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The Law Presidential Power and Foreign Affairs in the Bush Administration: The Use and Abuse of Alexander Hamilton


  • AUTHOR'S NOTE: I am indebted to the History and Social Science Research Council of Idaho State University for a generous research grant. Thanks to Nick Swisher for his excellent assistance in the preparation of this article, and to Lou Fisher for his very thoughtful review and insightful suggestions.

David Gray Adler is Director of the James and Louise McClure Center for Public Policy, and Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Idaho. He has published numerous works on the Constitution and presidential power.


Alexander Hamilton's writings, virtually alone among the framers, were invoked by President George W. Bush and his legal advisors as the cornerstone of the administration's assertions of sweeping executive powers in the areas of war and peace and national security. The Bush administration's conscription of Hamilton to justify its soaring claims of presidential power, however, represents a distortion and abuse of his views of the latter president's views, particularly those expressed in The Federalist Papers. With the loss of Hamilton as an intellectual pillar, President Bush's theory of a plenary executive power finds no support among the framers. Analysis of Hamilton's writings will repair his undeserved reputation as an apologist for expansive executive powers.