Which two presidents from American history are most like each other and why?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a number of ways of approaching the task of identifying two U.S. presidents from throughout American history who were similar.  An easy and obvious approach would be to list either of the two sets of father/son presidencies that have occurred:  John Adams, the second American president, and his son John Quincy Adams, the sixth president; or George Herbert Walker Bush, 41st president, followed by George W. Bush, the 43rd president.   Another easy approach would be to exploit the legends surrounding the presidencies of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, specifically, the large number of coincidences involving those two presidencies, albeit with some exaggeration and even outright fabrications.  That both were assassinated and that both were initially elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in the year 46 (1846 and 1946), and both subsequently elected to the presidency in the year 60 (1860 and 1960) have long provided fodder for the myths surrounding American history.  Some have compared the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama in terms of the two men’s image consciousness and articulateness possibly concealing less-than-stellar intellects, all of which is patently unfair to both presidents.

One possibility that could make for an interesting assignment would be to compare the presidencies and personalities of the first president of the United States, George Washington, with that of the 33rd president, Harry Truman.  Both men were thrust into office during turbulent times – the founding of the Republic and the final phase of World War II, with the momentous decision to drop atomic bombs on two Japanese cities lending an unprecedented level of gravity to the latter’s early days in office – and both were famously reluctant to sit at the helm of the nation’s government.  Both were level-headed individuals of admirable temperament who found themselves occupying the Oval Office through unconventional means, Washington as a consensus candidate to be the first to hold that position in the newly-established nation; Truman succeeding to the presidency following the death of Franklin Roosevelt, a giant of American history whose presidency was characterized by the Great Depression and New Deal programs he advocated to reverse economic catastrophe and the oncoming war in Europe and Asia that would prove the most destructive conflict in human history.  Both were men whose personal and professional integrity were highly commended, although Washington’s questionable military prowess and record as a slave-holder diminished his legacy somewhat while Truman’s connection to a powerful Kansas City Democratic powerbroker of questionable integrity, Tom Pendergast, similarly left a black mark on his record.  These issues aside, however, the records of both have withstood the test of time, with Washington remaining the ideal of the reluctant politician and Truman emerging over the years as the model of unblemished fortitude and grit. 

There is no question that other educators or analysts could suggest other pairings of American presidents, and the Adams family (no pun intended) certainly warrants serious consideration.  The above discussion of Washington and Truman, however, may be worth pursuing.

rachellopez | Student

There are a lot of Presidents who were similar in their views or how they affected America. One pair of Presidents that were similar would be Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. The main thing that brings them together is the fact they were both assassinated while in office. However, they also both created their own money systems for the U.S.

President Abraham Lincoln needed a way to pay for the war against the Confederates, so he set out to make his own money system. He printed money to pay the soldiers and fund the war. This helped the government stay out of debt.

John F. Kennedy was the only President after Lincoln to create his own money system. He issued the Exec­utive Order 11110 which allowed him to make an "Interest and debt-free money" for the people, exactly as Lincoln did.