how many americans have died under individual U.S. presidents? (as a result of their actions, aka war - not natural causes)
August 9, 2007 11:08 AM   Subscribe

how many americans have died under individual U.S. presidents? (as a result of their actions, aka war - not natural causes)

charlie rose discussed billy graham and his relationship with past presidents last night (8/8/07) and someone on the panel mentioned in passing that while bush 43 might be sweating the loss of 3,000 americans in iraq, johnson sometimes lost that in a day. disregarding whether this was an overstatement, it made me wonder how many americans individual presidents might have lost. I might want to turn this into chart.

do you know how I could find this type of information? do you have it?

please note: deaths due to wars - yes. deaths due to attacks on us - yes. deaths due to accidents based on an executive decision - yes. deaths due to not enough healthcare for low-income - too esotherical for this exercise.

yes, I would be willing to pay someone to research this.
posted by krautland to Law & Government (10 answers total)
would you consider at as a relative proportion of the population? because if so, i would have though lincoln would be #1 on that list. though i am not american, my rudimentary recollections of studying US history was that in the civil war something like 600 or 700 thousand soldiers died... the population of the US back then was what, 30m or so?

that's pretty high % of your population that was killed over 5 years.
posted by modernnomad at 11:15 AM on August 9, 2007

I don't know how useful this chart would be, since your top three presidents would be (just based on deaths from wars fought during their presidency):

1) Lincoln - ~625,000
2) FDR - ~405,000
3) Wilson - ~115,000

Look at this wikipedia link for more info on US combat deaths.
posted by thewittyname at 11:18 AM on August 9, 2007

Boy this is going to be quite difficult to quantify. My suggestions:

(1) Closely refine your criteria for executive responsibility. War and direct accidents are obvious. What about covert military operations? What about policies that directly or indirectly led to deaths? What about inaction on the part of a president that arguably accounted for increased mortality (your healthcare example notwithstanding)? Do policies or actions that saved lives (for example, passage of a bill that outlawed some pollutant) reduce the number?

(2) Account for relative size of population if possible. 5000 deaths in 1810 (US population = ~7 million) is an order of magnitude larger, relatively speaking, than 5000 deaths in 2007 (US population = 301 million).

(3) Start from this list of wars and disasters.
posted by googly at 11:33 AM on August 9, 2007

They were just discussing this here
posted by goethean at 12:07 PM on August 9, 2007

1. Lincoln
2. FDR
3. Wilson

Next closest contenders: Truman (Hiroshima/Nagasaki/Korean War), LBJ and Nixon (depending on how you split up the Vietnam War and its two million or so victims), GW Bush (close to a million now if you count Iraqis as humans).

I don't think any other present is even visible behind this pack.
posted by gum at 12:11 PM on August 9, 2007

Actually, what am I thinking? Lincoln presided over only 700,000 deaths in the Civil War -- he's still in the pack, but in sixth place.
posted by gum at 12:14 PM on August 9, 2007

gum -- for whatever reason, the OP was asking for American deaths though.
posted by modernnomad at 12:15 PM on August 9, 2007

Maps of War has an attractive flash presentation called "American Leadership and War" which answers this question. It shows a timeline of US history and presidents, with their corresponding wars and casualties. Then at the end, it summarizes the casualty totals by political party. It's pretty interesting.
posted by ourobouros at 12:29 PM on August 9, 2007

The international relations literature in political science often measures the severity of war based upon military casualties. I would start there. Look at the Correlates of War (COW) and Militarized Interstate Disputes (MID) datasets (both google-able). All one would need to do from there is break down each year of each war by administration.
posted by B-squared at 1:43 PM on August 9, 2007

Tough call, unless you limit the death count to warlike actions; social policies enacted within a president's term can also cause deaths, but those are harder to get a count of.
posted by davejay at 2:27 PM on August 9, 2007

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