Milkis and Nelson state that The American Presidency was the first comprehensive one volume history of the presidency. They focus primarily upon the institution of the presidency itself. Meanwhile, the executive power issue in chapter two “creating the presidency,” Milkis and Nelson quote Charles Thatch as having written in 1922 that “the executive article fairly bristles with contentious matter. ” Not until it was seen what decision was given to these contentions, would it be possible to say “just what the national executive meant,” wrote Thatch.
Milkis and Nelson proceeded to say that it is not possible to determine from the words of the Constitution alone what were to be appropriate relations of the chief executive to the chief officers of the executive departments, or those of Congress to the executive business. Similarly, the Constitution left unclear the extent of the powers that were implied by the executive’s responsibilities in war and peace, as well as in diplomacy.
Milkis and Nelson noted that “in large measure, presidents have been able to fill the interpretive void, as presidentialists at the Constitutional Convention such as James Wilson, Gouverneur Morris, and Alexander Hamilton had hoped, but that this expansion of executive power did not come easily. On the other hand, Milkis and Nelson argue thoughtfully that Washington’s attempt to be above party was not a complete failure.
They write that his “extraordinary stature and popularity, combined with his commitment to the development of a strong and independent legislature,” was successful in restraining “party strife for as long as he was president. ” They suggest, moreover, that “Washington’s renunciation of party leadership left his successors a legacy of presidential impartiality that has never been completely eclipsed. ” Reference Milkis, S. , & Nelson, M. (1994). The American Presidency. Origins and Development 1776-1993, (2nd Ed. ) Washington, D. C. : Congressional Quarterly Press.