The President, Office and Powers: 1787-1957, History and Analysis of Practice and Opinion

By Edward S. Corwin | Go to book overview

Chapter IV
Chief Executive

The President's role of Chief Executive is, to say the least, a varied one. While it stems immediately from his duty to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed," it also draws sustenance from the opening clause of Article II, from his role as Commander-in-Chief, and from his prerogative to pardon "offenses against the United States," to say nothing of certain theories outside the Constitution. Highly critical questions of constitutional interpretation arise in consequence. As was shown in the preceding chapter, the President's duty to the law often puts upon him the duty to interpret it for the Executive Department. This has always been the fact, but, thanks to the broad terms in which congressional legislation has in recent years come to be couched even in times of peace, executive interpretation of statutes frequently amounts today to a species of subordinate legislation. The question naturally arises whether there are statable limits to this kind of thing, or available safeguards against the indefinite accumulation of power by this method in the bands of the President.

Again, the President has in certain contingencies employed the armed services in the enforcement of the law, has even proclaimed martial law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. What constitutional limitations exist to the utilization of these procedures; what constitutional machinery exists to make any such limitations effective? Then there are those "emergencies" short of war, more frequent nowadays than of

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The Notes to this chapter begin on p. 389.

-119-

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