OPINIONSrnA Setting Sunrnby Mark G. Malvasirn”/ would rather that the people should wonder why I wasn’trnPresident than why I am.”rn—Salmon P. ChasernThe American Presidency:rnAn Intellectual Historyrnhy Forrest McDonaldrnLawrence: University Press of Kansas;rn528 pp., $29.95rnContra Ecclesiastes, the Americanrnpresidency was something newrnunder the sun. With no explicit precedentsrnto guide them, the Founding Fathersrnconstructed the office and definedrnits parameters by analogy. In his richlyrndetailed, elegantly written, and closelyrnreasoned book, Forrest McDonald undertakesrnto investigate the origins andrndevelopment of this unique institution.rnAs the foremost student of the Constitution,rnMcDonald boasts an intimaternknowledge of the intellectual world ofrnthe Founders. The English monarchy,rnhe shows, constituted the most immediaternand accessible representation ofrnexecutive power for them. After 1776,rnthey had to “devise an institutional substituternfor the crown.” Yet McDonaldrnMark G. Malvasi teaches history atrnRandolph-Macon College in Ashland,rnVirginia.rnis careful to point out that by 1776rnthe English had fashioned a stablernconstitutional monarchy that providedrnthe ordered liberty Americans sought.rnAmericans traced the progress of limitedrnmonarchy not only in their examinationrnof English history, but in their studyrnof the English legal and constitutionalrntradition.rnDuring the 18th century, Americansrn—especially those who read for thernbar—routinely consulted the commentariesrnof Henry Bracton, Sir John Fortescue,rnSir Edward Coke, Matthew Hale,rnand Sir William Blackstone. They didrnnot wholly abandon their English antecedentsrneven after they had won independencernfrom the British Empire.rnThey did not have to.rnTheir emphasis on law and customrnmarked the Founding Fathers as exceedinglyrnprudent and conservative men.rnSkeptical, even disdainful, of abstractrntheorems and speculative calculations,rnthey nevertheless found in politicalrnphilosophy a second important sourcernfor their idea of the presidency. Ancientrnthinkers, McDonald declares, contributedrnnothing to the Framers’ understandingrnof the executive; instead, thernAmericans began with Niccolo Machiavelli,rnwho wrote The Prince as a practicalrnmanual for rulers. In addition,rnthey had at least a passing, if at timesrnimprecise, familiarity with the workrnof Thomas Hobbes, Robert Filmer,rnJohn Locke, Sir William Temple, ViscountrnBolingbroke, Montesquieu, DavidrnHume, and Jean-Louis De Lolme. ButrnJohn Dickinson articulated the prevailingrnsentiment among his peers when hernsaid, “Experience must be our guide.rnReason may mislead us.” History, notrnphilosophy, would determine the contoursrnof the American presidency.rnBiblical, Creek and Roman, andrnEnglish history each offered the FoundingrnFathers insight into the nature,rnevolution, and dangers of executive power.rnMoreover, they applied the lessonsrnof history to their own experience asrncolonists, revolutionaries, and statesmen.rnTheir education and their practicalrnexperience ill disposed them to vestrnunrestrained power in any branch ofrngovernment, particularly the executive.rnTo order these books, (24hrs, 365 days)rnplease call (800) 962-6651 (Ext. 5200)rn30/CHRONICLESrnrnrn