From Publishers Weekly
Edited by the director of the American Bar Association's Museum of Law, this volume provides useful essays on each of America's 25 "lawyer presidents," among them Jefferson, both Adamses, Monroe, Lincoln, McKinley, Taft, Wilson, FDR, Nixon and Clinton. Contributors, including such scholars as Paul Finkelman, Lawrence Friedman and Lewis L. Gould, focus on how legal training prepared these men for their tenure as chief executive and influenced their conduct in office. These themes derive quite directly, as Gross writes, from Edmund Burke's view that "no other profession is more closely connected with actual life as the law. It concerns the highest of all temporal interests... property, reputation, the peace of all families, liberty, life even, and the very foundations of society." Of course, the law is quite a varied thing. While John Quincy Adams argued great cases involving human rights before the Supreme Court, Lincoln was primarily a business attorney specializing in railroads, while other presidents, like Rutherford B. Hayes and Benjamin Harrison, made their reputations prosecuting and defending headline-grabbing criminal cases. As this profusely illustrated volume demonstrates, each man was unique in what he brought to the law, what he took from the law and the extent to which he allowed his legal training to influence and inform executive policy.
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The legal profession has produced far more American presidents than any other occupation. This compendium of articles, emanating from the American Bar Association, chronicles the legal careers of presidents, assesses their legal ability, and appraises the influence of a legal cast of mind on their conduct of office. Each jargon-free profile starts with the future president's attraction to the law, some for its own sake as the civil medium of society, others as an entree to politics--"the high road to fame," as John Tyler described legal ambition. Bill Clinton and Franklin Roosevelt exemplify the latter; John Adams and Abraham Lincoln, the former; and the authors collectively perceive a correlation between avidity for the law and success at the bar. One who, as president, ranks near the bottom but was "probably the ablest lawyer ever to be president"--Benjamin Harrison--is equivalent in legal illustriousness to John Q. Adams or James Garfield, who argued constitutionally significant cases before the Supreme Court. This visually attractive volume will pique the abiding interest in presidents. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved