Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE PRESIDENT. 75

instanced in the embarrassing progress of many of the negotiations, undertaken even by our own government with the United States, in which have been included the local or sectional interests of individual States; at the same time, involving questions of great international concern, and that it were of the utmost consequence to the future good understanding between both countries, to bring to some definite and satisfactory conclusion; such as the lately undefined state of our north-west boundary, that has only been brought to a close, under a conventional arrangement with the State of Maine, and supreme government—the embarrassments arising from the incidents connected with the late troubles along our Canadian frontier, and that have been the frequent and near occasion of open and direct hostilities between both countries. It would certainly appear to be the interest of the American people, as no doubt it is of European States, with whom they are in daily intercourse, that these difficulties should be speedily removed by some better and general understanding, by a further limit to the unreasonable exactions of individual States—by some clearer definition of the administrative power of the Republic— some responsible representative authority, invested with a more unrestricted, or better defined control, in all, or every matter of controversy between the United States generally, or any individual State and foreign nations; that would disencumber its negotiations of the many difficulties and embarrassments, with which they are liable to be surrounded, and tend to ensure that peace and good understanding, that should subsist between individual members of the one great family of civilized nations.

Article 2nd, section 1st, of the Constitution of 1787, and article 12th of the amendments thereto, points out the mode in which the President is to be elected, and declares, that he shall hold his office for the term of four years, from the date of his appointment:—this does not prevent his election for a second term, which may enlarge the period of his service to eight years.*

Under this provision of the law, each State appoints in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of senators and representatives that such State sends to Congress; but no senator, or representative, or person holding any office of trust or profit under the United States can be an elector. The electors meet in their respective States, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President; one of whom at least shall not be an inhabitant of the same State with themselves. The lists of the votes are then sent to the seat of government, directed to the Presi

[table]

CHOICE OP ELECTORS. 77

dent of the Senate; who, in presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, opens the certificates, and the votes are counted; the person having the greatest number of votes for President is declared to be elected to that office, provided he has the votes of a majority of all the electors appointed. If not, then the House of Representatives selects the President by ballot from the persons, not exceeding three, having the greatest number of votes.*

No person, except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, is eligible to the office of President. In case of the removal of the President from office, or of his death, resignation, or inability, the appointment devolves upon the Vice-President; and Congress may, by law, provide for the case of removal, death, or inability, both of the President and Vice-President, declaring what officer shall act as President, until the disability be removed, or President elected. The Constitution also requires that the President must be thirty-five years of age, and have resided fourteen years within the United States. Many objections have been raised, from time to time, to this mode of electing the President and Vice-President of the Republic, as adverse to the spirit of the constitution, and the true principles of an entire representative system, on which it is supposed to be based. To our thinking, it savours somewhat of an absurdity; nor can the people, who are declared to be the immediate source of all power and authority, in these States, be deemed to exercise any certain positive voice, or veto in the matter. What are the facts? Two hundred and ninety-four citizens are chosen by, and from the bulk of the population. These two hundred and ninety-four are then to elect amongst themselves, by ballot, the individual, who, according to their suffrages, and not by the concurrent voice of a majority of the entire people, is to preside over the nation—its destinies and welfare. These citizens are men like unto themselves, with passions and frailties incidental to our common nature, exposed to unusual temptation; and though supposed to speak the wishes of the immediate constituency by whom they are elected, are still within the reach of any extraneous, or undue interference that may be resorted to, to restrain, or influence their vote. Once chosen, they are beyond further

* The following, shews the number of Electors to which each State was entitled, at the general election in 1841, amounting, in the aggregate, to 294; viz.—Maine, 10—New Hampshire, 7—Massachusetts, 14—Rhode Island, 4—Connecticut, 8—Vermont, 7—New York, 42—New Jersey, 8—Pennsylvania, 30— Delaware, 3—Maryland, 10—Virginia, 23—North Carolina, 15 —South Carolina, 11—Georgia, 11—Kentucky, 15—Tennessee, 15—Ohio, 21 —Indiana, 9—Mississippi, 4—Illinois, 5—Alabama, 7—Missouri, 4—Louisiana, 5—Michigan, 3—Arkansas, 3: —Grand total, 294.

The present Congress is chosen according to the Act of Congress of 1842, the ratio being one representative for every 70,680 persons in each State, and of one additional Representative for each State, having a fraction greater than one moiety of the said ratio, computed according to the rules prescribed by the Constitution of the United States. Present number of Representatives 223.

HIS SALARY AND PATRONAGE. 79

control; and though elected to express the views and opinions of other parties, may, nevertheless, vote as they themselves think proper, and appoint whom they please, without being held accountable in their conduct, or proceedings to any party whatsoever. Public opinion in America, may have restrained, on all former occasions, the abuse of this trust, and may still do so; until the stake to be played for is of increased value, or that it involves something more than the mere peaceful government of an industrious and busy population. Yet, how apparently senseless, how perfectly useless this mode of election, if that the constitution really intends that the people are to be the governing power, and to appoint those whom they choose shall be their rulers. The men that they thus select to nominate a President, and Vice-President, for the Republic, are in no wise charged as being necessary parties in determining the popular will in this respect, which is previously ascertained through the ballot-box, at the time of their appointment; but which may be neutralized or se\. at nought by their subsequent action. In what possible way, then, do their services, or intermediate interference avail? Certainly in none that we can discover, except where they may be rendered purely mischievous, and instrumental to the entire subversion of this essential privilege, which is declared as of the constitutional rights of the sovereign people.

The income which the President derives from his office is small; rather limited, we conceive, to admit

« PreviousContinue »