Page images

tical system of the Territories depends, and it will be observed that the right of Congress to legislate for the Territories -is of a strictly proprietary character, like its right to deal with the personal property be. longing to the United States.

The relation of Congress to the President is a good example of the interlocking -vetoes, as they may be called, which abound in the system. The President may veto a bill passed by both Houses;; but if, on reconsideration, the bill is again passed by a majority of two-thirds in each House, the veto falls to the ground and the bill becomes law. - Both Houses, operate powerfully on the executive through their control of finance, while the Senate has two special functions of vast importance-in its control of nominations to public offices and its veto on treaties. . The · President's initiative is balanced by the power of the Senate to refuse ratification, but the Senate cannot itself initiate or compel action. --.

4. THE FEDERAL JUDICIARY may be said, in one sense, to be the supreme power in the State, because it has the power of declaring the acts of either the legislature or the executive, to be ultra vires and void ; but this unique authority is balanced by the influence of the President and the .executive in the constitution of the courts. The part played by the Federal courts in maintaining the balance between State and Federal powers—the Home Rule system of the United States—will be noticed subsequently. Here it will be sufficient to mark the broad constitu


tional distinction which separates the Supreme Court from all subordinate tribunals in the Federal judiciary. The Supreme Court is created directly by the constitution, and its jurisdiction is defined by the constitution, and neither President nor Congress can terminate its existence or destroy its powers. The local and subordinate tribunals are (under powers granted by the constitution) created by Act of Congress, and Congress may at any moment sweep them away by new legislation, or limit their activity by withdrawing particular classes of subjects from their jurisdiction. On one occasion (in 1802), Congress being dissatisfied with the conduct of the inferior courts, did for the time being put an end to them.

Such in all its branches is the “ Government of the United States.” The smaller Governments of the individual States are organised on the same general model, and are, no doubt, influenced in their methods of procedure by the practice of the Federal Government. Their respective agencies—executive, judicial, and legislative--meet and touch each other at many points; but it is in and through the Legislatures that the chances of collision between the National and the State power are most likely to arise. It is in the region of the Legislatures, also, that the chief difficulties of our own question of Home Rule are supposed to reside. We proceed to examine the Legislatures of the United States, including the Legislatures of the States, but dealing more particularly with the Congress of the Union.



THERE are three distinct kinds of legislatures in the United States—the National Legislature, sitting at Washington; the State Legislatures, sitting in the capital cities of the several States; and the Territorial Legislatures, sitting in the capitals of the Territories. As contrasted with our own Legislature, these are all limited in power; not one of them is like the British Parliament-omnipotent. Congress, as we have seen, is limited by the provisions of the Federal constitution. A State Legislature is limited in one direction by that constitution, and in another by the constitution of the State to which it belongs. A Territorial Legislature is not only limited by the organic law under which it exists, but may by a change in that organic law lose such power as it possesses or cease altogether to exist. Practical freedom it no doubt possesses, but in theory, which may at any moment be realised in fact, the Territorial Legislature is entirely dependent on the Congress of the United States. The laws of every one of these Legislatures are liable

to be declared void by external tribunals in any proper case of which such tribunals have jurisdiction. All of these Legislatures are limited also by the power of the executive-by the veto of a President or Governor, whom they do not appoint and whom they cannot dismiss.

The theory underlying all these limitations is, that sovereign power belongs only to the people. By the people is meant, in national affairs, the whole of the inhabitants of the States; in State affairs, the whole of the inhabitants of the State. The people is a roi faineant, difficult to set in motion in the State, almost immovable in the nation as a whole. But the Legislature is always its subordinate agent, holding only what power may be delegated to it; and the constitution, in nation or State, exists to define that power.

The external form of all the Legislatures, National, State, and Territorial, is the same. The bicameral system prevails throughout. There is an Upper House or Senate; a Lower House or Assembly, with co-ordinate powers in general legislation, and certain specific powers peculiar to each. The Senate is the smaller in point of numbers, and the more permanent in tenure. The executive veto, to which all are subject, is always supersedible by the two-thirds majority, except in the case of some of the Territories.

The type may be best studied in the great Federal Legislature, although the composition of that Legislature is in some respects peculiar. Many of its

peculiarities relate back to the circumstances of its origin. The Union had to be created out of thirteen sovereign States, of varying degrees of wealth, population, and importance. All sovereigns are equal, and the Union had to make a show of preserving that equality. But some States were greater and weightier than others, and that fact too had to be recognised. The structure of the Legislature, and indeed the whole scheme of the constitution, endeavours to reconcile these opposing principles in a highly ingenious manner. Down to the minutest details we find the sovereignty of the State and the sovereignty of the nation alternately asserted and modified.

THE SENATE, consisting of two' senators from each State, whether large or small, new or old, represents the principle of equality, which is the badge of State sovereignty. Indeed this formal equality of the Senate might be described as the last relic of the independent sovereignty of the States. THE LOWER HOUSE, the House of Representatives, on the other hand, has its membership apportioned directly according to population. There is a periodical revision of its membership after every census. Congress decides what the total number of representatives shall be ; and to each State it awards the number of representatives to which its population, in due proportion, is entitled.

The structure of the Senate will strike an Englishman more forcibly even than an American as a remarkable violation of representative principles, as understood in these democratic days. The Senate

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »