George Washington’s first presidential cabinet included many luminaries of the American Revolutionary era; Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State and Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury to just name two. When studying the formation of the present United States government and the creation of cabinets that serve the president, we tend to gloss over it, as a sort of bygone conclusion, that this was a natural product out of this creation.
A closer reading of the United States Constitution, however, does not include the executive branch having a cabinet of secretaries to assist the president. George Washington, as first president, was entirely on his own in creating one, and the first cabinet meeting was not called into session until two and a half years into his first term.
The creation of this American institution is the basis of this week’s “Rev War Revelry” as Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes historian and author Dr. Lindsay Chervinsky as she discusses the history in and surrounding her publication, The Cabinet, George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution.
When discussing the importance of the cabinet, Chervinsky said:
“The best way to better understand the creation of the presidency, presidential leadership, or Washington’s legacy is through the cabinet.”
But this story isn’t just one about the early Founding Era. As Chervinsky writes in her work, “we can’t evaluate the cabinet without examining Washington’s use of councils of war from the Revolution. He developed critical management strategies in the councils that he replicated as president. The war shaped Washington as president.”
Chervinsky is an early American historian and is currently the Scholar-in-Residence at the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies at Iona College and a Senior Fellow at the International Center for Jefferson Studies. In addition, she is teaches courses on the presidency at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs.
For a sneak peak into the book and its history, click here to access Chervinsky’s talk at the Virginia Historical Society.