Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of the power to the occasions thať are expected to require its use, should be as exact as possible. If it falls short, the evils we have already adverted to will ensue; if it exceeds them, the liberty of the people is endangered. It is difficult to adopt general expressions exactly descriptive of the proper extent and limitation of this power. Perhaps those we find in the Constitution are as competent as any that could be applied. “The president shall take care that the laws shall be faithfully executed.” The simplicity of the language accords with the general character of the instrument. It declares what is his duty, and it gives him no power beyond it. · The Constitution, treaties, and acts of congress, are declared to be the supreme law of the land. He is bound to enforce them; if he attempts to carry his power further, he violates the Constitution

But although an exact specification of the manner in which the executive power shall be exercised, is not, and could not be introduced into the Constitution, although it would be at once unnecessary and impossible to define all the modes in which it may be executed, yet the auxiliary means are not wholly omitted, and will be noticed after we have considered the composition of the executive.

In some republics, the fear of evil from a single head, has led to the creation of councils and other subdivisions of the executive power, and the consequent imbecility and distractions of those governments have probably contributed to lead most of the nations of Europe to the preference given to monarchies. It was falsely conceived that to vest the executive power in a single person, was inconsistent with the nature of a republic, or it was supposed that a republic so constituted could not long retain its freedom, against the ambitious views, and alarming domination of a single magistrate. But in America, neither the fervour of republican principles, nor the odium of monarchy, then in hostile array against us, overpowered the calm and deliberate exercise of a sound judgment in this

respect, and in every state but one, the unity of the executive power was adopted as a principle. Pennsylvania alone, whose original constitution has since been altered by the people, created an executive council, formed of a member from each county, and we have heretofore noticed its feebleness and inefficiency on a distressing occasion.*

The experience of nearly half a century in respect to these state governments; the experience of upwards of a third of a century in respect to the United States government, evince that under proper regulations no abuse of such powers is to be feared. Limited and restrained as the president is, creature of the people, and subject to the law, with all power to do right, he possesses none to do wrong; his general responsibility by being, undivided, is complete, his liability to impeachment, by accusers, in whose appointment he has no share, before a court which he does not create, both emanating from the same source to which he owes his own existence; his term of office exactly limited, his official power entirely gone the moment that of his successor commences, or the moment when the senate shall pass on him a sentence of deprivation of office; his only safety consists in doing what is right; his speedy and certain destitution would follow a contrary conduct.

[merged small][ocr errors]

CHAPTER XIII.

OF THE MEANS PROVIDED FOR THE PERFORMANCE OF

THE EXECUTIVE DUTIES.

Among the means provided to enable the president to perform his publịc duties, the command of the military force will first be considered.

The principal clauses in the Constitution which affect the subject are the following:

The Congress shall have power to raise and support armies, to provide and maintain a navy, to make rules for the government and regulation of the army, the navy, and also of the militia, when the latter are in the service of the United States. The president shall be commander in chief of the army

and navy, and of the militia of the several states when called into the actual service of the United States.

These are the modes of action expressly provided for the executive magistrate, whenever his functions assume a military cast. In relation to those of a nature merely civil, the Constitution is silent, because particular description would not be equally practicable, and hence as before observed, congress is empowered to pass such laws as may be requisite and proper for carrying into execution the powers vested in the officers of government.

A

Subordinate offices are therefore created by congress when necessary, whose functions are either expressly defined, or implied from the nature of the office, or left wholly or in part to the direction of the president.

But the military power is at present to be considered, and this, it appears, consists of two classes ; first, those who are regularly retained on stipulated compensations to serve in the army or navy, and secondly, the militia who are called forth as occasion may require, but when in service are subject to the same regulations as regular troops.

On the nature and character of the first, little needs at present to be said. The caution that no appropriation of money for the support of an army for a longer term than two years has been mentioned. The manner of employment may be directed by congress, or confided to the president. Congress, which may direct when and where forts shall be built, may also prescribe that they shall be garrisoned either with specific numbers, or with such a number as the president may think proper. So in times of peace, troops may be stationed by congress in particular parts of the United States, having a view either to their health and easy subsistence, or to the security of distant and frontier stations; but during the emergencies of a war, when the defence of the country is cast on the president, and dangers not foreseen may require measures of defence not provided for, the president would certainly be justified in preferring the execution of his constitutional duties, to the literal obedience of a law, the original object of which was of less vital importance than that created by subsequent exigencies, and there can be no doubt that this necessary power would extend to the erecting of new fortresses, and to the abandoning of those erected by order of congress, as well as to the concentration, division or other local employment of the troops, which in his judgment or that of the officers under his command, became expedient from circumstances. This would

not be a violation of the rules laid down in the preceding pages, since the obligation of the law is lost in the succession of causes that prevent its operation, and the Constitution itself may be considered as thus superseding it.

The power of the president over the militia depends on the same principle; the necessary supply of the means to enable him to perform his executive duties.

In a people permitted and accustomed to bear arms, we have the rudiments of a militia, which properly consists of armed citizens, divided into military bands, and instructed at least in part in the use of arms for the purposes of war.

. Their civil oceupations are not relinquished, except while they are actually in the field, and the inconvenience of withdrawing them from their accustomed labours, abridges the time required for military instruction. Militia therefore, never amount to perfect soldiers, unless the public exigencies shallhave kept them so long together as to absorb the civil, in the military character.

The human mind is of a nature so flexible, that it may by perseverance, be disciplined to results, which at first view would be deemed almost impossible. The fear of death is certainly one of the earliest, and most. natural passions; yet in a well regulated army, it gives' way to the fear of disgrace ; and the soldier becomes more apprehensive of the displeasure of his commanders, than of the fire of the enemy. Another sort of mechanism also contributes to actuate a disciplined army; it is the voluntary and entire surrender of its own judgment to that of the commander. Obedience would be slow and uncertain, if the soldier was to allow himself to reflect on the propriety of the orders given: he is habituated to deem them right, merely because they are orders, and from the common soldier to the highest subordinate officer, no other rule is known than that of implicit obedience. The confidence thus reposed is not of a personal nature; it does not depend

« AnteriorContinuar »