James Buchanan

Latest Presidential Ranking Survey For Presidents Day Changes Ratings Of Several Presidents Upward And Downward

The game of Presidential rankings is one always changing, and the newest survey of scholars, including this author as a participant, does not disappoint in that regard.

The Siena College survey, now done six times since 1982, once for each new President being considered in the rankings, has some surprises.

157 experts, questioned by the Siena College Research Institute, raised two of the Founding Father generation to the top ten, with James Madison number 7 and James Monroe, his successor at number 8. In so doing, two modern Presidents were dropped out of the top ten, with Ronald Reagan at number 13 and Lyndon B. Johnson at number 16.

A rare occurrence was that Abraham Lincoln was number 3, when usually he is on top, although in earlier Siena College surveys, Franklin D. Roosevelt had been number one, now number two, with George Washington moving up to number one.

Barack Obama, number 8 in the American Political Science Association survey in 2018, and number 12 in the C Span 2017 survey, ended up number 17 in the Siena College survey, so below such Presidents as Woodrow Wilson, James K. Polk, John Adams, and Bill Clinton.

And Donald Trump, who was dead last in the APSA poll, was number 42, above James Buchanan and Andrew Johnson, with Johnson ending up below Buchanan, the opposite of both the C Span and APSA surveys.

Of course, the game of Presidential ranking is a never ending and highly debatable one, and the way that Presidents are ranked is purely in the eyes and expertise of the beholder.

Should a great man, such as Madison or Monroe, but not as accomplished as more modern Presidents, such as Reagan or LBJ, be higher in the ratings?

That is left up to how people perceive Presidents, and whether they include the whole life, or just the actual years of the Presidency, in their judgments.

The Wealthiest And The Poorest Presidents

The American Presidents have varied greatly in wealth acquired or inherited in their lifetimes.

Some were born poor, such as Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton, due to family circumstances, with Clinton and Nixon acquiring wealth in their lifetimes, but Johnson would still be the seventh poorest President at death, according to statistics.

Materials gathered by scholars have led to conclusions on the net worth of our 44 Presidents, including their post Presidential years.

Easily, at least by the knowledge we have now, Donald Trump is likely the wealthiest President, although subject to change by further Congressional investigation of Trump’s finances, sure to come in the 116th Congress by congressional subpoenas. By estimate, Trump is wealthier than all the other 43 men who have been President of the United States.

After Trump, probably John F. Kennedy, had he not been assassinated, would have inherited close to $1 billion later in his life.

Other than Trump and Kennedy, George Washington would be considered the wealthiest President, in modern terms, around $580 million.

Behind him would be Thomas Jefferson ($234 million); Theodore Roosevelt ($138 million); Andrew Jackson ($131 million); James Madison ($112 million); and Lyndon B. Johnson ($108 million), with all those numbers being estimates.

Other Presidents who had substantial estimated wealth would include Herbert Hoover ($82 million; Bill Clinton ($75 million); Franklin D. Roosevelt ($66 million); and John Tyler ($57 million). Clinton acquired most of his wealth post Presidency by speeches and authored books, and will likely rise much higher if he lives a long life.

At the other end of the scale, we had 13 Presidents who had $1 million or less wealth by all estimates, in 2016 dollars, including in ranked order:

William McKinley

Warren G. Harding

James Buchanan

Abraham Lincoln

Andrew Johnson

Ulysses S. Grant

James A. Garfield

Chester Alan Arthur

Woodrow Wilson

Calvin Coolidge

Harry Truman

Notice that the bulk of these Presidents served in the years from Buchanan to McKinley, the last half of the 19th century, a total of seven out of eleven Presidents.

The three Presidents from Wilson through Coolidge also are on this list, and Harry Truman ends up as the least prosperous President at his death, as compared to Andrew Johnson the poorest at birth.

Barack Obama is rated just below John Tyler at number 13 on the wealth list at an estimated $40 million, with potential over a long lifetime to become one of the top few wealthiest Presidents by speeches, books, and other activities due to the stature and prestige of being a former President in modern times.

Other Presidents are rated in the middle on wealth, such as George W. Bush at $39 million; George H. W. Bush at $26 million; John Quincy Adams at $23 million; John Adams at $21 million; Richard Nixon at $17 million; Ronald Reagan at $14 million; Dwight D. Eisenhower at $9 million; and Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter at $8 million each.

Is George H. W. Bush The “Best” One Term President In American History, Surpassing James K. Polk, And What About Jimmy Carter?

Now that George H. W. Bush is part of American history, the question arises whether he should be judged the “best” one term President in American history.

