Imperial Presidency


Andrew Jackson

1829 - 1837

Set the precedent fro the concept of a strong chief executive. Built the first modern political-party with a spoils system and patronage jobs, which allowed him to appeal directly to the public and circumvent elected representatives.


1861 - 1865

Built on Andrew Jackson's model by using political patronage.

Woodrow Wilson

1913 - 1921

Followed Theodore Roosevelt by pursuing more foreign-policy objectives. Woodrow Wilson became the first president to propose and draft legislation.

Franklin Roosevelt

1933 - 1945

Reshaped presidential power to fit modern times.


1945 - 1953

In 1952 when a court ruled against presidential power, the Supreme Court ruled that Truman had no legitimate power to nationalize steel mills during the Korean War


1953 - 1961

With Eisenhower, Congress continued to defer and the president grew more involved in global affairs


1961 - 1963

Kennedy asserted that he had full authority as commander-in-chief to take military action.

Lyndon Johnson

1963 - 1969

The run of unchallenged imperial presidency power ended during Johnson's administration


1969 - 1974


1981 - 1989

Democrats fought the president's efforts to spend more on defense without raising taxes

George H. W. Bush

1989 - 1993

Increased partisanship and an assertive Congress battled the administration


1993 - 2001

Fought a Republican majority in Congress, but was impeached because of the scandals surrounding his personal behavior

George W. Bush

2001 - 2009

Entered office in a time when presidential clout was on the wane. Bush was the leader of the first unified Republican government in half a century. Tried to rekindle the imperial presidency by battling Congress over war powers and advocating aggressive use of power.


2009 - 2017


American Civil War

1861 - 1865

During the Civil War, Lincoln asserted that the president was entitled to assume “war power” and did not need specific constitutional authority to act at home or on foreign soil.

Spanish-American War


Roosevelt adopted the imperial president model after the Spanish-American War led the US to pursue more foreign policy objectives.

World War 1

1914 - 1918

Congress granted Woodrow Wilson expanded war powers during World War 1

The Great Depression

1929 - 1939

Roosevelt won huge victories as Congress ceded authority in fiscal policy, banking, housing, and agriculture during the Great Depression.

Emergency Banking Relief Act


The Emergency Banking Act was presented during the "Bank Holiday." Roosevelt helped reopened banks that were solvent and assisted those that were not, ending the bank crisis. It gave the president the ability to control over the national finances and foreign exchange during an emergency.

World War Two

1939 - 1945

During WW2, Roosevelt gained unprecedented emergency authority to dispense economic relief and to pan military actions.

Hirabayashi v. United States


The Supreme Court upheld Roosevelt's Executive Order, which led to curfews against members of a minority group

Korematsu v. United States


The Supreme Court applied the strict scrutiny standard to racial discrimination by the government and held that the government met that standard.

The Cold War

1947 - 1991

Since the Cold War, Congress has been working to decrease the president's power partly by blocking him from assembling permanent working majorities in either the House or Senate

Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer


Limited the power of the president (Truman at the time) to seize private property in the absence of either specifically enumerated authority

1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution


Gave Johnson de facto power to fight in Vietnam, but Congress still refused to accept the decision to send troops

1973 War Powers Resolution


Forced the president to obtain congressional blessing for extended military engagements

Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities


Established by the U.S. Senate and looked into the events surrounding Watergate. It was the most dramatic check on the president exercised by Congress when it began impeachment proceedings against Nixon

1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act


Gave Congress its own economic forecasts and deficit estimates, which sometimes challenged the White House.
The imperial presidency starts to decline around here.

Iran-Contra Affair

1985 - 1987

Congress use investigations and inquiries to assert its power and undercut the president. It greatly diminished Reagan's public standing and ended his conservative revolution.

Patriot Act


Gives the president increased powers to wiretap suspected terrorists without judicial supervision. Possibly violates the Fourth Amendment, which makes it very controversial

September 11 Attacks


After the terrorist attacks, George W. Bush used an almost “top-down” management style that envisioned minimal consultation with Congress - viewed as an attempt to re-establish the imperial presidency that prevailed during WW2 and the Cold War

Iraq War Resolution


Authorized George W. Bush to use the military "as he determines to be necessary and appropriate" in order to "defend... the United States against... Iraq"

Hamdi v. Rumsfeld


The Supreme Court ruled that the executive branch does not have the power to indefinitely hold citizen without basic due process protections enforceable through judicial review.