Presidential Advisers


The Cabinet

The authority in Article II, § 2, cl. 1 to require the written opinion of the heads of executive departments is the meager residue from a persistent effort in the Federal Convention to impose a council on the President.230 The idea ultimately failed, partly because of the diversity of ideas concerning the council’s make-up. One member wished it to consist of “members of the two houses,” another wished it to comprise two representatives from each of three sections, “with a rotation and duration of office similar to those of the Senate.” The proposal with the strongest backing was that it should consist of the heads of departments and the Chief Justice, who should preside when the President was absent. Of this proposal the only part to survive was the above cited provision. The consultative relation here contemplated is an entirely one-sided affair, is to be conducted with each principal officer separately and in writing, and is to relate only to the duties of their respective offices.231 The Cabinet, as we know it today, that is to say, the Cabinet meeting, was brought about solely on the initiative of the first President,232 and may be dispensed with on presidential initiative at any time, being totally unknown to the Constitution. Several Presidents have in fact reduced the Cabinet meeting to little more than a ceremony with social trimmings.233

230 1 M. FARRAND, THE RECORDS OF THE FEDERAL CONVENTION OF 1787 70, 97, 110 (rev. ed. 1937); 2 id. at 285, 328, 335-37, 367, 537-42. Debate on the issue in the Convention is reviewed in C. THACH, THE CREATION OF THE PRESIDENCY 1775-1789 82, 83, 84, 85, 109, 126 (1923).

231 E. Corwin, supra at 82.


233 E. Corwin, supra at 19, 61, 79-85, 211, 295-99, 312, 320-23, 490-93.

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Last modified: October 23, 2012