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VIRTUAL TALK: “The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution” with Lindsay Chervinsky
October 22, 2020 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm$10.00
George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution
George Washington took his oath of office as the first President of the United States in 1789. Two and a half years later, he called his first cabinet meeting. Seriously? That’s right. The US Constitution hadn’t created or provided for such a body. In fact, the delegates to the Constitution Convention had explicitly rejected the idea. Faced with diplomatic crises, domestic insurrections, constitutional challenges and a Congress lacking help, Washington decided he needed a group of advisors he could turn to. He modeled his new cabinet on the councils of war he had led as commander of the Continental Army. In the early days, the cabinet served at the president’s pleasure. Throughout his administration, Washington tinkered with its structure, at times calling regular meetings, at other times preferring written advice and individual discussions. Department secretaries Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Henry Knox, and Edmund Randolph convened for the first cabinet meeting in 1791 . Their roles had far-reaching consequences. The tensions between Hamilton and Jefferson heightened partisanship and contributed to the development of the first party system. And as Washington faced an increasingly recalcitrant Congress, the cabinet helped him expand the role of the president and the executive branch, laying the foundation for one of the most powerful bodies in the federal government today.
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