Get access

The Constitutional Ambitions of James Madison's Presidency



Following Richard Neustadt, scholarship on the presidency tends to focus on presidents as single-minded seekers of political power. But, precisely because of the grandness of their political stage, presidents may, in fact, have constitutional ambitions concerning not how much power they will have but how they will wield their constitutional powers. James Madison's presidency provides an important case study of a president's constitutional ambitions. Entering office with constitutional concerns about the power of the presidency relative to the other branches, Madison used his own presidency and especially the War of 1812 to model a new type of constitutional office that he thought would fit better in the system of the separation of powers.