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11/03/2012

W. B. Allen on George Washington
Michael Ramsey

At Liberty Law Blog, W.B. Allen (Michigan State Political Science): George Washington's Republicanism.  From the introduction: 

The U.S. Constitution mandates that the executive branch will seek the “advice and consent” of the Senate to treaties with foreign powers. Thus, George Washington as President once determined to “advise and consult” with the Senate on a treaty matter involving negotiations with Indian tribes. Accompanied by his secretary of war, Henry Knox, the president presented himself before the Senate while the clerk read out the main points that concerned Washington – thus seeking a point-by-point constitutional “advice and consent.” Following this dramatic entrance, Washington was ushered out of the chamber and cooled his heels outside while what was later to become known as the “world’s greatest deliberative body” debated how to proceed.

Realizing he had made a mistake that could limit the power and authority of future presidents, the President turned on his heels and left the building – never to return personally before the Senate for such purposes. By doing so, Washington took a firm step towards creating a presidency that is strong, dignified, and autonomous within a system of checks and balances, while responsive to Congress through intermediaries. This simple act helped define the future balance of power between the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government.