Page images

those few places which are still actuated by the spirit of free suffrage, unless (as sometimes happens,) the prevalent political opinions in such places should coincide with the party to which he belongs, procures a return in his favour without difficulty, and on the votes of some nominal electors, takes a place in the house, equal in legislative attributes to that conferred by the choice of thousands. All attempts at reformation in this respect are uniformly resisted by the ministers of the crown.

From such perversions of sound and regular principles, our constitution effectually secures us.

While decennial enumeration and apportionment continue, that is, wbile our constitution lasts, no executive officer can insidiously creep into the number of our legislative representatives. The open and unfettered choice of the people only can place him there.

But would such a choice be consistent with sound policy and the spirit of the constitution ?

The advantages derived to the people seem to be few-the objections many. The measures of the executive government, so far as they fall within the immediate department of a particular officer, might be more directly and fully explained, but we notice here also a striking difference between the two governments. In England, the measures of government are practically considered the measures of the ministersit is not even allowed to introduce the king's name into a debate. (82) But the executive acts of the pre

(82) “It is a constant rule,” says Delolme, "never to mention “him when they mean to blame the administration." And we may observe on all occasions when a majority adverse to the political measures of the day, happens to prevail in the house of commons, that the language of resolutions and addresses is scrupulously pointed against the ministers who have advised the crown to adopt them-not against the monarch himself.

sident, except in the two instances where the senate participates, are unshared with others, and the highest officer under bim can constitutionally, no more explain or account for them than any other individual. Besides, such modes of communication ought not to be encouraged, were they in use.

The regular channels of communication from the president are pointed out in the constitution, and if further information is desired, it is sought for in an open

and public application, leaving it to the president to withhold what he may deem it injurious to disclose, and protecting him from the misapprehensions of others, by the necessity of reducing his communications to writing. Such a mode of obtaining information is infinitely superior to the sudden and sometimes unguarded answers returned to the verbal interrogations of the members of the house of commons.

But, among many other objections to the introduction of any of the great public officers into either house of congress, we must keep in view a great principle of all republican governments, that public offices are intended to be for the public service, and not for the benefit and emolument of the individuals who fill them. No more offices are created than the public needs require. If the duties are too few to occupy the time of the individual, the office is incorporated with another, unless the united weight of both should be too great. On the other hand, if the quantity of public business should so increase as to render it necessary to increase the number of persons who are to transact it, new offices are created. The whole system has a view only to the public benefit. We do not continue an office when its duties have expired. As Burke bas justly observed, 6 when the reason of old establishments is gone,

it “ is absurd to preserve nothing but the burthen of

66 them.

This is superstitiously to embalm a carcase “ not worth the gems that are used to preserve it.” (83)

The public officer is therefore considered with us as having actual living duties which he is bound to perform, and as having no more time than is necessary to perform them, and the constitution expressly excludes him from a seat. But a further caution is introduced into it. A member of either house may be appointed to an office existing previously to his being elected ; if the emoluments of it have not been increased during the time for which he was elected. But if a new office has been created, or the emoluments of an old one increased during that time, the promise or the chance of receiving an appointment to it may have an undue influence on his mind. Such an appointment is therefore forbidden by the constitution during the time for wbich he was elected, and it is only to be regretted that it was not forbidden altogether. A dishonourable traffic in votes, if it should ever become a characteristic of our country, would be more completely prevented, if to an office so created, or rendered more profitable, no one who had had an agency in either respect, could ever be appointed.

The constitution contains no provision adverting to the exercise of offices under the United States and separate states at the same time, by the same persons. In some of the states it has been thought expedient to provide against it.

The states appear to have acted under the apprehension of a possible collision between the two governments, and a jealousy lest the admission of the officers of the United States into places of trust and power in a state, might lead to a preference in the minds of those

(83) See his admirable speech on Economical Reform in 1780.

who hold offices under both to the prejudice of the state governments. (84) A counter apprehension did not exist in the people in forming the constitution of the United States, although it has been the opinion of some enlightened men that there was more probability that if the balance ever should be disturbed, it would be by the preponderancy of the state governments. It has been observed, that the state governments are constituent and essential parts of the United States government, while the latter is in nowise essential to the organization or operations of the former. Without the intervention of the 'state legislatures the president of the United States cannot be elected. The senate is elected immediately by the state legislatures. Even the house of representatives, though drawn immediately from the people, will be chosen very much under the influence of those whose own influence over the people obtains for themselves an election into the state legislatures. On the other hand, the component parts of the state governments will in no instance be indebted for their appointments to the direct agency of the general government. .

The powers of the general government are few and defined, those which remain to the state government numerous and indefinite.

The first and most natural attachment of the people will therefore be to their state governments, but in the general government they will see not a rival or an enemy to the state government, but the ultimate authority and common power within its specified objects, which they have themselves concurred to create, and therefore, as it will be their interest, it finally will be

(84) Per Shippen, C. J. 3 Yeates's Reports, 315.

their endeavour to support and restrain both within their just constitutional bounds. (85)

It will not be foreign to this head to notice the oaths of office required by the constitution.

The president alone is required by it to take an oath, (or affirmation,) that he will faithfully execute the duties of bis office but the senators, representatives, the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation 6 to support this constitution."

Although a promissory oath is not in point of law, ranked so high as a judicial oath; that is, it does not fall within the general provisions of the law in respect to perjury, yet it greatly increases the moral obligation of the party, and ought to make a deep impression on him. Every state officer, and every officer of the United States, on being elected or appointed, binds himself thereby, not only to abstain from all opposition to the constitution, but to give it his firm and active assistance.

It has been asked, why it was thought necessary that the state magistracy should be bound to support the constitution of the United States, and unnecessary to impose an oath on the officers of the United States in favour of the state constitutions. The reason assigned, (as one of many,) by the authors of the Federalist, is, that the members of the general government will have no agency in carrying the state governments into effect, but the members and officers of the state governments will have an essential agency in giving effect to the general government. (86)

(85) See the 45th and 46th numbers of the Federalist, in which this subject is fully discussed.

(86) Federalist, No. 44.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »