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they may be utterly incompatible with the public safety, and interests, or may bring the Government itself into disgrace and obloquy.
Elections and Meetings of Congress.
$ 90. We next come to the fourth section of the first article, which treats of the elections and meetings of Congress. The first cause is — The time, places, and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall 'be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof. ‘But the Congress may at any time, by law, make or alter such regulations, except as to the places of choosing Senators.' There is great propriety in leaving to the State Legislatures the right, in the first instance, of regulating the time and place of choosing the members of Congress, as every State is thus enabled to consult its own local convenience in the choice; and it would be difficult to prescribe any uniform time or place of elections, which would, in all possible changes in the situation of the States, be found convenient for all of them. On the other hand, as the ability of the General Government to carry on its operations depends upon these elections being duly had, it is plain, that it ought not to be left to the State Governments exclusively to decide, wliether such elections should be had,
T'he maxim of sound political wisdom is, that every Government ought to contain in itself the means of its own preservation. And, therefore, an ulterior power is reserved to Congress, to make or alter the regulations of such elections, so as to preserve the efficiency of the General Government. But, inasmuch as the State Legislatures are to
elect Senators, the places of their meetings are lest to their own discretion, as most fit to be decided by themselves, with reference to their ordinary duties and convenience. But Congress may still prescribe the times.
$ 91. The next clause is — The Congress shall assem'ble at least once in every year; and such meeting shall be
on the first Monday of December, unless they shall, by law, 'appoint a different day.' The importance of this provision can scarcely be overrated by a free people, accustomed to know their rights, and jealous in the maintenance of them. Unless some time were prescribed for the regular meetings of Congress, they would depend upon the good will and pleasure of Congress itself, or of some other department of the Government. In times of violent factions, or military usurpations, attempts might be made to postpone such meetings for an unreasonable length of time, in order to prevent the redress of grievances, or secure the violators of the laws from condign punishment. Annual Parliaments have long been deemed, both in England and America, a great security to liberty and justice; and it was true wisdom, to establish the duty by a political provision in the Constitution, which could not be evaded, or disobeyed.
Powers and Privileges of both Houses.
$ 92. The fifth section of the first article contains an enumeration of the powers, rights, and duties of each branch of the Legislature, in its distinct organic character. The first clause is - Each House shall be the judge of the elec. tions, returns, and qualifications of its own members; and 'a majority of each shall constitute a quorum to do busi
ness; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day,
be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner, and under such penalties, as each House may provide.'
$93. These powers are common to all the legislative bodies of the States; and indeed, to those of other free Gova ernments. They seem indispensable to the due independence and efficiency of the body. The power to judge of the elections, returns, and qualifications of the members of each House, must be lodged somewhere; for otherwise, any intruder, or usurper, might assume to be a member. It can be safely lodged in no other body, but that, in which the party claims a seat; for otherwise, its independence, its purity, and even its existence, might be under the control of a foreign authority. It is equally important, that a proper quorum for the despatch of business should be fixed, otherwise, a cunning, or industrious minority might by stratagem usurp the functions of the majority, and pass laws at their pleasure. On the other hand, if a smaller number were not authorized to adjourn from day to day, or to compel the attendance of other members, all legislation might be suspended at the pleasure of the absentees, and the Legislature itself be vir. tually dissolved. $ 94. The next clause is - Each House
determine 'the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disor"đerly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member. These powers also are usually granted to legislative bodies. If they did not exist, it would be utterly impracticable to transact the business of the nation at all, or at least, with decency, deliberation, and order. Without rules no public body can suitably perform its functions. If rules are made, they are mere nullities, unless the persons, on whom they are to operate, can be compelled to obey them. But, if an unlimited power to punish, even to the extent of expulsion, existed, it might, in factious times, be applied
by a domineering majority, to get rid of the most intelligent, virtuous, and efficient of its opponents. There is, therefore, a check interposed, which requires a concurrence of two thirds to expel; and this can hardly be presumed to exist, except in cases of flagrant breaches of the rights of the House.
$ 95. The next clause is — 'Each House shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and from time to time publish the 'same, except such parts as may, in their judgment, require secrecy. And the
nays of the members of either House, on any question, shall, at the desire of one fifth of 'those present, be entered on the journal.' Each of these provisions has the same object, to ensure publicity, and responsibility, in all the proceedings of Congress, so that the public mind may be enlightened, as to the acts of the members. But cases may exist, where secrecy may be indispensable to the complete operation of the intended acts, either at home or abroad. And, on the other hand, an unlimited power to call the yeas and nays on every question, at the mere will of a single member, would interrupt and retard, and, in many cases, wholly defeat the public business. In each case, therefore, a reasonable limitation is interposed.
§ 96. The next clause is — Neither House, during the “session of Congress, shall, without the consent of the other, 'adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other place * than that, in which the two Houses shall be sitting.' Here, again, the object of the clause is manifest, to prevent either House from suspending at its pleasure the regular course of legislation, and even of carrying the power to the extent of a dissolution of the session. The duration of the sessions of Congress, subject only to the constitutional expiration of the term of office of the members, thus depends upon their own pleasure, with the single exception (as we shall hereafter see) of the case where the two Houses disagree, in respect to the time of adjournment, when it is given to the President. So that their independence is effectually guarded, against any
encroachment on the part of the Executive. In England, the King may prorogue or dissolve Parliament at his pleasure ; and, before the Revolution, the same power was generally exercised by the Governors in most of the American Colonies.
$ 97. These are all the powers and privileges expressly enumerated, as belonging to the two Houses. But other incidental powers may well be presumed to exist. Among these, the power to punish contempts, committed against either House, by strangers, has been generally admitted, and insisted upon in practice, as indispensable to their freedom, their deliberative functions, and their personal safety.
$ 98. The sixth section of the first article contains an enumeration of the personal rights, privileges, and disabilities of the members, as contra-distinguished from those of the Houses, of which they are members. The first clause is 'The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensa'tion for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid 'out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in 'all cases, except treason, felony, or breach of the peace, be 'privileged from arrest, during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to, and returning from the same.
And for any speech or debate in either ‘House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.'
$ 99. First, Compensation. It has been greatly questioned, whether, on the whole, it is best to allow compensation to members of Congress, or not. On the one hand, it has been said, that it tempts unworthy and avaricious men to intrigue for office, and to defeat candidates of higher talents and virtues. On the other hand, it has been said, that unless compensation be allowed, merit of the highest order may be excluded by poverty from the national councils; and in a republican Government nothing can be more impolitic than to give to wealth a superior claim, and facility in obtaining office.' This latter reasoning had its due force, and prevailed in the Convention, and with the people.