Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Edwin A. Martini

Second Advisor

Dr. Sally E. Hadden

Third Advisor

Dr. Mark S. Hurwitz

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Kathleen G. Donohue


Continuous warfare, Roosevelt, World War II, Truman, perpetual war, cold war


This project offers a fundamental rethinking of the origins of the imperial presidency, taking an interdisciplinary approach as perceived through the interactions of the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches of government during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. In light of the end of the Cold War and twenty-first century recurrence of the imperial presidency after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the original thesis proposed by historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. in The Imperial Presidency and other works based on the periodization of the Cold War is in need of updating.

By utilizing legal theories, political science models, and historical analysis, this project creates a more complete concept of how governmental players and bodies interacted in the post-World War II United States, creating an environment conducive to the construction of an imperial presidency in the future and de-centering the executive overall. A combination of legal realism, rhetorical analysis, the two presidencies theory, rally effect concepts, and political models such as the attitudinal model, cue theory, and distributive politics take this project beyond a simple historical study by focusing on the background, mindset, and behavior of political actors involved, not just their documents.

Tying all of this together, I argue, is the concept of continuous warfare, a liminal zone of political malleability between traditional peace and traditional war, which governmental actors utilize for their purposes, prerogatives, and agendas. Stretching beyond the Cold War and into the present day, the ambiguous nature of continuous warfare systematically persuaded Congress and the Supreme Court of the United States to give up their governmental checks on the Commander in Chief during the forties and fifties. This perpetual imbalance of power creates a sturdy structure that might house an imperial president. Additionally, the American people, manipulated by governmental actors within the allowances of continuous warfare, came to accept this liminal zone as a new version of “peace” in the United States, creating the illusion of safety and security, a “house of peace.” The American public’s willingness to accept continuous warfare under the pretense of peace reinforced the structural imbalance of power that continues to house a strong executive.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access