Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

But, as it may happen to be necessary in time of peace that the States should keep ships or troops, they are authorized to do so with the consent of Congress. In time of war, the consent of Congress is not made necessary.

§ 365. Another restriction is, that no State shall, with out the consent of Congress, enter into any agreement or compact with another State, or with a foreign power. Otherwise, some of the States might possibly form combinations of a political character among themselves, or with foreign powers, which would seriously embarrass the general government or endanger the whole Union.

§ 366. Nor can a State, without the consent of Congress, engage in war, unless it be actually invaded, or is in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay. The power to declare war is vested in the national representatives. Great evils would result to the other States if a single State could declare war whenever it was disposed to do so. The Articles of Confederation contained a provision nearly similar to the above. (Art. 6, sec. 1.)

CHAPTER XI.

THE EXECUTIVE POWER.

ARTICLE II.

ARTICLE I. as we have seen, treats of the legislative department; we now enter upon Article II., which treats of the executive department.

SECTION 1. [Clause 1.7 “The executive Power shall be vested in a President 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.”

§ 367. By the Articles of Confederation, the executive power was vested in the Congress while it was sitting, and, during the recess, it was delegated, under certain restrictions, to what was called “a committee of the States," consisting of one delegate from each State, (Art. 9 and 10.) There was no single individual in whom the executive power was vested, and this was considered one of the most serious practical defects of the confederate government.

§ 368. In some countries the executive power is in the hands of several persons, who exercise it jointly, with equal authority and rank. This division of power is apt to lead to a difference of opinion, and to dissension, rivalry, and jealousy between the different magistrates who exercise

the power, which occasion delay, unsteadiness, and weak. ness of action in the government. To prevent these evils, as well as to secure other advantages, the Constitution intrusts the executive power to a single individual, whose title is the President of the United States of America.

§ 369. When the Constitution was framed, there was much difference of opinion as to the length of time for which the President. should hold his office. If the period is too short, the government will be constantly changing hands; one administration will be succeeded by another, before its plans and policy have had a fair trial, and before it has had sufficient time to acquire knowledge from experience; thus there would be no 'stability in public affairs.

$ 370. Four years, the period finally agreed upon, is intermediate between two years, the period for which representatives are chosen, and six years, the period for which senators are chosen; so that, in one presidential term, the House of Representatives may be twice wholly changed, and two-thirds of the Senate may be changed.

§ 371. The term of four years, for which the President and Vice-President are chosen, commences on the fourth day of March next succeeding the day on which the votes of the electors are given, which last-mentioned day, according to an act of Congress, is the first Wednesday in December in every fourth year succeeding the presidential election; and the term expires at the end of the third day of March in the fourth year thereafter.

There is nothing in the Constitution to limit the number of terms for which a President may be successively reelected; but as George Washington, the first President, declined to be a candidate again at the close of his second term of office, bis example has become a precedent by which subsequent Presidents have guided themselves, and

no one of them, therefore, has sought to be elected for a third term.

$ 372. The office of Vice-President was created in order that there might be some person to succeed the President in case of his removal from office, or of his death, or resignation, or his inability to discharge his duties; and also because it would furnish a presiding officer to the Senate who would be the most likely to be impartial, inasmuch as he is elected by the whole country, and does not represent a particular State. . [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 Repre•sentatives 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.”

$ 373. This clause provides the manner in which the President and Vice-President are to be chosen. They are not chosen by the people directly, but by a body of electors, who are sometimes called “the electoral college." The framers of the Constitution believed that a small number of men, selected for that particular purpose on account of their wisdom, patriotism, and virtue, meeting separately in their respective States, would not be liable to be influenced by the excitements of a popular election, or by intrigue or corruption, would be independent in their action, well qualified to examine. deliberately the merits of the candidates, and therefore likely to make a wise selection.

§ 374. It was also thought that the selection of electors by whom the immediate choice of a President and Vico President is to be made, would not lead to the tumults and disorders which the history of other countries shows us are apt to attend the election of high executive officers.

$ 375. In many respects, the object which the framers of the Constitution sought to obtain by the system of electors has hitherto failed to be accomplished. In actual practice, the electors are chosen for the express purpose of voting for particular candidates, to do which they are sometimes even pledged beforehand; they are expected to cast their votes for those candidates only, and not to exercise any freedom of choice themselves. It may, nevertheless, sometimes happen that the selection must be really made by the electors, as, for instance, in case of the death of one or more of the candidates before the election takes place.

$ 376. Each State is entitled to a number of electors equal to the whole number of its senators and representatives in Congress, in order that it may have about the same influence in the choice of President and Vice-Presi. dent that it has in the national affairs transacted in Con. gress. The appointment of electors is to be made in such manner as the legislature of each State shall direct.

§ 377. Senators, representatives, and persons holding offices of trust or profit under the United States, are excluded from being electors. Senators and representatives are frequently brought into close relations with the President and Vice-President in office, and might on that account be less independent and impartial, or become subject to their influence and control, in case they were candidates for re-election.

$ 378. If there is no choice by the electors, the election - will devolve upon the Senate and House of Representa

« AnteriorContinuar »