The New York Times was founded as a daily paper in 1851. The newspaper grew slowly in prominence, but it remained largely a partisan Republican vehicle for more than 30 years. When its editors endorsed the Democrat Grover Cleveland in the 1884 presidential election, the resulting defection of staunch Republican advertisers put the paper’s financial health in jeopardy, but a tradition of political independence was born. That attitude was enhanced when the paper was acquired in 1896 by Adolph Ochs. Revolted by the exaggerations of the yellow journalism rampant in his day, Ochs enforced a higher standard for reporting and adopted the slogan “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” A reputation for balanced reporting helped propel the Times into becoming the national paper of record that it remains today. With its long history and quality of writing, the newspaper has also become an excellent source for American history. Historians have long mined its pages for both historical evidence and reactions to contemporary events and issues. Therefore, it is not at all surprising that the reference publisher CQ Press should employ the same resource to document the development of government and political issues in the United States. The publisher has already released a similar guide on the Supreme Court and has additional publications planned on elections and economic cycles.
This documentary examination of presidential history stretches more than 29 administrations from Franklin Pierce to George W. Bush. This 156 year period has witnessed an extraordinary growth of the Executive Branch and the power of the presidency. Presidential scholar Meena Bose selects nearly 500 documents to illustrate these changes from the expansion of the military during the Civil War to the extension of executive privileges in the wake of 9/11. The articles are arranged chronologically by presidential administration. Each chapter provides quick facts on the life of the president, a summary of the major issues of his campaigns and highlights of his tenure in office. Critical commentary on each document explains its historical context. The selection includes speeches, news reports, editorials and letters to the editor. From Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and reactions to Woodrow Wilson’s “revolutionary” appearance before Congress to frets about 1929 stock market crash and anguish over Kennedy’s assassination, the entries illuminate critical points in the development of the presidency and its relationship with Congress, the courts and the public. The result is a powerful tool for understanding American political history. A detailed index linking issues and a selective bibliography of additional readings on each administration fill out this useful resource for students. This volume is recommended for high school, public and academic libraries.