A History of Petty Presidential Transitions

Presidents who behave badly during transitions usually share something in common – they’re viewed as the worst presidents overall. In 1797, President George Washington was determined to unambiguously hand over the nation’s reins for the first time. He attended the inauguration ceremony of John Adams, his vice president, to show his support. At its conclusion,[…]

The Relentless Abuse of Pardons by Andrew Johnson

Prior to 1860, presidents used constitutional power to pardon and commute sentences sparingly. A deep dive into history shows another president’s relentless campaign of pardons as far more destructive to the nation at one of its most fragile moments. Prior to 1860, presidents used constitutional power to pardon and commute sentences sparingly. But like so much else in[…]

The Role of George Washington in Defining Executive Power

His role as chief executive of a new republic demanded a range of skills and talents with few precedents in history. Who Was George Washington? George Washington (1732–1799) was born and grew up in rural Virginia, at a time when it was a royal colony with British traditions of government by aristocracy and an economy[…]

The Presidential Cabinet: An Invention of America’s First President

How George Washington shaped the group of advisors as an institution to meet his own needs. The President’s cabinet, the heads of the executive branch departments, is one of the most constant and durable parts of the United States government. From George Washington to Donald Trump, the chief executive has used the institution to collect[…]

A History of Presidents Hiding Health Problems since Grover Cleveland

How U.S. presidents and their administrations have handled information about presidential health problems. At a press briefing in 1893, President Grover Cleveland’s secretary of war told inquiring journalists that their speculations about the president having surgery were wrong. The nation was in a recession, and Cleveland feared that his economic plan would be doomed if[…]

A History of Tumultuous Transitions in the American Presidency

America has certainly had a lot of experience in difficulties in the change of governments in the last two centuries. Three months from now America will once again experience the tumult and stress of presidential transitions, if one believes the polls that show former Vice President Joe Biden thwarting President Trump’s attempt to win a[…]

Presidential Rivalry and Bad Blood in American History

Rivalries, conflict, and “bad blood” between presidents are part of the story of American history. Most of the time, the presidents involved have been direct rivals in the same election, but not always. Sometimes their conflicts and “bad blood” receded over time, but at other times, the presidents go to the grave with strong unresolved[…]