Federalist No. 67

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Alexander Hamilton, author of Federalist No. 67

Federalist No. 67 is an essay by Alexander Hamilton, the sixty-seventh of The Federalist Papers. This essay's title is "The Executive Department", and it begins a series of eleven separate papers discussing the powers and limitations of that branch. Federalist No. 67 was published, like the rest of the Federalist Papers, under the pseudonym Publius. It was published in the New York Packet on Tuesday, March 11, 1788.[1]

In this paper, Hamilton draws a distinction between the constitutionally limited executive powers of the president and the far more extensive powers of a monarch as a ruler. He also chastises opponents of the Constitution who believe the President is granted excessive power by being allowed to fill vacancies in the Senate. Hamilton points out this power is limited in scope as the President's appointments expire at the end of the Senate's next session, and permanent appointments are left to the state legislatures.

Anti-Federalist criticisms[edit]

Hamilton's arguments are a response to anti-federalist arguments against the new constitution and the strong general government that it implied. The anti-federalists feared that the national government would weaken their individual states and that national debts would burden the country,[2] and were particularly concerned with the executive branch, arguing that it would eventually become a monarchy or dictatorship.[3] People questioned why Hamilton and the Federalists would propose a constitution that created an executive branch that seemed to have too much power. America was coming off the revolution where they fought England to gain independence from an oppressive government who they believed had too much power. People were concerned that this new executive branch would destroy the freedom that they just fought and died for. Another major fear was that the executive would have too much say in the Senate. They thought the executive would be controlling from behind the scenes and appointing whoever they wanted to Congress.[4] Hamilton set out to prove that these fears were something not to worry about because the executive branch would be tightly regulated.

Hamilton's arguments[edit]

Executive Branch[edit]

To refute the notion that the executive branch would become a monarchy, allowing the President to put a person in any office, Hamilton wrote, "To nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of United States whose appointments are not in the Constitution otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law." [1] What this statement means is that the President of the United States can only nominate members as ambassadors, public ministries and consuls, Supreme Court judges and any other member that is not directly named in the Constitution currently or that will be named in the future without first consulting the Senate and then getting the Senate's approval of his nomination.

Recess Appointments[edit]

In a case where the President would have nominated a person to an office mentioned above, Hamilton creates a measure to ensure the President's choice will not be able stay in the office unless agreed upon by the Senate when he writes, "The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session."[1] This sentence states that during an instance when the Senate is having recess and a vacancy occurs, the President can fill this vacancy without consulting the Senate but as soon as the recess is over the vacancy that was filled will be considered and possibly changed at the Senates will.

Modern interpretations[edit]

Divided Government[edit]

In modern society, the government, especially the executive branch, has struggled with the ever-growing mixture of republican and energetic governments. The executive branch can be held by two major political parties: the Democrats and the Republicans. The elections that take place every four years, unequal representation within Congress, and differing opinions makes it difficult to find a balance within the Executives. Each new term brings in new faces, who come with new ideas and backgrounds. This rapid exchange of power often leads to a president who tries to do too much in too little of time, which forces a president to be the main problem solver despite having Congress for guidance or intellectual support. This contributes to the overall sense that the president may hold too much power - much like a forceful dictator.[5]

"Most Dangerous Branch"[edit]

Despite the uncertainty of Hamilton's original message, the executive branch has played a major role in the United States since its genesis. The Executives have become known as the "most dangerous" branch of government because they are the main decision makers regarding all national policies and ideas. The legislative and judiciary branches assist in those decisions, but the president - along with Congress - make the final judgments. To the public, the power seems to remain within the Executives, which goes against what Hamilton originally addressed in Federalist 67, but it also shows the division of branches and their capability.[6]

Power of President[edit]

Alexander Hamilton's plea against becoming a dictatorship still raises questions today. Tom Howard of Harding University believes that the presidential powers have increased at alarming rate since the 20th century. He quoted, "The most significant change in the entire history of the American political system has been the growth of the President's powers."[7] A contributing factor to the overabundance of power that the president holds is the concept of having a one person office. The main power within the executive branch is very lightly distributed to the additional 535 members of Congress.[7]

Fixed Terms[edit]

Unless the President commits a major crime or dies, they are present in the White House for the entirety of the four years. Several American citizens are challenging the standards; they are fighting for a way to enable the United States to re-elect presidents when necessary - maybe after two years. Research has shown a pattern that displays almost half of the support for presidents typically dies down after the first half of the term. On the contrary, others argue that a single six-year term would benefit the country as whole. Without the pressure of campaigning for a reelection, having a longer term would allow the President to strictly focus on national and global issues. These two perspectives provide alternatives to the US Constitution's original plan for the executive branch that Hamilton backed in Federalist 67.[8]


  1. ^ a b c "The Federalist #67". Retrieved 2016-10-19.
  2. ^ Storing, Herbert J. (2008-12-02). What the Anti-Federalists Were For: The Political Thought of the Opponents of the Constitution. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226775807.
  3. ^ Ketcham, Ralph (2003-05-06). The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates. Penguin. ISBN 9781101651346.
  4. ^ Wallis, John Joseph (2006). "The concept of systematic corruption in American history. Corruption and Reform: Lessons from America's economic history" (PDF). University of Chicago Press.
  5. ^ Kersh, Rogan. "Federalist No. 67: Can The Executive Sustain Both Republican And Energetic Government?." Public Administration Review 71.(2011): s90-s97. Education Research Complete. Web. 2 Oct. 2016.
  6. ^ Paulsen, Michael Stokes. "Most Dangerous Branch: Executive Power to Say What the Law Is, The." Geo LJ 83 (1994): 217.
  7. ^ a b Howard, Tom. "Ten Reasons for the Growth of Presidential Powers." Harding. Harding University, n.d. Web. 2 Oct. 2016.
  8. ^ O'Connor, Alice, Mary L. Henze, and Washington, DC. Jefferson Foundation. So Great A Power To Any Single Person: The Presidential Term And Executive Power. A Guide For Discussion Of Proposals To Limit The President To A Single Six-Year Term. n.p.: 1984. ERIC. Web. 2 Oct. 2016.

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