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ble to the office of President, shall be eligible to that of VicePresident of the United States. The constitution does not specifically prescribe when or where the senate is to choose a Vice-President, if no choice be made by the electors, and, I presume, the senate may elect by themselves, at any time before the fourth day of March following.
It is provided by law, that the term of four years, for which a President and Vice-President shall be elected, shall, in all cases, commence on the fourth day of March next succeeding the day on which the votes of the electors shall have been given.
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 office, the same devolve on the Vice-President; and Congress are authorized to provide, by law, for the case of the vacancy in the office, both of President and Vice-President, declaring what officer should then act as President, and the officer so designated is to act until the office be supplied. In pursuance of this constitutional provision, the act of Congress, of March 1st, 1792, sec. 9. declared, that in case of a vacancy in the office, both of President and Vice-President, the president of the senate pro tempore, and in case there should be no president of the senate, then the speaker of the house of representatives, for the time being, should act as President, until the vacancy was supplied. The evidence of a refusal to accept, or of a resignation of the office of President and Vice-President, is declared by the same act of Congress, sec. 11. to be a declaration in writing, filed in the office of the secretary of state. And if the office should, by the course of events, devolve on the speaker, after the Congress for which the last speaker was chosen had expired, and before the next meeting of Congress, it might be a question who is to serve,
a Amendments to the Constitution, art. 12.
b Act of Congress, March 1, 1792.
Art. 2. sec. 1.
and whether the speaker of the house of representatives, then extinct, could be deemed the person intended.
The mode of electing the President appears to be well calculated to secure a discreet choice, and to avoid all those evils which the partisans of monarchy have described, and the experience of other nations and past ages have too clearly shown to be the consequence of popular elections. Had the choice of President been referred at once to the people at large, as one single community, there might have been reason to apprehend, and such no doubt was the sense of the convention, that it would have produced too violent a contest, and have been trying the experiment on too extended a scale for the public virtue, tranquillity, and happiness. But still a greater and more insuperable difficulty was, that such a measure would be an entire consolidation of the government of this country, and an annihilation of the state sovereignties, so far as concerned the organization of the executive department of the Union. This was not to be permitted or endured, and it would, besides, have destroyed the balance of the Union, and reduced the weight of the slave-holding states to a degree which they would have deemed altogether inadmissible. Had we imitated the practice of most of the southern states, in respect to their state executives, and referred the choice of the President to Congress, this would have rendered him too dependent upon the immediate authors of his elevation, to comport with the requisite energy of his own department ; and it would have laid him under temptation to indulge in improper intrigue, or to form a dangerous coalition with the legislative body, in order to secure his continuance in office. All elections by the representative body are peculiarly liable to produce combinations for sinister purposes. The constitution has avoided all these objections, by confiding the power of election to a small number of select individuals in each state, chosen only a few days before the election, and solely for that purpose. This would seem, prima facie, to be as wise a provision as the wisdom of man could have
devised, to avoid all opportunity for foreign or domestic intrigue. These electors assemble in separate and distantly detached bodies, and they are constituted in a manner best calculated to preserve them free from all inducements to disorder, bias, or corruption. There is no other mode of appointing the chief magistrate, under all the circumstances peculiar to our political condition, which appears to unite in itself so many unalloyed advantages. It must not be pronounced to be a perfect scheme of election, for it has not been sufficiently tried. The election of 1801 threatened the tranquillity of the Union; and the difficulty that occurred in that case in producing a constitutional choice, led to the amendment of the constitution on this very subject; but whether the amendment be for the better or for the worse, may be well doubted, and remains yet to be settled by the lights of experience. The constitution says, that each state is to appoint electors in such manner as the legislature may direct; and in New-York, and some other states, the electors have always been chosen by the legislature itself, in the mode prescribed by law. But it is to be presumed that there would be less opportunity for dangerous coalitions, and combinations for party, or ambitious, or selfish purposes, if the choice of electors was referred to the people at large, and this seems now to be the sense and expression of public opinion.
His term of (4.) The President, thus elected, holds his office for the term of four years, a period, perhaps, reasonably long for the purpose of making him feel firm and independent in the discharge of his trust, and to give stability and some degree of maturity to his system of administration. It is certainly short enough to place him under a due sense of dependence on the public approbation. The President is re-eligible for successive terms, but in practice he has never consented to be a candidate for a third election, and this usage has indirectly established, by the force of public opinion, a salutary limitation to his capacity of continuance in office. (5.) The support of the President is secured by a provi
sion in the constitution, which declares," that he shall, at stated times, receive for his services a compensation, that shall neither be increased or diminished, during the period for which he shall have been elected; and that he shall not receive, within that time, any other emolument from the United States, or any of them. This provision is intended to preserve the due independence and energy of the executive department. It would be in vain to declare that the different departments of government should be kept separate and distinct, while the legislature possessed a discretionary control over the salaries of the executive and judicial officers. This would be to disregard the voice of experience, and the operation of invariable principles of human conduct. A control over a man's living is, in most cases, a control over his actions. The constitution of Virginia considered it as a fundamental axiom of government, that the three great and primary departments should be kept separate and distinct, so that neither of them exercised the powers properly belonging to the other. But without taking any precautions to preserve this principle in practice, it made the governor dependent on the legislature for his annual existence and his annual support. The result was, as Mr. Jefferson has told us," that during the whole session of the legislature, the direction of the executive was habitual and familiar. The constitution of Massachusetts discovered more wisdom, and it set the first example in this country, of a constitutional provision for the support of the executive magistrate, by declaring that the governor should have a salary of a fixed and permanent value, amply sufficient, and established by standing laws. Those state con
stitutions which have been made or amended since the establishment of the constitution of the United States, have generally followed the example which it has happily set them, in this and in many other instances; and we may consider it as one of the most signal blessings bestowed on
a Art. 2. sec. 7. VOL. I.
b Notes on Virginia, p. 127.
Powers of the Presi
this country, that we have such a wise fabric of government as the constitution of the United States constantly before our eyes, not only for our national protection and obedience, but for our local imitation and example.
(6.) Having thus considered the manner in which the President is constituted, it only remains for us to review the powers with which he is invested.
He is commander in chief of the army and navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the service of the Union. The command and
application of the public force to execute the law, maintain peace, and resist foreign invasion, are powers so obviously of an executive nature, and require the exercise of qualities so characteristical of this department, that they have always been exclusively appropriated to it in every well organized government upon earth. In no instance, perhaps, did the enlightened understanding of Hume discover less acquaintance with the practical science of government, than when he gave the direction of the army and navy, as well as all the other executive powers, to one hundred senators, in his plan of a perfect commonwealth. That of Milton was equally chimerical and absurd, when, in his
Ready and easy way to establish a free Commonwealth," he deposited the whole executive, as well as legislative power, in a single and permanent council of senators. That of Locke was equally unwise, for, in his plan of legislation for Carolina, he gave the whole authority, legislative and executive, to a small oligarchical assembly. Such speci
a Art. 2. sec. 2.
b Hume's Essays, vol. 1. p. 526.
c Mr. Locke's very complicated scheme of government, under the title of Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, is inserted at large in Locke's Works, vol. 3. 6C5-678. Those legislative labours of that great and excellent man, perished unheeded and unregretted by all parties, after an experience of twenty-three years had proved them to be, in the words of Mr. Grahame, the historian, "utterly worthless and impracticable."