify the corruption that occurred under the previous administration, standing for traditionalism and respectability in a decade of substantial social and technological change. But this approach also involved abstaining from passing new legislation and facilitating reform. He cut taxes and limited government spending, economic policies that ultimately contributed to the 1929 stock market crash. Coolidge may have ranked decently for his congressional relations, but he ranked low for crisis leadership, international relations, agenda-setting, and the pursuit of justice. He did nothing to help struggling farmers, let the U.S. become unhealthily involved in Latin American affairs, limited the entry of European immigrants into the U.S., and kept quiet during controversies like the Scopes Trial.  

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    #26. Jimmy Carter

    39th President (January 20, 1977 _ January 20, 1981)
    Political Party: Democratic

    Political Persuasion: #35
    Crisis Leadership: #37
    Economic Management: #33
    Moral Authority: #14
    International Relations: #32
    Administrative Skills: #31
    Congressional Relations: #33
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #22
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #5
    Performance within Context of the Times: #29

    As Gerald Ford’s successor, Carter fought to remedy the faltering economy—succeeding in creating jobs and lessening the budget deficit, but faced a small recession in lowering inflation. He fixed the energy shortage, bolstered the national park system, created the Department of Education, improved Social Security and brought on a lot of women, African Americans and Hispanic people into government roles. Internationally, he facilitated an amicable relationship between Israel and Egypt, and negotiated the second round of the Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty (SALT) with the Soviet Union. Though Carter rated highly for pursuit of equal justice as seen through his domestic achievements and employment of minorities, he fell short in his crisis leadership skills; his SALT II negotiation ultimately caused the Iran hostage crisis

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    #25. Gerald Ford

    38th President (August 9, 1974 _ January 20, 1977)
    Political Party: Republican

    Political Persuasion: #34
    Crisis Leadership: #24
    Economic Management: #30
    Moral Authority: #23
    International Relations: #25
    Administrative Skills: #27
    Congressional Relations: #19
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #35
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #14
    Performance within Context of the Times: #25

    Ford took office after Nixon resigned, making him the first unelected president in American history. As vice president under Nixon, Ford pardoned Nixon for his crimes relating to the Watergate scandal, a decision that did not sit well with many Americans. Nonetheless, Ford strove to help the American public regain trust in the government in the aftermath of the debacle. As a Republican, Ford had a difficult relationship with a mostly Democratic Congress, which came into play when he tried and failed to secure military relief to South Vietnam. But, he did sign the Helsinki Accords, lessening strain between western countries and the Soviet Union. Ford’s greatest strength, according to C-SPAN, was the pursuit of equal justice. His lowest was agenda-setting, evidenced in his pardoning of Nixon and failure to regain public confidence in the wake of Watergate.

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    #24. William Howard Taft

    27th President (March 4, 1909 _ March 4, 1913)
    Political Party: Republican

    Political Persuasion: #31
    Crisis Leadership: #26
    Economic Management: #20
    Moral Authority: #25
    International Relations: #21
    Administrative Skills: #12
    Congressional Relations: #23
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #28
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #22
    Performance within Context of the Times: #24

    During his presidency, Taft dismantled many trusts, and supported amendments calling for federal income taxes and publicly elected senators. However, he angered Progressives by passing the Payne-Aldrich Act in an attempt to lower tariffs, which proved ineffective. He also ticked off both Progressives and Teddy Roosevelt when he made Richard Ballinger Secretary of the Interior, having rebuffed Roosevelt’s friend Gifford Pinchot. The situation ultimately caused a divide within the Republican Party—and between Taft and Roosevelt, who were once friends. Nearly a decade after leaving office, President Harding made Taft Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. While Taft’s administrative skills were on point, he received low marks for his political persuasion—a lot of his domestic decisions did not jibe with many Americans.

