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Article 2 Overview

Article 2 Of The Constitution

Article 2 of the Constitution concerns the executive branch of the American Government. The Article both assigns powers to the executive branch and determines exactly how the executive branch is formed. The executive branch primarily takes the form of the President and the Vice President, though there are also the Government officials who make up the Cabinet, which is described under Article 2.

Second Article of the Constitution


Article 2 bears particular significance, in that the Article was designed to limit the powers of the executive branch somewhat, in comparison to other executive branches throughout history. Article 2 was meant to establish the President of the United States as a different kind of government official than a king. The Article was also imperfect, as was anticipated by the Founding Fathers. It has been altered on multiple occasions when some flaw was discovered within the terms set out by Article 2.

For example, the Twelfth Amendment was a direct attempt to alter the election procedures listed under Article 2 into a more functional form. The Twenty-Fifth Amendment was similarly an attempt to modify the system of succession established in Article 2. Originally, in Article 2, if the President were to become unable to fulfill his duties, the Vice-President would become the President. But the Twenty-Fifth Amendment establishes a much more clearly defined hierarchy and also ensures that other officers of the Government can remove the President from power in the event that he is unable to fulfill his duty.

These changes are highly significant to the overall functioning of the Second Article, as they ensure that this branch of Government remains capable of performing its duties while still within the limits and restrictions of the Constitution. For more information about the basic elements of the Second Article of the Constitution, click the link.

Executive Powers and Vesting Clause

The vesting clause of the Second Article of the Constitution gives power to the President of the United States. The clause is different from the vesting clauses of the other Articles in the Constitution, as it vests power into a single individual, as opposed to a body of individuals. The powers vested in the President include the power to command the military of the United States, the power to have the Cabinet report to him or her directly, the power to grant pardons, the power to ratify treaties, the power to appoint some public officials, and the power to make recess appointments.

Each of these powers is limited in some ways in order to prevent the abuse of such powers by the President. For example, thought the President is Commander-in-Chief of the United States military, he or she cannot declare war without the approval of Congress. Similarly, the President cannot use his power of pardoning to pardon himself or any others in instances of impeachment. These limits on the powers granted to the President are in line with the basic purpose of the Constitution as a whole and the nature of the vesting clause as it fits within that nature.

The powers vested in the President are given by the people of the United States, and as such, they are limited, ensuring that the President can only use those powers for the benefit of the people. To find out more about the vesting clause and the executive powers it grants to the President, follow the link.

Election of President and Vice President

The procedures for the election of the President and the Vice President are outlined in Article 2. The primary system of significance for these elections is the Electoral College, as the Electoral College system determines exactly how votes from individual citizens are processed into votes for the President or the Vice President. The system has been modified somewhat, over the years, as with the Twelfth Amendment, which made electors in the Electoral College actually vote for a President and a Vice President, instead of simply voting twice for Presidential candidates.

The election of the President and the Vice President by the Electoral College must happen on a single day, as defined by Article 2, though the elections of electors to the Electoral College is not bound by the same rule. Furthermore, Article 2 defines certain criteria which every Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidate must fulfill in order to run. To learn more about this basic information concerning the election of the President and the Vice-President, click the link.

Electoral College

The Electoral College was the system put in place to elect the President without having a direct election. The Electoral College functions by having a number of electors from each State, elected in a fashion determined by each State’s Legislature, who then come together on a single date to vote for the President and Vice President. These electors are normally elected through a popular vote of the residents of that State, and as such, in theory will vote for the candidates who are most popular within a given State. For instance, if the majority of voters in New Jersey vote for Mr. Smith over Mr. Gray, then the electors who are sent to the Electoral College from New Jersey will be those electors who pledged to vote for Mr. Smith, and not Mr. Gray. The Electoral College is, therefore, an indirect voting system, as no citizen ever votes directly for the President or the Vice President except for the electors.

The purposes of implementing an indirect voting system were numerous and varied in the Founding Fathers’ conception, as they both involved the practical difficulties of having a direct election for the President and the worries of many Founding Fathers concerning the tyranny of the majority. This system has required a number of modifications over the years, but still remains fundamentally the same as the original system established in Article 2.

It is not a system without its flaws, however. Those changes that were made to the system were made because of problems that arose out of its original form, and though those problems will not arise again, there are always additional problems that might arise. Furthermore, many have criticized the Electoral College for disfavoring the majority of citizens and shifting focus onto a number of important “swing states” instead of all the states of America in terms of elections. Indeed, there have been a number of elections in which the candidate who won the popular vote did not win the Presidency, though the reasons differed somewhat each time, but were all, ultimately, attributable to the Electoral College. For more information about the Electoral College, how it functions, and how it is criticized, click the link.

NEXT: Election of 1800

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