Before the Rhetorical Presidency

Overview

Since its identification in 1981, the rhetorical presidency has drawn both defenders and critics. Chief among those critical of the practice is political theorist Jeffrey K. Tulis, whose 1987 book, The Rhetorical Presidency, helped popularize the construct and set forth a sustained analysis of the baleful effects that have allegedly accompanied the shift from a “constitutional” presidency to a “rhetorical” one.

Tulis locates this shift in the presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt ...

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Overview

Since its identification in 1981, the rhetorical presidency has drawn both defenders and critics. Chief among those critical of the practice is political theorist Jeffrey K. Tulis, whose 1987 book, The Rhetorical Presidency, helped popularize the construct and set forth a sustained analysis of the baleful effects that have allegedly accompanied the shift from a “constitutional” presidency to a “rhetorical” one.

Tulis locates this shift in the presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, arguing that the rhetorical presidency is a twentieth-century phenomenon. Yet not all scholars agree with this assessment. Before the Rhetorical Presidency is an attempt to investigate how U.S. presidents in the nineteenth century communicated with their publics, both congressional and popular.

In part 1, Martin J. Medhurst, Mel Laracey, Jeffrey K. Tulis, and Stephen E. Lucas set forth differing perspectives on how the rhetorical presidency ought to be understood and evaluated. In part 2, eleven scholars of nineteenth-century presidential rhetoric investigate the presidencies of Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland, and William McKinley.

As the first volume ever to focus on nineteenth-century presidents from a rhetorical perspective, Before the Rhetorical Presidency examines administrations, policies, and events that have never before been subjected to rhetorical analysis. The sometimes startling outcomes of these investigations reveal the need for continuing debate over the nature, practices, and effects of the rhetorical presidency.

In a brief afterword, Medhurst raises eight challenges to the original formulation of the rhetorical presidency and in so doing sets forth an agenda for future studies.

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Editorial Reviews

Vanessa Beasley
"This work succeeds on both conceptual and historical grounds. The detailed case studies in this volume explore the rhetorical efforts of 18th and 19th century presidents in ways that scholars of U.S. political culture and the presidency will appreciate. The essays together make a strong argument that the 'rhetorical presidency,' especially as described by Jeffrey Tulis et al., is more complicated than we may have previously thought."—Vanessa Beasley, author, Who Belongs in America?
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Product Details

Meet the Author

MARTIN J. MEDHURST served as founding editor for the Presidential Rhetoric Series and was the prime mover behind ten annual conferences on presidential rhetoric held at Texas A&M University. He is now Distinguished Professor of Rhetoric and Communication at Baylor University.

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Table of Contents


Introduction Was There a Nineteenth-Century Rhetorical Presidency? A Debate Revisited Martin J. Medhurst Medhurst, Martin J. 1 Pt. I Alternative Perspectives on the Rhetorical Presidency Talking without Speaking, and Other Curiosities Mel Laracey Laracey, Mel 18 On the Forms of Rhetorical Leadership Jeffrey K. Tulis Tulis, Jeffrey K. 29 Present at the Founding: The Rhetorical Presidency in Historical Perspective Stephen E. Lucas Lucas, Stephen E. 35 Pt. II Nineteenth-Century Rhetorical Presidencies Little Magic: Martin Van Buren and the Politics of Gender Susan Zaeske Zaeske, Susan 44 John Tyler and the Rhetoric of the Accidental Presidency David Zarefsky Zarefsky, David 63 James Knox Polk: The First Imperial President? Karlyn Kohrs Campbell Campbell, Karlyn Kohrs 83 Franklin Pierce and the Exuberant Hauteur of an Age of Extremes: A Love Song for America in Six Movements Stephen John Hartnett Hartnett, Stephen John 106 James Buchanan: Romancing the Union Robert E. Terrill Terrill, Robert E. 166 Andrew Johnson and the Politics of Character Stephen Howard Browne Browne, Stephen Howard 194 Resolute Commander for Just Peace: The Rhetoric of Ulysses S. Grant George R. Goethals Goethals, George R. 213 The Challenges of Reunification: Rutherford B. Hayes on the Close Race and the Racial Divide Amy R. Slagell Slagell, Amy R. 243 The Problem with Public Memory: Benjamin Harrison Confronts the "Southern Question" Kirt H. Wilson Wilson, Kirt H. 267 Grover Cleveland and the Nonrhetorical Presidency Michael Leff Leff, Michael 289 William McKinley and the Emergence of the Modern Rhetorical Presidency William D. Harpine Harpine, William D. 307 Afterword Questioning theRhetorical Presidency Construct Martin J. Medhurst Medhurst, Martin J. 329 Contributors 335 Index 338
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