There have been 46 presidents of the United States, including the current president, Joe Biden, who took office in 2021. Grover Cleveland is regarded as the 22nd and 24th president of the United States since he was elected for two non-consecutive terms.
While some leaders are praised for their forward-thinking decisions and revolutionary leadership, others have come under fire and been condemned for their deeds. In this article, we will examine the governments of the top 10 worst US presidents, focusing on the choices and actions that propelled them to the top of this list.
The “dichotomous or schizoid profiles” of presidents, according to political scientist Walter Dean Burnham, can make some of them difficult to categorize.
According to historian Alan Brinkley, “There are presidents who could be considered both failures and great or near great (for example, Nixon)”.
“How can one evaluate such an idiosyncratic president, so brilliant and so morally lacking?” said historian and political scientist James MacGregor Burns of Nixon.
It is also unclear if the absolute rankings have much of an overall impact, particularly for the average president.
The 10 Worst Presidents In US History: Their Terms, And Key Events
10) Zachary Taylor (1849–1851)
He was born on November 24, 1784, and passed away on July 9, 1850. His presidential term lasted from July 9, 1849, to March 4, 1851. Millard Fillmore was the vice president.
Taylor, one of the eight presidents to pass away in office, ended his brief term in office in 1850 after growing unwell during the Fourth of July celebration. The war hero president is completely forgotten since he was a political neophyte.
More than a failure, Zachary Taylor was a forgettable president. And the explanation is straightforward, the 12th president was most likely the least politically astute leader in American history.
He was a rural child and a daring soldier who participated in significant battles during the War of 1812 and the Mexican War. He was born in Virginia and raised in Kentucky. He seldom wore his uniform and was frequently mistaken for a farmer; other generals made fun of his lack of education and polish. But no less than Abraham Lincoln commended the calm judgment that allowed him to prevail against the odds in countless wars.
When they chose him as their candidate in 1848, the Whigs knew they were onto something. He was a slave owner who supported the “peculiar institution” in the South and was as adamantly opposed to secession as he was to its expansion into other states.
Some believe that the Civil War may have started as a result of his resistance to the Compromise of 1850, which started to undermine the Missouri Compromise. If it had, Taylor wouldn’t have thought twice about fighting the potential seceders. They could have been concerned about his military history.
But the exam never took place. After barely a little more than a year in office, he passed away.
9) Herbert Hoover
He was born on August 10, 1874, and died on October 20, 1964. His presidential term lasted from March 4, 1929, to March 4, 1933. His vice president was Charles Curtis.
Hoover was a notoriously bad communicator who aggravated the Great Depression by igniting trade conflicts. The battle hero is a political neophyte who makes a terrible president.
On the brink of the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover, the 31st president, was elected. He entered office with the talents of a consummate manager and technocrat. The engineer, a native of Iowa and a Stanford graduate oversaw extensive post-World War I relief efforts in Europe. He served as Harding’s and Calvin Coolidge’s commerce secretaries.
When the Great Depression began, he cut taxes and launched public works initiatives to boost employment, but he adamantly refused unconditional aid.
His biggest issue may not have been his strict dedication to conservative values. He was a bad communicator and came across as cruel and callous.
8) John Tyler
He was born on March 29, 1790, died on January 18, 1862, and served as president from April 4, 1841, until March 4, 1845. He didn’t have a vice president.
He was a fervent supporter of slavery who, after becoming president, departed from his party’s agenda.
The first president to succeed the vice presidency was Virginian John Tyler, who was ranked sixth worst when William Harrison passed away from illness barely 30 days after taking office.
Tyler started his political career as a Jefferson Republican, opposing Federalist plans for high protective tariffs and government-sponsored “internal improvements.” Tyler was born into the planter aristocracy.
He backed President Andrew Jackson’s campaign against national banks while serving as a US senator, but quickly fell out with Old Hickory as he blocked South Carolina’s attempt to overturn a small tariff.
