The 12 Worst Leaders in U.S. History

Sharon
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As we look back on the history of the United States, many great leaders have guided our country through challenging times and helped shape it into what it is today.

However, not all leaders have had a positive impact. There have been some who are remembered as the worst leaders in U.S. history. Let’s look at who these leaders were and why they are considered the worst.

Andrew Johnson

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Image credit: Mathew Brady

Andrew Johnson assumed office as the 17th President of the United States from 1865 to 1869 following the tragic assassination of Abraham Lincoln. 

His presidency was riddled with controversy and poor decision-making, making him one of the worst leaders in U.S. history. Johnson’s racist views and lack of support for the newly freed slaves led to failed Reconstruction policies, causing further division in the country.

Herbert Hoover

US President Herbert C. Hoover in 1928
Image credit: Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons

Herbert Hoover was the 31st President of the United States from 1929 to 1933. He is most remembered for handling the Great Depression, which began under his presidency. 

His failure to take significant action and implement effective policies to address the economic crisis only worsened the situation and led to widespread suffering among Americans.

Richard Nixon

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Image credit: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

Richard Nixon was President of the United States from 1969 to 1974. Despite some positive accomplishments, such as improving relations with China, his presidency is marred by his involvement in the Watergate scandal.

The scandal resulted in Nixon’s resignation, leaving a stain on his legacy as one of the worst leaders in U.S. history.

James Buchanan

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Image credit: George Peter Alexander Healy via Wikimedia Commons.com

James Buchanan served as the President of the United States from 1857 to 1861, leading up to the Civil War. He is known for needing to be more decisive and robust in addressing issues between North and South, ultimately failing to prevent the secession of Southern states. His inaction only escalated tensions and contributed to the start of the Civil War.

Franklin Pierce

Image credit: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

Franklin Pierce served as the President of the United States from 1853 to 1857. His presidency was marred by his endorsement of slavery and failure to address the escalating sectional tensions between the North and the South. His inability to effectively navigate these critical issues ultimately contributed to the eruption of the Civil War.

Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant
Image credit: Brady-Handy Photograph Collection/Wikimedia Commons

Ulysses S. Grant served as the President of the United States from 1869 to 1877. Despite being a successful military leader, his presidency was marked by corruption and a lack of effective leadership. Grant’s administration was plagued by scandals, including the Whiskey Ring scandal, further damaging his leadership reputation.

Donald Trump

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Image credit: by Frenz

Donald Trump was the 45th President of the United States from 2017 to 2021. His divisive rhetoric and actions during his presidency have earned him a spot on this list. From his controversial policies, such as the travel ban and family separation at the border, to his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, many view Trump’s presidency as one of the worst in recent history.

Millard Fillmore

Millard Fillmore
Image credit: Mathew Benjamin Brady/Wikimedia Commons

Millard Fillmore held office as the 13th President of the United States from 1850 to 1853. His presidency became synonymous with his endorsement of the Fugitive Slave Act, legislation that The mandate required the owners to reclaim their escaped slaves.

However, his failure to address the complex issue of slavery within the nation exacerbated divisions, ultimately setting the stage for the Civil War.

William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison
An oil painting of the 9th President of the United States from 1840 via Wikimedia Commons

William Henry Harrison tragically passed away after serving just 32 days in office in 1841. While his short time in office may not have given him much opportunity to make any significant impact, he is remembered for providing one of the longest inaugural speeches in history on a cold and rainy day, which ultimately led to his death from pneumonia.

This event has earned him a spot on this list as one of the worst leaders in U.S. history for his lack of preparation and foresight.

John Tyler

John Tyler
Image credit: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

His presidency is marked by his lack of support for national policies and failure to work with Congress, resulting in a stagnant and ineffective administration. Tyler’s actions ultimately led to his expulsion from the Whig Party and a lack of success during his office.

Chester A. Arthur 

Chester A. Arthur
Image credit: Portrait of U.S. President Chester Alan Arthur via Wikimedia Commons

Chester A. Arthur held the esteemed position of the 21st President of the United States from 1881 to 1885. While his presidency witnessed commendable achievements like civil service reform, it was marred by pervasive corruption and scandal. His association with the “spoils system” and neglect of critical matters like tariffs further contributed to a tarnished legacy as a leader.

Rutherford B. Hayes

Rutherford B. Hayes
Image credit: Rutherford B. Hayes via Wikimedia Commons

Rutherford B. Hayes served as the President of the United States from 1877 to 1881. His presidency is most remembered for the controversy surrounding his election, which led to the end of Reconstruction and the abandonment of civil rights for African Americans in the South. His lack of action on these issues only further perpetuated racial tensions and set back progress toward equality. 

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Presidents may linger in the collective American consciousness for many reasons. Perhaps they were embroiled in controversies like Nixon, Clinton, or Trump. Maybe, like Kennedy, their time in office was defined by the tragedy that occurred to them, as humans tend to remember negative events more accurately than positive ones.

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Provided by Frenz via Wikimedia Commons

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Author

  • Sharon

    Sharon is a dynamic contributor to the Frenz Hub writing team, integrates her expertise in business information technology with her love for reading, blogging, traveling, and volunteering, adding depth to her articles.

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