What did the Founding Fathers say about energy in the executive? Hamilton sees a strong executive as crucial to the success of the nascent country. In Federalist No. 70, he says, “A feeble Executive implies a feeble execution of the government. A feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution; a government ill executed, whatever it may be in theory, must be, in practice, a bad government.” He argues that any government with a feeble executive, lacking executive energy, will not have the necessary power, interest, or freedom to effectively protect the nation against foreign threats and those posed by competing factions and anarchists.
Hamilton writes that energy in the executive is, among other things, “essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks; it is not less essential to the steady administration of the laws; to the protection of property against those irregular and high-handed combinations which sometimes interrupt the ordinary course of justice; to the security of liberty against the enterprises and assaults of ambition, of faction, and of anarchy.”
Hamilton and Madison support the notion that the legislature must be broadly enough constructed to adequately represent the people, provide serious deliberation, and ensure faction checks faction. Hamilton explains the executive function is different, arguing for unitary executive power. A president must reach decisions quickly, have the freedom to move forcefully, and maintain secrecy in state matters. He writes in Federalist No. 70 that “Decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch will generally characterize the proceedings of one man in a much more eminent degree than the proceedings of any greater number.” Having more than one executive limits those traits in the office. A singular executive provides transparency when it comes to evaluating performance. A plural executive diminishes the people’s power in that one cannot easily place responsibility on any particular member of the executive.
What do Washington and Hamilton have in mind for his successors? They know they will be his inferiors. And they see the rise of parties and sense, perhaps, the dissolution of the Federalist Party and its deterioration into the New England junto. They cannot compete with the rhetoric and drive of the Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans.
It is not the time for the nascent country to now, or perhaps ever, take a strident and aggressive stance in world affairs. The president should employ a gentle touch forcing nothing. The revolutionary must now be a peacetime leader. The people, and by extension the president, must be both religious and moral. Aware of his duty and not overly ambitious, in speaking of his own presidency, Washington says, “I have been guided by the principles which have been delineated, the public records and other evidence of my conduct must witness to you and to the world. To myself, the assurance of my own conscience is, that I have at least believed myself to be guided by them.” Washington makes the case that the next and subsequent presidents should have the qualities of ... a George Washington.