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    #23. Grover Cleveland

    22nd, 24th President (March 4, 1885 _ March 4, 1889; March 4, 1893 _ March 4, 1897)
    Political Party: Democratic

    Political Persuasion: #20
    Crisis Leadership: #22
    Economic Management: #24
    Moral Authority: #26
    International Relations: #23
    Administrative Skills: #22
    Congressional Relations: #22
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #21
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #31
    Performance within Context of the Times: #23

    Cleveland was the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms, and the only Democrat to win in the stretch of Republican electees that ran from Lincoln in 1860 to Taft in 1913. In office, he stayed out of foreign affairs and tried to decrease government spending, relying heavily on his veto power. He lowered protective tariffs, but this move cost him the election of 1888. During his second term, Cleveland had to deal with the 1893 financial crisis, which didn’t subside until 1896. While he ranked moderately well for his political persuasion (he strengthened the executive branch of government), he rated lowest for his pursuit of equal justice, or lack thereof. He was not a proponent of equal rights for African Americans or women’s voting rights, and felt that Native Americans should assimilate into society.

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    #22. Ulysses S. Grant

    18th President (March 4, 1869 _ March 4, 1877)
    Political Party: Republican

    Political Persuasion: #19
    Crisis Leadership: #21
    Economic Management: #27
    Moral Authority: #19
    International Relations: #19
    Administrative Skills: #37
    Congressional Relations: #20
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #23
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #10
    Performance within Context of the Times: #21

    This Civil War general strove to peacefully reunite the North and South after the destruction of the war, and to ensure rights for freed slaves. He saw the ratification of the 15th amendment, which gave black people the right to vote. But, his administration faced several scandals, including lingering damage from the Credit Mobilier scandal, and a tax fraud engagement involving federal employees. While Grant himself was never under investigation, he did hire corrupt government workers. He received decent marks for political persuasion and moral authority, but ranked lowest for his administrative skills.

     

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    #21. John Quincy Adams

    6th President (March 4, 1825 _ March 4, 1829)
    Political Party: Democratic-Republican

    Political Persuasion: #33
    Crisis Leadership: #23
    Economic Management: #17
    Moral Authority: #12
    International Relations: #15
    Administrative Skills: #18
    Congressional Relations: #32
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #15
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #9
    Performance within Context of the Times: #22

    J. Q. Adams faced a lot of congressional backlash during his time in office. Andrew Jackson, opposing presidential candidate to Adams, thought he won the seat unfairly, so Jackson’s congressional supporters gave him grief. Adams proposed the creation of interstate roads and canals, as well as the institution of a national university, but congressional Jacksonians thwarted many of these efforts. Adams did see the construction of the Erie Canal during his presidency, which facilitated the transportation of grain and whiskey to the east. He served only one term, but did go on to be a member of the House. Adams placed 21st due to his pursuit of equal justice, and by that token, his moral authority; he strove to abolish slavery and provide Native Americans with Western land, and was a strong proponent of free speech. 

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    #20. George H. W. Bush

    41st President (January 20, 1989 _ January 20, 1993)
    Political Party: Republican

    Political Persuasion: #23
    Crisis Leadership: #12
    Economic Management: #21
    Moral Authority: #17
    International Relations: #8
    Administrative Skills: #16
    Congressional Relations: #15
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #27
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #16
    Performance within Context of the Times: #20

    When he assumed the presidency in 1988, Bush faced a lot of political change. The Cold War finally saw its end, the Soviet Union disbanded, and the Berlin Wall fell. Bush did not interfere in these foreign affairs, but had to take point when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. He gained the support of the United Nations, U.S. citizens, and Congress to send 425,000 American soldiers to Iraq in order to liberate Kuwait via warfare. Bush’s decision also gleaned backlash from many Americans, who strongly condemned the resulting damage to Iraq and Kuwait. Nonetheless, he earned his ranking for his approach to international relations.

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    #19. John Adams

    2nd President (March 4, 1825 _ March 4, 1829)
    Political Party: Federalist

    Political Persuasion: #22
    Crisis Leadership: #17
    Economic Management: #15
    Moral Authority: #11
    International Relations: #13
    Administrative Skills: #21
    Congressional Relations: #24
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #20
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #15
    Performance within Context of the Times: #19

    Adams quickly became involved in the war between Britain and France upon Washington’s departure from the White House. When he attempted to negotiate a treaty with France, the French foreign minister demanded a bribe, which Adams refused. The ordeal became known as the XYZ Affair, and led to Adams’s popularity. That is, until he enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts, which allowed the government to deport threatening aliens and arrest those who disagreed with the government. Adams placed 19th for his moral authority and approach to international affairs—he attempted to resolve the conflict between France and Britain peacefully, and in the end, succeeded.

