Imperial and Imperiled: The Curious State of The Executive

42 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2010

See all articles by Saikrishna Prakash

Saikrishna Prakash

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: January 11, 2010


In the last four decades, characterizations of the Presidency have careened from the “imperial presidency” to the “imperiled presidency.” From an originalist perspective, both camps have elements of truth on their side. When it comes to the conduct and initiation of wars, modern Presidents exercise powers that rival those the Crown possessed in England. Presidents claim the power to start wars, notwithstanding Congress’s power to declare war. Moreover, Presidents insist that they have the sole right to determine how the armed forces will wage all wars, even though Congress clearly has considerable power over the armed forces. Law execution provides a fascinating contrast. The original Constitution established a single chief executive, empowered to execute all federal laws through subordinate executive officers. Over the course of almost a century and a half, Congresses have splintered the President’s executive power, committing slivers of it to each of the numerous independent agencies. In other words, alongside the Constitution’s unitary executive, a number of independent executive councils have taken root. Hence the President is imperial in some respects and imperiled in others.

Keywords: Presidential Power, Constitution, Take Care Clause, Executive Power, Imperial Executive, Administrative Agencies

Suggested Citation

Prakash, Saikrishna, Imperial and Imperiled: The Curious State of The Executive (January 11, 2010). William & Mary Law Review, Vol. 50, 2008, Available at SSRN:

Saikrishna Prakash (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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