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Mr. President: George Washington and the Making of the Nation's Highest Office

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  193 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
Although the framers gave the president little authority, Washington knew whatever he did would set precedents for generations of his successors. To ensure their ability to defend the nation, he simply ignored the Constitution when he thought it necessary and reshaped the presidency into what James Madison called a "monarchical presidency." Modern scholars call it the "imp ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published October 29th 2013 by Da Capo Press
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Denise Morse
Oct 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
All the work to write the Constitution, get it ratified, and then what?..... This book tells the story of what comes next. How does a President with very little powers vested in him in the Constitution find a place for himself. It would have been easy for President Washington to sit back and remain a retired figurehead for the country but that wasnt enough, and with his actions, he shaped the future of the American President.

I truly enjoyed this book and learning more about the inner workings o
...more
Stan Lanier
Jan 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
An excellent telescoping of the formation of the powers of the Executive Branch, both Constitutional and extra-Constitutional, by our first chief executive. Unger delineates seven "pillars of Presidential power": foreign policy, executive appointments,government finance, military affairs, legislation by Presidential proclamation and executive order, federal law enforcement, and executive privilege. Highly readable, this work affords the basis for further profitable research and study. A great pl ...more
Carol
Jul 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
"This book gives our precious American history the backbone it deserves and reveals more of Washington the man than Washington the demigod as we might have believed him to be." Well done.
Benjamin
Seriously.... Politics never change
Devon Morris
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great look into the beginnings of the American democracy. Washington struggled with other founding fathers, but ultimately created the necessary unity to form a strong government that still exists today- under the same constitution.
P.e. lolo
Dec 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Here is a history book that is a part of our history that most people forget about or really don’t know about. It is about George Washington becoming our first President. But it is really more than that. The war was over but four years later there was still problems, the treaty that was signed cannot be forced because there is no representation by us because we are not a nation. We are still just a group of colonies that can be taken advantage of. Groups of men started to get together and to dis ...more
Heather
Unlike the prior books I have read on President George Washington, this book focuses primarily on the issues of the presidency, rather than on his personal life – almost to the point of ignoring his personal life entirely. While it was nice to focus on the intricacies of the developing role of the presidency, it left something to be desired because it was much more difficult to connect with the person being presented; a little cold and distant if you will.

The development of the presidency was pr
...more
Melinda
May 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013, arc
George Washington exercised great influence regarding the shaping and defining of the executive office. The aftermath of the Revolution left our country lacking structure in both political and economic avenues. Washington thus held a prominent role in the creation of The Constitution determining the framework for federal government and its powers, once again Washington found himself in another type of battle.��

Harlow G. Unger writes a nonfictional account of George Washington in a 'to the point,
...more
James Spurgeon
George Washington became our first President and had no real guidelines to follow. The Constitution didn't really give any details as to the President's job or to how he was supposed to execute the laws passed by Congress. Not one to be just a figurehead, he set out to create the precedents... a large number of which still exist today.

Several of the presidential powers that he assumed had been left vague in the Constitution. He set out to define them as within the power of the President. He assu
...more
Algernon
Nov 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics, history
As it happened, I finished reading this book on the day the United States elected its 45th president after a long, grueling, and stunningly expensive political campaign that might have brought to mind some of the warnings Washington issued in his 1796 farewell address - especially about parties. There was much debate in the campaign about the selection of a person for the duties and the powers of the presidency - powers which Washington, as the first president, immediately set about clarifying a ...more
Courtney Umlauf
Apr 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
An interesting look at how the office of the president developed under Washington. It's definitely not a biography, so if you're hoping for insights into his personality I wouldn't recommend this. It's more weighted towards informing the reader on policy and procedural decisions than on anyone's personal life. I found it easy to follow, but I'll have to give it a second closer read in order to retain more of the details it discusses.

I've read Unger's John Quincy Adams and I'm in the middle of J
...more
David Longo
Apr 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a history teacher and have read 30 to 40 books on the era including a good 10 George Washington biographies alone. Overall I think "Mr. President" was a good book. But it wasn't Joseph Ellis quality, or Thomas Fleming. Harlow Giles Unger has moments---indeed great moments---where he captures the reader and really makes you see things in a whole new fashion. That being stated, Unger loses the reader at various times. I guess what I'm driving at is "Mr. President," in my view, is uneven. Elli ...more
Joseph
Dec 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing revelation of politics that do not seem so distant from today's existence. For about a dozen years after the Revolutionary War America operated not under the Constitution but the Articles of Confederation which did not define our legitimacy as a nation to world powers at the time. What struck me upon reflection of then and now was that although the quality of life and the progression of industry, science, education, etc. has moved forward and very much improved throughout history, hum ...more
Memory Toast
Excellent! This book taught me much about the character of Washington and his influence in shaping the presidency. The writing was clear; the stories were engaging; the chapters were long enough to be informative, but short enough to not belabor any one point.

