George Washington


William Roscoe Thayer
    You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery.

The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton


William E. Leuchtenburg - 2015
    William Leuchtenburg, one of the great presidential historians of the century, portrays each of the presidents in a chronicle sparkling with anecdote and wit.Leuchtenburg offers a nuanced assessment of their conduct in office, preoccupations, and temperament. His book presents countless moments of high drama: FDR hurling defiance at the "economic royalists" who exploited the poor; ratcheting tension for JFK as Soviet vessels approach an American naval blockade; a grievously wounded Reagan joking with nurses while fighting for his life.This book charts the enormous growth of presidential power from its lowly state in the late nineteenth century to the imperial presidency of the twentieth. That striking change was manifested both at home in periods of progressive reform and abroad, notably in two world wars, Vietnam, and the war on terror.Leuchtenburg sheds light on presidents battling with contradictory forces. Caught between maintaining their reputation and executing their goals, many practiced deceits that shape their image today. But he also reveals how the country's leaders pulled off magnificent achievements worthy of the nation's pride.

Through Five Administrations: Inside the White House


William H. Crook - 1909
    Crook's memoir brings an astonishing array of personal details of life in the executive mansion. His sensitive observations of Lincoln are especially moving.A well-known figure in Washington, Crook knew every president from Lincoln until Crook's death in 1915. He was a keen observer and his stories will entertain and sometimes surprise you.

James Madison and the Creation of the American Republic


Jack N. Rakove - 1990
     Paperback, brief, and inexpensive, each of the titles in the Library of American Biography Series focuses on a figure whose actions and ideas significantly influenced the course of American history and national life. In addition, each biography relates the life of its subject to the broader themes and developments of the times.

The Every-day Life of Abraham Lincoln A Narrative And Descriptive Biography With Pen-Pictures And Personal Recollections By Those Who Knew Him


Francis Fisher Browne - 1886
    You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery.

The Life and Selected Writings


Thomas Jefferson - 1944
    "Jefferson aspired beyond the ambition of a nationality, and embraced in his view the whole future of man." --Henry Adams

The Real Benjamin Franklin


Andrew M. Allison - 1982
     There are many Benjamin Franklins -- or at least he has taken on many different forms in the history books of the last two centuries. Some historians have shown us an aged statesman whose wise and steadying influence kept the Constitutional Convention together in 1787, while others have conjured up sensational tales of a lecherous old diplomat. Unfounded myths are now being repeated and embellished in school textbooks and educational television programs.Which of all these Benjamin Franklins, if any, is real? This book is an attempt to answer that question. The Real Benjamin Franklin seats us across the table from the one person who really knew Benjamin Franklin -- that is, Franklin himself -- and gives him an opportunity to explain his life and ideas in his own words. Part I of this book details his exciting biography, and Part II includes his most important and insightful writings, all carefully documented from original sources. Highly acclaimed by many, including Glenn Beck of the Fox News Channel. Published by the National Center for Constitutional Studies, a nonprofit educational foundation dedicated to restoring Constitutional principles in the tradition of America's Founding Fathers. The National Center for Constitutional Studies...is doing a fine public service in educating Americans about the principles of the Constitution. -- Ronald Reagan, President of the United States

Lincoln's Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words


Douglas L. Wilson - 2006
    Since his assassination in 1865, no American’s words have become more familiar or more admired, and their enduring power has established him as one of our greatest writers. Now, in a groundbreaking study, the distinguished Lincoln scholar Douglas L. Wilson demonstrates that exploring Lincoln’s presidential writing provides a window onto his presidency and a key to his accomplishments. Lincoln’s Sword tells the story of how Lincoln developed his writing skills, how they served him for a time as a hidden presidential asset, how it gradually became clear that he possessed a formidable literary talent, and it reveals how writing came to play an increasingly important role in his presidency. “By the time he came to write the Gettysburg Address,” Wilson says, “Lincoln was attempting to help put the horrific carnage of the Civil War in a positive light, and at the same time to do it in a way that would have constructive implications for the future. By the time he came to write the Second Inaugural Address, fifteen months later, he was quite consciously in the business of interpreting the war and its deeper meaning, not just for his contemporaries but for what he elsewhere called the ‘vast future.’ ”Illustrated with reproductions of Lincoln’s original manuscripts, Lincoln’s Sword affords an unprecedented look at a distinctively American writer.

