The Executive Department
From the New York Packet
Tuesday, March 11, 1788.

Author: Alexander Hamilton

To the People of the State of New York:

THE constitution of the executive department of the proposed government, claims next our attention.

There is hardly any part of the system which could have been attended with greater difficulty in the arrangement of it than this; and there is, perhaps, none which has been inveighed against with less candor or criticised with less judgment.

Here the writers against the Constitution seem to have taken pains to signalize their talent of misrepresentation. Calculating upon the aversion of the people to monarchy, they have endeavored to enlist all their jealousies and apprehensions in opposition to the intended President of the United States; not merely as the embryo, but as the full-grown progeny, of that detested parent. To establish the pretended affinity, they have not scrupled to draw resources even from the regions of fiction. The authorities of a magistrate, in few instances greater, in some instances less, than those of a governor of New York, have been magnified into more than royal prerogatives. He has been decorated with attributes superior in dignity and splendor to those of a king of Great Britain. He has been shown to us with the diadem sparkling on his brow and the imperial purple flowing in his train. He has been seated on a throne surrounded with minions and mistresses, giving audience to the envoys of foreign potentates, in all the supercilious pomp of majesty. The images of Asiatic despotism and voluptuousness have scarcely been wanting to crown the exaggerated scene. We have been taught to tremble at the terrific visages of murdering janizaries, and to blush at the unveiled mysteries of a future seraglio.

Attempts so extravagant as these to disfigure or, it might rather be said, to metamorphose the object, render it necessary to take an accurate view of its real nature and form: in order as well to ascertain its true aspect and genuine appearance, as to unmask the disingenuity and expose the fallacy of the counterfeit resemblances which have been so insidiously, as well as industriously, propagated.

In the execution of this task, there is no man who would not find it an arduous effort either to behold with moderation, or to treat with seriousness, the devices, not less weak than wicked, which have been contrived to pervert the public opinion in relation to the subject. They so far exceed the usual though unjustifiable licenses of party artifice, that even in a disposition the most candid and tolerant, they must force the sentiments which favor an indulgent construction of the conduct of political adversaries to give place to a voluntary and unreserved indignation. It is impossible not to bestow the imputation of deliberate imposture and deception upon the gross pretense of a similitude between a king of Great Britain and a magistrate of the character marked out for that of the President of the United States. It is still more impossible to withhold that imputation from the rash and barefaced expedients which have been employed to give success to the attempted imposition.

In one instance, which I cite as a sample of the general spirit, the temerity has proceeded so far as to ascribe to the President of the United States a power which by the instrument reported is EXPRESSLY allotted to the Executives of the individual States. I mean the power of filling casual vacancies in the Senate.

This bold experiment upon the discernment of his countrymen has been hazarded by a writer who (whatever may be his real merit) has had no inconsiderable share in the applauses of his party [1] ; and who, upon this false and unfounded suggestion, has built a series of observations equally false and unfounded. Let him now be confronted with the evidence of the fact, and let him, if he be able, justify or extenuate the shameful outrage he has offered to the dictates of truth and to the rules of fair dealing.

The second clause of the second section of the second article empowers the President of the United States “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.” Immediately after this clause follows another in these words: “The President shall have power to fill up ?? VACANCIES that may happen DURING THE RECESS OF THE SENATE, by granting commissions which shall EXPIRE AT THE END OF THEIR NEXT SESSION.” It is from this last provision that the pretended power of the President to fill vacancies in the Senate has been deduced. A slight attention to the connection of the clauses, and to the obvious meaning of the terms, will satisfy us that the deduction is not even colorable.

The first of these two clauses, it is clear, only provides a mode for appointing such officers, “whose appointments are NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR in the Constitution, and which SHALL BE ESTABLISHED BY LAW”; of course it cannot extend to the appointments of senators, whose appointments are OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR in the Constitution [2] , and who are ESTABLISHED BY THE CONSTITUTION, and will not require a future establishment by law. This position will hardly be contested.

