Average is a term sometimes difficult to define. An average president is one that does a decent job in office, but can still succumb to problems of his own making or circumstance. The country is neither better nor worse without them. They lack grand achievements, but also lack monumental failures. As a result, they really cannot be classified failures, but cannot be considered great either.
John Tyler assumed office upon William Henry Harrison’s death. Tyler was the first vice president to rise to the presidency upon his predecessor’s death. He established the precedent of vice presidential succession and demanded to be considered more than a figurehead. At the time, people were not sure if the vice president became president or served as a transitional figure. On top of this, Tyler brought Texas into the Union. On the other hand, Tyler opposed his own party’s program, vetoed their legislation, and ended up an excommunicated lame duck. As a result, historians tend to look down upon Tyler's reign. However, he proved important to the development of the presidency and Manifest Destiny while bungling politically.
Unlike Tyler, President U.S. Grant has undergone a renaissance of his reputation in recent years. Only Bill Clinton experienced more major scandals than Grant. On top of this, his second term was dominated by Southern violence and an economic depression. Despite this, his first term proved largely successful. His greatest accomplishment was the destruction of the first Ku Klux Klan. Grant also worked for Indian rights, settled the Alabama claims through the Washington Treaty, and solidified the Union. However, the depression essentially ended Reconstruction and Grant's chances for a third term.
Rutherford B. Hayes succeeded Grant and oversaw the end of Reconstruction. The Republican Party agreed to withdraw troops from the South in return for the presidency. Hayes attempted to protect African Americans as much as possible, but was hampered by law. He also battled corruption by limiting federal employees' political participation and reforming the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Hayes’ greatest achievement came when he arbitrated the Paraguayan War. He remains a hero in South America today. On top of this, he reached an accord with Mexico to battle border bandits. Hayes deserved re-election, but his controversial election victory guaranteed one term.
Unlike Hayes, William Howard Taft did not want to be president. Instead, Taft eyed the Supreme Court. However, his wife, and Theodore Roosevelt, had other ideas. Taft was elected as Roosevelt’s hand-picked successor. As president, Taft busted monopolies, strengthened the Interstate Commerce Commission, and reserved millions of acres of pristine lands for future generations. He also improved the post office and adroitly handled the Mexican Revolution, which his successor completely bungled. On the other hand, Taft’s policies angered Theodore Roosevelt, who may have simply been looking for an excuse to run for president again. The split between the two men led to Woodrow Wilson’s election.
The Taft-Roosevelt split led to Woodrow Wilson. After eight years of Wilsonian Democracy, the country turned to Warren Harding for a “return to normalcy.” Harding died and Calvin Coolidge became president. Coolidge restored people’s faith in government after the scandal-ridden Harding years. Few presidents represented the middle class more than Coolidge and the president provided the people the type of government they craved. Coolidge cut taxes and oversaw one of the great economic booms in history. On top of this, he renounced war with several other nations when the U.S. signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928.
Fifty years after Coolidge lived in the White House, another president assumed office hoping to heal scandal fatigue. Gerald Ford declared the Watergate nightmare over and moved toward governance. The public liked Ford at first. Then, he pardoned President Nixon and his administration’s popularity plummeted. Ford also pardoned Vietnam-era draft dodgers. On top of this, a recession struck caused by government spending and the end of the Vietnam War. Ford worked to fix the economy, but failed. On the other hand, he expanded the Civil Rights Act to Hispanics, created special education for disabled children, stabilized the Middle East with Sinai II, and signed the Helsinki Accord, which touched off the Solidarity Movement in Poland and spelled the beginning of the end of the Cold War. However, the pardon destroyed Ford’s chances of re-election and he lost a narrow decision to Jimmy Carter. Years later, Ford received the Profiles in Courage Award for the Nixon Pardon. Critics had become admirers.
Some presidents do a decent job and do not receive credit. John Tyler ended all ambiguity about presidential succession. Grant destroyed the Klan. Hayes is a hero in South America for arbitrating peace. Taft was a major trust buster and conservationist. Coolidge embodied America and oversaw the Roaring Twenties. Ford healed a nation and launched a final assault on communism. Despite this, none of these men received second terms for a variety of reasons. However, they can not considered failures. Instead, they are men who did their best, enjoyed some success, and suffered some setbacks.