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The first thing which strikes our attention is, that the executive authority, with few exceptions, is to be vested in a single magistrate. This will scarcely, however, be considered as a point upon which any comparison can be grounded; for if, in this particular, there be a resemblance to the king of Great Britain, there is not less a resemblance to the Grand Signior, to the Khan of Tartary, to the man of the seven mountains, or to the governor of New York
That magistrate is to be elected for four years ; and is to be re-eligible as often as the people of the United States shall think him worthy of their confidence. In these circumstances, there is a total dissimilitude between him and a king of Great Britain, who is an hereditary monarch, possessing the crown as a patrimony descendi. ble to his heirs for ever ; but there is a close analogy between him and a governor of New York, who is elected for three years, and is re-eligible without limitation or intermission. If we consider how much less time would be requisite for establishing a dangerous influence in a single state, than for establishing a like influence through out the United States, we must conclude, that a duration of four years for the chief magistrate of the union, is a degree of permanency far less to be dreaded in that office, than a duration of three years for a correspondent office in a single state.
The president of the United States would be liable to be impeached, tried, and, upon conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanors, removed from office; and would afterwards be liable to prosecu. tion and punishment in the ordinary course of law. The person of the king of Great Britain is sacred and invio. lable : there is no constitutional tribunal to which he is amenable ; no punishment to which he can be subjected, without involving the crisis of a national revolution. In this delicate and important circumstance of personal res. ponsibility, the president of confederated America would stand upon no better ground than a governor of New York, and upon worse ground than the governors of Vir. ginia and Delaware.
The president of the United States is to have power to return a bill, which shall have passed the two branches of the legislature, for re-considerations and the bill so returned, is not to become a law, unless, upon that re-consideration, it be approved by two-thirds of both houses. The king of Great Britain, on his part, bas an absolute negative upon the acts of the two houses of parliament. The disuse of that power for a considerable time past, does not affect the reality of its existence; and is to be ascribed wholly to the crown's having found the means of substituting influence to authority, or the art of gaining a majority in one or the other of the two houses, to the necessity of exerting a prerogative which could seldom be exerted without hazarding some degree of national agitation. The qualified negative of the president, differs widely from this absolute negative of the British sovereign ; and tallies exactly with the revi. sionary authority of the council of revision of this state, of which the governor is a constituent part. In this respect, the power of the president would exceed that of the governor of New York ; because the former would possess, singly, what the latter shares with the chancel. lor and judges : but it would be precisely the same with that of the governor of Massachusetts, whose constitution, as to this article, seems to have been the original from which the convention have copied.
The president is to be the commander in chief of the 6 army and navy of the United States, and of the militia “ of the several states, when called into the actual ser. “ vice of the United States. He is to have power to grant “ reprieves and pardons for offences against the United “ States, except in cases of impeachment ; to recom“ mend to the consideration of congress such measures “ as he shall judge necessary and expedient; to convene, 66 on extraordinary occasions, both houses of the legis. 6 lature, or either of them, and in case of disagreement 66 between them with respect to the time of adjourn6 ment, to adjourn them to such time as he shall think
proper ; to take care that the laws be faithfully exe. “cuted; and to commission all officers of the United
" States.” In most of these particulars, the power of the president will resemble equally that of the king of Great Britain, and of the governor of New York. The most material points of difference are these :....First. The president will bave only the occasional command of such part of the militia of the nation, as by legislative provision may be called into the actual service of the union. The king of Great Britain and the governor of New York, bave at all times the entire command of all the militia within their several jurisdictions. In this article, therefore, the power of the president would be inferior to that of either the monarch, or the governor. Second. The president is to be commander in chief of the army and navy of the United States. In this res. pect his authority would be nominally the same with that of the king of Great Britain, but in substance much inferior to it. It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces, as first general and admiral of the confede. racy: while that of the British king extends to the declaring of war, and to the raising and regulating of fleets and armies; all which, by the constitution under consideration, would appertain to the legislature.* The governor of New York, on the other hand, is by the constitution of the state vested only with the command of its militia and navy. But the constitutions of several of the states, expressly declare their governors to be commanders in chief, as well of the army as navy; and it may well be a question, whether those of New Hampshire and Massachusetts, in particular, do not, in this instance, confer larger powers upon their respective governors, than could be claimed by a president of the United
