The Practice in the Presidential Office.

However con- tested the theory of expansive presidential powers, the practice in fact has been one of expansion of those powers, an expansion that a number of “weak” Presidents and the temporary ascendancy of Congress in the wake of the Civil War has not stemmed. Perhaps the point of no return in this area was reached in 1801 when the Jefferson-Madison “strict constructionists” came to power and, instead of diminishing executive power and federal power in general, acted rather to enlarge both, notably by the latitudinarian construction of implied federal powers to justify the Louisiana Purchase.62 After a brief lapse into Cabinet government, the executive in the hands of Andrew Jackson stamped upon the presidency the outstanding features of its final character, thereby reviving, in the opinion of Henry Jones Ford, “the oldest political institution of the race, the elective Kingship.”63 Although the modern theory of presidential power was conceived primarily by Alexander Hamilton, the modern conception of the presidential office was the contribution primarily of Andrew Jackson.64

Footnotes

62
For the debates on the constitutionality of the Purchase, see E. BROWN, THE CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY OF THE LOUISIANA PURCHASE, 1803–1812 (1920). The differences and similarities between the Jeffersonians and the Federalists can be seen by comparing L. WHITE, THE JEFFERSONIANS: A STUDY IN ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY 1801–1829 (1951), with L. WHITE, THE FEDERALISTS: A STUDY IN ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY (1948). That the responsibilities of office did not turn the Jeffersonians into Hamiltonians may be gleaned from Madison’s veto of an internal improvements bill. 2 MESSAGES AND PAPERS OF THE PRESIDENTS 569 (J. Richardson comp., 1897). [Back to text]
63
H. FORD, THE RISE AND GROWTH OF AMERICAN POLITICS 293 (1898). [Back to text]
64
E. CORWIN, THE PRESIDENT: OFFICE AND POWERS 1787–1957, ch. 1 (4th ed. 1957). [Back to text]