JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY STUDIES IN HISTORICAL AND POLITICAL SCIENCE
HERBERT B. ADAMS, Editor
History is past Politics and Politics present History—Freeman
NINTH SERIES I-II
GOVERNMENT AND ADMINISTRATION OF THE UNITED STATES
WESTEL W. WILLOUGHBY, A.B. Fellow in History
WILLIAM F. WILLOUGHBY, A.B. U.S. Department of Labor
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
II. Government Monarchy Absolute Limited Aristocracy Democracy Republic Popular Government
III. Functions of Government Necessary Optional
IV. Colonial Governments: Their Relation to Each Other, and to England Provincial Proprietary Charter
V. Steps Toward Union—Articles of Confederation New England Confederation Albany Convention Stamp Act Congress First Continental Congress Second Continental Congress Articles of Confederation Elements Tending to Separation and to Union Purposes of the Confederation Scheme of Government under the Articles Defects of the Articles
VI. Adoption of the Constitution The Constitutional Convention Arguments For and Against Adoption
VII. Presidential Succession
VIII. Election of Senators
IX. Congressional Government
X. Cabinet and Executive Departments State Department Treasury Department War Department Navy Department Interior Department Commissioner of Land Office Commissioner of Pensions Commissioner of Patents Commissioner of Indian Affairs Bureau of Education Commissioner of Railroads Geological Survey Superintendent of the Census Post Office Department Department of Justice Department of Agriculture Department of Labor Interstate Commerce Commission Fish Commission Civil Service Commission Government Printing Office National Museum, Smithsonian Institution, and Bureau of Ethnology Librarian of Congress
XI. The Federal Judiciary Federal Judicial System District Courts Circuit Courts Jurisdiction
XII. Ordinance for Government of the Northwest Territory
XIII. Government of Territories Admission of a Territory as a State
XIV. State Governments State Constitutions State Legislatures State Executives State Judiciary
XV. Local Government In New England In the South In the West
XVI. City Government
XVII. Government Revenue and Expenditure Federal Government State and Local Taxes Expenditures Maryland Baltimore
XVIII. Money Gold Coin, Gold Bullion, and Gold Certificates Silver Dollars and Silver Certificates Subsidiary and Minor Coins Treasury Notes Notes of National Banks
XIX. Public Lands of the United States Educational Grants Land Bounties for Military and Naval Service Land Grants to States for Internal Improvement Sale of Public Land Under Pre-emption Acts Under Homestead Acts Under Timber Culture Act Certain Lands to States Grants to Pacific and other Railroads
XXI. Party Machinery
XXII. National Conventions and Presidential Campaigns History and Development of the National Convention Method of Procedure
XXIII. Introduction to the Study of the History of Political Parties in the United States
GOVERNMENT AND ADMINISTRATION OF THE UNITED STATES.
These chapters were originally prepared for and used as a manual in the public schools of the District of Columbia. In a revised and amplified form they are now published as one of Johns Hopkins University Studies in History and Politics.
The aim of this revision is to furnish assistance to students beginning the study of the history and practical workings of our political institutions. It is not the purpose to furnish a complete text-book upon the government of the United States and its administration, but, by a clear, concise statement of the salient points of our federal system, and a description of the actual workings of the characteristic features of our institutions, to give to the student a better understanding of the manner in which the same are administered, than is to be obtained from the ordinary text-books on Civil Government.
These Outlines are intended as an aid to both teacher and pupil, and for use in a class whose members are already familiar with the leading events and names in United States history. The work is intended to furnish such supplementary information as can be obtained only with great difficulty by most teachers, and which for the most part cannot be obtained at all by the pupils.
The authors have endeavored to make prominent the fact that our present form of government is far from being contained in the written constitution of 1787, and consequently, that a study of that instrument alone will give a very inadequate idea of our government as it is. The constitution was but a foundation upon which to build a government.
Nothing like an analysis or commentary upon the constitution of the United States is here attempted. The public is already well supplied with books covering that ground. History proper, except as showing the basis and reason for the establishment of our institutions, has likewise found no place here.
The book is to be used chiefly as a manual, to supply information that would otherwise need to be dictated by the instructor. The Outlines are in many particulars merely suggestive. Many topics are simply mentioned, which the teacher must elaborate and explain at greater length.
Lastly, though this book does not pretend to give a connected account of our administration or politics, yet the subjects have been carefully arranged in such an order as would most naturally be followed in a course to which the work is intended to be an aid.
From the earliest times of which history furnishes authentic record, and in all countries inhabited by man, people have found it necessary to bind themselves together by civic regulations so that certain things may be done by all in common—in short, to establish some form of government.
Now, as has always been the case, there are certain things which, from their very nature, cannot be left to each individual to do, or not to do, as he may choose, or to do in his own way. First of all, there is the necessity of some means by which the weak may be protected from the strong. The individual must be protected in his life and liberty, and there must be some guarantee to him, that if he is industrious the enjoyment of the product of his labor will be secured to him. Human nature being imperfect, disputes and injustice are sure to arise. Hence comes the necessity of some power above the citizens and able to command their obedience, some power that can administer justice according to the rights and not according to the strength of individuals.
To thus control the actions of individuals, this power above the citizens, this government, must possess functions of three kinds. First, legislative power, or power to declare the rules of conduct to which the citizen must conform; second, judicial power, or power to interpret and declare the true meaning of these rules, and to apply them to the particular cases that may arise; and third, the executive power, or power to carry into execution these laws, and to enforce the obedience of the citizens.
To the student nothing could be more interesting and instructive, than to trace how, as tribes and nations have progressed in civilization, government has advanced in its development. How, as men have progressed, first from the condition of savage hunters to the roving feeders of flocks, then to tillers of the soil with fixed places of abode, and finally to builders of cities teeming with trade, commerce and manufactures; how as men have thus improved in civilization and material well-being, their mutual duties and common interests have become more and more important and numerous, and government as controlling these interests and duties, has developed in form and improved in structure until it has become an all-powerful, complex machine, controlling in many ways the actions, and even the lives of its citizens.
For thousands of years, governments have been developing and changing in form and functions, and a very large part of the history of the nations of the globe is identified with the history of the development and changes of their governments. As new conditions and needs have arisen, governments have adapted themselves to them. In some cases this has been done peacefully, as in England, and in others violently, by revolutionary means, as in France. In some cases functions previously exercised have been relinquished, in others, new powers have been assumed; but in the majority of cases, the change has been merely in the manner of exercising this or that power.
All peoples have not the same characteristics, nor have they developed under the same conditions of climate, soil or situation. Different nations have, therefore, developed for themselves different forms of government. Yet these governments, however different in their structures and administration, are in all cases distinctly referable to four well defined types: Monarchy, Aristocracy, Democracy, and the Republic. Monarchy.—A monarchy is a nation at whose head is a personal ruler, called King, Emperor, or Czar, who has control of the government, appoints the principal officers of state, and to whom in theory at least, these appointees are responsible for their actions. Thus England, Germany, Spain, Italy, Sweden, and others are monarchies. The sovereign holds his position for life, and usually acquires his throne by inheritance. Where the crown is nominally elective, as in England, kingship is practically hereditary, the regular line of descent being departed from only upon rare occasions.
The amount of power actually exercised, the responsibility borne by the sovereign varies widely in different countries, and upon the basis of these differences monarchial forms of government are classified under the two heads, Absolute and Limited Monarchies.
