“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 cabinetthe 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 secretariesAlexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Henry Knox, and Edmund Randolphfor 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 challengesand finding congressional help lackingWashington 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.
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About the Author
Table of Contents
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
Citation and Abbreviation Guide 325