Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Thoughts on the American President

An Introductory Inquiry Into
the Nature of the Office of the American President

Update: 2/17/13. I can't say I'm persuaded by this today. I leave it up for whatever instruction it may provide by its errors and whatever merits it possesses.

Preface to the Preface

I usually begin writing only after a great deal of reading. Regarding this essay, though, I consulted more or less only biographical and primary sources. As such I only came to a book that covers much the same ground as this essay when I turned to Google to verify a quote. As such I only came upon Gene Healy's 2008 book, "The Cult of the Presidency, Updated: America's Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power" after completing the overwhelming majority of this essay. Actually I discovered I had in fact bookmarked the link in my browser and that it had gotten overlooked amidst the other 500+ books in the "books to read" folder. Anyway, I have not read Healy's book though I will soon. Any similarities between his book and my essay are coincidental.

Update: In another coincidence, today [June 2, 2010] the Mises Daily blog published Thomas E. Woods Jr.'s essay, "Theodore Roosevelt and the Modern Presidency" from the volume, "Reassessing the Presidency:The Rise of the Executive State and the Decline of Freedom," edited by John V. Denson. I was as unfamiliar with this volume as with Healey's when writing the essay posted yesterday [June 1, 2010], but I thought I would mention it here both to say so and because the work is relevant.


Below is the fruit of your humble blogger's 2010 Memorial Day. It is a brief and cursory look, relative to the magnitude of the topic, at presidential authority. As I note in the introduction, it was spurred most immediately by the recent pan-punditry opinion that President Obama "fix" the oil mess in the Gulf of Mexico. More broadly, I had in mind in writing this essay how often people like to have it both ways with the president, wanting "Camelot" without the dangers of absolute authority. They want him to have agency, but only to bring about what they want. Likewise presidents seem to prefer authority without responsibility. This issue has of late been the subject of much popular attention but with surprisingly and frustratingly little substance. Such is most unfortunate. My hope is that this modest essay will promote some more scholarly and insightful yet still popular debate (i.e. debate not limited to academia) and that its cursory nature will be outweighed by the importance of the subjects brought out.


In recent weeks the great and terrible oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has rightly caused much anxiety in people everywhere. Of late, though, many Americans of various political persuasions have sought the solution from President Obama. Ought we to look to the Commander In Chief to solve this problem? Why or why not? Many look to him also expecting him to "fix" the economy. Is this a responsibility of the president? As the last president with his "I'm the decider" rhetoric, President Obama has since fostering the cult of personality that grew during his campaign, encouraged people looking specifically to him as the solution. His statement from his nomination victory speech in St. Paul in June 2008 epitomizes the manner in which the success was attached specifically to him. His election was the time, "when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal."

While we must not get bogged down in the words of politicians stumping for office, considering they may say what they do simply to get elected, we should not disregard them outright on the grounds that  they say what they expect will get them elected. If then-senator Obama thought such an approach would fail he doubtlessly would have proceeded with another. Thus the politician's approach  says something about the politician's expectations of the people and the success of the approach confirms or denies the expectation. While this factor, the "popular factor" let us call it,  is important, it is subject to variables that may cause people to act differently. To choose examples of late consider the wars in the Middle East and the economic crisis of 2008. Thus of the "popular" factor we have two subsets: the aspect of how citizens generally choose their leader and now they may whilst with extenuating circumstances.

A contrasting pair may illustrate the problem more clearly: the "return to normalcy" and the appeal of a laissez-faire leader after the tumultuous years of the First World War in the Harding campaign of 1920 versus the fact that Franklin Roosevelt campaigned for and successfully won an unprecedented fourth term as president during the crisis years of WWII and the Great Depression. The phrase "Inter arma enim silent leges" (attributed to Cicero's Pro Milone) epitomizes this tendency and many examples of its playing out are notable in American history. Examining them would no doubt be fruitful, considering the concepts of habeas corpus, martial law, and specific instances like the 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts, the 1861 Ex parte Merryman case, and various issues of detainment in the 20th and 21st centuries. But such is beyond the scope of our present inquiry. It will suffice us to say that people tend toward allowing whoever is entrusted to solve a problem more extra-ordinary latitude when the problem is perceived to be of crisis proportion. [1]

Part I
What Is the President?

