Special Report

Historians Rank Every President

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

16. William McKinley
> Years served: 1897-1901
> Best performing category: Public persuasion (67.4)
> Worst performing category: Pursued equal justice for all (41.4)
> Party affiliation: Republican

On the watch of the 25th American president, William McKinley, the country became a global empire by going to war with Spain and acquiring Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. McKinley began his political career in the House of Representatives, representing Ohio, and then went on to serve as governor before being tapped for a White House run. A Republican, he won two resounding victories against Democrat William Jennings Bryan. Yet he died from gunshot wounds early in his second term and was succeeded by his vice president, Theodore Roosevelt.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

17. James Madison
> Years served: 1809-1817
> Best performing category: Moral authority (72.9)
> Worst performing category: Pursued equal justice for all (47.2)
> Party affiliation: Democratic-Republican

James Madison, the fourth president and one of the founding fathers, had sponsored as a member of the House of Representatives the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights. On his presidential watch, the country was compelled to join the War of 1812, based on a dispute between the United States and Britain over the latter’s violations of U.S. maritime rights.

Source: GBlakeley / Getty Images

18. Andrew Jackson
> Years served: 1829-1837
> Best performing category: Public persuasion (82.2)
> Worst performing category: Pursued equal justice for all (31.2)
> Party affiliation: Democratic

Andrew Jackson, known as Old Hickory, was the first president elected from west of the Appalachian Mountains, the first one born into poverty, and the first who won the presidency through direct appeal to voters. The seventh commander in chief was also a revered military officer in battles on the frontier. The political movement of elected, rather than appointed, officials became known as Jacksonian Democracy. Jackson left office more popular than when he assumed it, and his election set the stage for men of humble means to aspire to the presidency.

Source: White House research / Wikimedia Commons

19. John Adams
> Years served: 1797-1801
> Best performing category: Moral authority (70.7)
> Worst performing category: Public persuasion (50.7)
> Party affiliation: Federalist

John Adams’ star had been fading before his legacy and writings were studied. He had been an early proponent of independence from Great Britain, was the first ambassador to the Court of St. James, and the second president of the United States. He was also the father of John Quincy Adams, the sixth president. Adams, who was known as opinionated and irascible, could alienate friends and rivals alike, including Thomas Jefferson, who served as his vice president. The two died on the same day, July 4, 1826, Adams in his native Massachusetts, the town of Quincy, Jefferson at Monticello, in Virginia.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

20. George H. W. Bush
> Years served: 1989-1993
> Best performing category: International relations (77.3)
> Worst performing category: Vision/setting an agenda (46.1)
> Party affiliation: Republican

George H.W. Bush was a one-term president and the patriarch of the Bush family dynasty, which produced George W. Bush, a two-term president, and Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida and a failed presidential contender. After a career in public service, Bush, Reagan’s vice president, became the 41st president. Under his watch, the United States engaged in the first Gulf War, in which a multinational force expelled Iraq from Kuwait.

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