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government shall be organized and administered, and the powers and duties of its respective departments.
For what Purpose the Constitution was
established. 29. It was ordained and established by the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity.
30. Such being the purpose, what means have been devised to attain it? In the first place, the powers with which the government is invested are divided among distinct and separate departments, each acting as a control on the others. These departments are legislative, executive, and judicial. We shall consider them in the order they are presented in the Constitution itself.
31. It is proper to observe, however, in this place, that when the Constitution declares the purpose for which it was ordained and established, such declaration neither confers nor enlarges any power confided to any department of the government, but is merely explanatory of the objects for which those powers were conferred, and thus constitutes an important key to their interpretation.
Distribution of Legislative Power. 32. All legislative powers granted by the Constitution are vested in a Congress of the United States, which consists of a Senate and House of Representatives.
Importance of two Branches. 33. Several eminent characters have deemed a division of legislative power between two branches, each having a negative on the other, as unwise and unnecessary. A legislature with two branches, said Dr. Franklin, is a wagon drawn by a horse before and a horse behind, in opposite directions. But reason and experience have alike demonstrated the correctness of the contrary opinion.
34. It is now generally conceded that a division of legislative power is essential in order to prevent those errors and mistakes which a single assembly is liable to commit from haste or inattention, or those impolitic and dangerous acts of legislation into which it may be hurried by the impulses of feeling, by surprise, by intrigue, by fervid eloquence within doors, or the pressure of opinion without.
35. With two branches, it is obvious that each will act with more caution and deliberation, in order that its measures may justify the approval of the other. To make this mutual check and control more effectual, the two branches ought to be instituted upon different principles, so that the same influences which operate upon the one shall be less potential with the other.
36. The framers of the Constitution of the United States were not inattentive to this consideration when they made the term of office, the qualifications, and mode of election for a senator different from what are prescribed for a representative. We shall presently see that in all these particulars the two houses of Congress are constituted differently.
When and by whom Chosen. 37. The House of Representatives is composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states, and the electors in each state must have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature.
Dependence of the Representative upon the
Constituent. 38. Without a dependence of the representative upon the electors, without a power on their part to call him to account for his conduct, the experiment of republican government would be likely to end in an oligarchy or a despotism. A permanent legislative body, though they may, like the Council of Venice, advance the power of a country, are a most unsafe custodian of its liberties.
39. Hence it has become an axioin in republican states that the representative should be directly responsible to the people, and this responsibility is ensured by the frequency of his election.
How frequently should a Representative be
40. How frequent this election should be, or how long should be the duration of a representative's term of office, is a question that does not admit of an exact solution. It may be affirmed, however, as a general proposition, that it should never be so long as to destroy his sense of dependence on his constituents, nor so short as to prevent that familiarity with the practical business of legislation, and that knowledge of the interests of his country upon which his usefulness must essentially depend.
41. The framers of the Constitution, in establishing biennial elections for representatives, were influenced, in part, by the known attachment of the people to the principle of frequent elections. Most of the states chose their representatives annually, Connecticut and Rhode Island semi-annually, North and South Carolina biennially, and Virginia alone septennially.
42. It would, therefore, have been impolitic, and have heightened the opposition which the Constitution encountered when submitted to the people for their assent and ratification, if the term of service in the House of Representatives had been fixed at a longer period than two years. Besides, in fixing