The History of the Presidency

The men who wrote the Constitution of the United States were opposed to the idea of an all-powerful head of state. America’s Founding Fathers thought of the presidency as an office of great honor and dignity, but one with little real power. The American colonists in general favored the parliamentary system of government but did not believe that all governmental powers should rest within any one body. So, in framing the Constitution, they provided for three separate branches–legislative, executive, and judicial.

Article I of the Constitution deals with the functions of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Not until Article II is any mention made of the president. This article states that the president shall be the head of the executive branch of the government. But to limit and restrict the office, the Constitution provides Congress with checks against any president who may try to assume too much authority.

The framers of the Constitution believed that in the presidency they had created an office of prestige but little power. They would be astounded if they knew the changes that have occurred. The powers and responsibilities of the president have grown enormously. The president has become the leader of his country in fact as well as in name. His words and deeds affect the course of history not only in the United States but in every country throughout the world.

The men who were presidents early in the history of the republic were able to carry on the duties of their office with little assistance. When George Washington served as first president of the United States, his staff consisted of a secretary, one or two clerks, and household servants who acted as messengers. But with the enormous growth in presidential power and responsibilities, the office of the presidency now must be run by a large staff. Today the president of the United States requires the assistance of over 1,500 people.

The employees assigned to jobs directly relating to the office of the presidency are staff members of the Executive Office of the President. The Executive Office was created by Congress, but it can be reorganized by the president through executive orders. (Taken from: Johnson, G. W. (2008). Presidency of the United States. (D. C. Whitney, Rev.). The New Book of Knowledge®. Retrieved July 21, 2008, from Grolier Online http://nbk.grolier.com/cgi-bin/article?assetid=a2024000-h)

Read Article II of the Constitution

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