[Transcriber's Note: In the original book, questions appeared at the bottom of each page. These questions have been compiled at the end of the text.]
The Government Class Book;
Designed for the Instruction of Youth in the Principles of Constitutional Government and the Rights and Duties of Citizens.
By Andrew W. Young,
Author of "Science of Government," "First Lessons in Civil Government," "American Statesman," "Citizen's Manual of Government and Law."
NEW-YORK: J. C. DERBY & N. C. MILLER, 5 SPRUCE STREET, TRIBUNE BUILDINGS. 1865.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1859, by Andrew W. Young, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of New York.
The utility of the diffusion of political knowledge among a people exercising the right of self-government, is universally admitted. The form of government established by the people of the United States, though well adapted to promote the general welfare, is highly complicated; and the knowledge requisite to administer it successfully can not be acquired without much study. From the fact that a large portion of the American people are greatly deficient in this knowledge, we may justly conclude that it will never become general, until it shall have been made an object of school instruction.
The administration of the government of this great and rapidly increasing republic, will, in a few years, devolve upon those who are now receiving instruction in the public schools. Yet thousands annually complete their school education, who have never devoted any time to the study of the principles of the government in which they are soon to take a part—who become invested with political power without the preparation necessary to exercise it with discretion. The schools are regarded as the nurseries of our future statesmen. They share largely in the bounty of the state; yet few of them render in return even the rudiments of political science to those who are to become her legislators, and governors, and judges. Not only in the common schools generally, but in a large portion of the high schools and seminaries, this science is not included in the course of instruction.
To many of the most enlightened friends of education and of our free institutions, it has long been a matter of surprise as well as regret, that those to whom the educational interests of the states are more immediately intrusted, should so long have treated the study in question as of minor importance, or have suffered it to be excluded by studies of far less practical utility. The Regents of the University of the State of New York have repeatedly noticed the neglect of this study in the academies and seminaries subject to their visitation; and they mention it as a remarkable fact, that in many of them preference is given to the study of the Grecian and Roman antiquities. They say: "The constitutions, laws, manners, and customs of ancient Greece and Rome are made subjects of regular study, quarter after quarter, while our own constitutional jurisprudence, and the every day occurring principles of our civil jurisprudence, are not admitted as a part of the academic course!"
To persons who are to engage in any of the industrial or professional pursuits, a preparatory course of training or discipline is deemed indispensable to success. Yet many assume the weighty responsibilities of freemen, and allow their sons to do the same, with scarcely any knowledge of a freeman's duties. On the intelligent exercise of political power, the public prosperity and the security of our liberties mainly depend. Every person, therefore, who is entitled to the rights of a citizen, is justly held responsible for the proper performance of his political duties. And any course of popular instruction which fails to impart a knowledge of our system of government, must be materially defective.
With a view to supply this deficiency, the author, many years since, prepared his "Introduction to the Science of Government." This work soon attained considerable popularity, both as a class book in schools, and as a book for private reading and reference for adults. Not being deemed, however, sufficiently elementary for the children and youth in most of our common schools, another work, entitled, "First Lessons in Civil Government," was written to meet the capacities of younger or less advanced scholars than those for whom the previous work was designed.
The favorable reception of these works by the public, and the assurances of their usefulness to thousands who have studied them, are to the author a source of high gratification, and an ample reward for many years of arduous labor. The value of these works has, however, been in a measure impaired by changes in the government and laws since the time of their first publication. The latter, especially, descending so minutely into the details of the government of the state for which alone it is intended, requires frequent revisions.
It has occurred to the author that a new work, more permanent in the character of its matter, and adapted for use in all the states, is demanded to supply the deficiency in the present course of education. Stimulated by a desire to bear some part in laying a solid foundation for our republican institutions, and encouraged by the success of his former labors in this department of education, he has, after a suspension of several years, resumed his efforts in this enterprise, in the hope that, with the cooeperation of teachers, and those having official supervision of the schools, it may be carried forward to an early consummation; when the principles of government shall be made a subject of regular study in the schools, and the elements of a sound political education shall be accessible to the mass of American youth. And he flatters himself, that the attention he has given to this subject has enabled him to prepare a work adapted, in a good degree, to meet the existing want of the schools.
