Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President.—The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States,

CHAPTER IV.

THE PREAMBLE–DISTRIBUTION OF LEGISLATIVE POWERSTHE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.

§ 55. A CONSTITUTION is the fundamental law of a country, setting forth the principles upon which the government is founded, the political and individual rights of the citizens, and the manner in which the sovereign powers are organized, distributed, and administered. $ 56. This fundamental law in some countries is contained in a single written instrument, generally called the Constitution. In other countries it is to be collected from ancient usages, legislative acts, royal grants, judicial decisions, and other sources. § 57. The Government of the United States is an illustration of the first case. Here there is a written constitu. tion, and every act of Congress contrary thereto is unconstitutional, and therefore void. § 58. England is an illustration of the second case. There we find no written constitution; but the fundamental law is said to be contained in ancient usages, acts of Parliament, and decisions of the courts. No act of Parliament can, therefore, be, in a strict sense, and in our meaning of the term, unconstitutional, or can be declared to be such by the courts, for the general power of Parlia$59. The Constitution commences with the following declaration:—

ment to make laws is unlimited.

“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this CoNSTITUTION for the United States of America.”

§ 60. This part of the Constitution has been termed the Preamble, though it was not so named by its framers. A preamble is the commencement of a statute, which declares the design or motives of the legislature in passing it. In the present instance it refers to some of the evils existing under the Articles of Confederation, and sets forth the benefits sought to be attained by the establishment of the new form of government. §61. The objects which the people of the United States had in view in establishing the present Constitution, are briefly stated to be six in number, as follow:— (1.) To form a more perfect union. (2.) To establish justice. (3.) To insure domestic tranquillity. (4.) To provide for the common defence. (5.) To promote the general welfare. (6.) To secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity. $62. The preamble is not an enacting part of the Constitution, but is in the nature of a recital. It does not grant any powers, nor does it enlarge or lessen any of the powers clearly given in the body of the Constitution. Its only purpose is to explain the objects or motives of the framers of the Constitution.

§ 63. There are three great departments of government: (1.) The Legislative. (2.) The Judicial. (3.) The Executive. The Legislative enacts laws; the Judicial interprets and applies them; the Executive enforces them. § 64. The Constitution of the United States separates these three departments, makes each one independent of the others, and places them in different hands. The Constitutions of the States have also done so; for experience has shown that the separation of these powers is far more favourable to liberty than is their union in the same person. The first article of the Constitution treats of the legislative department; the second article, of the executive department; the third article, of the judicial.

ARTICLE I. .

The first article treats of the legislative department of the government.

“SECTION 1. All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.”

$65. By the Articles of Confederation, the legislature consisted of only one body. Instances of a single legislative body are also found in the first Constitution of Georgia, and of Pennsylvania, and in the Constitution of Vermont prior to the amendments of 1828; but in the constitutional convention, all the States, except Pennsylvania, were in favour of dividing Congress into two distinct bodies—a Senate and a House of Representatives.

$66. In England, the Parliament consists not only of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, but of the king in his political capacity. With us, Congress means the Senate and House of Representatives, and does not include the President.

$67. The advantages of vesting the legislative powers in two branches are chiefly the following. It is more apt to check hasty legislation and temporary excitement by delaying the final passage of a proposed law until there shall have been ample time for reflection and inquiry. It makes it less likely that laws will be passed from private and personal influence, for in a single assembly of men it generally happens that there are a few leaders who exercise great control over the others. It increases the probability that good laws will be passed, because they may be altered, and must be revised and concurred in, by a separate and independent body.

“SECTION 2. [Clause 1.] The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.”

$68. Under the Articles of Confederation, the delegates to Congress were appointed for one year, in such manner as the State legislatures should direct, with power reserved to the States to recall their delegates within the year, and send others in their place for the remainder of the year. (Art. W. § 1.) The delegates were, in fact, chosen by the State legislatures, except in Rhode Island and Connecti-. cut, where they were chosen by the people. The Constioution changed this system by requiring the representatives

« AnteriorContinuar »