Political Thought and the Origins of the American Presidency

Political Thought and the Origins of the American Presidency

by Ben Lowe (Editor)


Available for Pre-Order. This item will be available on June 8, 2021


This volume examines the political ideas behind the construction of the presidency in the U.S. Constitution, as well as how these ideas were implemented by the nation’s early presidents. The framers of the Constitution disagreed about the scope of the new executive role they were creating, and this volume reveals the ways the duties and power of the office developed contrary to many expectations.

Here, leading scholars of the early republic examine principles from European thought and culture that were key to establishing the conceptual language and institutional parameters for the American executive office. Unpacking the debates at the 1787 Constitutional Convention, these essays describe how the Constitution left room for the first presidents to set patterns of behavior and establish a range of duties to make the office functional within a governmental system of checks and balances. Contributors explore how these presidents understood their positions and fleshed out their full responsibilities according to the everyday operations required to succeed.

As disputes continue to surround the limits of executive power today, this volume helps identify and explain the circumstances in which limits can be imposed on presidents who seem to dangerously exceed the constitutional parameters of their office. Political Thought and the Origins of the American Presidency demonstrates that this distinctive, time-tested role developed from a fraught, historically contingent, and contested process.

Contributors: Claire Rydell Arcenas | Lindsay M. Chervinsky | François Furstenberg | Jonathan Gienapp | Daniel J. Hulsebosch | Ben Lowe | Max Skjönsberg | Eric Slauter | Caroline Winterer | Blair Worden | Rosemarie Zagarri

A volume in the Alan B. and Charna Larkin Series on the American Presidency

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813066813
Publisher: University Press of Florida
Publication date: 06/08/2021
Series: The Alan B. and Charna Larkin Series on the American Presidency
Pages: 342
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.88(d)

About the Author

Ben Lowe, professor of history at Florida Atlantic University, is the author of Commonwealth and the English Reformation: Protestantism and the Politics of Religious Change in the Gloucester Vale, 1483–1560.

Table of Contents


List of Figures


David Armitage


1. Political Thought and the Intellectual Origins of the American Presidency: Royalism, Executive Power and the History of Ideas

Ben Lowe

Part I. The European Origins of the American Presidency

2. Checks and Balances: The Cromwellian Origins of the Presidency

Blair Worden

3. Party and Faction in Eighteenth-Century Political Thought from Montesquieu to Madison

Max Skjönsberg

4. Does the United States Need a Bill of Rights?: Monarchs, Presidents, and the Persistence of a Political Genre in the Age of the American Revolution

Eric Slauter

5. Enlightened Despotism and the American Revolution: The Political Thought of Frederick the Great of Prussia

Caroline Winterer

Part II. The Politics of Constitution Making: The Executive and the Federal Union

6. National Power and the Presidency: Rival Forms of Federalist Constitutionalism at the Founding

Jonathan Gienapp

7. Defending an Energetic Executive: Theory and Practice in The Federalist

Claire Rydell Arcenas

8. Is the Electoral College the Fundamental Problem?: New State Admissions and the U.S. Constitution

François Furstenberg
Part III. Implementing an Ideal: Political Theory and Practice among the Early Presidents

9. The Political Practices of the First Presidents: The Cabinet and the Executive Branch

Lindsay M. Chervinsky

10. Mirror for Presidents: George Washington and the Law of Nations

Daniel J. Hulsebosch

11. Liberty and Power: The Classical Republicanism of George Washington and Mercy Otis Warren

Rosemarie Zagarri

List of Contributors


What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“These essays offer a set of revealing insights into the origins of the American presidency, the most novel and unprecedented office that the framers of the Constitution created.”—Jack Rakove, author of Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America

“Provides an important and timely contribution to the conception, implementation, and early development of the executive office of the United States, deftly merging legal and constitutional scholarship with historical analysis.”—Tyson Reeder, author of Smugglers, Pirates, and Patriots: Free Trade in the Age of Revolution

Customer Reviews