The last of these two clauses, it is equally clear, cannot be understood to comprehend the power of filling vacancies in the Senate, for the following reasons: First. The relation in which that clause stands to the other, which declares the general mode of appointing officers of the United States, denotes it to be nothing more than a supplement to the other, for the purpose of establishing an auxiliary method of appointment, in cases to which the general method was inadequate. The ordinary power of appointment is confined to the President and Senate JOINTLY, and can therefore only be exercised during the session of the Senate; but as it would have been improper to oblige this body to be continually in session for the appointment of officers and as vacancies might happen IN THEIR RECESS, which it might be necessary for the public service to fill without delay, the succeeding clause is evidently intended to authorize the President, SINGLY, to make temporary appointments “during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.” Secondly. If this clause is to be considered as supplementary to the one which precedes, the VACANCIES of which it speaks must be construed to relate to the “officers” described in the preceding one; and this, we have seen, excludes from its description the members of the Senate. Thirdly. The time within which the power is to operate, “during the recess of the Senate,” and the duration of the appointments, “to the end of the next session” of that body, conspire to elucidate the sense of the provision, which, if it had been intended to comprehend senators, would naturally have referred the temporary power of filling vacancies to the recess of the State legislatures, who are to make the permanent appointments, and not to the recess of the national Senate, who are to have no concern in those appointments; and would have extended the duration in office of the temporary senators to the next session of the legislature of the State, in whose representation the vacancies had happened, instead of making it to expire at the end of the ensuing session of the national Senate. The circumstances of the body authorized to make the permanent appointments would, of course, have governed the modification of a power which related to the temporary appointments; and as the national Senate is the body, whose situation is alone contemplated in the clause upon which the suggestion under examination has been founded, the vacancies to which it alludes can only be deemed to respect those officers in whose appointment that body has a concurrent agency with the President. But lastly, the first and second clauses of the third section of the first article, not only obviate all possibility of doubt, but destroy the pretext of misconception. The former provides, that “the Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen BY THE LEGISLATURE THEREOF for six years”; and the latter directs, that, “if vacancies in that body should happen by resignation or otherwise, DURING THE RECESS OF THE LEGISLATURE OF ANY STATE, the Executive THEREOF may make temporary appointments until the NEXT MEETING OF THE LEGISLATURE, which shall then fill such vacancies.” Here is an express power given, in clear and unambiguous terms, to the State Executives, to fill casual vacancies in the Senate, by temporary appointments; which not only invalidates the supposition, that the clause before considered could have been intended to confer that power upon the President of the United States, but proves that this supposition, destitute as it is even of the merit of plausibility, must have originated in an intention to deceive the people, too palpable to be obscured by sophistry, too atrocious to be palliated by hypocrisy.

I have taken the pains to select this instance of misrepresentation, and to place it in a clear and strong light, as an unequivocal proof of the unwarrantable arts which are practiced to prevent a fair and impartial judgment of the real merits of the Constitution submitted to the consideration of the people. Nor have I scrupled, in so flagrant a case, to allow myself a severity of animadversion little congenial with the general spirit of these papers. I hesitate not to submit it to the decision of any candid and honest adversary of the proposed government, whether language can furnish epithets of too much asperity, for so shameless and so prostitute an attempt to impose on the citizens of America.


1. See CATO, No. V.

2. Article I, section 3, clause I.

Howdy from Texas! It is overpoweringly evident by reading Federalist Paper No. 67 that the volley of political spin has always existed. The ever so baneful attempts to manipulate words, laws and situations to best fit the perspective of the beholder, or party, was as evident then as it is now. The art of this twisting of truths in the political realm, where the sphere of influence is so broad and the outcome so tenuous, is dangerous because of its power to shape history.

The incomprehensible drone and tactics of trying to redefine facts is certainly tangible today.  The best fortification against such an enterprising realm of humanity is knowledge. This is why my ever so favorite forefather, John Adams, stated, “Liberty cannot be sustained without a general knowledge among the people.”

This is why the education of our children is so important in the schools and in the home. What are our children learning in school? Do we agree with what is being taught? Knowledge is power. Are we discussing the foundation of our country with our children? They are never too young. Never. Keep a copy of the Constitution in your pocket, in your purse, on your kitchen table, on your phone. Pull it out; discuss the relevancy in regard to today’s events and news topics. Relish in the awe that such a document written over 200 years ago still holds within its words the guidance we need today.

Discuss how the rights that are embossed in the papers are ingrained in our American spirits.

Why? Because they were Providentially inspired. The United States Constitution was the springboard from which leapt the giant, transformational inspirations of justice, liberty and human dignity. We need it to preserve these God given attributes today. If we toss it aside like an old sock, then we toss aside our rights. With the Constitution’s demise we, as a country, as a free people, die.

Our United State’s Constitution is the world’s oldest Constitution still in use today – for good reason. Let’s keep it that way.

I thank you for joining us today and I thank Mr. Troy Kickler for his insightful essay!

God Bless,

Janine Turner

Thursday, July 29th, 2010


“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.”Article II, Section 2, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution.

Hello from Mt. Vernon Virginia!  In Federalist No. 67, Publius vigorously defends the above sentence in the U.S. Constitution, and uses the anti-federalists’ arguments against it as an example of their distortion of the powers of the presidency.

It is appropriate I should be writing from Mt. Vernon, Virginia today, as President George Washington made the first use of the power of the recess appointment in 1789, to fill several federal district court judgeships.  On July 1, 1795 President Washington made a recess appointment to appoint John Rutledge as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, upon Chief Justice John Jay’s resignation to become Governor of New York.   Within 15 days of Chief Justice Rutledge’s recess appointment, Rutledge made a controversial speech attacking the Jay Treaty, saying he would rather see President Washington die, than sign the treaty! Chief Justice Rutledge’s tirade led many to believe he was mentally ill or intoxicated when he made the speech.  (for more on this story, see my source:, page 17).

Consequently, when Chief Justice Rutledge was nominated by President Washington for a full life term in December of 1795, Rutledge’s nomination was rejected by the Senate five days later by a vote of 10-14,  making him the shortest serving Chief Justice in United States History!

From the moment of its inception, the United States Constitution went to work. The checks and balances and separation of powers delineated in this great document provided boundaries even on our first and revered President, George Washington.  Imagine if the 24 hour news cycle had existed in President Washington’s time.  The story of Chief Justice Rutledge would have been covered non-stop, and his speech would have certainly been all over You Tube!  But despite the difference in technology, and the span of hundreds of years, our United States Constitution works much the same today as it worked at the time of its birth, like gears in a machine, steadily providing a check to one branch, and then another, with our liberty delicately balanced.

To the extent that one branch goes too far, and encroaches on another, or provides a check where none should be, it is not a failure of the machine, it is a failure of the energy behind the machine – “We the people.”   Our knowledge is power, and our power translated to action is energy!

Thank you Troy Kickler for your brilliant essay, and your continued participation in our 90 in 90 History Holds the Key to the Future project.

And thank you to our fellow Patriots and “guardians of the Constitution,” (Federalist No. 16) for participating in our blog!

On to Federalist No. 68,

Cathy Gillespie

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Guest Essayist: Troy Kickler, Founding Director of the North Carolina History Project.

Among the 85 essays in The Federalist Papers, some of the most passionate language is in Federalist 67.  A frustrated Alexander Hamilton admits that moderation in tone in writing #67 had been a difficult task.  He denounces “writers against the Constitution” (now called Antifederalists) and accuses them of practicing “unwarrantable arts” that include disingenuousness regarding executive power and offering counterfeit information to prey on the American people and their fear of monarchy.

He specifically calls out Cato (probably former New York Governor George Clinton) and provides a lengthy, detailed explanation of the nomination and appointments and recess appointments clauses in Article 2, Section 2.   In essence, Federalist 67 has two purposes: reprimand the critics of the Constitution and explain the constitutional limitations placed on executive power.

