Lindsay M. Chervinsky will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
1. How did you choose your genre? What made you write this book?
I’ve always loved history, but I thought of it as a hobby and passion, not necessarily as a career. I had planned to go to law school—including taking the LSATs, applying, and getting into several schools—when I had a last-minute change of heart. Once I decided to get my Ph.D. and make it my profession, early American history was a no brainer, as it’s always fascinated me.
2. Writers write what they know, and must observe the world. Are you a firstborn, middle or last child, and how does this shape your view of the world?
I have two older half-brothers that are nine and fourteen years older than me and a younger sister. Because my brothers were at school most of the time growing up and I was my mom’s firstborn, I definitely have the people-pleaser, rule-follower aspects of the oldest sibling. But my personality is completely shaped by my brothers’ presence in my life. I love sports and I have an adolescent boy’s sense of humor, a sailor’s mouth, and slicing sarcasm.
3. Where is your favorite place to write?
Ideally, I split my writing time between my home office and local coffee shops. I’ve made my home office the most comfortable, writing-conducive space possible and it houses all of my books. But sometimes, if I’m procrastinating, I really need a change of scenery and the peer pressure of being in public to force me to work. The inability to safely work in a coffee shop has been one of the hardest parts of the pandemic for me, so I’ve taken to working outside on my screened-in porch when I need a new environment.
4. How do you feel about killing your darlings, and what do you do with the remains?
I’m a pretty ruthless editor, so I don’t feel much guilt about killing off words. If I’m cutting any more than a sentence, I save it to a scrap file. I’ve frequently used such scraps for articles, blog posts, opinion editorials, or other chapters. NEVER DELETE WORDS. (At least not whole sentences anyway).
5. You are introduced to your favorite author. Who is it, and what is that one burning question you must ask them?
Well, Jane Austen is my favorite author, so that would be one heck of an opportunity to talk to her! I’d love to talk a walk in the English countryside with her or drink a cup of tea, and I’d like to know if she ever experienced love like she wrote about, or if she just imagined the possibilities.
6. You are stranded on a deserted island with only a backpack for company. What three items are in your survival pack?
Aquaphor because I absolutely hate chapped lips and skin and that would be essential. My kindle with tons of books stashed on it for entertainment. My dog, John Quincy Dog Adams (Quincy for short). He pretty big, so he doesn’t really fit in a backpack, but I can throw him over my shoulder and cheat. He’s the best pal ever and my constant companion.
7. If you could have one superpower in your existence, what would it be?
I’d like to be able to apparate between places effortlessly. I adore traveling, but I need my sleep and jet lag really affects me. I’m also impatient and I’d like to be able to get there immediately. My family also lives across the country and the inability to travel to see them is really hard. It’s never convenient to fly 3,000 miles, but the pandemic has really emphasized that distance.
8. Favorite snack?
If I’m being healthy, then I love the light Laughing Cow wedges spread on a small apple. If I’m not, then I love Goldfish crackers and Sour Patch Kids. I really can’t keep Goldfish in the house because I simply cannot control myself!
9. Indy 500 – Do you know how to get where you’re going or do you drive the speed limit?
I always drive about 5-10 miles over the speed limit. I try really hard not to get speeding tickets, but sometimes 25 MPH is simply ridiculous. I figure if I stay 10 MPH or less over the limit, the police have better things to do. At least that’s what I tell myself!
by Lindsay M. Chervinsky
The US Constitution never established a presidential cabinet―the delegates to the Constitutional Convention explicitly rejected the idea. So how did George Washington create one of the most powerful bodies in the federal government?
On November 26, 1791, George Washington convened his department secretaries―Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Henry Knox, and Edmund Randolph―for the first cabinet meeting. Why did he wait two and a half years into his presidency to call his cabinet? Because the US Constitution did not create or provide for such a body. Washington was on his own.
