Here are some past presidents who have restrained themselves from warfare as much as possible and have advocated small government:
Dwight D. Eisenhower (34th pres.), was the four-star general military hero of World War II. He won election to two presidential terms as a Republican. He advocated limited government and warned against the growing influence of the military-industrial complex. He proposed and had passed the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and 1960 which led the way to the subsequent acts later ensuring civil rights for all. During his eight year tenure as president there were no wars and the economy was excellent with very low inflation and very low unemployment.
James Madison (4th pres.) was a Democrat-Republican, a political party that does not exist anymore but had similarities to the GOP and Democrat parties. He was the father of the Constitution that put limits on the government’s role and he and Jefferson advocated a non-expansionist philosophy with limited military spending.
George Washington (1st pres.) was a Federalist, but in general, opposed to political parties. In his farewell address upon leaving office he gave advice on the necessity and importance of national union, and the value of the Constitution and the rule of law. While he declined suggested versions that would have included statements that morality required a “divinely authoritative religion,” he called morality “a necessary spring of popular government.”
Washington’s public political address warned against foreign influence in domestic affairs and American meddling in European affairs. He warned against bitter partisanship in domestic politics and called for men to move beyond partisanship and serve the common good. He warned against ‘permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world’, saying the United States must concentrate primarily on American interests. He counseled friendship and commerce with all nations, but warned against involvement in European wars and entering into long-term “entangling” alliances.
Thomas Jefferson (3rd pres.) principal author of the Declaration of Independence and co-founder with James Madison of the Democratic-Republican Party which called for limited military and government spending.
Abraham Lincoln (16th pres.), first Republican president was staunchly opposed to war. In the Senate he argued against Pres. Polk saying that Polk was after “military glory.” After becoming president, Lincoln tried several times to avoid war by limiting the expansion of slavery and preserving the Union. The war started only after compromises failed and a Union fort was attacked.
Gerald R. Ford (38th pres.), turned down offers at professional football so that he could attend law school and then serve in the military. Women were granted permission to enter the service academies during his administration and he also pushed for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. He was president for only two and a half years, started no new wars, pulled the troops out of Vietnam, and used his veto stamp 66 times to curb government spending.
Quote from Gerald Ford: “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.”
Ronald W. Reagan (40th pres.), was a very popular president. He used diplomacy numerous times during the Cold War, meeting with Soviet leaders to discuss disarmament. When the U.S. was attacked in Lebanon with the killing of 241 Marines, Pres. Reagan did not react with a military outburst, such as by bombing Lebanon, the Palestinians, or any other country. He met with every single family of the deceased Marines and simply pulled the troops out to never return.
Quote from Ronald Reagan: “One of the worst words you can hear from someone is ‘hello we’re from the government and we are here to help.’ ”
Another excellent quote from Reagan:
“If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals. If we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.”