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Suppose a proposition were made that persons should be chosen in each Senatorial district, as our Senators are elected, and that the persons so chosen should select one of their number to be Governor, would any man be found to vote for it?
Yet this is substantially the manner in which, by the present Constitution, the officer is selected, who, in case of a vacancy in that office, is to be our Governor. And with reference to his Executive character, it is the worse that he is to be of the body which selects him.
It is said by the gentleman from the city that, in electing a Senator, the people know he may be Governor, and would vote with reference to the qualifications of the candidates for that office. This is not so. Upon the election ground not one voter in a thousand thinks of that matter. The candidate is voted for on account of his fitness and qualifications for Senator, and with reference to his services in the Senate, and not in the Executive department.
It is said, for forty-seven years we have experienced no inconvenience. True—and why? Because no vacancy has occured in all that time. If there had, it is more than probable that very great dissatisfaction would have been manifested.
In providing for the election of a Vice President, we have the opinion and example of the people of the United States in favor of this proposition. In twelve of the States of this Union, a Lieutenant Governor is elected. In all these, I think he is chosen in the same manner the Governor is. This is a very strong recommendation. The other States do not agree in the mode of supplying a vacancy in the Executive department. In some States like our own, this duty is devolved on the Speaker of the Senate, and in some on other officers.
It has been truly remarked by the delegate from Lycoming, (Mr. FLEMING) that you do not increase the expenses of the Government by creating the office of Lieutenant Governor. Then why shall not the people themselves elect the individual who is to exercise the office of Governor, in case of a vacancy in that office-and who is to preside in the highest branch of the Legislature, and give the casting vote on questions in which they are all interested? We have many reasons and the examples of many other States in favor of creating this office, and no satisfactory reason against it.
Mr. BELL: A few words in reply to the gentleman from Philadelphia, (Mr. MEREDITH). My view of the construction of the Constitution in this respect, is altogether different from his. By comparing the original draft of the Constitution with the clause as it was adopted, he will see that there is no ground for his objection to my position. In the original draft of the Constitution, the 14th section stood thus : “ In case of the removal of the Governor from office, or of his death or resignation, it shall devolve on the Speaker of the Senate, until the next annual election of representives, when another Governor shall be chosen”, &c. But this clause was stricken out, in the committee of the whole, and the 14th section provides that “the Speaker of the Senate shall exercise the office of Governor until another Governor shall be duly qualified.” With the Sheriffs and Coroners the case is different ; vacancies in either of these offices are to be filled by a new appointment, to be made by the Governor, to continue " until the next general election”, and until a successor shall be chosen,
But the Speaker of the Senate must fill the office of Governor, until another Governor is duly qualified. But a Governor cannot be duly qualified until he is duly elected, and he can be duly elected once in three years. So, sir, we may have a case in which the office of Governor may become vacant by death or otherwise, in the first year or first month of his service, and in consequence of it, the Speaker of the Senate for the time, will be the Governor of the Commonwealth till the next triennial election.
Mr. MEREDITH : I disagree with the gentleman. The third section provides, that the Governor shall hold his office during three years, from the third Tuesday of December next ensuing his election; and the vacancy cannot be filled by the Speaker of the Senate for a longer time, than from the occurence of the vacancy till the following third Tuesday of December; by which time another Governor must be elected and qualified. But there may be some ambiguity on the subject, though I can see no room for any. There are no express provisions in the Constitution which look to filling a vacancy for three years. Nothing but express terms can justify such a construction. If it had been intended that the Speaker of the Senate should fill the vacancy for the whole term for which the Governor was elected, it would have so provided in express terms.
Mr. BIDDLE: A single word in reply to the gentleman from Chester. The 14th section of the 2d article, and the 1st section of the 6th, taken together, leads me to a conclusion different from that to which the gentleman has arrived. In the case of Sheriffs and Coroners, vacancies are to be “ filled by a new appointment to be made by the Governor, to continue until the next general election, and until a successor shall be chosen and qualified as aforesaid”. Why were they to hold till the next general election ? Because, then, and not before, a successor can be duly qualified. The same construction precisely may be applied, to the case of the Governor. “ The Speaker of the Senate shall exercise the office of Governor until another Governor shall be duly qualified”. When may another Governor be duly qualified ? Why, at the first meeting of the Legislature after the next annual election. It was plain that the Speaker of the Senate could not hold the office beyond the first election after the occurence of the vacancy.
