Which US presidents were killers?


Which US presidents have personally and deliberately killed someone? I don’t expect there have been any true murderers in the legal sense of the word. But surely some of them may have killed other human beings in the course of war, duels, or self-defence.

Some definitions to suitably constrain the discussion:

  1. By “personally” I mean that the president must have killed the other person with his own two hands, or with a weapon he was wielding. Ordering one’s bodyguards or armies to kill does not count, nor does authorizing a warrant for capital punishment. Killing enemy soldiers by pulling the trigger of a gun does count.

  2. By “deliberately” I mean that the president must have intended to at least harm someone, even if he didn’t mean to deliver a fatal wound. Thus things like fatal auto accidents are out.

  3. I am interested to know which presidents could rightly be referred to as (past) killers while they were in office. That is, the killings may have taken place before or during the president’s term in office, but not after.


Although I can’t remember the name at the moment, we had one of our earlier presidents kill a man (I think it was the ambassador of france) right on the white house lawn in a pistol duel. If anyone knows who I am talking about, please feel free to chime in :slight_smile:

Ant past President who served in combat has possibly killed someone, George HW Bush for one. He flew 58 missions against the Japanese, earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, and was shot down. I’d surmise he took a gentleman or two down as well.

John F. Kennedy, WWII.

The list goes on.

A previous thread about this very subject:

Andrew Jackson was probably the most prolific Presidential killer. He is known to have killed at least one man (Charles Dickinson) in a duel (for insulting Jackson’s wife) and is believed to have killed others. He claimed to have been involved in more than 100 duels, in addition to which he supervised hangings both as a general and as a judge and probably personally killed men in combat.

I don’t know if you would count this, but Grover Cleveland supervised hangings prior to the presidency.

Franklin Pierce (an alcoholic) killed a woman while driving his carriage drunk during his presidency. Since even then operating a horse and carriage while under the influence was commonly known to be a bad idea, it could conceivably be counted as deliberate.

U.S. Grant killed men in the Mexican War if not in the Civil War. A listing of men presidents who served in various wars is here .

George Bush, Sr., was a skilled flyboy (and, much as I dislike him politically, a bonafide hero) during WW2 whose planes strafed boats/automobiles/and dropped bombs that killed many Japanese soldiers (and probably some civilians).

There are tons of rumors of LBJ’s role in the deaths of political enemies throughout his career (including the death of his sister), but none are substantiated and most if not all are probably tin-foil hat stuff.

John F. Kennedy saw major combat during WW2 during which he almost certainly killed.

According to his opponents, Bill Clinton killed more people than Stalin, all of them quietly, but nothing is proven.

Too bad you don’t include VPs as that would considerably broaden the field (Aaron Burr, Adlai Stevenson, etc.).

I know what you’re talking about, yes…
you’re talking about utter bulls#$t, that’s what you’re talking about!! :mad: :mad: :rolleyes: :mad:

Killing the Ambassador to France, even in a duel, would be an act of war! In case you didn’t notice, we didn’t have such a war. :rolleyes:

Ambassadors and heads of State never duel. Each one represents an entire nation, and any fighting, even a slap in the face, equates to an act of war.

While I currently have no cites, I would guess that Teddy Roosevelt killed many a man during the Spanish-American War.

From my impression of his writings about the War, it almost sounds like he really got off on it, too.

how do they figure that?

Friend , I clearly stated that I wasn’t sure and asked for help from anyone who was. Please re-read my statement again.

The name I was looking for was Andrew Jackson…See Sampiro’s contributing statement, and then do a little research on Charles Dickerson
Thank You Sampiro for providing us with the answer:)

reference please.

O, there are some people who say things like that. But you’ll find them more in the radical leftist or conspiracy crowd than the average American Right. They say the same about Bush.

Lets make a nice, neat list, shall we?

1. George Washington, 1789-1797 [Y]
2. John Adams, 1797-1801 [N]
3. Thomas Jefferson, 1801-1809 [N]
4. James Madison, 1809-1817 [N]
5. James Monroe, 1817-1825 [Y?]
6. John Quincy Adams, 1825-1829 [N]
7. Andrew Jackson, 1829-1837 [Y]
8. Martin Van Buren, 1837-1841 [N]
9. William Henry Harrison, 1841 [Y?]
10. John Tyler, 1841-1845 [Y?]
11. James Knox Polk, 1845-1849 [N?]
12. Zachary Taylor, 1849-1850 [Y?]
13. Millard Fillmore, 1850-1853 [N]
14. Franklin Pierce, 1853-1857 [Y?]
15. James Buchanan, 1857-1861 [Y?]
16. Abraham Lincoln, 1861-1865 [N]
18. Ulysses Simpson Grant, 1869-1877 [Y]
19. Rutherford Birchard Hayes, 1877-1881 [Y?]
20. James Abram Garfield, 1881 [Y?]
21. Chester Alan Arthur, 1881-1885 [N]
22. Grover Cleveland, 1885-1889 [Y]
23. Benjamin Harrison, 1889-1893 [?]
24. Grover Cleveland, 1893-1897 [Y]
25. William McKinley, 1897-1901 [Y]
26. Theodore Roosevelt, 1901-1909 [Y]
27. William Howard Taft, 1909-1913 [N]
28. Woodrow Wilson, 1913-1921 [N]
29. Warren Gamaliel Harding, 1921-1923 [N]
30. Calvin Coolidge, 1923-1929 [N]
31. Herbert Clark Hoover, 1929-1933 [N]
32. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933-1945 [N]
33. Harry S. Truman, 1945-1953 [Y?]
34. Dwight David Eisenhower 1953-1961 [N]
35. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1961-1963 [Y?]
36. Lyndon Baines Johnson, 1963-1969 [N]
37. Richard Milhous Nixon, 1969-1974 [N]
38. Gerald Rudolph Ford, 1974-1977 [N]
39. James Earl Carter, Jr., 1977-1981 [N]
40. Ronald Wilson Reagan, 1981-1989 [N]
41. George Herbert Walker Bush, 1989-1993 [Y]
42. William Jefferson Clinton, 1993-2001 [N]
43. George Walker Bush, 2001- [N]

