A furor over his refusal to release his tax records has focused renewed attention on Mitt Romney’s vast personal fortune, which puts him in the top tier of wealthy Americans.
But Romney would not be the richest president in U.S. history if he becomes the Republican presidential nominee and defeats President Barack Obama (net worth: $5 million) in November. He’d be the second richest. And to find a wealthier one, in the long line of the mostly well-to-do men who have held the country’s highest office, you’d have to go way back. Way, way back, in fact — all the way to 1789, when George Washington became the first president.
The former private equity executive Romney is worth an estimated $250 million to $270 million, but his pile pales besides that of the father of his country, whose holdings are estimated at $525 million in today’s dollars.
According to 247wallst.com, which analyzed the finances of all the presidents, Washington owned “Mount Vernon,” his Virginia plantation of five separate farms on 8,000 acres of prime farmland, and more than 300 slaves. He also made far more money than later presidents, with a salary set at 2 percent of the country’s budget.
Romney’s exact worth is not known because he has not released his tax returns, but if the $250 million to $270 million estimate were to hold true, he would come in second, behind Washington and just ahead of another Virginia slave owner, Thomas Jefferson, the third U.S. president. Jefferson ended his life deep in debt, but as president he owned Monticello, his 5,000-acre Virginia plantation, and dozens of slaves. He also made “significant money” in a variety of political positions before becoming president.