In honor of Presidents day, I am posting a new Top 10 list, this time for the Top 10 United States Presidents. When reading it, please remember that this list is by my opinion and knowledge of U.S. history. You probably will not agree with my list 100%, so feel free to leave your list in the comments section below. Constructive criticism is always welcome, and even encouraged for a list such as this one.
– Here are my picks for the top 10 U.S. Presidents:
#10: Woodrow Wilson (1913 – 1921)
The “schoolmaster in politics” and former President of Princeton might seem like an odd wartime President, but the nation fell in love with Wilson’s policies of peace and anti-corruption. Remember that the U.S. was fairly isolationist at the time. At home, Wilson pursued the corrupt wealthy corporatists who were expanding their financial domain. In 1913, he signed the Underwood Act and the Federal Reserve Bill. The former instituted income tax and reduced tariff rates. The Underwood Act created the Federal Reserve system. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which protects small business to this day, was created by Congress in 1914. Despite all this, Wilson still believed he had not done enough to save his country from the wealthy elite. “We are no longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority…” He led us through the first world war and managed to keep us out of his for most it. His dreams for world peace led to the creation of the League of Nations, which of course Congress would not allow us to join. Thanks a lot Henry Cabot Lodge.
#9: Andrew Jackson (1829 – 1837)
From the backwoods of South Carolina, this war hero, nicknamed “Old Hickory”, displayed tremendous courage in the Battle of New Orleans, our one victory in the War of 1812 (you know, the one which actually occurred after the war ended but happened anyway because news traveled slowly back then). Jackson was loved by the masses, mainly for being a representative of the “common man”. He was hard on the banks, and was brutal towards his political opponents. On the downside, he infamously used the spoils system to fill the federal bureaucracy with his party members and political allies, and supported the trail of tears, in which thousands of Native Americans were forced from their homes in the South-east so Americans could exploit the natural resources of the area. Though he was certainly not the most heroic President, he was a strong executive who led the U.S. through progress.
#8: John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1961 – 1963)
Although he was only President for roughly three years, JFK had a profound impact on America. He was the youngest President and the first Roman-Catholic in the office. His youth and wit symbolized the hope of a new generation of Americans. His economic programs got the country moving again, just as he promised in his campaign, and brought about the longest sustained economic expansion since WWII. Although he didn’t publicize it in order to keep the votes of white southerners, Kennedy supported the civil rights movement, and called for civil rights legislation at the end of his presidency. In response to Soviet advancements in science and space exploration, he set forth the goal to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. His aggressive foreign policy, however, got us into conflicts such as the Vietnam war (which was started by Eisenhower but escalated under his administration) and the Cuban missile crisis. The man had his series of affairs, but he never-the-less was a great President whose life and promising future were cut tragically short.
#7: Harry S. Truman (1945 – 1953)
Becoming President only eighty-two days after being sworn in as Vice-President for the first time, Truman oversaw the end of WWII and the formation of a new world order when he and other world leaders drew the initial battleground lines of the Cold War. He was successful in transitioning the U.S. economy from a war-based economy to a peacetime one through New Deal-like programs. Unfortunately, he was not able to get many bills passed through Congress because a majority of it was occupied by conservative Republicans who hated his policies (sounds familiar, huh?). Truman used this to his advantage in the 1948 elections, in which he campaigned calling the 80th Congress the “do-nothing congress”, allowing him to win reelection and get more Democrats in Congress. He was also extremely progressive for his time. Despite Congress thwarting many of his Fair Deal plans, Truman took action to advance civil rights by issuing executive orders like the one that desegregated the armed forces and outlawed racial discrimination in the federal government. The only real downside of his presidency that he alone was responsible for was our involvement in the Korean war, a deadly conflict that killed over 36,000 American soldiers, and created an enemy that is still incredibly hostile towards us to this day. Overall, the Korean war was a big negative in a largely successful presidency that was responsible for large-scale economic growth and social progress.
#6: Thomas Jefferson (1801 – 1809)
Although he is better known as a founding father, promoter of liberty, and one of the most influential intellectuals of the modern age, Thomas Jefferson was also a very successful President, and without a doubt the smartest President we’ve ever had. He cut the military budget, eliminated the tax on whiskey, and reduced the national debt by a third. Though he didn’t have the constitutional authority to negotiate such an acquisition, he increased the size of the country by half over night through the Louisiana purchase. The mark against Jefferson’s presidency is the Embargo Act of 1807, which attempted to establish American neutrality in the Napoleonic wars by banning American exports. Needless to say, the embargo failed and drastically hurt the U.S. economy. On the bright side, at least Jefferson didn’t get us into a war.
#5: Theodore Roosevelt (1901 – 1909)
The first Republican on this list, Teddy Roosevelt’s progressive ideology and policies were far different from those of modern Republicans. He saw the increasing power of large corporations, who often treated their workers poorly and monopolized their respective industries, and declared that it was the role of the government to stem the tide of these powerful corporations in order to protect the interests of the people. Amid his contributions to the progressive movement, he became the first President to use the Sherman Anti-trust act as a tool to regulate industries. He oversaw the construction of the Panama Canal. He received the Nobel peace prize for mediating the Russo-Japanese war, and is famously known for establishing many national parks and his environmental conservation programs. It would take all day to list all of Roosevelt’s accomplishments as President, but as you have probably noticed, for each President I have included a downside/negative of their administration for a complete and objective analysis. Roosevelt’s imperialistic foreign policy is the only real negative of his presidency. He was without a doubt an imperialist, but in his defense, many empires in Europe were building up their domains. I suppose it’s only a natural response for a leader of a great country to desire to expand its global influence when witnessing this build-up of empires. Roosevelt was indeed a badass, being shot during a speech and continuing it.
#4: William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton (1993 – 2001)
This sax-playing ladies man is a shining example for modern Presidents. He came from a poor and broken family in Arkansas, but was a star student and talented musician, allowing him to rise quickly and attend Georgetown University and Yale. He is also the first Rhode scholar to be President. The U.S. enjoyed the longest period of peacetime economic expansion during his administration than in any other time in history. He was also responsible for the lowest unemployment rates in recent times, the lowest inflation rate in decades, the highest home ownership rates in its history, and increasing economic equality. We actually experienced a budget surplus when he was in the White House. It’s too bad it didn’t last long. He focused his foreign policy on humanitarianism, bombing Bosnia and Iraq rather than starting new wars and conflicts. He might have been the greatest President since FDR, but we often forget that in the beginning of his presidency, Bill wasn’t all that successful. His health-care reform act was an utter political disaster, failing to move through Congress, and leading to the GOP winning a majority in both houses of Congress. Bill was able to dust himself off and make a comeback by adopting centrist policies that got him a second term. The Monica Lewinski scandal is the only other black mark against his presidency, even though it really didn’t matter. Clinton was the 2-term Democratic President who led the nation through a period of resplendent greatness, and served the office in between two Bushes who flushed their country down the toilet.
#3: George Washington (1789 – 1797)
#2: Abraham Lincoln (1861 – 1865)
#1: Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933 – 1945)