Many words and phrases, as they occur in the course of the work, have been defined; and an attempt has been made to explain the several subjects in such a manner as to render them intelligible to youth.
The object which it is the purpose of this work to aid in effecting, claims the earnest attention of parents. Every father, at least, is bound to see that his sons have the means of acquiring a good political education. He can not innocently suffer them to pass from under his guardianship unprepared to discharge their political duties.
The study of this work should not be confined to male pupils. It has long been considered a striking defect in our system of education, that females are not more generally instructed in the principles of civil government, and in matters of business. Although they take no active part in public affairs, the knowledge here commended would enable them to exert a far more powerful and salutary influence upon our national character and destiny. As wives, mothers, teachers, and especially as counselors of the other sex, they could apply this knowledge to valuable purposes. And the question is submitted, whether it would not contribute more to their usefulness than some of those accomplishments which form so large a part of a modern female education, and which are usually lost amidst the cares of married life.
To preserve and transmit the blessings of constitutional liberty, we need a healthful patriotism. But a genuine love of country is hardly to be expected where there is not a proper appreciation of our political institutions, which give it its preeminence among nations. And how can they be duly appreciated if they are not understood? It has been one of the objects of the writer to bring to view the chief excellencies of our system of government, and thus to lay, in the minds of youth, the basis of an enlightened and conservative patriotism.
That this work, as an elementary treatise on civil government, is not susceptible of improvement, is not pretended. Such as it is, it is submitted to the judgment of a candid public. If it shall prove in any considerable degree useful, the author's highest expectations will have been realized.
To the meritorious, though often undervalued labors of the instructors of American youth, is our country greatly indebted for the successful working of its system of free government; and upon the labors of their successors rest, in an equal degree, all well-founded hopes of its future political prosperity.
The general introduction and profitable study of this work, depend much upon a hearty and active cooeperation of teachers in the enterprise which it is intended to promote. From all who desire to make themselves in the highest degree useful in their profession, such cooeperation is confidently anticipated.
The advantage of instructing a class in civil government, is not confined to the pupils. The teacher will find the exercise both interesting and profitable to himself. Although pains have been taken to adapt the work to the capacities of youth, the definition of many terms and phrases, and the further explanation of many subjects, have necessarily been left to be supplied by teachers. The study and investigation which may in some cases be required to qualify them for the task, will be amply rewarded by their own advancement in political knowledge.
No intelligent teacher, it is presumed, will object to the introduction of this study, on the ground that there is not sufficient time or room for an additional exercise. Useful as all the branches now taught may be justly deemed, all of them are not, as is a knowledge of government, indispensable to the security of our liberties. The latter is of far greater importance to an American citizen, than a knowledge of some portions of arithmetic and the higher mathematics; and in the opinion of some distinguished educators the time now devoted to these, in many schools, is sufficient to acquire a tolerable political education. It is believed, however, that this study need not exclude, or essentially interfere with, any of the studies pursued in the schools generally. By the more advanced scholars in the common schools, the work may be used as a reading book, and thus a two-fold advantage be gained from its use.
To assist the more inexperienced teachers in conducting the exercise, a few questions have been appended to the chapters. Questions may be added by the teachers at pleasure, or to such extent as may be thought necessary. And it is believed the recitations may be made more profitable to pupils, by requiring them, so far as may be, to give answers in their own words. To some of the printed questions, no answers are furnished by the chapters and sections referred to, but may be found in the Synopsis of the State Constitutions, or other parts of the work. Occasionally questions have been inserted to which no part of the work furnishes the answers.
Principles of Government.
Mankind fitted for Society, and for Civil Government and Laws
Rights and Liberty, defined
Different Forms of Government. Monarchy; Aristocracy; Democracy; Republic
The Nature and Objects of a Constitution, and the manner in which it is made
Qualifications of Electors; or, by whom Political Power is exercised in the States of this Union
Division of the Powers of Government
States Legislatures—how constituted
Meetings and Organization of the Legislature
Manner of Enacting Laws
Executive Department. Governor and Lieutenant Governor
Assistant Executive State Officers
Counties and County Officers. Powers and Duties of County Officers
Towns and Town Officers. Powers and Duties of Town Officers
Incorporation and Government of Cities, Villages, &c.
