Golden Nuggets from U. S. History

The Blue Quill Series
by Frank Laughter

These rankings are divided into three groups (four if "can not be ranked" is counted) because we think it is silly to attempt an exact ranking from 1 through 41. Many of the presidential performances are too close to call. When questions are asked like, "what is more important, defending the country or a raise in the welfare checks?" a lot of "hero" presidents quickly fall from the first tier.

The way we rank them:

Presidents by "one person's opinion" ranking.
  1George Washington   9Harry Truman
  2Franklin D Roosevelt 10James Madison
  3Abraham Lincoln 11Woodrow Wilson
  4Thomas Jefferson 12Dwight D Eisenhower
  5Calvin Coolidge 13Andrew Jackson
  6Ronald Reagan 14John Adams
  7Theodore Roosevelt 15James Monroe
  8James Polk 16Richard M Nixon
SECOND TIER -- in alphabetical order.
 John Quincy Adams  Benjamin Harrison
 Chester Arthur  Rutherford B Hayes
 Martin Van Buren  Herbert Hoover
 George Bush  Andrew Johnson
 Grover Cleveland  Lyndon B Johnson
 Bill Clinton  John F Kennedy
 James Garfield  William McKinley
 Ulysses S Grant  Zachary Taylor
THIRD TIER -- in alphabetical order.
 James Buchanan  Warren Harding
 Jimmy Carter  Franklin Pierce
 Millard Fillmore  William H Taft
 Gerald R Ford  John Tyler
Cannot be ranked (thirty days in office.)
 William H Harrison

Actually, we probably should have an ULTRA ELITE group of two: Washington and F. D. Roosevelt because, for different reasons, they stand alone at the top.

Washington MADE the presidency. Without his personality, his leadership, his core makeup, the new nation would have failed because there was not a unanimity among the states. The slave question was front and center but the founders finessed an agreement for a constitution and Washington set the tone to make it work. As a direct result of Washington's efforts a confrontation was delayed for 70 years. Had the dispute over states rights boiled to the surface before there was a national resolve to make it work, the United States as we know it would not exist.

Had the delegates of the Constitutional Convention held out for an anti-slavery constitution the results AT BEST would have been an agreement which excluded the states of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. In other words, an eight state union. With this division, Britain would have had her nose back under the tent, making deals with unaffiliated states and completely altering the course of history. Additionally, had an eight state union survived for 60 years it would have been deprived of the services of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, and James K. Polk. The overriding question is, -- how long would slavery have lasted under such an arrangement?

Historians love to praise Frankln D. Roosevelt for CCC camps, WPA programs, Social Security, ending the recession, and fireside chats. Had he failed to do any of these things he would still rank on Washington's tier. The historians NEVER discuss his REAL achievement: The advanced preparations for World War II. Soon after taking office Roosevelt set a course to defend the nation and to help Europe fend off Hitler. The nation was firmly against ANY involvement in Europe but Roosevelt did not allow that to detract him. Working within a very small group he accepted secret envoys from Churchhill and others, he caused plans to be made, and he established a central intelligence organization to keep informed on the events in Europe. When the attack on Pearl Harbor came he was ready with plans and personnel to spring into action for the conversion of shipyards, airplane factories, and automobile plants. In short, FDR did exactly what every President is supposed to do: Save the nation FIRST.

ALL other presidents fall below that level but there were still some great ones. Tier one includes Lincoln because he saved the Union. Many of his actions were illegal, i.e., suspension of habeas corpus while there was no external threat, -- but he did save the union.

Jefferson is there because he worked to implement his concept of a limited central government while purchasing the Louisiana Territory and doubling the size of the nation. Jefferson thought that the federal government did not have the authority to make such a deal but decided that it was too good to pass up, so he did it anyway.

Coolidge, because of his superior understanding of the Constitution: If it's not in the document, the federal government can't do it.

Reagan because he took office with a single idea in mind; ignored all around him, especially the press, and forged ahead to beat the Soviets and end the Cold War.

Teddy Roosevelt for being Teddy, for the Panama Canal, and for establishing national parks. Without the Panama Canal, the history of WWII might be very different.

James K. Polk because he avoided a war with Britain while extending the nation to the Pacific Ocean.

Truman because he quickly ended the war with Japan, set the proper course for peace, and implemented the Marshall Plan. He nearly drops from the top group for calling the Korean War a "Police Action."

Madison, because this brilliant, compassionate, gentle man refused to back down from any fight. He took on the Brits in the War of 1812 and beat them again.

The last six in the first tier are there because they are the best of the rest.

The second tier list those who did OK but nothing special. Clinton is there for one reason: He kept Alan Greenspan on at the Federal Reserve.

Bush barely avoids the third tier. He had a chance to go for the top but chose to make history by calling off the fight in the middle of a war.

Last and least is the third tier. These are the ones who just served time. None did anything special but some did a lot of harm.

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