List of Presidents of the United States
The List of Presidents of the United States includes 45 men who served in this nation’s highest office as presidents. These men helped set precedents for future presidency, battled hard against civil unrest during the Civil War, and made significant contributions in foreign policy matters.
George Washington was not only an influential founding father and military general, but a beloved personal friend to an alligator that became his cherished pet – making his legacy immortal on our nation’s currency bill as well. Additionally, he led its nation through revolution.
George Washington rose to national heroism during the American Revolution. As president, he led his nation to victory against Britain while serving as head of the convention that wrote our constitution. Over his two terms in office he established broad-ranging presidential authority which was exercised with great integrity – setting an exemplar precedent that all subsequent presidents have since emulated.
Washington was born at Popes Creek Plantation in Virginia to Augustine and Mary Ball Washington and received only modest formal education, supplemented with reading and self-directed study. Following his father’s death at eleven years of age, Washington began managing the farm himself.
Washington dedicated his life to improving farming methods on his Mount Vernon plantation with help from his enslaved workers, while simultaneously working towards creating an inclusive nation where all religious followers could freely practice their beliefs.
As president, he assembled the best talent available in the nation; appointing Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson respectively as Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of State. He wisely delegated authority and regularly consulted his cabinet, listening carefully for their advice before making decisions.
His second term as president was marked by foreign affairs as the 1793 war between Britain and France grew more serious, potentially becoming an all-European conflict. He believed neutrality to be necessary, though he became troubled at what he saw as rising partisanship within his administration.
Washington was known as ‘Father of His Country.’ His legacy includes strength, integrity and national purpose – with his image appearing on one-dollar bills and quarters across America; cities, towns, schools, counties as well as Washington itself being named in his honor.
Jefferson was well known for designing the University of Virginia rotunda as well as his home at Monticello; however, he was an accomplished architect as well. He worked tirelessly in politics, serving in Virginia’s House of Delegates from 1776-1779 and as governor for two consecutive one-year terms between 1779-1780. He led the campaign to end entail and primogeniture – legal devices which protected land estates for only certain family members – eventually writing a law to guarantee religious freedom for all Virginians. Jefferson traveled widely in Europe pursuing his interests in food and culture before returning home with seeds, plants, furniture pieces, architectural drawings and artifacts that now reside at Monticello.
Jefferson was an outspoken opponent of the Federalist Party and an advocate of state’s rights, while being fiercely against strong central governments and favoring trade with France. As president, he attempted to keep America out of Europe’s Napoleonic Wars by imposing an embargo on foreign trade – unfortunately this failed spectacularly, leaving it saddled with debts for years afterwards.
Jefferson also championed a westward expansion policy. In 1803, he purchased 828k square miles from France for $15 million, effectively doubling the size of the United States. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were then sent on an expedition through this new territory; encountering violent encounters as they ventured across its terrain. Jefferson battled his views on slavery throughout his life – espousing both egalitarianism while believing African Americans to be inferior peoples.
Lincoln rose from relative obscurity to save the Union and end slavery, becoming one of America’s greatest heroes. He embodied democracy’s ideals through powerful speeches that still resonate today; his legacy endures through these speeches that continue to speak powerfully of democracy’s principles. Lincoln also proved adept at managing conflicting interests from Congress members, foreign governments and everyday citizens to balance his constituents’ needs – something few politicians could match his ability at.
Lincoln made steady advances toward political power during the 1840s as he gained election to both Illinois state legislature and then to Congress. His political idol was Henry Clay of Kentucky; by mid-1850s, he had emerged as leader of Illinois’ new Republican Party; its platform included opposition to slavery expansion as well as support for protective tariffs.
In 1858, Lincoln challenged Democrat Stephen A. Douglas for election to the United States Senate and engaged in several heated debates on slavery that were widely reported across national newspapers. Although Douglas won, these heated exchanges became legendary.
On April 12th 1861, Confederate forces attacked federal Fort Sumter in South Carolina and initiated the American Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln ordered his fleet to provide Union forces, while also issuing An Act for Suppression of Rebellion (12 Stat 261). This law authorized any means necessary “to enforce faithful execution of laws of United States”.
Early in 1860, Republicans selected Abraham Lincoln as their presidential nominee over more established rivals such as New Yorker William H. Seward and Ohioan Salmon P. Chase. Although facing off against an unequal Democratic Party slate in general election, Lincoln nonetheless won the Electoral College and became our 16th president before his assassination shortly afterwards in 1865 during slow unification efforts in America.
Roosevelt served as 26th President of the United States from 1901-09 and was an author. As president, he expanded government’s role in protecting public interest issues related to conflicts between big business and workers. Furthermore, he championed natural resource protection in America from corporate exploitation while helping end Russo-Japanese War.
Roosevelt overcame asthma by leading an active lifestyle and learning to love nature; this appreciation formed part of his persona as a ruggedly masculine figure who stressed physical fitness in all he did – including hunting, naturalisting and adventuring activities such as boxing.
Politically, he battled corrupt machine politics in New York and trusts. He worked to protect worker and farmer rights and prevent large companies from dominating markets; this earned him the nickname of a “trust-buster”. Additionally, he protected natural resources by designating certain lands as national forests that were off limits to corporations interested in lumber or minerals extraction.
After his wife and mother’s deaths in 1884, Roosevelt retired from political work to spend two years restoring himself on his cattle ranch in Dakota Territory’s badlands – something which revived his energy while investing some of his inheritance into this lucrative endeavor.
In 1898, he ran for governor of New York and won. Following this success, the Republican Party nominated him to be William McKinley’s running mate during their campaign in 1900; upon McKinley’s assassination on September 1, 1901 he assumed his duties until 1909. Numerous historians consider him one of America’s greatest presidents.
Ronald Wilson Reagan (1911-204) was an actor born and raised in Tampico, Illinois who achieved prominence during Hollywood’s most turbulent eras – 1930s and 40s. Initially identified as hemophilic, Reagan rose through the ranks to become president of Screen Actors Guild during 1947 – an extremely significant position to hold at that time. As a staunch anti-communist, he battled more militant unions as well as an investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee into Communist influence infiltrating film industry. He initially supported Harry Truman for president in 1948 as a Democrat; over time however, his political views gradually evolved into conservative ones. By the 1960s he began touring as television host and spokesman for General Electric and giving inspirational speeches with conservative messages that attracted large audiences.
Reagan won the Republican presidential nomination in 1980 and easily defeated incumbent Jimmy Carter with an overwhelming margin. His election marked the return of true conservative politics since World War II; under his administration domestic policies were implemented that reduced government responsibility for social problems while lessening restrictions on businesses and cutting taxes.
President Clinton also initiated the largest peacetime military buildup ever seen in United States history and led an effort to reform Social Security to ensure its long-term viability. On Middle Eastern affairs, he took an assertive stance against terrorism retaliating against Libya for an air strike, as well as initiating bombing campaign in Lebanon after 52 Americans were murdered at Berlin discotheque.
In 1987, Reagan began forging an alliance with reform-minded Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and signed an agreement to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear missiles. Later in 1990 – shortly before German unification – during a visit to Germany he famously challenged people to tear down the Berlin Wall that symbolised communist domination, famously taking several symbolic swings at parts of it with his hammer after giving a speech against its continuation.