Who was the Best US President? The 6 Most Liked in History

Updated On: July 03, 2023

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The United States of America became an independent country 247 years ago, in 1776. Since then, it has been through periods of massive growth, immense loss, and everything in between. The success and growth of the USA are thanks to the US presidents that led the country during those times.

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Mount Rushmore features the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

Each US president has unique ideas, policies, and values. Some have boosted the country, while others left it in a similar or worse state for their successors. Here, we’ve explored US history to find the 6 most well-liked presidents over time.

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was the 14th US president. He continuously comes in first place nearly every time there is a vote to rank the best US presidents by laypeople and scholars. He is well-liked by members of both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Lincoln was born in a log cabin in Kentucky in 1809. His family was not well off and was often in poverty. When Abraham Lincoln was 16 years old, his family moved from Kentucky to Indiana because his father lost his farmland and because Indiana was a free state where slavery was illegal.

In 1830, Lincoln’s family relocated again to Illinois, another free state. Here, he became independent; he moved out of his family home and began transporting cargo to southern states for money. Lincoln saw slavery for the first time on one of these trips.

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Lincoln spent much of his adult life in Illinois.

In adulthood, before he became a US president, Abraham Lincoln was a successful lawyer, Illinois state legislator, and even served as a congressman in the House of Representatives.

After his time in state politics, Lincoln returned to Illinois. Shortly after, he was upset by the passing of the Kansas–Nebraska Act, which allowed slavery in those states. This spurred him to run for US president in 1860, which he won by sweeping the northern states.

Southern states saw President Lincoln as a threat to their ability to keep slaves and began seceding from the United States to form the Confederacy. One month after Lincoln took office, the Civil War had begun.

President Lincoln led the United States to victory during the Civil War. In 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, a presidential order that freed all slaves in the southern states. After his reelection, Lincoln worked to heal the nation.

On 14 April 1865, Lincoln and his wife attended a play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. During the show, John Wilkes Booth, a member of the Confederacy, snuck behind President Lincoln and fatally shot him.

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Lincoln was the 16th US president.

Lincoln is considered at the top of the list of greatest US presidents because of his fight for freedom and equality for all. He is remembered as honest, hardworking, and the best leader the country has ever had.

You can visit Abraham Lincoln’s tomb in Springfield, Illinois.

John F. Kennedy

JFK is highly considered one of the best US presidents in history. John F Kennedy was born in Massachusetts in 1917. When Kennedy was 10 years old, his family relocated to New York due to Anti-Irish sentiment in Boston.

As a young adult, JFK planned to attend law school at Yale but chose instead to enlist in the military when the United States entered World War II. He joined the United States Naval Reserve, where he commanded multiple torpedo squadrons.

JFK’s older brother, Joseph Kennedy Jr, also joined the war effort during World War II. Unfortunately, he perished during an air mission when the bombs his plane was carrying detonated early. 

His brother’s death is what pushed Kennedy into politics. His father had always wanted Joseph to run for US president, but now that dream fell onto JFK’s shoulders. He began his career in politics as a congressman in the House of Representatives.

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JFK participated in the first televised presidential debate.

After his time in the House of Representatives, Kennedy ran for Senate. He won the election and represented Massachusetts in the Senate for 2 terms. His platform included better public healthcare, better benefits for veterans, and supporting the labour unions.

Kennedy ran for US president during the 1960 election. He was the Democratic nominee, and he ran against Richard Nixon. During this election, the first-ever televised debate was broadcasted.

Kennedy had spent the last few days preparing for the debate while Nixon was out campaigning and had a fever. Because of this, Kennedy looked much better to the American public and gained more support. Although, those who listened to the debates on the radio said Nixon had won.

Kennedy’s presidency focused on improving foreign policy. He met with Russian leaders to solve issues regarding East Berlin and to attempt to prevent the Cold War. JFK was also president during the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam War.

Unfortunately, Kennedy’s time as a US president was short-lived. On 22 November 1963, JFK was assassinated during a motorcade procession through downtown Dallas, Texas. JFK is remembered for his strong foreign policy, as a World War II war hero, and for helping pass the Civil Rights Act.

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George Washington was the first US president.

George Washington

No list of the most well-liked US presidents throughout history would be complete without George Washington. He was the first US president ever to take office after the country won its independence from Great Britain.

George Washington was born in 1732 to a wealthy family in Virginia. They worked on a large farm, growing tobacco and running a distillery. He consistently returned to and lived on the farm throughout his life.

In 1752, Washington joined the military for the British-controlled Colonies in North America. He was sent on several missions against the French, who were claiming territories nearby. After 2 years, Washington was promoted to lieutenant colonel.

One of Washington’s most influential battles for the British forces was the Jumonville affair. He led his troops on an offensive mission to ambush the French forces. The French forces were defeated, and this sparked the French and Indian War, which fed into the Seven Years’ War.

George Washington began to distrust the British government when they did not promote him into the regular army after his multiple successful missions. He was also frustrated with the taxes set by British Parliament on the Colonies without allowing them to be represented in government.

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Washington was the only president that did not live in the White House.

He became a strong advocate for the Colonies seeking independence from Britain. He encouraged colonists to take ownership of unclaimed lands, led protests, and served on the First Continental Congress, which enforced a boycott of British goods.

The American Revolutionary War began in 1775, and George Washington was unanimously selected to lead the Continental Army as Commander in Chief. Washington led the troops through many battles until the British Monarchy officially recognised the Colonies as free states in 1783.

After the war, Washington returned to Virginia. It wasn’t until 1788 that the Colonies held the first presidential election. Washington won the majority of votes in every state and became the first US president.

