The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI) will offer a continuing education course on presidential power, starting February 3 and ending May 11. It will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 on Monday evenings at AHI, 21 W. Park Row in Clinton.

The class, “Presidential Power in American History,” will look at eighteen presidents from John Quincy Adams through Donald Trump, using these presidencies to understand major themes associated with each. Those themes include different personalities and styles in the conduct of the presidency; the older “constitutional” presidency; the more ambitious modern concepts of the office (the “rhetorical,” “imperial,” and “plebiscitary” presidencies); the presidency and political charisma; the presidency and foreign policy; the presidency and war; the presidency and civil liberties; the presidency and the economy; the presidency and the federal bureaucracy; the presidency and Congress; the presidency and public opinion; and the strengths and weaknesses of the presidency in the American system.

The readings will be provided free of charge and amount to about 30 pages per week. They will be drawn from a volume of essays on the presidency and a wide range of other material chosen by the instructor. As always, each evening will begin with a medium-length lecture and then proceed to a discussion.

Coffee and snacks are provided. In addition to adults, students of college and high school age are welcome. Professional credit is available for teachers.

“America has what scholars call a ‘presidential’ rather than a ‘parliamentary’ system,” notes instructor Dr. David Frisk, an AHI resident fellow with a Ph.D. in political science who has taught its adult classes since 2013. “This means, among other things, that the president is elected separately from Congress and that Congress—the lawmaking branch—may well be controlled by the opposing party. Although the American presidency is often considered a strong one, and in any case has grown stronger than it was originally, there are also ways in which it is weak.

“Partly because of our Constitution, but also due to other complicating factors in our society and our government, much of what presidents want to accomplish is not accomplished. They also sometimes do things they would rather not, or hadn’t expected to, or hadn’t told the voters they would do. Under the Constitution and other conditions affecting the presidency, how have our presidents most successfully and less successfully exerted power or influence? In what ways have they changed, and been unable to change, the country?”

Due to the popularity of our classes, advance signup is strongly encouraged for planning purposes. To register or if you have any questions, simply contact Dr. Frisk (; 315-381-3335) or AHI president Dr. Bob Paquette (