« AnteriorContinuar »
can elect a new Senator. The Senatorial office is too dear to the State for it to allow it to be long vacant.
While the House elects its own Speaker, the Senate has the Vice-President of the United States for a presiding officer, and thus every State has an equal number of men upon the floor. When the Senators are equally divided, the Vice President, representing the whole nation, gives the casting vote. When the Vice-President is acting President, or is unable from any cause to preside over the Senate, that body elects its own President, but the man so elected may chance to become acting President of the United States.
The House can alone impeach, but the Senate has the sole power to try all impeachments, and while ordinary juries which try high crimes and misdemeanors are required by the common law to be unanimous before they can convict, the Senate can convict .by a two-thirds vote. True, a verdict that only remove from office and disqualify a from holding and enjoying any
office of honor, trust or profit under the United States, is not
so severe as that of a jury which may be followed by sentence taking away life or liberty ; but the Senatorial censure is nearly as severe as exile.
To Congress was given the sweeping power to make regulations concerning the times, places and manner of holding elections for Congressmen,* and to alter such regulations about the same as the States may have made, except as to the place of choosing Senators. The many friends of the colonial corporations, or States, saw that the right of self-preservation en
* Art. i., sec. 4.
titled Congress to a control over the composition of its own body, but they refused to give Congress power to say to the State legislatures: "Abandon your capitol ; go to where I tell you to elect Senators.”
When the House of Representatives is empowered to elect a President of the United States by reason of no man getting a majority of the electoral votes, the Representatives are not permitted to vote as individuals, but the delegation from each State has one vote. When the Senate, for a like reason, is empowered to elect a Vice-President, they vote as individuals. In the former case, a majority of the whole number of States is nesessary for a choice; in the latter, a majority of all the Senators. Thus, we see the favor with which the Senate is viewed in the structure of our government. Its preponderance of power as a body is due, partly, to its peculiar fitness for the duties and powers imposed upon or vested in it, but chiefly did it receive its position in the government because it represented the States in the Federal Union, and formed the basis of the compromise which was necessary to secure the co-operation of the various sections of the country.
As in England, the Lords represent the aristocracy and the Commons the masses of the people, so with us, the Senators represent the corporate bodies known as States, and the Representatives stand instead of the individuals, who compose the nation. In ancient times, no government was entirely similar to ours, nor as like it as is that of England. The idea of representation, as we understand it, was unknown to the nations of antiquity. True, they had Republies, popular assemblies, senates, presidents and elections by the people, but the idea of a man chosen by his constituents to pass laws for them and in their stead, never entered into the policy of ancient Republics. The Republics and Federal governments of Greece had their popular assemblies, but in them each male citizens voted on the passage of laws and took part in the proceedings of their Parliamentary bodies, as do now our elected Representatives.*
In the Federal Leagues of Greece—especially that of Achaia—the popular assembly was composed of private citizens who could afford to bear the expense of going to the capitol, but the citizens assembled from each member of the League had but one vote, as is the practice with us when the President is elected by the House of Representatives. The jealous sovereignty of independent States then, as now, endeavored to guard against the preponderating strength of associated governments. History has shown that the same tenacious grasp of power which has characterized small States, is seen in consolidated governments. Power once held is slow to be abandoned, and the dissolution of confederated or consolidated governments, when it becomes necessary, is generally the work of bloody revolution.
The Senates of ancient times were select bodies of aged men, and at Rome, Sparta and Athens, once elected, the venerable chieftain held the office for life. In the Achaian League-which approached the nearest to our form of government of any other—the Senate had its powers and duties defined by the popular * Freeman's History of Federal Government, vol. i.
assembly, which was composed of the sovereign people. The President of the League, too, was the commander-in-chief of the Federal army; he could not be elected for two successive years or terms, but the approval of the Assembly was shown by frequent re-elections.
The executive department of our government is strengthened by the division of the legislature into two houses. The President is enabled more effectually to prevent legislation which he condemns since it is more difficult to obtain a two-thirds vote in two assemblies than in one large one.
Men will not be so rash and inconsiderate when they know that another body stands ready to approve or condemn their work. The President's opposition, too, on account of his power in the matter of appointments, is by no means desired by Congressmen.
The President's part in legislating is of a negative nature, and when he stands in the way there must be some strong sentiment, some vehement passion, to enable Congress to pass a bill. The chance is, too, that one chamber will be on the side of the President, and thus by division, congressional action is held in check and the President is able to dictate the policy of Congress.
The authority given to Congress is very great, and it has the sweeping privilege of passing all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution the powers vested in Congress, and all other powers vested by the Constitution in the Federal government or any department or officer thereof. * It is for Congress to provide the ways and means for carrying into execution the manifold operations of the government. It may ordain and establish Federal courts inferior to the Supreme Court which alone is known to the Constitution. The compensation of the Federal judges might be fixed by Congress so low that none but the wealthy or corrupt could afford to act as judges. Moreover, Congress having power to regulate the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and to organize the inferior Federal courts—as it did by the Judiciary Act of 1789—the entire judicial department of the government by an ambitious, despotic Congress might be reduced to almost impotent helplessness.
* Art. 1-8-last.
Thus is seen the wisdom of having a second chamber, where a few men—c
-conservative as a natural result of age and the long study and practice of the law, can withstand the rashness of a more numerous and popular assembly where passion and not reason often hold sway. In our history the Senate and the President have had the duty to perform of checking the popular house.
Washington refused the demand of the House to lay before it a copy of the instructions to Mr. Jay and other documents relative to the Jay treaty with England. “The power of making treaties,” said Washington, "is exclusively vested in the President by and with the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senators present; thereupon the treaty becomes the law of the land."* The House had to submit and vote the money needed to carry the treaty into effect
* Statesman's Manual.