Daniel Hannan Ranks the American Presidents (And Does a Better Job than Most American Historians)

by Mike on January 17, 2011

in History,Politics

Ranking the American Presidents is something all of us political dorks have done at some point in our lives.  Although I haven’t done this in quite a long time, I remember my list being somewhat different than the lists often cited by American historians.

A few minutes ago, I stumbled across Dan Hannan’s Top Ten Presidents list.  Although I was always kinder to George Washington in my rankings, I was pleased to see Hannan’s list because it comes closer to my own than any I’ve ever seen. Hannan gives due credit to Lincoln, my favorite President for his role in saving our fragile union and combating the greatest moral evil of his day.  Like the top of my list, Reagan and Jefferson are in the top four where they belong.  Best of all, Franklin Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson are nowhere to be found.

Mainstream American historians have always had a tendency to judge our Presidents by how much they expanded the role of government.  That may have been a proper view at a time when government was so minimal that eight year old children suffered through 12 hour days in a textile mill, but not anymore.  As the economic and social damage done by the excesses of the New Deal and Great Society grows increasingly difficult to ignore, it may be time to acknowledge the achievements of those Presidents who recognized the need for limits on the power of the state.

Even though he isn’t American, Hannan has a greater understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of our Presidents than some Americans who make their living studying the subject. Sometimes it is worthwhile to appreciate a foreigners’ perspective of American politics.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ryan January 18, 2011 at 9:13 am

Hannan’s list is pretty solid in some areas. John Adams wasn’t such a great President, and his son was a wizard at State, but had a tumultuous time in the White House.

I like, however, how he put Grover Cleveland high on the list. Unless you dig into the numbers, most don’t know that he had a total of 414 vetoes in his eight years with only 2 being overridden! Why? He was a stalwart against Congressional intrusion into areas not specified in the Constitution… and he was a Democrat! I respect that, and it’s good to see that a Brit like Hannan knows and appreciates that too.

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