Some links:


I would be interested in knowing what your basis in international law is for this statement, that slapping an ambassador is an “act of war.”

Elementary Otto. {BTW–did you choose that username because there are only 2 keys on your computer that don’t stick?}

An Ambassador is a government. For all practical purposes. His home, the Embassy, is considered the soil of his native country; local law does not apply. Local government must ask for permission to enter, & is accountable for the safety of Embassy personnel.

As the representative of his National Government within a foreign State, he is the embodiment of his Government. His person is off limits. He cannot be arrested, detained, assaulted or killed by representatives of the State that is hosting him. It does not matter if it is the Head of State or a rookie cop; he may not be molested. To attack him is to attack that National Government which he embodies.

In addition, it signals the total breakdown of civilized, official relations between the two governments in question, as discourse under these conditions is impossible.

Thus, if the authorities attack the Ambassador, they attack the Nation he represents.

Usually, in the event of misunderstanding (i.e.–the rookie cop belting an Ambassador), such a blow is forgiven as an accident. But if an Ambassador were to be gravely wounded or killed by the Head of State of his host nation, his Government would be well within their rights to declre that all relations had broken down, & a state of war existed.

I think we have to count Benjamin Harrison in the [Y?] category. He served under Sherman and rose from the rank of lieutenant to brigadier general. Unlike Arthur, who was also a brigadier general, but who saw no combat serving as the Quartermaster for New YorK, Harrison did participate in the actual fighting of the war.

Didn’t Lincoln see militia duty during the Blackhawk War?

Yes, Lincoln served on and off for about six months in 1832. There is no evidence that he killed anybody, though. On the contrary, there was:

That’s from Herndon’s Life of Lincoln which also says of Lincoln’s “few engagements” that “none of which reached the dignity of a battle.” Lincoln later said that he had never seen a live, fighting Indian.

“Bill Clinton has a secret private hit-squad” is one of those recurring bits of Clinton-bashing gossip that floated around most of the '90s. The most high-profile version of this is the “Vince Foster was killed because Bill caught him having an affair with Hillary, and the suicide is a fake”, though there’s also an email spam that has a list of “Clinton’s victims.” Jerry Falwell was also selling a set of videotapes in the '90s containing “secret revelations” of the Clintons.

As Sampiro said, none of these charges have ever been proven true, and many have been repeatedly debunked by mainstream sources. There’s so many of them largely because of the work of Richard Mellon Scaife, a conservative billionare who owns several conservative magazines and publishers and has been pushing an anti-Clinton political agenda for over a decade now (and you thought Hillary’s “vast right-wing conspiracy” was a joke :wink: ).

For further information debunking the Clinton Death Squads and R.M. Scaife’s machinations, I’d recommend The Hunting of the President.

Toad, very nicely done.

US Grant served as a regimental quartermaster during the Mexican War. It is doubtful that he ever fired a shot in anger.

Theodore Roosevelt is reported to have pistoled at least one Spanish Soldier on Kettle Hill (San Juan Hill).

Harry Truman commanded an artillery battery during WWI. While he probably never pulled the lanyard he certainly ordered fire on visible human targets.

William Mc Kinley was an NCO in an Ohio infantry regiment during the Civil War and it is likely that he fired his weapon in combat.

I want to say that the only combat John Kennedy saw was the engagement in which his boat was sunk. His fame was not as a Rambo type killer but rather for his fortitude and leadership following the loss of his boat.

George HW Bush certainly engaged and destroyed human targets as a naval pilot in the Pacific.

Unless you believe the video tapes hawked on cable and satellite TV there is no demonstrable evidence that Bill Clinton arranged anyone’s murder, or ran drugs either.

If Senator Kerry is elected (for which I fervrently hope) he must count as a killer.

Andrew Jackson surely was a killer and apparently was a dangerous man to get in an argument with during his younger day – it must be recognized that he lived in a time and place that a man who failed to pull a piston, knife or sward in the face of anything that might be accounted as a personal affront was regarded as a coward. Think Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. Think Jim Bowie.

George Washington may have taken life during the French and Indian War.