Article 2, Section 3

Document 6

William Symmes to Capt. Peter Osgood

15 Nov. 1787Storing 4.5.2

11. "The President shall take care that the law be faithfully executed."

That there must be an Executive power, independent of the legislature, appears to have been generally agreed among the fabricators of modern constitutions. But I believe it has not until now been supposed essential that this power should be vested in a single person. The execution of the law requires as much prudence as any other department, and the pardoning or refusing to pardon offences, is a very delicate matter. Yet he has no council or assistant, no restraint.

But was ever a commission so brief, so general, as this of our President? Can we exactly say how far a faithful execution of the laws may extend? or what may be called or comprehended in a faithful execution? If the President be guilty of a misdemeanor, will he not take care to have this excuse? And should it turn against him, may he not plead a mistake! or is he bound to understand the laws, or their operation? Should a Federal law happen to be as generally expressed as the President's authority; must he not interpret the Act! For in many cases he must execute the laws independent of any judicial decision. And should the legislature direct the mode of executing the laws, or any particular law, is he obliged to comply, if he does not think it will amount to a faithful execution? For to suppose that the legislature can make laws to affect the office of President, is to destroy his independence, and in this case to supersede the very constitution. Is there no instance in which he may reject the sense of the legislature, and establish his own, and so far, would he not be to all intents and purposes absolute?

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 4, Article 2, Section 3, Document 6
The University of Chicago Press

Storing, Herbert J., ed. The Complete Anti-Federalist. 7 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

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