Death of a Revolutionary: Che Guevara's Last Mission


Richard L. Harris - 1970
    Harris offers a balanced look at the man behind the legend and the circumstances that created him and shaped his choices.

The First Congress: How James Madison, George Washington, and a Group of Extraordinary Men Invented the Government


Fergus M. Bordewich - 2015
    Had it failed—as many at the time feared it would—it’s possible that the United States as we know it would not exist today.The Constitution was a broad set of principles. It was left to the members of the First Congress and President George Washington to create the machinery that would make the government work. Fortunately, James Madison, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and others less well known today, rose to the occasion. During two years of often fierce political struggle, they passed the first ten amendments to the Constitution; they resolved bitter regional rivalries to choose the site of the new national capital; they set in place the procedure for admitting new states to the union; and much more. But the First Congress also confronted some issues that remain to this day: the conflict between states’ rights and the powers of national government; the proper balance between legislative and executive power; the respective roles of the federal and state judiciaries; and funding the central government. Other issues, such as slavery, would fester for decades before being resolved.The First Congress tells the dramatic story of the two remarkable years when Washington, Madison, and their dedicated colleagues struggled to successfully create our government, an achievement that has lasted to the present day.

Dewey Defeats Truman: The 1948 Election and the Battle for America's Soul


A.J. Baime - 2020
    Racism was rampant, foreign relations were fraught, and political parties were more divided than ever. Americans were certain that President Harry S. Truman’s political career was over. “The ballots haven’t been counted,” noted political columnist Fred Othman, “but there seems to be no further need for holding up an affectional farewell to Harry Truman.” Truman’s own staff did not believe he could win. Nor did his wife, Bess. The only man in the world confident that Truman would win was Mr. Truman himself. And win he did.  1948 was a fight for the soul of a nation. In Dewey Defeats Truman, A. J. Baime sheds light on one of the most action-packed six months in American history, as Truman not only triumphs, but oversees watershed events—the passing of the Marshall plan, the acknowledgement of Israel as a new state, the careful attention to the origins of the Cold War, and the first desegregation of the military.  Not only did Truman win the election, he succeeded in guiding his country forward at a critical time with high stakes and haunting parallels to the modern day.

Triumvirate: The Story of the Unlikely Alliance That Saved the Constitution and United the Nation


Bruce Chadwick - 2009
    Together they wrote the startlingly original Federalist Papers not as an exercise in governmental philosophy, but instead aimed at overcoming the common man's fears. Their relentless efforts laid the groundwork for ratifying the Constitution against rampant opposition.

Rutherford B. Hayes: Warrior and President


Ari Hoogenboom - 1995
    Hayes? Was he a great or inconsequential president? How did his early life and career shape his later years? How did his triumphs and failures alter our history? And why should we care? Ari Hoogenboom's masterful life of Hayes definitively answers those questions and shows why our nineteenth president deserves far greater recognition than he's received in the past.The first biography of Hayes in nearly fifty years, Hoogenboom's book recreates the rapidly changing world of Victorian America as experienced by one of its most reflective and perceptive figures. The Hayes that emerges is a much more progressive and far-sighted leader than previously suggested. He was, Hoogenboom argues, neither a Southern sympathizer nor an exemplar of the "Greedy Gilded Age." Rather, he was a devout, pragmatic champion of equal rights.Hayes's colorful life was rooted in his frontier experiences in Ohio and galvanized on Civil War battlefields, where he survived five wounds and was ultimately promoted to major general. No other president was under fire on the front lines as much as Hayes. Hayes's image as president (1877-1881), however, has not been quite so shining. He has been blamed for Reconstruction's failure and damned for an apparent bargain that guaranteed his election in exchange for withdrawing military support of Republican governments in the South. He has also been criticized for championing the gold standard, for breaking the Great Strike of 1877, for inconsistent support of civil-service reform, and for being an ineffectual politician.Hoogenboom contends that these evaluations are largely false. Previous scholars, he says, have failed to appreciate Hayes's limited options and have misrepresented his actions in their depictions of an overly cautious, nonvisionary president. In fact, he was strikingly modern in his efforts to enlarge the power of the office, which he used as his own bully pulpit to rouse public support for his goals. Chief among these goals, Hoogenboom shows, was equality for all Americans. Throughout his presidency and long afterwards, Hayes worked steadfastly for reforms that would encourage economic opportunity, distribute wealth more equitably, diminish the conflict between capital and labor, and ultimately enable African-Americans to achieve political equality. Although he fell far short of his ideals, his unwavering commitment deserves our attention and respect.

