Jefferson and Executive Power

37 Pages Posted: 15 May 2008

See all articles by John Yoo

John Yoo

University of California at Berkeley School of Law; American Enterprise Institute; Stanford University - The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace


This paper argues that Thomas Jefferson was not the opponent of presidential power commonly assumed today. Jefferson is often thought to be a sharp critic of executive authority because he favored a national government of limited powers and because of his opposition to the Washington and Adams administrations. But as President, Jefferson expanded executive authority by resisting the courts, buying Louisiana, conducting foreign affairs, and managing legislation through Congress. Jefferson's actions as President did not contradict his positions in the opposition, as claimed most famously by Henry Adams, but were instead consistent with his earlier views on executive power. In fact, Jefferson supported perhaps the broadest conception of the Presidency in his belief in a Lockean prerogative that would allow the executive to act without constitutional authorization, so long as the people approved after the fact.

Keywords: Thomas Jefferson, presidential power, foreign affairs

Suggested Citation

Yoo, John Choon, Jefferson and Executive Power. Boston University Law Review, Vol. 88, No. 2, 2008, UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 1133649, Available at SSRN:

John Choon Yoo (Contact Author)

University of California at Berkeley School of Law ( email )

Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States
510-600-3217 (Phone)
510-643-2673 (Fax)

American Enterprise Institute ( email )

1789 Massachusetts Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Stanford University - The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-6010
United States

HOME PAGE: http://

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics