Contributors to this series of articles have shown that executive branch of the United States government, cheered on by Congress and the Supreme Court and abetted by what has become a fourth branch of government—the federal bureaucracy or administrative state—has for some time almost routinely overridden the separation of powers the Framers designed for the protection of American rights. In The Federalist, Publius had argued that the Constitution itself amounts to a bill of rights, preventing the usurpation of powers by the executive by giving the legislative and judicial branches powerful incentives to resist such encroachment.
Properly used, executive orders form an indispensable part of any government, including our own. If Congress passes a law and the president signs it, the president undertakes a Constitutional obligation to execute the law. In so doing, he is likely to need to tell his administrators what to do and, at least to some extent, how and when to do it. Thus the president is constitutionally obligated to enforce immigration law and is fully entitled to issue executive orders in the course of fulfilling that obligation.
In late January 1904 the president of Princeton University stepped to the podium of The Outlook Club in Montclair, New Jersey. Today, university presidents get into the news when some scandal erupts, but at the beginning of the last century they often enjoyed the status of what we now call “public intellectuals”—frequently quoted in the newspapers on the issues of the day, looked to for solutions to economic and social problems. Nicholas Murray Butler at Columbia, Charles William Elliot at Harvard, and Arthur Twining Hadley at Yale were well-respected national figures. The Outlook Club was exactly the platform for such a person; possibly named after The Outlook, a prominent magazine featuring literary and political commentary associated with the several “reform” movements of the day, the Club afforded its speakers an audience of university-educated civic leaders who used their influence to promote “good government”—by which they first intended government free of corruption and of the party “bosses” associated with it, but which would soon coalesce into something still more ambitious: Progressivism.