The bill to Revolutionize the Government.
We intimated Monday the opinion that this bill, if it should become a law — which we will not believe possible until we see it passed and approved — would make the Senate the Executive
, instead of the President
, who, at present, is such by virtue of his office.
Everybody will at once see how this may be brought about.
A certain Senator
has a grudge against the head of some department — say of War for example.
He finds that he pays not the proper attention to his recommendations, or his demands, or his requests — he resolves to vote against him when he comes before the Senate.
has no good feeling for the Secretary of the Treasury
That officer has the misfortune not to be able to see the saving efficacy of certain financial schemes which the Senator
in question has had the honor to present.
Never mind; he will have a shot at him when he comes up, and pay off all old scores in the lump.
A third is offended with the Secretary of the Navy
because he refuses to make a Captain of some midshipman in whom he sees a future Nelson
, but in whom, unluckily, the less acute vision of the Secretary
is unable to detect anything more than a very ordinary young man. A fourth has some special cause of offence with the Secretary of State
, probably from his having overlooked an embryo Talleyrand
in a certain diplomatic aspirant, who he determines shall be nameless.
A fifth is angry with the Postmaster-General
for some cause, and a sixth cannot abide the Attorney-General
in his present position, when there are so many better lawyers to be had for the asking.--These malcontents, now six in number, lay their heads together and resolve, in the spirit of all cabals, to compass the defeat of the whole Cabinet upon their renomination.--Every man has at least one friend out of the cabal upon whom he can rely to assist him. Forthwith the logs are set to rolling, and the result is that the President
, when he sends in his nominations, soon finds that he is without a Cabinet, and has to nominate a new set. By this time the victorious cabal is determined that no nominations shall succeed but such as are acceptable to themselves.
They defeat this second nomination, and a third, and a fourth, and so on to infinity.
The business of the country is at a stand — the enemy is thundering at our gates — our army is starving for want of supplies — the most ordinary transactions with the departments are rendered impossible — subjugation is imminent — but the cabal is inexorable.
At last the President
yields, and the Senate dictates the names he shall send in. These nominees of theirs are of course elected, and, expecting nothing from the President
and all from the Senate, they are of course the Senate's creatures.
The intention of the Constitution
, which is that the President
shall be the Executive
, and which says so in so many words, is entirely defeated.
The Senate is thenceforth, as to the appointment of Cabinet officers
, the Executive
But why as to the appointment of Cabinet officers
Why should usurpation halt in the road of conquest?
Why not subject all offices to the same ordeal, and thus grasp all
the patronage in the gift of the President
Why so long a term as three years? Why not pass a law to renominate annually all Ambassadors, Charges, Consuls, Judges, and all other officers of the Confederate States
Why not take the whole Executive power at once?
We said Monday that the passage of this law would imply a violation of the Constitution
in its spirit.
The words of the Constitution
are, "The principal officers in each of the Executive Departments
, and all persons connected with the diplomatic service, may be removed from office at the pleasure of the President.
" Now, by the proposed law, another method of removing them is established.
The pleasure of the President
is no longer the limitation of the tenure.
limitation is prescribed — a limitation of two years. Is two years the "pleasure of the President
?" Is that the meaning of the phrase?
If it is not, then most assuredly there is a discrepancy between the limitation and the Constitution
Take the limitation of two years for law, and the limitation of the Constitution
The two cannot live together.
The one entirely abrogates the other; and who gave Congress any power to abrogate the Constitution
, or any part of it?
We leave it to the plain common sense of any man to say if this be not so.
We are told that the Constitution
leaves the matter open to legislation — that it says these officers shall hold at the pleasure of the President
, but does not say that Congress shall not impose another limitation.--We deny this in toto
When the Constitution
says that they may be removed at the pleasure of the President
it leaves open no other means of removing them except that which itself prescribes.
If any other mode be adopted — no matter what it may be — the officer is no longer removable at the pleasure of the President
Another mode may be adopted, but it must be by amending the Constitution
"Durants bene placito"
--the original phraseology of which, "at pleasure," is the translation, implied the highest exercise of a King
The officer who held by that tenure was always understood to be appointed for life, unless the King
should think proper to change his intention.
And so in this case the Constitution
evidently meant to this tenure of office during the President
's pleasure, co-existent with the President
's official life.
To alter the tenure is to do violence to the fundamental law.
This bill, in a word, erects the Senate into an oligarchy, at the expense of the powers of the two co-ordinate branches of the Government
First, of the President
It assumes for the Senate the power of removing Cabinet officers alter they themselves have confirmed them; for, if they can remove every two years, why not every year, or every six months, or every month?
At present, the President
cannot remove any civil officer (except Cabinet and diplomatic officers) without giving a reason for doing so. The Senate seem to be usurping the power to do so, without giving any reason at all. Diplomatic officers are excepted, because the reasons may be confidential.
, because from the intimate relations which are supposed to exist, and ought to exist, between themselves and the President
, the Constitution
has left the matter entirely with the latter.
The popular body is the House
They come directly from the people, and become again a portion of the people every two years. They, therefore, are supposed to have the freshest intelligence with regard to the sentiments of the people, and more truly to reflect their sentiments.
If a vote of want of confidence be proposed, it follows of course that it should come from that body which is most emphatically the popular body.
It may happen that the people (in whose name the vote of want of confidence is cast) sympathize with the President
and not with the Senate, and that the sympathies of the House
are also with him. This happened frequently in the U. S. Government--we have no doubt it would occur to-morrow on any question upon which the Senate and the President
might be at issue.
Notwithstanding, this bill gives to the Senate — the aristocratic body of the Constitution
— control over both President
and House of Representatives.
If anything add to the palpable absurdity of such a scheme, it would be the fact that the Senate, from the small number of its members, is, like all small bodies, peculiarly liable to personal influences, and, therefore, peculiarly unfitted to deal with such questions as this bill gives them the control of; especially with originating votes of want of confidence, where they are almost sure to come in conflict with the popular will.
The revolution which this bill proposes seems to have, in a word, no other object than to confer power upon the Senate — to make it the most detestable of all oligarchies, an elective oligarchy.
all have seats upon the floor.
If assailed by a vote of want of confidence, they can defend themselves instantly.
Here, whatever the Constitution
may have designed, they have no such seats, and cannot defend themselves in person.--The present proposition condemns them unheard and in advance of trial.