« AnteriorContinuar »
ON COMMUNICATIONS TO BE MADE BY THE PRESIDENT
It is the duty of the president from time to time to give congress information of the state of the union ; but although this alone is expressly mentioned in the Consti- , tution, his communications naturally embrace a wider scope than internal affairs. Under the expression, he is to receive ambassadors, the president is charged with all transactions between the United States and foreign nations, and he is, therefore, the regular channel through which the legislature becomes informed of the political situation of the United States in its foreign, as well as its domestic relations ; yet it has been .always understood that he is not required to communicate more than, in his apprehension, may be consistent with the public interests. Either house may at any time apply to him for information; and, in the regular course of government, can apply only to him, where the matter inquired of, is principally under his superintendence and direction, although they frequently exercise the right to call upon the chief officers of executive departments, on matters peculiarly appertaining to them, and in like manner occasionally refer to the attorney general of the United States on subjects appropriate to his office. The applications directly to the president, are generally
accompanied with a qualification evincing a correct sense of the obligation on his part to avoid or suspend disclosures, by which the public interest, that both are bound to keep in view, might be affected.
Such disclosures the legislature in general expressly disclams. In recurrence to our history, it must be obvious, that these official communications are chargeable with being rather more full and liberal than is common in other countries. In support of the practice it has been said, that in republics there ought to be few or no secrets; an illusory opinion, founded ideal conceptions, and at variance with the useful practice of mankind. If all the transactions of a cabinet, whether in respect to internal or external business, were regularly exhibited to the public eye, its own operations would be impeded; the public mind be perplexed, and improper advantages would sometimes be taken. Foreign powers, pursuing as they invariably do, a different course themselves, would justly object to such proceeding.
The president is also required to recommend to their consideration such measures as he may deem expedient. This is an obligation not to be dispensed with. Exercising his office during the recess of the legislature, the members of which, when they return to the mass of citizens, are disengaged from the obligatory inspection of public affairs ; supplied by his high functions with the best means of discovering the public exigencies, and promoting the public good, he would not be guiltless to his constituents if he failed to exhibit on the first opportunity, his own impressions of what it would be useful to do, with his information of what had been done. He will then have discharged his duty, and it will rest with the legislature to act according to their wisdom and discretion. These communications were formerly made in person at the opening of the session, and written messages were subsequently sent when necessary, but the whole is now done
in writing. It was formerly the practice to return answers, which as a mere matter of ceremony is now disused. The course pursued at present is to refer the message to a committee, who commonly report an analysis of it, and the parts on which it appears necessary to act, are referred to other committees to prepare them for the deliberations of the whole.
president alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments. The term “inferior” is somewhat vague, and it is perhaps left to congress to determine how to apply it; if they do not otherwise direct, the consent of the senate is necessary under the qualifications described.
A proper seleotion and appointment of subordinate officers, is one of the strongest marks of a powerful mind. It is a duty of the president to acquire, as far as possible, an intimate knowledge of the capacities, and .characters of his fellow citizens; to disregard the importunities of friends; the hints or menaces of enemies; the bias of party, and the hope of popularity. The latter is sometimes the refuge of feeble-minded men, but its gleam is transient if it is obtained by a dereliction of honest duty and sound discretion. Popular favour is best secured by carefully ascertaining and strictly pursuing the true interests of the people. The president himself is elected on the supposition that he is the most capable citizen to understand and promote those interests, and in every appointment he ought to consider himself as executing a public trust of the same . nature.
Neither should the fear of giving offence to the public, or pain to the individual, deter him from the immediate exercise of his power of removal on proof of incapacity or infidelity in the subordinate officer. The public, uninformed of the necessity, . may be surprised, and at first dissatisfied; but public approbation ultimately accompanies the fearless and upright discharge of duty. On the other hand, hasty and capricious dismissions from office are equally reprehensible. Although the officer may be dependent on the pleasure of the president, a sound discretion is expected to regulate that pleasure. The motives to attain a degree of excellence in the knowledge and performance of official duties are greatly abated, if the tenure is rendered altogether uncertain ; -and if he who by industry, capacity, and fidelity, has proved himself a useful servant of
the public, is causelessly removed, the public will have much reason to complain.
A mode of proceeding is interwoven with the military organization of great benefit to the sound constitution of the army. Although the president is unquestionably authorized to deprive any military officer of his commission at pleasure, yet. the established practice is, to allow the individual, whose conduct has given dissatisfaction, an opportunity of explaining and vindicating it; by means of a regular tribunal, before he is dismissed, suspended, or even reproved. The same usage prevails in the navy. Thus a sort of tenure during good behavour is produced, the effect of which, with men of integrity, is eminently useful. In the diversified employments of civil life, no similar institution could be systematically adopted, and a full analogy, therefore, cannot exist; but if we sometimes see in the revolutions of party, as well in other countries as in this, whole hosts of meritorious : officers suddenly swept away, and their placés filled by men without superior qualifications, we may regret that the principle is lost sight of, and that no remedy can be applied.
Four executive departments have been created by congress at different times. The department of state-of the treasury -of war—and of the navy-over each of which a principal officer, denominated the secretary, presides. Through one of these organs, the directions of the president are communicated, in all matters relative to their respective departments. But it has been decided that the president is not confined in his executive functions to the use of a particular department. Thus in a case where it was objected that an order from the secretary of state ought not to be considered as an act of the president; it was held that reference must be had to this department for the official acts of the president, which are not more immediately connected with the duties of some other department, but, nevertheless, the president, for the more easy