Soon after our Constitution took effect, James Madison called the President’s duty to faithfully execute the laws the “essence” of the office. A century later, even the rather undistinguished President Benjamin Harrison could see that it was the “central idea” of the office. But what does the duty mean? At a rudimentary level of separation of powers theory, every American middle schooler should know that Congress makes the laws, the courts interpret them, and the President executes them. This simple construct ignores the richness and complexity of the duty as the forty-four Presidents of the United States have interpreted it. This Article seeks to flesh out the concept.
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