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Mr. President: How and Why the Founders Created a Chief Executive Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 6, 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“In Mr. President, historian Ray Raphael explores the birth and early molding of the presidency. The journey is an illuminating one, throwing off wisdom that resonates as the nation prepares to choose its president again. . . . Mr. President provides a rich harvest of insights for reflection during the next five months of political bloodletting.” —The Washington Post

“In Mr. President, Raphael . . . provides a careful, engaging and at times surprising account of the origins and early evolution of what is now the most powerful political office in the world. . . . Mr. President also presents lively and lucid lessons in civics.”  —Glenn Altschuler, Tulsa World
“In a time when many find themselves questioning the efficacy of the presidency (seemingly regardless of party affiliation), the eligibility of future candidates, and the efficiency of the election process, a look back at the origins of the highest office in the U.S. is particularly timely. In this engaging narrative, Raphael elucidates the goings-on of the Federal Convention. . . . Meticulously detailed and thoroughly researched—Raphael cites the papers of many icons of the nation’s birth, such as Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin—this is a valuable read for Democrats and Republicans, as well as historians and those interested in contemporary American politics.” —Publishers Weekly
“Far from dryly legalistic, Raphael’s presentation, with its context of the partisan 1790’s, ensures the avid interest of early-republic buffs.” —Gilbert Taylor, Booklist
“Renowned historian Raphael delivers an authoritative biography of the Constitutional Convention and the herculean task faced by the representatives. . . .  Raphael’s exceptional history of the beginning years of the United States should be required reading, especially in an election year.” —Kirkus (*starred review*)

"[A]n insightful narrative. . . . The author's lucid treatment explores in grand detail how delegates . . . constructed what became the most powerful office is US politics. . . .  Raphael's superb study is well suited as a general introduction to the topic."  —CHOICE

"It’s not easy to find something new to say about the most powerful office in the world. Ray Raphael succeeds through the ingenious expedient of taking us back to the time when we had a country but no president, and reminding us how much work it took to fill that void. All fans of presidential history will need this book." –Ted Widmer, Director, John Carter Brown Library, Brown University and author of Ark of the Liberties: America and the World

"This is a fascinating and fresh narrative that takes the reader from the fierce debates establishing the federal executive at the Constitutional Convention through Thomas Jefferson’s election which tested the framers’ handiwork. It makes you wonder why it’s never been told before." –Joyce Appleby, author of The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism

"Ray Raphael’s Mr. President presents to the reader a careful, lively, and in many respects, wholly surprising history of the origins and early development of the American presidency. His analysis of the years immediately preceding the Constitutional Convention of 1787 helps us understand better why the job of creating an American presidency was such a difficult one for the framers; and his meticulous examination of the records of the Convention yields a wholly novel conclusion: the man who played the most important role in determining the character of America’s executive branch was not James Madison or James Wilson, but the flamboyant, outspoken delegate from Pennsylvania, Gouverneur Morris. This book will command the attention of both professional historians and the general reader for decades to come." –Richard Beeman, author of Plain Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution

"Ray Raphael’s Mr. President is a brilliant analysis of why our Founding Fathers thought a Chief Executive was necessary for the American democratic experiment to flourish. The shrill arguments between Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, Mason (and other law wizards) are recounted in these pages in vivid detail. A classic work of history!" –Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University, author of The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America

About the Author

Ray Raphael’s fifteen books include A People’s History of the American Revolution: How Common People Shaped the Fight for Independence (2001) and Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past (2004). He is also coeditor of Revolutionary Founders: Rebels, Radicals, and Reformers in the Making of the Nation (2011). Having taught at Humboldt State University and College of the Redwoods and all subjects in a one-room public high school, he is now a full-time researcher and writer. He lives in Northern California.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (March 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307595277
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307595270
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,402,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ray Raphael is a Senior Research Fellow at Humboldt State University, California. His seventeen books include Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past, A People's History of the American Revolution, Mr. President: How and Why the Founders Created a Chief Executive, and most recently Constitutional Myths: What We Get Wrong and How to Get It Right.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"In the beginning there were committees."

Published during one of the nastiest election cycles since the Election of 1800, Ray Raphael's "Mr. President," is worth reading. Raphael takes us back to our nation's beginnings, reminding us that participating in a democracy is a messy but important responsibility.

His conclusion is that "While the presidency has not turned out entirely as the framers intended, we would still do well to embrace the values of governance they expected the chief executive of the United States, in whom they placed great trust, to exemplify."

The strongest and most interesting parts of Raphael's book clarify the actions and hostilities of the Election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson's grappling with the balance of democratic principles vs. Executive privileges, and a very fine concluding chapter called, "Then and Now--Translations".

This particular chapter should be read by every History 101 student in America. In it, Raphael poses questions related to opinions and interpretations of the past and the pros and cons of past and present expectations of both the presidency and political parties.

In this 21st Century era of political anger and mud-slinging, Raphael should have used the proper name for the Democratic-Republican Party. By abbreviating that party's name to "the Republicans," there is room for distortion and misinterpretation by lay readers. The Republican Party developed much, much later in history, and was the Party of Lincoln.

This is an excellent book.

Kim Burdick
Stanton, Delaware
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wonderful book -- Ray Raphael does an outstanding job of revealing the philosophical differences between the founders and their various conceptions of what a national executive should look like. The story of how the national executive first came to be, as well as how the early presidents shaped the office, is a fascinating tale that Raphael takes the time to explore in detail. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ray Raphael is always good. He's the best historian of the American story that I've read. Definitely up there with David McCullough.
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