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be a concurrence of two witnesses to the same overt act, that is, open act of treason, who are above all reasonable exception."
The power of Congress to declare the punishment of treason was noticed in Chap. IV., Art. IV., Part II.
ART. VII. - OFFICIAL IMMUNITIES. FREEDOM. 1. FROM ARREST. — Members of Congress shall in all cases,
except treason, felony, and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest,
1st. During attendance at their respective houses ;
2d. While going to and returning from the same. 2. OF SPEECH. — For any speech or debate in either house,
they shall not be questioned in any other place. 21. § 1. Although freedom from arrest is here classed under the title of “ Personal Rights,” as it relates to members of Congress, yet it is as much the right of their constituencies, and of the houses of which they are members, as it is the right of the members themselves. It is an official immunity. It is a right universally accorded to members of legislative bodies in all countries, and in all the States of this Union. They can be arrested for crime only. Blackstone says, “It has immemorially constituted a privilege of both houses of the British Parliament.”
§ 2. Thomas Jefferson says, “It seems absolutely indispensable for the just exercise of the legislative power in every nation purporting to possess a free Constitution of government; and it can not be surrendered without endangering the public liberties as well as the private independence of the members.” Of course, an arrest of a member of Congress would prevent the performance of his duties in the house of which he was a member. His constituency would be left without representation. The public interests, which are always considered paramount to private, must suffer for want of attention. The privilege is considered not that of the member or of his con stituents only, but a privilege of the house also.
1 Story on Const., § 1,802.
§ 3. And, for the purpose of securing entire freedom of discussion, no member of either house can legally be questioned elsewhere for any thing which he may see fit to utter in debate in his place as a member; that is, he can not legally be called to account before the courts, no matter how much he may slander private character. Of course, this is a right which may be, and sometimes is, abused. But the public interests may require the most critical and searching examinations into personal and official qualifications of individuals proposed as candidates for public stations of grave responsibility. Members should be allowed to perform these duties without fear of future personal retribution.
ART. I. - IN WHOM VESTED.
§ 1. Under the Confederation, there was no such officer as a President of the United States. There was an Executive Committee of thirteen, one from each State, having no power except during the recesses of Congress. Congress possessed the executive power while in session. Alexander Hamilton says in “ The Federalist,”: “There is hardly any part of the system [of government], the arrangement of which could have been attended with greater difficulty; and there is none which has been inveighed against with less candor, or criticised with less judgment.” These remarks were made while the Constitution was before the people for deliberation.
§ 2. Energy in the Executive is one indispensable characteristic in the definition of good government ; for the duty of this department is to see that the laws are faithfully and promptly executed. A feeble Executive implies a feeble execution of the government. A feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution ; and a government ill executed, whatever it may be in theory, must be a bad government in practice."
1 Federalist, No. 72.
§ 3. It was a subject of much and earnest debate in the Convention that formed the Constitution, whether this department should be placed in the hands of one, or in the hands of several. No subject was more thoroughly discussed in that body. It was maintained that energy would be most likely to be secured by unity of executive, and that wisdom would be most likely to be secured by a plurality; and that the latter would be most likely to command the confidence of the people.
§ 4. As the executive prerogative is limited to the faithful execution of the laws after they shall bave been duly enacted and promulgated, it was doubtless most judicious that the executive power should be vested in a single individual. It gives a stronger sense of personal responsibility. No discretion is submitted to the executive officer as to the wisdom or expediency of the law. What has once been declared to be law, under all the cautious forms of deliberation prescribed by the Constitution, ought to receive prompt obedience.1
ART. II.- TERM.
He shall hold his office during the term of four years. 53.
§ 1. This was a subject on which there was a great variety of opinion in the Convention. There were those who favored the proposition that the Executive should hold his office for life, or during good behavior. At one stage of the proceedings, seven years was fixed as the duration of the term. The term of four years was finally fixed upon as a compromise ; for there were members in favor of one year, others in favor of two, and others three years.
§ 2. The term of four years is intermediate between the term of office of the Senate and that of the House of Representatives. In the course of one presidential term, the House is, or may be, twice recomposed, and two-thirds of the Senate changed or re-elected.? The executive term should not be so short as to be constantly changing from one incumbent to another, giving the government no opportunity to test by experience the policy of its measures ; nor, on the other hand, should it be so long as to allow an obstinate
1 Kent's Comm., Lect. 13. ? Story on the Const., § 1,438.
and corrupt Executive, should the country unfortunately be cursed with one, to bring on wide-spread mischief and disaster.
§ 3. The Presidential term commences on the fourth day of March next after the President's election ; and in case of bis death, removal, or resignation, during his term, the person who succeeds to the duties of the office serves the unexpired portion of the term only.
: ART. III. – ELIGIBILITY. 1. He must have attained to the age of thirty-five years. 2. Must have resided within the United States fourteen
years. 3. He shall be a natural-born citizen; or, 4. A citizen of the United States at the time of the adop
tion of the Constitution. 56. (See appendix D.) · § 1. The age required was regarded as necessary to give the candidate for this office sufficient time to demonstrate his character, and to enable his fellow-citizens to judge of his fitness for the high position of chief executive of a great nation. The mental faculties are usually in full vigor at this age ; and opportunities must have been afforded for long public service, and for varied and large experience in the public councils.
§ 2. Fourteen years' residence in the United States is intended not only to give opportunity for an extensive acquaintance on the part of his fellow-citizens with the candidate for this office, but also to furnish him with the requisite knowledge of the wants and institutions of the country. Besides, it may be presumed that a citizen whose residence has been chiefly abroad may not only be deficient in affection for his own country, but may have become partial to the institutions of other countries with which he has long been familiar.
§ 3. The Constitution requires that the President shall be a natural-born citizen of the United States, or a citizen at the time of the adoption of the Constitution. This is an important restriction, when we consider the sacredness of the trust committed to the charge of the Executive. It will be useless for ambitious foreigners to intrigue for the office, as this qualification of birth cuts off all
those inducements from abroad, to corruption, negotiation, and war, which have frequently and fatally harassed the elective monarchies of other countries.
§ 4. But, through the bloody struggle of the American Revolution, our fathers were greatly assisted by the aid of many citizens who were natives of other countries. They had espoused our cause, fought and bled in our interests, had become naturalized citizens, and had proved their attachments to our institutions beyond all doubt. It would bave been ungenerous and ungrateful to have excluded this class of citizens from all possibility of attaining to any office, however exalted, under a government which they had sacrificed so much to establish. Hence this saving clause of the Constitution,
that, if a person was a citizen of the United States at the time of the . adoption of that instrument, he became eligible to the Presidency. But, by the lapse of time, this clause has become practically obsolete.
§ 5. The President is eligible to re-election without limitation : thus far, however, there has never been a second re-election. In the Constitutional Convention, there was a strong feeling in favor of a provision prohibiting a re-election ; but this gave way when it was decided to limit the term to four years.
ART. IV.- ELECTION.
1.- ELECTORS, 1st. Each State shall appoint electors of President and
Vice-President in such manner as the legislature
thereof may direct. 2d. The number of electors shall equal the number of sena
tors and representatives to which the State may be
entitled in Congress. 54. § 1. In the Convention that formed the Constitution, the original scheme for electing the President was by the two houses of Congress, or by the National Legislature, whether that should be composed of one or two houses. This plan was adopted by eight States for, to two against it. Afterwards it was voted by six States against three, one being divided, to choose the President by electors to be appoint ed by the several States.
1 Kent's Comm., Lect. 13.