Top Ten American Presidents in History

It has been my humble privilege to meet six American presidents and seven first ladies. I’ve been able to conduct extensive interviews with five of those presidents. I served as an adviser to two of them, served on senior staff in the White House with one of them and co-authored a book with another.

My wife and I have entertained two presidents in our own home, one of them on multiple occasions and we have been in the personal homes of several others. I have traveled on Air Force One, Air Force Two, commercial aircraft, private jets, Winnebago’s, and have ridden up front, sitting next to the president on multiple occasions in those famous motorcades, zooming through the streets with sirens blazing. I even went to Disneyworld with a president and first lady and ate at the Chinese restaurant at Epcot Center.

Here is my very subjective list of the top ten greatest presidents in American history. I would like to see your list in the comments below and would love to weigh in on the discussion.

Counting backwards, here we go.

Number Ten. James K. Polk. He annexed Texas, the Southwest, the Oregon territory and actually bought the state of California from Mexico. Make no mistake, he was a tough customer who played fast and dirty to get it all done.

Number Nine. Dwight Eisenhower. During his presidency America was the richest and most powerful nation on earth.

Number Eight. Andrew Jackson. He disrupted a rigged system, fighting against a second national bank and for a while, he drained the swamp.

Number Seven. Theodore Roosevelt. A letter day Andrew Jackson, he broke up the crony capitalism that was strangling the free enterprise system of his day. He gave us the national parks. He built a modern navy and then built the Panama Canal to make it effective on two oceans. But he used a heavy hand to get it all done.

Number Six. Harry Truman. Unlike Barack Obama, Harry Truman assumed responsibility for everything he did and actually had a sign on his desk that read, “The buck stops here.” Tough and honest, he used the nuclear bomb to end World War Two and arguably saved the lives of millions more.

Number Five. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He may have presided over the largest transfer of wealth in world history.

For 100 years the British had practically ruled the world with oil, timber, gold and diamonds flowing into its treasuries. But after Hitler conquered Europe, Britain needed arms. Only America could supply the demand and FDR insisted on hard currency, gold, for every purchase. America rocketed out of the Great Depression.

Only when Britain had coughed up the last nugget from the last closet did FDR agree to loan the Brits money to buy even more.

Number Four. Thomas Jefferson. His Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the United States. He was a co-author of the Declaration of Independence and his ideas on liberty changed the world. Jeffersonian principles are still debated by politicians to this day.

Number Three. Abraham Lincoln. Modern revisionist historians have trouble with Lincoln’s loose interpretation of the Constitution. Other’s complain that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation left a million slaves still in bondage. But no one can deny that Lincoln saved the union and he is for all time, the great emancipator, the man who freed the slaves.

Number Two. George Washington. The Constitution did not offer detail in defining the role of the chief executive. Washington defined it by his actions. The people wanted him to be their king but he would not have it. He served two terms and then walked away from power. Nobody does that.

Number One. Ronald Reagan. One could argue that Washington made us what we are and Lincoln saved the union. But Ronald Reagan saved mankind. He ended the Cold War and freed us from the danger of Mutually Assured Destruction.

Nobody else saw it coming.

Historians said we were headed into a communist era. Media was frightened by Reagan’s bravado and provocative rhetoric. They were outraged when he referred to the Soviet Union as the “evil empire.” But Reagan believed in America and believed in freedom. He spoke and the Berlin Wall came down.






6 Responses to Top Ten American Presidents in History

  1. jimshierblog says:

    I have a different point of view but I think you make excellent arguments for each of your picks. Here’s my list: 10. Warren Harding 9. Chester A. Arthur 8. Dwight Eisenhower 7. John Quincy Adams 6. Rutherford B. Hayes 5. John Tyler 4. Martin Van Buren 3. Calvin Coolidge 2. Grover Cleveland – all for their respect for the Constitution. And number 1. for me is George Washington for being the father of the country and the greatest president and for the way he put together the first cabinet and for stepping down after two terms.

  2. Neville says:

    Doug Wead writes: “Modern revisionist historians have trouble with Lincoln’s loose interpretation of the Constitution.”

    Doug, you seem to imply here that non-revisionist historians do not have trouble with Lincoln’s loose interpretation of (or, some would say “trampling on”) the Constitution. Do you not have a problem with it?

    It seems reasonably evident that Lincoln was not personally concerned about slavery but was far more concerned about holding his union together. This was despite his having given full-throated support for Texas’ secession from Mexico 25 years prior, which could show a long change in his thinking w.r.t. the nature of government in general or at least ours in particular or it could show that he was more concerned about his legacy w.r.t. the splitting of the union (as in, “not on my watch, you ain’t”).

    Every other country that solved the slavery problem did it without a civil war, and America at 7 decades into our great experiment presumably had statesmen with the wisdom and ingenuity to craft a peaceful solution at least as effective as Great Britain’s, so is it too much to ask “Why didn’t we/he ?”

    Jim Shier, I like your point of view of principle over pragmatism! I do wonder, though, why you included Arthur, given that he allowed a red herring (false accusation of his own supposed Canadian birth) to very effectively distract from his very real problem (his father had lied about his own naturalization, which has significant Constitutional fallout), and then literally burned the evidence after he left the WH. He doesn’t seem to fit your criteria of having great respect for the Constitution.

  3. Nita Blaser says:

    Thank you Doug! Your blog is a must read asap!!! I look forward to your insights!!

  4. Known Only As Harry says:

    Ha! Doug Weed; how did you ever get associated with Ron Paul? I’ve read enough of your crap to give reason to fill a thousand petitions to erase your name from his files.

    Reagan – gassing protestors and initiating a war against citizens which has cost um-teen billions in an unsuccessful campaign to kidnap and cage the free people of the sates – Number Ono? what a joke.

    Your idiotic claim that Jefferson was number four BECAUSE of the Louisianan purchase; OMFG! That would be the number one reason to not have him on the list. There was no power granted the President to trade debt owed to the people of the states for a parcel of land (Guess I don’t need to cover Polk).

    Eisenhower initiated the Military Industrial Complex which he then warned us about.

    Trail of tears Jackson?

    Gold confiscating communist FDR?

    Theodore Roosevelt gave nothing; he took the national parks away from the States. Where did he find that in the constitution? Don’t get me started on the theft of land for the Panama Canal.

    On top of all that you have:

    Washington as Number two. Washington; the guy who not only allowed a tax upon the individual to cross his desk but created a cabinet of collectors who entered the borders of the individual nations to collect it? On top of those infractions upon the U. S.Constitution, he called forth the militia and threatened murder if the people didn’t comply. Can you tell me the clauses within those pages granting him those powers?


    Number three; Lincoln. Are you freakin serious? 600,000 people dead and states destroyed over his temper tantrum because the unconstitutionally taxed southern states finally had enough and chose to end their voluntary membership in the union.

    It is the ignorance spewed out by people like you, who have an audience, that has and always will keep the people ever in the clutches of evil. Your false lessons of liberty lull the minds of the sheep while they fantasize that they are kept free by the masters, when in fact; it is the machine of government which has risen from the non compliance to what the pages of the U. S. Constitution intended to set in place that binds the chains of its citizen slavery.

  5. Lincoln? The guy was a white supremacist who wanted to deport blacks and killed 600,000 people just so that he could prevent the Confederate ports from cutting their tariffs and hurting Northern industry by offering cheaper goods to Southern consumers.

    FDR was commie who turned a contraction into a Great Depression.

    Washington was in favour of big government and helped the coup against the decentralized system of government that the Articles of Confederation created.

    Where are Harding, Coolidge, and Cleveland?

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