Being the U.S. president has to be one of the hardest jobs on the planet. Getting to the white house is like climbing Mount Everest when you reach the top, you are in the limelight, everyone is looking at what the presidents offer. The United States, throughout its history, has had successful and memorable Heads of State both for great works and terrible reigns ever. Among the presidents of the U.S. so far in history, some have been rated highly as the benchmark of success in the White House while others have received the worst rating from both historians and scholars. The list of the worst U.S. presidents in history is determined based on weighted means of the compiled rankings of the presidential greatness surveys and political science and historian scholars academic survey carried out over the years in the history of the presidents of the country. Among the factors considered in the ranking encompass the leadership qualities, presidential achievements, faults, and failures of the commander in chiefs across history. This top ten list outlines 10 of the worst U.S. presidents in history and why.
Table of Contents
- James Buchanan, 1857 – 1861
- Warren G. Harding, 1921 – 1923
- Andrew Johnson, 1865 – 1869
- Franklin Pierce, 1853 – 1857
- Millard Fillmore, 1850 – 1853
- William Henry Harrison, March – April 1841
- John Tyler, 1841 – 1845
- Ulysses S. Grant, 1869 – 1877
- Herbert Hoover, 1929 – 1933
- Zachary Taylor, March 1849 – July 1850.
James Buchanan, 1857 – 1861
Buchanan was the only lifelong bachelor to serve as president in history and stands at the very bottom of the Presidential Greatness list. He was the 15th U.S. Head of State and held his prestigious post for one term from 1857 to 1861. Buchanan had accumulated tremendous experience in politics because he served in the Senate, the House of Representatives, and also held a position of secretary of state under President Polk’s administration. When he was elected in office, he rejected slavery claiming it is an indefensible evil, but he like many of his democratic party members failed to challenge the constitutionally established orders. As a pro-slavery politician, he believed that the increasing moral implications of slavery could be solved through the supreme court’s dreaded Dred Scott decision. The supreme court Dred Scott decision is lauded as the decision that denied African American U.S. citizenship. Other Buchanan failures as the U.S. chief in Command helped Kansas become a slave nation. President Buchanan failed to broker peace between warring nations and he also alienated member states of warring factions. Because of his ineffective presidency gave way to the Civil War and many scholars refer to as Buchanan War. Buchanan practically rolled out the U.S. red carpet for the American Civil War, before he turned the fractured country over to President Lincoln.
Warren G. Harding, 1921 – 1923
The United States’ 29th President was Harding. He was in the white house from 1921 to 1923. Many historians, scholars, and the public cite him as one of the worst presidents of the United States. He was against the League of Nations that was advanced by Woodrow Wilson. His admiration was filled with scandals and corruption allegation, none of it was traced to Harding. After his death, the drama, graft, and corruption heightened. The president’s personal life was equally scandalous and tawdry because of his extramarital affairs with multiple women including Nan Britton who wrote a book indicating that Harding fathered a daughter with her.
The political trouble of Harding set in because of his mishandling of Teapot Dome oil reserves that proved scandal worth in his administration. Harding’s administration stance in the White House pro-business witnessed corporate tax and wealthy slashing as well as pro-tariff and anti-immigration. He was famous with ameliorating the American economy where interest rates increased while the public debt reduced which helped balance the federal budget. However, Harding White House legacy was overshadowed with corruption cases, and scandals such as the Teapot Dome Scandal and other wheeling dealings tarnished his reputation and legacy.
Andrew Johnson, 1865 – 1869
Johnson gained access to the White House most coveted power as the chief of command after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. As the deputy president, the death of the president meant he was to be sworn in as the president and reigned from 1865 to 1869 as the 17th U.S. president. Because of the violation of the tenure of office act, Jonson was impeached in 1868 but remained in office thanks to the Senate’s quick acquittal. Johnson was in the White House after the beginning of Civil War issues concerning the reconstruction of South, and national unity building was the primary focus of the entire nation, not just Johnson’s administration. He was very unpopular in the eyes of the public and the scholars because of the opposing measures like the 14th amendment which was designed to afford U.S. citizenship to African American population.
Franklin Pierce, 1853 – 1857
Pierce was the 14th commander in chief of the United States of America from 1853 to 1857. The administration of his time is sampled as a regulatory failure by both the public and scholars. his party, Democratic party, declined because of Pierce’s political shortcomings. The southern secession movement spread its roots and grew stronger during the administration presided over by Pierce; it provided the enabling conditions for the campaign to grow. His tepid reign and stance on slavery taint his reputation to the many people who understand the legacy of the United States’ sin as a nation.
