Imágenes de páginas

fulness and merit as citizens. This is just, and you cannot otherwise make them feel that they are rightly dealt with. It is therefore politic too. Yet do not hurry off to the other extreme, and stifle utterly the voice of mere numbers. Men who have nothing, are yet men; and not a few of them are citizens of high desert. Their poverty may be owing to other causes than sloth, intemperance or dissipation. It is not always the lot of industry or enterprise, or both together, to make large acquisitions. In a free country, the voice of the poor man, as well as of the rich, must have its own share of political weight. There will otherwise be a feeling of injury here also. How, then, are you to manage ? As to office, there may be something like an apportionment, by open: ing the doors of certain employments to the property classes only, while others are made accessible to all; but in the matter of the franchise, where one uniform rule may be desirable, I see no better way than to mediate between the very rich and the very poor, by giving the right of suffrage to the intervening portion of society, which approaches both extremes, and is capable of feeling for the interests of both, so as to vote impartially, and with probable satisfaction to the whole community. At any rate, the founders of our government seem to have acted upon a policy of this kind. We do not enter practically into such refinements now-a-days. We are too busy, and prefer a more dashing style of politics. Constitution-making is become a humdrum business. “ Nature's journeymen” can do it, and with cigars in their mouths. It was not so at first. A republican State was then regarded as a piece of moral clock-work; or complicated mechanism, full of parts requiring the most careful and precise adjustment. And there were three great topics of interest combined in the general subject. First, government proper; secondly, the vesting and qualification of the franchise of election; thirdly, (not apart from the others, but in close connection with them) the accommodation of the political to the civil and social system, for ends of justice and of popular peace. These topics claimed and received attention, each on its own account, and with an anxious regard to its own occasions. The result was an economy of peculiar and very decided character.



[ocr errors]

LET us now take a brief survey of the details of the Republican system thus established by our forefathers, under so many embarrassing and perplexing difficulties-details material to their plan and policy, and anxiously and wisely adjusted by them. They belong mainly, though by no means altogether, to the State economies, and may be classed as relating, first, to the character and circumstances by which it was supposed that candidates for office ought to be distinguished ; secondly, to the mode of appointment deemed most likely to secure a fair result; thirdly, to the qualification of electors where the election was popular; fourthly, to the term and tenure of office when attained ; and finally, to some additional

[ocr errors]

means of safety, calculated either to fortify the personal virtue and fidelity of the functionary in the execution of his trust, or to guard against evil from his misconduct in it.

The Constitution requires that the President shall be a natural born citizen of the United States, or to have been a citizen thereof at the time of its adoption, and that he shall have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and shall have been fourteen years a resident within the United States. Considering the greatness of the trast, says Chancellor Kent, and that this department is the ultimately eficient executive power in government, these restrictions will not appear altogether useless or uniinportant. As the President is required to be a native citizen of the United States, ambitious foreigners cannot intrigue for the office; and the qualification of birth cuts off all those inducements from abroad to corruption, negotiation and war, which have frequently and fatally harassed the elective monarchies of Germany and Poland, as well as the pontificate at Rome. The age of the President is sufficient to have formed his public and private character; and his previous domestic residence is intended to afford to his fellow-citizens the opportunity to attain a correct knowledge of his principles and capacity, and to have enabled him to acquire habits of attachments and obedience to the laws, and of devotion to the public welfare. Kent's Commentaries, vol. i., p. 272.

The mode of his election presented another difficult and embarrassing question. “This is the question that is eventually to test the goodness and to try the strength of the Constitution," is the language of Chancellor Kent, and he proceeds to comment on the subject, and the state of the mode of election, as follows:

