Including Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in the top 10 is essential. Both men had careers larger than life. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison through their writings and actions helped create the country in which we now live. Both men were hugely important political philosophers, with Madison being referred to as the Father of the Constitution. He wrote the Bill of Rights as well.
Jefferson established the first political party the Democrat Republican Party. His leadership firmly set the standard for future Presidents in upholding the Republican form of government. His Presidency saw the historic Louisiana Purchase and his commissioning of the Lewis and Clark expedition set in motion the westward expansion of the United States.
Madison’s presidency saw the threat to our national sovereignty by several empires. James Madison continued with the Jefferson agenda. The War of 1812, put in jeopardy our sovereignty. The British threatened our liberty but with Madison’s leadership we weathered the threat. He helped pass legislation which continued the internal improvements necessary to grow as a nation.
It is difficult to measure the importance of Jefferson and Madison because like Washington they set our future in motion and lent stability to a new nation surrounded by empires.
Placing Woodrow Wilson and Harry Truman in the top ten is relatively easy due to the crisis they faced and the progress we made as a nation during their time as President’s of our United States. Putting one ahead of the other is like choosing which is your favorite ice cream.
Like Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson was among the first of what has been termed Progressive Presidents. Wilson kept us out of World War I as long as he could. He along with Congress established the first small income tax; Wilson started the Federal Reserve Board, he continued to fight monopolies in the form of Trusts, and he established a farm policy to attempt to give aid to our farmers.
Woodrow Wilson was a leader who attempted through the beginnings of the League of Nations to establish a world body to help end wars. The failure of the Senate to agree to have America become part of the League may have condemned the League to fail. The hope of a generation to end world wars ended.
Wilson was different in his background. Although he was a former Governor of New Jersey, his temperament was more like the academic of his University of Princeton days. He did not come from wealth, but rather he was a political science person who failed to convince Senator Lodge of the importance of having a League of Nations when that critical time came when Lodge needed convincing.
President Harry Truman was probably one of the poorest in terms of wealth in the history of the American Presidency. But what he lacked in wealth he made up for in common sense and understanding the American People. He was so poor and independent that he drove he and his wife home to Independence, Missouri when his term in office ended.
President Truman faced many, many crisis and problems during his tenure as President of the United States. People forget how important it was when his administration passed the G I Bill. Millions of men came home from World War II and the G I Bill helped to provide for an education and good jobs for the returning heroes. One key reason for his election in 1948 was the fact that our economy was booming at a 6% rate per year. The limited space and time are not sufficient to list all of the crisis, not the least of them was the beginnings of the Soviet empire, after the war. One of Truman’s greatest achievements was with General Marshall’s guidance, the rebuilding of Europe under the Marshall Plan. Europe had been the site of two World Wars. President Truman recognized the wisdom of ensuring that a strong Europe and a strong NATO would ensure peace in the future. The price to attain Peace can be high but it is well worth the cost.
His sense of humor and common sense were well needed during an era that required leadership and good governance. Truman was honest and candid almost to a fault. In telling a joke on himself, he described in that joke the cynicism we all have regarding politicians. Truman said that he had two choices in life he could have been a piano player in a whore house or a politician and he didn’t think there was much difference between the two.
At a time in history it is worthy of note that Truman nor Eisenhower were wealthy men. Wilson wasn’t going to become wealthy by being a college President, either. Truman had to write his autobiography just to help him make ends meet in his retirement. Yes, Eisenhower’s land that he owned has grown in value. None of the three would have been thought of as wealthy. These days to run for President you either need to be a millionaire or have your own billionaire to fund your campaign. Oh, how times have changed.
President Dwight David Eisenhower has seen his Presidency grow in stature in the years since his leaving office. Eisenhower was extremely well liked and trusted. I like Ike was more than a campaign slogan. President Eisenhower continued the prosperity that America was experiencing and under his guidance the Middle Class grew to a level we had not seen before. He ended a war in Korea and wisely warned us of the Military Industrial Complex. President Eisenhower knew about war probably as much as anyone in history and his warnings are still echoing today about the subtle dangers of a large defense establishment. His wisdom in recognizing the importance of a good infrastructure helped him pass the Interstate Highway system, which helped connect the country by highway, and thereby greatly improved our transportation system.
To be continued with a Part IV and a Part V.