Episode 279: Lindsay Chervinsky, The Cabinet: Creation of an American Institution

As the first President of the United States, George Washington set many precedents for the new nation. One of the biggest precedents Washington set came in the form of the Cabinet, a body of advisors from across the U.S. government who advise the president on how to handle matters of foreign and domestic policy.

Today, we investigate Washington’s creation of the Cabinet and how it became a government institution with Lindsay Chervinsky, author of the book, The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Ben Franklin’s World is a production of the Omohundro Institute.

Episode Summary

Today, we investigate George Washington’s creation of the Cabinet and how the Cabinet became a government institution. Our guide for this exploration is Lindsay Chervinsky, a Scholar-in-Residence at the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies, a Senior Fellow at the International Center for Jefferson Studies, and author of the book, The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution

During our investigation, Lindsay reveals what the United States Constitution of 1787 has to say about advisory bodies for the President; The different institutions George Washingtons turned to before he created the Cabinet; And, why Washington ultimately created the Cabinet and how the Cabinet developed into an American Institution.

What You’ll Discover

  • Overview of the Cabinet as a government institution
  • How the President's Cabinet functioned
  • Membership in the President's Cabinet
  • Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution
  • How the Cabinet got its name
  • British precedents for the Cabinet
  • George Washington’s experiments with using the Senate as an advisory body
  • Washington’s famous temper
  • Vice President John Adams’ relationship with Washington
  • George Washington’s use of the House of Representatives
  • The United States Supreme Court as an advisory council
  • Washington’s first Cabinet and its meetings
  • Who served in the President's first Cabinet
  • The Virginia influence in the first Cabinet
  • Washington’s administration of Cabinet meetings
  • How Washington used his Cabinet
  • The room where the Cabinet met
  • The Hamilton-Jefferson Cabinet feud
  • Neutrality Crisis of 1793
  • The Whiskey Rebellion
  • The retirements of Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, & Henry Knox
  • Legacies of Washington’s Cabinet

Links to People, Places, and Publications

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Production of this episode was made possible by a grant from the Roller-Bottimore Foundation of Richmond, Virginia.

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Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

In your opinion, what might have happened if Washington’s initial experiment with seeking advice from the Senate had been more timely and smooth? Would Washington have created the Cabinet if the Senate had been easier to meet with and obtain advice from in 1789?

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