The author definitely expressed his opinions throughout, but it was in a frank, direct manner that didn't make me feel like he was trying to hide cloak his personal bias or put on a false front of objectivity.

I would recommend to those who
...more
Kelsi
Jul 15, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Really, more like 2.5 stars. Lots of interesting details about GW's presidency, but the author's objectivity seemed to lack objectivity. His mentions of Thomas Jefferson make it seem like he was a villain and barely got along with GW and other founding fathers. I guess I took offense to this, as this is not my understanding; the founding fathers seem to have pretty great mutual respect given their shared experiences during the revolution, despite political disagreements. The book also felt a lit ...more
Daniel Kukwa
Nov 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The conclusion is coloured by a surprising intrusion on the part of the author. It reads as if he's trying to get his own dig in at modern Presidential government; it doesn't quite sit well with the tone of the rest of the book. This is a shame, because the author's thesis is first rate, concise, easy to follow, and sheds enormous new light on what kind of leader George Washington was: vastly underrated. Swallow the cod liver oil present in the conclusion and enjoy the creamy silkiness of the re ...more
David R.
I'm sorry to say so, but I strongly object to this treatment of the first president. Mr. Unger selectively employs documentary evidence to support a claim that Washington was something of a power tripper and perverted the role of the presidency, unconstitutionally, to an imperial form. Bizarrely, Unger ends with a lecture that things are bad today because we're ignoring the structure enacted by Washington! This is well outside the mainstream of thinking about Washington and is arguably dismissed ...more
Sarah -
Feb 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Washington is among my favorite presidents, but I was surprised to learn more than a few new facts about him and the presidency. In school you never learn this stuff, it's all yay we bear the British, here's our Constitution, woohoo, etc. Turns out it wasn't that simple, and the author does a fine job guiding the reader through the ins and outs of how the American Presidency came to be what it is today.
Jerry-Book
Jan 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Washington invented (1) the right of executive appointments; (2) the right of the president to control foreign policy; (3) the national bank; (4) the right of the president to send troops into conflict without a declaration of war; (5) the executive order without an act of Congress; (6) use of troops to enforce the laws; and (7) executive privilege according to the author. After Vietnam, Watergate, Iraq, etc. it is thought provoking to look at the origin of presidential power.
Bigheadwalt
Mar 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good, not great; but does cover several aspects of his other books and ties several issues together.
Not a lot of new ground covered
Lines up seven precedents that George Washington begat as the first president:
1. Foreign Policy leadership
2. Executive appointments
3. Government finances -- Bank of America
4. Military affairs -- commander and chief
5. Executive orders
6. Federal Law Enforcement
7. Executive Privlege
Bianca
Mar 28, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This was my first time trying out an audiobook, and perhaps the subject matter doesn't lend itself to being the most interesting thing to listen to for 6 hours....

My interest in the politics of this era was pretty much a result of recently buying the Hamilton soundtrack and falling in love. George Washington may not be as engaging when he isn't rapping, BUT there is a ton of information here about the president, and all that he did to fashion the presidency into what is today.
Wayne Street
The author had a POV that I'd never considered and didn't really enjoy. He told it as if it the creation of a government was bad.

At least it felt that way. It gave me some ideas to consider, which I'd never done before. It was a relatively easy read.
Alyssa Johnson paquette
Appreciated that there was a lot of information condensed in a small package. However, I could have done without all of the authors opinions sprinkled throughout and poorly disguised as some type of fact.
Erneilson
Aug 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great history! The author tells how George Washington turned the office of POTUS from an executive position with almost no real authority and less power than the vice president into the office it is today.
Drew Shifley
Mar 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good book with the concentration on the development of our current federalist system and the presidency of George Washington. During his administration President Washington not only averted external war but also internal civil war.
Denise
Aug 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent read about the great George Washington!
Alastair Hannaford
It was a very interesting book and an insight into the formation and development of the presidency of the United States of America.
Scott
Jan 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shorter than most, but well written and Unger hit on areas of Washington I had not read about in other texts. Very enjoyable and did a great job humanizing the icon Washington.
Gregory Roberts
Feb 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
great book about our first president
Brian Leslie
I enjoyed the book, but the author's obvious disdain for Thomas Jefferson clouded some of the history.
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