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the people. The people have given, the people can take away. They are willing to trust to the laws to secure the possession of life, liberty and happiness.
At what time the people delegated certain powers to the government is often a difficult question even for antiquarians. Having inherited as much of the
law of England as was adapted to our situation, the origin of many of the powers of our government—both Federal and State—is involved in obscurity. Our Federal government possesses many of the powers held by the mother country before our Independence, and the Constitution of 1787 only systemized and strenghtened powers already existing in the Confederation. When did the people give to Parliament its powers, to the States theirs, are difficult historical problems. It is worthy of note that our Federal Constitution is like a work of addition, is a process of creation; while the State Constitutions are like acts of subtraction, are processes of taking power from the legislatures. The legislatures are presumed to be 'omnipotent, unless the people have stripped them of power by constitutions, or by delegating powers to the general government inconsistent with the exercise of a similar power in the States. Be our government formed by adding to the powers of Congress or by stripping the legislatures, the people are till sovereign.
Believing that liberty would be served by a tripartite division of powers, other checks upon delegated authority of a similar nature, were placed in the Constitution to render permanent and effective that threefold division,
United States officers are prevented from acting as legislators, and Congressmen are forbidden to create or make more desirable Federal offices for themselves, * yet strange to say they are not prevented from regulating their own pay at any time, nor that of the President every four years. In order that the President may represent the people, no officer, executive or legislative, can be a Presidential elector; † yet the host of executive officers can labor for the selection of their chief and Congressmen can enjoy the patronage of appointments as a reward for partisan efforts.
The legislature being the strongest branch of the government, the greatest check upon it is in declaring the Constitution and laws made in pursuance thereof I to be the supreme law of the land and binding by oath all officers to obey the Constitution.
Again came a division of the Legislature into two branches, and prohibitions against the enactment of laws except for certain definite purposes. Impeachment, too, like the sword of Damocles, hangs over the President, Vice President, and all civil officers of the United States.2 Last of all, an amendment to the Constitution can check any injurious use of power assumed or granted. ||
Many laws are made to delegate power to individuals, more are made to check the use and abuse of authority; still a mistake is sometimes made in not giving officials enough power.
* Art. I., sec. 6 and 2. † Art. ii., sec. 1 and 2. # Art. vi. 2. & Art. ii., secs. 3 and 4. | Art. v.
The great difference between the Confederation and the present government is in the greater ability of the latter to execute its laws by acting upon the individual with executive and judicial powers, instead of mere requisitions upon the States. Our government neither borrows the hands of the States with which to work, nor the Judiciary of the States to sit in judgment on its laws, but by its own executive officers and its own judges ; it says to the States thus far shall you go, and no further. Our Federal government is not like a rational man who can merely lay down precepts for others to obey, if they wish, but like an independent man guided by the best wisdom of all time, it walks among the nations of the earth, growing stronger and stronger, and if we be true to our trust, it may keep growing better with its increasing strength, supreme and uncontrolled in the peculiar powers and functi) which have been delegated to it.