The Biography of Presidential Power Essay

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The Biography of Presidential Power

Graham Parks

Pols. 406-01-S14: The American Presidency

Dr. Erik Root

February 21, 2014

During the Constitutional Convention, the founders spent their time framing and building the foundation of the government for the new nation. James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and the other fathers spent a large amount of their time discussing and mapping out the office of the Executive. According to Charles Thach’s The Creation of the Presidency, 1775-1789: A Study in Constitutional History, the authors of the Constitution were puzzled and had a timid, yet aggressive mindset when developing the Presidency because they feared the office could have too much power.1 A main reason the colonists rebelled against the motherland was because they were overwhelmed by the power of the King and the misrepresentation from Parliament. However, there were numerous thoughts to what the office and what its duties should entail. The office of the President was intended to be a neutral mediating position to guide the United States in a progressing direction, not a partisan one. The “people’s representatives” is a term the founders steered far, far away from. The idea of one person with so much power being completely willed by the people has pros and cons. A leader in such a position will do what the majority desires, but he will not always do what he thinks is best for the country. The framers believed that the President should work for the people, but at the same time be above them, as well as above politics and the other branches.2 The framers were not sure what specific powers the office of the Executive should have, and this created much debate throughout the Convention.3 According to Thach, there were three different parties at the convention: The first was that “whose object and wish it was to abolish and annihilate all State governments, and to bring forward one general government, over the extensive continent, of a monarchical nature, under certain restrictions and limitations.” The second :was not for the abolition of the State governments, nor for the introduction of a monarchical government under any form; but they wished to establish such a system as could give their own States undue power and influence in the government over the other States.” The third, the truly federal party, as Martin viewed the situation, “were for proceeding upon terms of federal equality; they were for taking our present federal system as the basis of their proceedings.”

Having three different powerful and convincing points-of-view made the convention challenging to complete a Constitution that’s terms were agreeable by all of the parties involved. Some of the framers, like Hamilton, for example, wanted the government to have more of a monarchial form of government. In fact, Hamilton wanted to be the Prime Minister under George Washington, though, of course, Washington and the others were not going for it. 4 The second party wanted all of the power to be vested to the states and leave virtually nothing to the federal government. There were many problems with this idea, though. States would have had power over each other. This theory, in one’s personal opinion, had the most potential for failure and destruction. Another issue the framers discussed was the appointment and specific powers bestowed to the office of the Presidency. Some of the statesmen, such as James Wilson, Edmund Randolph, Oliver Ellsworth, Madison, and John Jay, discussed outlines for the requirements and duties of the Executive. Wilson discussed two paths for the Executive to become elected: the Legislature would select and elect the elector, or the populous would be the decider.5 To add to his proposition, Wilson added the Executive Office would adhere to domestic issues and foreign affairs. He would also be the Commander in chief of all the military. Many of…