For instance, president Pierce supported the Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854 which made Nebraska and Kansas in territories; this lifted the ban on slavery allowing them to choose the side they desire. It was famously known as “Bleeding Kansas” and the border conflict that revolved between the pro-slavery and antislavery factions. The act in question is associated with causing the destruction and deaths resulting from the ravages of the Civil War. The handling of the mess that emanated from the 1854 Kansas and Nebraska Act was abysmal such that he could make it through the nomination for the next election. He also withheld the controversial Fugitive Slaves Act which contributed towards the failures of his presidency. He deserves a spot in this list because he was the commander in chief during a period that was full of weird encounters in American.
Millard Fillmore, 1850 – 1853
The tenure of President Millard Fillmore that ran from 1850 to 1853 marking the last member of Whig to hold the top White House officials. He started his political career in 1829 as a legislature, a representative from New York, he was elected the vice president but rose to the presidency when President Zachary Taylor died in 1850. During his reign, slavery was a primal issue in U.S. history, and he was the outright supporter of the Compromise of 1850. He is treated as among the worst American presidents in history because of endorsing several controversial portions of Fillmore policy such as the Fugitive Slave Act which aimed at settling the dispute of the Southern slave owners and abolitionists in the North.
William Henry Harrison, March – April 1841
Harrison was the 9th Commander in Chief of the U.S. who served for 32 days in the White House from March to April of 1841. Historically, Harrison served the shortest period as the president of the United States. He was the unfortunate unique case of the first U.S. president to die in his office. As was a war hero, serving in the military where the troops he commanded won the Battle of Themes killing Tecumseh before his winning his election. Because of his short period in office, he did not achieve any of his political goals; therefore, no legacy, no glory.
John Tyler, 1841 – 1845
The 10th United States president who was elected as the Vice President but was sworn in as the president following the untimely demise of President Henry Harrison in 1841. He is popularly known as “His Accidency” and was immediately termed as traitor upon his death. When he started his political career, Tyler was a Democrat, but at the time he was elected he was Whig party member. Because Tyler believed in destiny, the last portion of his reign was expended annexing Texas. In 1842, the members of his Whig party spearheaded his impeachment attempt making him the first American president to face impeachment, even though it was unsuccessful. Instead of focusing on developmental goals, Tyler was always engaged in a long-standing conflict with members of the Whig establishment, making him a primary candidate of the top ten list of worst or failed presidents.
Ulysses S. Grant, 1869 – 1877
As the 18th President of the US, Ulysses S. Grant reigned from 1869 to 1877 as the Republican party presidential candidate. Grant was a war hero because he served in the military as a general where he played a significant role in the Union army’s victory over the Confederacy’s forces during the American Civil War. The presidential legacy of President Grant, the 18th U.S. Head of State encompasses overseeing the reconstruction of the Southern states, quashing the Ku Klux Klan by suspending the habeas corpus in South Carolina and commissioning mass arrest, dismantling the Confederacy, supporting the civil rights act of 1875 which protects the civil rights of African Americans. The controversial Civil rights act of 1875 which benefited the African American population for a short period, and also worked for the good of American Indians by the institution the reservation system as imperfect last ditch to protect this Indian Americans from extinction.
Despite the many tremendous accomplishments in the fight for the civil rights and protecting the threatened species of the American population, still, Grant qualifies in the list worst presidents. The reason behind his downfall is the amalgamation and widespread graft, corruption, and financial mismanagement and misconduct that plagued his administration. Though he was not a direct beneficiary, he was the Head of State with the power to protect public funds. He admitted his errors stating that his failure as the U.S. president were errors judgment rather than mistakes of intent.
Herbert Hoover, 1929 – 1933
Hoover was so loathed and unpopular to the extent that he earned a scene in the musical called “Annie” making fun of his legacy. The 31st American president Hoover was the unlucky Head of State who took over the office, and the stock marked crushed seven months into his reign. Hoover presided over the Great Depression and failed to terminate or prevent it, costing millions of Americans their homes and jobs. Homeless shantytown homes named “Hooverville” spread across America and hoover, was so heartless that he quashed and withheld humanitarian relief from reaching the desperate and needy Americans. In his protection, Hoover claimed that he stopped humanitarian help because he wanted to protect capitalism. Hoover is among the worst presidents America have had because he was a poor communicator, heartless, uncaring, and cold to the very people he was supposed to lead. His policies also worsened the Great Depression hurting Americans more.
Zachary Taylor, March 1849 – July 1850.
President Taylor was the 12th Commander in Chief of the United States of America from 1849 March to 1850 July when he died. He was a war hero who served in the military for over four decades from the 1812 wars to Mexican wars as a major general in the U.S. Army. Therefore, Taylor easily gained political success a was elected as the U.S. president under the Whig Party. He had no previous political record or experience because he depicted no political interests previously. Taylor owned a plantation and held over 90 slaves and fought to get western states to admit to a free country to keep the nation united. His policies encompass the pro-union and antislavery rhetoric initially advanced by president Abraham Lincoln makes him score a plus in the surveys. However, his lack of conviction relegates him to the bottom ten of the Presidential Greatness list. You cannot claim to be against slavery when you have the most significant number of slaves working on your plantation.