Aside from instances of extremes, then, we may ask a simple question: what should the authority of an executive official be? This question naturally begs another, "what is an executive official?" While we are foremost concerned with the American tradition we ought to inquire about the fundamental characteristic of the "executive official." In making this inquiry we stumble onto something unusual, there is something very natural and obvious about the notion of "someone being in charge." Why is this so natural? Why ought not a body of magistrates be sufficient? Whatever the characteristic of the leader is, excelling in virtue, wisdom, intelligence, wealth, power (i.e. agency, or "the ability to get things done") et cetera, there is something normal about the individual embodying what a given society holds most dear being its natural leader. Consider Aristotle's statement in the Nichomachean Ethics, Book VIII: Ch. 9. (1160b) "For a man is not a king unless he is sufficient to himself and excels his subjects in all things." This explains the historic and seemingly natural tendency to look toward the leader to solve problems. The authority of the best has also in many times and places been considered divinely authorized. These concepts are both epitomized in the famous speech of Nestor, King of sandy Pylos, in Book II of Homer's Iliad:
But when he came across any common man who was making a noise, he
struck him with his staff and rebuked him, saying, "Sirrah, hold
your peace, and listen to better men than yourself. You are a
coward and no soldier; you are nobody either in fight or council;
we cannot all be kings; it is not well that there should be many
masters; one man must be supreme--one king to whom the son of
scheming Saturn has given the sceptre of sovereignty over you
all." [Trans. Butler, Samuel.]
It would be fruitful to consider at length more conceptions of absolute monarchy and authority. Yet such an inquiry would indefinitely delay release of this essay which I hope to be timely and of imminent use. As such we must admit that our present investigation in part stands atop, however firmly, certain axioms of liberalism and republicanism, namely that individual freedom is innate and designing a state around freedom as a first principle is both possible and good. We may thus cautiously pass over the absolutist theories that stand wholly outside the American liberal tradition. (fortunately the fundamentals of these notions are familiar to most.) Yet it would be unwise fully to abandon them as the absolute monarch rose to fill a need in a society and the proponents of such a system of government sought to achieve some end by their plan. As such it might be fruitful to consider their ideas so the veritable need, if there is one, may be fulfilled by another means more amicable to our system, and that false needs, i.e. interests of select individuals or groups, might be guarded against. Since the ordering of society is not our present inquiry thus we must pass over it for now.

Remember when we are looking into traditions essentially autocratic or monarchical in nature and not republican, we are only investigating the question of why someone thinks monarchy is necessary so we can discover those reasons, evaluate them, and then either disregard them or discover how to fulfill them in as democratic-republican a manner as possible. For example, Aristotle concludes that tyranny is the worst form of government thus the opposite of the worst is the best, thus monarchy is the best form of government. For our purposes, we may say that the characteristic of despotism by one man is the essence of tyranny, thus we ask "how do we avoid despotism?" (of both mobs and tyrants) without necessarily adopting monarchy.

Revisiting the concept of the leader embodying the values of the people we may revisit the section of the Ethics starting "For a man is not a king unless he is sufficient to himself and excels his subjects in all things" and continue the thought:
For a man is not a king unless he is sufficient to himself and excels his subjects in all things and such a man needs nothing further; therefore he will not look to his own interests but to those of his subjects.
Continuing, let us look at Book III, Chapter VI of the Politics:
. . . governments which have a regard to the common interest are constituted in accordance with  strict principles of justice, and are therefore true forms; but those which a regard only the interest of the rulers are all defective and perverted forms, for they are despotic, whereas a state is a community of freemen.
Thus the leader must possess all in excellence and safeguard the interests of the people. Aristotle has of course in mind particular interests for the people, as he is concerned with the good for the individual. We may consider that various constitutions necessitate various "interests."