Washington served 2 terms as president and set the foundation for the United States. He created the national bank, set the standard for domestic affairs, and created the country’s first foreign affairs policy. He was the only president not to live in the White House.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson served as the third US president. Jefferson was born in 1743 in Virginia, which was under British control at the time. He received a formal education and enjoyed learning about nature and languages.

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Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence.

After graduating from university, Jefferson became a lawyer. He represented several slaves in legal cases, fighting for them to be freed. He also wrote and sponsored legislation which called to reform slavery and emancipate the slaves.

During the American Revolutionary War, Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence. His work was ratified on 4 July 1776, and his preamble, “All men are created equal,” became one of the most famous phrases in the United States and around the world.

Before he became a US president, Thomas Jefferson held many political offices. He was a state legislator and governor in Virginia, served in Congress after the Colonies won the Revolutionary War, was a Minister to France, and served as Secretary of State under President Washington.

During his first presidential campaign in 1796, Jefferson lost the vote to John Adams and was elected vice president. Jefferson ran against Adams again in the following election of 1800 and won.

Jefferson achieved many feats during his presidency. He decreased the national debt by $26 million, founded the United States Military Academy, and secured the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the country’s size.

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The Jefferson Memorial is located in Washington, D.C.

Today, Jefferson has a very positive legacy. He is remembered as a strong US president and for his love of science, nature, and scholarship. To best understand what Jefferson stood for, visit the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt was the 26th US president to take office. He was born to a wealthy family in New York City and was home-schooled. Roosevelt suffered from asthma as a child, which caused him to embrace a “strenuous lifestyle”, which he is known for today.

Roosevelt began working in politics when he was just 24 years old. He joined the New York State Assembly and began working to solve the state’s corruption issues. He served 4 terms in the assembly.

In 1897, Roosevelt was appointed as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy by President McKinley. In this role, Roosevelt improved national security and urged for the construction of more battleships in preparation for a war with Spain.

When the Spanish–American War began in 1898, Roosevelt left his position in the Navy and founded the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, commonly known as the Rough Riders. He led the troops through many victorious battles against the Spanish forces.

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Theodore Roosevelt founded the Rough Riders Cavalry.

After returning home from the war, Roosevelt was elected Governor of New York. During this time, he held press conferences twice per day. This allowed him to be more connected to the middle class and learn about the issues they faced.

Instead of seeking reelection in New York, Roosevelt ran for vice president in 1899. He won the election but did not enjoy his time as vice president to President McKinley. It did not give him enough say over decisions, and he felt powerless.

In 1901, President McKinley was assassinated in New York. This triggered Theodore Roosevelt becoming the US president in his place. President Roosevelt served 2 terms in office.

Of all that Roosevelt accomplished while serving as US president, nothing is more remembered than his work in conservation. He dedicated many resources to conserving the land, natural resources, and wildlife of the United States.

Roosevelt founded the United States Forest Service, created 5 National Parks, established over 50 bird reserves, and more. In total, he placed over 230 million acres of land under protection during his presidency.

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Roosevelt is known for his conservation efforts.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt, commonly referred to as FDR, was the 32nd US president to take office, and he is the only US president in history to serve more than 2 terms. He was born in 1882 to a wealthy New York family.

After Franklin Roosevelt’s father passed away when he was 18, he needed to find a new mentor to look up to. He found it in his fifth cousin, President Theodore Roosevelt. He was inspired by his cousin’s strong leadership style.

In his early political career, FDR closely followed in the footsteps of his cousin. He served on the New York State Assembly for 3 years before being appointed as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. 

In 1920, Franklin Roosevelt ran for vice president during the presidential election. Unfortunately, the Republican candidate won, but FDR took it in stride and returned to New York.

A year later, FDR planned to run again but could not due to illness. He experienced high fevers, body and facial paralysis, and numbness which were diagnosed as polio. Although he was recommended to use a wheelchair, he thought it would hurt his image.

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FDR was diagnosed with polio when he was 38 years old.

Instead, he taught himself to walk shorter distances using a cane and leg braces for support. He was rarely seen in his wheelchair by the public and persistently claimed that his condition was improving in hopes of furthering his political career.

In 1929, FDR ran for governor of New York and won the election by a very small margin. He served as governor for 2 terms and helped New York survive the hardships brought on by the Great Depression.

Franklin Roosevelt ran for the US presidency during the 1932 election. He won in a landslide victory, with over 50% of the popular vote and securing all but 6 states. His platform was based on reducing tariffs, better public works, and addressing the damage done by the Great Depression.

During his first and second terms as US president, FDR focused on implementing the New Deal, a set of projects set on repairing and reforming the nation. He used fireside chats to relay his plans to the public.

Franklin Roosevelt stayed in office for an additional 2 terms because the United States joined World War II in 1941 after Japan attacked Pear Harbor in Hawaii. FDR led the United States through the war with his foreign and domestic policies.

In 1944, Franklin Roosevelt’s health began to decline significantly. He was ordered to rest and considered resigning from the presidency after World War II was won. Unfortunately, he would not live to see the end of the war.

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A statue of FDR can be found at the National WWII Museum.

In 1945, FDR suffered a stroke and passed away. His death shocked the nation and the world because his poor health was never publicised. During the 30-day period of mourning, the Nazi forces surrendered.

FDR is considered one of the best US presidents to lead the nation. His legacy highlights his commitment to improving the lives of the working class, his dedication to fighting through his illness, and his ability to lift the nation up during times of crisis.

There Have Been Many Great US Presidents Throughout History

Throughout the history of the United States, many presidents have achieved great things and left a legacy. Their beliefs, policies, and dedication have shaped the country into what it is today.

From the very first US president to take office to more recent presidents that led the United States through war and hardship, each has left his mark on the country. The stories of their time in office are fascinating, and their work influenced the US forever.

If you’re interested in travelling to the United States, check out our list of the Best City Breaks in the USA.

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