An Absolute Monarchy.—An absolute monarchy is one in which the sovereign or ruler is possessed of supreme power and authority, and controls absolutely, without limitation or interference, all the powers of government. His word is law and requires not the sanction of the people. His commands are absolute and require not the formality of judicial procedure, and are not necessarily in conformity with existing laws. Implicit obedience to his commands, however arbitrary, may be demanded, and there is no appeal. These are, theoretically, the powers of the absolute monarch. Practically, however, he is constrained to keep within fair bounds of justice and good policy, lest his subjects be goaded to rebellion and revolution. The absolute form of monarchy exists to-day in the empires of Russia and Turkey.
A Limited Monarchy.—A limited monarchy is one in which the ruler, though at the head of the government, is not absolute, but is limited in his powers by the action of a body of men, selected by the people, who make the laws by which the nation is to be governed. The respective rights and powers of the sovereign and of the law-making body, are determined by a collection of rules, written or unwritten, collectively known as the constitution. The constitution contains the fundamental law of the land. All acts of the government to be valid, must be constitutional, that is to say, in conformity with the rules laid down in the constitution. For this reason limited monarchies are also known by the name of Constitutional Monarchies.
England is the most conspicuous example of a limited or constitutional monarchy. In consideration of our former connection with her, and the extent to which we have derived our ideas of government from her political institutions, it will be of great assistance to us if we stop for a moment to consider her government, before proceeding to a study of our own.
The sovereign of England is termed King or Queen. Originally possessed of almost absolute power, the English ruler, at the present day possesses very little actual power and influence, much less in fact than the people of the United States have entrusted to their President. The constitutional history of England is largely the narrative of the successive steps by which the people have wrested from royal hands and taken under their own control, the powers of government.
The rights of the English people in the participation of their own government are not contained in the written document, such as we possess in our constitution, but rest upon established custom and precedent, and various charters wrested from their kings.
The English Parliament, or, to speak more exactly, the lower branch of the Parliament, called the House of Commons, rules the English people. The Parliament or law-making branch of the English government, is divided into two houses, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons. The House of Lords is, as its name denotes, composed mainly of members of the noble families of England, who owe their seat in that body to the chance of birth. Theoretically possessed of powers of legislation equal to those exercised by the lower and more numerous branch (the Commons), the Lords have in reality but a small voice in the control of public affairs. The House of Commons is composed of members elected by the people. In this body reside almost all the powers of government. Its acts require the assent of the House of Lords and of the King, but this assent is almost wholly formal. The sphere of legislation allowed the English Parliament is unlimited, differing in this respect fundamentally from our Congress, which is limited in its legislative field by the Constitution. From the English Parliament is selected the "Cabinet" consisting of the principal executive officials, who guide the House in its legislation, and at the same time conduct the executive affairs of the nation. These ministers, as they are called, are appointed by the king from the party in the majority in the House of Commons. They are responsible to that body for all their actions, and retain their offices only so long as they retain the confidence and good will of the Commons.
An Aristocracy.—An aristocracy is a government in the hands of a select few, called the aristocracy, who transmit this authority to their children. There are to-day no aristocratic governments proper, though many nations exhibit aristocratic tendencies. In nearly all of the European countries, one branch, at least, of their legislatures is composed of members holding their seats on account of noble birth, thus admitting the aristocratic element into their governments.
Democracy.—A pure democracy is a government in which all the people rule directly, meeting in popular assemblies in which is determined by the votes of the majority how the government is to be administered. This form of government is obviously possible only in very small communities. Several of the Grecian states governed themselves after this manner. No perfect example of a nation with this form of government can be said to exist at this time. The nearest approach to pure democracy is found in certain cantons of Switzerland. The Roman historian Tacitus tells us that the early Germans governed themselves in a purely democratic manner, and the first governments of several of our American colonies were of the democratic type. When we come to the study of local government in the United States we shall see the democratic form followed in the New England Town Meetings.
Republic.—A republic is a democracy adapted by means of the introduction of the representative principle, to the government of a large and widely separated people. Under this form of government the people rule themselves, not directly, as in a democracy, but through agents or representatives of their own selection. The participation of the people in their own government consists therefore merely in the choice of officers to represent them and carry out their wishes. There exist at present several republics, the tendency seeming to be for nations to approach more nearly this form of government. France has been, since 1870, the best European example of a republic. Our own government—the United States of America—is to us the most interesting and important example of a republic.
Popular Government.—By the word 'popular' is meant, of or by the people, and by popular government is to be understood a government in the administration of which the people as a whole participate. Every change by which new and greater political powers are given into the hands of the common people is considered a step towards the full realization of popular government. During the last one hundred years great strides have been made in this direction by all European nations except Turkey and Russia. The extent to which this movement towards popular control of government can be safely and successfully carried is a question of very great importance. To a very large extent it depends upon the intelligence, previous training, and natural political ability of the people who are to be entrusted with their own government.
The Functions of Government.
Broadly speaking, the functions performed by government are of a threefold order: the establishment, interpretation, and enforcement of laws. A division of government into three branches is thus called for: the legislative, the judicial and the executive. The manner in which these departments are related to each other, the extent to which they are vested in the same hands, and the degree in which they are separate from each other and independent in their workings, differ in different countries. In England, as we have seen, the executive and legislative functions are closely united. In our government, as we shall see when we come to consider its structure, complete independence of the three departments has been aimed at.
All statesmen agree that a good government should possess ample power to interpret its own laws, and sufficient strength to fully enforce them. When we come, however, to the question of what are the proper subjects for control by government, and what for free management by individuals, we reach a subject upon which writers and thinkers have been unable to agree.
Under the great question, over how broad a field it is expedient and right to extend the activities of government, are embraced many of the great topics at present agitating the public mind. Difference upon this point has been one of the underlying causes of the existence of political parties in the United States, and has furnished one of the real springs of our history. Communism, socialism, and anarchy, may be embraced under this question. This it is that makes the study of the principles of government, especially in the United States, so important to every one who would understand the political life around him, and be able to form an intelligent decision upon the questions of the day. Shall the nation or the state own and manage the railroads, the telegraph lines, and the canals? Shall education receive the support of the state? Shall the employment of women and children in mines and factories be regulated by law? Shall the city own its own street railways, its markets, its water and gas supply, its telephones, and its water fronts? Shall this or that duty be delegated to the city or to the state, or shall it be left to the chance performance of individuals or corporations? These are some of the many questions of supreme importance that meet us at every point, and the better we understand the true nature and structure of our government, the better shall we be able to give intelligent answers.
Among the many functions of government, there are many so obviously necessary to the existence of a nation, however organized, that there is no discussion concerning the expediency of their exercise by the state. We may, therefore, group governmental duties under two heads: the necessary, and the optionable; or, as Professor Wilson has named them, the Constituent and the Ministrant. Under the first head is embraced all those functions which must exist under every form of government; and under the second title those "undertaken, not by way of governing, but by way of advancing the general interests of society." The following is Professor Wilson's classification:
I. The Necessary or Constituent Functions.—
(1). The keeping of order and providing for the protection of persons and property from violence and robbery. (2). The fixing of the legal relations between man and wife, and between parents and children.
(3). The regulation of the holding, transmission, and interchange of property, and determination of its liabilities for debt or for crime.
(4). The determination of contract rights between individuals.
(5). The definition and punishment of crime.
(6). The administration of justice in civil causes.
(7). The determination of the political duties, privileges, and relations of citizens.
(8). Dealings of the state with foreign powers; the preservation of the state from external danger or encroachment, and the advancement of its intellectual interests.
