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Article
Alexander Hamilton on Executive Authority
Ilan Wurman
63 American Journal of Legal History 251 (2023)
 
Open Access

Abstract:

The ‘residuum’ theory of executive power maintains that Article II’s Vesting Clause grants to the president of the United States a residuum of royal prerogative powers that have not been assigned to other departments of the national government or otherwise limited elsewhere in the text of the Constitution. This theory is often traced to Alexander Hamilton’s Pacificus essay, in which he defended President Washington’s proclamation of neutrality with a version of that theory. Two years earlier, however, in his opinion on the constitutionality of the Bank of the United States, Hamilton appears to have rejected the residuum theory; at a minimum, he had incentive to propound that theory but did not do so. Although not the only possible way to interpret Hamilton’s opinion, scholars of executive power must contend with this possibility before concluding that Hamilton believed in a residual vesting of prerogative powers.
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