Faced with diplomatic crises, domestic insurrections, and constitutional challenges―and finding congressional help lacking―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. Washington tinkered with its structure throughout his administration, at times calling regular meetings, at other times preferring written advice and individual discussions.
Lindsay M. Chervinsky reveals the far-reaching consequences of Washington’s choice. The tensions in the cabinet between Hamilton and Jefferson heightened partisanship and contributed to the development of the first party system. And as Washington faced an increasingly recalcitrant Congress, he came to treat the cabinet as a private advisory body to summon as needed, greatly expanding the role of the president and the executive branch.
When Washington and Knox arrived at Federal Hall at 11:30 a.m., the doorkeeper announced their arrival. Washington sat at the front of the chamber, and Knox took the chair to his right. Washington handed his remarks to Knox, who in turn handed them to Vice President John Adams. Adams read the statement, but as Senator William Maclay from Pennsylvania recalled, the senators could “not master . . . one Sentence of it.” Adams wasn’t known for his public speaking skills, but the senators’ struggles weren’t entirely his fault. The Senate gathered for their work in the large chambers that occupied the first floor of Federal Hall. Because of the August heat in New York City, the doorkeeper had opened the windows in search of a cooling breeze. But along with fresh air, noise from Wall Street’s pedestrians, carriages, peddlers, and horses flowed into the Senate chambers. The clamor overpowered Adams’s voice, so few senators could make out the words that Washington had carefully crafted. After a few complaints, Adams repeated the speech from the beginning. Washington’s remarks offered a brief synopsis of the current diplomatic state between the United States and the Southern Indians, and posed seven questions for the Senate to answer with an aye or a no.
Adams finished his recitation and sat. The seconds ticked by as the senators remained in awkward silence. A few shuffled papers or cleared their throats. Maclay speculated in his diary that his colleagues were so intimidated by Washington’s presence in the Senate chamber that they cowered in shameful silence. Eager to show that they could be active participants in the creation of foreign policy, Maclay stood up and suggested referring Washington’s seven questions to committee for discussion in detail. Washington lost his temper, stood up, and shouted, “This defeats every purpose of my coming here!” The senators fell into a stunned hush before Washington acquiesced to Maclay’s suggestion and offered to return to the Senate a few days later. Although he did return the following Monday, his first visit to the Senate was an inauspicious start to the executive-legislative relationship. As he returned to his carriage, Washington muttered under his breath that he would never return for advice. He kept his word—August 22, 1789, was the first and last time he visited the Senate to request guidance on foreign affairs. Unfortunately, the diplomatic challenges facing the United States during the Washington presidency were just beginning…
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Lindsay M. Chervinsky, Ph.D. a historian of Early America, the presidency, and the government – especially the president’s cabinet. She shares her research by writing everything from op-eds to books, speaking on podcasts and other media, and teaching every kind of audience. She is Scholar-in-Residence at the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies and Senior Fellow at the International Center for Jefferson Studies. Previously, she worked as a historian at the White House Historical Association. She received her B.A. in history and political science from the George Washington University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis. She has been featured in the Law and History Review, the Journal of the Early Republic, TIME, and the Washington Post. Her new book, The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution, was published by the Belknap Imprint of Harvard University Press on April 7, 2020.
The New Criterion recently said of her book, “Fantastic…Unlike many works of popular history, The Cabinet never feels like hagiography. It lacks the reverence of works like Joseph J. Ellis’ Founder Brothers or the revisionist obsequiousness that now greets Alexander Hamilton’s name on stage…Chervinsky exemplifies the public-history ethos in her new book. The writing is clear and concise…She takes what could have been a dry institutional and political history of the Early Republic and transforms it into a compelling story of people and places.”
When she isn’t writing, researching, or talking about history, she can be found hiking with her husband and American Foxhound, John Quincy Dog Adams (Quincy for short).
Readers can request a personalized book plate here: https://www.lindsaychervinsky.com/book-plate