Presidential Commissions

May 28, 1931

Report Outline
Origin and Growth of Federal Commissions
Features in Evelopment of Federal Commissions
Individual Commissioners En Foreign Relations
Post-War Development of Advisory Councils
Special Focus

Creation by the President or Congress of upwards of 30 federal commissions, committees, and boards during the Hoover administration has given rise to much discussion of the place of commissions in the federal government. This discussion has included considerable criticism of “government by commission” and has reflected some confusion of thought on the subject, owing to the indiscriminate use of the term “commission” to cover a variety of agencies differing in character, function, duration, composition, and powers. The use of commissions by President Hoover for various purposes is supposed to be an innovation in federal practice, although research discloses that 492 commissions and similar bodies were established during the period from the time President Roosevelt succeeded to office in 1901 to the end of President Coolidge's term in 1929—an average of more than 60 in each administration of the twentieth century.

The Hoover commissions have been defended, on the one hand, as involving a scientific approach to the solution of perplexing public problems; they have been criticized, on the other, as a convenient device for dodging issues. Public debate as to the merits of the commission method came to a head with the prohibition report of the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement, the different interpretations of the findings and recommendations made by the members of the commission, and the construction placed upon the report by the President in transmitting it to Congress. Questions arose whether investigating commissions should confine themselves to fact-finding or should also be free to interpret their findings and propose changes in governmental policy; and whether, in the latter event, the executive ought to adopt the recommendations of his agency or should be at liberty to dissent from its proposals of policy.

In the light of this discussion and of President Hoover's continuing reliance upon the commission method, this report will seek to analyze the nature and uses of federal advisory commissions and to appraise their significance in the American scheme of government.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Executive Powers and the Presidency
Feb. 24, 2006  Presidential Power
Nov. 15, 2002  Presidential Power
Feb. 02, 2001  The Bush Presidency
Jun. 20, 1997  Line-Item Veto
Jun. 14, 1996  First Ladies
Oct. 21, 1988  Dangers in Presidential Transitions
Jun. 10, 1988  The Quandary of Being Vice President
Jan. 06, 1984  Presidential Advisory Commissions
Jul. 28, 1978  Presidential Popularity
Feb. 13, 1976  Evaluating Presidential Performance
Dec. 12, 1975  Presidential Protection
Jul. 11, 1973  Presidential Reorganization
Mar. 07, 1973  Presidential Accountability
Sep. 24, 1971  Presidential Diplomacy
Nov. 11, 1970  Vice Presidency
Oct. 02, 1968  Presidential Power
Mar. 14, 1966  War Powers of the President
Nov. 23, 1960  Transfer of Executive Power
Apr. 04, 1956  Vice Presidency
Oct. 15, 1952  Change of Presidents
Jun. 09, 1950  President and Mid-Term Elections
Oct. 20, 1948  Federal Patronage
Mar. 24, 1948  The South and the Presidency
Dec. 05, 1947  Military Leaders and the Presidency
Apr. 16, 1947  Veto Power of the President
Sep. 20, 1945  Succession to the Presidency
Sep. 12, 1940  The War Powers of the President
Feb. 11, 1938  Emergency Powers of the President
Jan. 06, 1938  The Power to Declare War
Dec. 28, 1937  Extension of the Veto Power
Dec. 28, 1936  Limitation of the President's Tenure
Mar. 12, 1935  The President and the Congress
Dec. 16, 1932  The Veto Power of the President
May 28, 1931  Presidential Commissions
Oct. 23, 1928  Presidential Appointments and the Senate
Mar. 21, 1928  Business Conditions in Presidential Years
Jan. 20, 1927  The Monroe Doctrine
Mar. 18, 1925  The President's Power of Appointment
Sep. 10, 1923  The President's Position on Patronage
Powers and History of the Presidency