II. Optional or Ministrant Functions.
(1). The regulation of trade and industry. Under this head we must include the coinage of money, and the establishment of standard weights and measures, laws against forestalling, engrossing, the licensing of trades, etc., as well as the great matters of tariffs, navigation laws, and the like.
(2). The regulation of labor.
(3). The maintenance of thoroughfares, including state management of railways, and that great group of undertakings which we embrace within the comprehensive terms 'Internal Improvements,' or 'The Development of the Country.'
(4). The maintenance of postal and telegraph systems, which is very similar in principle to (3).
(5). The manufacture and distribution of gas, the maintenance of water-works, &c.
(6). Sanitation, including the regulation of trades for sanitary purposes.
(8). Care of the poor and incapable. (9). Care and cultivation of forests and like matters, such as stocking of rivers with fish.
(10). Sumptuary laws, such as 'prohibition' laws.
Under this second head have been included by no means all of the functions whose exercise by the government has been attempted or proposed, but they show the principal ones, and serve to indicate the nature of the optional field of governmental activity.
[Footnote 1: Wilson, The State, Section 1232.]
Colonial Governments; Their Relation to Each Other, and to England.
To understand clearly the early history of our country; to appreciate the reasons for the grievances of the colonists against their mother country; and to gain an intelligent idea of the events of that most critical period of our history, when the colonies, then free, were in doubt as to the nature of the federal government they should adopt; properly to understand all these facts, it is of essential importance that we should gain a correct knowledge of the condition of the colonies during those times, their relations to one another, their governmental connection with and attitude towards England.
The thirteen American colonies, which in 1775 dared defy the might of Great Britain, and which in a stubborn struggle were able to win their independence, were settled at various times, and by colonists actuated by widely different motives. At the time of the beginning of their resistance to the oppressive acts of their mother country, they were, in their governments, entirely separate from and independent of each other. "Though the colonies had a common origin, and owed a common allegiance to England, and the inhabitants of each were British subjects, they had no direct political connection with each other. Each in a limited sense, was sovereign within its own territory.... The assembly of one province could not make laws for another.... As colonists they were also excluded from all connection with foreign states. They were known only as dependencies. They followed the fate of their mother country both in peace and war.... They could not form any treaty, even among themselves, without the consent of England."
[Footnote 1: Story's Commentaries on the Constitution, Vol. I, p. 163.]
All the colonies did not bear the same relation to the English government. Owing to the different manner in which the right of settlement, and occupancy of the soil had been obtained from the king, the colonies had obtained different rights of government, and were placed under different obligations to the crown. There came thus to be three types of colonial governments; the provincial or royal, the proprietary, and charter governments.
I. Provincial Colonies.—Those colonies which possessed a provincial form of government were royal colonies, being governed almost entirely by England, as she governs many of her colonies to-day. At the head of each was a Governor appointed by the King of England. He was assisted by a council, also appointed by the king. The constitution and laws for this form of government were contained in the commission and instruction given to the Governor by the English government. By them the Governor was empowered to summon a representative assembly. The legislative body consisted, then, of the Governor, his council, appointed by the king, and a lower house elected by the people. The Governor had the right of veto, and the power to dissolve the assembly. The legislature could make laws, provided they were not repugnant to the laws of England. These laws were subject to the approval of the Crown. The governor, with the advice of his council, could erect courts, appoint judges, levy forces, etc. From the highest courts in all the colonies an appeal lay to the English King in Council.
II. Proprietary Colonies.—The English King often gave to individuals large tracts of land in the New World. In addition to ownership of the soil, was given in many cases the right to establish civil government. These proprietors had all the inferior royalties and subordinate powers of legislation. The proprietor could appoint or dismiss the governor, he could invest him with the power to convene a legislature, with power to veto its acts according to his wishes, and to perform all other powers of a governor. All laws made, those of Maryland excepted, were subject to the approval of the English Crown.
III. Charter Colonies.—Colonies under this form of government were so called from their possessing constitutions for their general political government. These written constitutions were charters obtained from the King, in which were granted to the people of the colony certain privileges and rights of self-government which the English government could not justly take away from them. One of the unjust acts that did much to arouse the colonists to resistance, was the attempt of the English government in 1774, to annul the charter of Massachusetts by the Regulation Act. In this act was contained a precedent that (as Curtis says) "justly alarmed the entire continent, and in its principle affected all the colonies, since it assumed that none of them possessed constitutional rights which could not be altered or taken away by an act of Parliament." The charters were very liberal, granting almost entire self-government. As in the royal colonies, the executive was a governor, and the law-making branch a legislature of two houses.
In Massachusetts the governor was appointed by the Crown, and had a veto power. The Council or upper branch of the legislature was chosen annually by the lower house, but the governor had a right of veto on their choice. The lower house was elected by the people. In Connecticut and Rhode Island the governor, council, together with the assembly were chosen annually by popular vote, and all officers were appointed by them. In these two the governor had no right of veto, and the laws before going into execution did not require the royal approval.
Seven of the original colonies began under proprietary governments—New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, North and South Carolina, Maryland and New Jersey. Of these, four—New York, New Jersey, North and South Carolina—became eventually provincial colonies, and Maryland was at one time a proprietary.
Three of the colonies, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, were settled under charters that were never surrendered. Three others, Virginia, Georgia and New Hampshire possessed charters for a while, but eventually became royal colonies.
Notwithstanding these diversities of government that have been pointed out, there were many features common to all the colonies. All considered themselves dependencies of the British Crown. All the colonists claimed the enjoyment of the privileges and rights of British-born subjects, and the benefit of the common law of England. The laws of all were required to be not repugnant to, but, as nearly as possible, in conformity with the laws of England. In all the colonies local legislatures existed, at least one branch of which consisted of representatives chosen by the people.
The general condition of the colonies at the time of the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, so far at least as concerns their governments, has now been given. What were the grounds upon which the colonists justified their resistance to the acts of English government?
In the first place, they claimed that their rights were received from, and their allegiance was due to the King, not to the Parliament. The colonists said the King was the only tie that bound them to England; that Parliament was composed of representatives from England alone, and therefore had powers of legislation only for England. Later, however, it was conceded that in matters of general interest to the whole United Kingdom, Parliament might exercise control, but that concerning all matters of domestic and internal interest, and of concern only to themselves, it was the right of their own legislatures to legislate, and that under this head came taxation.
Says Story: "Perhaps the best summary of the rights and liberties asserted by all the colonies is contained in the celebrated declaration drawn up by the Congress of nine colonies assembled at New York in October, 1765 (Stamp Act Congress). That declaration asserted that the colonists 'owe the same allegiance to the Crown of Great Britain that is owing from his subjects born within the realm, and all due subordination to that august body, the parliament of Great Britain,' That the colonists 'are entitled to all the inherent rights and liberties of his (the King's) natural born subjects within the kingdom of Great Britain. That it is inseparably essential to the freedom of a people, and the undoubted rights of Englishmen, that no taxes be imposed on them but with their own consent given personally or by their representatives.' That the 'people of the colonies are not, and from their local circumstances cannot be represented in the House of Commons of Great Britain. That the only representatives of these colonies are persons chosen by themselves therein; and that no taxes ever have been or can be constitutionally imposed upon them but by their respective legislatures, and that trial by jury is the inherent and invaluable right of every British subject in these colonies.'"
[Footnote 1: Commentaries, Vol. I, p. 175.]
In opposition to these views, the English government held that Parliament had the authority to bind the colonies in all matters whatsoever, and that there were no vested rights possessed by the colonies, that could not be altered or annulled if Parliament so desired.
