The Presidency and the Constitution

July 18-20, 2014


Although it is often said that the American founders created an executive which would be quite different and, especially, much weaker than the English King, the truth of the matter is actually much more complicated.  Although they certainly did not want a President with the monarchic pretensions of the King, they were also aware that, in the words of Alexander Hamilton, "energy in the executive is a leading character in the definition of good government."  Thus, the challenge was to create an executive sufficiently strong that it would preserve republican government, despite the worries of many at the founding that "a vigorous executive is inconsistent with the genius of republican government."  The creation of a strong, while republican, executive makes the office of the presidency one of the truly novel features of the new Constitution.  This seminar will focus on the idea of the presidency under the Constitution, the important early controversies over the powers of the presidency, and how the office has evolved over time.  Special attention is placed on early understandings of the presidency and how they differ, sometimes in rather dramatic fashion, from more contemporary ideas regarding the office and the occupant.

Seminar Scholars

Benjamin A. Kleinerman, Ph.D., received his BA in Political Science from Kenyon College and his Ph.D. in Political Science from Michigan State University.  A former Visiting Scholar in the Program on Constitutional Government at Harvard University, Dr. Kleinerman has also taught at Oberlin College and the Virginia Military Institute.  His book, The Discretionary President: The Promise and Peril of Executive Power, has been reviewed in The New Republic and Political Science Quarterly.  He has also written articles on the subject of executive power in the American Constitution appearing in Perspectives on PoliticsAmerican Political Science Review, and Nomos.  He is currently working on a new book on the separation of powers and the political structure of the Constitution.  

Lynn Uzzell, PhD, received her doctorate in politics at the University of Dallas and her bachelors degree at Black Hills State University. Dr. Uzzell   has taught extensively about the Constitution and is an expert on the Constitutional Convention. She has taught political philosophy, American politics, rhetoric, and Leadership and the Humanities at Baylor University, the University of Virginia, and the University of Richmond. She is currently Scholar in Residence at the Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and senior editor of ConText, an online resource for Madison's notes on the Constitutional Convention.