We see Aristotle's point developed in the thoughts of Thomas Hobbes from his Leviathan. Hobbes advocated a strong central government to avoid the "bellum omnium contra omnes" and an absolute monarch on the practical grounds that:
. . . that where the public and private interest are most closely united, there is the public most advanced. Now in Monarchy, the private interest is the same with the public. The riches, power, and honour of a Monarch arise onely from the riches, strength and reputation of his Subjects. For no King can be rich, nor glorious, nor secure; whose Subjects are either poore, or contemptible, or too weak through want, or dissention, to maintain a war against their enemies. . . [Hobbes, XIX. emphasis mine]

Now we said we would permit this excursion into thinkers and principles outside the American liberal tradition to learn what they thought only a strong monarch could accomplish. We have learned that the monarch must 1) fulfill the needs of the people and 2) that as a protection against corruption it is best for the monarch's needs to be the same as those of that public, that in seeking the former he achieves the latter anyway. Only such an individual, a king, we are told, can pursue the "common interest" without fear of corruption. Finding as best we can the positive aspects of monarchy being accomplished, we may now consider the negatives. This is a simple task and we need not dwell on the numerous flaws of monarchy, chiefly its degeneration into despotism with the pursuing of interests deleterious to the constitution of the people. But can the benefits of an executive be attained without the detriments? Who may govern free people?

Part II
The American Tradition

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain  and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. [Preamble to the Constitution of The United States of America]
Thus we see what the government of The United States has been instituted for. How might an executive work towards this end?
Because it would be foolish to consider the role of the political leader without any consideration as to the nature of the state he is leading, we should make a few observations.

First, we must note the importance of the phrase "we the people." It contrasts the notion that sovereignty descends from the leader (i.e. the monarchial "sovereign") but rests in individuals. This cannot be stressed enough both for its legal implications and its social ones. In the latter case we must recall the degree to which the monarchical sovereign and his court was the center of life, wherein even private citizens related to each other by their relationship to the king. This is a system long-departed in America, with personal associations dominated by regional, social, familial, ideological, commercial, et cetera affiliations. Whatever the tendency of people is to gravitate toward a strong character, especially one who is perceived to embody certain values, be the figure political or not, this tendency must be seen as diminished today relative to its expression in the era of absolutism. It is not at all gone, though, and we see politicians ever and always hoping and trying to accrue and consolidate influence to compensate for their relatively weak formal authority. This fervor is usually confined to the office of the president and reaches its highest pitch around his election and inauguration, during which those disposed toward exuberance (irrational or otherwise) can rarely be persuaded the president is anything other than excellent. It is in fact a small subset who remain so enthralled outside this period.

Second, we may consider that despotism, both of a majority or minority (i.e. a tyrant or a mob) is incompatible with the notion of a republic, i.e. a res publicae, meaning the state is the property of the people and the law common to all. This is the contention of Cicero in his dialogue On the State which is a clear exploration of this issue. While he differs somewhat, Aristotle also states (1268a) that in the ideal state everyone will have some part in the state, some reason for wanting it to endure. We will not consider here the legitimacy of the state itself, it being too large a subject. For further reading see Cicero in On the State, and Aristotle in his Politics (Politics I.ii (1253a)) who considered it natural, and Thomas Jefferson who in one of his personal letters, wrote that delegating one's authority was justifiable. [2]

In the introduction to his The Radicalism of the American Revolution, Gordon S. Wood encapsulates these two points:
The revolution did not just eliminate monarchy and create republics; it actually reconstituted what Americans meant by public or state power and brought about an entirely new kind of popular politics and ad new kind of democratic officeholder. [Wood, 8]
We are then looking at a leader of fundamentally different character and role, and with authority different in kind and degree. We will not make the claim that the American President is just a variation on the theme of the monarch.

