The Presidency and the Constitution

"Introduction: The Modern Presidency"

Overview

The American presidency is often called the most powerful office on earth. This is so not only because the nation which elects the president is the most powerful nation on earth, but also because the American Founders designed the office to be strong and effective. However, the Founders also placed certain restraints on this power, which are necessary to maintain liberty and protect citizens’ rights. The modern understanding and structure of the presidency are a threat to freedom due to the accumulation of all three powers—legislative, executive, and judicial—in the executive branch and the breakdown of constitutional restraints.  

Lecture

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Discussion Questions

  • How can we understand the presidency as a response to the weakness, and ultimately the failure, of the Articles of Confederation?
  • How is the presidency fundamentally limited by the Framers' Constitution? How have such limits been broken, and can they be restored?
  • Does the constitutional design of the presidency require that a person of virtue hold the office?

 

Q & A Session

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Larry P. Arnn is the twelfth president of Hillsdale College, where he is also a professor of politics and history. He received his B.A. from Arkansas State University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Government from the Claremont Graduate School. He also studied at Worcester College, Oxford University, where he served as director of research for Sir Martin Gilbert, the official biographer of Winston Churchill. From 1985 to 2000, he served as president of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy. He serves on several boards of directors, and he previously served on the U.S. Army War College Board of Visitors for two years for which he earned the Department of the Army’s Outstanding Civilian Service Medal. In 2015, he received the Bradley Prize from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. A member of numerous organizations including the Churchill Centre, he is the author of three books: Liberty and Learning: The Evolution of American Education; The Founders’ Key: The Divine and Natural Connection Between the Declaration and the Constitution and What We Risk by Losing It; and, most recently, Churchill’s Trial: Winston Churchill and the Salvation of Free Government.