Special Report

Historians Rank Every President

Source: endymion120 / Flickr

21. John Quincy Adams
> Years served: 1825-1829
> Best performing category: Moral authority (70.1)
> Worst performing category: Public persuasion (42.7)
> Party affiliation: Democratic-Republican

John Quincy Adams, the eldest son of second U.S. President John Adams, became the sixth president. He was a diplomat before he became president and a U.S. congressman afterward. Adams was also an outspoken abolitionist. Some historians, however, see his presidential years as the low point of what until then had been an illustrious career of public service. As president, he favored creating a national university, holding the western lands in a trust and developing them slowly, and having Congress build a system of national roads using federal monies. All were denied by Congress.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

22. Ulysses S. Grant
> Years served: 1869-1877
> Best performing category: Pursued equal justice for all (64.0)
> Worst performing category: Administrative skills (40.8)
> Party affiliation: Republican

The Ohio-born Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th president, was also a military hero in the last stages of the Civil War. When he entered the White House, he was a political naif, and at 46, was then the youngest man to become president. Some of his appointments were surprising, including naming Ely S. Parker, a Seneca Native American, the commissioner of Indian Affairs. Through his wife, Julia Grant, he knew the suffragette Susan B. Anthony, who ended up supporting him over the first woman running for president. Scandals surrounded Grant who was a two-term president, but he supported many noteworthy causes, including amnesty for Confederate soldiers and civil rights for former slaves.

Source: cornelluniversitylibrary / Flickr

23. Grover Cleveland
> Years served: 1885-1889 and 1893-1897
> Best performing category: Public persuasion (60.0)
> Worst performing category: Pursued equal justice for all (38.6)
> Party affiliation: Democratic

Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th president, was the only commander in chief to serve two disordered terms. In his first term, the New Jersey native distinguished himself by blocking a series of bills he deemed overreaching. Still, he lost his first bid for reelection to Republican challenger Benjamin Harrison. When he was elected a second time, he, a conservative Democrat, put forth a pro-business, limited-government agenda, which was diametrically opposed to that of Democratic presidents who followed.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

24. William Howard Taft
> Years served: 1909-1913
> Best performing category: Administrative skills (65.8)
> Worst performing category: Pursued equal justice for all (44.7)
> Party affiliation: Republican

William Howard Taft, the 27th president, had the rare distinction of also being the chief justice of the Supreme Court, appointed by President Warren G. Harding. As a presidential contender, Ohioan Taft was heavily favored by the departing president, Theodore Roosevelt. However, once Taft secured the White House, he offended Roosevelt and other progressives with his conservative agenda. When Taft was up for reelection, Roosevelt challenged him for the nomination, leading to a split in the Republican Party. That split paved the way for Democrat Woodrow Wilson to be elected president.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

25. Gerald R. Ford
> Years served: 1974-1977
> Best performing category: Moral authority (57.9)
> Worst performing category: Vision/setting an agenda (41.5)
> Party affiliation: Republican

Gerald R. Ford became the 38th president when Richard M. Nixon resigned as a result of the Watergate scandal. Ford had been the minority leader in the House of Representatives when Nixon tapped him to replace his vice president, Spiro Agnew, who had resigned in disgrace. As president, Ford retained most of Nixon’s cabinet and pardoned Nixon of all crimes, which ultimately undercut his credibility and lead to his defeat in the 1976 election against Jimmy Carter.