Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ships, and the more complex forms in city, county, district, and State conventions and committees. The like of this system is unknown in any other country. It is the creature of purely voluntary effort; it is no part of the Constitution or laws; and yet it exerts an enormous influence upon local, State, and National governments, and upon all political life. Its grand object is to increase party strength by concentrating it upon certain chosen ends.

473. Effect of the Caucus System.Tie most striking effect of this remarkable development of party organization is wholly to nullify the constitutional intent in electing the President and Vice-President, while all the constitutional forms are scrupulously kept. That intent is, that the Electoral Colleges shall consist of men wholly uncommitted to particular persons, and free to vote for the fittest men. This was really the case in 1789 and 1792, and to a certain extent in 1796; but since the last of these dates the Electors have been them. selves appointed in almost every instance with a distinct understanding that they would vote for particular persons. As a result, the Electors have no freedom whatever, but are always pledged to vote for party candidates.

474. Steps in the Election of President and Vice-President.The whole course of progress from first to last embraces the several steps that follow :

1. The National conventions that make the nominations of candidates are constituted under fixed rules, and are called by regularly appointed committees. The conventions of the Republican and Democratic parties both consist of four delegates-at-large from each State, and twice as many district delegates as the State has Representatives in Congress.

2. In each State every political party participating, nominates two Electors-at-large, sometimes called Senatorial Electors, and as many district Electors as it contains Representative districts. These candidates together make up its State electoral ticket. These two steps are in no way required by the Constitution or laws, but belong wholly to the sphere of party management.

3. On Tuesday following the first Monday in November the Electors are appointed in all the States by a popular election. This is popularly called the Presidential election, and it is so in fact, if not in law. This third step is taken by the authority of State laws, Congress fixing the time. From this time on, the Constitution and laws take exclusive charge of the process.

4. On the second Monday in January the Electors meet at their respective State capitals, and vote by ballot, according to the constitutional provisions, for President and Vice-President. They make three copies each of the two lists of ballo naming the offices, the persons, and the number of votes, which they sign, certify, and seal. One of these copies they send by mail to Washington, addressed to the President of the Senate; one they send to Washington by a special messenger, addressed to the same person; and the third they deliver to the Judge of the United States District Court for the district in which the Electors meet and vote.

5. On the second Wednesday of February the Senate and House of Representatives meet in the Hall of the House. The President of the Senate, in their presence, opens the certificates and bands them to the tellers appointed by the Houses, who read and count the votes. The person having the greatest number of votes, if a majority of all the Electors appointed, he declares President-elect; the person

haying the greatest number of votes for Vice-President, if a majority of all, Vice-President-elect.

6. If no persons have such majorities, then the elections go to the House of Representatives and the Senate as before explained.

475. Irregularities in Elections. Many perplexing questions have arisen, and many irregularities have occurred, in conducting Presidential elections. The provision that no person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States shall be appointed an Elector, has been frequently disregarded through inadvertence until it was too late to correct the error. Sometimes an Electoral College has failed to meet and vote on the day appointed, as in Wis. consin, in 1856, owing to a severe snowstorm. These and other questions have been disposed of as they have arisen, and have not generally led to legislation. In 1845, however, Congress enacted that the States should by law provide for filling vacancies in their respective Colleges. In most cases, if not all, the Legislatures have conferred on the College itself the power of fillivg such vacancies.

NOTE.-The question is sometimes asked: What is the effect of the rule laid down in Amendment XII, that Electors shall vote for President and Vice-president, “one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same State with themselves”? The rule does not prohibit the election of both officers from the same State. It prohibits the Electors of any State from voting for candidates for both offices from their own State, but does not prohibit the Electors of other States doing so. Thus, the President and Vice-president might both come from Massachusetts or Virginia; but, in the one case, the Massachusetts Electors could not vote for both of them, or, in the other case, the Virginia Electors. The importance of the rule appears in its effect on party nominations; no political party would nominate two candidates from the same State, at least any State that it had any hope of carrying, because the Electors from that State would be unable to vote for both of them. Of course, there are other political reasons why no party is likely to do such a thing. The rule works to prevent the election of a President and Vice-president from the same State, but indirectly so.

CHAPTER XXXI.

THE QUALIFICATIONS AND REMOVAL OF THE PRESI

DENT.

ARTICLE II.

Section 1, Clause 5.-No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to

age of thirty-five years, and been fourteeu years a resident within the United States.

476. Qualifications of the President.--Arguments are not called for to show the propriety of the qualifications named, save in one point. In 1787 there were many distinguished men of foreign birth in the country who had rendered it valuable service, and some of whom, as Alexander Hamilton and James Wilson, were members of the Convention that framed the Constitution; and, as a mark of respect to them, the rule was so drawn as to render such men eligible to the Presidency. Residence abroad on official duty, as that of a minister, is not a disqualification.

