This was a really hard list to put together. The bench in New York is probably deeper than any other state in the nation.
1. Franklin Roosevelt–our second greatest president.
2. Theodore Roosevelt–I actually don’t like TR for a lot of reasons that eventually I’ll get into here, but one cannot deny his importance. And in the end, he and the other Progressive presidents passed a lot of much needed legislation, even if their motivation was often disturbing.
3. Alexander Hamilton–architect of American capitalism. Near destroyer of the country though with the Alien and Sedition Acts. I wonder what would have happened to Hamilton had he lived.
4. John Jay–America’s most underrated Founding Father. Was excoriated for a long time over the Jay Treaty but the U.S. was in a terrible negotiating position with the British.
5. Martin Van Buren–not a good president, but the real founder of the Democratic Party and one of the greatest pure politicians in American history.
6. DeWitt Clinton–pushing through the Erie Canal alone earns him a high spot on this list. Truly remarkable story.
7. William Seward–leading founder of the Republican Party, abolitionist, near presidential candidate, Secretary of State, purchaser of Alaska, survived assassination attempt the night Lincoln was killed.
8. Robert Wagner–champion of working people. Sponsor of the National Labor Relations Act, National Industrial Recovery Act, introduced the Social Security Act to the Senate, sponsor of anti-lynching legislation that could never get a hearing in the 1930s.
9. Nelson Rockefeller–represented an entire and now extinct wing of the Republican Party with his name. The Rockefeller drug laws might be his biggest contribution though and those were 100% negative. Of course, he passed a lot of good legislation too and is probably the most important governor in the state’s history outside of Clinton.
10. Grover Cleveland–I didn’t really want to put Cleveland in the last spot because he was such a bad president. But he was there for 2 terms, ordered troops to crush the Pullman Strike, presided over the Panic of 1893 with remarkable incompetence. The ultimate DINO of the Gilded Age, which probably suggests how he could be elected in a Republican era.
Running this list out a bit, I might have included people such as Fiorello LaGuardia, John Foster Dulles, Al Smith, Boss Tweed, Millard Fillmore, Felix Frankfurter, and many others.
Also–on second thought, Robert Moses probably should be on this list. Was he more of a bureaucrat or a politicians? Or does the distinction really matter with him? Anyway, an interesting person to think about.