• A writer in a Pennsylvania paper, under the signature of TAMONT, has asserted that the king of Great Britain owes his prerogatives, as commander in chief, to an annual mutiny bill. The truth is, on the contrary, that his prerogative, in this respect, is immemorial, and was only disputed, “ contrary to all reason and precedent," as Blackstone, vol. 1, page 262, expresses it, by the long parliament of Charles First; but by the statute the 13th of Charles Second, chap. 6, it was declared to be in the king alone, for that the sole supreme government and comnand of the militia within his majesty's realms and dominions, and of all forces by sea'and land, and of all forts and places of strength, EVER WAS AND IS the undoubted right of his majesty and his royal predecessors kings and queens of England, and that both or either house of para lament cannot por ought to pretend to the same,
States. Third. The power of the president, in respect to pardons, would extend to all cases, except those of impeachment. The governor of New York may pardou in all cases, even in those of impeachment, except for treason and murder. Is not the power of the governor in this article, on a calculation of political consequences, greater than that of the president ? All conspiracies and plots against the government, which have not been matured into actual treason, may be screened from punishment of every kind, by the interposition of the preroga. tive of pardoning. If a governor of New York, there. fore, should be at the head of any such conspiracy, until the design had been ripened into actual hostility, he could insure his accomplices and adheronts an entire impunity. A president of the union, on the other hand, though he may even pardon treason, when prosecuted in the ordinary course of law, could sbelter no offender, in any degree, from the effects of impeacbment and conviction. Would not the prospect of a total indemnity for all the preliminary steps, be a greater temptation to undertake, and persevere in an enterprise against the public liberty, than the mere prospect of an exemption from death and confiscation, if the final execution of the design, upon an actual appeal to arms, should miscarry? Would this last expectation have any influence at all, when the probability was computed, that the person who was to afford that exemption might himself be involved in the consequences of the measure; and might be incapacitated by his agency in it, from affording the desired impunity ? The better to judge of this matter, it will be necessary to recollect that, by the proposed constitution, the offence of treason is limited to levying war
upon the United States, and adhering to their enemies, “ giving them aid and comfort ;" and that by the laws of New York, it is confined within similar bounds. Fourth. The president can only adjourn the national legislature, in the single case
of disagreement about the time of adjournment. The British monarch may prorogue, or even dissolve the parliament. The governor of New York may also prorogue the legislature of this
state for a limited time; a prerogative which, in certain situations, may be employed to very important purposes.
The president is to have power, with the advice and consent of the genate, to make treaties, provided twothirds of the senators present concur. The king of Great Britain is the sole and absolute representative of the nation, in all foreign transactions. He can of his own accord make treaties of peace, commerce, alliance, and of every other description. It has been insinuated, that his authority in this respect is not conclusive, and that his conventions with foreign powers are subject to the revision, and stand in need of the ratification of parliament. But I believe this doctrine was never heard of, till it was broached upon the present occasion. Every jurist* of that kingdom, and every other man acquainted with its constitution, knows, as an established fact, that the prerogative of making treaties exists in the crown in its utmost plenitude ; and that the compacts entered into by the royal authority, have the most complete legal validity and perfection, independent of any other sanction. The parliament, it is true, is sometimes seen employing itself in altering the existing laws to conform them to the stipulations in a new treaty ; and this may have possibly given birth to the imagination, that its co-operation was necessary to the obligatory efficacy of the treaty. But this parliamentary interposition proceeds from a different cause; from the necessity of adjusting a most artificial and intricate system of reve. nue and commercial laws, to the changes made in them by the operation of the treaty; and of adapting new provisions and precautions to the new state of things, to keep the machine from running into disorder. In this respect, therefore, there is no comparison between the intended power of the president, and the actual power of the British sovereign. The one can perform alone what the other can only do with the concurrence of a branch of the legislature. It must be admitted, tbat, in this instance, the power of the federal executive would
* Vide Blackstone's Commentaries, vol. 1, page 257.