The Apparatus of the Presidency
T he one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Constitution naturally evoked many encomiums of it. Especially was Gladstone's famous eulogy of the document of 1787 as the "most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man" repeated many times. The provisions of the Constitution to be considered in this chapter would certainly blush to hear such words, had they ears and a proper moral sensibility. For this portion of the Framers' work the only thing to be said is that it no doubt represented their conscientious belief that they had done the best they could in the circumstances. To it applies emphatically the astringent estimate voiced by Gladstone's contemporary, Bagehot, of the entire instrument: "The men of Massachusetts could work any Constitution"; and William Penn's equally skeptical estimate of constitutions in general:
When all is said, there is hardly any frame of government so ill designed by its founders that in good hands would not do well enough; and story tells us the best in ill ones, can do nothing that is great or good.... Governments, like clocks, go from the motion men give them; and as governments are made and moved by men, so by them they are ruined too. Therefore governments rather depend upon men than men upon governments.
The business of this chapter will be to show how "the men of Massachusetts" -- and, incidentally, of the other states -- have "worked" the first section of Article II of the Constitution.
The Notes to this chapter begin on p. 330.
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Publication information: Book title: The President, Office and Powers:1787-1957, History and Analysis of Practice and Opinion. Edition: 4th Rev.. Contributors: Edward S. Corwin - Author. Publisher: New York University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1957. Page number: 31.
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