We like to think of the commander-in-chief as being a powerful figure who always acts in the best interest of the country, yet this is not always the case. The position comes with immense responsibilities, and some men simply have not been up to the task. These are five of the nation’s worst presidents, ranked from least awful to most. Donald Trump has been removed from consideration, as his term is incomplete.
5th Worst: John Tyler (1841-1845) – After being exiled by his own Whig Party in 1841, Tyler pursued an independent path of states’ rights (which, at the time, meant pro-slavery). He annexed the Republic of Texas with the intention that it would become a slave state. A strict constructionist, Tyler’s sole Supreme Court appointment voted to deny African Americans citizenship in the 1857 case Dred Scott v. Sandford. Despite being an obvious racist, Tyler did have some success in foreign policy, particularly in relations with the Chinese and the British.
4th Worst: Warren G. Harding (1921-1923) – Though he was popular in his time, the Harding presidency is now seen as a disaster. Harding oversaw an administration plagued by three major scandals. The most serious of these was the Teapot Dome scandal, in which Interior Secretary Albert B. Fall ended up in prison over charges of bribery. He also unpopularly vetoed the World War Adjusted Compensation Act to provide benefits for veterans of World War I. Recent discoveries that he had an affair in a closet of the White House have only tarnished his posthumous reputation further.
3rd Worst: Franklin Pierce (1853-1857) – Like many of the last few presidents before the Civil War, Pierce was simply horrible. He favored the Kansas–Nebraska Act, which forced bloodshed over whether or not Kansas could become a slave state. He was in favor of slavery to such an extent that he supported the Ostend Manifesto, an agreement in which he was willing to pay $100 million to purchase Cuba from Spain so that slavery could spread there. He was a vocal critic of President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.
2nd Worst: Andrew Johnson (1865-1869) – Johnson became president following Lincoln’s assassination and opposed just about every piece of civil rights legislation the Radical Republicans in Congress placed on his desk. His failure to properly enforce equality in the South following the Civil War led to the creation of Jim Crow laws and glaring racial problems that last to this day. He was impeached in 1868 for purposely violating the Tenure of Office Act; his impeachment was one of the most dramatic events in American history.
Worst: James Buchanan (1857-1861) – This man did nothing right. He was strongly in favor of slavery, and when southern states began seceding from the Union in 1860 following the election of Lincoln to the presidency, Buchanan actively chose not to stop them, literally causing the Civil War to occur. His early economic policies and elimination of a tariff led to the Panic of 1857, one of the worst economic crises prior to the Great Depression.