Madeleines and Privilège de l’exécutif

French Madeleines and coffee beansThis post is part of a 2012 monthly series of posts on the topic of the U.S Constitution.

When was the last time that you considered French influence within America?

American author David McCullough recently penned an interesting book, “The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris,” that provides a historical account of how many Americans between 1830 and 1900 traveled to Paris to study in the fields of art, literature, medicine, architecture and politics and then returned to influence America with their newfound knowledge gained while in France.

Today, here in the U.S., we can see that French influence into the American political arena is still alive and well.  For example, earlier this week, President Barack Obama exercised executive privilege related to the Fast & Furious gunwalking scandal.

How was President Obama’s claim of executive privilege an example of French influence into American politics?  Well, first let’s consider the definition and origin of executive privilege.

According to Wikipedia, executive privilege is “the power claimed by the President of the United States and other members of the executive branch to resist certain subpoenas and other interventions by the legislative and judicial branches of government.”

But, does the U.S. Constitution provide for this right by the Executive Branch?  The answer is no.

Wikipedia explains that the concept of executive privilege is not explicitly stated in the Constitution but that the U.S. Supreme Court has “ruled it to be an element of the separation of powers doctrine, and/or derived from the supremacy of executive branch in its own area of Constitutional activity.” 

And, according to Wikipedia, the separation of powers is a doctrine whose origins are tied to the writings of the 18th century French Enlightenment political philosopher Montesquieu, and many of the Framers of the Constitution were influenced by Montesquieu’s writings.

So, when it comes to the President Obama’s recent exercise of the political concept of executive privilege, there is, without doubt, a historical French connection.

And, who could blame the Framers of the Constitution for being influenced by the French?  Certainly not me.

The fact that I often indulge in French Madeleines with my morning coffee reveals that I also am unable to escape l’influence de la France.  🙂



  1. I’m imsepesrd you should think of something like that

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