Synopses & Reviews
The little-known story of the dramatic political maneuverings and the personalities behind the creation of the executive office--whose ramifications continue to concern us to this day.
The framers of the Constitution, fearful of the tyrannies of monarchy, sought to create an executive office that would make government more efficient without commandeering power or oppressing citizens. The ensuing debates, pitting James Madison against Alexander Hamilton, with the moderating influence of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, made for high political drama, which Ray Raphael brilliantly re-creates in this unprecedented history. By focusing on the give-and-take of the Constitutional Convention's dynamics, Raphael reveals how the politics and personalities cobbled together a lasting, but flawed, institution. We see the flamboyant, peg-legged hero of the story, Gouverneur Morris, ultimately forcing his vision of the presidency onto the convention with a combination of amazing political savvy, bluster, and deceit. We see how the Constitution's broad outlines were further defined and how the office acquired additional powers as the presidency evolved during the first three administrations. And we see a trajectory set in motion that has resulted, in our own time, in an office that is more sweeping, more powerful, and more inherently partisan than the framers ever intended.
"In a time when many find themselves questioning the efficacy of the presidency (seemingly regardless of party affiliation), the eligibility of future candidates, and the efficiency of the election process, a look back at the origins of the highest office in the U.S. is particularly timely. In this engaging narrative, Raphael (Founders: The People Who Brought You a Nation) elucidates the goings-on of the Federal Convention; the Continental Congresses and the various committees and debates that stemmed from them; and the myriad questions (some of which we still ask today) that shaped the American presidency: 'Who would elect a chief executive? How long would he serve? What authority would he exercise? Who could check his power?' Peopled by such well-known figures as James Madison and George Washington, Raphael's latest also includes notable characters like the brilliant, 'flamboyant, peg-legged orator' Gouverneur Morris, and the man responsible for the initial motion that the presidency consist of a single individual, James Wilson. Meticulously detailed and thoroughly researched-Raphael cites the papers of many icons of the nation's birth, such as Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin-this is a valuable read for Democrats and Republicans, as well as historians and those interested in contemporary American politics.
Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Ray Raphael’s fifteen books include A People’s History of the American Revolution: How Common People Shaped the Fight for Independence (2001) and Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past (2004). He is also coeditor of Revolutionary Founders: Rebels, Radicals, and Reformers in the Making of the Nation (2011). Having taught at Humboldt State University and College of the Redwoods and all subjects in a one-room public high school, he is now a full-time researcher and writer. He lives in Northern California.