Birth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress 1789-1791
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    An Imperial Presidency?
An East View of Gray's Ferry, near Philadelphia, with the Triumphal Arches, &c. erected for the Reception of General Washington, April 20, 1789 , line engraving (1789) by James Trenchard
(Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

"The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America."

Article II, Section 1

The forces at the Federal Convention that were pressing for a strong federal government saw a powerful executive as an essential ingredient of the new system. When the delegates created the presidency, they knew that position would be filled by the man who presided over their deliberations: the American hero, former Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, George Washington. They knew that only Washington could unite the people behind the new government, thus giving Congress the time needed to deal with its pressing agenda and confront the many potentially divisive issues. Although the Constitution established the powers of the presidency, from the beginning Congress made decisions and established protocol that defined the presidency as a republican institution and rejected monarchical forms.

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