When the Wicked Rule The People Mourn (14 of 20)

Said Benjamin Franklin to George Washington, “By what title shall the president be called?” Said George Washington to Benjamin Franklin, “His High Mightiness, the President of the United States and Protector of Their Liberties.”

Washington was not alone in his choice of such a title. A committee appointed by the first senate recommended a similar title. John Adams the first vice-president contended that if Washington were called merely “the president of the United States,” that the common people of other nations would “despise him to all eternity.” But the House of Representatives insisted upon that title and finally prevailed.

The office of president of the United States is the most powerful held by any single individual in the wold. Despite all the restrictions placed upon him his influence far surpasses that of any dictator. He is Commander-in-Chief of the greatest army and navy now in existence, and he is practically unrestrained in the use he makes of them both in war and in peace.

The power to declare war rests with the Congress, but the president is in a position to provoke a war, and to have it going full blast before the Congress ever learns the facts.

The president negotiates treaties with foreign nations, although two thirds of the senators must approve them before they bind the nation. With the concurrence of the Senate, he appoints ambassadors, ministers, consuls and judges of the Supreme Court. A host of other administrative officials are appointed without such consent. He receives ambassadors form other countries, and has power to grant reprieves and pardons for any crime except that of impeachment. He can veto any law, No bill becomes a law until he has approved it and signed it. It takes two-thirds of the Congress to annul his veto.

Grave duties are imposed upon him. He takes an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The Constitution says that “he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” He is required to give to the Congress information of the state of the Union, and to recommend to their consideration such measures as he judges necessary and expedient.

The president cannot enact legislation nor is he the final authority for interpreting the laws that have been enacted. He can be impeached, and an independent Congress can refuse his recommendations and neglect to appropriate funds for his projects. He is subject to the law the same as any man, for it is by the law that he becomes president. He must be a natural born citizen, have attained the age of 35, and have been 14 years a resident of the United States.

The powers delegated to the president in the Constitution are so great that many of the colonist feared to adopt it. It was largely because of this sentiment that George Washington declined to consider a third term as executive. but the power of the presidency in Washington’s day was meager in comparison to the influence wielded by that office today. The growth of the nation has added to the stature of the office. The increase in functions preformed by the federal government have multiplied its responsibilities.

The charge of “dictator” was hurled at both Lincoln and Wilson, and surely they were to of our strongest presidents. But their powers pale into oblivion in comparison to those now resident in the hands of the chief executive. The last 25 years has seen the increase of boards, bureaus, and commissions. Regulations in the fields of interstate commerce, social security, wages and hours, and child labor, have heightened the influence of the federal government beyond anything dreamed of even at the beginning of this century. It is said that there are now over 3,000,000 civilian employees of the national government.

The Constitutional powers of the president are almost too great to be entrusted to one man. Even by staying strictly within them, and it is said that none of our dynamic presidents actually have, a power and influence is built up that makes it easy for the president to perpetuate himself in office.

The modern day increase in the powers of the presidency should call forth the placing of additional restrictions on that office. An evil disposed president could virtually destroy the nation and stamp out the rights of the people.

I suggest a constitutional amendment limiting the president to one term of 4, 5, or 6 years. The same amendment should abolish the Electoral College and provide for his direct election. The Electoral College was devised in a day when there were no political parties, and has since become grossly inequitable. The president has almost become what Washington suggested, that is, “His High Mightiness.” The limitation of his tenure to one term is the only feasible way to place the executive department back in its true perspective with the legislative and judicial departments.

This Article was serialized in 20 segments
which appeared on the editorial page (page 4) of
The Deseret News, 19 March 1945 through 10 April 1945.

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