Tyler, however, rejected a national bank as well as everything else his new party advocated for after he was elected president. Tyler was charged by a fellow Whig for recreating “the condemned and repudiated doctrines and practices of the worst days of Jackson’s rule.” After the whole Harrison-appointed government resigned, Tyler had to resist an impeachment effort.
His one achievement was creating the rule that a vice president who ascends to the presidency has the same authority as a president who was elected. No small feat considering how loathed he was by the majority of his own party.
7) Millard Fillmore
He was born on January 7, 1800, died on March 8, 1874, served as president from July 9, 1850, to March 4, 1853, and had no vice president.
He supported the 1850 Compromise, which prolonged Southern separation by promoting the development of slavery.
Zachary Taylor, a well-liked military hero who passed away in office just over a year after taking office, served as the 13th president’s predecessor.
Born in a log cabin in upstate New York, Fillmore transitioned from the legal and teaching professions to politics and the Whig Party. Vice President Taylor was generally disregarded until he informed Taylor that, in the event of a deadlock in the Senate, he would support the Compromise of 1850.
The compromise represented everything Taylor opposed and was made up of five different acts, including the Fugitive Slave Law, which required the federal government to restore fugitive slaves to their owners.
After the ill president passed away, his successor fought even harder for the compromise proposals. Although Fillmore’s initiatives may have prevented a national emergency and delayed the start of the Civil War, peace was ultimately paid for at an unacceptable price.
Twenty years after the infamous transaction, The New York Times stated that it was Fillmore’s “misfortune to see in slavery a political and not a moral question.” It may now seem too generous to use the phrase “misfortune”.
6) Warren G. Harding
He was born on November 2, 1865, passed away on August 2, 1923, and remained president from March 4, 1921, until August 2, 1923. His vice president was Calvin Coolidge.
Harding was an enthusiastic golfer and poker player whose presidency is most likely remembered for its long list of scandals and wrongdoing.
In his own pitiful words, Warren G. Harding sums up his claim to fame: “I am not fit for this office and should never have been here.”
He was an uninhibited womanizer known for his friendliness, good looks, and relentless desire to please. He was a former newspaperman and publisher who held a number of elected positions in his home state of Ohio. His father reportedly said that it was fortunate for him that he wasn’t a female since “you’d be in the family way all the time.” No, that can’t be said.
When Harding was chosen as their last-minute choice for the highest position by the Republican Party officials in the famous smoke-filled chamber (a phrase that originated with this incident), Harding ought to have declined. He was so comfortingly ambiguous in his campaign statements that it was assumed he supported both sides of the debate over the United States’ membership in the League of Nations, which was the biggest topic at the time.
When he first moved into the White House, the 29th president occupied himself with golf, poker, and his mistress, while his appointees and friends creatively ploughed the American government. (His secretary of the interior let oilmen access federal oil deposits, including one in Teapot Dome, Wyoming, for a small under-the-table fee.)
Harding famously remarked, “I have no trouble with my enemies,” adding that it was his companions that “keep me walking the floor nights.” He passed away while in office, most likely from a stroke, and stress was certainly a factor.
A little more than ten years later, Harding’s former attorney general referred to him as “a modern Abraham Lincoln whose name and fame will grow with time.” That moment is still far off.
5) William Henry Harrison
He was born on February 9, 1773, died on April 4, 1841, and served as president from March 4 to April 4, 1841. John Tyler was the vice president.
He gave the nation’s longest inaugural address before developing pneumonia, which caused his 30-day presidency to be the shortest in American history.
It is a disservice to academic scholarship that the ninth president appears on any list at all. The victory over the Shawnees at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811 is the Virginians’ most notable accomplishment.
4) Franklin Pierce
He was born on November 23, 1804, passed away on October 8, 1869, and served as president from March 4, 1853, until March 4, 1857; William R. King was the vice president.
Pierce’s passion for border expansion, which resulted in the addition of numerous slave states, helped pave the way for the American Civil War.
Pierce, a Jackson Democrat from New Hampshire who Whig opponents referred to as “doughface”—a northerner with southern principles—adds to the list of hesitant pre-Civil War compromisers.
