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A Transient Historical past Of The American Presidency, Half 3: The Growth Of Government Energy


While each president has had his own approach to the office and has tested the boundaries of his authority in different ways, the tenure of the founding generation was comparatively subdued. Each had their own strengths and weaknesses, but from Washington to Adams to Jefferson to Madison to Monroe and to an Adams again, there was a broad consensus on what the President could and could not do.

That consensus, however, would be challenged by a consummate outsider.

Andrew Jackson was a local high-water mark of presidential power. A rough and tumble man who loathed most of the established political players, Jackson carved a path all his own. Ignoring Washington’s example, Jackson vetoed more legislation than all of his predecessors put together.

In the case of Worcester v. Georgia, when the Supreme Court ruled that the Cherokee nation had a right to their land under federal treaty and could not be removed, Jackson completely ignored them, supposedly saying of the chief justice, “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.” A move which neatly embodies the watchmen problem — if the man tasked with enforcing the law simply refuses to enforce it, then who enforces the law upon that enforcer?

Few of…

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