We have had the following 12 one term elected Presidents who finished their term, but were not given a second term:

John Adams
John Quincy Adams
Martin Van Buren
James K. Polk
Franklin Pierce
James Buchanan
Rutherford B. Hayes
Benjamin Harrison
William Howard Taft
Herbert Hoover
Jimmy Carter
George H. W. Bush

Eight of them, all but Polk, Pierce, Buchanan, and Hayes were defeated for reelection, with those four choosing not to run, and all of these four, except Polk, very unpopular and aware that they were not wanted to be nominated for another term.

The usual viewpoint has been that James K. Polk, with the acquisition of the American Southwest by war with Mexico, and acquisition of the Pacific Northwest by the Oregon treaty with Great Britain, was the most successful one term President. Labeled an expansionist and an imperialist by many, the fact that he presided over the greatest expansion of US territory since Thomas Jefferson, has helped him to be regarded by scholars as a “successful” President, rated 12 to 14 in scholarly polls.

Now, some are saying that George H. W. Bush may be greater than Polk, due to his foreign policy accomplishments in particular, including the end of the Cold War, the unification of Germany, and the Persian Gulf War, along with his domestic policies of “A Thousand Points Of Light”, and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Some on this list, including Van Buren, Pierce, Buchanan, Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, Taft, and Hoover are seen in a poor light, while J. Q. Adams is seen as not having succeeded in his one term, although a great man, and his father, John Adams, criticized for the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798, curbing civil liberties during his term.

The only other one term President who could be seen as competing would be Jimmy Carter, with his Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel, the Panama Canal Treaty, his Human Rights advocacy, his creation of new cabinet agencies (Departments of Education, Health And Human Services, Energy), and his exceptional record on the environment, but his negatives, including high inflation, the Iranian hostage crisis, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the Cuban Mariel Boat Lift all help to undermine his case.

So, one could argue that Polk and Bush may be competitive as the “best” one term elected President, without a clear cut answer to the question of who was the better President.

It might be best to say that Polk was the best 19th century one term elected President, while Bush was the best 20th century one term elected President, with Jimmy Carter as the runner up in that regard.

The Fourth Period Of Six Living Presidents Ends With Death Of George H. W. Bush

We have just seen the end of the fourth time in American history that we have had six living Presidents.

The first time was in 1861-1862, from March to January, a total of about 10 and a half months, when we had President Abraham Lincoln, and former Presidents Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan, until John Tyler died in January 1862.

The second time was 1993-1994 from January to April, a total of about 15 months, when we had President Bill Clinton, and former Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, until Richard Nixon died in April 1994.

The third time, the longest time, was 2001-2004, from January to June, a total of about 40 and a half months, when we had President George W. Bush, and former Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, until Ronald Reagan died in in June 2004.

And now, the fourth and last time, was 2017-2018, from January to November, a total of about 22 and a half months, the second longest time, when we had President Donald Trump, and former Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, until George H. W. Bush died on the last day of November 2018.

The odds of having a fifth period of six Presidents anytime soon seems unlikely, as Jimmy Carter, at age 94, would seem unlikely to have much more life longevity, but if Donald Trump were to be forced out of office, in the next two years, or be defeated, and Carter stayed in good health, it could happen.

Impeachment Investigations Of Government Officials In American History Mostly Without Basis, More For Political Purposes

The impeachment of Donald Trump seems possible in 2019 IF the Democrats gain control of the House of Representatives, which seems highly likely, based upon polls 100 days out, and with the reminder that the party out of the White House always gains seats in the midterm elections, with the exceptions of 1934 under Franklin D. Roosevelt and 2002 under George W. Bush.

Having said that, it is reality that impeachment does not lead to convictions and removals from office, with the exception of seven federal district court judges over the long span of American history.

Richard Nixon would have been an exception if he had not resigned, but Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton both were found not guilty in their impeachment trials.

Other Presidents have been threatened with impeachment, but it was more just a threat or simply could not gain enough support in the House of Representatives to lead to impeachment.

That list of threatened impeachments include: John Tyler in 1842 and 1843; James Buchanan in 1860; Ulysses S. Grant in 1876; Herbert Hoover in 1933; Harry Truman in 1951; Ronald Reagan in 1987; George H. W. Bush in 1991; George W. Bush in 2008; Barack Obama in 2013: and Donald Trump in 2017 and 2018. Notice most of these were not serious, and in many cases occurred in the last year of the President’s term or near the end of his last term in office.

Vice Presidents who have faced impeachment threats are: Schuyler Colfax in 1873, as he was leaving the Grant Administration; Spiro Agnew in 1973 as he neared resignation due to scandal under the Nixon Administration; George H. W. Bush in 1987 as the Iran Contra scandal emerged; and Dick Cheney in 2007 as the second Bush Administration dealt with the Iraq War continuation. None of them gained any traction.

