Introduction: The Articles of the Confederation
The document founded the independence of the United States from the colonialists. The articles of the Confederation established the Confederate states as opposed a strong central government, informed by the experiences of the colonial system, that had hitherto existed. Though the document is not highly regarded, it was instrumental in offering lessons in self-governance in the context of written laws (Duncan Jr 333).
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Toward a Constitution
As of 1787, it had become clear that the founding document of the United States had to be revised to make it responsive to the problems faced by the national government (Kirgis 371). The critics of the document argued that the articles of the Confederation had denied Congress all power to regulate domestic affairs relating to taxation or enforce trade controls.
While the national government had the power to appoint ambassadors, call for war, and appoint generals among other duties, it lacked the express source of finances to remunerate them. The turning point for these disagreements came in 1786 when Congress could not raise money to pay the soldiers and service the loans it had incurred in the revolutionary war (Kirgis 371). The United States government was bankrupt.
Besides the lack of revenues, the states grappled with ceaseless trade wars through policies that protected their markets and locked out competitors. The Southern States through an exploitative means production sought to create a comparative advantage in cheap labor over the Northern States. With a looming war and a broke national government, the credibility of the United States to enter into contracts with other states was put into question.
These compounded challenges forced the continental congress to hold the Philadelphia convention to deliberate and put in place necessary constitutional measures that were deemed necessary to ensure that the constitution of the federal government of the United States could effectively discharge its mandates.
The American society was highly divided at the time, calls for liberty rung all over. With the question of slavery as a means of production in the South, they were bound to be continued struggles (Kirgis 371).
Though initially a Republican, he later became a vocal proponent of federalism. He was of the view that an energetic, independent executive was critical at all cost. An all-powerful presidency was the ideal executive for him.
During his 2-term presidency, Washington was the first American president to issue an executive order in 1789 by calling on heads of departments to be precise and distinct in the information they relayed to him about American affairs. In total, he issued eight executive orders during his two terms (Duncan Jr 333).
Jefferson’s move to purchase Louisiana through an executive order is, perhaps, the most controversial executive order in American history. At the time, the federalists in the Congress termed Jefferson’s move as the closest that America made to the autocracy. His move doubled the American territory in size. During his tenure, Jefferson utilized the executive orders four times.
Jackson’s most controversial executive order was his move to evict the Cherokee Nation from their lands even though they had filed and won legal suits in the Supreme Court. This move sparked a vicious debate on how to safeguard the provisions of the US Constitution from the executive orders.
Perhaps Abraham Lincoln’s most popular presidential order is the abolition of slavery. However, Lincoln executed several executive orders that have been termed by rights activists as bordering to violation of constitutionally guaranteed rights such as the right to a trial, closure of newspapers in wartime and detention without trial. For Lincoln, however, it was all in the interest of the union.
In 1917, after failing to convince Congress of the need of the United States military vessels for surveillance in German waters, Wilson invoked executive order to this end.
Often referred to as the ‘good Roosevelt’ or the ‘republican Roosevelt’, he believed in absolute use of the presidential powers. During his tenure, he used executive orders to restrict high incomes by use of higher taxes. However, this helped to take America through the great depression.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Roosevelt’s most controversial executive order was the rounding of 100,000 Japanese in 1941 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Their properties were confiscated as well. This has sparked a debate over the existence of ‘collective guilt.’
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President Dwight D. Eisenhower
His most controversial executive order is the 1953 order on ‘sexual perversion’ that led to the sacking of thousands of gays and lesbians in the United States. It also sparked antigay sentiments that led to numerous cases of lynching of gays and lesbians.
Lyndon B Johnson
In 1965, Lyndon B Johnson, through an executive order, prohibited employment based on race, color, religion or national origins in all firms receiving federal contracts. He later amended the order to include sex.
To tame illegal migration. Reagan used executive orders to ensure the interdiction of illegal aliens seeking to enter the United States. His move has been acclaimed as one of the initial deeds that could address the immigrant issue.
He is perhaps the president who used the highest number of executive orders, with 287 orders during his tenure. His major executive order is the military intervention in Iraq in spite of failing to convince Congress.
President Obama has issued several executive orders with the most controversial being the move to raise basic wages to bridge the gaps.
Duncan Jr, John C. “Critical Consideration of Executive Orders: Glimmerings of Autopoiesis in the Executive Role, A.” Vt. L. Rev. 35 (2010): 333. Print.
Kirgis, Frederic L. “Federal Statutes, Executive Orders and” Self-Executing Custom”.” American Journal of International Law 81 (1987): 371-375. Print.