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    #18. Andrew Jackson

    7th President (March 4, 1829 _ March 4, 1837)
    Political Party: Democratic

    Political Persuasion: #7
    Crisis Leadership: #10
    Economic Management: #26
    Moral Authority: #20
    International Relations: #20
    Administrative Skills: #23
    Congressional Relations: #21
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #10
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #38
    Performance within Context of the Times: #13

    Jackson’s bold personality and tendency to veto congressional decisions sparked two new political parties at the time—Jackson supporters were known as Democrats, and those who opposed him became the Whig Party. The largest issue between the parties arose when Jackson attacked the Second Bank of the United States, and eventually charged it with unjust economic privilege. Another major issue came about when Jackson opposed the South Carolina legislature when it tried to nullify existing tariffs. He sent armed forces to South Carolina, but they eventually complied, and Jackson got credit for keeping the Union intact in a moment of crisis. He earned his rank due to his powers of political persuasion; his views toward the bank and his general support of states’ rights made him popular among American voters. 

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    #17. James Madison

    4th President (March 4, 1809 _ March 4, 1817)
    Political Party: Democratic-Republican

    Political Persuasion: #18
    Crisis Leadership: #19
    Economic Management: #19
    Moral Authority: #9
    International Relations: #22
    Administrative Skills: #17
    Congressional Relations: #13
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #18
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #18
    Performance within Context of the Times: #16

    Madison most famously wrote the first drafts of the constitution and co-wrote the Federalist Papers with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay. A couple years later, he took point on writing the Bill of Rights. Madison reluctantly led the country through the War of 1812. Though Americans considered the war successful due in part to their victory at the Battle of New Orleans, scholars assert that the relationship between the U.S. and Britain did not really change after the war. Madison’s moral authority won him his rank—he took measures to make sure the government made decisions fairly and acted in the interest of the people.

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    #16. William McKinley

    25th President (March 4, 1897 _ September 14, 1901)
    Political Party: Republican

    Political Persuasion: #16
    Crisis Leadership: #16
    Economic Management: #11
    Moral Authority: #18
    International Relations: #17
    Administrative Skills: #13
    Congressional Relations: #10
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #17
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #26
    Performance within Context of the Times: #18

    As president, McKinley guided the country through the Spanish-American War, with the intention of achieving Cuban independence. The U.S. came away from the conflict having acquired Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam. McKinley’s audacious approach to foreign intervention allowed the U.S. to be more active in international affairs. Domestically, he enacted the Dingley Tariff Act, the highest protective tariff in history, with the intention of building domestic industry. He was shot and killed by an anarchist not long into his second term. He gained the highest ratings for congressional relations—his work with Congress brought about a tariff that led to rich industrial growth.
     

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    #15. Bill Clinton

    42nd President (January 20, 1993 _ January 20, 2001)
    Political Party: Democratic

    Political Persuasion: #9
    Crisis Leadership: #18
    Economic Management: #3
    Moral Authority: #38
    International Relations: #18
    Administrative Skills: #20
    Congressional Relations: #17
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #19
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #6
    Performance within Context of the Times: #17

    The first baby boomer to take office, Clinton passed a lot of positive domestic legislation, including the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Violence Against Women Act, anti-gun violence bills, and educational reform. He signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, achieved a federal budget surplus. and launched air strikes against Iraq’s nuclear weapons programs. In his second term, the House of Representatives impeached Clinton due to his sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, but he was ultimately found not guilty. He rates 15th for his economic management—under his presidency, the U.S. experienced low unemployment rates, technology was thriving, and he realized the first federal budget surplus in decades. His pursuit of equal justice also can’t be ignored.
     

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    #14. James K. Polk

    11th President (March 4, 1845 _ March 4, 1849)
    Political Party: Democratic

    Political Persuasion: #13
    Crisis Leadership: #9
    Economic Management: #14
    Moral Authority: #27
    International Relations: #16
    Administrative Skills: #9
    Congressional Relations: #11
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #11
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #36
    Performance within Context of the Times: #12

    This dark horse president was responsible for the acquisition of the Oregon Territory from the British, as well as California and the southwest in the Mexican–American War. Domestically, he lowered tariffs and made improvements to the U.S. banking system. His crisis leadership and his agenda-setting, according to CBS News, earned him his rank—he got the country through a war and expanded its geographic area in the process.