“ If we shall be able, for half a century hereafter, to continue to elect the chief magistrate of the Union with discretion, moderation and integrity, we shall undoubtedly stamp the highest value on our national character, and recommend our republican institutions, if not to the imitation, yet certainly to the esteem and admiration of the more enlightened part of mankind. The experience of ancient and modern Europe has been unfavorable to the practicability of a fair and peaceable popular election of the executive head of a great nation. It has been found impossible to guard the election from the mischiefs of foreign intrigue and domestic turbulence, from violence or corruption ; and mankind have generally taken refuge from the evils of popular elections in hereditary executives as being the least evil of the two. The most recent and remarkable change of this kind occurred in France, in 1804, when the legislative body changed their elective into an hereditary monarchy, on the avowed ground that the competition of popular elections led to corruption and violence. And it is a curious fact in European history, that on the first partition of Poland in 1773, when the partitioning powers thought it expedient to foster and confirm all the defects of its wretched government, they sagaciously demanded of the Polish Diet that the crown should continue elective. This was done for the very purpose of keeping the door open for foreign intrigue and influence. Mr. Paley condemns all elective monarchies, and he thinks nothing is gained by a popular choice worth the dissensions, tumults and interruptions of regular industry, with which it is

[ocr errors]

inseparably attended. I am not called upon to question the wisdom or policy of preferring hereditary to elective monarchies among the great nations of Europe, where different orders and ranks of society are established and large masses of property accumulated in the hands of single individuals, and where ignorance and poverty are widely diffused. and standing armies are necessary to preserve the stability of the government. The state of society and of property in this country, and our moral and political habits, have enabled us to adopt the republican principle, and to maintain it hitherto with illustrious success. It remains to be seen, whether the checks which the Constitution has provided against the dangerous propensities of our system will ultimately prove effectual. The election of a supreme executive magistrate for a whole nation, affects so many interests, addresses itself so strongly to popular passions, and holds out such powerful temptations to ambition, that it necessarily becomes a strong trial to public virtue and even hazardous to the public tranquillity. The Constitution, from an enlightened view of all the difficulties that attend the subject, has not thought it safe or prudent to refer the election of a President directly and immediately to the people; but it has confided the power to a small body of electors, appointed in each State, under the direction of the Legislature; and to close the opportunity as much as possible against negotiation, intrigue and corruption, it has declared that Congress may determine the time of choosing the electors, and the day on which they shall vote, and that the day of election shall be the in

every State. This security has been still further extended, by the act of Congress directing the electors to be appointed in each State within thirty-four days of the day of election.” Kent's Commentaries, vol. i., p. 273.



A great variety of opinions existed among the framers of the Constitution, and much discussion took place in the Convention, in relation to the Executive Department, how it was to be organized, and how, and in what manner, to be filled. By reference to the Madison Papers, containing the Debates of the Convention, it will be found, however, that the members unanimously agreed, without debate, to the provision requiring the President to be a natural born citizen, &c.; to be thirty-five years of age, and a resident for fourteen years. 5 Elliott's Debates, 521.

In agreeing to the mode of election great difficulty was experienced. In the programme submitted by Edmund Randolph, which was denomi. nated the Virginia plan, it was proposed that the Executive should be chosen by the National Legislature. James Wilson was in favor of an election by the people, but said he “was almost unwilling to declare the mode he wished to take place, being apprehensive that it might appear chimerical." Yet he was in favor “to derive not only both branches of the Legislature from the people, without the intervention of the State Legislatures, but the Executive also, in order to make them as independent as possible of each other, as well as of the States." Roger Sherman thought "an independence of the Executive on the Supreme Legislatnre” was “the very essence of tyranny,” and therefore favored the appointment of the Executive by the Legislature, and of making "bim absolutely dependent on that body." John Ratledge suggested

an election of the Executive by the second branch only of the National

Legislature.” Col. Mason favored Mr. Wilson's idea, but thought it impracticable. Elbridge Gerry “opposed the election by the National Legislature,” because "there would be a constant intrigue” between the Legislature and the candidates, and “votes would be given by the former under promises or expectations from the latter.” He liked Mr. Wilson's proposition, but "feared it would alarm and give a handle to the State partisans, as tending to supersede altogether the State authorities." He preferred “taking the suffrages of the States, instead of electors, or letting the Legislatures nominate, and the electors appoint;" bat he "was not clear that the people ought to act directly even in the choice of electors, being too little informed of personal characters in large districts, and liable to deceptions." Mr. Wilson's proposition was voted for by but two States, Pennsylvania and Maryland, and the proposition of Mr. Randolph was agreed to by the following vote : Aye-Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia; Nay-Pennsylvania and Maryland. Elliott's Debates, vol. v., pp. 142–3–4.

