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The Imperial Presidency

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The Imperial Presidency, by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., is a book published in 1973 by Houghton Mifflin. This book details the history of the Presidency of the United States from its conception by the Founding Fathers through the latter half of the 20th century. Schlesinger wrote the book out of two concerns: first, that the US Presidency was out of control and second, that the Presidency had exceeded its constitutional limits.A presidency becomes imperial when it relies on powers beyond those allowed by the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution established three separate branches of government, not for efficiency but to avoid the arbitrary exercise of power. The government outlined by the Constitution was to replace and improve upon the imperial executive government of King George III of Britain. The book links the president's accumulation of foreign powers during wartimes to the accretion of domestic powers. The Constitution and its authors determined that the power to initiate a war belonged to the Congress. The president had the responsibilities to conduct ongoing wars and ongoing foreign relations, and to respond to sudden attacks if Congress were not in session. As the United States became a great world power and then a superpower, the presidency acquired more war powers despite the Constitution. That reduced Congress' powers and the separation of powers, which is necessary to avoid the arbitrary use of power.Through various means, presidents subsequently acquired powers beyond the limits of the constitution. The daily accountability of the president to the Congress, the courts, the press, and the people has been replaced by an accountability of only once each four years, during an election. The changes have occurred slowly over the centuries so that what appears normal differs greatly from what was the original state of America.
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original title: The Imperial Presidency
language: English
date of publication: 1973

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