Imatges de pÓgina

The Senate, moreover, in its exclusive connexion with the executive department, has a neg. ative upon the appointment of all officers of the United States whose appointment is not otherwise provided for in the Constitution; and the advice and consent of two thirds of the senators present are requisite to all treaties which are sub mitted by the consideration of the Senate alone. The Senate, however, is not consulted in the first instance; but when a treaty is agreed on by the agents employed for its negotiation, the President, unless he disapprove it, submits it to the Senate, and renders to them from time to time such information relative to it as they may require. The Senate may wholly reject a treaty, or they may ratify it in part, or recommend additional or explanatory articles, which, if the President approve, again become the subject of negotiation with the foreign power; when the whole receives the sanction of the Senate, the ratifications are exchanged, and the treaty becomes obligatory upon both nations. Although not expressly required by the Constitution, yet, from the fitness and exigency of the case, the proceedings of the Senate on these occasions are always with closed doors; and the contents of the treaty, and the information connected with it, are, from motives of delicacy and good policy, kept secret until the publication, or other termination of the negotiations in regard to it, render such reserve no longer necessary.

From the superior weight and delicacy of the trusts thus confided to the Senate, the Constitution requires that a senator should be thirty years of age, nine years a citizen, and, at the time of his election, an in. habitant of the state for which he is chosen.


The Constitution directs that Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and that such meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless another day be appointed by law. So that, until the time fixed, either by the Constitution or the law, the action of Congress cannot. commence, unless the President, in the exercise of his constitutional power, shall, on an extraordinary occasion, think proper to convene them

Congress also, by a concurrent resolution, to which, in this case, the assent of the President is not required, fixes the time of its own adjournments. But during a session neither house, without the consent of the other, can adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other place than that in which it is sitting.

Although Congress may be convened by the President, and in cases of disagreement between the two houses as to the time of their adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he may think proper, yet our National Legislature possesses this great advantage over all others, which may in all cases be adjourned or dissolv. ed at the pleasure of the executive authority, that if, in the opinion of Congress itself, the public good may require it, they may continue un interruptedly in session until the expiration of the term for which the House of Representatives is elected; and it may appoint as early a day as it thinks proper for the meeting of the next Congress.


the benefits of our written Constitution, it may be accounted as one of the most valuable, that no act of Congress can pro. long its own existence beyond the time fixed by that fundamental law.



In the construction of a Republican government, there is no point more difficult of adjustment than the proper constitution of the executive power. The object of this department being the execution of the laws, good policy requires that it should be organized in the mode best calculated to effect that end with precision and fidelity. In the proceedings of the other branches of the government, deliberation is necessary. Both in making and expounding the laws, caution and consultation are implied as indispensable duties. But when laws are duly made and promulgated, they only remain to be executed. No discretion is vested in the executive officer in regard to their wisdom and expediency. What has been declared, under the forms of deliberation prescribed by the Constitution, to be the meaning and intention of the Legislature, should be carried into prompt execution, and due effect given to it by the executive department, until repealed by the legislative power, or pronounced unconstitutional by the judiciary, in which latter case, the act of the Legislature is ascertained to be void, and neither public officers nor private citizens are responsible for its neglect or violation. But

every individual is bound to obey a constitutional law, however objectionable in other respects it may appear to him; and whosoever refuses or withholds obedience to a law on the ground even of its unconstitutionality, does so at his peril; for if the question be judicially decided, by a competent tribunal, in favour of its validity, he is liable to all the le


gal consequences of disobedience. The presumption, moreover, is always in favour of a law passed according to the forms of the Constitution ; and where the chief executive magistrate has a negative upon the acts of the Legislature, that presumption is, of course, the stronger against him, especially as to laws passed under his own administration, and which must, therefore, have received his official approval. For in such a case, the existence alone of the law is evidence of his admission of its constitutionality, if the negative he possesses be absolute; and, if qualified, it shows that his objections were overruled, and the law subsequently passed on a reconsideration, as required on such occasions by the Constitution. If the law to which he objects were passed under a former administration, his official, if not his personal obligation, is not less absolute and

peremptory. For the negative vested in him is a legislative, and not a judicial power, and to allow a contrary doctrine would be to admit the existence of a right in the executive department to repeal laws without the intervention of the Legislature. As, therefore, the executive power is not only bound to obey, but to carry into effect the law, the essential qualities required in that department are promptness, vigour, and responsibility.

A prompt submission to the law, and an immediate preparation to enforce it, are absolutely necessary in respect to the authority from which it emanates. In regard also to its effect—whenever the time of acting on a law has arrived, its operation should be immediate and decisive, otherwise the sense of its protection and control will be weakened, and its power unfelt and forgotten. On general principles, therefore, as delay is reprehensible, promptness is a duty, the non-performance of which, in certain cases, ena

bles the transgressor to escape punishment: For this reason, it is both wise and humane that the execution of the law should be speedy, and that no unnecessary interval should be allowed between its violation and the adoption of measures to enforce it.

For this purpose, the executive magistrate should be endowed with sufficient energy. A feeble executive department implies a feeble execution of the government, which is but another name for a bad execution ; and a government in which the laws are not faithfully executed, whatever it may be in theory, must in practice be a bad one. A vigour of action duly proportioned to the exigencies which arise must be imparted to the executive power. But for this purpose, the proportion of power vested to the occasions that may be expected to require its exercise should be as exact as possible ; for if the power fall short, the evils already adverted to will ensue; and if it exceed its true proportion, the liberties of the people would be endangered. It is difficult, however, in a written Constitution, to adopt general expressions precisely descriptive of the proper extent and limitation of this power. To guard, therefore, against its abuse, as well as to ensure a faithful execution of the general trust reposed in this department, it is requisite that it should be held responsible to the people for official delinquencies.

These three qualities of promptness, vigour, and responsibility are certainly most likely to exist where the executive authority is limited to a single person, moving at the discretion of a single will. In some republics, the fear of danger from such a head has led to the introduction of councils, and other subdivisions of the executive power, and the consequent imbecility and distractions of those governments have probably contributed to the preførence given in

« AnteriorContinua »