Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

$ 111. The Speaker of the House of Representatives is a member of that body; but the presiding officer of the Senate is not himself a member of the Senate. If he were, the State he represented might, through him, actually obtain, or from the jealousy of the other States be supposed to obtain, more than its share of influence; and if he were not allowed to vote except when the Senate was equally divided, his vote would be lost to his State; and if he were allowed to vote on all occasions, then, in case of an equal division, there would be no casting vote, unless he were allowed to vote a second time, which would give his State an undue importance. Besides, it was thought the Vice-President would be more impartial, as presiding officer, than a senator would be, because he is not elected by a single State, but by the whole country.

[Clause 5.] “The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.”

$ 112. Although the Vice-President of the United States is, by virtue of his office, the President of the Senate, yet the Senate is authorized to choose its other officers. The Senate may also elect a president pro tempore (that is, for a time) in the absence of the Vice-President, or when he shali exercise the office of President of the United States.

$ 113. It is customary for the Vice-President to vacato his chair in the Senate just before the close of each session, and the Senate then elect a President pro tempore, to preside in the Senate in case the Vice-Presider.t shall be called upon to exercise the office of President of the United States, in consequence of the death of the President, or otherwise.

[Clause 6.] “The Senate shall have the sole power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside : And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.”

$ 111. Clause fifth of the preceding section declares that the House of Representatives shall have the sole power of impeachment, that is, of bringing forward or proposing an impeachment; but the power to try all impeachments, after they have been brought forward by the House, is by the present clause vested exclusively in the Senate. The object of this provision is to prevent the same body from being both accusers and judges, which would clearly be unjust.

$ 115. An impeachment is a written accusation charging a civil officer of the United States with treason, bribery, or other high crime or misdemeanor.

In England, the House of Commons, like our House of Representatives, has the sole power of impeachment, and it is tried by the House of Lords, as it is here by the Senate.

$ 116. The convention that formed the Constitution, ori. ginally intended to give the trial of impeachments to the Su. preme Court of the United States, but afterward adopted the present plan, chiefly because impeachments are applied not. altogether to strictly legal offences, but to those of a political nature and extraordinary character, and to misdemeanors in office and violations of public trust, which can scarcely be provided for beforehand, or defined by positive law, or judged by technical rules. Besides, the judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President, and

if he, or any of his advisers or agents, were on trial, the judges might be biased in favour of the interests of him to whom they owed their elevation to office. A judge of the Supreme Court is himself liable to impeachment, and in such case the other judges would be likely to feel some partiality toward him.

$ 117. In England, when the House of Lords try an impeachment, the lords are not sworn, but give their verdict upon their honour. With us, the senators are required to. act under oath or affirmation, just as jurymen are. An affirmation is a solemn declaration made by those who have scruples of conscience against taking an oath. The House of Lords decide the question of guilt or innocence by a simple majority. In the Senate, a majority of twothirds is requisite for conviction, so that the accused is in less danger of being sacrificed to the excitement usually attending an impeachment.

$ 118. Upon the removal of the President from office, his powers and duties devolve upon the Vice-President of the United States, who is the presiding officer in the Senate. If he presided in the Senate at the trial of an impeach. ment against the President, he might be inclined to favour his conviction, in order to succeed him in office. It is, therefore, provided that in such case the chief justice of the Supreme Court shall preside.

$ 119. Since the adoption of the Constitution, there have been four trials for impeachment, namely:

(1.) That of William Blount, commenced in 1799. He was then a senator of the United States, and was charged with conspiring, while a senator, to carry on a military expedition against the Spanish territories, and with other misdemeanors. But the Senate decided that he was not a "civil officer' within the meaning of a clause in the Con

stitution, to be considered hereafter, and therefore not liable to impeachment.

(2.) That of John Pickering in 1803. He was judge of the District Court of the United States for the New Ilampshire District, and was charged with various acts of misdemeanor as a judge, found guilty and sentenced to removal from office.

(3.) That of Samuel Chase, commenced November 30, 1804. He was an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, and was charged with official misconduct, but acquitted.

(4.) That of James H. Peck, commenced in 1830. He was judge of the District Court of the United States for the Missouri District, and charged with exercising unlawful authority as a judge, but acquitted. - $ 120. In England, when the person impeached is found guilty, he is sentenced to suffer the whole punishment prescribed by law for the offence. As impeachments are frequently.connected with political considerations, and urged on with much zeal, there is danger that the successful party, unless restrained by law, will make an improper use of its triumph, and impose excessive punishments. This is prevented in the United States by the provision that the judgment in cases of impeachment shall extend only to removal from office, and disqualification to hold any office under the United States. The accused still remains liable, nevertheless, to trial and punishment in a court of law, if his offence be such as is punishable by law.

$ 121. Thus, if one were impeached for treason, the judgment pronounced by the Senate, upon conviction, would extend only to removal from office, and future disqualification to hold any office under the United States. He would still be subject to an indictment for treason in a court of law, and if found guilty, would be sentenced to death, the punishment provided by law; if acquitted, the judgment of the Senate upon the impeachment would still stand.

$ 122. When it is proposed to impeach an officer, some member of the House of Representatives moves for the appointment of a committee to report charges against the accused. If the committee report in favour of impeachment, they present a statement of the charges, and a committee is appointed to impeach the offender before the Senate. Then the Senate, by its sergeant-at-arms, summons the accused to appear and answer. When the day for his appearance has arrived, he is furnished with a copy of the charges, and is allowed time to answer them. The House of Representatives replies to the answer when it is put in, declares its readiness to prove its charges, and generally appoints managers to conduct the impeachment.

$123. A time is then determined for trial, legal advisers are allowed to the accused, and his witnesses are compelled to attend. The trial proceeds according to the usual rules of courts of justice, and, after it is concluded, the Senate consider the subject. Then each member being called on by name, says whether, in his opinion, the accused is guilty or not guilty. If two-thirds declare him guilty of any or all of the charges, the Senate concludes the proceedings by declaring its judgment.

A subsequent part of the Constitution designates the persons and the offences which may be the subjects of impeachment.

« AnteriorContinuar »