Impeachment motions against Cabinet officers and other federal officials have been mostly just a gesture, a threat, as with, for example, Attorney General Eric Holder in 2013; Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez in 2007; and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2004. Most recently threatened with impeachment is Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in the past few days, but unlikely to gain any traction, more used as a political ploy.

Presidential Campaigns Lost By 15 Presidents

In our final examination of Presidents and their background and experiences for the White House, we will now examine Presidential campaigns lost by Presidents.

A total of 15 Presidents ran unsuccessful campaigns for Presidents as follows:

Thomas Jefferson lost the Presidential Election of 1796 to John Adams, but then won in 1800 and 1804.

Andrew Jackson lost the Presidential Election of 1824 to John Quincy Adams, but then won in 1828 and 1832.

William Henry Harrison lost the Presidential Election Of 1836 to Martin Van Buren, but then won in 1840.

Martin Van Buren received the most votes on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention in 1844, but failed to win the required two thirds majority, and lost the nomination to James K. Polk. He also ran on the Free Soil Party ticket for President in 1848, and finished behind winner Zachary Taylor and second place finisher Lewis Cass. However, he had won the Presidency earlier in 1836.

James Buchanan competed for the nomination of the Democratic Party in 1848 and 1852, but failed to get the nomination, losing to Lewis Cass and Franklin Pierce, respectively, but then won the Presidency in 1856.

Millard Fillmore ran on the American (Know Nothing) Party ticket for President in 1856, but finished behind winner James Buchanan and loser John C. Fremont. Earlier, he had served as President after the death of Zachary Taylor.

Andrew Johnson competed for the Democratic nomination in 1860, but lost the nomination to Stephen A. Douglas. He later served as President after the death of Abraham Lincoln.

Ulysses S. Grant competed for the Republican nomination in 1880, losing the nomination to James A. Garfield. He had earlier been elected President in 1868 and 1872.

Theodore Roosevelt competed for the Republican nomination in 1912, losing the nomination to President William Howard Taft. He ran in the general election as the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party candidate, having earlier served as President, after succeeding to the officer upon the death of William McKinley, and then being elected in his own right in 1904.

Herbert Hoover competed for the Republican nomination in 1920, but lost the nomination to Warren G Harding, but then won the Presidency in 1928.

Lyndon B. Johnson lost the Democratic nomination to John F. Kennedy in 1960, became his Vice Presidential running mate, and succeeded to the Presidency upon Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, and was elected for a full term in 1964.

Richard Nixon lost the Presidency to John F. Kennedy in 1960, but then won the Presidency in 1968 and 1972.

Ronald Reagan competed for the Republican nomination in 1968 and 1976, losing the nomination to Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, respectively, but then won the Presidency in 1980 and 1984.

George H. W. Bush competed for the Republican nomination in 1980, losing the nomination to Ronald Reagan, but became his Vice Presidential running mate, and then Vice President, and then was elected to succeed him as President in the Presidential Election of 1988.

Donald Trump competed for the Reform Party nomination in 2000, but withdrew before Pat Buchanan won that party’s nomination, and later won the Republican nomination and was elected in 2016.

Also, two future Presidents competed for the Vice Presidency, with Franklin D. Roosevelt being the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate in 1920, losing to Calvin Coolidge; and John F. Kennedy competing for the Vice Presidential nomination of the Democratic Party in 1956, when Presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson opened up the Vice Presidential nomination to be decided by the convention delegates, and Estes Kefauver being selected over Kennedy.

State Offices Held By Presidents Before Becoming The Chief Executive

Continuing the analysis of Presidents that has been done on this blog in the last week or so, today we will examine what state offices were held by Presidents before becoming the nation’s Chief Executive.

Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe and John Tyler all served in the Virginia House of Delegates.

James K. Polk and Andrew Johnson served in the Tennessee House of Representatives, while Johnson also served in the Tennessee Senate.

James Buchanan served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

William Henry Harrison, James A. Garfield, and Warren G. Harding served in the Ohio Senate.

Millard Fillmore and Theodore Roosevelt served in the New York State Assembly.

Martin Van Buren and Franklin D. Roosevelt served in the New York State Senate.

Franklin Pierce served in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

John Quincy Adams and Calvin Coolidge served in the Massachusetts Senate, while Coolidge also served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Abraham Lincoln served in the Illinois House of Representatives, while Barack Obama served in the Illinois Senate.

Finally, Jimmy Carter served in the Georgia State Senate.

Additionally, Martin Van Buren served as Attorney General of New York State; Millard Fillmore as New York State Comptroller; Warren G. Harding as Lieutenant Governor of Ohio;’ Calvin Coolidge as Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts; and Bill Clinton as Attorney General of Arkansas.