Having only just thrown off the shackles of tyranny, the authors of the constitution tread proceeded carefully in designing an "Executive." Yet one indeed, however weak, was deemed to be needed. The result of our inquiry into Aristotle and Hobbes taught us that "fulfilling the needs of the people" was one of the monarch's tasks. This of course implies authority and means. As we have said, the executive office will be limited. What should it's power be then? What individual sovereignty should the people delegate to the "Executive Branch?"

Lawyer and delegate from Connecticut, Roger Sherman, who in fact sat in the Congresses that produced The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Confederation, and The Constitution, said of the office of the Executive at the Constitutional Convention that it was, "nothing more than an institution for carrying the will of the legislature into effect. . ." and that it should be "absolutely dependent on [the legislature]", an independent executive being "the very essence of tyranny. [Madison's entry for Friday June 1.]

In John Adams' Thoughts on Government, Adams states "the executive power is properly the government; the laws are a dead letter until an administration begins to carry them into execution." [McCullough, 378]

We see that the task of providing for the people is taken from the monarch and given to the government as a whole. The "monarchical" branch is therefore now called "executive" in contrast to the "deliberative" branch of the legislative congress. The congress deliberates as to what ought to be done and legislates that it should be done and the executive branch carries it out, or executes the legislation. The branch is no longer the "rule of one" but the "carrying out."

The next greatest issue regarding the executive office was this: what exactly is the president's authority to "carry things out?" The first manifestation of this questions is the President's veto (called "negative" by the delegates of the Convention) power. It was immediately contentions and none other than the esteemed James Wilson, legal scholar, signatory to the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution, and one of the first group of six Supreme Court Justices appointed by George Washington, along with Alexander Hamilton suggested that the executive should have an absolute veto, such being necessary to defend itself against the legislature and citing that the British monarch himself had seldom used it. This was roundly contested by three men on three grounds. First,  Eldbridge Gerry of Massachusetts (one of only three delegates who in the end did not sign the final draft of this Constitution), thought no great control would be needed over the legislature which would naturally be comprised of the best men. Second, lawyer, Connecticut delegate ( and signatory to the Continental Association, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution) Roger Sherman said no one man ought to be able "stop the will of the whole." Lastly, James Madison most practically suggested that "a proper proportion of each branch should be required to overrule the objection of the executive."

Benjamin Franklin, drawing on his experiences from his considerable time in England, noted the English monarch only seldom exercised his veto power because he bribed Parliament. Franklin feared the same would happen in America and after a short passionate speech by Col. George Mason criticizing the current draft of the Constitution for potentially creating an "elected monarchy," concluded:
. . . The first man put at the helm will be a good one. Nobody knows what sort may come afterwards. The executive will be always increasing in size here, as elsewhere, till it ends in monarchy.
Hamilton, in a speech on June 18, was more sanguine about "monarchy." It is worth quoting in its entirety.
 As to the executive, it seemed to be admitted that no good one could be established on republican principles. Was not this giving up the merits of the question, for can there be a good government without a good executive? The English model was the only good one on this subject. The hereditary interest of the king was so interwoven with that of the nation, and his personal emoluments so great, that he was both sufficiently independent and sufficiently controlled to answer the purpose of the institution at home. One of the weak sides of republics was their being liable to foreign influence and corruption. Men of little character acquiring great power become easily the tools of intermeddling neighbors. . .

What is the inference from all these observations? That we ought to go as far in order to attain stability and permanency as republican principles will admit. [Let one body of the legislature be constituted during good behavior for life. Let one executive be appointed [for life] who dares execute his powers. It may be asked, Is this a republican system? It is strictly so, as long as they remain elective. And let me observe that an executive is less dangerous to the liberties of the people when in office during life than for seven years. It may be said this constitutes an elective monarchy! Pray, what is a monarchy? May not the governors of the respective states be considered in that light? But by making the executive subject to impeachment, the term "monarchy" cannot apply.  [Madison's entry for June 18]
[N.B. In Federalist Papers 69-77 Hamilton will later make a defense of the Executive branch of the final draft of the Constitution. See below.]