Hamilton writes with so much verve and occasional sting—and he admits as much in the last paragraph–that it is worth including a lengthy quote: “Calculating upon the aversion of the people to monarchy, they [Antifederalists] have endeavored to enlist all their jealousies and apprehensions in opposition to the intended President of the United States; not merely as an embryo, but as the full-grown progeny. The authorities of a magistrate, in few instances greater, in some instances less, than those of a governor of New York [here Hamilton seems to know Cato’s identity], have been magnified into more than royal prerogatives. He has been decorated with attributes superior in dignity and splendor to those of a king of Great Britain. He has been shown to us with the diadem sparkling on his brow and the imperial purple flowing in his train. He has been seated on a throne surrounded with minions and mistresses, giving audience to the envoys of foreign potentates, in all the supercilious pomp of majesty. The images of Asiatic despotism and voluptuousness have scarcely been wanting to crown the exaggerated scene. We have been taught to tremble at the terrific visages of murdering janizaries, and to blush at the unveiled mysteries of a future seraglio.”

After rebuking Antifederals, Hamilton clarifies Article 2, Section 2 and hopes to prove that, without a doubt, State legislatures—not the President–fill Senate vacancies.  Hamilton writes that only temporary appointments, including ambassadors and justices, would be made in special circumstances such as recess of the U.S. Senate.  This clearly excluded, Hamilton writes, presidential appointments of U.S. Senators.  He then refers back to Article 1, Section 3 which guaranteed States the authority to fill permanent vacancies in the Senate.  (This was changed, however, with the passage of the 17th Amendment–popular election of Senators).

Hamilton rightly criticized Cato for misinterpreting Article 2, Section 2.  Cato, however, included the recession appointment clause in his Letter #5 (Hamilton refers to this essay in Federalist 67) as a means to argue for annual Congressional elections.  In it, Cato recalled similar ideas expressed by Algernon Sidney (1623-1683), author of Discourses Concerning Politics, and Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755), an Enlightenment thinker who articulated the separation of powers doctrine.  Cato believed, in short, that annual elections eliminated a need for the recess appointment clause.

But back to Hamilton’s points.  Article 2, Section 2 reveals the Framers’ fear of congressional despotism and serves as a check, alluded Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in Freytag v. Commissioner (1991).  This provision helped identify the source of temporary appointments of U.S. officers and avoided the possibility of legislative machinations.  As James Wilson, a leading Pennsylvania Federalist, legal scholar, and one of the first U.S. Supreme Court justices writes, in Lectures on Law (1790-92):  “The person who nominates or makes appointments to offices, should be known. . . No constitutional stalking horse should be provided for him to conceal his turnings and windings, when they are too dark and too crooked to be exposed to publick view.”  Simply put, Article 2, Section 2 ensures that Americans know who is responsible for nominating appointments described within the provision.

It must be remembered that the President nominated, but Congress approved the nomination.  Presidents have sometimes evaded this procedure, to be sure, by creating positions not listed in the provision.  Grover Cleveland did so in 1893, when appointing James H. Blount to report on the Hawaiian Revolution.  Hamilton argues in Federalist 67 that presidents do not confirm the officers listed in Article 2, Section 2. As James Iredell, a leading North Carolina Federalist reminded delegates at his state’s ratification convention, “The President proposes such a man for such an office.  The Senate has to consider upon it.  If they think him improper, the President must nominate another, whose appointment ultimately again depends upon the Senate.”  History has provided examples of implementing this governmental check: approximately 20% of Supreme Court nominations have NOT been confirmed, to name only one example.

Although Hamilton uses an accusatory tone, all involved in the ratification debates were concerned with defending liberty.  The debates prompted a more clear explanation of the Constitution’s checks and balances and limits on governmental power.  We can be thankful for that.

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Troy Kickler is Founding Director of the North Carolina History Project.