Judicial Department. Justices' Courts
Trial by Jury; Execution; Attachment; Appeals; Arrest of Offenders
Courts other than Justices' Courts; Grand and Petit Juries, &c.
Chancery or Equity Courts; Probate Courts; Court of Impeachment
Assessment and Collection of Taxes
Education. School Funds; Schools, &c.
Canals and Railroads
Banks and Insurance Companies
Government of the United States.
Causes of the Revolution
Nature of the Union under the Confederation
Nature of the Union under the Constitution
Legislative Department. House of Representatives
Power of Congress to lay Taxes, Duties, &c.; Power to Borrow Money
Power to Regulate Commerce. Commerce with Foreign Nations
Power to Regulate Commerce, continued. Navigation; Commerce among the States, and with the Indian Tribes
Powers of Congress in Relation to Naturalization; Bankruptcy; Coining Money; Weights and Measures; Punishment of Counterfeiting
Powers of Congress in Relation to Post-Offices; Copy-Rights and Patents; Inferior Courts
Powers of Congress in Relation to Piracy and Offenses against the Law of Nations; War; Marque and Reprisal; Public Defense; District of Columbia; Implied Powers
Prohibitions on Congress
Prohibition on the States
Executive Department. President and Vice-President; their Election, Qualifications, &c.
Powers and Duties of the President; Treaties; Public Ministers; Appointments and Removals
Auxiliary Executive Departments. Departments of State, of the Treasury, of the Interior, of War, of the Navy, of the Post-Office; Attorney General
Judicial Department. District Courts; Circuit Courts; Supreme Court
Treason Defined, its Punishment
State Records; Privileges of Citizens; Fugitives; Admission of New States; Power over Territory; Guaranty of Republican Government
Provision for Amendments; Assumptions of Public Debt; Supremacy of the Constitution, &c.; Oaths and Tests; Ratification of the Constitution
Amendments to the Constitution
Common and Statutory Law.
Rights of Persons. Personal Security; Personal Liberty; Religious Liberty; Liberty of Speech, and of the Press; Right of Property
Domestic Relations. Husband and Wife
Domestic Relations, continued. Parent and Child; Guardian and Ward; Minors; Masters, Apprentices, and Servants
Rights of Property. How Title to Property is acquired; Wills and Testaments; Title to Property by Descent
Deeds and Mortgages
Incorporeal Hereditaments, Right of Way; Aquatic Rights, &c.
Leases. Estates for Life; Estates for Years; Estates at Will; Estates by Sufferance; Rent, &c.
Contracts in General
Contracts of Sale
Fraudulent Sales; Assignments; Gifts, &c.
Principal and Agent, or Factor; Broker; Lien, &c.
Bills of Exchange; Interest; Usury
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Law of Nations.
Origin and Progress of the Law of Nations; the Natural, Customary, and Conventional Laws of Nations
The Jurisdiction of Nations; their mutual Rights and Obligations; the Rights of Embassadors, Ministers, &c.
Offensive and Defensive War; just Causes of War; Reprisals; Alliances in War
Declaration of War; its Effect upon the Person and Property of the Enemy's Subjects; Stratagems in War; Privateering
Rights and Duties of Neutral Nations; Contraband Goods; Blockade; Right of Search; Safe Conducts and Passports; Truces; Treaties of Peace
Synopsis of the State Constitutions.
Maine New Hampshire Vermont Massachusetts Rhode Island Connecticut New York New Jersey Pennsylvania Delaware Maryland Virginia North Carolina South Carolina Georgia Florida Alabama Mississippi Louisiana Texas Arkansas Missouri Tennessee Kentucky Ohio Indiana Illinois Michigan Wisconsin Iowa California Minnesota
Constitution of the United States
Government Class Book.
Principles of Government.
Mankind fitted for Society, and for Civil Government and Laws.
Sec.1. Mankind are social beings. They are by nature fitted for society. By this we mean that they are naturally disposed to associate with each other. Indeed, such is their nature, that they could not be happy without such association. Hence we conclude that the Creator has designed men for society. It can not, therefore, be true, as some say, that the savage state is the natural state of man.
