When it comes to the history of the United States of America, there are a couple of words that came into everyone’s mind: freedom, democracy and many presidents.
Throughout the centuries, the United States has had a large number of presidents, attesting the country’s democracy based structure and keeping their constitutional tradition and rights. Every citizen has the right to vote and plays an important role in choosing the presumably right person to guide the country and its inhabitants to something more than survival.
As you might have noticed for the past few months, Americans and candidates for presidency take voting and the entire process of elections very serious. Whoever runs the state for the next years is the result of people giving their votes and sharing their opinions after many debates.
The candidates are doing things differently than their ancestors used to and this year is really awkward in terms of aspirants for the White House office. There are the wife of former president Bill Clinton, Hilary Clinton, the controversial entrepreneur and currently much hated Donald Trump, the man who is not a fan of and neither a favourite of the LGTB+ community, Ted Cruz, and your friendly neighbour Bernie Sanders.
All candidates have tried to win the hearts, but mostly the votes, of the American people by different techniques – some tried to sympathies with the youth and give the impression of innovation and modernity, while some are voicing solutions to the darkest and deepest needs of the nation. But regardless of who wins, before them there where others who did a lot or at least enough for the country, people whom they would have to work very hard to surpass.
Looking back in time the USA presidents have been a men more or less capable of keeping the country together and safe in front of the enemies. We are talking about the founders, about those who transformed the colonies into a nation capable of taking its destiny into its own hands.
We are talking about those chiefs of state who aided the nation into becoming a great power on the globe, occasionally the greatest. Some of these men started slowly, but brick by brick they brought change and became responsible for the evolution of the American citizens. So, we are going to take a look at 10 of the American presidents who did the most for the nation state and who are definitely remembered in history books.
10. James Madison (1809 – 1817)
Born in 1751 in Virginia, James Madison was the eldest out of the twelve children of James Madison Sr. and Eleanor Conway, owners of a tobacco plantation.
Due to his family’s financial stability, James Madison Jr. had the opportunity to study Latin, Greek, mathematics, science, geography, philosophy and rhetoric at the College of New Jersey – now known as Princeton University – and later continued his studies with Hebrew, political philosophy and law, but not to practice it.
Later he served in the military, time during which he became the protégé of Thomas Jefferson and eventually joined the Continental Congress. But his biggest role was yet to come. Madison and other nationalists decided to take matters in their own hands and face the debts brought by the Revolution. Madison developed the so called “Virginia Plan” and became the Father of the Constitution and later of the Bill of Rights.
The 4th president
After a period of being the Secretary of State, at the order of Jefferson, Madison was inaugurated president in 1809. In 1816 he vetoed the bill approving the creation of a second bank that would aid them in the war against Britain. His and his fellow assistants’ great commandment led to the War of success ending in their favour.
Yet the European Americans were not the only ones advantaged throughout Madison’s time spent as president. Although Madison’s orders were not followed, American Indians were also supposed to be protected and aided in order to achieve a peace and stability between the two people.
9. Ronald Reagan (1981 – 1989)
Born in 1911 in Tampico, Illinois to a poor family, Ronald Reagan aptitudes of a good leader were revealed right from his childhood when he used to shelter African Americans over the night.
His rescuing later resumed to a small job as a lifeguard, which allowed him to save approximately 77 people. Reagan continued his studies at “Eureka College” and while majoring in Economics, he grew an interest in sports, politics and theatre, the latest being turned into an actual career for a while.
Before getting into politics, Reagan had a contract with Warner Bros. and starred along Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart, with a short break when he fought in World War II. He changed to television where he served as host of “General Electric Theater” and “Death Valley Days”.
After being the Governor of California from the late 60s until the middle 70s, Reagan ran for presidency and became the head of the state for the first time in 1981. His position as got him many enemies and only 69 days after being elected he got shot, but the people found him capable enough to vote him president once more in 1945.
His two terms meant allowing again prayers in schools, appointing a woman – the first one – to the Supreme Court, starting a war against drugs, cutting the taxes and supporting science and technology, especially NASA and giving support to families by giving the opportunity to poor families to acquire the necessary training in order to obtain a job.
8. Dwight Eisenhower (1953 – 1961)
Born into a family of German ancestry, in 1890, in Texas, as the third of the seven Eisenhower boys, Dwight David grew up as a precocious young boy with a passion for military history, arithmetic and spelling.
Later he became a sportsman and less disciplined, both playing a role afterwards in his military career. During World War I Eisenhower was 2nd Lieutenant, but after the end of the war returned to the rank of captain for 16 years. Eisenhower became General after the Pearl Harbor attack and eventually led Operation Overlord and participated in the liberation of France.
Becoming the president of the United States was already a fact long before his actual election. The major role he played in the two wars and especially in defeating the enemies gave him a huge advantage and won him the election. His term meant bringing to life the bill of the Interstate Highway System and updating the Civil Rights Acts twice. He also balanced the country’s budget by cutting off the military expenses, fact which would normally raise some questions and disapprovals, but due to his military experience, the country trusted his decision.
7. Harry Truman (1945 – 1953)
The eldest son of a farmer and livestock dealer of Scottish-Irish ancestry, Harry S. Truman was born in Lamar Missouri, in 1884.
A music and history enthusiast, who also enjoyed spending time reading, Truman did not earn a college degree, despite enrolling for a business and for a law degree. Truman was also very close to his parents, his mother being his pillar and adviser from infancy and even during his time as president, while his father’s friends helped him begin his political career.
