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speaker. The congress meet every second year, on the first Monday of December; in the interval, they may adjourn to such time as they please, so that they meet at least once in each year. But neither house can adjourn for more than three days without the consent of the other; if they disagree, the president fixes the time of adjournment. This, however, has never yet happened. The congress expires on the third of March in every second year. The president may call a special meeting of congress when he thinks it necessary.
Each house of congress is the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members; it may compel their attendance, punish them for disorderly behaviour, and with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member.
No person holding an office under the United States can be a member of either house during his continuance in office; nor can a senator, or representative, during the time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office under the United States, created, or the emoluments of which have been increased, during that time. State officers may be elected to congress, when not disabled by the constitution or laws of their own states. In general, state and federal offices are held to be incompatible.
The members of both houses are privileged from ar
rest, (except for treason, felony, or breach of the peace,) during their attendance at the sessions of their respective houses, and in going and returning from the same. They are not to be questioned, out of congress, for their speeches and debates therein.
Sect. 2.—Of the Executive Department.
The executive power is vested in a single magistrate, called the President of the United States.
The constitution does not assign to him any council; but he frequently consults the heads of departments, who are officers recognised by the constitution, whom he appoints with the consent of the senate, and whom he may remove at pleasure. The legislature fixes their number and their functions. They are at present four: the secretary of state, whose official duties embrace the foreign and the home department, and those of the treasury, of war, and of the navy. These, with the attorney-general, and of late the postmaster-general, form what is called a cabinet council; which the constitution, however, does not recognise, though it does not forbid. The president is responsible for his acts, and may be impeached for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.
The president has a qualified negative on the acts of the legislature, and therefore may be considered as a branch of it, though the constitution does not say so in
terms; but on the contrary, declares in the first section of its first article, that “all legislative powers therein granted shall be vested in a congress of the United States, which shall consist of a senate and house of representatives.” But by the seventh section of the same article the president's approbation and signature are required to give effect to any bill, resolution or vote passed by the two houses; and if he objects, the bill, resolution or vote does not take effect, or become a law, unless reconsidered and passed by two-thirds of the senate and of the house of representatives.
There is also a vice-president, who is president of the senate by virtue of his office, and is to exercise the duties of president in case of a vacancy of that office by the death, removal, resignation, or inability of the chief magistrate.
The president and vice-president hold their offices during a term of four years; but may be re-elected as often people choose. There is, however, no example of a president or vice-president having served more than two terms; the first president, Washington, having declined a third election, his example has been followed by his successors; and it is now become a popular maxim that a president or vice-president can only be elected for two successive terms.
The election of president and vice-president is made
by ballot, by electors in each state, at the same time, but by different tickets, designating the votes for the respective offices.
The electors are appointed or chosen in each state in such manner as the state legislature directs. In some states the legislatures appoint them themselves by joint or concurrent votes of the two houses; in others, they are elected by the people. Their number is to be equal to the aggregate number of the senators and representatives of each state in the congress of the United States. No member of congress, whether senator or representative, nor any person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, can be an elector.
The electors, thus chosen, meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for a president and vicepresident, as above mentioned, one of whom, at least, is not to be an inhabitant of the state in which he is chosen. They then transmit their votes, sealed, to the president of the senate, who, on a day appointed by law, (the second Wednesday in February succeeding the meeting of the electors,) opens all the certificates in the presence of both houses of congress, and declares the persons who have the majority of votes, and who are of course elected. If, however, no one should have a majority of votes, the house of representatives shall immediately, if for a president, and the senate if for a vicepresident, proceed to choose the former out of the three,
and the latter out of the two highest in votes; in which choice the representatives shall vote by states, and the senators individually. If the house do not choose a president before the fourth of March next following, the vice-president shall act as president, as in other cases of vacancy of the president's office.
The congress determines the time of choosing the electors, and the day on which they are to give their votes, which is to be the same throughout the United States. By the existing law, the electors are to meet and vote on the first Wednesday in December, in every fourth year succeeding the last election, and are to be chosen or appointed within thirty-four days preceding the day of their meeting.
On failure of the president by death or otherwise, his duties devolve on the vice-president; and congress may declare by law who shall perform those duties, in case of the failure of both, during the vacancy. The congress have declared by a law that it should be the president pro tempore of the senate; and if there should be none, then the speaker of the house of representatives.
No person, except a natural born citizen, or one who was a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, can be elected to the office of president, nor can one be so elected who shall