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Richard Nixon (1913–1994) During his presidency, Nixon brought an end to the whom he had two children.

d to the whom he had two children. When his acting career

Vietnam War. He oversaw important environmental declined, Reagan became a television host. People
The career of Richard Nixon (shown on left in picture) regulations, including the Endangered Species Act. He liked him for his appealing, folksy style.
was full of dizzying highs and humbling lows. He rose also made diplomatic progress with China and Russia.
to power at an unusually young age, elected as a Nixon’s visit to China was the first high-level contact In 1966, Reagan was elected governor of California by
congressman at 33 and as the Vice President at 39. between the two nations in more than 20 years. His almost one million votes. In 1980, Americans voted
However, when he lost the presidential election to visit to the Soviet Union led to reduced tensions and a him into office as their President by a landslide. Upon
John F. Kennedy in 1960 and the race for governor of major arms-control treaty. However, Nixon’s taking office, he urged the country to “begin an era of
California in 1962, it seemed that his political career achievements always will be shadowed by his near national renewal.”
was over. After that California loss, he told reporters, impeachment and the fact that he has been the only
“You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.” President to resign.
As President, Reagan supported supply-side
economics, which included measures such as tax cuts
Yet he rose again only six years later, ending what he Ronald Reagan (1911–2004) to stimulate the economy. He also pushed for large
called his “wilderness years” with a successful run for increases in the defense budget, an overhaul of the
President. He began his first term during the height of Ronald Reagan was the fortieth U.S. President. When income tax code, and a reduction of social welfare
the Vietnam War in 1969. He ended his second term he took office in 1981, he hoped to restore “the great, programs. He was known as the Great Communicator
prematurely in 1974 when he resigned to avoid confident roar of American progress and growth and and often went on television to urge people to
impeachment. optimism.” When he left office after two terms, many approve his legislative agenda. In international affairs,
believed that he had fulfilled that promise. Reagan opposed communism and negotiated an arms
Nixon’s ability to resurrect his career and the control agreement with the Soviet Union. His policies
combativeness for which he was known can be traced Reagan was born in the town of Tampico, Illinois. His contributed to the erosion of Soviet power and he,
to his childhood in California. He was born on his father was an unsuccessful shoe salesman. The family along with Margaret Thatcher of Britain and Soviet
parents’ ranch, and his boyhood was scarred by moved several times during Reagan’s childhood, leader Mikhail Gorbachev, played a key role in
financial problems and the deaths of two brothers. ending up in Dixon, Illinois, where he attended high bringing an end to the Cold War. His motto was
However, Nixon’s intelligence provided a way out of school. Reagan went on to Eureka College, where he “peace through strength.”
hardship. He excelled in college and won a scholarship played football and joined the drama society. A
to law school. popular student, he was elected class president in his When his second term was up, Reagan retired to his
senior year. To help pay his way, he worked as a home in Los Angeles. In 1994, he announced he had
Nixon became a divisive figure in American politics in dishwasher. Alzheimer’s disease. Reagan died in 2004.
the 1950s. During the height of the Cold War with the
Soviet Union, he was among a group of politicians After college, Reagan became a radio sportscaster. In Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882–1945)
trying to find and identify communists in government 1937, he took a screen test and was soon acting in
and American society. Many people considered his movies. One of his most famous roles was as the real- In 1933, the United States was deep in the Great
efforts shameful and un-American, while supporters life football hero George “the Gipper” Gipp, in Knute Depression. However, an optimistic new President
applauded what they saw as his patriotism. Rockne, All American. For the rest of his life Reagan had been elected. At his inauguration, President
was also known as “the Gipper.” In 1940, Reagan Franklin D. Roosevelt declared, “[T]he only thing we
Nixon’s career was simultaneous with the growing married actress Jane Wyman; they had two children. have to fear is fear itself.” With these words, he
influence of television. In 1952, when he was accused The marriage ended in divorce. immediately began to improve the mood of a nation.
of taking illegal gifts, his “Checkers Speech” in defense During World War II, Reagan was assigned to make
of his actions was the most-watched television event training films for the army. After the war, he served as
Roosevelt was born in Hyde Park, New York, in 1882.
