Thursday 9 September 2010


Article II Section 2 of the US Constitution says that the President "shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States..."

This blog has recently discussed consent - in the form of confirmations. {see also June 11th 2010) - but what about advice?

In August 1789 (during the first session of the First Congress) the President came to the Senate chamber in person to seek the advice of the 22 Senators on the terms of a treaty to be negotiated with the southern Indians. He posed a series of questions which he expected the Senators to work with him on reaching some answers. Both the Senate and the President were disappointed with the day's work. It was a hot day - and in order to keep the temperature in the room down the windows were open - allowing outside noise to make listening difficult. Senators were concerned about relying purely on the information that the President had permitted. One account says "But because the senators felt uncomfortable discussing these matters in the imposing presence of George Washington, they decided instead to refer the questions to a committee for further study. “This defeats every purpose of my coming here!” Washington exclaimed."

It was the first and last time that the President came in person to the Senate to seek advice in person.

Senate Historian Donald Ritchie explained what happened on a C-SPAN Q & A programme