Have you ever wondered which Presidents were the most conservative? Fear not, for I am going to give you the list of presidents who best exude conservative thought and policy. This is, of course, entirely subjective and in no particular order. Let’s discuss. 

Thomas Jefferson

A founding father of this county, author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson was a proponent of a small and limited government and a bastion of religious liberty. While President, Jefferson abolished the slave trade (though it is still ironic that he owned slaves himself), established the Library of Congress, and even established the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. President Jefferson repealed excise taxes, ratified the 12th amendment, furthered exploration of the New World with Lewis and Clark, and signed a Peace Treaty in Tripoli. Thomas Jefferson has cemented himself through his work and political thought as one of the leading conservative presidents that we have seen. 

George Washington

Viewing the first president through a modern lens makes this kind of difficult, but he is grouped into the category of conservative in many ways. George Washington had the immensely difficult task of creating a government and setting the standards for a president should act. He set many precedents in the way a president should exercise their scope of power. The examples and precedent he set for the rest of the country’s history is nothing short of honorable.

James Madison

Father of the Constitution, James Madison was hyper-aware of what he believed to be the scope of the government which he maintained was meant to be limited. Madison took a stand against expanding the government or vetoed things that toed the line of constitutional authority. Madison is known best for his key implementations in the constitution like population-based representation and checks and balances. He was also one of the only presidents to accompany troops into battle. 

Calvin Coolidge

Call him “President No” because that’s exactly what he did majority of the time. Known for his frugality, commitment to the nation’s founding principles, and his quiet demeanor, President Coolidge rose to immense popularity for cutting taxes, cutting spending, and reducing regulations that had been burdening the masses. Though he was forgotten for many decades, Ronald Reagan should be credited with honoring his memory and bringing his name back into the conservative conversations.

Ronald Reagan

You know him, you love him, and you want to emulate him. He is one of the most popular presidents and is certainly the most popular president from the past for conservatives. President Ronald Reagan was known for his fiscal conservative, witty comebacks, and American optimism. Reaganomics is a practice of trickle-down economics that is associated with the President. President Reagan had many accomplishments such as ending the Cold War, tax reform, judicial appointments, and defending American values. His charm and charisma will live on forever. 

Grover Cleveland

A name you probably didn’t expect to be on your list but the name that needs to make it on to said list. Grover Cleveland was a Democrat, but also, he definitely wasn’t. He is said to be one of the last “small-government” Democrats. He is known most for his being staunchly against tariffs, high taxes, imperialism, and corruption. Before Calvin Coolidge, he was also known for vetoing bills that he deemed unconstitutional, 414 bills in just his first term. He took his role as President seriously. Cleveland didn’t find meddling in elections or doing things outside of his role too much of his interest nor responsibility. 

Martin Van Buren

A founding member of the Democrat Party isn’t who you expected to see on this list but alas, I will continue to surprise you. Though often said to be a mediocre president, his legacy speaks to why people may feel this way. His legacy is one of very limited government intervention. In the Panic of 1837 when many were short on food, lack of employment, and bankruptcy, he remained unwavering in his position that the government should not intervene. Though this position ultimately led to him being voted out, his defense of the constitutional scope of government was something to behold.

James Monroe

With a great love of the country he served, James Monroe was a fierce patriot. The Monroe Doctrine, his obvious namesake, was a vital piece of work. It essentially told European countries to mind their business and the western hemisphere would mind their own. He was also the last president of the group known as founding fathers.

Of course, this list isn’t definite. There are plenty of conservative presidents, but these are the people who best fit the bill for conservatism and/or classical liberalism. Sometimes we get lost in the haze of the politics of our time. It’s important to remember our roots and the philosophy that got us to the modern conservative thought we try to emulate today. 

Caroline C.
FFL Cabinet Member
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