Slike strani

protect on, are persuasively taught, that the blessings of liberty, secured by the national government, are far nore certain, more various, and more extensive, than they would be under their own distinct and independent sovereignties. § 58. Let us now enter upon a more close survey

ot the structure and powers of the national Constitution, that we may see, whether it is as wisely framed as its founders believed ; so as to justify our confidence in its durability, and in its adaptation to our wants, and the great objects proposed in the Preamble. If it be so wisely framed, then, indeed, it will be entitled to our most pro. found reverence ; and we shall accustom ourselves to re. pel with indignation every attempt to weaken its powers, or obstruct its operations, or diminish its influence, as involving our own degradation, and, ultimately, the ruin of the States themselves.


Distribution of Powers.- The Legislative Departmen

§ 59. In surveying the general structure of the Coust tution of the United States, we are naturally led tu : examination of the fundamental principles, on which it organized, for the purpose of carrying into effect the o'y jects disclosed in the Preamble. Every government must include within its scope, at least if it is to possess suitable stability and energy, the exercise of the three great powers, upon which all governments are supposed to rest, viz., the executive, the legislative, and the judicial powers. The manner and extent, in which these powers are to be exercised, and the functionaries, in whom they are to be vested, constitute the great distinctions, which are known in the forms of government. In absolute governments, the whole executive, legislative, and judicial powers are, at least in their final result, exclusively confided to a sin gle individual ; and such a form of government is genominated a Despotism, as the whole sovereignty of the State is vested in him. If the same powers are exclusively confided to a few persons, constituting a permanent sove ceign council, the government may be appropriately denominated an absolute or despotic Aristocracy. If they are exercised by the people at large in their original sovereign assemblies, the government is a pure and absolute Democracy. But it is more common to find these powers divided, and separately exercised by independent functionaries, the executive power by one department, the legislative by another, and the judicial by a third ; and in these cases the government is properly deemed a mixed one ; a mixed monarchy, if the executive power is hereditary in a single person ; a mixed aristocracy, if it is hereditary in several chieftains or families; and a mixed democracy or republic, if it is delegated by election, and is not hereditary. In mixed monarchies and aristocracies, some of the functionaries of the legislative and judicial powers are, or at least may be, 'hereditary. But in a representative republic, all power emanates from the people, and is exercised by their choice, and never extends beyond the lives of the individuals, to whom it is intrusted. It may be intrusted for any shorter period; and then it returns to them again, to be again delegated by a new choice.

§ 60. The first thing, that strikes us, upon the slightest survey of the national Constitution, is, that its structure contains a fundamental separation of the three great departments of government, the legislative, the executive, and the judicial. The existence of all these departments has always been found indispensable to due energy and stability in a government. Their separation has always been found equally indispensable, for the preservation of public liberty and private rights. Whenever they are all vested in one person or body of men, the government is in fact a despotism, by whatever name it may be called, whether a monarchy, or an aristocracy, or a democracy. When, therefore, the Convention, which framed the Constitution, determined on a more efficient system than the Confederation, the first resolution adopted by them was,

that so

a national government ought to be established, consisting of a supreme legislative, judiciary, and execu


$ 61. In the establishment of free governments, the division of the three great powers of government, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial, among different functionaries, has been a favorite policy with patriots and statesmen. It has by inany been deemed a maxim of vital importance, that these powers should for ever be kept separate and distinct. And, accordingly, we find it laid down, with emphatic care, in the Bill of Rights of sev eral of the State Constitutions.

§ 62. The general reasoning, by which the maxim is supported, independently of the just weight of the authority in its support, seems entirely satisfactory. What is of far more value than any mere reasoning, experience has demonstrated it to be founded in a just view of the nature of government, and of the safety and liberty of the people. It is no small commendation of the Constitution of the United States, that, instead of adopting a new theory, it has placed this practical truth, at the basis of its organization. It has placed the legislative, executive, and juɖicial powers in different hands. It has, as we shall presently see, made the term of office and the organization of each department different. For objects of permanent and paramount importance, it has given to the judicial department a tenure of office during good behavior; while it has limited each of the others to a term of years.

$ 63. But when we speak of a separation of the three great departments of government, and maintain, that that separation is indispensable to public liberty, we are to understand this maxim in a limited sense. It is not meant to affirm, that they must be kept wholly and entirely separate and distinct, and have no common link of connection or dependence, the one upon the other, in the slightest degree. The true meaning is, that the whole power of one of these departments should not be exercised by the same hands, which possess the whole power of either of the other departments; and that such exercise of the

whole by the same hands would subvert the principles of a free constitution.

§ 64. How far the Constitution of the United States, in the actual separation of these departments, and the occasional mixtures of some of the powers of each, has accomplished the great objects of the maxim, which we have been considering, will appear more fully, when a survey is taken of the particular powers confided to each department. But the true and only test must, after all, be experience, which corrects at once the errors of theory, and fortifies and illustrates the eternal judgements of Nature.

$ 65. The first section, of the first article, begins with the structure of the Legislature. It is in these words :

“All legislative powers, herein granted, shall be vested in a Congress of the United States ; which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” Under the Confederation, the whole legislative power of the Union was confided to a single branch ; and, limited as that power was, this concentration of it, in a single body, was deemed a prominent defect. The Constitution, on the other hand, adopts, as a fundamental rule, the exercise of the legislative power by two distinct and independent branches. The advantages of this division are, in the first place, that it interposes a great check upon undue, hasty, and oppressive legislation. In the next place, it interposes a barrier against the strong propensity of all public bodies to accumulate all power, patronage, and inAuence in their own hands. In the next place, it operates, indirectly, to retard, if not wholly to prevent, the success of the efforts of a few popular leaders, by their combinations and intrigues in a single body, to carry their own personal, private, or party objects into effect, unconnected with the public good. In the next place, it secures a deliberate review of the same measures, by independent minds, in different branches of government, engaged in the same habits of legislation, but organized upon a different system of elections. And, in the last place, it affords great securities to public liberty, by requiring the co-operation of different bodies, which can scarcely ever, if properly organized, embrace the same sectional or local interests, or influences, in exactly the same proportion, as a single body. The value of such a separate organization will, of course, be greatly enhanced, the more the elements, of which each body is composed, differ from each other, in the mode of choice, in the qualifications, and in the duration of office of the members, provided due intelligence and virtue are secured in each body. All these considerations had great weight in the Convention, which framed the Constitution of the United States. We shall presently see, how far these desirable modifications have been attained in the actual composition of the Senate and House of Representatives.


The House of Representatives.

$ 66. The second section, of the first article, contains the structure and organization of the House of Representatives. The first clause is—The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several States; and the electors in each State shall have the qualifications, requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislature.”'

§ 67. First, the principle of representation. The Representatives are to be chosen by the people. No reasoning was necessary, to satisfy the American people of the advantages of a House of Representatives, which should emanate directly from themselves, which should guard their interests, support their rights, express, their opinions, make known their wants, redress their grievances, and introduce a pervading popular influence throughout all the operations of the national government. Their own experience, as colonists, as well as the experience of the parent country, and the general deductions of theory, had settled it, as a fundamental principle of a

« PrejšnjaNaprej »