Top 5 Best U.S. Presidents of All Time

It’s tough to find an impartial ranking of the best American presidents. Most historians are liberally-biased. Presidential accomplishments and the success of the nation during and shortly after their term of office doesn’t seem to matter as how much the man increased the size of the federal government. It takes years to truly evaluate a president, so it’s premature to put Obama or Trump on any credible ranking. Yet that hasn’t stop liberally-slanted historians from putting Obama near the top while ranking Trump dead last. It’s tough to rely on anyone in the ranking when you see propaganda like that.

The following ranking looks at each President’s accomplishments, tangible results, problems solved, challenges faced, and overall leadership. It ignores the brainwashing of school history textbooks. It considers the state of the nation when the President took office and the condition when he finished his term. It also considers the degree of difficulty of their achievements. It’s easier to pass laws & make lasting changes when Congress is controlled by the President’s own party and most of the American public is on your side. It’s very different when you have to exercise true leadership to bring divided people together.

top-5-best-presidents-all-time reagan washington jefferson lincoln eisenhower

5 – Thomas Jefferson

Why the Ranking:
  • There is likely no other man in history who influenced the tenets of American liberty than Thomas Jefferson. He was a true limited-government patriot that helped make the United States the greatest country on Earth. It’s unlikely the country could have maintained its freedom and withstood the test of time without the influence of Jefferson. Doubling the size of the country, setting the foundations of a strong military, and abolishing the slave trade added to his successful presidency.
Accomplishments:
  • Wrote the Declaration of Independence and was instrumental in putting together the U.S. Constitution.
  • Doubled the size of the United States with the Louisiana Purchase.
  • Established the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
  • Initiated several territory exploration missions including the Lewis & Clark Expedition.
  • Abolished the slave trade.
  • Rolled back growing federal government power and repealed several unpopular taxes.
Quotes:
  • “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
  • “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
  • “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”
  • “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”
  • “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”
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4 – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Why the Ranking:
  • It’s difficult to find a president who did so well at pushing all the right buttons to improve the strength and prosperity of the country. Eisenhower had a distinguished career in the military before his presidency, and he brought his leadership experience to office. He helped keep most of the world at peace, improved the country’s equality, led an economic boom, balanced the budget, and launched innovated projects that put the U.S. on a course to be the world’s true economic superpower.
Accomplishments:
  • Launched the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) which led to the formation of the Internet.
  • Ended the Korean War in a way that preserved the freedom and stability of South Korea.
  • Passed the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960.
  • Signed bills developing the interstate highway system.
  • Authorized the creation of NASA.
  • Desegregated the Armed Forces.
  • Prevented the military expansion of Soviet communism while keeping the country at peace.
  • Balanced the federal budget over multiple years.
  • Presided over a booming economy.
Quotes:
  • “A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”
  • “If a political party does not have its foundation in the determination to advance a cause that is right and that is moral, then it is not a political party; it is merely a conspiracy to seize power.”
  • “Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well.”
  • “If you want total security, go to prison. There you’re fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking…is freedom.”
  • “The middle of the road is all of the usable surface. The extremes, right and left, are in the gutters.”
  • “Always try to associate yourself with and learn as much as you can from those who know more than you do, who do better than you, who see more clearly than you.”
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3 – George Washington

Why the Ranking:
  • The Father of our Country was a true leader who brought together 13 diverse colonies to form a solid foundation of freedom. It’s tough to underestimate the difficulty encountered in building a stable government that stands the test of time. Washington brought together all the right people and established standards which set the United States on a course to be the greatest country on Earth.
Accomplishments:
  • Led decisive battles against the British that earned the country respect among world powers.
  • Established the Judiciary Act of 1789, cabinet system, and other tenets of American democracy.
  • Kept the U.S. out of European wars and organized strong diplomatic relationships.
  • Established the United States Navy.
  • Organized peace with Indian tribes.
  • Put limits on presidential executive power and established the two-term maximum standard.
  • Held together the country through the Whiskey Rebellion are other internal struggles.
Quotes:
  • “I’ll die on my feet before I’ll live on my knees!”
  • “If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
  • “Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.”
  • “Real men despise battle, but will never run from it.”
  • “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.”
  • “The Constitution is the guide which I will never abandon.”
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2 – Abraham Lincoln

Why the Ranking:
  • Lincoln was one of the most hated men in the country’s history, presiding over the most divided citizenry. Yet, he exercised the very definition of true leadership in holding the country together while eradicating the nation’s biggest sin – slavery. Lincoln was one of the few presidents to stick to his principles regardless of the current public opinion and relentless criticism. Perhaps no man in American history has had a bigger impact on the course of the nation and the world. He’s not ranked number one because of some tragic blunders early in the Civil War, but he did learn quickly from his mistakes.
Accomplishments:
  • Passed the Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment to the Constitution to eradicate slavery.
  • Held together a deeply divided nation after half the country tried to secede.
  • Successfully led the North through a defeat of the South in the Civil War.
  • Established the U.S. National Banking System.
  • Created the U.S. Secret Service (ironically, only hours before he was assassinated).
  • Authorized the first transcontinental railroad.
  • Signed the Morill Acts, which granted the land now used by most American public universities.
Quotes:
  • “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”
  • “Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”
  • “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”
  • “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”
  • “… from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom–and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
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1 – Ronald Reagan

Why the Ranking:
  • When Reagan took office, the United States was at a low point in its history. The economy was tanking with double-digit inflation and unemployment. Mortgage rates were over 15 percent. The Soviet Union had surpassed the U.S. militarily and was expanding its empire around the world unchecked. Taxes and government regulation were strangling individuals and businesses. American pride in their country was near an all-time low.  By the time Reagan left office, the economy was scorching, unemployment was low, the Soviet Union was near extinction, and freedom was expanding all over the world. American optimism and patriotism reached an all-time high. The U.S. military surpassed the rest of the world by a wide margin and has remained the best to this day. Reagan and Soviet leader, Gorbachev, signed a number of nuclear reduction treaties that alleviated the fears of nuclear annihilation. Reagan completely turned the country around and gave birth to a new conservative libertarian ideology that remains the standard today.
Accomplishments:
  • Won the Cold War and set the Soviet Empire on a course for the “ash heap of history”.
  • Brought down the Berlin Wall and set events on course for German unification.
  • Rebuilt a deteriorating U.S. military to the strongest int the world.
  • Halted the nuclear arms race by negotiating a series of disarmament treaties with the Soviets.
  • Passed large tax cuts that launched the biggest economic boom of the 20th Century.
  • Brought down double-digit inflation and unemployment to low single-digit levels.
  • Nearly doubled government tax revenues despite cutting taxes dramatically.
  • Revitalized the conservative libertarian movement.
  • Launched the Strategic Defense Initiative which formed the basis of U.S. missile defense.
  • Restored American pride, patriotism, and optimism.
Quotes:
  • “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
  • “Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today’s world do not have.”
  • “Many Americans today, just as they did two hundred years ago, feel burdened, stifled, and sometimes even oppressed by government that has grown too large, too bureaucratic, too wasteful, too unresponsive, too uncaring about people and their personal freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people.”
  • “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.”
  • “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
  • “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”
  • “The price of freedom may be high, but never so costly as the loss of freedom.”
  • “Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
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Other Links that Might Interest You

Presidential Quotes Trivia
President Abraham Lincoln Trivia
President Ronald Reagan Trivia


Written by: Joe Messerli
Last Modified: 5/31/2018

Presidential Quotes Trivia

Test your trivia knowledge of presidential quotes. Identify the speaker of each famous line. (15 Quotes)