Also, three Presidents served as Mayors–Andrew Johnson as Mayor of Greeneville, Tennessee; Grover Cleveland as Mayor of Buffalo, New York; and Calvin Coolidge as Mayor of Northampton, Massachusetts.

Presidents Who Served As US Ambassadors To Foreign Nations

This author and blogger has so far examined the history of Presidents serving as members of the House of Representatives and the US Senate, as State Governors, and as Cabinet Officers.

Now, let’s examine those 8 Presidents who served as US Ambassadors to foreign nations:

John Adams as Ambassador to Great Britain during the Continental Congress

Thomas Jefferson as Ambassador to France during the Continental Congress

James Monroe as Ambassador to France during the George Washington Presidency, and to Great Britain during the Thomas Jefferson Presidency

John Quincy Adams as Ambassador to the Netherlands during the George Washington and John Adams Presidencies; to Germany during the John Adams Presidency; to Russia and to Great Britain during the James Madison Presidency

Martin Van Buren as Ambassador to Great Britain during the Andrew Jackson Presidency

William Henry Harrison as Ambassador to Colombia during the John Quincy Adams Presidency

James Buchanan as Ambassador to Great Britain during the Franklin Pierce Presidency

George H. W. Bush as Ambassador to the United Nations during the Richard Nixon Presidency and as Chief of the US Liaison Office in China during the Gerald Ford Administration.

The most common Ambassadorship was to Great Britain, where five of the eight Presidents listed above served.

Cabinet Officers And The Presidency

Continuing our examination of the background of America’s Presidents, we will now look at the Presidency in relation to those who have held Cabinet positions under other Presidents.

So far, we have seen that there were 19 Presidents who served in the House of Representatives, 17 who served as Governors of their states, and 16 who served in the US Senate.

In regards to Cabinet officers a total of 8 Presidents served in a total of three different Cabinet positions.

Six of the 8 served as Secretary of State, including:

Thomas Jefferson under George Washington
James Madison under Thomas Jefferson
James Monroe under James Madison twice with a break of about a year when he served also as Secretary of War during the War of 1812, but then returned to the State Department.
John Quincy Adams under James Monroe
Martin Van Buren under Andrew Jackson
James Buchanan under James K. Polk

James Monroe served for about a year as Secretary of War under James Madison, as stated above, and William Howard Taft served in that position under Theodore Roosevelt..

Finally, Herbert Hoover served as Secretary of Commerce under Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge before running for President in 1928. Arguably, Hoover proved to be one of the best Cabinet officers in all of American history, and added great distinction to a Cabinet agency not much thought of as a major position otherwise.

Additionally, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt served as sub cabinet members under William McKinley and Woodrow Wilson respectively, both as Assistant Secretary of the Navy.

Also, William Howard Taft served as Solicitor General of the United States, the government’s lawyer before the Supreme Court, under President Benjamin Harrison.

US Senators And The Presidency

In recent days, we have looked at the record of Presidents who had been members of the House of Representatives and those who had been state Governors.

Now, we will examine those Presidents who served in the US Senate.

The record shows 16 US Senators who went on to become President, as compared to 19 who served in the House of Representatives and 17 who served as Governors of their states.

The majority of these 16 Senators served before the 20th century, and only three, all since 1900, were directly elected to the Presidency.

The list is as follows:

James Monroe
John Quincy Adams
Andrew Jackson
Martin Van Buren
William Henry Harrison
John Tyler
Franklin Pierce
James Buchanan
Andrew Johnson
Benjamin Harrison
Warren G. Harding
Harry Truman
John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Richard Nixon
Barack Obama.

Warren G. Harding, John F. Kennedy, and Barack Obama were the three Senators elected directly to the Presidency, and only three others—Harry Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon were elected by the people under the 17th Amendment, which was added to the Constitution in 1913.

John Tyler and Andrew Johnson succeeded to the Presidency upon the deaths of William Henry Harrison and Abraham Lincoln, and were not elected President, while Harry Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson succeeded Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, and then were elected to a full term of their own.

Andrew Johnson served in the Senate from Tennessee from 1857-1862, became President from 1865-1869, and then was elected again in 1875, serving a few months before his death, and is the only person who served in the Senate after being President.

Andrew Jackson served two separate times in the Senate, the second period ending in 1825, after he had won the popular vote, but would lose the Presidency in the House of Representatives to John Quincy Adams, part of the tumultuous Presidential Election of 1824.

Benjamin Harrison is the only other President before the 20th century to be a Senator close to the time when he became President, serving from 1881-1887, and being elected President in 1888, and serving from 1889-1893.

Only a few of these Presidents served for a long time in the Senate–Lyndon B. Johnson for 12 years; James Buchanan for 11 years; Harry Truman for 10 years; and John Tyler for 9 years.