Before he became President, Thomas Jefferson had devoted twenty-five years to this problem. Author of the Declaration of Independence, constitutional reformer, wartime governor, diplomat, and opposition leader, Jefferson arrived at a way to resolve the tension between contingency and a written constitution. This solution was an executive that would be both strong and democratic. Indeed, it would derive its strength, or its energy, from its democratic sources and present an alternative to Alexander Hamilton’s understanding of executive power. Thus, Jefferson’s Revolution of 1800 brought about a transformation of the presidency because the architect of that revolution had a plan for executive power. But this plan was itself subject to events, and Jefferson had to alter its course throughout his presidency. By revisiting Jefferson’s understanding of executive power, we better understand Jefferson’s presidency and more fully trace the development of modern executive power. Hardback, 180 pages, printed in the U.S.A.
Author Jeremy D. Bailey is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Houston.