But from the time when the heroes of the Revolution died out with Jefferson and Adams and Madison, no person except General Grant… reached the chair whose name would have been remembered had he not been President, and no President except Abraham Lincoln had displayed rare or striking qualities in the chair.
— James Bryce, The American Commonwealth
A two week holiday – both off- and online – is a wonderful thing. It’s good to be back, though.
My holiday afforded me the excellent opportunity to finally finish Team of Rivals, the quite remarkable study of Abraham Lincoln and how he managed his Cabinet during the biggest crisis the United States faced: the American Civil War.
Alongside Team of Rivals I also watched the 7-part HBO series, John Adams. A fabulous piece of film making, it tells the story of Adams and his rise and role in creating the independent America and the tale of his Presidency, him being the second President after George Washington. (This gives rise to Abigail Adams, John Adams’s wife, being the first Second Lady and the second First Lady.)
I’ll write a full reflection on both the book and the series in due course, but I can especially see now why people are so fascinated by American history and the Presidency in particular. To this end, I’ve begun The Presidents: The Transformation of the American Presidency from Theodore Roosevelt to Barack Obama by Stephen Graubard, to get a better handle on what that position today represents, and just how far it is from the idealised world presented in, for example, the West Wing.
The quote at the start of this post is taken from the epigraph of Graubard’s book and immediately struck me as true. It got me to wondering if this is the case purely by definition of any individual reaching the position of a national leader.
That’s a post for after I’ve finished the book; in the meantime, I commend all of the above to you.