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The Development of Presidental Power in the United States - Research Paper Example

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Presidential power, especially in the context of the President of the United States, is a unique kind of personal authority that one bears over the most powerful country in the world. Throughout the history of the country, its presidents have grappled and struggled with how to manage this power properly…
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The Development of Presidental Power in the United States
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"The Development of Presidental Power in the United States"

Download file to see previous pages Decisive issues in the history of the United States, such as territorial expansion and slavery, have played a crucial role in determining the scope and nature of expanding presidential power through the centuries. In order to understand the rise of presidential power, one must first set a standard to which that rise is measured. That standard is the first president of the United States, George Washington, who was inaugurated on April 30, 1789. In many ways, Washington set the standards for his successors: setting up a cabinet system, giving an inaugural address, and serving as a two-term president. He took over the presidency of a country emerging fresh from its quest for independence, and he immediately faced the problems of any newly established nation. Recognizing the need to sign major treaties for foreign powers and to ratify the Bill of Rights, Washington signed a large slate of legislative measures that set up channels of commerce, state militias, the judiciary, the United States Mint, and the first immigration laws. Each of these acts stood in concert with the newly signed Constitution, which Washington used as justification for his veto of the Apportionment Act of 1792 (Washington). By all accounts, Washington represents the classic president with his respect for the precise limits of his power. Washington held federalist sentiments, aligned for the most part with his Secretary of the Treasury, cabinet member, and friend Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton’s intellectual influence on Washington was so great that Washington’s famous Farewell Address is thought to have been crafted, at least in part, by Hamilton’s hand. The federalists like Washington and Hamilton viewed states rights as less important and a hindrance to an effective, efficient central state. The Articles of Confederation, which had been discarded in favor of the Constitution, stressed the value of states’ rights above a central state but to a degree that made the federal government incapable of carrying out its necessary, executive functions. In his Farewell Address, Washington makes it clear that a stronger central government, at the expense of states’ rights, is a necessary movement toward reducing deadly factions in American government. To that end, Washington urges support for the new constitutional government. A weak government, he warns, is one that cannot defend itself from factions, or enforce its laws, or protect the rights of citizens, which is implied as an argument against overemphasizing the sovereignty of individual states. After the presidency of John Adams, another federalist, Thomas Jefferson became the third president in March 1801. As a Democrat-Republican with anti-federalist leanings, Jefferson wrote in favor of state rights, believing that the size of the federal government ought not to be maximized (Schlesinger 23). Instead, he thought, states’ ought to have a greater degree of sovereignty because they are more responsive to diverse groups of people. Looking at the divergent interests of Southerners and Northerners, even in the early 1800s, Jefferson identified a potential source of conflict—a factionalism that might emerge on the highest level of government. Accordingly, he endorsed a political ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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