Why I Wrote “Presidential Character” and What I Learned

A few years ago, I started working on a book about the first several presidents and their faith. As a professional historian and a Christian, the intersection of these two topics intrigued me.

Many historians say the Founders were a bunch of Deists who were not that interested in Jesus. Many evangelicals say most of them were Christians, and any of those who weren’t, well, at least they had a Christian worldview. Given these two extreme positions, how could I not be interested?

As I read about the first six presidents and the culture from which they sprang, I became intrigued by the issue of slavery, and how religion in early America dealt with it. I am also interested in philosophies of leadership, and since I was writing about leaders, their different styles began to stand out.

So, I ended up writing Presidential Character, a book about the first six presidents (George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, & John Quincy Adams) and their views on faith, slavery, and leadership.

After looking at what historians had to say, and looking at these individuals and what they said and did, I have come to some conclusions.

  1. At least one of the first 6 presidents was a devout Christian, maybe a second one was, and possibly a third, but three by their own words were not orthodox in their beliefs. (I’d tell you which was which, but, um, I want you to buy the book.)
  2. Four of the first 6 presidents owned slaves. The 6 were all genuinely uncomfortable with it. Some struck remarkable blows against it, but overall they could have done more. One fought to expand it. Slavery was a remarkably complicated issue. There were even those in America who blamed the British for it.
  3. All 6 were smart, some of them were brilliant, and they were all successful, but a few of them did not know how to lead at such a high level.

I really enjoyed writing the book.

I hope you enjoy reading it.

Presidential Character is available at Amazon and for Kindle.