Alexander Hamilton, Alexis de Tocqueville, and the American Presidency


  • Matthew Chopp Occidental College


Alexander Hamilton and Alexis de Tocqueville are two of the most distinguished commentators on American democracy. In their writings, each man evaluated the American constitutional system and, more specifically, the American presidency. Most previous scholarship on their understanding of the American executive treats them individually; or, if compared to another thinker, they are not compared to one another. Since both men are still relied on by politicians, judges and the American public as authorities on American democracy, this essay examines the similarities and differences in their views on the American presidency. Specifically, I argue that Hamilton and Tocqueville understood presidential power similarly as both believed the president had implied powers and that the president must be a single person. However, the two thinkers viewed executive power differently as Hamilton thought the president should be eligible for re-election and did not have enough power, while Tocqueville believed the president should not be eligible for re-election and that the American presidency contained enough power. In doing so, I illuminate the complexities of their views on the executive and provide the reader with insight into the way two profound thinkers understood the proper role of the American executive.


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