Sec.2. Man is so formed that he is dependent upon his fellow men. He has not the natural strength of other animals. He needs the assistance of creatures like himself to protect and preserve his own being. We can hardly imagine how a person could procure the necessaries of life without such assistance. But men have the gifts of reason and speech. By conversation they are enabled to improve their reason and increase their knowledge, and to find methods of supplying their wants, and of improving their social condition.
Sec.3. But, although men need the assistance of each other, they are so formed that each must have the care of himself. If every man were fed and clothed from a common store, provided by the labor of all, many, depending upon the labor of others, would be less industrious than they now are. By the present arrangement in society, which obliges every man to provide for his own wants, more is earned, a greater number are cared for, and the general welfare is better promoted than would be done if each labored for the benefit of all.
Sec.4. From this arrangement comes the right of property. If each man's earnings should go into a common stock for the use of all, there would be nothing that any one could call his own. But if each is to provide for himself, he must have a right to use and enjoy the fruits of his own labor.
Sec.5. But all men in society have the same rights. Therefore, in laboring to supply our wants, and to gratify our desires, we can not rightfully do so any further than is consistent with the rights of others. Hence we see the necessity of some established rules for securing to every member of society the free enjoyment of what justly belongs to him, and for regulating his conduct toward his fellow-members.
Sec.6. These rules for regulating the social actions of men, are called laws. Law, in a general sense, is a rule of action, and is applied to all kinds of action. But in its limited and proper sense, it denotes the rules of human action prescribing what men are to do, and forbidding what they are not to do.
Sec.7. We have seen that man is fitted for society, and that laws are necessary to govern the conduct of men in the social state. We see also that mankind are fitted by nature for government and laws. Man is also a moral being. The word moral has various significations. Sometimes it means only virtuous, or just; as, a moral man; that is, a man of moral character, or who lives a moral life; by which is meant that the conduct of the man is just and right.
Sec.8. But in a wider sense, the word moral relates to the social actions of men, both right and wrong. Thus, in speaking of the character of a man, we say, his morals are good, or his morals are bad. And of an action, we say, it is morally right, or it is morally wrong. Man's having a moral nature implies that he has a sense of right and wrong, or at least the power or faculty of acquiring it; and, being a moral agent, he is accountable for his actions.
Sec.9. Thus we have seen that men are social, reasonable, and moral beings. They have power to discern their own wants and the wants of their fellow men; to perceive what is right and what is wrong; and to know that they ought to do what is right and to forbear to do what is wrong. Their reason enables them to understand the meaning of laws, and to discover what laws are necessary to regulate the social actions of men. Hence we conclude that they are fitted and designed for society, and for government and law.
Sec.10. The youngest reader probably knows, that in speaking of society, we do not refer to any of those associations usually called societies, but to civil society, composed of the people of a state or nation. A nation, or state, is a large number of persons united under some form of government; as, the French nation; the British nation; or the state of New-York; the state of Virginia. Sometimes it signifies the ruling or governing power of a state or nation, as, the state has provided for educating its citizens, and for supporting the poor.
Sec.11. The object of the people in forming a state association, or, as is sometimes said, of entering into civil society, is to promote their mutual safety and happiness. In uniting for this purpose, they agree to be governed by certain established rules and principles; and the governing of the people of a state or nation according to these rules, is called civil government. The word government also signifies the rules and principles themselves by which the people are governed; and sometimes the persons who administer the government—that is those who make the laws of a state and carry them into effect—are called the government.
Rights and Liberty, defined.
Sec.1. We have spoken of the rights of men, and of laws as designed to secure to men the free enjoyment of their rights. But a more particular definition of rights and laws will be useful to young persons just commencing the study of civil government.
Sec.2. A right means ownership, or the just claim or lawful title which a person has to anything. What we have acquired by honest labor, or other lawful means, is rightfully our own; and we are justly entitled to the free use and enjoyment of it. We have a right also to be free in our actions. We may go where we please, and do what ever we think necessary for our own safety and happiness; provided we do not trespass upon the rights of others; for it must be remembered that others have the same rights as ourselves.
Sec.3. The rights here mentioned are natural rights. They are so called because they are ours by nature or by birth; and they can not be justly taken from us or alienated. Hence they are also called inalienable. We may, however, forfeit them by some offense or crime. If, for example, a man is fined for breaking a law, he loses his right to the money he is obliged to pay. By stealing, he forfeits his liberty, and may be justly imprisoned. By committing murder, he forfeits his right to life, and may be hanged.