to that time. When he ran for President in 1960, his president of the Screen Actors Guild. He fought
He attended Harvard University and Columbia School
debates with Kennedy were the first-ever televised, against communism in the film industry, and his
of Law. In 1905, he married Eleanor Roosevelt, a
and were considered an important factor in political views began to move from liberal to
distant cousin, and they had six children. Roosevelt
Kennedy’s narrow victory. conservative. In 1952, he married Nancy Davis, with
became a lawyer, but he quickly realized that a career
in law was not for him. Like his cousin, President deteriorated quickly in his fourth term. In 1945, One of Roosevelt’s most significant contributions was
Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt was drawn to shortly before the Allied victory in Europe, Roosevelt to conservation. He established 150 national forests,
politics. died in Warm Springs, Georgia. 5 national parks, many national monuments, and
wildlife and game preserves. He also appointed the
Roosevelt’s political career began with his election to Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919) first head of the U.S. Forestry Service.
the New York Senate in 1910. He quickly rose to
prominence. President Woodrow Wilson appointed One of the most colorful and popular presidents, Roosevelt’s approach to international affairs was
him assistant secretary of the navy. By 1920, Theodore Roosevelt was born to a wealthy New York “speak softly and carry a big stick.” He believed in
Roosevelt was the Democratic nominee for vice City family. Growing up, he was fond of books and using force, if necessary. However, he negotiated
president. sports. He went to college at Harvard University and peace between Russia and Japan, for which he
studied in Germany. received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906. Most of the
However, in 1921, Roosevelt’s life changed forever Panama Canal was built during his administration.
when he was struck with polio. This disease left him In 1882, Roosevelt was elected to the New York State
unable to walk. He fought to regain use of his legs, Assembly. However, in 1884, after the deaths of his In 1909, after his presidency ended, Roosevelt went
but never fully recovered. Despite this setback, wife and mother, Roosevelt took a break from politics to Africa on safari. He ran for President again in 1912,
Roosevelt was elected governor of New York in 1928. and went to explore the West. By 1886, however, he but lost. In 1913 and 1914, he led an expedition to
In 1932, he was elected U.S. President. He would be had returned to New York and to politics. South America and wrote a book about the
elected President a total of four times—the only experience. However, an injury during the trip, along
person to serve more than two terms. Roosevelt went on to hold several important with the malaria he had had since his time in Cuba,
government positions. He was commissioner of the led to a decline in his health. He suffered another
When Roosevelt took office, the country was in the New York City Police Department and assistant blow in 1918 when his son Quentin was killed in
midst of the Great Depression. He brought hope for secretary of the U.S. Navy. He was a lieutenant World War I. Roosevelt died about six months later.
the future with promises of swift action. His New Deal colonel during the Spanish-American War and
programs aimed to put Americans back to work. He became famous as the leader of his volunteer cavalry Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924)
also oversaw programs that provided safety nets for unit known as the Rough Riders.
jobless people or those who were too old to work, Woodrow Wilson was the first U.S. President since
such as Social Security. Not everyone agreed that In 1898, Roosevelt became governor of New York. Andrew Jackson to have a foreign-born parent.
government should interfere in the economy—even if Shortly thereafter, in 1900, the Republican nominee Wilson’s mother Janet Woodrow was born in England,
it meant helping its citizens. However, from that time for President, William McKinley, chose him as his vice- the daughter of a Presbyterian minister. Her husband
on, the government has had a major role in the presidential running mate. When McKinley was Joseph Wilson was also a Presbyterian minister, and
economy. assassinated soon after the election, Roosevelt the church played a large role in their son’s
became President at age 42—the youngest person upbringing. As a child, the boy was called “Tommy,”
Then, in 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in ever to hold that office. In 1904, he was elected to a his full name being Thomas Woodrow Wilson.
Hawaii. This drew the United States into World War II. full term.