After serving in World War I, being the judge of Jackson Country, a U.S. Senator and Vice president, Harry Truman became the president of the United States – twice! – From 1945 until 1953. The 33rd president played a role in the end of World War II by using Atomic Bombs over the Pacific, proposed the early modern version of the Civil Rights Act and was the father of NATO, CIA and National Security Council. His two terms were not only about the development of his country, as he also recognized Israel as a state and his “Marshall Plan” led in the rebuilding of Europe.
6. John Adams (1797 – 1801)
The son of a Congressionalist deacon, John Adams Jr., was born in Massachusetts, in what today is Adams National Historical Park, in the year of 1735. He did not follow his father’s footsteps and enrolled in Harvard College, further becoming a lawyer.
Even before becoming the president, Adams expressed firmly his opposition against the British power and authority and he was questioned about the infamous Boston Tea Party incident, only to sign in 1776 the final act – the “Declaration of Independence”.
After spending 8 years as the first Vice President of the United States, John Adams was elected President on March 4, 1797. Outside strictly political and economical matters, the hopeless romantic diary keeper president got involved in some social matters. In 1801 he held a dinner with a delegation of Native Americans as guests.
Adams never owned a slave and found the idea of being a slave owner repulsive, despite being practiced in his time, making him the single non-slaveholder out of the first five presidents. After 1953, Adams retired to his farm where he lived until his death, but not before living for 4 months in the White House – the first one to do it.
5. Thomas Jefferson (1801 – 1805)
Thomas Jefferson was born in 1743 in the Colony of Virginia as the third son of a planter, who left him a significant amount of land after his death.
He studied Latin, Greek and French and later got interested in history, mathematics and philosophy, becoming later a lawyer. The beginning of his political career was marked by the signing of the “Declaration of Independence”, which was followed by him becoming the state legislator and governor of Virginia, a member of Congress and the Secretary of State.
After a time as Vice President to John Adams, Jefferson began his term as the third President of the United States in 1801. Considered an indispensable leader, Jefferson was against the Federalist movement and managed to lower taxes, diminishing the national debt.
Yet, historians claim “The Louisiana Purchase” as Jefferson’s greatest accomplishment as its addition doubled the area of the United States. Years after his retirement, he participated in the naissance of the “University of Virginia” and the “Library of Congress” by selling his personal tomes he acquired throughout the years.
4. Theodore Roosevelt (1901 – 1909)
The man who grew to become a writer, explorer, warrior and naturalist, Theodore Roosevelt was born in Manhattan in 1858 to a socialite and businessman of Dutch, German, English and Scot-Irish ancestry.
Despite his early health problems, which included asthma, the young Theodore Jr. surpassed them encouraged by his family. After years of being home schooled, Roosevelt enrolled in Harvard College where he took a significant interest in biology. He also joined Columbia Law School, but studying law was not as significant for the young naturalist. His career as a politician was marked by his enrollment in the Republican party.
After campaigning for other presidential candidates, participating in the Cuban War and spending time as the Governor of New York and Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt finally became the president of the U.S. in 1901. During his two terms, he created the “Square Deal” program which concerned the conservation of natural resources, the control of corporations – by dissolving some of them and regulating the railroad taxes – and consumer safety. His negotiation for the conclusion of the war between Russian and Japanese forces gained him a Nobel Prize.
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933 – 1945)
Coming from a different branch of the same privileged Roosevelt family as 26th president, Franklin Delano Sr. was born in New York in 1882.
He often travelled to Europe, which aided him in learning German and French, and was passionate about riding, rowing, polo, tennis and golf.
He studied economics and history at Harvard College and later law at Columbia Law School. He ran for State senator in 1910 and spent time as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He also attempted to become the Vice President, but he lost to the Republican party.
Despite his father’s wish of him never becoming the president and his paralysis caused by polio, Franklin continued his political career and after his term as the Governor of New York, he was elected as the President in 1933 for three consecutive terms.
His terms meant decreasing the unemployment issue brought by the Great Depression by securing jobs for hundreds of thousands of men.
Roosevelt extracted the American forces from the South American countries and was one of the big three politicians who played a role in defeating the Axis powers and bringing the Iron Curtain.
2. George Washington (1789 – 1797)
Born in Virginia in 1732 to a quite prosperous family of English roots, George Washington was refused the same education as his brothers, because of his father’s death.
He was allotted a well paid job as official surveyor, which allowed him to buy his first own land. After the death of his brother Lawrence, he took over a part of his responsibilities. He got involved in the upcoming French and Indian War and in the disastrous expedition of General Edward Braddock. He became in 1755 the Commander of Virginia Regiment and lead an aristocratic lifestyle.
Following the events after the American Revolution, in 1789 George Washington officially became the first president of the United States for two terms, refusing the third. His entire career ante his term had already won him the respect of the people, but he used the 8 years properly, too. He was the one to organize the first United States Cabinet, the US Navy and the USA federal judiciary and was the father of the Bill of Rights and respectively of the US Constitution.
1. Abraham Lincoln (1863 – 1865)
Born in a log cabin in Kentucky, in 1809, to a Baptist couple of farm owners, the young intellectual Abraham disliked the manual labor, which brought him criticism and a reputation of being lazy.
Distancing himself from his family and starting a new one, Lincoln joined the militia service as Capitan. He taught himself law and practiced it for a significant amount of time. In 1846 he was part of the U.S. House of Representatives and the subsequent years were spent on trying to gain the power to abolish slavery.
He finally reached the highest status – the one of president – in 1863 and used his precious time in favour of the country up until his assassination in 1865. As the head of the state, he led the Union to triumph against the Confederacy and avoided the recognition of the Confederacy by the British.
He finally abolished slavery in the states, while encouraging other states to follow the example, and authorized the Army to protect them. He also signed acts permitting poor people to acquire land, the building of several universities and instituted the US National Banking System.