How America’s 18th and 19th Century Presidents Invoked Power

Richard W. Waterman, Sherelle Roberts, Yu Ouyang, Seth Shockley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How did early presidents invoke power? Though existing works reveal incredible insights on the nature of presidential powers, most of those works focus on the so-called “modern presidency.” This article examines the issue of presidential power in the 18th and 19th centuries using the actual words of presidents themselves. We examine how these presidents referred to power in their Inaugural Addresses, Special Messages, Veto Messages, and Annual Messages. Analyzing textual data from the American Presidency Project focusing on Washington through McKinley, we find important variations in how presidents referred to power in presidential communications, across administrations, document type, and over time. Results indicate that these presidents were quite active in discussing a variety of policy areas. Our results add to our understanding of earlier presidents, as well as to the nature of presidential rhetoric and policymaking.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCongress and the Presidency
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
©, Copyright © American University, Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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