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March 1975

April-May 1975

Sex Bias in Education - General Meeting
President's Note (Diane Hastert)
Action on Alcoholism
Executive Study
Action Alley
Honolulu LWV Proposed Budget, 4/75 - 3/31/76
Fact Sheet for April Unit Meetings

Fact Sheet for April Unit Meetings


America, 1787

"The measures of the Union have not been executed; the delinquencies of the States have, step by step, matured themselves to an extreme, which has, at length, arrested all the wheels of the national government, and brought them to an awful stand."

Hamilton, The Federalist, p. 94

Letters from Washington to Congress described an unfortunate state of affairs; "It is with infinite pain that I inform Congress that we are reduced again to a situation of extremity for want of meat." The inability of the government to levy and collect taxes in order to meet its obligations, and constant quarrels between the States over boundary lines all pointed to the need for reform of the national government. The Articles of Confederation, finally ratified in 1781, were inadequate.

Talk of revision continued to mount until finally a quarrel between Maryland and Virginia over navigation of the Potomac set the stage for the Convention of 1787. A commission met to discuss the navigation problem. Before disbanding, it recommended that delegates from all 13 states meet at Philadelphia on May 2nd, for the "sole and express" purpose of revising the Articles.

"Experience must be our only guide. Reason may mislead us."

John Dickenson

The delegates for the most part were young, well-educated men of means who decided a new Constitution was in order. In admiration of the English system, they looked to the 18th Century thinkers for inspiration. Thomas Jefferson, in Paris at the hundreds of books to James Madison. These included 37 volumes of the Encycolopedie Methodique, books on political theory and laws of nations, and works by Locke, Montesquieu, Diderot, and Voltaire. Sir Robert: Filmer's work entitled Patriarcha, published in 1680, insisted that "God bestowed the kingly power on Adam from whom it descended to his heirs and ultimately reached the various monarchs of modern times." This concept of Divine Right was swept away by Locke and others who thought that civil government is the result of a contract, an affair purely of this world not established by divine authority. Montesquieu's theory of checks and balances urged that the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government be separate. And so followed the development of modern democracy.

"I am astonished at some peoples considering a kingly government as a refuge."


"We must have a monarch sooner or later and the sooner we take him, while we are able to make a bargain with him, the better"

Gouverneur Morris

As the Convention of 1787 got underway, Charles Pinkney, seconded by Jules Wilson, rose, to the horror of many, and proposed a "vigorous (single) executive." To some these words envisioned unrestrained monarchy. Wilson explained that "energy, dispatch and responsibility" were prime necessities for the executive branch. He felt these would best be had in a single individual. Sherman felt the executive was only an institution for carrying out the will of the legislature and that the person or persons should be appointed by and accountable to the legislature. Randolph called unity of the executive the "fetus of monarchy." Wilson defended his feelings by suggesting that plurality might lead to tyranny. Again Randolph rose to insist that the people would never have confidence in just one man. In addition, coming from one population center he would not represent all parts of the country fairly. He suggested three members for the executive who would come from three different portions of the country. Pierce Butler of South Carolina felt members of a plural executive would be swayed in the interests of the area from which they came. In the end, seven states to three voted for a single executive.

The character of the executive had not been discussed up to this point. Amazingly enough, there were still those to whom the idea of a king for America did not seem farfetched. Alexander Hamilton was one who favored a limited monarchy. After all, such an executive existed in the English system, under which many of the colonists had been born and raised and for which they held high regard. For many the "single magistrate" was the same as an "elective king." Nearly 60 ballots were taken before a decision could be reached on impeachment. If the executive could be impeached then he was not a king, for kings were not impeachable. The executive's title provoked debate as well. "His Highness, the President of the United States and Protector of their Liberties" was eventually dropped in favor of "Mr. President."

"In free gouvernments the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns."

Ben Franklin

"The people are the king. The way to keep out monarchical government is to establish such a republic as will make the people happy and prevent a desire of change."


