Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Imperial Penman


A Review of The Imperial Presidency, by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1973. 504 pages.

The title gives us a fleeting but instructive glimpse at the curious rhetorical operations which flourish in this as in Mr. Schlesinger’s other writings. “Imperial” from the pen of a historian and linked with “Presidency.” disposes the reader to expect a carefully descriptive comparison of the institutions of past empires with the American Presidency. But nowhere in the book is “imperial” defined, nor is there a single significant reference to any historic empire or emperor. Dressed up as dispassionate, denotative, scholarly, the title is actually a propaganda epithet for the impassioned moment. In the sub rational milieu of kitsch where the book will be most commonly received and read, “imperial” has a pejorative connotation akin to “imperious.” It is a slogan against the “imperial,” i.e., imperious, dictatorial, contrademocratic administration of Mr. Nixon. The term is an ideological sword disguised as a scholarly plowshare, attention being diverted from the demagogic cutting edge by a seemingly objective glance down the centuries.


  1. Doris Kearns Goodwin is another FDR historian that worships at his progressive altar...FDR was as Constitutionally destructive as Lincoln.