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VESTING THE EXECUTIVE POWER.
Section 1, Clause 1.-The executive power shall be vested in a Presideut of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years, and, together with the Vice-President, chosen for the same term, be elected as follows.
446. Need of a National Executive.- With the throwing off of allegiance to the British Crown, the States ceased to be subject to any common executive authority. The Governors were but State executives. The President of Congress was merely a presiding officer. Congress had some slight executive powers, but there was no proper National executive. Much of the weakness of the Confederation was due to this fact, and there was in the Convention of 1787 practical unanimity of opinion that this defect must be cured. Accordingly, the Virginia plan and the Jersey plan, Pinckney's draft and Hamilton's draft, both provided for an Executive department.
447. An Independent Executive.—The leading members of the Convention were determined to make the Executive Department thoroughly independent of the other departments, and especially of the Legislature. Mr. Madison said : “Experience in all the States liad evinced a powerful tendency in the Legislature to absorb all power into its vortex. This was the real source of danger to the American constitutions, and suggested the necessity of giving every defensive authority to the other departments that was consistent with republican principles. And Mr. Hamilton: “We have seen that the tendency of republican governments is to an aggrandizement of the legislative at the expense of the other departments." 1
1 Elliot's Debates, Vol. V., p. 345.
448. A Single Executive.-The framers of the Constitution were more or less jealous of executive power. To prevent even the semblance of monarchy, some of them favored an executive that should consist of two or more persons, chosen from the same number of divisions of the Union. On this question the Virginia plan was silent, the Jersey plan proposed a plural executive, while Pinckney and Hamilton each proposed a single executive. By a vote of eight States to three the Convention, in committee of the whole, adopted the unitary plan.
Mr. Randolph stated that the arguments against a single executive were these : (1) The people were opposed to it, and it would never have their confidence; (2) it was unnecessary; and (3) a single chief magistrate would commonly come from the central part of the Union, and consequently the remote parts would not be on an equal footing. It was replied that a plurality of magistrates chosen for the same number of districts would lead to constant struggles for local advantage; that the executive power would be weakened by its divisions and animosities; that the States all had siugle executives; that a plural executive would be particularly ill-adapted to controlling the militia, the army, and the navy; that the animosities arising from a tripartite executive would not only interrupt the public administration, but diffuse their poison through the other branches of government, tbrough the States, and at length through the people at large. 2
449. Style and Title of the Executive.--Hamilton proposed that the chief magistrate be called Governor, Pinckney that he be called President. A report submitted to the Convention proposed that his style should be The President of the United States, and his title, His Excellency. President was already familiar to the country; the Albany plan of 1754 contained the name and recommended such an office; Congress had a president, and some of the States styled their chief magistrates President. So this style was generally approved.
1 The Federalist, No.49. 2 Elliot's Debates, Vol. V., pp. 141, 149-151.
Soon after the Government went into operation, some of the Fed. eralists in Congress proposed the style, His Highness, the President of the United States, and Protector of their Liberties. It was then agreed that the President should be addressed in official documents simply as President of the United States.
450. Length of Term and Re-eligibility.--Hamilton proposed that the President should serve during good behavior. A single term of seven years was the declared preference of the Convention almost to its close, when, owing to a change in the plan of election that had previously been agreed upon, the term of four years was adopted, and the restriction to a single term was struck out.
The wisdom of shortening the term and of making the President eligible for a second term, has been doubted from the first, and especially in recent times. The main argument against a second term is, that the President will be apt to use the power that his office gives him, as the power to make appointments to office, to promote his re-election. It has therefore been often suggested that the Constitution be so amended as to limit the President to one term of six or seven years.
ELECTION OF PRESIDENT AND VICE-PRESIDENT. 1
Section 1, Clause 2.-Each State shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of Electors equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress; but no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.
451. Mode of Election.--A far more troublesome question than that of a single or plural executive was, How shall the Executive be chosen ? It is said to have occupied more than one-seventh of all the time of the Convention. The question may be stated in this more definite form : How the Executive could be chosen and at the same time be independent of the power that chose him. Many different plans were proposed as, election by the Houses of Congress, by the Senate, by the people voting en masse, by the people voting in districts; election by electors chosen by the Governors of the States, by electors chosen by the people, by electors chosen by the State Legislatures, by electors chosen by lot from Congress, by secondary electors chosen by primary electors, and electors appointed as the State Legislatures should direct.
452. The Convention's First Decision. The Virginia plan proposed that the Executive should be chosen by Congress, and this mode of election was the decided preference of the Convention until near the end of its session. Many times it declared in favor of this mode by decided votes. And yet, September 4, the Committee of Detail recommended election by electors, and two days later this plan was adopted by a vote as decided as the votes that had previously approved the Virginia plan. The electoral plan appears to have been borrowed from Maryland, in which State it was used for the election of State senators.
1 See references to Chapter XXX.
453. Objections to Election by Congress. — The Convention finally concluded that the independence of the President could not be secured if Congress elected him. It was admitted that a re-election by Congress, or the possibility of a re-election, would lead to serious evils. The President would be little more than a creature of Congress. Limiting him to a single term, it was finally concluded, would not meet the difficulty ; and so the electoral plan was adopted because it would, as was thought, absolutely exclude the National Legislature from any share in the election of the President. This jealousy of Cougress, as well as of all official influence in respect to the election, appears in the prohibition : “No Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.”
454. Objections to Popular Election. On the other hand, it was thought impolitic to adopt any of the plans of popular election that were proposed. It was thought as necessary to avoid the “heats and ferments" of a popular contest as the intrigue and corruption of a Congressional contest. That calmness of mind, consideration, and superiority to temporary feeling which were essential, could not thu: be secured,-so the Convention argued.
455. The Electoral Plan.-So the Convention very deliberately adopted one of the electoral plans that had been proposed. The President should be chosen by State Electors, appointed in such manner as the Legislatures might determine. It was believed that State Colleges of Electors, chosen for their fitness, would elect better Presidents than either Congress or the people. To prevent the excitement and maneuvering that might attend a single meeting of all the Electors in one place, as well, probably, as to save expense) it was provided, in the next clause, that they should meet in their respective States to give their ballots.
The Electors of a State collectively are commonly called an Electoral College; the groups of Electors of all the States, the Electoral Colleges. The name is found in a law of 1845 that empowers each State to fill vacancies that may arise in the number of its Electors. It had been used informally since 1821.