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    #13. James Monroe

    5th President (March 4, 1817 _ March 4, 1825)
    Political Party: Democratic-Republican

    Political Persuasion: #17
    Crisis Leadership: #14
    Economic Management: #18
    Moral Authority: #16
    International Relations: #7
    Administrative Skills: #11
    Congressional Relations: #9
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #14
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #25
    Performance within Context of the Times: #11

    Although Monroe billed his presidency as the “Era of Good Feelings,” this promise didn’t exactly hold up. The issue of slavery presented a problem—the Northern states had done away with slavery, but the South still condoned it. The Missouri Compromise fixed the problem, letting Missouri join the U.S. as a slave state, and Maine to join as a free state. Monroe ran into another issue when he secured the purchase of Florida in 1819—four years of economic troubles known as the Panic of 1819. Most famously, Monroe issued his eponymous doctrine, which warned European countries against colonizing those in the western hemisphere. He ranked highest for his international relations skills, as evidenced by the successful prevention of further Western colonization.  

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    #12. Barack Obama

    44th President (January 20, 2009 _ January 20, 2017)
    Political Party: Democratic

    Political Persuasion: #10
    Crisis Leadership: #15
    Economic Management: #8
    Moral Authority: #7
    International Relations: #24
    Administrative Skills: #19
    Congressional Relations: #39
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #12
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #3
    Performance within Context of the Times: #15

    Obama was the first African American man to serve as president of the U.S. During his campaign and in his time in office, he vowed to bring about positive change. He set out to improve American race relations, but several instances of police officers arresting and killing black people occurred under his administration, as well as race-related protests. He got the economy in better shape in the wake of the 2008 recession, and generally had positive relationships with foreign countries. He passed the Affordable Care Act, retooled No Child Left Behind and overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, legalizing gay marriage nationwide. He ranked 12th for his pursuit of equal justice and moral authority, considering he instituted nationwide healthcare and fought for minority rights.   

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    #11. Woodrow Wilson

    28th President (March 4, 1913 _ March 4, 1921)
    Political Party: Democratic

    Political Persuasion: #11
    Crisis Leadership: #11
    Economic Management: #9
    Moral Authority: #8
    International Relations: #12
    Administrative Skills: #8
    Congressional Relations: #16
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #7
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #35
    Performance within Context of the Times: #10

    Known as the leader of the Progressive Movement, Wilson enacted a variety of reforms during his presidency, including new tax legislation, the prohibition of child labor, unjust business practices, and the confining of railroad workers to an eight-hour workday. In 1917, he proposed to Congress that the U.S. finally enter WWI by declaring war on Germany. The following year, he drew up a proposal to end the war between Germany and the Allied Powers—the Versailles Treaty—but it did not pass the Senate. His agenda-setting ability won him his rank, considering the positive legislation he passed domestically.   

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    #10. Lyndon B. Johnson

    36th President (November 22, 1963 _January 20, 1969)
    Political Party: Democratic

    Political Persuasion: #15
    Crisis Leadership: #20
    Economic Management: #12
    Moral Authority: #24
    International Relations: #38
    Administrative Skills: #6
    Congressional Relations: #1
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #8
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #2
    Performance within Context of the Times: #14

    Johnson took office upon the assassination of JFK in 1963. He first carried out the legislation that JFK planned to enact when he died, which included an amended civil rights bill and tax cuts. But he was known best for his Great Society program, which he proposed to Congress in 1965. The program encompassed things like educational aid, improvements in medicine, environmental conservation, the addition of Medicare, crime prevention and equal voting rights. He also helmed the space program that sent astronauts to the moon in 1969. He ranked highest for his congressional relations and pursuit of equal justice, which were wrapped up in his Great Society program and civil rights legislation. 
     