Section 1, Clause 6.—In case of the removal of the President from office, or of his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the same shall devolve on the Vice-President; and the Congress may by law irovide for the case of removal, death, resignation, or inability, both of the President and Vice-President, declaring what officer shall then act as President, and such officer shall act accordingly, until the disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.

477. The Vice-President.-Neither the Virginia plan nor the jersey plan said anything about the officers of the Houses of Congress, or the succession to the Presidency in case of the President's death, removal, etc. The draft submitted by Mr. Pinckney provided that the Houses should elect their own officers, and that the President of the Senate should become President of the United States in case of a vacancy. Hamilton's plan agreed with Pinck

(265)

18

ney's, only he styled the President of the Senate Vice-President. The first proposition to have a Vice-President proper was made when the electoral-college plan of electing the President was under consideration, near the end of the Convention. It was then provided that every Elector should vote for two candidates for President, the candidate having the largest number of votes to be President, if a majority of all; the one having the next largest to be Vice-President, if a majority, and then, to give the office dignity, the Vice-President was made President of the Senate. This was a complete reversal of Pinckney's and Hamilton's ideas. The office was opposed as unnecessary, as an encroachment on the right of the Senate to choose its own officers, and as mingling the Legislative and Executive departments.

No other parts of the Constitution that have been followed by equally important results, were so hastily considered by the Federal Convention as those relating to the Vice-Presidency. Apparently, the framers did not foresee the consequences that have followed the creation of the office. For fourteen of the first oue hundred years under the Constitution, the Executive chair was filled by Vice-Presidents. Moreover, it was the Vice-Presidency that compelled the adoption of Amendment XII., as has already been explained.

478. Removal of the President, Etc.—Only conviction of impeachment can effect a removal of the President, in the sense of the Constitution. A resignation must be made in writing, and be filed in the office of the Secretary of State. What constitutes “inability to discharge the powers and duties of the office" of President, has never been settled. The only executive act performed by President Garfield from July 2, to September 19, 1881, was signing his name to an extradition paper. The question whether a case of inability had arisen, was much discussed at the time, but with no practical result.

479. The Presidential Succession.—The clause devolves upon Congress the duty of providing by law for the case of the removal, death, etc., of both the President and Vice-President. Congress provided in 1792 that the President pro tempore of the Senate, or in case there were no President pro tempore, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, should act as President until the disability were removed or a President elected. This law also provided for a special election to fill out the term when the President pro tempore or the Speaker had succeeded to the office.

1 President W. H. Harrison, inaugurated March 4, 1841, died April 4, and was succeeded by Vice-President Tyler. President Taylor, inaugurated March 4, 1849, died July 9, 1850, and was succeeded by Vice-President Fillmore, President Lincoln, inaugurated for a second term March 4, 1865, died April 14, and was succeeded by Vice-President Johnson. President Garfield, inaugurated March 4, 1881, died September 19, and was succeeded by Vice-President Arthur. President Harrison's cabinet proposed that Mr. Tyler should be styled Acting-President, but he declined the proposition and assumed the full title. This precedent has since been followed.

This act continued in force until 1886, when Congress passed an act regulating the Presidential succession. This act substitutes the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of War, the Attorney-General, the Postmaster-General, the Secretary of the Navy, and the Secretary of the Interior, in this order, for the President pro tempore and the Speaker of the House. It also repeals the provision of 1792 in regard to a new election, so that any Cabinet officer succeeding fills out the term the same as the Vice-President does. It also provides for calling a special session of Congress within twenty days of the time when any member of the Cabinet becomes President, unless Congress be in session at the time or is to meet within twenty days. It provides further that no Cabinet officer can succeed unless he has been confirmed by the Senate, and also has the qualifications for the Presidency named in clause 5 of this section of the Constitution.

480. Objections to the Old Rule.—The objections to the rule of 1792, and the arguments in favor of the new rule, as stated in 1886, are various, One point is that the new plan will be more likely than the old one to lead to continuity of executive policy; another is that the Senate is not certain to have a President pro tempore, or the House a Speaker, when he is wanted. For example, the Senate had no such President from March 4 to October 10, 1881, while the House of Representatives had no Speaker from March 4 to December 5, of the same year. Had Vice-President Arthur died, or in any way become disqualified to hold the office at any time after March 4, the Nation would have been without a Chief Magistrate after September 19, unless special action had been taken. It was also urged that the new rule of succession puts more lives between the Ex

« AnteriorContinuar »