« iepriekšējāTurpināt »
colonies in setting up their own governments at the time of the Revolution very generally declared for such division, in more or less explicit terms. Even in the few cases where the division was not expressly made, it was implied in the constitution. The provision in the constitution of Massachusetts adopted in 1780 may be cited as an example of the strength of the conviction. "In the government of this Commonwealth the legislative department shall never exercise the executive and judicial powers or either of them; the executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers or either of them; the judicial shall never exercise the legislative and executive powers or either of them." To this provision were appended, as the reason for it, the memorable words, "To the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."
From 1776 to the present century as new states were formed their people in most instances have adopted similar provisions. Perhaps the people of Maine when they separated from
Massachusetts in 1820 adopted the most stringent provision by prohibiting not only the departments but all the persons in either department from exercising any of the powers properly belonging to either of the other departments.
Of course some exceptions to the rule are necessary and these are usually named in the constitution itself. Again the dividing line between the powers cannot always be precisely defined and, further, each department in the performance of its own proper functions may sometimes be obliged to exercise a power strictly pertaining to another department. All that the maxim requires is that the three powers should be kept as distinct and separate as possible and have the government still go on.
It is true we should not fear to question the wisdom of our fathers, but conclusions they have arrived at in matters of government after long study, observation, and actual experience should not be disregarded unless their error can be clearly demonstrated.
THE NECESSITY OF CONSTITUTIONAL LIMITATIONS UPON THE POWERS OF THE GOVERNMENT. BILLS OF RIGHTS
T should be evident that the division and
distribution of governmental powers among different depositaries will not alone prevent encroachments by the governing power upon the liberty of the subject. The executive department in performing only executive functions can, in the absence of other checks, act oppressively. The legislative department, especially, without exceeding the legislative function, can in many ways and in excessive degrees oppress the individual by unnecessary restrictions of personal liberty, by unnecessary exactions, by arbitrary discriminations. The theory of representative government is that the legislature will be a body of men who will regard themselves as entrusted
with important powers to be exercised deliberately and wisely for the welfare of the whole commonwealth and not for any one or more classes or interests, - who will regard themselves not as mere delegates or proxies, but as representatives, like the directors of a corporation, to form and act upon their own judgment after investigation and reflection. Experience has shown, however, that members of the legislature do not always nor generally act upon that theory. They seem to be inoculated with the bacillus of irrepressible activity, the desire continually to be proposing new laws, new restrictions, new exactions. If the laws enacted prove difficult of enforcement by reason of their interference with what individuals feel to be their rights, then new and oppressive methods of enforcement are devised, still further restricting liberty and equality. I have seen it stated that in the first ten days of the session of the Massachusetts legislature this present year over a thousand laws were proposed. Further, the members of
the legislature are beset by constituents and others to favor legislative measures for their own special benefit, or that of their association, or of their locality. One result is that during every legislative session the ordinary citizen is dreading oppressive legislation and feels relieved when the session is over.
When we consider the wide, almost unlimited range of the legislative function, and the power and tendency of legislatures to push that function to the extreme, it would seem that some check should be put upon the legislature to prevent its enacting discriminatory laws or otherwise depriving the individual of some accustomed and cherished freedom of action. If it be said that public opinion is sufficient restraint, the answer is that in a democracy, or in a republic with universal suffrage, the efficient public opinion is practically that of the majority of the electorate, and it is an acknowledged truism that the unrestrained majority is even more likely than the few to be oppressive of the in