At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, complete independence was not claimed by the colonies. It was not until July 4, 1776, that they were driven to a declaration of full and entire independence and self-government. By this declaration the colonies threw off their colonial character, and assumed the position of states. This they did by simply taking into their own hands the powers previously exercised by the English King and Parliament. In the state constitutions which many colonies formed during the year, their old colonial forms of government were closely followed. Connecticut and Rhode Island, in fact, merely declared their allegiance to England absolved, and retained unchanged their old charters as their fundamental law. In Connecticut no other state constitution was adopted until 1818, nor in Rhode Island until 1842.
Steps Toward Union.—Articles of Confederation.
Previous to 1774 the thirteen English colonies in America had had no political or governmental connection with each other. Any attempt on their part to unite without the consent of the English King or Parliament would have been considered an act beyond their powers and as insubordination towards the English government.
New England Confederation.—In 1643 there was formed a union of the four colonies of Connecticut, New Hampshire, Plymouth, and Massachusetts Bay, termed the "New England Confederation," which lasted forty years; but this was merely a union for mutual protection against their common foes, the French, the Dutch, and the Indians, and not for joint legislation or government. It was a defensive alliance.
The Albany Convention.—(Franklin's Plan.) In 1754, however, there was held a meeting of the colonies of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, called the "Albany Convention," in which was proposed a union of all the colonies under one government. Benjamin Franklin, the chief promoter of this scheme, drew up an elaborate constitution which was to be adopted. According to this plan there was to be a chief executive, elected by the king, and a council of 48 members, to be chosen by the legislatures of the several colonies. This scheme failed to obtain either the consent of the king or of the colonies themselves. It was too much of a union to suit the king, and not enough for the colonies. The Stamp Act Congress.—The indignation aroused by the attempt of England to tax her colonies without allowing them a voice in the Parliament which imposed such taxes, gave rise in 1765 to a meeting of delegates from eight of the colonies. This assembly was called the "Stamp Act Congress." The obnoxious Stamp Act was repealed, but England continued to impose other taxes.
First Continental Congress.—An invitation was sent out by Virginia to all the colonies, calling a meeting of delegates to consider what could be done by their united action to resist their common grievance. Thus met the "First Continental Congress" in 1774, in which all the colonies but Georgia were represented. This Congress adopted a declaration of rights and grievances. The colonies maintained that as long as they were unrepresented in the English legislature (Parliament), taxes should be imposed only by their own legislatures; also, that they were entitled to the rights, liberties, and immunities of free, natural-born subjects within the realm of England.
The Second Continental Congress.—On May 10, 1775, assembled the Second Continental Congress, in which all the thirteen colonies were represented. The battle of Lexington had then been fought, and blood had been shed. Though the colonies had as yet no intention of throwing off all connection with England, they were now prepared to resist with arms any invasion of their rights. The work performed by this body has been concisely and forcibly stated by Schouler. He says: "Thus originated that remarkable body known as the Continental Congress, which, with its periodical sessions and frequent changes of membership, bore for fifteen years the symbols of Federal power in America; which, as a single house of deputies acting by Colonies or States, and blending with legislative authority, imperfect executive and judicial functions, raised armies, laid taxes, contracted a common debt, negotiated foreign treaties, made war and peace; which, in the name and with the assumed warrant of the thirteen colonies, declared their independence of Great Britain, and by God's blessing accomplished it; which, having framed and promulgated a plan of general confederation, persuaded these same thirteen republics to adopt it, each making a sacrifice of its sovereignty for the sake of establishing a perpetual league, to be known as the United States of America, a league preserved until in the fullness of time came a more perfect Union."
[Footnote 1: Hist. U.S., Vol. I, p. 13.]
The acts of this Congress were the first legislative acts by the joint action of the colonies.
The Second Continental Congress was essentially a revolutionary body. That is to say, the authority for its acts rested upon no definite grant of powers by the colonies, but was assumed by it to meet the crisis of war. Properly speaking, it could hardly be called a government. It was more in the nature of a directing advisory committee. Its commands possessed a recommendatory character only, and it was entirely without executive officers, or legal control over either individuals or the colonies.
The Articles of Confederation.—A stronger central power than that afforded by the Continental Congress was seen to be a necessity. Accordingly, in 1777, there was drawn up a scheme of union embraced in a paper termed "The Articles of Confederation." These articles, though adopted as early as 1777, did not go into effect until 1781, the provision being that they should not be considered as in force until ratified by all the colonies, and several refused to ratify until all state claims to western territory were relinquished in favor of the National Government.
Elements Tending to Separation and Those Tending to Union.—We must remember that this was a union of thirteen previously separate colonies. The facts which had tended to keep them apart had been the difficulty of travel and communication between the colonies, the lack of commercial intercourse, but more than all, their local jealousies. The small States feared the larger; commercial jealousies were very keen. In 1756 Georgia and South Carolina actually came to blows over a dispute as to the navigation of the Savannah river. Other disputes about boundaries were frequent. Colonies with good harbors and seaports desired to keep the benefits of them exclusively to themselves. At that time, too, the people of the thirteen colonies were far more widely separated in their forms of government, their industrial habits and social customs than they now are. On the other hand, the old facts which tended to urge on a common union between them were common race, language, and nationality, many similar political institutions, and, most of all, common interests and a common peril.
The Purposes of the Confederation.—The purposes of this Confederation are best stated by giving Article III of the Articles:
"The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other for their common defense and security of their liberties and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other against all force offered to or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretext whatever."
Scheme of Government under the Articles of Confederation.—The Articles of Confederation established a framework of government for the confederated colonies, which government was to control those matters that experience had shown could be executed only by united action. As a scheme of government it was no better than a makeshift. It was an effort to form a federal power without diminishing the powers of the States—an effort "to pare off slices of state government without diminishing the loaf." That such a union could be perpetual, as the scheme professed, was impossible.
Under these Articles of Confederation the sole functions of the federal authority, legislative, executive, and judicial, were vested in a Continental Congress, consisting of a single house of delegates, who voted by States, and were appointed annually in such a manner as the respective States directed. Each State was entitled to not less than two nor more than seven delegates, a majority of whom decided the vote of the State in question. The executive functions were largely performed by a Committee of States, which was empowered to sit during recesses. For all important measures the vote of every State was required. The vote of all thirteen was required for an amendment.
Defects of the Articles of Confederation.—In this scheme of union there were many fatal defects. The principal of these defects were—
1. The want of some compulsory means of enforcing obedience to the acts of Congress. The articles provided neither an executive power nor a national judiciary worth mentioning. As one writer has said: "Congress could declare everything, but do nothing." A single colony could with impunity disregard any decree of the Congress.
2. The large vote required to pass all important measures.
3. The absence of the right to regulate foreign commerce, and make duties uniform, and to collect those duties. This defect, as we shall find, was one of the most vital, and more than any thing else decreed the failure of the practical working of the Confederation, and showed the necessity of a better and stronger National government.
4. The virtual impossibility of amendment. Since a unanimous vote was required, the selfish interest of one State could, and did, stand in the way of an amendment beneficial and necessary to the other twelve.
5. There was no power to enforce treaties. Foreign countries recognized this, and therefore refused to enter into any treaties with us. Washington said: "We are one nation to-day, and thirteen to-morrow. Who will treat with us on such terms."
England refused to carry out the conditions of the treaty of 1783, and continued to keep troops on our Western borders.
