Imagens das páginas

mfluence of their own Representative in the national councils. It might otherwise happen, that he might be arrested from mere malice, or from political persecution, or upon some unfounded claim, and thus they might be deprived of his aid and talents during the whole session

§ 144. Thirdly, the liberty of speech and debate. This, too, is less to be regarded as a personal privilege, than as a public right, to secure independence, firmness, and fearlessness on the part of the members, so that, in discharging their high trusts, they may not be overawed by wealth, or power, or dread of prosecution. The same privilege is enjoyed in the British Parliament, and also in the several State Legislatures of the Union, founded upon the same reasoning.

§ 145. The next clause regards the disqualifications of members of Congress. “No Senator or Represen. tative shall, during the time for which he is elected, be appointed to any civil office, under the authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time. And no person, holding any office under the United States, shall be a member of either House of Congress during his continuance in office.” The object of these provisions is sufficiently manifest. It is, to se cure the Legislature against undue influence, and indirect corruption, on the part of the Executive. Whether much reliance can be placed upon guards of this disquali

ying nature, has been greatly doubted. It is not easy, by any constitutional or legislative enactments, to shut out all, or even many, of the avenues of undue or corrupt influence upon the human mind. The great securities for society—those, on which it must for ever rest in a free government-are, responsibility to the people through elections, and personal character, and purity of principle. Where these are wanting, there never can be any solia confidence, or any deep sense of duty. Where these exist, they become a sufficient guarantee against all sinister influ ences, as well as all gross offences. It has been remarked with equal profoundness and sagacity, that, as there is a degree of depravity in mankind, which reqı res a certain

degree of circumspection and distrust; so there are other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher form, than any other. It might well be deen ed harsh to disqualify an individual from any office, clearly required by the exigencies of the country, simply because he had done his duty. And, on the other hand, the disqualification inight operate upon many persons, who might find their way into the national councils, as a strong inducement to postpone the creation of necessary offices, lest they should become victims of their high discharge of duty. The chances of receiving an appointment to a new office are not so many, or so enticing, as to bewilder many minds ; and if they are, the aberrations from duty are so easily traced, that they rarely, if ever, escape the public reproaches. And if influence is to be exerted by the Executive, for improper purposes, it will be quite as easy, and in its operation less seen, and less suspected, to give

the stipulated patronage in another form, either of office, · or of profitable employment, already existing

§ 146. The other part of the clause, which disqualifies persons, holding any office under the United States, from being members of either House, during their continuance in office, has been still more universally applauded ; · and has been vindicated upon the highest grounds of public policy. It is doubtless founded in a delerence to State jealousy, and a sincere desire to obviate the fears, real or imaginary, that the General Government would obtain an undue preference over the State governments. It has also the strong recommendation, that it prevents any undue influence from office, either upon the party himself, or those, with whom he is associated in legislative deliberations. The universal exclusion of all persons holding office, is (it must be admitted) attended with some inconveniences. The Heads of the Departments are, in fact, thus precluded from proposing, or vindicating their own measures in the face of the nation in the course o. debate; and are compelled to submit them to other men, who are either imperfectly acquainted with the measures, or are

indifferent to their success or failure. Thus, that open and public responsibility for measures, which properly belongs to the Executive in all governments, and especially in a republican government, as its greatest security and strength, is completely done away. The Executive is compelled to resort to secret and unseen influence, to private interviews, and private arrangements, to accomplish his own appropriate purposes ; instead of proposing and sustaining his own duties and measures by a bold and manly appeal to the nation in the face of its representatives. One consequence of this state of things, is, that there never can be traced home to the Executive any responsibility for the measures, which are planned, and carried at his suggestion. Patronage may be quite as effective under a different form. It may confer office on a friend, or a relative, or a dependent. The hope of office, in future, may seduce a man from his duty, as much as its present possession. And, after all, the chief guards against venality, in all governments, must be placed in the high virtue, the unspotted honor, and the pure patriotism of public men. On this account, it has been doubted, whether the exclusion of the Heads of Departments from Congress, has not led to the use of indirect and irresponsible influence, on the part of the Executive, over the measures of Congress, far more than could exist, if the Heads of Departments held seats in Congress, and might be there compelled to avow and defend their own opinions. The provision, however, as t stands, has hitherto been found acceptable to the Amercan people, and ought not lightly to be surrendered,


Mode of Passing Laws.

$147. The seventh section of the first article, do clares the mode of passing laws. The first clause is,s. All bills for raising revenue, shall originate in the House nf Representatives ; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendmenis, as in other bills.” This clause had its origin in the kdawn rule of the British Parliament, that all money bills shull originate in the House of Commons. And so jealous are the House of Commons of this valuable privilege, that they will not suffer the House of Lords to make the least alteration or amendment to any such bill. The general reason, assigned for this priyilege, in that king:lom, is, that all taxes and supplies, raised upon the people, should originate with their immediate representatives. But, in truth, it was intended by the popular branch of the legislature, by this course, to acquire a permanent importance in the government; and to be able to counterpoise the influence of the House of Lords, a body having hereditary rights and dignity. The same reason does not apply, with the same, force to our republican forms of government. But still, as the same power was exercised under some of the State governments, and as the House of Representatives may be deemed peculiarly well fitted to bring, to such subjects, a full knowledge of the local interests, as well as of the wishes and opinions of the people, there is no inconvenience in allowing to the House the exclusive right to originate all such bills in the course of legislation. But, as taxes and revenue laws may bear with great inequality upon some of the States, and, above all, as direct taxes are, and must, according to the Constitution, be apportioned among the States according to the ratio of their population, as already stated, a power to amend such laws is properly reserved to the Senate, where all the States possess an equal voice. The due influence of all the States is thus preserved over a subject of such vital importance ; and it might otherwise happen, that, from the overwhelming representation of some of the large States, in the House of Representatives, taxes might be levied, which would bear, with peculiar severity and hardship, upon the agricultural, commercial, or manufacturing, interests of the smaller States ; and thus the equilibrium of power, of influence, and of interest, of the several States, in the National councils, might be practically subverted. § 148. The next clause respects the power of the President to approve and negative laws. It is as follows :-" Every bill, which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a law, be presented to the President of the United States. If he approve, he shall sign it; but if not, he shall return it, with his objections, to that House, in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the objections at large, on their journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such reconsideration, two thirds of that House shal: agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent, together with the objections, to the other House, by which it shall, like wise, be reconsidered ; and, if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a law. But, in all such cases, the votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the persons voting for and against the bill, shall be entered on the journal of each House respectively. If any bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shal! have been presented to him, the same shall be a law, in like manner, as if he had signed it, unless the Congress, by their adjournment, prevent its return, in which case it shall not be a law.”

§ 149. The reasons, why the President should possess a qualified negative, (for an absolute negative would be highly objectionable,) are, if not quite obvious, at least, when fairly expounded, entirely satisfactory. In the first place, there is a natural tendency, in the legislative department, to intrude upon the rights, and to absorb the powers, of the other departments of the government. If the Executive did not possess this qualified negative, he might gradually be stripped of all his authority, and become, what the Governors of some of the States now are, a mere pageant, and a shadow of magistracy. .

$ 150. In the next place, the power is important, as an additional security against the enactment of rash, immature, and improper laws. In the third place, the Pres. ident may fairly be deemed the representative of the whole nation, the choice being produced by a different modification of interests and opinions and votes, from that by which the choice of either branch of the National La

« AnteriorContinuar »