Mr. EARLE said, if there was any ambiguity in the section, it ought to be removed; and that there was some ambiguity in it was apparent from the fact, that ingenious lawyers, skilled in verbal construction, differed wholly in its construction. He would add, as a further evidence of its ambiguity, that, some years ago, when the Governor was dangerously ill, the Judges of the Supreme Court of the State were applied to for their opinions on the question, and they differed. The present Speaker of the Senate held an opinion different from that expressed by the gentleman from Philadelphia, (Mr. MEREDITH). Would he, therefore, entertaining the opinion that he was entitled to hold the office till the expiration of the term for which the Governor was elected, issue his writ for a new election of Governor before that time? He was disposed to attach much respect to the Constitution of the United States, and to its powers, and to place confidence in the wisdom of the provisions which they made, unless there were strong reasons why he should not; and he could see no reason to doubt the propriety and necessity of the office of Vice President. If
the Speaker of the Senate was to hold the office of Governor, then the Senate would, in fact, in such cases, have the choice of the Governor of the Commonwealth, instead of the people. Some gentlemen have laid much stress on the veto power; and in favor of retaining that power, they had urged that the Governor was the only power in the Commonwealth that came from the whole body of the people, and represented the whole people, and that, therefore, he was the proper person to hold a check upon imprudent, corrupt, and dangerous legislation. Would not the same reason apply to the acting Governor ? Whoever exercised the Executive power, should be elected with that view, by the whole people. There was another reason in favor of the establishment of the office of Lieutenant Governor. The day will come when there will be five or six millions of inhabitants in this State, and then, when party spirit runs very high, the Executive Magistrate, wielding a power greater than either the Legislature or the Judiciary, may attempt to make himself despotic. The Legislature could exert no power in opposition to him, except when it was in session. The Judi
ary none except when in session. But the Governor was always in the exercise of his power. He holds the sword, and is the highest officer in the Commonwealth, and possesses an extensive and commanding influence. If he should attempt to exercise a despotic power, ought there not to be some officer in the Commonwealth upon whom the people can rally, at once, by some common principle of concert. A Lieutenant Governor would, in such a case, form a proper rallying point, as he is an officer checked by the people. In Switzerland, where a republican government has lasted so long, there are two Executive officers who serve alternately for a year, and in some Cantons for six months. So, in Rome, there were two Consuls, and if one proved treacherous, the people could rally around the other. In Sparta, there were two Kings. There were four Magistrates, the Ephori, who were checks upon each other. These were instances of a divided Chief Magistracy, constituted to act as checks upon each other. Though we have not a divided Executive, yet it is our object to have suitable checks upon the action of the Executive.
Mr. FULLER said he was opposed, for two reasons, to the proposition. First
, the people of the Commonwealth had not asked this alteration. For half
'a century, we had been without a Lieutenant Governor, and had experienced no inconvenience from it. If he was disposed to make change in this respect, he would not do it at this time for another reason, that it would hazard the adoption of other amendments. There were two ways of opposing reform. One directly, and another indirectly. One way to defeat any reform was to overload the Constitution with amendments, which the people had not asked for, so as to render it necessary for them to reject the who'e. When we came to the 14th section, he should move an amendment, providing that the Speaker of the Senate, in case of a vacancy in the office of Governor, shall hold the office only to the next an nual election. This would relieve the clause of all doubts.
The motion to amend was lost. Mr. DARLINGTON moved to amend the section, by striking out the second Tuesday of October," and adding after the word “the” the words * time and,” so as to avoid the question as to the time of the election.
We had adopted a day for the general election, which, whether it was sustained or not, there was no occasion for altering now.
The motion was agreed to.
SECT. 3. To read as follows—" The Governor shall hold his office during three years from the third Tuesday of December next ensuing his election ; and shall not be capable of holding it longer than six years in any term of nine years.”
Mr. Reigart moved to amend the same by striking therefrom, in the second line, the word “ three,” and inserting “ four," and striking out of the second line, the word “ December", and inserting “ January”, and striking out all after the word “be,” in the third line, and inserting in lieu thereof “ re-eligible”. The effect of the amendment, he explained, would be to provide that the Governor shall hold his office for four years, from the first
day of January next ensuing his election, and not be re-eligible to the office thereafter.
