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The Forgotten Presidents: Their Untold Constitutional Legacy 1st Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199967797
ISBN-10: 0199967792
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"The Forgotten Presidents run the gamut, from the truly important like Grover Cleveland to the truly forgettable like William Henry Harrison. But in recovering these stories, Michael Gerhardt reminds us that every president leaves a trace. The occupants of the highest office exercised power to reshape the nation they inherited, and in doing so they all sparked constitutional debates and transformed the constitutional landscape. Even our forgotten presidents helped shape the world we live in; a lesson worth remembering today." --Keith E. Whittington, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics, Princeton University


"Forgotten but not gone. In these captivating stories, Professor Gerhardt shows how even our lesser presidents shaped the constitutional order and the political world that 21st century Americans inhabit." --Michael C. Dorf, Robert S. Stevens Professor, Cornell University Law School


"...Gerhardt's study is a positive contribution to the study of the presidency and the Constitution..." --Congress & the Presidency


About the Author


Michael Gerhardt is Samuel Ashe Distinguished Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. A nationally recognized authority on constitutional conflicts, he has testified in several Supreme Court confirmation hearings, and has published five books, including The Power of Precedent.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (April 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199967792
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199967797
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1.2 x 6.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #933,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading the book The Forgotten Presidents: Their Untold Constitutional Legacy. In it, author Michael Gerhardt details 13 presidents who fit the general descriptor of "forgotten" and explains why they should be more memorable. He restricts himself to just their interpretations of the Constitution, which is too bad, as he misses so much else to discuss. Regardless, part of the fun is Gerhardt's rationale for which presidents he chose. After reading his book, I agree with his choices, and I'm not going to go into his reasonings here, but suffice it to say, it's very interesting why, for example, he leaves out James Garfield (who was president for only 6 months), and Warren Harding, yet includes Calvin Coolidge (who served a term and a half) and Jimmy Carter, who is not only one of our most recent presidents, but is still alive.

But...there was a problem.

The book has lots of errors about basic presidential facts. In the acknowledgments section, Gerhardt thanks his editor "for support above and beyond the call of duty" and for providing "quiet confidence." Perhaps that confidence was a bit too quiet; had the editor truly have gone "above and beyond," he would have caught the mistakes that I found without even trying.

Here are some errors I found:

PAGE 3: Right on the first page of the text, in the second paragraph, Gerhardt says "Martin Van Buren has been eclipsed by the six men who preceeded him as president," and the next sentence calls Van Buren "the seventh president." Nope. Van Buren was number eight.

PAGE 34: Here, Gerhardt says that, besides Jefferson, there were "eight other presidents who preceded" William Harrison. Nope. Besides Jefferson, there were seven other presidents prior to Harrison.
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Format: Hardcover
If so then this is the book for you.

All kidding aside this covers history's 13 most ignored presidents. It shows how most of them actually did something meaningful and gives the reader some basic trivia and facts that they may not have been aware of.

This is interesting reading. The author sets a good pace and makes some of the presidents who we may have known in name only come alive. Just enough here on each one to stay interesting, give you the facts and move on.

I would have liked to see more background on some of the history going on at the times these presidents were serving as usually less studied presidents serve during less studied historical eras.

Overall interesting and good background for those of us who will never get as in depth on Millard Fillmore as we would like.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is a must-read for anyone who is a student of American history and American Presidents. Unlike many other historical authors, Gerhardt explains the importance of historical figures, party politics and events in the context of the entire arc of American history. These explanations gave me a sense of the enduring importance of these figures and parties (like the Whigs) in a way I had not appreciated before reading it.
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Format: Hardcover
Gerhardt places the presidents' decisions within their historical context, which allows the reader to experience refreshing insights into the implication of each decision not only for the president's tenure but also for future generations and presidents. The material is grouped by subtopic in each chapter letting the casual reader ponder the ideas more easily and the scholar to clearly find supporting material for their own hypotheses. Along with many Americans I had high hopes for Jimmy Carter's presidency, I was pleased to see what he had accomplished and able to understand where he had falter. The book forces me to look more critically at the decisions being made today. Worth a second read!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The impact these "forgotten" presidents have had on the office are incredible. It presents a whole different perspective on the office and these men who held it, by acesencion or election. Be their contributions good or bad, each man has put an imprint on the office for its future holders that cannot be erased. The commitment each man had to their own interpretation of the Constitution, the duties they assumed were theirs to excercise and the conviction which each carried out that commitment is something sorely lacking in our elected leaders today.
Each man came into the office with certain ideas and as each faced conflict and opposition, you can see the clear path each determined they would take to protect and preserve the Union. Some motives were short-sighted or wrong in hindsight but that does not diminsh the conviction with which they carried out their directives.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Covers some interesting and to me unknown material but focuses mostly on events that effected constitutional law mainly. Well written and lucid. Would recommend only to those who are into presidential minutia.
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Format: Hardcover
The "surprises" herein, courtesy of U.S.Constitution scholar Michael Gerhardt, consist of the important and often vital role played by 13 of our less colorful Chief Executives in defining the Presidency and the scope of the Federal Government. The story is exciting.
Obscure characters like Chester Alan Arthur, Franklin Pierce, Millard Fillmore, Martin van Buren, and Calvin Coolidge are brought to life and shown to be tough and highly effective.
Despite their pre-White House rhetoric about strict construction of the Constitution's grant of powers, once in office, these seemingly bland men got up on their hind legs and worked hard to extend federal involvement into new (and necessary) areas.
Protecting and expanding Presidential prerogatives flowed from self-preservation impulses and a simple desire to make the system work and correct its shortcomings.
This book should fascinate both American history buffs and legal-minded readers. Presidents who are ignored almost completely by high school and even college history classes are shown to be men of substance and even courage. The results of their actions are still with us.
Jimmy Carter comes in for some strong criticism from Gerhardt, who regards the Georgian as a man who never controlled his own narrative and made tactical errors, but the author is even-handed enough to credit Carter for his well-intentioned efforts (and a few successes).
In an intriguing Appendix, Gerhardt discusses his criteria for deciding which execs fit the forgotten-but-significant paradigm.
All in all, the book is a bit of a revelation. Even general readers with a slight interest in U.S.history will be educated and entertained.
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