The attractive Mexican War soldier who was elected as the nation’s fourteenth president fervently supported national expansion, even at the expense of creating new slave states. He actively backed the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which, together with the previous Compromise of 1850, virtually invalidated the Missouri Compromise of 1820, in order to achieve this goal.
Less effectively, he suggested annexing Cuba, using force if necessary. However, his opponents exposed the idea and finally compelled him to back down.
3) Andrew Johnson
He was born on December 29, 1808, and died on July 31, 1875. His presidential term was from March 4, 1865, to April 15, 1869. After rejecting Reconstruction policies, such as the 14th Amendment, none of the Johnsons managed to avoid impeachment.
Since the publication of Arthur Schlesinger’s 1948 poll, Andrew Johnson has fallen in scholarly esteem, most likely as a result of the extensive scholarly revision of post-Civil War reconstruction. Johnson is now despised for having opposed radical Republican policies meant to protect the rights and welfare of recently emancipated African Americans.
Before he became president, historian Woodrow Wilson did a masterful job of defaming Reconstruction, portraying it as a vengeful program that harmed even repentant Southerners while assisting northern opportunists, Carpetbaggers, and cynical white Southerners, or Scalawags, who took advantage of alliances with blacks for political gain.
Johnson, a native of North Carolina with a modest upbringing, worked as a tailor before relocating to Tennessee and running for office as a Jackson Democrat. He won election to a number of prestigious positions, including U.S. senator.
The first presidential impeachment and a close conviction came as a result of an increasingly bitter power struggle, during which Congress mistakenly sought to deprive him of his legally granted powers. After being unsuccessful in getting renominated, he went back to Tennessee and won reelection to the U.S. Senate.
It is true that Johnson did turn a blind eye to those Southerners who attempted to erase what the Civil War had done, despite what history’s present judgment may prove to be.
Sadly, his ensuing conflicts with radical Republicans in Congress on a variety of reconstruction-related policies exposed his lack of political skill and startling disregard for the suffering of freshly freed African Americans. He also fostered resistance to the 14th Amendment in addition to vetoing the first civil rights measure and renewing the Freedman’s Bureau.
2) Donald Trump
He was born on June 14, 1946. His term in office was from January 20, 2017, until January 20, 2021. Mike Pence was the vice president during his presidency.
Trump is the only president still in office and one of the ten worst presidents in history. He is also the only president to have been impeached twice. Donald Trump, according to C-SPAN’s Presidential Leadership Poll, is fourth-to-last among the 44 past presidents of the United States.
The survey rates the former presidents based on ten leadership traits, including public appeal, crisis leadership, economic management, moral authority, relationships with Congress, administrative prowess, vision, and agenda-setting, pursuing equal justice for all, and performance in light of the times.
1) James Buchanan
He was born on April 23, 1791, and died on June 1, 1868. Vice President John Breckinridge served during his 1857–1861 presidential term.
He declined to oppose the growth of slavery or the expanding group of states that would eventually become the Confederacy.
The only bachelor elected to the presidency, Buchanan was a Democrat from Pennsylvania who condemned slavery as an unjustifiable evil but, like the majority of his party, chose not to question the legally recognized system.
Even before he was elected president, he backed a number of agreements that allowed slavery to grow in the western regions and won through the Louisiana Purchase and the Mexican War. (The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, for instance, was particularly detrimental to the effort to stop the expansion of slavery because it permitted settlers to specify the position of slavery in their proposed state constitutions.)
More damaging to his reputation, however, was his feeble capitulation to the secessionist wave and his refusal to confront the states that made their intentions clear to leave the Union following Lincoln’s victory. Buchanan argued that the Constitution did not provide him the authority to take action against would-be seceders, so he chose to sit on his hands while the situation deteriorated.
How Do US Voters Rank Presidents?
A study, C-SPAN’s Presidential Leadership Poll, found that US voters ranked the presidents differently depending on how well they performed. Based on the connection with Congress, economic management, administrative prowess, and international relations, the rankings were determined.
Trump’s top placements were 32nd and 34th in public persuasion and economic management, respectively. He came in last for both administrative ability and moral authority.
