How Many Executive Orders Have There Been?

How Many Executive Orders Have There Been?

( – Executive orders allow the president to create federal directives without waiting for approval in Congress. This allows leadership to bypass the typical red tape associated with processing new laws or actions. While each president has their own individual motivations for signing executive orders, many sign hundreds, if not thousands, during their time in office. This makes the total number signed in the history of America extremely high.

Number of Executive Orders

Technically there’s no exact number of the total executive orders issued by all presidents because they weren’t numbered until 1936. It’s difficult to even estimate the total for this reason. However, we can talk about individual numbers for each president.

The only president who failed to issue a single executive order was William Henry Harrison, who famously became ill at his inauguration. He remained in office for just a month. Harrison didn’t really have a chance to issue any.

The most executive orders came from Franklin Roosevelt, who issued a total of 3,721 during his time in the White House. Most were a part of his New Deal plan. However, it’s important to note that Roosevelt was also the only president in history to serve more than two terms. This gave him additional time to consider federal directives.

Other presidents with high numbers of directives include:

  • Woodrow Wilson (1,803)
  • Calvin Coolidge (1,203)
  • Theodore Roosevelt (1,081)
  •  Herbert Hoover (968)

Until President Theodore Roosevelt stepped into office, the highest number of executive orders came from Ulysses S. Grant, with a total of 217. Looking toward more recent presidencies, George W. Bush scores the highest with 291 and Barack Obama comes in fairly close with a total of 276. Donald Trump signed a modest 220 in comparison.

Notable Executive Orders

The first executive order on record came from the first president, George Washington, in June 1789. It required heads of executive departments to submit operation reports.

The most famous directive was arguably the Emancipation Proclamation. Abraham Lincoln used it to free slaves within the Confederacy. This also allowed for the freedom of southern slaves who managed to escape and travel north.

Finally, there’s the executive order from Harry Truman in 1948. It desegregated the military at a time when most military troops trained and worked in units separated by race. This directive effectively ended racial segregation within the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

Executive orders are often controversial because they come from only one branch of the government without approval of the other two. However, there’s a checks and balances system in place that does allow for legal reviews and revocation by Congress. Despite some objections, it’s hard to argue the positive impact many of these directives have had on the country.

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