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    #9. Ronald Reagan

    40th President (January 20, 1981 _ January 20, 1989)
    Political Party: Republican

    Political Persuasion: #5
    Crisis Leadership: #8
    Economic Management: #16
    Moral Authority: #13
    International Relations: #9
    Administrative Skills: #33
    Congressional Relations: #8
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #6
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #23
    Performance within Context of the Times: #8

    This actor-turned-politician brought about economic growth, created jobs, sought to reduce government spending, and bolstered national defense forces, but this led to more government debt. Reagan’s economic policies were known collectively as Reaganomics. He carried out major tax reforms that were believed by many to primarily benefit the wealthy. His ratings in political persuasion, crisis leadership, and increasingly positive views of his economic management earned him ninth on the list. Under Reagan, the U.S. experienced its longest stretch of economic prosperity during a peaceful time, and he made positive steps toward peace as the Cold War approached its end. 

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    #8. John F. Kennedy

    35th President (January 20, 1961 _ November 22, 1963)
    Political Party: Democratic

    Political Persuasion: #6
    Crisis Leadership: #7
    Economic Management: #7
    Moral Authority: #15
    International Relations: #14
    Administrative Skills: #16
    Congressional Relations: #12
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #9
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #7
    Performance within Context of the Times: #9

    In office, JFK orchestrated a CIA-centric attempt to overthrow the Cuban government, which ultimately failed. He took military measures to thwart the Cuban Missile Crisis, which may have led to all-out nuclear war, and he set out to establish his New Frontier plan, which involved tax reform, positive labor and education amendments, and big pushes for civil rights legislation—but it never became fully realized. He gained the highest marks in political persuasion—he fought hard for labor, education, and civil rights. His work in crisis leadership should also be noted, considering he helped decelerate the nuclear arms race.

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    #7. Thomas Jefferson

    3rd President (March 4, 1801 _ March 4, 1809)
    Political Party: Democratic-Republican

    Political Persuasion: #8
    Crisis Leadership: #13
    Economic Management: #13
    Moral Authority: #6
    International Relations: #11
    Administrative Skills: #7
    Congressional Relations: #5
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #5
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #17
    Performance within Context of the Times: #6

    Before Jefferson’s presidency, political conflict arose between Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, which lead to the formation of two parties—the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans, which Jefferson eventually helmed. As president, Jefferson decreased the national debt, sent naval troops to combat Barbary pirates who interfered with American commerce in the Mediterranean, and secured the Louisiana territory from Napoleon in 1803, which encompassed 15 current states. Jefferson won a high ranking for his treatment of congressional relations and agenda-setting—he was, after all, the main author of the Declaration of Independence—and had to work closely with Congress to gain approval of the Louisiana Purchase Treaty.

     

     

     

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    #6. Harry S. Truman

    33rd President (April 12, 1945 _ January 20, 1953)
    Political Party: Democratic

    Political Persuasion: #14
    Crisis Leadership: #4
    Economic Management: #10
    Moral Authority: #10
    International Relations: #5
    Administrative Skills: #10
    Congressional Relations: #14
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #13
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #4
    Performance within Context of the Times: #5

    Truman found himself in the presidential hot seat upon the death of FDR in 1945. He made the difficult decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima at the end of WWII, and created programs to expand Social Security, introduce fair employment, and clean up slums, known collectively as the Fair Deal. He called for congressional aid for Turkey and Greece when the Soviet Union threatened to overtake the two countries, otherwise known as the Truman Doctrine. Finally, he attempted to keep violence to a minimum when North Korea attacked South Korea in 1950. It’s no surprise that his marks in crisis leadership and the pursuit of justice for all gleaned him sixth place, considering his approach to domestic and foreign affairs.

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    #5. Dwight D. Eisenhower

    34th President (January 20, 1953 _ January 20, 1961)
    Political Party: Republican

    Political Persuasion: #12
    Crisis Leadership: #6
    Economic Management: #6
    Moral Authority: #4
    International Relations: #6
    Administrative Skills: #5
    Congressional Relations: #6
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #16
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #12
    Performance within Context of the Times: #7

    As commanding general in the U.S. Army during WWII, Eisenhower brought his know-how in the area of foreign relations to the presidency. He took measures to lessen the impact of the Cold War, negotiated with the then-Soviet Union in the midst of the nuclear arms race, and facilitated peace at the South Korean border after years of war. Domestically, he continued the New Deal and Fair Deal policies, and initiated desegregation in schools and the armed forces. It was his crisis leadership skills that notched him up to 5th place, and he of course scored highly for moral authority—the basis of his approach to crisis management.

