The old hero recognized that he was setting one precedent after another–his refusal to be called "His Mightiness" or "His Elective Majesty," his diplomacy, his efforts to fashion a legal structure for the new land, his demonstration, in putting down the Whiskey Rebellion, that the United States was able and willing "to support our government and laws," his refusal to accept a third term.
It was left to John Adams to follow the adored and groundbreaking leader who had stood above partisanship to navigate grave crises with France and with Alexander Hamilton.
Few historians would disagree that Abraham Lincoln was our greatest president.
What better demonstration could there be of the American idea that anyone can become president than a boy who sprang from "the short and simple annals of the poor" with a year and a half of sporadic formal education; who mastered Euclid, the Bible, Shakespeare, and Blackstone; made himself the natural leader of almost any community he entered; and then went on to confront the issue of slavery and save the Union with a costly and complicated war?
For the next quarter-century, with the exception of James Polk, who pursued American expansion and revived the independent treasury, the candlepower of the presidency dimmed.
Martin Van Buren struggled against the Panic of 1837.
Franklin Roosevelt launched the longest period of sustained presidential command in our history.
The American epoch from the early 1930s until the start of the 1990s was dominated by what the historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., has called the "imperial Presidency." When FDR took the oath, the nation was in such desperate economic straits that many members of Congress and influential columnists like Walter Lippmann were almost begging him to seize more power and tinker with ways out of the national mess.
Theodore Roosevelt and, after the William Howard Taft interlude, Woodrow Wilson expanded presidential power over foreign policy and our economic life.
The presidencies of Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge were largely a rebuke to the powerful presidency, but Herbert Hoover–far more than most people understood at the time–was a forerunner of the dramatic surge in presidential authority that began in 1933.