The Modern Theory of Presidential Power: Alexander Hamilton and the Corwin Thesis

The Modern Theory of Presidential Power: Alexander Hamilton and the Corwin Thesis

The Modern Theory of Presidential Power: Alexander Hamilton and the Corwin Thesis

The Modern Theory of Presidential Power: Alexander Hamilton and the Corwin Thesis

Synopsis

This book takes a critical look at Edward S. Corwin's "Hamilton thesis," which names Alexander Hamilton as the primary contributor to the modern theory of presidential power. It examines the theoretical and practical articulation of the presidency by Hamilton and George Washington, the development of the modern theory through the administrations of Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson, and FDR, and the theories of other presidential scholars. An epilogue discusses the direction of the presidency after Ronald Reagan. "This is an important book for students of the American Presidency. It should also be read by anyone interested in American political thought . . . . Dr. Loss marshalls an impressive amount of erudition in support of his position." Francis H. Heller XUniversity of Kansas

Excerpt

One opinion teaches that the Vietnam War under Democratic and Republican presidents, the Watergate crimes, the Nixon administration's enemies list and the Reagan administration's Iran--Contra affair have shaken confidence in the strength of the limitations on presidential power. Such doubts have indirectly led to skepticism about the fashionable doctrines of presidential power, the Constitution and political morality. Representative Lee Hamilton's closing statement in the Iran-- Contra investigation implied the desirability of again consulting Edward S. Corwin's understanding of the presidency. With Corwin's aid, this book attempts to identify the intellectual problem of presidential power on the premise that understanding should precede action. My main subject is the relationship of the teachings of Alexander Hamilton to the modern theory of presidential power.

Proceeding from the premise that the unequal treatment of unequals is consistent with justice, this book emphasizes presidents according to their contribution to our understanding. Beyond all presidents Washington had the incentive, capacity and opportunity to think comprehensively and fruitfully about the moral ends of the American political community and the constitutional means of presidential power. The other presidents discussed in this book often contented themselves with thin rationalizations, comparable to a bus ticket good for one ride only, of their intentions or deeds. Hence public explanation of the relationship between the ends and presidential means of the regime deteriorated. Perhaps the qualitative change since Hamilton and Washington in the understanding and explanation of presidential power will shock or upset some readers. If so, I pray that these readers will charitably avoid blaming . . .

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