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Washington Community 1800 -- 1828 by James Sterling Young. Specifically it will contain a review of the book, bringing new light to the audience reading it. This is a historic look at Washington D.C. In its very earliest years, focusing on the political climate, and how it forged the fledgling city. The author, James Sterling Young, is a historian and political scientist. Currently, he serves as the director of the Program on the Presidency at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia. When he wrote the book in 1966, he was a professor at Columbia University (Editors). One of the major points of the book is how Jeffersonian politics affected Washington during his time as president through 1828. The review will also analyze the role early Washington has played on contemporary Washington.
The author's intent in writing the book is clear from the beginning. In the Preface he writes, "This book is about people in power. The behavior of rulers is the subject of analysis, and the group of rulers who comprised early Washington community is the unit of analysis" (Young vii). Young centers on President Thomas Jefferson, although he does focus on other presidents throughout the short period of time he covers, as well. The major point about Jefferson is how he helped create "boardinghouse politics" in Washington to gain support from divided legislators. A reviewer of Young's book compares these tactics to those of President George W. Bush. He writes, "Like Bush, Jefferson was a weak public speaker, but he was charming and persuasive in private meetings. So he invited members of Congress almost nightly to the White House. Over dinner, with plenty of wine, he won their support" (Barone 21). Most of these legislators lived in boardinghouses at the time, and he would invite different members from different boardinghouses in an effort to unify his party and bring them together outside Congressional activities. Author Barone continues, "But he took care to gather together Republicans from different boardinghouses, thus uniting his own party. The Federalists Jefferson treated differently. He invited them by boardinghouse bloc -- the better to detach a bunch of them from fellow partisans" (Barone 21). In effect, Jefferson's attempts were like an early attempt at lobbying the Congress, and in large part, it worked for him.
The characters in this historic work are the founders of the United States and the builders and shapers of Washington D.C. It is important to remember that Washington was designed after the country first formed, and it was created expressly to house the new country's government. It was a unique opportunity to build a capital from scratch, and it remains today as a stirring seat of government that illustrates our history. The book talks about how the capital was planned and about the first presidents to live and work in the new capital. It shows how a community can be planned, built, and utilized, and it shows what a rich history Washington offers to the American people.
The book is extremely relevant to the historical setting, because it shows how the founding fathers created and planned Washington why it was created, and how it was utilized after its creation. It is quite clear that the author's expertise was showcased in this book, because his research is without question. He uses a wide variety of sources, from journal articles, letters, books, and other periodicals, to drawings and other illustrations to make his points, and he includes a lengthy section of notes citing his sources and his methods of research. Since the author is both a historian and political scientist, his work reflects both of these interests. He discusses the history of the Washington area, but how that history relates to politics, as well, and that makes the book well rounded and more interesting at the same time. He covers the topic of the book with expertise, but makes it easy to read and understand, even explaining anecdotes and other issues so the reader will understand them.
One of the biggest strengths of the book is highlighting how different many aspects of the presidency were during Jefferson's time and beyond. This illustrates how early Washington has changed dramatically concerning contemporary Washington. Today, for example, most politicians are wealthy -- they have to be in order to afford to run and then live in or around Washington. In Jefferson's day, the president and Congress were often what we would consider poor. Young writes, "Only one Jeffersonian President, John Quincy Adams, left the chief magistracy without severe financial embarrassment" (Young 58). In fact, Jefferson himself died in debt, as did many others. Today, politicians almost expect to come out of office far wealthier when they went in, and many of them do just that.
The fact that this book has survived since 1966, and is still being used as a contemporary reference, shows its lasting value. The author had a deep understanding of Washington, and it shows in this book. There may be newer analyses of Washington's history, but Young's is an in depth look at a very specific period of time, and it continues as a reference because of its details, its accuracy, and its usefulness to the student and historian.
As for limitations, the book can read a bit scholarly at times, and it uses many direct quotes instead of the writer putting things into his own words. While the quotes capture the thinking and reactions of the times, they sometimes tend to bog down the writing and give it a pedantic or overly scholarly tone. However, the book is still relatively easy to read, and the minor limitations don't detract from the overall message and theme of the book and its objectives.
One of the major points of the book is how Jeffersonian politics affected Washington during his time as president through 1828. Jefferson created a climate that wanted to get things done in Washington, and he attempted to "reach across the aisle" to all members of Congress. Another reviewer notes, "Political scientist James Sterling Young, whose landmark analysis, The Washington Community, 1801-1828 (1966), discovered the existence of congressional boarding-house 'blocs' during Jefferson's presidency, was probably the first student to emphasize the role of 'friendship' in shaping political identity" (Scherr). This reflects on the current attempts by the Obama administration to bring Congress together over various differences, but it also reflects on one of the problems inherent in Washington politics. There is a great divide between political parties and beliefs, and it seems they have great difficulty working together. Surprisingly, this seems to have been the case even in early Washington. Young notes that even President Jefferson complained about it. He writes, "In a policy-making body which required some degree of collaboration to accomplish anything, 'the object of the members & #8230; seemed to be merely to thwart, by every means, the wishes of their political antagonists, and to wear one another out by persevering opposition'" (Young 96). This same thing is occurring today, and it seems that some things never change on Capitol Hill, whether it is good for the people or not.
When Jefferson was president, there were no specialized leaders in Congress, so he had no designated people to target when he wanted to draft or pass legislation. He targeted his own particular choices and worked with them to pass legislation and represent his ideas in Congress. Today, of course, we have majority and minority leaders, along with subcommittee chairpeople, so there are far more representatives for the president and his staff to deal with and negotiate with. Many of Jefferson's methods were different, and some of them were not continued, especially his boardinghouse dinners, but much of what he did paved the road for further presidents, and some of those efforts in bringing…[continue]
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Alexander Hamilton carried on an affair with the wife of "a notorious political schemer," Maria Reynolds. Andrew Jackson married Rachel Jackson before her divorce from Lewis Robards was finalized and therefore was accused of marrying a married woman. Jackson's opponent in 1828, John Quincy Adams, was in turn accused of "corrupt bargaining" during his term. Jackson also championed Margaret O'Neill Timberlake, who married his secretary of war, John Eaton.
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