We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Statesman?

By Darrell Laurant
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Historical Index is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Historical Index, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

No one can apply for the post of statesman, nor is it in itself an elective office. The question of "What is a statesman?" has been debated since the days of Plato, who wrote a long play titled "The Statesman" (in which one of the protagonists was Socrates) but failed to nail the term down.

Historian Charles A. Beard, writing in the American Mercury, noted: "The statesman is one who divines the long future, foresees the place of his class and nation in it, labors intelligently to prepare his countrymen for their fate, combines courage with discretion, takes risks, exercises caution when it is necessary, and goes off the stage with a reasonable degree of respectability."

President Harry Truman, with his dry Missouri wit, defined a statesman as "a politician who's been dead 15 years." Indeed, most statesmen are associated with government in some form, although not always as an elected official. Some are appointed, such as the American Secretary of State, a few are private citizens.

Actions and accomplishments are important in achieving statesmanship, but style also comes into the mix. Thus, Franklin D. Roosevelt is seen as a statesman by almost everyone, while Harry Truman is not; the same with John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

Still, as Beard pointed out: "The same person who is a statesman to some part of the public is a demagogue and a charlatan to the other." Hence, Truman's waiting period. Often, it takes time for statesmanship to emerge.

At the risk of presuming to succeed where Plato and others have failed, here is a short list of what seem to be statesmanlike qualities.

1. A statesman is generally above partisan politics.
2. A statesman takes the long view of things, and tries to consider what is best not only for his nation or group, but for everyone concerned.
3. A statesman possesses the power of persuasion, not only to other national and international leaders, but to his own constituency. Plato referred to his ability as "herding."
4. A statesman can be tough when needed, but never loses his (or her) temper or perspective.
5. The things that a statesman accomplishes often wind up not only in newspapers, but history books.

Historical Index is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By turquoise — On Apr 20, 2014

I think that a statesman is a leader who believes in justice and who wants to take a nation forward. He works hard to achieve equality, aims for development and can see situations objectively.

By bear78 — On Apr 19, 2014

I'm not sure if I agree that a statesman must be above partisan politics. That might be an ideal but is it really true? Even if a statesman does not officially declare support to a political party, everyone has a vision or a political ideology.

The characteristics of a statesman described in the article seem like a sort of utopia. This description make statesmen sound like angels or prophets. I don't think that anyone has all of these qualities.

By fBoyle — On Apr 19, 2014

Harry Truman's comment on who is a statesman is hilarious but I think that there is truth in it. Statesmen do not usually receive the recognition they deserve while they are alive. It seems that society is a bit late in appreciating them and often recognize them as "statesmen" after they have passed away. Of course, the vagueness of the term has a role in this, but it's not the only cause.

By Markerrag — On Apr 07, 2014

@Logicfest -- as long as you have party politics, you'll always have a debate over whether politicians look out for the best interests of the nation or the members of their own parties. The insinuation is that parties, by their very nature, are only out for what is best for their members.

Is that charge true? Could it be that political parties simply present different opinions as to what the best interests of the nation are and that people who subscribe to those theories are legitimately out to protect the future of the country? Again, that's another topic for debate.

By Logicfest — On Apr 06, 2014

That's not a bad list at all and should look very familiar to anyone who holds a political science degree. The notion that statesmen are ideally suited to lead the nation while those mostly loyal to a political party are not has been a topic for debate since the United States was founded.

Historical Index, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Historical Index, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.