Roosevelt rallied the country and was a positive and Wilson’s father had been a chaplain in the
forceful leader. Factories shifted toward supporting Roosevelt promised to follow the Constitution. Still, Confederate Army during the Civil War. After the war,
the war effort, the unemployment rate began to fall, he found ways to expand executive power. He his church in Virginia was turned into a hospital for
and the country was finally pulled out of the Great believed it was his duty to use the presidency—what veterans. Being in this environment as a boy had a
Depression. Roosevelt’s genius at appointing the right he called “the bully pulpit”—to make reforms. For deep impact on Wilson. He saw firsthand the horrors
people to various war-time commands and positions example, he became a “trust buster,” fighting against that war had inflicted.
contributed greatly to the Allied success. huge monopolies of the time such as Standard Oil.
With Congress, he worked to help consumers, too. It is likely that Wilson had dyslexia as a child, and he
The hard work of his first three terms had worn During his administration, new federal standards for did not learn to read until he was ten years old.
Roosevelt down, and as a result, his health food and drug safety were established. However, he developed a keen interest in literature,
history, and politics, and he became the only During the French and Indian War, Washington was After two terms, Washington retired to Mount
President to hold a Ph.D. an officer in the Virginia colonial militia. He took part Vernon. He died there in 1799. In his will, he made
in several battles and had some close calls. By 1755, provisions to eventually free the enslaved African
Wilson’s first term as President, from 1913 to 1917, he was commander of all Virginia’s troops. Americans he had held. Americans remembered their
was known for several important pieces of legislation. founding hero in their new capital city, 32 counties,
They included a federal income tax and a ban on child After the war, Washington returned to Mount Vernon and a state—all named Washington in his honor.
labor. During this time, World War I had begun in and married widow Martha Custis. He worked hard,
Europe. Whether the United States should enter the farming her property and Mount Vernon. Over time, John Adams (1735–1826)
war on behalf of Britain and France was a major topic he became unhappy with British rule. As an American,
of debate. Along with his legislative accomplishments, he had not been treated the same way as British Few Americans contributed more to our nation’s birth
Wilson won his second term based on the slogan “he officers in the French and Indian War. He disliked than John Adams. As patriot, leader, and thinker, the
kept us out of war.” paying high taxes on goods imported from Britain and first Vice President, and the second President, Adams
British limits on settlement in the West. As early as played a major role in launching the new United
However, shortly after starting his second term, 1768, he wrote that he was ready to take up arms for States.
Wilson decided America could remain neutral no his country—and he did not mean Britain.
longer. On April 2, 1917, he asked Congress to declare Adams’s father wanted his son to be a minister.
war on Germany. Wilson appointed General John J. He soon got his chance. In 1775, the Continental However, after graduating from Harvard College in
Pershing to lead a massive buildup of U.S. forces. In Congress elected him commander-in-chief of the 1755, Adams became a lawyer. In 1761, he started
January 1918, Wilson went before Congress to specify Continental Army. Washington handled this tough job working with James Otis, a Boston lawyer who led the
his Fourteen Points, America’s goals in the war it was with grace. His troops were poorly paid and often did legal fight against British search warrants called writs
entering. The last of them called for a “general not have enough food or clothing. Washington had to of assistance. Through Otis and Sons of Liberty leader
association of nations” to protect the independence beg the Continental Congress for more money and Samuel Adams, who was John’s cousin, he joined the
and territories of “great and small states alike.” food for the troops. Although the army suffered some patriot cause. However, Adams’s defense of British
defeats, Washington’s strategy and surprise attacks soldiers charged in the Boston Massacre in 1770
The addition of two million American troops turned proved effective, and the Americans were victorious. showed that he was fair and believed in the rule of
the tide of the war, and Germany surrendered in law.
November 1918. After the war, Wilson spent seven In 1787, Washington was chosen as a Virginia
months in Paris negotiating the Treaty of Versailles. delegate to the Constitutional Convention. The In 1774, Adams represented Massachusetts at the
The negotiations were acrimonious, and Wilson did convention unanimously elected him to be its First Continental Congress. When the Second
not get everything he wanted. However, his beloved president. After the document was completed, he Continental Congress formed the Continental Army in
idea from the last of his Fourteen Points became the worked quietly but skillfully to convince Americans to 1775, Adams suggested that George Washington lead
League of Nations, the forerunner of today’s United accept the new Constitution. it. The next year, Congress chose Adams, Benjamin
Nations. Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and others to draft the
When the first U.S. presidential election was held in Declaration of Independence.
