John Adams vs. Jimmy Carter... which was the better president?

Was John Adams (our second president) a better President than Jimmy Carter?

I know John Adams had a lot of stuff going on, with the XYZ Affair and the Alien and Sedition Acts.

And Jimmy Carter got the Iranian hostage crisis but he's noted for the Camp David Accords (the peace treaty he negotiated between Egyptian Pres. and Israeli Premier)

So Which one was the better President? why do you think so?

Thank you all for your responses! :)

12 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Well, I will tell you that most scholars tend to rank John Adams considerably higher on the list than Jimmy Carter.

    In evaluating presidents, one has to remember four things. Firstly, the context of their time: presidents two centuries ago lived in a very different world than we do today, with very different questions to address. Society was still agrarian, not yet industrial; poverty and disease were still widespread in America; nothing resembling the United Nations yet existed, and free trade had not yet been advanced; women still had very limited rights, and slavery was the accepted norm. Many of the presidents lived when America was not yet a country, and even participated in making it one. So it is difficult to ask what our more recent presidents would have done for the country, had they lived in America's infancy.

    Secondly, we must remember that sometimes a president's success is stymied beyond his control. James Monroe, for instance, seems to have had excellent intentions, but congress prevented much of his success in accomplishing them.

    Thirdly, sometimes a president does very differently on foreign and domestic fronts. To cite a British example (a bit unconventional, I know!), Winston Churchill gained fame for his excellent leadership in the war...but at home, his domestic policies were widely considered to have stunk.

    And fourth, a critical thing to remember is that one's efficiency as a president cannot always be measured by their personal integrity or charisma. Herbert Hoover was a wonderful person, a humanitarian who labored to save millions of lives around the world. But, he just didn't have what it took to get America through the depression; good intentions, and the practicality and/or support to see them through don't always coexist. Franklin Roosevelt was a notorious womanizer, a racist who did nothing to help blacks (so as not to damage his votes), turned his back on millions of Jews attempting to flee the Holocaust, and imprisonsed a whole generation of innocent Japanese in our country, not to mention being a chain smoker -- but he created American welfare, led us to victory through WWII, and championed the creation of the UN. On a side note, even Hitler was a nondrinking, nonsmoking, nonwomanizing vegetarian and animal lover -- and I don't think we need to ask whether he would have been a good president!

    Jimmy Carter is an excellent person. I don't think anyone will question that. He also meant well: his administration emphasized human rights on the global scale, conservation of the environment, and making peace between nations. However, congress stymied many of his attempts to pass what might have been excellent measures, his peace accords ultimately failed (which isn't that uncommon, actually), and he simply didn't have what it took to deal effectively with a mounting energy crisis and economic recession, or the Iran hostage situation.

    John Adams, on the other hand, was, by his own account, "obnoxious and disliked". He was brash and argumentative, and nearly ruined Ben Franklin's careful attempts to get France to join us in the Revolution (which is what eventually enabled us to win, by the way), before being sent home at franklin's request. However, he championed, perhaps more than any other, American independence during the Revolution, and attacked both governmental corruption and the idea of hereditary monarchy (imagine what would have happened had he been unsuccessful, and America had become an absolute monarchy!). As president, his Alien and Sedition acts were disastrous, which is probably why he's not ranked amoing our top leaders, but he did actually prevent a war (with France) -- which was his own proudest point, and is more than most presidents can say they've done! He was also never implicated in any scandal, never cheated on his wife, and was an ardent antislavery activist. (Jefferson, meanwhile, actually worked in favor or slavery during the Missouri Compromise, toward the end of his life!)

    So, all things considered, and despite the fact that he blundered as a diplomat and had a less than likeable personality, Adams was probably much more successful than Carter as a president in terms of his realized accomplishments, and contributed greatly to the establishment of America both as a country and as a republic. Would things have been different had Carter been elected at another time? Difficult to say.

    However...if we consider everything they did in the course of their lifetime (not just as president), things do get more complicated. After all, even though peace treaties often don't last, Carter did negotiate peace with North Korea during the 1990s, and worked to negotiate peace in the Balkans, and on many other occasions (pretty remarkable, for someone who doesn't even hold a high political office anymore!); compare this with Adams' ONE famous peacemaking success. He also established the Carter Center, and works with it tirelessly -- despite his advanced age -- to fight disease and provide homes and basic necessities to impoverished people around the world.

    How many presidents have even attempted to make peace and save and improve the lives of the world's poor as much as Carter has in his lifetime?

    So...technically, most successful as president? Apparently Adams. Most noble contributions in their lifetime? You decide, but I certainly know my vote!

  • 1 decade ago

    I don't know how you randomly came to select these two presidents but it is hard to compare presidents from different centuries. I will say this though, John Adams was a very rigid person and I think he would have had a lot of difficulty in the 20th century. Though I would give him the edge because he was a founding father and as such deserves the respect and admiration for participating in the creation of a new government and a free society. Quite an accomplishment.

  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

    Jimmy carter would never make a good president. He is definitely the worst president this country has ever seen.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I give Carter more time before I pass judgement on his presidency.

    I happen to be in the Gulf when hostage rescue was attempted. I watch the helicopters take off never to return.

    He will only damage himself more if he keeps playing this poltical game about Bush being the worst president.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I lived through the Carter years. Honestly, the man wouldn't have even made a decent dogcatcher.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Carter is a nice man, and he was a great campaigner, but in truth, he was a terrible president.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Have to go with Adams, Carter was a complete failure

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    i will nominate carter as the worst prez. as for adams, i dont know enough but for the best is hands down the great communicator Ronald Wilson Reagan

  • ?
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Tough call. I'm going with Adams, since he's dead and cannot do any more damage.

  • 1 decade ago

    Filmore was a better president.

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