Garfield


Allan Peskin - 1978
    Moving from the battlefield to Congress before the end of the Civil War, Garfield had a hand in almost everything of national importance for two decades, the years of peace, Reconstruction, and industrialization. As a party leader he, along with his friend James G. Blaine, forged the modern Republican Party into the instrument which would lead the United States into the twentieth century, and though his presidency was cut short by an assassin's bullet, he succeeded in rescuing the office from the shadows of Johnson and Grant, elevated it above the Congress, and began the accretion of presidential power that has lasted to our own day.To the public James A. Garfield was a beloved nineteenth-century success story, the self-made man climbing from poverty to national leader, the last of the "log cabin" presidents. But the man behind the public portrait was much more complex, even contradictory. He was a pacifist turned soldier, an educator turned politician, a preacher turned economist, a man of essentially literary tastes cast in the role of party chieftain. Continually racked by self-doubts, he nevertheless was so convinced of his destiny that he never actively sought any office -- and never lost an election.Allan Peskin's masterful biography combines the public and the private Garfield in a smooth-flowing narrative that will fascinate the general reader as well as enlighten the scholar. The Garfield story includes the account of the Ohio canal boy who worked his way through college -- and later became president of that same Hiram College. It is the story of the minister who led Union troops through a blundering campaign in the Kentucky wilderness and emerged a national hero and a general. It is the romance of the diffident husband who, some time after the wedding and somewhat to his surprise, fell in love with his wife. It is the high drama of Gilded Age politics, disputed elections, and narrow victories during the era in which the modern, industrial, continent-spanning United States was being forged and many of its social and political attitudes taking shape. Finally, it is the story of assassination at the hands of a religious fanatic before the character of the president could truly be tested in office.From these rich materials a fully-rounded portrait of Garfield and his time emerges. He rises above the image of good-natured backslapper and forgotten -- if "martyred" -- president to which history has relegated him. He becomes a figure worth the major treatment Dr. Peskin has accorded him.

Humanity: How Jimmy Carter Lost an Election and Transformed the Post-Presidency (Kindle Single)


Jordan Michael Smith - 2016
    Carter's unpopularity helped Republicans win seats in the House and gain control over the Senate for the first time in over 20 years. The Reagan Era had begun, ushering in a generation of conservative power. Democrats blamed Carter for this catastrophe and spent the next decade pretending he had never existed. Republicans cheered his demise and trotted out his name to scare voters for years to come. Carter and his wife Rosalynn returned to their farm in the small town of Plains, Georgia. They were humiliated, widely unpopular, and even in financial debt. 35 years later, Carter has become the most celebrated post-president in American history. He has won the Nobel Peace Prize, written bestselling books, and become lauded across the world for his efforts on behalf of peace and social justice. Ex-presidents now adopt the Carter model of leveraging their eminent status to benefit humanity. By pursuing diplomatic missions, leading missions to end poverty and working to eradicate disease around the world, Carter has transformed the idea of what a president can accomplish after leaving the White House.This is the story of how Jimmy Carter lost the biggest political prize on earth--but managed to win back something much greater. Jordan Michael Smith is a contributing writer at Salon and the Christian Science Monitor. His writing has appeared in print or online for the New York Times Magazine, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Slate, BBC, and many other publications. Born in Toronto, he holds a Master's of Arts in Political Science from Carleton University. He lives in New York City. www.jordanmichaelsmith.typepad.com.Cover design by Adil Dara.