George Washington (1732–1799) 1789, Washington was unanimously elected.
Washington knew that others would follow the In 1778, Congress sent Adams to France to help
“First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of precedents he set, so he was thoughtful about his Franklin gain aid for the American cause. In 1783,
his countrymen.” These words describe American policies and behavior. He did not want the Adams, Franklin, and John Jay negotiated the Treaty
hero George Washington. Washington was born to a government to split into parties. He insisted that the of Paris. That agreement ended the Revolution and
wealthy landowning family in Virginia in 1732. His United States remain neutral in the war between established American independence.
father died when he was 11. Five years later, Britain and France. He wanted the office to be highly
Washington began working as a surveyor. In 1752, he respected, but he took care not behave in any way Adams stayed in Europe until 1788, getting loans and
took charge of the family estate, Mount Vernon. It like a monarch. making trade agreements for the new nation. He
remained his home for the rest of his life. returned to the United States, hoping for a role in the
new government. With Washington the popular was dying in 1757, Jefferson’s father left orders that became Princeton University, and finished his studies
choice for President, Adams settled for the vice young Thomas continue his schooling. in two years.
With his wife Mary, Jefferson had six children. Sadly, After college, Madison became involved in politics. In
In 1796, Adams won the presidential election. however, only two survived to adulthood, and when 1776, he joined the Virginia Convention. He and
Jefferson, Adams’s opponent, was elected Vice Mary herself passed away, Jefferson never married Thomas Jefferson worked to ensure that the state’s
President. The two soon split over domestic and again. constitution included freedom of religion. In 1780,
foreign policy issues. For a time, their friendship was Madison joined the Continental Congress. There, he
broken. Then in 1800, Jefferson defeated Adams in his In 1800, when Jefferson was elected as the third U.S. worked hard to convince others that the new country
bid for a second term. President, it was a historic example of democracy in would need a strong central government.
action. This was the first peaceful turnover of power
Now age 65, Adams was a very old man by the from one political party to another since the nation’s When he took part in the Constitutional Convention in
standards of the time. He did not think he would have birth. Many had feared that it wasn’t possible. 1787, delegates used his Virginia Plan as a starting
a long retirement back home in Massachusetts. point for the Constitution. It called for an executive, a
However, he lived 25 more years—long enough to During his first term, Jefferson had a major impact on legislative, and a judicial branch that would provide a
renew his friendship with Jefferson. He also lived to the boundaries of the United States. He spearheaded balanced government. To persuade Americans to
see his son, John Quincy Adams, become President. the Louisiana Purchase, which the United States ratify the new Constitution, Madison, John Jay, and
Friends again, Adams and Jefferson famously both bought from France. The territory added 827,000 Alexander Hamilton wrote The Federalist Papers. In
died on July 4, 1826—the 50th anniversary of the square miles west of the Mississippi River to the his essays, Madison argued that there should be
signing of the Declaration of Independence. young nation. checks and balances in the government so that no
one person or group would have too much power.
Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) In 1789, Virginia voters elected Madison to the House
Even after his second term as President, Jefferson’s
of Representatives. There, he introduced the Bill of
contribution to the nation’s growth continued. He
When people speak of the founders of the United Rights—the first ten amendments to the Constitution.
sold a large collection of his books to the government
States, no one is more deserving of the term than These protect individual rights, such as freedom of
to start the Library of Congress, and in 1819, founded
Thomas Jefferson. His list of accomplishments is religion and freedom of speech. During his years in
the University of Virginia.
almost hard to believe. Among them, he was the Congress, Madison broke with President George
primary writer of the Declaration of Independence, Washington and Alexander Hamilton. He thought that
Despite having written in the Declaration of Hamilton’s economic ideas favored northern
the third President, a secretary of state, and the
Independence that “all men are created equal,” like merchants. Madison and Thomas Jefferson started
founder of the University of Virginia.
