Elites in American History (Magill's Literary Annual 1981)
Philip H. Burch, Jr., a Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University, has published the third volume in his study of elites in American history. His particular interest has been to investigate the backgrounds of the significant presidential appointees in order to develop an analysis of decisionmaking in Washington, D.C. His coverage includes cabinet and subcabinet positions, major ambassadors, Supreme Court members, and important presidential and governmental advisers. Major attention is given to all the cabinet members, the background of each being thoroughly documented. Burch is particularly concerned about such factors as: college education, prior governmental experience, primary nongovernmental occupations, important secondary economic affiliations, family and other socioeconomic ties, and, finally, whether he would categorize them as having elite or nonelite status.
While Burch argues that most recent presidents have selected their appointees from a very small slice of American society—the social and economic elite—the process has not been uniform or entirely predictable. In Burch’s first two volumes, covering the Federalist Years to the New Deal, he argues that while all of the presidents from George Washington to William H. Taft recruited their appointees from the nation’s elites, the emphasis shifted from the South to the North, and from agrarian to business interests. Woodrow Wilson’s choice of office-holders was fairly...
(The entire section is 1632 words.)
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