Some time afterwards Elbridge Gerry moved a reconsideration of the subject, and proposed "that the National Executive should be elected by the executives of the States, whose proportion of votes should be the same with that allowed to the States in the election of the Senate." Edmund Randolph strongly opposed this proposition, and it was negatived, nine States voting against it, and Delaware being divided. Ibid., 174. Alexander Hamilton was in favor, and read a proposition to that effect to the Convention, of the executive authority being “vested in a

" Governor, to be elected to serve during good behavior—the election to be made by electors chosen by the people in the election districts.” Ibid., 205. When the subject again came in form before the Convention, Gouverneur Morris took strong ground against the election by the National Legislature, and moved to strike out National Legislature, and insert citizens of the United States ; but his motion received but one vote, that of Pennsylvania ; whereupon Luther Martin moved that the Executive be chosen by electors appointed by the several Legislatures of the States, which was also negatived, it receiving only the vote of Maryland and Delaware. Ibid., 323.

Subsequently a reconsideration was bad, when Oliver Ellsworth moved that the Executive "be chosen by electors, appointed by the Legislatures of the States" in a certain ratio named, and the question being divided, both parts were adopted, the States of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia voting against the first, and Virginia and South Carolina against the second. Ibid., 338. William C. Houston subsequently again moved a reconsideration, and proposed that the Executive be elected by the National Legislature, and it prevailed by a vote of seven to four, Connec

[ocr errors]

ticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia being in the negative, but the Convention re-opened the discussion of the subject the same day, and again receded from its decision. Ibid., 358. Various propositions followed, but none were adopted. Ibid., 359 to 368. These and the difficulties which environed the subject are clearly stated in the following remarks of Mr. Mason :

In every stage of the question relative to the executive, the difficulty of the subject, and the diversity of the opinions concerning it, have appeared ; nor have any of the modes of constituting that department been satisfactory. First, it has been proposed that the election should be made by the people at large ; that is, that an act which ought to be performed by those who know most of eminent characters and qualifications should be performed by those who know least; secondly, that the election should be made by the Legislatures of the States ; thirdly, by the executives of the States. Against these modes, also, strong objections have been urged. Fourthly, it has been proposed that the election should be made by electors chosen by the people for that purpose. This was at first agreed to; but on further consideration has been rejected. Fifthly, since which, the mode of Mr. Williamson, requiring each freeholder to vote for several candidates, has been proposed. This seemed, like many other propositions, to carry a plausible face, but on closer inspection is liable to fatal objections. A popular election in any form, as Mr. Gerry has observed, would throw the appointment into the hands of the Cincinnati, a society for the members of which he had a great respect, but which he never wished to have a preponderating influence in the government. Sixthly, another expedient was proposed by Mr. Dickinson, which is liable to so palpable and material an inconvenience, that he had little doubt of its being by this time rejected by himself. It would exclude every man who happened not to be popular within his own State ; though the causes of his local unpopularity might be of such a nature as to recommend him to the States at large. Seventhly, among other expedients, a lottery has been introduced. But as the tickets do not appear to be in much demand, it will probably not be carried on, and nothing therefore need be said on that subject. After reviewing all these various modes, he was led to conclude, that an election by the National Legislature, as originally proposed, was the best ; if it was liable to objections, it was liable to fewer than any other. He conceived, at the same time, that a second election ought to be absolutely prohibited. Having for his primary object--for the polar star of his political conduct—the preservation of the rights of the people, he held it as an essential point, as the very palladium of civil liberty, that the great officers of state, and particularly the executive, should at fixed periods return to that mass from which they were at first laken, in order that they may feel and respect those rights and interests which are again to be personally valuable to them. He concluded with moving, that the constitution of the executive, as reported by the Committee of the Whole, be reinstated, viz. : “ that the executive be appointed for seven years, and be ineligible a second time."

Mr. Mason's motion was agreed to by a vote of seven to, three, and on the question to agree to the whole resolution as amended, relating to the Executive, namely: “That a National Executive be instituted, to consist of a single person, to be chosen by the National Legislature for the term of seven years, to be ineligible a second time, with power to carry into execution the national laws, to appoint to offices in cases not otherwise pro

« AnteriorContinuar »