First we see that the concept of a monarch or monarchial power exists to some extent within the American political tradition. This faith of the Federalists in the rule of the few or the one contrasts the Democratic-Republican faith in self-government. This famous split became personified in the clash between Hamilton and Jefferson during the 1790s, the latter accusing the Federalists of "monarchism" and designing to lessen the dependence of the Executive and of one branch of the Legislature on the people. . . so as to reduce the elective franchise to its minimum." [3] In Jefferson's thinking, such a hierarchy would inherently gain power (an observation akin to Franklin's) and as such Hamilton and the Federalists' setup was inherently anti-republican and illiberal. (Not that he thought the executive should be powerless, certainly not after his tenure as Governor of Virginia, an executive office which had no veto authority.) Let us examine the specifics of Hamilton's suggestion that we may perhaps what he hopes to achieve through monarchy by means more amenable to liberal republicanism.

Hamilton introduces two key features allegedly only the monarch can bring to government: insulation from foreign influence and stability. (Let us pass over his suggestion that one body of the legislature also be constituted for life.) Again we see as in Aristotle and Hobbes that the king ought to share in the interests of the people, and like Hobbes, Hamilton seems to think the monarch, at least the English one of not all monarchs inherently, shares most in the interests of the people.

First let us examine the issue of whether the president might be more fit to conduct foreign policy matters .Now Hamilton was under the impression term limits would limit the president's ability to grow rich and thus make him susceptible to foreign bribes. Now this is reducible to a simpler one which is harder to answer: who is more likely to seek riches, who is already rich or who is poor? Can anyone definitively answer such a question without offering a subjective answer about the nature of man and a prognostication about what he is likely to do? There are examples of both the poor who seek riches and the rich who seek riches. We cannot even conclude with certainty that those who have riches sought riches. We may only conclude, with little use, that those who seek riches seek riches. Perhaps a compromise would be a post-service stipend for the president for the duration of his life.

Is it the case that a monarch is less corruptible, by foreign or otherwise specialized interests, than a congressional body? This is contrary to Aristotle's claim that "the man are more incorruptible than the few as they are like the greater quantity of water which is less easily corrupted than a little." [Nichomachean Ethics, III.xv] Likewise we have Aristotle's claim that the individual may succumb to passions whereas the odds of a deliberative body of good men succumbing so are less. On the other hand surely we may see how certain members of a deliberative body could be bribed and their influence either corrupt others or generally stymie the efficient passing of good legislation. How is an executive less susceptible to foreign influence? First, he is under far greater scrutiny as the head of his branch. The whole nation scrutinizes him whereas congressional members tend only subject to the scrutiny of their constituents. (Even though sometimes they draw the attention they ought to, since they sit on committees with specific, national interests.) Second, the head of any institution by his excellence or at least his very singularity becomes most intimately associated with the most dear notions of the institution. Third, the prestige and remuneration of the post (during and after service) should outweigh any other potential attractions. As such the executive is indeed more suited toward conducting certain duties which should thus be delegated to him.

Now in what manner would the interests of a republican "monarch" be tied to the will of the people? Absent autocratic authority, how would he? Perhaps again it is the feeling of the people that the leader embodies certain ideas. Perhaps it is the fact he is elected by the people, though the college of electors in fact makes the choice. If that is the case, making him leader for life would reduce his ties by eliminating his need to gain popular support and get re-elected. The system of term limits works well here, forcing the president both to gain popularity to get reelected but rendering him eventually ineligible.

Now we may ask if the executive is inherently more stable. This virtue would again be diminished by term limits. With them, the executive is only more stable insofar as the legislature is constantly considering new legislation and the executive creates no legislation and only continues to carry out existing law. Also, less tangibly, the symbolic nature of the office is tied to unchangeable ideas.

