The Presidency and the Cabinet

Ben Franklin
Benjamin Franklin, delegate from Pennsylvania

Louis S. Glanzman

The Presidency and the Cabinet

" [Doctor Franklin ] thought a Council would not only be a check on a bad President but be a relief to a good one."

- James Madison's Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention

The convention resumed consideration of the Presidency. On a motion of Randolph (VA) and another of Madison (VA) and Morris (PA), the Legislature was authorized to declare by law who would serve as President if the President and Vice President were dead or disqualified. The Convention decided that when the House elected the President, a quorum would be a member or members from three fourths of the states, and election would require a majority of the delegations of all the states. Requirements that the president be thirty-five, a natural born citizen and resident for 14 years, passed without opposition.

Mason (VA) renewed his motion for a Council to advise the President. Franklin seconded. Wilson (PA), Dickinson (DE) and Madison (VA) favored the motion, while Morris thought a Council would be useless. The motion lost.

The departments of the Federal Government and the Secretaries who direct them and advise the President are provided for in one brief clause of the Constitution: "...he [the President] may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices ..."

This clause was adopted without substantive debate. If any of the delegates had questions about what departments there should be, or the responsibilities of their principal officers, or whether they should meet with the President periodically and so forth, they did not ask. It would be up to Congress to create departments and President Washington to decide how to use them.

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Saturday, September 8, 1787
Impeachments and Final Form

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Last updated: February 26, 2015

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