Chair used by Henry Clay in the U.S. Senate from 1831 to 1852

The delegates to the Constitutional Convention envisioned the relationship between the president and Congress as both cooperative and antagonistic. They struggled over how to create the proper balance. Governor Morris from Pennsylvania, summing up their challenge, stated: "Make him [the president] too weak: the Legislature will usurp his power. Make him too strong: he will usurp on the Legislature." Over the years the balance of power has shifted back and forth as strong individuals in each branch of government dominated the political arena.

Gavel presented to the Speaker of the House
After seeing their carefully crafted programs defeated, presidents must feel that at times Congress wields a gavel as large as this one. It was presented to Joseph W. Martin Jr., Speaker of the House of Representatives (1947-49 and 1953-55) by the Republican County Central Committee, San Francisco, in 1952.
"Daniel Webster Addressing the U.S. Senate on the Compromise Measures, March 7th 1850," by Eliphant Brown Jr.
Courtesty of National Portrait Gallery

Clay and Jackson cartoon
This 1834 lithograph by David Claypool Johnson shows Kentucky senator Henry Clay sewing President Andrew Jackson's mouth shut. Jackson's fight to destroy the Bank of the United States and his removal of the Treasury secretary led to the Senate's censure of Jackson for abuse of presidential power. Jackson argued that the president, as the only representative of all the people, should rule supreme. Congress did not agree.

At the heart of the debate (led by Clay, among others) was the struggle between the executive branch and the legislature over which branch should dominate the government. That struggle continues today, whichever political party is in office.

Courtesy of Library of Congress