6. The central authority had insufficient power to control disputes arising between the States.
7. The lack of a Federal judiciary.
8. Lack of power to collect taxes, or to raise revenue to defray even the ordinary expenses of government. This was the most striking and important defect of them all. The whole power given to Congress under this head was the power "to ascertain the sum necessary to be raised for the service of the United States, and apportion the rate or proportion on each State." The collection of such taxes was left to the States themselves, and if they refused (as they frequently did) the Federal Government had no power to compel them.
Our present better government was "wrung from the grinding necessities of a reluctant people."
Adoption of the Constitution.—Actual hostilities ceased in 1781. In 1783 peace with England was declared, and the independence of the colonies was achieved. The war left the American people with an empty treasury, and a country drained of its wealth and impoverished by the exhaustive struggle. It left us with a large national debt, both to our own citizens and friends abroad, and most of all, left us with an army of unpaid patriotic soldiers. And no sooner had foreign danger been removed than domestic troubles arose which filled all with gloomy forebodings for the future. With the loss of that cohesive principle which common danger supplied them, the colonies now began to fall apart. Even during the progress of the war the weakness of the Union had shown itself. Washington unhesitatingly declared that it was the lack of sufficient central authority that caused the prolongation of the war. One instance will show how weak was the Federal authority. During the summer of 1783, when Congress was at Philadelphia, some eighty deserters from the army so threatened Congress as to force a removal of our Federal capital from that place to Princeton. The Continental finances were in a deplorable condition. Congress could not even collect sufficient taxes for the payment of the interest on the public debt. The States could, and often did, refuse to pay their proportion of taxes imposed upon them by Congress. Congress made a last attempt, in 1785, to raise a revenue by a tax on imported goods, but this measure failed, New York refusing to ratify. Congress, indeed, did not collect one-fourth of her demands. Commerce was going to ruin. England refused to allow our country the rich trade with the West Indies. To these troubles were added the mutual jealousies and selfishness of the States. Each of them tried to attract commerce to itself, and passed laws hurtful to the other States.
The people in Massachusetts were in insurrection. The French minister wrote to his country: "There is now no general government in America—no head, no Congress, no administrative departments."
For all these evils the limited and imperfect powers conferred upon the Federal Government by the articles of Confederation afforded no adequate remedy. Even the Constitutional Congress was now in danger of breaking up. States, to save expense, neglected to send delegates, and repeated appeals had to be made to get representation from nine States so as to pass important measures. A better union was seen by all thoughtful citizens to be necessary, but very difficult to obtain, owing to inter-state differences. The idea of having a convention separate from the Congress, whose work should be the framing of a stronger government, gradually gained ground.
The Constitutional Convention was obtained in a roundabout way, and only after repeated failures. The first attempt to obtain an assembly of representatives was made at Annapolis, Maryland. Only five States sent representatives, and the convention accordingly adjourned to Philadelphia, where in May, 1778, delegates from all the States, except Rhode Island, finally assembled.
Adoption of the Constitution.
The Constitutional Convention.—Fifty-five delegates were present. With scarcely an exception they were all clearheaded, able, and moderate men. Virginia sent Washington, Madison, Edmund Randolph; Pennsylvania sent Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, and James Wilson; New York sent Alexander Hamilton; New Jersey, Patterson; and South Carolina, the two Pinckneys. Washington was chosen President of the Convention. Two rules were adopted: 1st, proceedings were to be secret, and 2d, one vote was to be given to each State, thus making it of no importance whether a State had a large or small delegation.
Though the delegates had thus assembled to form a better and new union, they differed widely in their views as to what changes were necessary, and as to what powers should be given to the Federal Government, and what retained by the States. Some desired merely a change of the existing Articles of Confederation, more power being granted, however, to the Federal Government; while others wished for an entirely new Constitution.
The convention at once divided into two parties. The one representing the small States, such as New Jersey and Delaware; and the other, the larger States, such as Virginia, New York and Massachusetts. The plan brought forward by the party of the large States was that presented to the convention by Edmund Randolph, of Virginia, and generally known as the National or Large State Plan. This plan proposed a congress of two houses, having power to legislate on all National matters, and to compel obedience on the part of the States. Representation in both houses was to be based on population, thus giving to the larger, and more populous, States the control of both branches of the legislature; and, also, since by this scheme the president, executive officers, and judges were to be appointed by Congress, control of the whole administration of the new government.
On behalf of the small States, Patterson, of New Jersey, introduced what is called the New Jersey plan. By this plan the old Federal Congress was to be continued with its single house of legislature, and equal State vote.
The great point upon which the two plans differed, was as to how representation in the legislature should be apportioned among the States; whether it should be according to population, and with two houses, or whether there should be but one house, in which each State should have an equal vote. The question was settled by a compromise. It was agreed that there should be a legislature of two houses, a Senate or upper and less numerous branch; and the House of Representatives, the popular and more numerous lower branch. In the Senate each State was to have an equal representation, thus putting the large and small States on an equal footing. On the other hand, in the House of Representatives representation was to be according to population, thus favoring the larger States.
Another point upon which the convention differed was concerning the slave trade; whether it should, or should not, be allowed to continue. This question was also compromised, it being agreed to permit its continuance for twenty years (until 1808), after which all importation of slaves might be prohibited.
Yet another point in dispute was whether the slaves should, or should not, be counted in estimating the population of the States, in order to determine the number of representatives to which each State should be entitled. This likewise was compromised. It was agreed that five slaves should be counted equivalent to three white men.
These three main points being settled by compromises, other parts of the government, such as a single chief executive, a Federal judiciary, and the decision as to what powers should be given to the President, what to the Senate, and what to the House, were more easily arranged, and the convention adjourned September 17, 1787, having been in session a little over four months. Thus was prepared the Constitution under which we are now living—an achievement declared by Guizot to be the greatest work of its kind, and by Gladstone to be the greatest work ever struck out at one time by the hand of man.
The Constitution having been agreed to in convention, it was now submitted to the vote of each of the colonies for acceptance. It was decided in this convention that it should be considered as ratified, and should go into effect as soon as accepted by nine of the thirteen States.
The adoption or rejection of the Constitution now became a question which claimed the entire attention of the States, and it is during this contest that we find the origin of the first political parties in the United States. Those favoring the adoption of the Constitution were called "Federalists" and those opposing it "Anti-Federalists."
Arguments For and Against Adoption.—The Federalist party was composed of those men who were desirous of a strong central government, and for this reason favored the Constitution. This party was especially strong in New England, largely because New England, being the commercial part of the colonies, had had the lamentable weakness of the old confederation brought home to them the more forcibly by the disorganization and loss of commerce which the Continental Congress had been unable to regulate.
The Anti-Federalists were those who wished the State governments to be kept strong, and that there should be a comparatively weak central government.
The argument used by the Federalists for the adoption of the Constitution was, that only by correcting all those defects of the Confederation which have been pointed out, could order and prosperity be restored to the country. They said that the Constitution, being a series of compromises, could not please everyone in all respects, but that it was the best that could be obtained under the circumstances. Their arguments appeared in a remarkable collection of eighty-five essays, called the "Federalist," written by Alexander Hamilton in company with John Jay and James Madison. In these were explained all the points of the Constitution, and to this day they remain the best exposition of the Constitution ever written.
The objections raised by the Anti-Federalists were many. In the first place, it was of course objected that it gave to the central government too much power; that state government and State liberty would be crushed out. The State was then as dear to the citizen as is the National Government to us to-day. Patriotism was then devotion to the State. The colonists had suffered so much from control over their state governments by an outside strong government, that they were fearful of again putting themselves under a strong national government though of their own making. In warning terms it was declared it would be a government founded upon the destruction of the governments of the several States. They said, "Congress may monopolize every source of revenue, and thus indirectly demolish the State governments, for without funds they cannot exist." These elements of State love and jealousy of the Federal power are of the utmost importance in studying our history. We see them running through all our life as the main causes of division between political parties. (See later chapter on "Introduction to History of Political Parties.")