many wealthy southern men of his time, Jefferson the Democratic-Republican Party, while Hamilton and
held hundreds of enslaved people at his home, Vice President John Adams started the Federalist
Amazingly, Jefferson was considered a poor public Monticello. Although his legacy is mixed, it is safe to Party.
speaker. However, the brilliance of his writing was say that few people in American history have
undeniable. His words in the Declaration not only influenced the nation and the world as much as
inspired the American colonists to unite in rebellion In 1794, Madison married Dolley Payne Todd, a lively
Thomas Jefferson did.
against Britain, they have been touchstones for and popular woman, who sometimes served as a
people yearning for freedom worldwide for more hostess for Jefferson at the White House. Later, she
James Madison (1751–1836) became a beloved First Lady.
than two centuries.
The fourth President of the United States, James
Jefferson’s father was a successful planter, and his When Jefferson was elected President in 1801,
Madison is sometimes called the Father of the
mother came from one of Virginia’s wealthiest Madison became his secretary of state. In 1808,
Constitution. Madison was born and grew up in
families. When Jefferson was a child, his father Madison was elected President. At that time, Great
Virginia, the oldest son of a prosperous landowner.
recognized the boy’s abilities and went to great Britain was interfering with U.S. ships at sea and
Madison went to college in New Jersey, at what
lengths to encourage his son’s education. Even as he backing American Indians’ attacks on settlers in the
Northwest Territory. At Madison’s urging, Congress James Madison, and John Jay wrote The
voted to begin what would become known as the War FederalistPapers, a series of essays defending the
of 1812. In 1814, when the British attacked Constitution and explaining to Americans how the
Washington, D.C., Madison and his wife had to flee new government would work. Hamilton’s arguments
the city. about the importance of a strong central, or federal,
government were logical and persuasive. They led,
James and Dolley Madison moved back to Virginia eventually, to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution.
after his presidency, where he ran his plantation. When Washington became President, he made
Madison also served as head of the University of Hamilton his secretary of the treasury. Hamilton’s
Virginia in 1826. He died at home in 1836. beliefs were not popular with everyone. He and the
secretary of state, Thomas Jefferson, disagreed about
the nation’s dealings with foreign countries. Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton (1757–1804)
argued for close ties with England, while Jefferson
wanted friendship with France.
Alexander Hamilton was a man of intelligence and
vision. These qualities made him one of the most
influential of America’s founders. However, he also Hamilton officially left government service in 1795.
had a temper and sometimes behaved rashly. These However, he continued to influence and advise
qualities brought him trouble and made him enemies. government leaders. This led to ill feelings between
him and John Adams once Adams became the second
President. Hamilton made other enemies, too, among
Hamilton was born on the island of Nevis in the British
them politician Aaron Burr. The two men had long
West Indies in 1757. His mother died when he was
been political rivals.
still a boy. In 1773, he came to New York to make his
In 1804, the long-standing feud with Burr came to a
head. Burr challenged Hamilton to a pistol duel.
Hamilton was ambitious and befriended powerful
Hamilton was against dueling, but felt he had to fight
people. As the American Revolution began, those
Burr as a matter of honor. They faced each other on
friends helped him get a commission as captain in the
the morning of July 11 in Weehawken, New Jersey.
colonial army. At the Battle of Trenton, his brave
Burr’s aim was good, and Hamilton was fatally shot.
actions stopped a British attack. George Washington
He died the next day.
was impressed. He asked young Hamilton to be his
aide, and they formed a close friendship. Hamilton
became one of Washington’s most trusted advisors.

After winning independence, the new nation

struggled under the Articles of Confederation, which
had created a weak central government. Hamilton
believed in a strong central government. He believed
that the Articles of Confederation were holding the
country back. He became a driving force behind the
Constitutional Convention.

After the Constitution was written, many people

opposed it. During the national debate over ratifying
it, Hamilton worked very hard to get it accepted. He,