Mr. President: Book summary and reviews of Mr. President by Ray Raphael

Mr. President

How and Why the Founders Created a Chief Executive

by Ray Raphael

Mr. President by Ray Raphael X
Mr. President by Ray Raphael

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Book Summary

The little-known story of the dramatic political maneuverings and personalities behind the creation of the office of the president, with ramifications that continue to this day.

On June 1, 1787, when the Federal Convention first talked of establishing a new executive branch, James Wilson moved that "the Executive consist of a single person." To us this might sound obvious, but not so at the time. Americans had just won their independence from an autocratic monarch, and they feared that a single leader might commandeer power or oppress citizens. Should the framers even flirt with one-man rule? For the first and only time that summer, there was silence. Not one of the loquacious delegates dared speak up.

Eventually Benjamin Franklin rose, then others. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and George Mason joined the debate, and for three months their deliberations continued. By early September the framers had made up their minds. A chief executive, the "president," would be appointed by Congress to serve for seven years. He could not be reelected, and his powers were tightly constrained. He could neither negotiate treaties nor appoint Supreme Court justices and ambassadors. The Senate would do all that.

Suddenly, less than two weeks before the convention adjourned, all this changed. How? And who made it happen? Enter Gouverneur Morris, the flamboyant, peg-legged hero of this saga, who pushed through his agenda with amazing political savvy and not a little bluster and deceit. For the first time, by focusing closely on the give-and-take of the convention's dynamics, Ray Raphael reveals how politics and personalities cobbled together a lasting, but flawed, institution.

Charting the presidency as it evolved during the administrations of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson, Raphael shows how, given the Constitution's broad outlines, the president's powers could easily be augmented but rarely diminished. Today we see the result - an office that has become more sweeping, more powerful, and more inherently partisan than the framers ever intended. And the issues of 1787 - whether the Electoral College, the president's war powers, or the extent of executive authority - continue to stir our political debates.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Raphael's exceptional history of the beginning years of the United States should be required reading, especially in an election year." - Kirkus Reviews

"It's not easy to find something new to say about the most powerful office in the world. Ray Raphael succeeds through the ingenious expedient of taking us back to the time when we had a country but no president, and reminding us how much work it took to fill that void. All fans of presidential history will need this book." - Ted Widmer, Director, John Carter Brown Library, Brown University and author of Ark of the Liberties: America and the World

"This is a fascinating and fresh narrative that takes the reader from the fierce debates establishing the federal executive at the Constitutional Convention through Thomas Jefferson's election which tested the framers' handiwork. It makes you wonder why it's never been told before." - Joyce Appleby, author of The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism

"This book will command the attention of both professional historians and the general reader for decades to come." - Richard Beeman, author of Plain Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution

"Ray Raphael's Mr. President is a brilliant analysis of why our Founding Fathers thought a Chief Executive was necessary for the American democratic experiment to flourish. The shrill arguments between Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, Mason (and other law wizards) are recounted in these pages in vivid detail. A classic work of history!" - Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University, author of The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America

The information about Mr. President shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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More Information

Ray Raphael's fifteen books include A Peoples 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 co-editor 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. Visit his website at www.rayraphael.com.

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