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  The Glorious Burden
TitleThe Glorious Burden
Last ModifiedChronicler - February 16, 2006 03:23pm
DescriptionStefan Lorant, The Glorious Burden: The History of the Presidency and Presidential Elections From George Washington to James Earl Carter, Jr. (Lenox MA: Authors Edition, Inc., 1976).

This book is an introduction to the elections for President from 1789 until 1976. It provides an overview of each election, with many illustrations of the candidates and leading politicians. At the end is a series of tables of the popular and electoral votes.

I purchased my copy in 1980. Since that time, I have used it so much that the spine has broken, and some of the signatures have come out.

Each election chapter follows a set template. A full-page illustration introduces the man elected President in the election to be described. The third page of each election contains photos of the leading candidates for President and (usually) for Vice President. On the same page is a thumbnail sketch of the First Lady chosen in that election. The narrative of each election begins just after the inauguration from the previous chapter and continues to the following inauguration.

Lorant does an excellent job of maintaining a neutral point of view. Most of the evaulations of the candidates follow the standard complaints. He writes that President Adams "had a bad temper, he was stuborn, he was quarrelsome, he was tactless and he was petty" (p. 53). While this is not a favorable view of a President whose character was mauled by both his friends and his enemies, it is the standard assessment President Adams received until the past decade.

Appendix A is a series of tables showing the popular and electoral vote of each election. The tables from 1824 to 1912 are excellent in terms of their coverage of the popular vote. Beginning in 1916, however, Lorant covers fewer and fewer of the non-D and R candidates. In 1948, for example, neither Thurmond nor Wallace are included. At the bottom of each table is a brief statement about the election. An essay runs along the bottom of the pages in the Appendix which discusses sources for the popular vote, means of casting the votes, and challenges to the electoral votes of various states.

Appendix B is an interesting essay on "Political Cartoons and Political Cartoonists." Lorant includes four pages of short biographies of cartoonists.

This book is a very good introduction to presidential elections. To be sure, a separate book could be written on each election (and in some cases such books exist). His collection of photographs is excellent, and if you watch, many political books being printed today use Lorant's selection. This substantial book (1,104 pages) is well worth the price - especially if you are not paying for shipping. The book was printed on high-quality paper and is rather heavy!

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