Special Report

Historians Rank Every President

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

41. Franklin Pierce
> Years served: 1853-1857
> Best performing category: International relations (37.5)
> Worst performing category: Pursued equal justice for all (22.6)
> Party affiliation: Democratic

New Hampshire-born Franklin Pierce, the 14th president, failed in handling the divisions over slavery. He attempted to solve the division by populating his Cabinet with extremists from both ends of the spectrum. Due to a series of ill-fated decisions, including one that led to violence and deaths in Kansas, Pierce lost his party’s support, and he was denied the nomination.

Source: 37467370@N08 / Flickr

42. Andrew Johnson
> Years served: 1865-1869
> Best performing category: International relations (40.1)
> Worst performing category: Relations with congress (17.1)
> Party affiliation: National Union

Andrew Johnson, a North Carolinian and the 17th president, had the bad fortune of following Abraham Lincoln in the White House after the latter’s assassination. He took office as the Civil War was winding down. Johnson’s moderate Reconstruction policies in the South enraged Radical Republicans, who favored severe measures, and brought about his impeachment. He was later acquitted, but his reputation was left in tatters.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

43. James Buchanan
> Years served: 1857-1861
> Best performing category: Administrative skills (34.0)
> Worst performing category: Crisis leadership (17.4)
> Party affiliation: Democratic

James Buchanan, the only bachelor president and a Pennsylvania native, failed in his efforts to find common ground between the North and the South, which lead to the Civil War. By December 1860, South Carolina voted to secede from the Union and was followed by seven other Southern states. Although Buchanan attempted to quell the bellicose actions sweeping the South, with war seemingly unavoidable, the 15th president seemed to fill the rest of his days in office running out the clock.

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