Presidential history

Forty seven years ago, the president wrote for American Heritage that the study of history is no mere pastime but the means by which a nation establishes its sense of identity and purpose

There is little that is more important for an American citizen to know than the history and traditions of his country. Without such knowledge, he stands uncertain and defenseless before the world, knowing neither where he has come from nor where he is going. Read more >>

Most associate Ronald Reagan with California, but he spent his formative years in the midwest. On the centennial of his birth, a handful of small Illinois towns want a share of the limelight.

Back in 1965 Ronald Reagan published his first memoir, Where’s the Rest of Me?, borrowing the title from a line in the 1942 Warner Brothers film Kings Row. Read more >>

As America goes into its fifty-fifth presidential election, we should remember that there might have been only one—if we hadn’t had the only candidate on earth who could do the job

THERE WERE NO PRIMARIES BACK THEN TO SELECT presidential candidates, no organized political parties, no orchestrated campaigns, not even any established election procedures. Read more >>

A sampling of the wisdom of Americans from Ben Franklin to Cameron Crowe

A major new installation at the Smithsonian Institution explores the nation’s biggest and most important job

When John Adams was elected President, and Thomas Jefferson Vice President, each came to see the other as a traitor. Out of their enmity grew our modern political system.

How bad is it when Presidents get really sore?

The rumor first began to spread around Washington last year: Sen. John McCain had a skeleton in his closet. Was it something to do with his past as a war hero in Vietnam? His voting record in the Senate? Read more >>

Smarter than stupid, of course; but does the intellectual tradition that began with the century suggest there is such a thing as being too smart for the country’s good?

He had a long, intimate friendship that stayed unknown for almost half a century after his death

The elder statesman sets the record straight on JFK, LBJ, Stalin, the bomb, Charles de Gaulle, Douglas MacArthur—and, most of all, the American Presidency

I can still see Harry and Bess Truman coming toward us across the crowded terminal of the Kansas City airport on that night in 1970, their eighty-six-year-old faces pinched and almost grim with concern. Read more >>
Down with the debunking biographer,” Lyndon Johnson wrote in his college newspaper in 1929. “It now seems to be quite a thing to pull down the mighty from their seats and roll them in the mire. This practice deserves pronounced condemnation. Read more >>

It’s not surprising that Democrats seek to wrap themselves in the Roosevelt cloak; what’s harder to understand is why so many Republicans do too. A distinguished historian explains.

On June 2 the first and last presidential wedding took place in the White House: President Grover Cleveland, a rotund forty-nine-year-old bachelor, married the statuesque Frances Folsom, twenty-three. Read more >>

The early years of our republic produced dozens of great leaders. A historian explains how men like Adams and Jefferson were selected for public office, and tells why the machinery that raised them became obsolete.

THERE IS NO clear consensus on what constitutes greatness, nor are there any objective criteria for measuring it—but when we look at holders of high public offices and at the current field of candidates, we know it is missing. Read more >>

Was the murdered President one of our best, a man of “vigor, rationality, and noble vision” or was he “an optical illusion,” “an expensively programmed waxwork”? A noted historian examines the mottled evolution of his reputation.

The murder of John F. Kennedy twenty years ago last month occasioned an overwhelming sense of grief that may be without parallel in our history. Read more >>

An Interview With Theodore H. White

From the End of the Earth to the Oval Office

“To be President of the United States,” wrote Harry Truman, “is to be lonely, very lonely. Read more >>

For TR, the nation s highest office was never a burden; he loved the job, and Americans loved him for loving it

One summer brought excitement and glory to the young secretary of a political leader. How could he know that the next one would brim with tragedy?

To begin with, the Presidential libraries do not look like what they are. Each one is, in fact, a miniature Office of Public Records. Read more >>

To what extent did greatness inhere in the man, and to what degree was it a product of the situation?

Seldom has an eminent man been more conscious of his place in history than was Franklin D. Roosevelt. He regarded history as an imposing drama and himself as a conspicuous actor. Read more >>

In San Francisco Warren G. Harding lay dead, and the nation was without a Chief Executive. In the early morning hours, by the light of a flickering oil lamp, an elderly Vermonter swore in his son as the thirtieth President of the United States

Martin Van Buren, Andrew Jackson’s right-hand man, was a master of political intrigue who let nothing block his one unwavering ambition—the Presidency. But sometimes he was too smart for his own good

The great tragedy of the twenty-eighth President as witnessed by his loyal lieutenant, the thirty-first

A third of a century since his defeat and death, most of the passion that surrounded Woodrow Wilson in life is spent. Read more >>