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    #4. Theodore Roosevelt

    26th President (September 14, 1901 _ March 4, 1909)
    Political Party: Republican

    Political Persuasion: #2
    Crisis Leadership: #5
    Economic Management: #4
    Moral Authority: #5
    International Relations: #4
    Administrative Skills: #4
    Congressional Relations: #7
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #4
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #11
    Performance within Context of the Times: #4

    Roosevelt entered the presidency due to the assassination of President McKinley. In office, he drove the U.S. to take a more active role in world affairs -- he facilitated Panama’s secession from Colombia in order to start building the Panama Canal, and won the Nobel Peace Prize for arbitrating the Russo-Japanese War. He was known for his “big stick” approach to foreign policy, in which he would negotiate peacefully, but not hesitate to use military force if need be. He ranked high for his political persuasion—he was known as the leader of the Progressive Movement, which encompassed his Square Deal program—conservation of natural resources, control of corporations, and consumer protection, as well as his belief that the government should do whatever it takes for the good of the people.

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    #3. Franklin D. Roosevelt

    32nd President (March 4, 1933 _ April 12, 1945)
    Political Party: Democratic

    Political Persuasion: #1
    Crisis Leadership: #3
    Economic Management: #5
    Moral Authority: #3
    International Relations: #1
    Administrative Skills: #3
    Congressional Relations: #3
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #3
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #8
    Performance within Context of the Times: #3

    Over the course of his three terms in office, FDR is most famous for instituting the New Deal to combat the effects of the Depression, and leading the country through WWII—no easy feats by any means. He famously said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” as part of his Fireside Chats—radio broadcasts to comfort the public during the Depression. He formed the New Deal Coalition, which was instrumental in reorienting American politics toward democratic tenets and establishing American Liberalism. FDR takes the third slot because of his political persuasion—he reassured the country during its worst economic crisis—and for international relations, as he guided the country through a major war. And he accomplished all of this while combating polio.

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    #2. George Washington

    1st President (April 30, 1789 _ March 4, 1797)
    Political Party: Independent

    Political Persuasion: #4
    Crisis Leadership: #2
    Economic Management: #1
    Moral Authority: #1
    International Relations: #2
    Administrative Skills: #2
    Congressional Relations: #2
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #2
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #13
    Performance within Context of the Times: #1

    As first president of the U.S., Washington did a pretty stellar job of helping to lay down the foundation of the country. Not only did he serve as commander-in-chief during the Revolutionary War, he established the cabinet system of governing (although, his cabinet members had conflicting views), and communicated well with department leaders. But in the midst of all this, Washington had to tackle some problems—some of the states hadn’t yet joined the Union, the French Revolution sparked political turmoil in which Washington became involved, and America’s army was in bad shape. Washington’s moral authority, economic management and performance within the context of the times earned him a second place ranking. He staunchly abided by the laws of the constitution, successfully thwarted the Whiskey Rebellion and navigated the presidency when the country was in its infancy.  

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    #1. Abraham Lincoln

    16th President (March 4, 1861 _ April 15, 1865)
    Political Party: Republican

    Political Persuasion: #3
    Crisis Leadership: #1
    Economic Management: #2
    Moral Authority: #2
    International Relations: #3
    Administrative Skills: #1
    Congressional Relations: #4
    Vision/Ability to Set an Agenda: #1
    Pursued Equal Justice for All: #1
    Performance within Context of the Times: #2

    Lincoln successfully led the country through the Civil War, and paved the way for the abolition of slavery by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. He is perhaps most noted for delivering the Gettysburg Address, which begins with the famous lines, “Four score and seven years ago,” in which he declares that all men are created equal. He died at the hands of John Wilkes Booth in 1965, who shot him during a play at Ford’s Theatre. Though Lincoln received high marks in all categories of government, historians put him at number one because of his crisis leadership. He heralded America through the deadliest war in its history, while keeping the Union intact. 
     

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