Mr. BUTLER moved to amend the amendment, by striking out the same and inserting in lieu thereof, the following, viz: “ The Governor shall hold his office during two years, from the third Tuesday of January next ensuing his election, and shall not be capable of holding it longer than four, in any term of eight years”.
Mr. Dickey said he was opposed to both amendments, because the general opinion and feeling of the people were in favor of the term of three years,
and because there had never been any expression of opinion on the part of the people, in favor of limiting the tenure to one term.
The amendment to amendment was lost.
Mr. Hiester moved to amend the amendment, by adding thereto, the words "for the next succeeding four years”.
Mr. PURVIANCE said, that the only section of the article now under collsideration, to which he had any objection, was the one now before the committee. With the fourteen other sections of that article he was willing to be satisfied, except that which relates to judicial appointments, the amendments of which more appropriately belong to the fifth article.
The section under consideration, to which the amendment from the gentleman of Lancaster applies, he believed of the greatest importance. Sir
, (said Mr. P.) I have ever felt a deep interest in the alteration of the Constitution, that we might rid ourselves of that periodical turmoil and excitement which takes place triennially at our gubernatorial elections. It is of itself sufficient to shake the stability of our government, by interfering with and severing the best friendships of our nature, and waging a continual war upon the purest feelings of the heart. He said he looked to the alteration of the Constitution in this, as well as in other particulars, as to the time when friends long parted, and kept apart by political broils, will again meet and renew friendships long since buried in the unhallowed grave of political asperity. He declared his belief that a Governor under the present Constitution possessed more power than the King of Great Britain, and as long as such power existed, we might look in vain for the unrippled wave of peace. The patronage of the Governor was like a galvanic battery, producing simultaneous shocks at the extreme ends of the State. So
many political aspirants and expectants of public favor, necessarily led to this much-to-be-deprecated excitement in the election of a Governor. Whilst this patronage, or even the smallest portion of it exists, your Executives may be influenced in the distribution of that patronage by the hope of re-election. Render them ineligible, and you remove that inducement, and hereafter will be able to elect Governors who cannot, by any possibility, look to their own advancement in the distribution of their official patronage. This Convention will, no doubt, to a very great extent, curtail the appointing power; but still the Executive will remain clothed with powers important and extraordinary. The Governor will remain as before, commander-in-chief of the army, navy, and militia of the state. He will continue as before, charged with the power of a faithful execution of the laws. His power to grant reprieves and pardons will continue the same, and although a limitation of judicial tenure will inevitably result from our labors, a co-ordinate power of appointment may still be reposed in your Executives. With such power lodged in the hands of an individual, is it not obvious that danger is to be apprehended, and that bad men, or ambitious aspiring men, would apply so powerful an engine to the advancement of their own private interests, and the perpetuation of their own power?
In the distribution of the appointing power, office is not always confered upon the most worthy, but frequently npon those who have been the most clamorous in their support of the dominant party. In twelve of the States, the principle of ineligibility had been engrafted upon their Constitutions. Virginia, by her Constitution of 1830, adopted the principle. Kentucky has rendered her Executives ineligible for seven years after their term of service expires. Maryland for four years. North and South Carolina, the former by an amended Constitution of 1836, and the latter by amendments since its original adoption, have carried out the principle of ineligibility. Alabama, Louisiana, Missouri, Illinois, and Mississippi have limited Executive service to four years. In the latter State, all officers, from the highest to the lowest, from the Judges of the high Courts of Errors and Appeals down to the Judges of the Courts of Probate, are elected by the people, and yet they have been careful to render their Executive ineligible to re-election. In Tennessee, the same principle exists, and in Delaware, the Executive is ineligible forever. In the States of Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Rhode Island, the Governor is elected annually, which is an equivalent for the ineligibility principle, being productive of similar political advantages to the States. It brings the Executives so near the people, and renders their accountability so short, that little danger can be apprehended. Adopt this principle in Pennsylvania, and the scenes of excitement with which we are periodically visited will be at an end, and the people will hereafter be permitted to elect a Governor under no other influence than that of an honest devotion to the best interests of the country.
These, sir, are the sentiments of one who, like the EARL of Chatham, was rebuked for his want of age, and advised to tarry awhile at Jericho to acquire that which others have artificially obtained.
These loose and crude sentiments may, according to the idea of a certain gentleman, be but the barking of a cur; but, I trust, at an object less terrific in appearance than the ill-fated horse doomed to canine vengeance for no other sin than that for which the captain's horse in Modern Chivalry