Another objection was, that the Constitution contained no definite "bill of rights" recognizing and guaranteeing fundamental personal liberties, such as freedom of speech, liberty of the press, assurance against unjust arrest, the right to bear arms, and trial by jury in civil cases, etc. This class of objections was satisfied by the adoption of the first ten constitutional amendments. It was also claimed by those opposed to the ratification, that inasmuch as the Constitution placed no limit to the number of terms which a President might serve, one man might become so powerful as to obtain a life-tenure of office, and thus the government would degenerate into a monarchy. To show how exaggerated were the fears during this critical period of our history, we have the report that it was actually claimed and believed by many at that time that the Federalists had the secret intention of inviting over to our country some European prince who should rule as king. Patrick Henry cried, "We shall have a king; the army will salute him monarch." Though not fixed by the Constitution, it has been since the time of Washington the invariable rule that no man shall be elected for more than two terms. The friends of President Grant attempted to have him nominated for a third time, but so strong was this prejudice that, popular as he was at that time, the plan failed.
For nine months the struggle was wagered fiercely in the States, but the Federalists prevailed. In June, 1788, the ninth State ratified, and adoption was assured. Congress fixed the first Wednesday in January for the election of presidential electors, the first Wednesday in February for the meeting of the electors and election of the President, and the first Wednesday in March, 1789, for the inauguration of the President and the beginning of the new government. This last date fell upon the 4th of March, which date has from that time served as the day for the inauguration of our presidents. Owing to a delay in the assembling of the new Congress, Washington was not inaugurated, nor our present government instituted, until April 30, 1789.
Thus was founded our present government, which has stood the test of a century. When adopted there were thirteen States; now there are forty-four. The inhabited area was then the narrow strip between the Atlantic Ocean and the Allegheny Mountains, with a population of scarcely 3,000,000. Now the United States stretches 3,000 miles from ocean to ocean, and contains a population of over sixty millions.
The provisions of the Constitution regarding the Presidential succession, in case of the death or resignation of both President and Vice-President, are: "In case of the removal of the President from office, or of his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the same devolve on the Vice-President, and the Congress may by law provide for the case of removal, death, resignation, or inability both of the President and Vice-President, declaring what officer shall then act as President, and such officer shall act accordingly until the disability be removed or a President shall be elected." (Article II, section 6.)
In pursuance of the power thus granted to it in the last half of this section, Congress in 1792 passed an act declaring that in case of the death, resignation, etc., of both the President and Vice-President, the succession should be first to the President of the Senate and then to the Speaker of the House.
This order was changed by the act of 1886, which provided that the succession to the presidency should be as follows:
1. President. 2. Vice-President. 3. Secretary of State. 4. Secretary of the Treasury. 5. Secretary of War. 6. Attorney-General. 7. Postmaster-General. 8. Secretary of the Navy. 9. Secretary of the Interior.
In all cases the remainder of the four-years' term shall be served out. This act also regulated the counting of the votes of the electors by Congress, and the determination of who were legally chosen electors.
Note.—The Constitution made no provision in case of a contested election, or when no one should be elected. Such a contingency seemed to have been overlooked in the framing of the Constitution.
Election of Senators.
The provisions of the Constitution regarding the election of senators were as follows: "The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six years; and each senator shall have one vote." (Article I, section 3, paragraph 1.) "The times, places, and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof, but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations, except as to the places of choosing senators." (Article I, section 4, paragraph 1.)
Until 1866 this matter was left entirely to the States, as permitted by the section of the Constitution just given. In that year an act was passed by the Federal Congress regulating the election of senators by the State Legislatures. By it was provided that the Legislature of each State, which is chosen next preceding the expiration of the term of either of their senators, shall on the second Tuesday after assembling elect a senator in the following manner: Each House shall by open ballot (viva voce) choose some man for senator, and he who receives a majority of the total number of votes cast in such House is entered on the journal of that House. At noon on the following day the members of the two Houses convene in joint assembly, and the journal of each House is then read, and if the same person has received a majority of the votes of each House he is declared duly elected senator. But if not, the joint assembly then proceeds to choose by a viva voce vote of each member present, a person for senator, and the person who receives a majority of all the votes of the joint assembly—a majority of all the members elected to both Houses being present and voting—is declared duly elected. If no person receives such a majority on the first day, the joint assembly meets at noon on each succeeding day during the session of the Legislature, and takes at least one vote until a senator is elected. In case of a vacancy occurring in the Senate during the recess of the State Legislature, the governor appoints a man to fill the place, his appointee holding until a successor shall be chosen in the above method by the State Legislature.
In the House, when vacancies happen in the representation from any State, the Governor issues an order for a new election in the congressional districts in which such vacancies occur. The representatives thus elected hold office for the unexpired terms of their predecessors.
The Constitution created Congress and conferred upon it powers of legislation for national purposes, but made no provision as to the method by which these powers should be exercised. In consequence Congress has itself developed a method of transacting its business by means of committees.
The Federal Legislature consists of two Houses—the Senate, or Upper and less numerous branch, and the House of Representatives, or the Lower and more numerous popular branch.
The Senate is composed of two members from each State elected by the state legislatures for a term of six years, one-third of whom retire every two years. The presiding officer is the Vice-President. Early in each session, the Senate chooses a President pro tempore, so as to provide for any absence of the Vice-President, whether caused by death, sickness, or for other reasons.
The House of Representatives is at present composed of 332 members and four delegates from the Territories. These delegates, however, have no vote, though they may speak. The House is presided over by a speaker, elected at the beginning of each session. A quorum for business is, in either House, a majority.
Congress meets every year in the beginning of December. Each Congress lasts two years and holds two sessions—a long and a short session. The long session lasts from December to midsummer. The short session lasts from December, when Congress meets again, until the 4th of March. The term of office then expires for all the members of the House, and for one-third of the Senators. The long session ends in even years (1880 and 1882, etc.), and the short session in odd years (1881 and 1883). Extra sessions may be called by the President for urgent business.
In the early part of the November preceding the end of the short session of Congress, occurs the election of Representatives. Congressmen then elected do not take their seats until thirteen months later, that is, at the reassembling of Congress in December of the year following, unless an extra session is called. The Senate frequently holds secret, or, as they are called, executive sessions, for the consideration of treaties and nominations of the President, in which the House of Representatives has no voice. It is then said to sit with closed doors.
An immense amount of business must necessarily be transacted by a Congress that legislates for nearly sixty-three millions of people, inhabiting a territory of over three and a half millions of square miles.
