William H. Seward
The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery By Eric Foner (W.W. Norton, 426 pp., $29.95) I. As we begin a raft of sesquicentennials that will carry us through at least the next half-decade—the secession of Southern states, the formation of the Confederacy, the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, Appomattox, and so on—I confess to feeling a mixture of excitement and trepidation. These are all signal events in our history, the roadblocks and thoroughfares in the making of modern America, and at a time of general crisis they are especially important to revisit.
The imperial presidency in the United States has staged a comeback some 13 years after the fall of Richard Nixon. Both the recent renewal of presidential aggrandizement and the reaction against it recall the latter days, hectic and ominous, of the Nixon presidency, when I wrote The Imperial Presidency. My argument then, as now, was that the American Constitution intends a strong presidency within an equally strong system of accountability.