The President Who Would Not Be King: Executive Power under the Constitution

The President Who Would Not Be King: Executive Power under the Constitution


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Vital perspectives for the divided Trump era on what the Constitution's framers intended when they defined the extent—and limits—of presidential power

One of the most vexing questions for the framers of the Constitution was how to create a vigorous and independent executive without making him king. In today's divided public square, presidential power has never been more contested. The President Who Would Not Be King cuts through the partisan rancor to reveal what the Constitution really tells us about the powers of the president.

Michael McConnell provides a comprehensive account of the drafting of presidential powers. Because the framers met behind closed doors and left no records of their deliberations, close attention must be given to their successive drafts. McConnell shows how the framers worked from a mental list of the powers of the British monarch, and consciously decided which powers to strip from the presidency to avoid tyranny. He examines each of these powers in turn, explaining how they were understood at the time of the founding, and goes on to provide a framework for evaluating separation of powers claims, distinguishing between powers that are subject to congressional control and those in which the president has full discretion.

Based on the Tanner Lectures at Princeton University, The President Who Would Not Be King restores the original vision of the framers, showing how the Constitution restrains the excesses of an imperial presidency while empowering the executive to govern effectively.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691207520
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 11/10/2020
Series: The University Center for Human Values Series , #48
Pages: 440
Sales rank: 210,775
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Michael W. McConnell is the Richard and Frances Mallery Professor and director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. His books include Scalia's Constitution: Essays on Law and Education and Religion and the Constitution.

Table of Contents

Foreword Stephen Macedo ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: Purpose, Scope, Method 1

Part I The Work of the Convention

1 Creating a Republican Executive 19

2 Debate Begins on the Presidency 36

3 Election and Removal 54

4 The Audacious Innovations of the Committee of Detail 62

5 Completing the Executive 75

6 Ratification Debates 87

Part II Allocating Royal Powers

7 The Framers' General Theory of Allocating Powers 95

8 The Core Legislative Powers of Taxing and Lawmaking 100

9 The President's Legislative Powers 120

10 The Power to Control Law Execution 142

11 Foreign Affairs and War 175

12 Other Prerogative Powers 213

Part III The Logical Structure of Article II

13 The Executive Power Vesting Clause 235

14 The Logic of the Organization of Article II 263

15 The Three Varieties of Presidential Power 277

Part IV Illustrative Examples

16 Two Classic Cases 287

17 Three Presidents, Three Conflicts 296

18 The Administrative State 320

Conclusion 351

Short-Form Citations 353

Notes 355

Index 403

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"A magnificent, enduring accomplishment. This is the very best account of the founders' understanding of the presidency—their aspirations, their fears, their achievement."—Cass R. Sunstein, Harvard University and author of On Freedom

"McConnell's fascinating and exhaustive account sees the framers as centrally concerned with domesticating prerogative powers so as to produce a presidency fit for a republic. One doesn’t have to agree with his conclusions to find this book an extremely valuable resource, and it will undoubtedly play a starring role in ongoing constitutional debates over presidential authority."—Gillian Metzger, Columbia Law School

"McConnell makes a spectacular contribution to our understanding of both the presidency and the separation of powers. All future scholarship on the meaning of Article II will start with this book."—Steven G. Calabresi, cofounder of the Federalist Society

The President Who Would Not Be King is an essential work by one of the nation’s leading legal scholars. This important and provocative book offers an innovative account of the presidency’s origins that also dispels numerous longstanding myths. It made me think more deeply and in new ways.”—Martin S. Flaherty, author of Restoring the Global Judiciary: Why the Supreme Court Should Rule in U.S. Foreign Affairs

"McConnell develops his narrative clearly, patiently, and evenhandedly, and his analysis is rich and strikingly original. I have no doubt that this masterful and deeply illuminating book will become a standard reference on presidential powers and will help set the scholarly agenda in this area for many years to come."—John Mikhail, Georgetown University

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