Gambar halaman


66 No person

speculations, by rendering a combination among all the electoral colleges, as to their votes, more difficult, if not unavailing. This object would be still more certainly obtained, by fixing the choice of the electors themselves on the same day, and at so short a period, before they give their votes, as to render any general negotiations and arrangements among them nearly impracticable. Practically speaking, however, this provision, as well as the preceding, has had far less influence than was expected ; for the votes of the Electors are now, in consequence their pledges, almost as well known before, as after, their votes are counted.

$ 269. The next clause respects the qualifications of the President; and the qualifications of the Vice President are (as we have seen) to be the same. except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President. Neither shall any person be eligible to the office, who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States."

$ 270. Considering the nature of the duties, the extent of the information, and the solid wisdom and experience, required in the Executive department, no one can reasonably doubt the propriety of some qualification of age of the President. That, which is selected, is the middle age of life, by which period, the character and talents of individuals are generally known, and fairly developed ; the passions of youth have become moderated; and the faculties are fast advancing to their highest state of maturity. An earlier period could scarcely have afforded sufficient pledges of talents, wisdom, and virtue, adequate to the dignity and importance of the office.

$ 271. The other qualifications respect citizenship and inhabitancy. It is not too much to say, that no one, but a native citizen, ought ordinarily to be intrusted with an office so vital to the safety and liberties of the people But an exception was, from a deep sense of gratitude, made in favor of those distinguished men, who, though not ratives, had, with such exalted patriotism, and such personal zacrifices, united their lives and fortunes with ours during the Resolution. But even a native citizen might, from long absence, and voluntary residence abroail, become alienated from, or indifferent to his country ; and, therefore, a residence for fourteen years within the United States is made indispensable, as a qualification to the office. This, of course, does not exclude persons, who are temporarily abroad in the public service, or on their private affairs, and who have not intentionally given up their domicile here.

$ 272. The next clause is, “In case of the removal of the President from office, or of his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President. And the Congress may by law provide for the case of removal, death, resignation, or inability of the President and Vice President ; declaring what officer shall then act as President ; and such officer shall act accordingly, until the disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.” The propriety of this power is manifest. It provides for cases, which may occur in the progress of the government; and it prevents in such cases a total suspension of the executive functions, which would be injurious, and might even be fatal to the interests of the country.

$ 273. What shall be the proper proof of the resignation of the President or Vice President, or of their resusal to accept the office, is left open by the Constitution. But Congress, with great wisdom and foresight, have provided, that the only evidence of a refusal to accept the office, or of a resignation of the office, shall be an instrument in writing, declaring the same, subscribed by the party and delivered into the office of the Secretary of State. No provision has as yet been made for the case of the inability of the President or Vice President to perform the duties of his office, nor has any mode of proof been prescribed, to ascertain the fact of inability, or what shall be deemed an inability.

$.274. The next clause provides for the compensation of the President. - The President shall, at stated times,

receive for his services a compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished, during the period for which he shall have been elected ; and he shall not receive, within that period, any other emolument from the United States, or any of them.”

§ 275. The propriety of granting to the President a suitable compensation, cannot well be doubted. The Constitution would, otherwise, exclude all persons of moderate fortune from the office; or expose them to gross temptations, to sacrifices of duty, and perhaps to direct corruption. The compensation should be adequate to the just expenditures of the office. If the Legislature should possess a discretionary authority to increase or diminish it at their pleasure, the President would become an humble dependent upon their bounty, or a mean suppliant for their favor. It would give them a complete command of his independence, and perhaps of his integrity. And on the other hand, if the actual incumbent could procure an augmentation of it during his official term to any extent he might desire, he might be induced, from mere avarice, to seek this as his highest reward, and undermine the virtue of Congress, in order to accomplish it. The prohibition equally forbids any increase or diminution. And, to exclude all exterior influences, it equally denies to him all emoluments arising from any other sources, State or National. He is thus secured, in a great measure, against all sinister foreign influences. And he must be lost to all just sense of the high duties of his station, if he does not conduct himself with an exclusive devotion to the good of the whole people, unmindful at once of the blandishments of courtiers, who seek to deceive him, and of partisans, who aim to govern him, and thus to accomplish their own selfish purposes.

$ 276 The next clause is, “Before he enters on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation : I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend, the Coustitution of the United States." There is little need of commentary here. No



man can doubt the propriety of placing the Presiden under the sanction of an oath of office, to preserve, protect, and defend, the Constitution, who would require an oath or solemn affirmation on any other occasion. If a judge, or a juryman, or a witness, ought to take a solemni oath or affirmation, to bind his conscience, surely a President, holding in his hands the destiny of the nation, ought so to do.

Let it not be deemed a vain or idle form. In all these things, God will bring us into judgement. A President, who shall dare to violate the obligations of his solemn oath or affirmation of office, may escape human censure, nay, may even receive applause from the giddy multitude. But he will be compelled to learn, that there is a watchful Providence, that cannot be deceived ; and a righteous Being, the searcher of all hearts, who will render unto all men according to their deserts. Considerations of this sort will necessarily make a conscientious man more scrupulous in the discharge of his duty; and will even make a man of looser principles pause, when he is about to enter upon a deliberate violation of his official oath.


Powers and Duties of the President.

$ 277. We next come to the consideration of the pow ers and duties of the President. The first clause of the second section is, “ The President shall be commanderin-chief of the army and navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several States, when called into the actual service of the United States. He may require the opinion in writing of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices; and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offences agains' the United States, except in cases of impeachment.”

$ 278. The command, direction, and application, of


the public forces, to execute the laws, maintain peace, resist invasion, and carry on war, are powers obviously belonging to the executive department, and require the exercise of qualifications, which cannot properly be presumed to exist in any other department of the government. Promptitude of action, unity of design, and harmony of operations, are in such cases indispensable to

T'imidity, indecision, obstinacy, pride, and sluggishness, inust mingle, in a greater or less degree, in all numerous bodies, and render their councils inert and imbecile, and their military operations slow and uncertain. There is, then, true wisdom and policy in confiding the command of the army and navy to the President, since it will insure activity, responsibility, and firmness, in public emergencies.

§ 279. The President is also authorized to require the opinions of the Heads of Departments, in writing, on subjects relative to their official duties. This, perhaps, might have been deemed an incidental right to his gener al authority. But it was desirable to make it a matter of constitutional right, so as to enforce responsibility in crit. cal times.

$ 280. To the President, also, is confided the power " to grant reprieves and pardons.”

Without this power, no government could be deemed to be suitably organized for the purposes of administering human justice. The criminal code of every country must necessarily partake, in some of its punishments, of a high degree of severity; and it is not possible to fix the exact degree of punishment, for every kind of offence, under every variety of circumstances. There are so many things, which may extenuate, as well as inflame the atrocity of crimes, and so many infirmities, which belong to human nature in general, which may furnish excuses, or mitigations for the commission of them, that any code, which did not provide for any pardoning or mitigating power, would be universally deemed cruel, unjust, and indefensible. It would introduce the very evils, which it would seek to avoid, by inducing the community to connive at an escape from punishment, in all cases, where the latter would be

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »