Copyright (c) 2003 The University of Illinois
University of Illinois Law Review
ARTICLE: THE ESSENTIAL MEANING OF EXECUTIVE POWER+
+ © 2003. All rights reserved.
2003 U. Ill. L. Rev. 701
Scholars disagree about the Executive Power Clause's meaning. Some scholars claim that the clause does not vest any power but instead establishes the title and number for the apex of the executive branch. Others believed that the clause vests power but are unsure what domestic power it might vest. This article seeks to resolve the dispute by shedding light on the essential, historical meaning of executive power. Although "executive power" was often used to encompass a bundle of powers typically enjoyed by the executive branch, such as foreign relations control and the power to appoint, the phrase most often was used as a shorthand for the power to execute the laws. Indeed, the phrase "executive power" comes from the principal or essential power of an executive -- the power to execute the law.
Evidence from the eighteenth century reveals this essential meaning of executive power. European political theorists of that era declared that the executive power was the power to execute the laws. In America, state constitutions and political commentators employed tis basic definition. Debates at the Philadelphia and state ratifiers repeatedly observing that the President could execute the law by virtue of the executive power. Finally, after ratification, statesman from all three branches understood that the executive power was the power to execute the laws.
The founders understood that at least two subsidiary authorities flowed from the power to execute the law. Vested with the executive power, the president ...
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