The Presidential Veto: Touchstone of the American Presidency

The Presidential Veto: Touchstone of the American Presidency

The Presidential Veto: Touchstone of the American Presidency

The Presidential Veto: Touchstone of the American Presidency


This is the first modern study of the veto. In addition to tracing the genesis and historical evolution from Ancient Rome, through the ultimate inclusion in the Constitution, it also explores the veto's consequences for modern presidents. In doing so, Spitzer promotes a key argument about the relation between the veto power and the Presidency namely, that the rise of the veto power, beginning with the first Chief Executive, is symptomatic of the rise of the strong modern Presidency, and has in fact been a major tool of Presidency-building.

A special and revealing irony of the veto power is seen in the finding that, despite its monarchical roots and anti-majoritarian nature, the veto has become a key vehicle for presidents to appeal directly to, and on behalf of, the people. Thus, the veto's utility for presidents arises not only as a power to use against Congress, but also as a symbolic, plebiscitary tool."


The most important of all the checks and balances is, of course, the presidential veto. . . .

James L. Sundquist (1986)

The study of the presidential veto begins with its roots. To understand the antecedents and construction of this key presidential power is to understand much about that power (and the presidency) today. Thus, we begin with a detailed history of the veto power from ancient Rome to the completion of the Constitution. But this book also goes beyond the history of the veto, however, to argue two important points: (1) The veto power, in and of itself, possesses certain traits that transcend its application to American government: and (2) the application and. rise of the presidential veto is symptomatic of the rise of the modern strong presidency. In short, perspectives on the presidential veto reflect perspectives on the presidency itself.

Antecedents of the veto

The veto is a power that transcends the American experience. It is thus important to understand its antecedents, not only because the American founders were influenced by this history, but also because the very nature of the veto power, as it can be traced through history, may be revealed in ways useful to the study of the presidential veto.

Ancient Rome

The Oxford English Dictionary identifies the word veto as deriving from Latin meaning 'I forbid.' In the sixth century B.C., early in the . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.