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cretion of any one of them. But an absolute prohibition of all these powers n ight, in certain exigencies, be inexpedient, and even mischievous ; and, therefore, Congress may, by their consent, authorize the exercise of
of them, whenever, in their judgement, the public good shall require it.
§ 249. We have thus passed through the positive prohibitions introduced upon the powers of the States. It will be observed, that they divide themselves into two classes ; those, which are political in their character, as an exercise of sovereignty ; and those, which more especially regard the private rights of individuals. In the latter, the prohibition is absolute and universal. In the former, it is sometimes absolute, and sometimes subjected to the consent of Congress. It will, at once, be perceived, how full of difficulty and delicacy the task was, to reconcile the jealous tenacity of the States over their own sovereignty, with the permanent security of the National Government, and the inviolability of private rights. The task has been accomplished with eminent success.
If every thing has not been accomplished, which a wise forecast might have deemed proper for the preservation of our national rights and liberties in all political events, much has been done to guard us against the most obvious evils, and to secure a wholesome administration of private justice. To have attempted more, would probably have endangered the whole fabric ; and thus might have perpetuated the dominion of misrule and imbecility.
$ 250. It has been already seen, and it will hereafter more fully appear, that there are implied, as well as exa press, prohibitions in the Constitution upon the power of the States. Among the former, one clearly is, that no State can control, or abridge, or interfere with the exercise of any authority under the National Government And it may be added, that State laws, as, for instance, State statutes of limitations, and State insolvent laws, have no operation upon the rights or contracts of the United States.
§ 251. And here end our commentaries upon the first article of the Constitution, embracing the organization
and puwers of the Legislative department of the goverus ment, and the prohibitions upon the State and National Governments. If we here pause, but for a moment, we cannot but be struck with the reflection, how admirably this division and distribution of legislative powers between the State and National Governments is adapted to preserve of the liberty, and to promote the happiness of the people of the United States. To the General Government are assigned all those powers, which relate to the cominon interests of all the States, as comprising one confederated nation ; while to each State is reserved all those powers, which may affect, or promote its own domestic interests, its peace, its prosperity, its policy, and its local institutions. At the same time, such limitations and restraints are imposed upon each government, as experience has demonstrated to be wise to control any public functionaries, or as are indispensable to secure the harmonious operations of the Union.
252. We next come to the second article of thu Constitution, which prescribes the structure, organization, and powers of the Executive department. What is the best constitution for the executive department, and what are the powers, with which it should be intrusted, are problems among the most important, and probably the most difficult to be satisfactorily solved, of all, which are involved in the theory of free governments. No man, who has ever studied the subject with profound attention, has risen from the labor without an increased and almost overwhelming sense of its intricate relations, and perplexing doubts. No man, who has ever deeply read the human history, and especially the history of republics, but has been struck with the consciousness, how little has been hitherto done to establish a safe depositary of power
20 any hands; and how often, in the hands of one, or a few, or many,--of an hereditary monarch, or an elective chief, or a national council, the executive power has brouglit ruin upon the state, or sunk under the oppressive burden of ts own imbecility. Perhaps our own history has not, as yet, established, that we shall wholly escape all the dangers ; and that here will not be found, as has been the case in other nations, the vulnerable part of the republic.
$ 253. The first clause of the first section is, “The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years ; and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same term, be elected as fol
$ 254. In considering this clause, three practical questions may arise ; (1) whether there should be any executive department; (2) whether it should be composed of more than one person ; (3) and what should be the duration of the term of office. Upon the first question, little need now be said, to establish the propriety of an executive department. It is founded upon a maxim admitted in all our State Constitutions, that the legislative, executive, and judicial departments ought to be kept separate, and the power of one ought not to be exercised by either of the others. The want of an executive department was felt as a great defect under the Confederation.
§ 255. In the next place, in what manner should the executive department be organized ? It may, in general terms, be answered,—In such a manner as best to secure energy in the Executive, and safety to the people. A feeble Executive implies a feeble execution of the gove ernment ; and a feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution. Unity in the Executive is favorable to energy, promptitude, and responsibility. A division of the power among several persons impairs each of these qualities ; and introduces discord, intrigue, dilatoriness, and, not unfrequently, personal rivalries, incompatible with the public good. On the other hand, a single Executive is quite as safe for the people. His responsibility is mord
direct and efficient, as his measures cannot be disguised, or shifted upon others; and any abuse of authority car be more clearly seen, and carefully watched, than when it is shared by numbers.
§ 256. In the next place, the duration of the term of office of the Executive. It should be long enough to enable a chief magistrate to carry fairly through a system of government, according to the laws; and to stimulate him to personal firmness in the execution of his duties. If the term is very short, he will feel very little of the just pride of office, from the precariousness of its tenure. He will act more with reference to immediate and temporary popularity, than to permanent fame. His measures will tend to insure his own reelection, (if he desires *t,) rather than to promote the good of the country. He will bestow offices upon mean dependants, or fawning courtiers, rather than upon persons of solid honor and distinction. He will fear to encounter opposition by a lofty course ; and his wishes for office, equally with his fears, will debase his fortitude, weaken his integrity, and enhance his irresolution.
$ 257. On the other hand, the period should not be so long, as to impair the proper dependence of the Executive upon the people for encouragement and support; or to enable him to persist in a course of measures, deeply injurious to the public interests, or subversive of the public faith. His administration should be known to come under the review of the people at short periods ; so tha* its merits may be decided, and its errors be corrected by the sober exercise of the electoral vote by the people.
§ 258. For all of these purposes, the period, actually assigned for the duration of office of the President, by the Constitution, seems adequate and satisfactory. It is four years, a period intermediate between the term of office of the Representatives, and that of the Senators. By this arrangement, too, the whole organization of the legis. lative departments is not dissolved at the same moment A part of the functionaries are constantly going out of office, and as constantly renewed, while a sufficient num her remain, to carry on the same general system with in
telligence and steadiness. The President is not precluded from being reeligible to office; and thus with a just estimate of the true dignity and true duties of his office, he may confer lasting benefits on his country, as well as acquire for hinc.self the enviable farne of a statesman and patriot.
$ 259. The like term of office is fixed for the Vice President ; and in case of the vacancy of the office of President, he is to succeed to the same duties and pow ers. In the original scheme of the government, the Vice President was an equal candidate for the office of President. But that provision has been altered (as we shall presently see) by an amendment of the Constitution. As President of the Senate, it seems desirable, that the Vice President should have the experience of at least four years service, to perfect him in the forms of business, and secure to him due distinction, and weight of character.
$ 260. The next clause provides for the mode of choice of the President and Vice President. “Each State shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of Electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives, to which the State may be entitled in the Congress. But no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.”
§ 261. Various modes were suggested as to the choice of these high officers ; first, the choice was proposed to be made by the National Legislature ; secondly, by the State Legislatures ; thirdly, by the people at large ; fourthly, by the people in districts ; and lastly, by Electors. Upon consideration of the whole subject, the last was deemed the most eligible course, as it would secure the united action and wisdom of a select body of distinguished citizens in the choice, and would be attended with less excitement, and more deliberation, than a mere popular election. Such a body would also have this preference over any mere Legislature, that it would not be chosen for the ordinary functions of legislation, but singly