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

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  252 ratings  ·  36 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
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Published October 29th 2013 by Blackstone Audiobooks
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3.87  · 
Rating details
 ·  252 ratings  ·  36 reviews

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Denise Morse
Oct 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: mymediamall
Shelves: nf-history-bio
"... but the powerful presidential structure her husband (Martha Washington) built still stands, strong and stable. Many critics say too stable, too strong. While the anarchy Washington feared and despised reigns in endless countries around the globe, even in Greece, the birthplace of democracy, Americans have lived under one constitution and gone to the polls peacefully for more than 220 continuous years electing 44 different Presidents to office. Until the passage of a constitutional amendment ...more
Stan Lanier
Jan 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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.
Feb 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, leadership
Seriously.... Politics never change
Jul 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Quick and interesting look into the office of the presidency and how George Washington interepreted the Constitution to build a powerful executive office. Kept my attention the entire book and makes me want to read more from Unger and also about the beginnings of the US.
Devon Morris
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
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.
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Neither too dry nor too casual, it presents a nice timeline of actions & opinions throughout the first presidency.
John Cialone
Dec 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Could have used a thorough proofreading. Seems more like someone's casual musings than a well researched historical text.
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Until now, books about American history have not been a significant piece of my reading diet. This book has changed all that. Immediately after finishing it, I added several books by this talented author to my queue. I'm so pumped to read more of this historian's work. End-to-end, the last book of history I was this excited about was "Founding Brothers" by Joseph Ellis.

"Mr. President" and "Founding Brothers" share some salient features:

* At under three hundred pages, neither is as intimidating
P.e. lolo
Dec 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 C
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
James Spurgeon
Mar 11, 2016 rated it liked it
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
May 12, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
Courtney Umlauf
Apr 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
David Longo
Apr 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 09, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 15, 2014 rated it liked it
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
David R.
Apr 13, 2015 rated it did not like it
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
Daniel Kukwa
Nov 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 28, 2016 rated it liked it
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.
Mar 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Sarah -  All The Book Blog Names Are Taken
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.
Wayne Street
Oct 18, 2016 rated it liked it
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.
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
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.
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A former Distinguished Visiting Fellow in American History at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Harlow Giles Unger is a veteran journalist, broadcaster, educator, and historian.