James Madison on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights

By Robert J. Morgan | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
A Proper Energy in the Executive

Five weeks after the Convention completed its work Madison reported to Jefferson that one the Framers' principal problems was to combine "proper energy" in the executive with stability in the legislative branch while maintaining the "character of Republican Government." They were impeded at almost every turn, however, by disagreements over the choice, structure, and powers of this branch because these issues all bore directly on "the independent exercise of the Executive power" and the "defense of the constitutional rights of [this] department" against the "incroachments [sic] of the Legislature..." 1 This definition of the Framers' problem revealed Madison's judgment that the Framers provided for a president so institutionally weak as to be either disinclined or unable to resist congressional erosion of the exercise of executive powers. It is a mistake, however, to leap to the conclusion that this judgment represented the whole of Madison's position. This letter reveals only that at this time and for the next three years or so, Madison's primary concern for the presidency was to strengthen and facilitate the independent exercise of executive powers prescribed by the Constitution.

This problem is endemic to a written constitution. It is peculiar to a republican chief executive-at least, Madison judged it to be so. In fact, the creation of the executive at the Convention provides a classic example of the kind of problems which the science of constitutions was supposed to solve in the eighteenth century. The Framers had to prescribe rules for choosing functionaries and allocating their powers so that each branch of the government would actually exercise in practice, as well as in theory, the powers prescribed in the constitutional text. Provisions granting and limiting powers were at least supposed to predict official behavior within known limits. Constitutional energy, the capacity for authorized action, is derived from this document. Expectations that official behavior would conform to these textual authorizations could be made with confidence, however, only on the assumption that there is an invariable factor, a constant, on which all prediction must rest. For the Framers this constant was, of course, human nature, which they believed to be universal, immutable, and given. This perspective, although not without some challenge, was voiced repeatedly by the more articulate Framers in the debates over the means of infusing the executive branch with the capacity to act. Indeed, it was apparently assumed that these debates would be pointless

-31-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
James Madison on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Legal Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction xi
  • Notes xvii
  • Part I - Power 1
  • Chapter 1 - To Improve and Perpetuate the Union 3
  • Notes 28
  • Chapter 2 - A Proper Energy in the Executive 31
  • Notes 51
  • Chapter 3 - The True Principles of Republican Government 55
  • Notes 79
  • Chapter 4 - Supporting and Restraining the Executive 83
  • Notes 111
  • Part II - Rights 115
  • Chapter 5 - Political Liberty 117
  • Notes 128
  • Chapter 6 - A Few Obvious Truths 131
  • Notes 159
  • Chapter 7 - The Very Essence of Free and Responsible Government 163
  • Notes 185
  • Chapter 8 - The Framers' Muse 189
  • Notes 202
  • Selected Bibliography 205
  • Index 213
  • About the Author 219
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
/ 224

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.