Equally as many ballots were required to decide the method of choosing the President. Madison among others supported a President appointed by Congress. Others favored a decision made by electors chosen from each state. The question of quantity and duration of Presidential terms continually stumped the convention. Many of these matters were not settled until much later.

The issue of the Presidential veto caused much consternation. An unconditional veto might gibe the executive too much power over the legislature and private bargaining with him might ensue to insure passage of certain laws. Eventually 10 states to none voted against an absolute veto. It was decided at Madison's suggestion that a limited veto (President could be overruled by 2/3 of Congress) be allowed. Salaries were a problem. Ben Franklin reminded the Convention that many men in England served without compensation.

"The first man put at the helm will be a good one. Nobody knows what sort may come afterwards."


The Constitution, Article II

"The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States...(who) shall be commander-in-chief of the army and navy.. and of the militia, (has) power to grant reprieves and pardons... power... to make treaties... appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court... and other officers... (must) give to the Congress information of the state of the Union, and recommend to their considerations such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient...convene both houses or either of them... shall receive ambassadors and other public ministers ...take care that the laws be faithfully executed."

The Constitution also gives the President the obligation to sign legislation which he approves, and permits him to veto that which he does not.

The above listed powers are specific Congressional acts have conferred other powers and responsibilities upon the President. He has become, in this manner, manager of the economy. He must submit a budget to the Congress, he may regulate certain tariffs, create economic controls and employment and influence monetary values.

He also functions as chief of his political party. His policies and attitudes and those of his party must balance and influence one another.

Since WW II the President of the United States has been a world leader. He makes executive agreements and exerts economic and military pressures on other countries.

"The true view of the executive function is...that the President can exercise no power which cannot be reasonably and fairly traced to some specific grant of . power..."

President Taft

"He (the President) must be prepared to exercise the fullest powers of his office -- all they specified and some that are not."

President Kennedy

There are specific limits on the President's power. The Constitution limits the President's term to four years and, in the 22nd amendment, restricts the President to serving two terms.

The Congress must consent to his appointments of Cabinet officers, ambassadors, Supreme Court judges, Congress must ratify any treaties. Congress has the sole power to appreciate money, Congress may override a Presidential veto. Congress may impeach the President.

The Supreme Court may give opinions on acts; laws and the Constitution if litigation is initiated, The Court decides on those questions of law that it will consider from among the many cases which request such attention,

The federal system giving certain rights and powers to the individual states places a limit on the President's power.

Certain federal officials have tenure and cannot be removed at the will of the President. These officials may act to obstruct preferred administration policies.

The opposition party in Congress is often a limit on a President's desires and programs.

In our free enterprise system, business management and labor have power.

Pressure from foreign leaders wields influence on an American President.

Public opinion in the United States (and the world) can limit or broaden the power of the President to act.

"The actual form of our present government is simply a scheme of congressional supremacy...Congress (is) the dominant, nay, the irresistible power of the federal system...The President... (is) the first official of a carefully graded and impartially regulated civil service system...and his duties call rather for training than for constructive genius."

Woodrow Wilson, Congressional Government, 1885

Writing of the President: "His is the only national voice in affairs. Let him once win the admiration and confidence of the country, and no other single force can withstand him...His office is anything he has the sagacity and force to make it...The President is at liberty, both in law and conscience, to be as big a man as he can."

Woodrow Wilson, Constitutional Government in the U.S., 1908

Terms for you to think about and understand:

"Executive Privilege" as defined by Raoul Berger is: "the President's claim of Constitutional authority to withhold information from Congress. The term was first used in 1958.

"Executive agreements" are pledges of certain action made by the executives of two countries. International law does not recognize a difference between executive agreements and treaties. Executive agreements may be authorized by Congress or laid before them for approval and implementation. The President may make agreements which he does not ask Congress to approve.

"Executive orders" are used to implement Congressional acts, laws, judicial decisions and to carry out Constitutional obligations.


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