[Now you might also say, "Look how frequently members of Congress get reelected, and reelected with great ease at that. We have achieved stability by doing what Hamilton suggested." Yet this is a stability generated not by a deliberate feature of the system, but by accident (albeit one shared by all democratic and republican government) which is that the government relies on the people to feel they ought themselves directly take part in it. This accident might be positive if it is because the people are desirous of increased stability but dangerous if it springs from a disinclination toward self-government. If this disinclination is broad amongst those who might be good representative-delegates, one can easily imagine the dangers in the adage, "If good men do not take up the burden of office, others will." coming to pass.]

In Federalist 70 Hamilton systematically explicates the virtues of the current executive system. He notes that energy (we might call it more clearly expediency) is the advantage of the executive and expediency is achieved by:
  1. unity
  2. duration
  3. support
  4. power
He argues then that these features would by compatible with and not at all detrimental to the essences of safety in "the republican sense:" due dependence on the people and due responsibility. To the first point he adds that a plurality of persons in the executive will A) impede expedience in emergencies, and B) obscure the truth in assigning blame to the executive (since if there are more than one they will blame each other.) This is a fine observation. The remaining three points are accurate in terms of kind, but one must examine them in the context of degree, i.e. how much of a duration, how much power, et cetera, which we have done elsewhere.

He also adds, concurring with Jean-Louis de Lolme (1741-1804. Swiss political theorist, scholar, and proponent of British, constitutional, balanced government) that "the executive power is more easily confined when it is one." Is this so? This matter seems of a sort akin to ours about what sort of person seeks riches. We may only note the classic cycle of the changing of governments, that tyranny begets anarcho-democracy, which begets oligarchy, which begets tyranny. With these seemingly irreconcilable and cyclical forces we see the wisdom of the system as it came to be, its maxim being that: any vacuum of power will be filled and then overfilled, and thus it is best the one branch should balance the other, supplementing what the other lacks, and checking what it might have too much of.

From what the executive branch ought to do we may also infer what it ought to refrain from. Most obviously it should refrain from interfering in the deliberations of the legislative body, which would give the executive power of both crafting and executing legislation. This must be avoided, though the executive must understand the legislation to know why or why not he ought to veto it.
Cicero puts this well:
. . . because he has to act as both the factor and the steward of the state. . . he needs to have a complete understanding of the highest principles of justice. because, without such understanding it is not within anyone's power to be just at all. And he must not be ignorant of the law of the land. But his awareness of it should be analogous to the knowledge of the stars that a ship's pilot possesses, or a doctor's knowledge of medicine. For both these professionals use their knowledge for their own practical purposes, without letting it divert or distract them from fulfilling their purposes.  [On the State, V.]
I would draw emphasis on the aspect of use in the context of our executive "carrying out" laws. Thus the president's knowledge helps the executive decide on how and if he should implement legislation (i.e. if he wants to veto it, though he can be overridden in which case he would have no choice.) While we have observed the president ought not have influence over the deliberations of the legislature, what influence is proper to him within his department? John Quincy Adams demonstrated the model:
Efforts had been made by some of the Senators to obtain different nominations, and to introduce a principle of change or ration in office at the expiration of these commissions; which would make the Government a perpetual and unintermitting scramble for office. A more pernicious expedient could scarcely have been devised. [Adams, JQ. 520-21]
Such an upheaval would occur at every presidential election and thus the president should avoid this, encouraging continuity, whenever possible, in his department. Speaking of upheaval, we must consider term limits, which are in fact upsetting and not beneficial for stability. They prevent, though, the post of the executive, and its associated symbolism and prestige, from becoming tied to the person and not the ideas themselves. Also, limited term prevents power arrogating to him from throughout the executive branch. But, with term limits for the president and a congressional body that can also change have we not enough stability?