Lack of time, of course, prevents a consideration of each bill separately by the whole legislature. To provide a means by which each subject may receive investigation and consideration, a plan is used by which the members of both branches of Congress are divided into committees. Each committee busies itself with a certain class of business, and bills when introduced are referred to this or that committee for consideration, according to the subjects to which the bills relate. Thus, for example, affairs relating to Washington are handed over to what is known as the District Committee, a regular appropriation bill to the Committee on Appropriations, etc. These committees consider these bills carefully, frequently taking the testimony of outside persons to discover the advisability of each bill. The regular course through which a bill has to go before becoming an act—i.e., to pass both houses and receive the signature of the President—is as follows: On Mondays there is a roll-call of the States, and members may then introduce in the House or Senate any bill they may desire. These bills are then referred by the presiding officer to appropriate committees. These committees, meeting in their own separate rooms, debate, investigate, and, if necessary, as has been said, ask the opinion of outside persons. After such consideration bills are reported back to the House or Senate. But very few bills reach this stage, for the committee does not get time to report any save the more important ones, and thus the majority of them disappear, or, as the saying is, "are killed in committee." If a bill receives the approval of the committee it is favorably reported to the Senate or House, as the case may be—i.e., the bill is returned, accompanied by a report advising the passage of the accompanying bill. If the bill is not approved by the committee, an unfavorable report is made; bills are seldom passed after such an adverse report. These reports which accompany the bills, are printed, often at great length, giving reasons for the proposed action in regard to the bills. When reported by the committee back to the house in which it was introduced, a bill is voted upon, and, if passed, is sent to the other branch. If passed there, it is ready for the President's signature; if vetoed, the bill is lost, unless passed over the veto by a two-thirds vote of both houses. But frequently one house, while not wishing to defeat a measure sent to it from the other house, may desire to change it by some amendment. If this is done, the bill, as amended, is sent back to the house from which it came, and if then agreed to as amended by it, it is sent to the President for his approval. Thus by repeated amendments it may pass to and fro between the House and Senate several, times. In the House of Representatives, many bills are passed through all their various stages by a single vote, by what is known as a "suspension of the rules," which may be ordered by a two-thirds vote.
The Senate is now divided into between fifty and sixty committees, but the number varies from session to session. The principal committees are those on (1) Foreign Relations, (2) Privileges and Elections, (3) Judiciary, (4) Commerce, (5) Finance, and (6) Appropriations. The Senate selects the members for the different committees by ballot, though it is pretty well determined beforehand how each committee shall be constituted by means of party caucuses (informal meetings of members of the same party to determine upon lines of action that will be supported by all). A committee is always composed of an odd number of members, and both political parties are always represented on every committee, though the majority is, in almost all cases, from that party which has the majority of the members of the Senate.
The House of Representatives is organized into sixty committees, ranging, in their number of members, from thirteen down. As regards party representation, their constitution is similar to that of the Senate Committees. The Committee of "Ways and Means," which regulates customs duties and excise taxes, is by far the most important.
Other important committees are those on (1) Elections, (2) Appropriations, (3) Judiciary, (4) Foreign Affairs, (5) Manufactures, (6) Commerce, (7) Labor. Every Representative is on one committee, and most of them on several. Unlike the custom in the Senate, in the House the presiding officer has the sole power of appointment, which makes him, next to the President, the most important and powerful government official. The chairman of each committee has, of course, a large power over affairs with which his committee is concerned, and for this reason it is often said that it is the chairmen of these committees who rule the land.
The precise amount of effective work done by Congress during the two sessions of the Fiftieth Congress was as follows: There were 4,000 bills introduced in the Senate and 145 Senate joint resolutions: of this number 1,127 bills and joint resolutions passed the Senate, and 554 were either postponed indefinitely or referred to the Court of Claims, so that the total number on which final action was taken by the Senate was 1,681. The committee on enrolled bills examined 667 Senate bills and joint resolutions and sent them to the President and 591 became laws, the number of vetoes, including "pocket vetoes," being 76.
The House of Representatives passed 1,561 House bills and sent them to the Senate, and the Senate passed 1,347 of them, leaving 214 to perish. The House passed 56 House joint resolutions and the Senate passed all of them but eight. The House passed, therefore, 2,284 House and Senate bills, and the Senate passed 2,522.
The first session of the Fifty-first Congress (1889-90) was, with one exception, the longest ever held. During the session there were introduced in the House 12,402 bills and joint resolutions, and in the Senate 4,570, making a total of 16,972. The total number of acts passed was 1,335 as against 1,790 for both sessions of the Fiftieth Congress. Of these 881 were pension bills.
[Footnote 1: The longest session was the long session of the Fiftieth Congress.]
Congress ordinarily assembles at noon, and remains in session until 4 or 5 p.m., though towards the end of the term it frequently remains in session until late in the night. The first thing upon assembling in the morning is prayer. On Mondays, as stated, there is next a roll-call of States for the introduction of bills. Sometimes a committee is instructed to prepare and bring in a bill of its own, without waiting to have one introduced and referred to it. Reports from committees are heard during morning hours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and on Mondays after the introduction of bills. Friday is a day usually set apart for the consideration of private measures. On Saturdays Congress seldom sits.
There is still one feature of Congressional government which needs explanation, and that is the caucus. A caucus is the meeting of the members of one party in private, for the discussion of the attitude and line of policy which members of that party are to take on questions which are expected to arise in the legislative halls.
Thus, in Senate caucus, is decided who shall be members of the various committees. In these meetings is frequently discussed whether or not the whole party shall vote for or against this or that important bill, and thus its fate is decided before it has even come up for debate in Congress.
The Cabinet and Executive Departments.
We have seen that the functions of government are divided into three distinct classes, the legislative, the judicial, and the executive. The Constitution provides as to the methods for the exercise of the first two, but none for the third. The only reference in the constitution to executive departments is in Art. II, Sec. 2, where the President is given the power to require the opinion in writing of the principal officer in each executive department upon any subject relating to the duties of his office. The departments have in each case been created by an act of Congress and from time to time as convenience has demanded.
The duties of the executive are to enforce and apply the laws of the nation after they are made by the legislature and interpreted by the courts. This is the real business of government, by which the laws are put into effect, and the work of government is actually carried on. In the United States Government this power is placed in the hands of a body of men distinct from the legislative and judicial officers. At the head is the President, and hence his title of "Chief Executive." It is evident that he must divide up the vast amount of work to be done, and delegate it to others. Congress directs how this shall be done. For this purpose Congress has created nine executive departments (1)State, (2)Treasury, (3)War, (4)Navy, (5)Interior, (6)Post Office, (7)Justice, (8)Agriculture, (9)Labor.
These departments have been created as required by the growth of government duties. Three departments, the State, Treasury and War, were created by the first Congress, in 1789. By the same Congress was created the office of Attorney-General of the United States, who, together with the Secretaries of the three departments, constituted President Washington's first cabinet. The Navy Department was added in 1798. Prior to that date, naval affairs had been managed by the War Department. A Post Office for the colonies was established by the Postal Act of Queen Anne's reign. The Post Office Department under the present government was established in 1789, but the Postmaster-General did not become a Cabinet officer until 1829. The Interior Department was created in 1849 by grouping together in one department several branches of the government service, which had formerly been distributed among the other departments. As early as 1839 the Patent Office, under the Interior Department, was intrusted with various duties concerning the agricultural interests of the country, among the chief of which was the distribution of seeds. In 1862 a separate Department of Agriculture was established, and these duties transferred to it. In 1889 the head of the Department became Secretary of the Department of Agriculture and a Cabinet officer. A Bureau of Labor under the Interior Department was created in 1884. In 1888 Congress constituted it a separate department, but did not make its head a Secretary, and therefore not a Cabinet officer.
The heads of the first eight of these departments together form a council of eight, called the "Cabinet," whose duty it is, in addition to the management of the departments, to advise the President on matters of importance. For this purpose regular meetings are held, at which the affairs of government are discussed, and lines of action decided upon. The cabinet is neither the creation of the constitution, nor strictly of law. The existence of a cabinet, however, was always taken for granted in the discussion and formation of the constitution. It is a creation of custom and has no powers other than of advice and counsel to the President. The growth of executive and administrative business is not fully indicated by the increase in the number of departments. The growth within each department has been much greater. Separate bureaus and divisions have been created, which in some cases are, for all practical purposes, as independent and important as the departments themselves.
