The Shortest U.S. Presidents

3 Short Presidents and What You Can Learn from Them

You've probably heard the “statistic” about the role of height in presidential elections. It goes something like this:

“Since the advent of the televised debate, the taller of two major-party presidential candidates usually wins the election.”

Despite the tenacity of this bit of folk wisdom, it's actually not true (as evidenced by this scatter chart, which is borrowed from the official Wikipedia page for presidential height).

U.S. Presidential Election Heights 1798-2004

U.S. Presidential Election Heights 1798-2004

When you look at the actual statistics, it turns out that the taller candidate has won 53% of all U.S. elections. The overall average height of U.S. presidents is roughly 5'9″, which is also the average height of American males.

Of course, there have been extremes. Good old Abe Lincoln was 6'4″, a giant in his day. On the other end of the spectrum, there have been a few short presidents. Like these three gentlemen:

Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant – 5'8″

Standing at just five feet and eight inches tall, Ulysses S. Grant was a true American. He served two terms as the 18th president of the United States, right after defeating Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army and winning the Civil War for the north.

He also helped destroy the Ku Klux Klan by passing laws that criminalized their terrorist tactics and arresting hundred of members.

Grant was a quiet, humble, thoughtful man. He achieved success through hard work and temperance. About his character and disposition, one of Grant's military aids had this to say:

“Grant was a man of slim figure, slightly stooped, five feet eight inches in height, weighing only a hundred and thirty five pounds, and of a modesty of mien and gentleness of manner which seemed to fit him more for the court than for the camp … his voice was exceedingly musical, and one of the clearest in sound and most distinct in utterance that I have ever heard.”

Grant was also a badass military man, as evidenced by this quote from one of his enemies in the Confederate Army:

“There is one West Pointer, I think in Missouri, little known, and whom I hope the northern people will not find out. I mean Sam Grant. I knew him well at the Academy and in Mexico. I should fear him more than any of their officers I have yet heard of. He is not a man of genius, but he is clear-headed, quick and daring.”

I hope that, somewhere, one of my enemies is saying something like this about me.

James Madison

James Madison

James Madison – 5'4″

A political theorist and all around statesman, James Madison was the fourth president of the U.S. His accomplishments include:

  • Helping draft the Constitution
  • Authoring the the Bill of Rights
  • Supervising the Louisiana Purchase

At 5'4″ he was the shortest U.S. president of all time by two inches. Clearly, this didn't stop him from getting things done.

Unlike Grant, Madison was not a military man. His was a delicate man, and his immune system was far too fragile for combat.

Rather, Madison was an intellectual. He loved to learn about philosophy, politics, math, science, Latin, Greek and even Hebrew. He was ivy-league educated and a master speaker and debater. He said lots of smart things like:

“As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.”

Next time you use your height as an excuse for anything, think of all the things James Madison did with five feet and four inches.

John Adams

John Adams

John Adams – 5'7″

John Adams (the original…not his son, Quincy) was George Washington's vice president for two terms before being elected as the second president of the United States of America. Though he himself only served one term (He lost to his friend, Thomas Jefferson, in 1801.), he was an extremely influential Founding Father of the country.

Like his contemporaries, he was highly educated in the areas of law, diplomacy, philosophy and politics. Often overshadowed by his more popular peers, Adams deserves our respect for his role on the Revolution and contributions to the American political system.

If there was a highlight reel of Adams' presidency, it would include such things as:

At 5'7″ tall, John Adams was one of the shortest U.S. presidents ever. Like Madison and Grant, however, he didn't let his height get in the way of achieving great things and influencing a ton of people.

These three presidents are great examples of men who didn't let any obstacles – even their height – get in the way of their goals. They were constantly improving themselves by studying and working hard, and they literally changed the world through their actions and beliefs.

Let these men be examples for what men of any height can accomplish if they put their mind to it.

Read next: 100 Famous Short Men (sortable by height)

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  1. Jack Hunting says:

    This is incorrect. Most of these presidents ruled during the 19th century, where they were very well above the average height of their time.

    One thing for sure, most US presidents were a good amount above the average height in the US at their time.

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