Winner of the DAR Excellence in American History Book Award
Winner of the Thomas J. Wilson Memorial Prize
“Cogent, lucid, and concise…indispensable guide to the creation of the cabinet. With her groundbreaking study, we can now have a much greater appreciation of…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.
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.
Tracks the emergence of a body that the Constitution never mentions…Argues persuasively that focusing on its development helps us understand pivotal moments in the 1790s and the creation of an independent, effective executive.
Fantastic…My admiration for America’s first and possibly finest president has grown further…Washington excelled more than many of his successors at harnessing the cabinet to exercise his political will…A compelling story.
A thorough and insightful account of how the federal government came to have a ‘cabinet’ resembling the British one. But it doubles as a poignant tale of how Washington’s unifying authority broke down over his time in office.
Well-researched, thoughtful, and fascinating…Between 1789 and 1797, George Washington formulated the standards against which all subsequent presidents must be measured.
A well written, deeply insightful examination of Washington’s presidency and his personal leadership style.
With smart analysis and lively writing, Chervinsky illuminates how Washington and his secretaries breathed life into an institution never directly mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.
Traces the evolution of the cabinet from British history through George Washington’s presidency, explaining how experimentation, personalities, internal and international crises, loyalty and betrayal, and political partisanship impacted not only the development of Washington’s advisory body, but foreign and domestic policies as well.
In this important and illuminating study, Lindsay Chervinsky has given us an original angle of vision on the foundations and development of something we all take for granted: the president’s Cabinet.
A clear, concise, and lively study of a topic that has long needed such coverage. Chervinsky skillfully shows the Revolutionary roots of the early cabinet and explores how it juggled precedent, public opinion, partisanship, and the balance of power. Anyone interested in American politics will want to read this informative and timely book.
Chervinsky offers a new perspective on a crucial and enduring institution in American politics, persuasively showing the centrality of the cabinet in the founding era and beyond. With clear, crisp prose and a compelling story, this book is a must-read not only for historians, political scientists, and legal scholars, but also for anyone interested in learning about a foundation of the American republic.
A riveting, beautifully written story of George Washington’s efforts to figure out how to achieve his goals in a fast-changing environment. By placing Washington’s cabinet meetings within the broader narratives of the Revolutionary War and the politics of the early republic, Chervinsky brings all the tensions of the big stories into Washington’s efforts to administer America’s new government. She makes reading about the evolution of institutions fun!
A well-written and much-needed addition to our understanding of the early American Republic.
Provides the reader with the first modern treatment of the Cabinet in decades. Chervinsky shows how the Cabinet came to be, and how it changed in the early days of the republic.
- 2019, Joint winner of the Thomas J. Wilson Prize
- 2021, Winner of the NSDAR Excellence in American History Book Award
- 432 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
Sorry, there was an error adding the item to your shopping bag.
Sorry, your session has expired. Please refresh your browser's tab.