An executive order is one of the most commonly used form of administrative action taken by the President of the United States. It is where an order or directive is given and signed into law by the president, regarding the management of the U.S. government. Executive orders are generally used by presidents to influence U.S. laws and the administration of the country, without the need for a vote in Congress or the Supreme Court; although these orders are subject to judicial review, and can be challenged by the courts or another branch of government. If deemed unlawful or unconstitutional, the order will be revoked or cancelled, and a president may also revoke, cancel or amend any executive order that they, or any other presidents, have made. The U.S.’ first 25 presidents signed a combined total of 1,262 executive orders in roughly 112 years, averaging at around 12 per year, however there was a large increase in the number of orders issued in the first half of the twentieth century. Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th U.S. president, was the first to issue more than one thousand executive orders alone; while Woodrow Wilson, who was in office during the First World War, signed more than 1,800.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
The president who signed the most executive orders was Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), who, during his twelve years in office, signed more than a quarter of all executive orders ever published. While FDR did serve over four years more than any other president, he still issued the highest number of average annual executive orders, with over three hundred per year. FDR was in office throughout most of the Second World War, although the majority of these orders came in his earlier years in office (more than a thousand orders were signed in 1933 and 1934), as he used his New Deal policies to lead the U.S. through its economic recovery from the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s most controversial order, however, did relate to the Second World War; this was Order 9066, which saw approximately 120,000 people of Japanese descent, and almost 15,000 ethnic Germans and Italians, interned in concentration camps for almost three years.
Arguably, the most famous and well known executive order was Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation** in 1862, which changed the legal status of all enslaved people in the Confederate states during the Civil War, and declared them free in the eyes of the Union. A number of other orders also marked notable milestones in African-American civil rights; including the desegregation of the U.S. military by President Truman in 1948, and the desegregation of public schools by President Eisenhower in 1957. While the number of orders issued by presidents has decreased since the Eisenhower administration, recent presidents have generally issued between 100 and 200 orders during each term. Examples of more controversial orders from recent years include George W. Bush’s Order 13233, which tightened restrictions on the accessibility of former U.S. presidents’ records, and Donald Trump’s Order 13769, which placed travel bans on citizens from a number of Muslim-majority countries; Bush’s Order was eventually revoked by Barack Obama the day after his inauguration, while Trump’s travel ban was one of many executive orders repealed by Joe Biden on his first day in office.
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