AMERICA'S LAWYER-PRESIDENTS: From Law Office to Oval Office

Norman Gross, Editor, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Foreword by
Norman Gross, Editor, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Foreword by , foreword by Sandra Day O'Connor. Northwestern Univ. $39.95 (344p) ISBN 978-0-8101-1218-6
Reviewed on: 06/14/2004
Release date: 08/01/2004
Paperback - 371 pages - 978-0-8101-2618-3
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Edited by the director of the American Bar Association's Museum of Law, this volume provides useful essays on each of America's 25 "lawyer presidents," among them Jefferson, both Adamses, Monroe, Lincoln, McKinley, Taft, Wilson, FDR, Nixon and Clinton. Contributors, including such scholars as Paul Finkelman, Lawrence Friedman and Lewis L. Gould, focus on how legal training prepared these men for their tenure as chief executive and influenced their conduct in office. These themes derive quite directly, as Gross writes, from Edmund Burke's view that "no other profession is more closely connected with actual life as the law. It concerns the highest of all temporal interests... property, reputation, the peace of all families, liberty, life even, and the very foundations of society." Of course, the law is quite a varied thing. While John Quincy Adams argued great cases involving human rights before the Supreme Court, Lincoln was primarily a business attorney specializing in railroads, while other presidents, like Rutherford B. Hayes and Benjamin Harrison, made their reputations prosecuting and defending headline-grabbing criminal cases. As this profusely illustrated volume demonstrates, each man was unique in what he brought to the law, what he took from the law and the extent to which he allowed his legal training to influence and inform executive policy. (Aug.)

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