In this year’s poll, his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, came in at number ten. Two positions have been added to the list from the 2017 survey. Obama came in third overall in the fight for equitable justice for everyone. His relationship with Congress earned him the lowest grade of 32nd.
In the poll, Abraham Lincoln won for the fourth time in a row. He achieved success in every category with the exception of public persuasion (second place), foreign relations (third place), and his lowest-scoring category, relations with Congress (fourth place).
For the fourth study in a row, former president Franklin D. Roosevelt took first place for public persuasion. Additionally, FDR is ranked top in terms of foreign relations, a position he held in 2017. He came in third overall.
For the first time in the survey’s history, George Washington achieved the top spot for ties with Congress. The score represents a rise from second place in the 2017 survey. The first position was previously held by former President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Ulysses S. Grant is the president who has advanced the most, moving up 13 ranks from 33rd in 2000 to 20th this year.
Former President George W. Bush is now placed at 29th, up from 36th in 2009 and 33rd in 2017. Also rising was former President Bill Clinton, who ranked 21st in 2000 and remained in 15th place in 2009 and 2017. He fell to the 19th position in the poll this year, though.
Former presidents James K. Polk, George H.W. Bush, Andrew Jackson, Gerald R. Ford, and Richard Nixon, among others, had drops from 2017 to this year.
The leaders on this list have been criticized for their acts and policies that, from the perspective of many, fell short of the standards required of a US president, despite the fact that each president faced particular difficulties and circumstances.
By studying their legacies, we are better able to comprehend the intricacies and subtleties of American history, which serves as a reminder of the value of deliberate, responsible leadership in determining the course of the country.
It is true that examining the complexity of each president’s term offers a vital perspective on the complicated web of American history. It enables us to understand the wide range of difficulties these leaders encountered, from wartime disasters to economic turmoil and societal changes. Examining their legacies allows us to see the complex effects of their choices on the country and its people.
This investigation also emphasizes how important it is to hold leaders responsible for their decisions and actions. It serves as a reminder that the presidency carries a great deal of responsibility and necessitates a strong dedication to the welfare and advancement of the country. When leaders fail to live up to these norms, it serves as a reminder of the need for close scrutiny and a shared dedication to sustaining the highest standards of governance.
In essence, thinking about these presidents’ legacies deepens our understanding of American history and supports the idea that pursuing a better future calls for leaders who are devoted, astute, and keenly aware of the principles that form the cornerstone of the country. It serves as a reminder that decisions made by individuals in positions of authority have lasting effects on the course of history, influencing people’s lives forever.
Who Is The Least Popular US President?
Harrison is one of the least well-known presidents in terms of popular culture; in 2012, a New York story named Harrison the “most forgotten president.” Only Harrison had the same person as both his predecessor and his successor. Additionally, he is the only president whose grandfather was a president.
Which Presidents Have Been Impeached?
Demands for the impeachment of several US presidents have been made in the past. Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868, Bill Clinton in 1998, and Donald Trump in 2019 and 2021; however, none of them were found guilty.
Who Is The Most Disliked US President?
The most disliked US president is Richard Nixon.
How Many US Presidents Have Been Assassinated?
The attempt failed when both of Lawrence’s pistols allegedly misfired. John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln in 1865; Charles J. Guiteau assassinated James A. Garfield in 1881; Leon Czolgosz assassinated William McKinley in 1901; and Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated John F. Kennedy in 1963.
Which US President Was The Youngest?
Theodore Roosevelt, who took office at age 42 after William McKinley’s murder, was the youngest president of the United States. John F. Kennedy, who was 43 years old when he was elected to the position, was the youngest.
Are All The Presidents Related?
Over the course of American history, the ancestry of presidents has been largely stable. Every president, with the possible exception of Martin Van Buren and Dwight D. Eisenhower, had ancestors from the British Isles, making many of them distantly connected to one another.
Who Led The US For The Longest And The Shortest Periods of Time?
Franklin D. Roosevelt held office for the longest period of time, while William Henry Harrison held office for the shortest time.