16 April 2015
The Presidency When the United States Constitution was written, there was no intent for the position at the head of the executive branch of the Federal Government to have the type of power and influence it does today. The the presidency, as enumerated in the Constitution, was to have powers more closely aligned to a figure-type position than a position of imminent power. The powers that the British king and parliament had that the Framers were accustomed to were given mainly to Congress. With this being said, the power of the presidency would strengthen and change in the coming decades and centuries. From the times of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson to Lincoln and Bush, America has seen the position of the presidency change in various ways. The biggest reason why the role of the presidency has changed is through the actions of our presidents. Citizens of the colonies as well as the new policy makers were especially concerned of a single entity having too much power. This concern was so much so that the original layout, the Articles of Confederation, did not even include an executive branch. Federalists and Anti-Federalists had long debates about the position and power of the presidency (Reinstein). Alexander Hamilton explained how the power of the president of the United States would be different than the power of a monarch, in more ways than just dividing the government into three parts. He explained how certain processes would be different, such as vetoing, acting on war, and the making of treaties among other things (Bianco, Canon). Even so, the skepticism remained apparent up until the finalization of the Constitution.
After the overtaking of the British colonies from British rule, the late 18th century patriots set out to create a government that would withstand the test of time as well as ensure structured democracy amongst its citizens for the entirety of its existence. Created was a constitution splitting the government into three parts, one of which being the executive branch headed by the president. Enumerated in the Constitution is the vesting clause, stating that the executive power shall be vested in a president, and that he will be head of government and head of state (Bianco, Canon). The former means that the president will have authority over the executive branch while the latter states that the president will serve as the “symbolic and political representative of the country.” (Bianco, Canon). While given these powers, the presidency was still very limited compared to other governments of the time. The Founding Fathers saw how inefficiently a nation can be run under single rule, so they made sure that would not happen again when drafting the Constitution. While originally designed to be limited in power, the position of the presidency has since changed by the actions of some of our 44 presidents.
Many of the presidents throughout the history of the United States have left their mark in certain ways that have changed the presidency forever. The first three, Washington, Adams, and Jefferson, the image was forged of a president as a strong figure and less of a position of power, which can be attributed to the fact that many were skeptical about the position of the presidency. A few years later, Andrew Jackson would be giving special appointments to strong supporters of his party. This contributed to the development of the party system. Jackson also vetoed more bills than all of the previous presidents combined which put an exclamation mark on that specific power. During Abraham Lincoln’s time, he exceeded the guidelines of the presidency by suspending Habeas Corpus during the Civil War (Dueholm). Even to this day, many view this action as unconstitutional, while others see it as the right thing to do given the circumstances. Regardless, the ability for the president to more or less go beyond not only his duties as president but also his restrictions was…