The organization of all the different departments is much the same. At the head of each is an officer appointed by the President, the President thus having control generally over the whole executive business of the government. These officers are called Secretaries, except in the cases of the Post Office Department, whose head is the Postmaster-General, and of the Department of Justice, whose head is the Attorney-General. In a number of the Departments there are also one, two, three or four assistant secretaries, according as the business of the departments requires. For convenience in the despatch of business, the departments are divided into bureaus, the bureaus into divisions, and the divisions into rooms, until, finally, the individual workers—the clerks—are readied. Each bureau and division has at its head an officer called Commissioner and Chief of Division, respectively. Each department and bureau, and, in some cases, the division also, has a Chief Clerk who has charge of the details of the administration, and immediate oversight over the clerks. All work in one finely organized system. The clerk is responsible to his chief of division, the chief of division to his commissioner, the commissioner to the Secretary and he, finally, to Congress. Each man has his particular place in the system, and no one works at random.
[Footnote 1: There are a number of officials and clerks who properly belong to no division or bureau, as, for instance, the librarian's private secretary and other clerical assistance in the Secretary's office, who are under his immediate supervision.]
[Footnote 2: This system is not always carried out perfectly in practice. In some cases an officer is termed commissioner who is more properly a chief of division, and vice versa. In other cases the title of commissioner or chief of division is represented by a more technical designation as Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, Comptroller of the Currency, etc.] The President and heads of departments appoint all officers in the executive departments. It is manifestly impossible for them to base their appointments upon personal knowledge. Hence has arisen the custom of filling almost all offices not controlled by the Civil Service Commission upon the recommendation of congressmen, each of whom controls for the most part the patronage of his own district. Only the Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, Commissioners, and other chief officials are really appointees of the President on his own responsibility.
Prior to the first administration of Jackson the positions of government clerks in the departments were permanent. In 1828 Jackson inaugurated the so-called spoils system, which means that to the victor belongs the spoils. Only 74 removals had been made from 1789 to 1828. Jackson removed during the first year of his administration 2,000 clerks. Since then, until 1883, each party, on gaining control of the government, has removed almost all the clerks in office who were of the opposite political faith, replacing them with members of its own party. In 1883 was passed the Civil Service Act, by which it is provided that all future appointments of subordinate clerks in the executive departments are to be made only from those who have passed successfully an examination set by the Civil Service Commission created by the act.
The State Department.—The Department of State was the first department established. (Act of July 27, 1789.) There are three Assistant Secretaries. Their salaries are, Secretary $8,000, First Assistant $4,000, and the other two $3,500. The department is divided into seven bureaus, (1) Diplomatic, (2) Consular, (3) Archives and Indexes, (4) Accounts, (5) Statistics, (6) Rolls and Library, and (7) Claims.
The Secretary of State is charged, under the direction of the President, with the duties appertaining to correspondence with the public ministers and consuls of the United States, and with the representatives of foreign powers accredited to the United States; and to negotiations of whatever character relating to the foreign affairs of the United States. He is also the medium of correspondence between the President and the chief executive of the several States of the United States; he has the custody of the great seal of the United States, and countersigns and affixes such seal to all executive proclamations, to various commissions, and to warrants for pardon, and the extradition of fugitives from justice. He is regarded as the first in rank among the members of the Cabinet. He is also the custodian of the treaties made with foreign states, and of the laws of the United States. He grants and issues passports. Exequaturs to foreign consuls in the United States are issued through his office. He publishes the laws and resolutions of Congress, amendments to the Constitution, and proclamations declaring the admission of new States into the Union. He is also charged with certain annual reports to Congress relating to commercial information received from diplomatic and consular officers of the United States.
The patronage of the Secretary at Washington is small, about sixty clerks, but that which concerns the diplomatic and consular service is important. To facilitate communications and negotiations with foreign nations, and to protect the interests of American citizens in foreign countries, the United States, in common with all civilized nations, has an elaborate system of representatives residing at the capitals of all the principal nations. This system is called the diplomatic service, and is under the charge of a separate bureau of the State Department. Communications and negotiations with foreign powers are generally carried on through them or through ministers of other nations stationed at Washington. These agents are called ministers and are of three grades (1) envoys extraordinary and ministers plenipotentiary, (2) ministers resident, (3) charges d'affaires. These grades correspond to the lower grades of similar services in European countries. We have no grade corresponding to that of ambassador. The United States has ministers in about thirty-three countries. The chief legations are those of Great Britain, France, Germany and Russia. The salary attached to each of these legations is $17,500. The social demands upon ministers are great, and, as a rule, the expenses of ministers have been more than their salaries. Ministers of foreign powers receive a much larger compensation than do ours.
To protect our commercial interests abroad, and our seamen and vessels in foreign ports, the United States has agents resident in all foreign sea-ports of any prominence. Their duties are numerous. They ship seamen, certify invoices, take testimony, examine emigrants, etc. They transmit to the State Department monthly reports concerning any matter of commercial or social interest occurring at their stations. These reports are published monthly by the department and have a wide gratuitous circulation. This system is called the consular service; and is also under the charge of a separate bureau. These agents, called consuls, are of three ranks and titles; (1) consul-generals, (2) consuls, (3) consular agents, of whom 180 are salaried, the rest being paid by fees. The names of the other bureaus indicate the nature of the duties performed by each.
The Department of State has been prominently before the people during the last two years in consequence of the Pan-American Congress, composed of representatives from all American nations. This congress met in 1889, under the auspices of the State Department at Washington, to consider subjects of common interest, such as international arbitration, railroad and steamship communication, uniform money and commercial regulations. Various standing committees and commissions were provided for; and it is believed that through their efforts better commercial and social relations with the South American Republics will be established. The International Marine Conference, composed of representatives from all marine powers, likewise met at Washington under the auspices of the same department, and adopted a code of marine regulations for the guidance of all nations.
[Footnote 1: The Proceedings of the Pan American Congress were published by the Department of State, and also in the Tribune Monthly for September, 1890. Articles upon the subject lay Mr. Romero, the Mexican Minister, appeared in the North American Review, September and October, 1890.]
In foreign relations the department has been chiefly occupied of late in the attempted settlement of the right of the English and Canadians to capture seals in Bering's Sea and Straits, and of the rights of American and English fishermen in the fishing grounds off the coast of New Foundland; in the conclusion of a new extradition treaty with England, and of various treaties concerning trade with other nations.
[Footnote 1: See Tribune Monthly entitled "Our Continent, or America for the Americans."]
[Footnote 2: An excellent monograph upon the subject of Extradition, by Hon. J.B. Moore, has been published by the State Department.]
The Treasury Department.—This department was created by act of September 2, 1789. There are two assistant secretaries. The department is divided into a large number of divisions, with the following chief officers: (1) The Comptrollers, (2) the Auditors, (3) Treasurer, (4) Register, (5) Commissioner of Customs, (6) Commissioner of Internal Revenue, (7) Comptroller of the Currency, (8) Chief of the Bureau of Statistics, (9) Superintendent of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, (10) Director of the Mint, (11) Superintendent of the Life Saving Service, (12) Supervising-Surgeon-General of the Marine Hospital Service, (13) Supervising-Inspector-General of Steam Vessels. Other officers are, the Supervising Architect, Commissioner of Navigation, Solicitor of the Treasury, and Chairman of the Light House Board.