Although many associate Franklin D. Roosevelt with the inauguration of the robust, dominant American presidency, the roots of his executive leadership style go much deeper. Examining the presidencies of John Quincy Adams, Ulysses S. Grant, and William Howard Taft, Stephen Rockwell traces emerging connections between presidential action and a robust state over the course of the nineteenth century and the Progressive Era.

By analyzing these three undervalued presidents’ savvy deployment of state authority and their use of administrative leadership, legislative initiatives, direct executive action, and public communication, Rockwell makes a compelling case that the nineteenth-century presidency was significantly more developed and interventionist than previously thought. As he shows for a significant number of policy arenas, the actions of Adams, Grant, and Taft touched the lives of millions of Americans and laid the foundations of what would become the American century.

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