By its nature, it reviewing law only for legality and not desirability (like the executive), it is the most stable branch and the one most conducive to a long tenure for its members. It is powerful yet limited by being highly focused. It achieves the stability the executive might and has under other constitutions, but without the dangers of degenerating into despotism by being of 1) focused and not broad power, 2) impartial, 3) with power diffused amongst several members, 4) slow moving, being primarily an appellate court which must inherently review errors of law or procedure, with such necessitating much scholarship, and 5) by being varied in composition "sometimes but not too frequently" as justices retire.

In Thoughts on Government Adams stressed the importance of this body:
The dignity and stability of government in all its branches, the morals of the people, and every blessing of society depend so much upon an upright and skilful administration of justice, that the judicial power ought to be distinct from both the legislative and executive, and independent upon both, that so it may be a check upon both, as both should be checks upon that. . . Their minds should not be distracted with jarring interests; they should not be dependent upon any man, or body of men. To these ends, they should hold estates for life in their offices

Thus does the judiciary prove to be perhaps the most integral provider of stability and a most profound check on power.

Returning to considerations of the executive, we see that an "Adamsonian" disposition towards his own branch creates continuity of the means of carrying out legislative policy, especially continuing stable foreign relations. The veto power allows him to slow legislation suddenly pushed through Congress that is at odds with the long-term goals of the government, that has been rushed through the body in haste, or that has been rushed through the body because of popular fervor and not because of its merits. The congressional power to override the executive veto permits the voice of the people from being squelched by the will of one man and allows an emergency measure to be passed. [4]

The president's ability to appoint Supreme Court Justices who themselves have lifelong tenure creates continuity as well. Also, the executive is more similar to the judicial than the legislative branch, thus the executive is better equipped to evaluate candidates. (This is because it is the job of the judicial and executive branches to perceive the unintended consequences of legislation whereas the legislative body often sees only the results they expect their legislation to produce.) Additionally, the judicial candidate's position standing in need of  senatorial approval  not only checks executive authority but ensures the legislature will be satisfied that the laws they themselves authored will be comprehended by the court justice. The fact that both the judiciary and executive may review laws but that their reviews essentially differ in kind and not degree (along with the other inherent differences in the respective bodies) is an ingenious "split 'double-negative'" on the power of the legislature. [5]

Thus we have inquired into some of the fundamental principles of a monarch and an executive administrator in a liberal republic. We have reviewed what the American executive was hoped to be and not be, and we have concluded as finitely as possible what it should be as a branch of a liberal constitutional republic. In the future we may discuss what when, how, and why it has differed.


[1] In a letter to Isaac H. Tiffany (August 26, 1816, M.E., XV, 65-66) Jefferson wrote of the tendency of the pure democracy, when it encounters difficulties, to revert to despotism, the people in "an abandonment of themselves to an aristocracy, or a tyranny independent of the people."

[2] Letter to Dupont de Nemours, Poplar Forest, April 24, 1816, M.E., XIV, 487-88.

[3] Letter to John F. Mercer, Esq., Washington, October 9, 1804, M.E., XI, 54.

[4] Madison evidently did not think this power and this participation in the making of laws to be an amalgamating of departments or inconsistent "with the theory of free constitution." See the notes on the constitutional convention for July 17, 19.

[5] It would be fruitful to review the debate on this issue, which can also be found in the constitutional convention notes for July 17, 19.


Adams, John Quincy. Memoirs. VI.

McCullough, David. John Adams. Simon and Schuster. New York. 2001.

Madison, James. [Record of] The Constitutional Convention.

Malone, Dumas. Jefferson the Virginian. Little, Brown and Company. Boston. 1948.

Malone, Dumas. Jefferson and the Rights of Man. Little, Brown and Company. Boston. 1951.

Wood, Gordon S. The Radicalism of the American Revolution. Alfred A. Knopf. NY. 1991


Ablavsky, Gregory. Republican or Royalist: A Lesson Plan on Hamilton's Alleged Monarchism and the Partisan Politics of the 1790s. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. New York, N.Y. 2009.

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