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sense of justice. In the intermediate period between the commencement of the Revolutionary War, and the adoption of the Constitution, the system had attained its most appalling character. Not only was paper money declared to be a tender in payment of debts; but other laws, having the same general object, and to interfering with private debts, under the name of appraisement laws, instalment laws, and suspension laws, thickened upon the Statute Book of many States in the Union, until all public confidence was lost, and all private credit and morals were prostrated. The details of the evils, resulting from this source, can scarcely be comprehended in our day. But they were so enormous, that the whole country seemed involved in a general bankruptcy; and fraud and chicanery obtained an undisputed mastery. Nothing but an absolute prohibition, like that contained in the Constitution, could arrest the overwhelming flood; and it was accordingly hailed with the most sincere joy by all good citizens. It has given us that healthy and sound currency, and that solid private credit, which constitute the foundation of our present prosperity, industry, and enterprize,
§ 168. The prohibition, to 'pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts,' requires scarcely any vindication or explanation, beyond what has been already given. The power to pass bills of attain. der, and ex post facto laws, is quite as unfit to be entrusted to the States, as to the General Government. It was exercised by them during the Revolutionary War in the shape of confiscation laws, to an extent, which, upon cool reflection, every sincere patriot must regret. Laws impairing the obligation of contracts are still more objectionable. They interfere with and disturb, and destroy private rights, solemnly secured by the plighted faith of the parties. They bring on the same ruinous effects, as paper tender laws, instalment laws, and appraisement laws, which are but varieties of the same general noxious policy. And they have been truly de
scribed, as contrary to the first principles of the social compact, and to every principle of sound legislation.
$ 169. The remaining prohibition is, to 'grant any title of nobility,' which is supported by the same reasoning as that already suggested, in considering the like prohibition upon the National Government.
§ 170. - The next clause, omitting the prohibition, (already cited) to lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, is *No State shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty on tonnage ; keep troops, or ships of war, in time of 'peace; enter into any agreement or compact with another ‘State, or with a foreign power; or engage in war unless ac'tually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not 'admit of delay. That part, which respects tonnage duties, has been already considered. The other parts have the same general policy in view, which dictated the preceding restraints upon State power. To allow the States to keep troops, or ships of war, in time of peace, might be hazardous to the public peace or safety, or compel the national Government to keep up an expensive corresponding force. To allow the States to enter into agreements with each other, or with foreign nations, might lead to mischievous combinations, injurious to the general interests, and bind them into confederacies of a geographical or sectional character. To allow the States to engage in war, unless compelled so to do in selfdefence and upon sudden emergencies, would be, (as has been already stated) to put the peace and safety of all the States in the power and discretion of any one of them. But an absolute prohibition of all these powers might, in certain exigencies, be inexpedient, and even mischievous; and, therefore, Congress may by their consent authorize the exercise of any of them, whenever, in their judgment, the public good shall require it.
§ 171. We next come to the second article of the Constitution, which prescribes the structure, organization, and powers of the Executive Department.
$ 172. The first clause of the first section is ." The executive
power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years; and together with the Vice President, chosen for the same term, be elected as follows.'
§ 173. In considering this clause, three practical questions may-arise ; (1) whether there should be any executive department; (2) whether it should be composed of more than one person ; (3) and what should be the duration of the term of office. Upon the first question little need now be said, to establish the propriety of an executive department. It is founded upon a maxim admitted in all our State Constitutions, that the legislative, executive, and judicial departments ought to be kept separate, and the power of one ought not to be exercised by either of the others. The want of an executive department was felt as a great defect under the Confederation.
§ 174. In the next place, in what manner should it be organized ? It may in general terms be answered, in such a manner as best to secure energy in the executive, and safety to the people. A feeble executive implies a feeble execution of the Government; and à feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution. Unity in the executive is favorable to energy, promptitude, and responsibility. A division of the power among several, impairs each of these qualities; and introduces discord, intrigue, dilatoriness, and not unfrequently, personal rivalries, incompatible with the public good. On the other hand, a single executive is quite as safe for the
people. His responsibility is more direct and efficient, as his measures cannot be disguised, or shifted upon others; and any abuse of authority can be more clearly seen, and carefully watched, than when it is shared by numbers.
$ 175. In the next place, the duration of office. It should be long enough to enable a chief magistrate to carry fairly through a system of Government, according to the laws; and to stimulate him to personal firmness in the execution of his duties. If the term is very short, he will feel very little of the just pride of office, from the precariousness of its tenure. He will will act more with reference to immediate and temporary popularity, than to permanent fame. His measures will tend to ensure his re-election, (if he desires it) rather than to promote the good of the country. He will bestow office upon mean dependants, or fawning courliers, rather than upon persons of solid honor and distinction. He will fear to encounter opposition by a lofty course ; and his wishes for office, equally with his fears, will debase his fortitude, weaken bis integrity, and enhance his irresolution.
§ 176. On the other hand, the period should not be so long, as to impair the proper dependence of the executive upon the people for encouragement and support; or to enable him to persist in a course of measures, deeply injurious to the public interests, or subversive of the public faith. His administration should be known to come under the review of the people at short periods ; so that its merits may be decided, and its errors be corrected by the sober exercise of the electoral vote.
$ 177. For all of these purposes, the period, actually assigned for the duration of office of the President by the Constitution, seems adequate and satisfactory. It is four years, a period intermediate between the term of office of the Representatives, and that of the Senators. By this arrangement, too, the whole organization of the legislative depart
ments is not dissolved at the same moment.
A part of the functionaries are constantly going out of office, and as constantly renewed, while a sufficient number remain, to carry on the same general system with intelligence and steadiness. The President is not precluded from being re-eligible to office; and thus, with a just estimate of the true dignity and true duties of his office, he may confer lasting benefits on his
country, as well as acquire for himself the enviable fame of a statesman and patriot.
§ 178. The like term of office is fixed for the Vice President; and in case of the vacancy of the office of President, le is to succeed to the same duties and powers. In the original scheme of the Government he was (as we shall presently see) an equal candidate for the same high office. And, as President of the Senate, it seemed desirable, that he should have the experience of at least four years' service, to perfect him in the forms of business, and secure to him due distinction.
$ 179. The next clause provides for the mode of choice of the President and Vice President -' Each State shall ap'point, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, ' a number of Electors equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives, to which the State may be enti*tled in the Congress. But no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.'
$ 180. Various modes were suggested as to the choice of these high officers; first, by the National Legislature ; secondly, by the State Legislatures; thirdly, by the people at large; fourthly, by the people in districts; and lastly, by Electors. Upon consideration of the whole subject, the latter was deemed the most eligible course, as it might secure the united action and wisdom of a select body of distinguished citizens in the choice, and would be attended with less excitement, and more deliberation, than a mere popular election.