George Washington established many precedents during his tenure of office, but one that had arguably the greatest impact was his establishment, not by law but by practice, of what we now know of as the Cabinet. To examine the beginnings of this institution and what it meant for the Washington presidency, I am joined in this special episode by Lindsay Chervinsky, a historian with the White House Historical Association and author of The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution. In our conversation, Lindsay provided great insights into Washington’s thought process in turning to the Cabinet as an advisory body as well as how the events and culture of the 1790s influenced the development of the executive branch. Additional resources for this episode can be found at http://presidencies.blubrry.com.
Featured Images: Lindsay M. Chervinsky, Ph.D., courtesy of the author, and “Henry Knox” by Gilbert Stuart [c. 1806], courtesy of Wikipedia
Between the publication of “Summary View of the Rights of British America” and his assuming the presidency, Jefferson made a name for himself by drafting the Declaration of Independence, struggled to see his home state of Virginia through the Revolution as governor, experienced a devastating personal loss, and served the new nation at home and abroad. Though his rise in national prominence as the leader of the opposition would ultimately lead to him becoming the third President, not only his public record but also various facets of Jefferson’s personal life would pose challenges for the new administration before it even began. Sources used for this episode can be found at http://presidencies.blubrry.com.
Featured Images: “Thomas Jefferson” by Mather Brown [c. 1786], courtesy of Wikipedia, and “Thomas Jefferson” by Rembrandt Peale [c. 1800], courtesy of Wikipedia
In response to a question from Les, I attempt to do a summation of the Washington presidency from memory in five minutes. Though the full series is recommended for more detail, I think the result is rather entertaining.
Diplomatic representatives of the Washington administration navigate new waters as they seek a peaceful resolution to conflicts with the Barbary States and Spain while the President continues his frustrating search to find candidates willing to fill his vacant Cabinet offices. Meanwhile, the Senate throws the President a curve ball by rejecting one of Washington’s appointments. Source information for this episode can be found at http://presidencies.blubrry.com.
Featured Image: “A Sea Fight with Barbary Corsairs,” Lorenzo A Castro [c. post-1681], courtesy of Wikipedia
With positions in his Cabinet to fill, Washington is finding it difficult to convince anyone to join his administration. Meanwhile, the son of his Revolutionary War comrade the Marquis de Lafayette shows up in the US and places the President in a difficult position as he’s forced to choose between personal loyalty and public duty. Around the same time, the disgraced Edmund Randolph makes his way up and down the east coast gathering evidence to clear his name. Source information for this episode can be found at http://presidencies.blubrry.com.
Featured Image: Timothy Pickering by Charles Willson Peale, courtesy of Wikipedia
Despite achieving a major diplomatic victory in the Northwest Territory, the administration is rocked by controversy as Secretary of State Randolph is confronted about allegations of collusion with the French while Washington himself is accused of improper use of public finances. Scandals and controversies abound in this episode! Source information can be found at http://presidencies.blubrry.com
Bust of Gaius Julius Caesar, courtesy of Wikipedia
“Oliver Cromwell” by Samuel Cooper [c. 1656], courtesy of Wikipedia
“George Washington” by Gilbert Stuart [c. 1797], courtesy of Wikipedia
While the construction of the nation’s new capital proceeds, the public battle against the Jay Treaty begins in earnest upon its publication by Benjamin Franklin Bache. Demonstrations and meetings go on up and down the Eastern seaboard, and even Alexander Hamilton has difficulty determining how to respond. Meanwhile, Washington has to fill John Jay’s position as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and deal with the last remaining member of his first Cabinet now looking to find a way out of his post. Source information for this episode can be found at http://presidencies.blubrry.com.
Featured Image: Burning of Stamp Act [c.1903], courtesy of Wikipedia
The Jay Treaty finally arrives in Philadelphia, but it turns out to be more of a curse than the blessing for which Washington and his administration were hoping. As Washington and Randolph scramble to figure out what to do with the treaty, the opposition makes preparations for a full-on attack on this treaty with the British. Meanwhile, the Administration learns of US Minister James Monroe’s “fraternal embrace” of the French and goes in search of a special envoy to send to Spain. Diplomacy and political intrigue abound at home and abroad in 1795. Source information for this episode can be found at http://presidencies.blubrry.com.
Featured Image: “Portrait of John Jay” by Gilbert Stuart [c. 1794], courtesy of Wikipedia
Developments on both sides of the Atlantic keep the administration busy in 1794. Prominent envoys are sent to both Britain and France in order to avert the US being drawn into conflict with a foreign power. General Wayne and his troops march into action in the Northwest Territory. Even Washington is getting into the action as he heads into the field to face the rebels in western Pennsylvania. Though only five years old, the new government under the Constitution is tested like never before. Sources used for this episode can be found at http://presidencies.blubrry.com.
Featured image: John Jay, copy based on an original by Gilbert Stuart, courtesy of Wikipedia
The Washington administration is beset by various problems in the west while the British threaten American shipping interests in the West Indies, leading the two nations on the path to war. Though growing ever more tired of his position, President Washington must devise a plan to thwart attempts at rebellion in the west, decide upon an envoy to send east to London to seek out a diplomatic resolution, and begin work to build the US Navy. No rest for a weary President in 1794! Source information for this episode can be found at http://presidencies.blubrry.com.