The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution

The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution

by Lindsay M. Chervinsky

Hardcover

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Overview

Winner of the Thomas J. Wilson Memorial Prize

“Cogent, lucid, and concise, Lindsay Chervinsky’s book gives us an indispensable guide to the creation of the cabinet. With her groundbreaking study, we can now have a much greater appreciation of this essential American institution, one of the major legacies of George Washington’s enlightened statecraft.”—Ron Chernow, author of Washington: A Life

The US Constitution never established a presidential cabinet—the delegates to the Constitutional Convention explicitly rejected the idea. So how did George Washington create one of the most powerful bodies in the federal government?

On November 26, 1791, George Washington convened his department secretaries—Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Henry Knox, and Edmund Randolph—for the first cabinet meeting. Why did he wait two and a half years into his presidency to call his cabinet? Because the US Constitution did not create or provide for such a body. Washington was on his own.

Faced with diplomatic crises, domestic insurrections, and constitutional challenges—and finding congressional help lacking—Washington decided he needed a group of advisors he could turn to. He modeled his new cabinet on the councils of war he had led as commander of the Continental Army. In the early days, the cabinet served at the president’s pleasure. Washington tinkered with its structure throughout his administration, at times calling regular meetings, at other times preferring written advice and individual discussions.

Lindsay M. Chervinsky reveals the far-reaching consequences of Washington’s choice. The tensions in the cabinet between Hamilton and Jefferson heightened partisanship and contributed to the development of the first party system. And as Washington faced an increasingly recalcitrant Congress, he came to treat the cabinet as a private advisory body to summon as needed, greatly expanding the role of the president and the executive branch.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674986480
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 04/07/2020
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 80,580
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Lindsay M. Chervinsky is Scholar in Residence at the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies at Iona College, Senior Fellow at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, and Professorial Lecturer at the School of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Forged in War 13

2 The Original Team of Rivals 56

3 Setting the Stage 93

4 The Early Years 126

5 The Cabinet Emerges 163

6 A Foreign Challenge 193

7 A Domestic Threat 236

8 A Cabinet in Crisis 264

Epilogue 309

Citation and Abbreviation Guide 325

Notes 327

Acknowledgments 401

Index 407

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