Sec.4. Rights are also called personal, political, civil, and religious. Personal rights, or the rights of persons, are rights belonging to persons as individuals, and consist of the right of personal security, or the right to be secure from injury to our bodies, or persons, or our good names; the right of personal liberty, or the liberty of moving, acting, or speaking without unjust restraint; and the right of property, or the right to acquire and enjoy property. The terms rights of person and rights of persons, or personal rights, have not the same meaning. The rights of person, as the term is generally used, does not include the right of property; personal rights include both the right of property and the rights of person.
Sec.5. Political rights are those which belong to the people in their political capacity. The word political, in a general sense, relates to government. The whole body of the people united under one government, is called the political body, or body politic. The right of the people to choose and establish for themselves a form of government, or constitution, and the right to elect persons to make and execute the laws, are political rights. The right of voting at elections is therefore a political right.
Sec.6. Civil rights are those which are secured to the citizens by the laws of the state. Some make no distinction between civil rights and political rights. In a proper sense—that in which the terms are here used—there is this difference: political rights are those secured by the political or fundamental law, called the constitution; civil rights are more properly those which are secured by the civil or municipal laws. The difference will more clearly appear from the definition elsewhere given of the political and civil laws. (Chap. III. Sec.5, 6.)
Sec.7. Religious rights consist in the right of a man to make known and maintain his religious opinions, and to worship God in that way and manner which he believes in his conscience to be most acceptable to his Maker. This right is called also the right of conscience. But in exercising this right, a man may not abuse it by violating the rights of others, or disturbing the peace and order of society.
Sec.8. Now, although human rights are thus divided into classes and differently defined, they are all natural rights. It is generally held in this country as a truth, that "all men are created equal;" that is, born with the same rights. And if men, as social and moral beings, are fitted by nature and designed for government and laws, we conclude that their political, civil, and religious rights, and all other rights to which they are entitled by the law of nature, are natural rights.
Sec.9. Liberty is the being free to exercise and enjoy our rights, and is called natural, political, civil, or religious, according to the particular class of rights referred to. Thus the exercise of rights guarantied by the constitution or political law, is called political liberty. The free enjoyment of rights secured by the civil or municipal laws, is called civil liberty. And freedom of religious opinion and worship is called religious liberty.
Sec.10. Hence liberty itself is a natural right. The words right and liberty, however, have not the same meaning. We may have a right to a thing when we have not the liberty of using it. John has a pencil which is justly his own; but James takes it from him by force. John's liberty to enjoy the use of his pencil is lost, but his right to it remains. James has no right to the use of the pencil, though he enjoys the use of it.
Sec.11. This example serves also to explain further the use of the different terms applied to rights and liberty. John's right to his pencil, being guarantied to him by the laws of civil society, is a civil right. It is with equal propriety called a natural right, because, by the law of nature, he has a right to the use of his pencil.
Sec.1. Law has been briefly defined. (Chap. 1. Sec.6.) As in the case of rights and liberty, laws are distinguished by different names; as, the law of nature, or natural law; the moral law; the law of revelation, or revealed law; the political law; the civil or municipal law.
Sec.2. The law of nature, is of the highest possible authority, being established by the supreme Lawgiver himself. It is called the law of nature, because it is right in itself—right in the nature of things, and ought to be obeyed, though no positive command had ever been given to men. It is a perfect rule of right for all moral and social beings. It is that eternal rule of right to which God himself conforms.
Sec.3. The law of nature, as a rule of human action, arises out of man's relation to his Maker and to his fellow men. As a creature, he must be subject to the laws of his Creator, on whom he is dependent. He is also in a measure dependent upon his fellow beings. All being created equal, each is bound by the principles of natural justice to render to others that assistance which is necessary to make them as happy as himself, or which they justly owe to him in return.
Sec.4. The moral law is that which prescribes to men their duties to God and to each other. As a rule of human conduct therefore, it corresponds exactly to the law of nature. The moral law is briefly expressed in the decalogue or ten commandments, and is still more briefly summed up in the two great commandments, to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves. God being its author, it is called the divine law; and, being found in the Holy Scriptures, in which his will is revealed to mankind, it is called the revealed law, or law of revelation.
Sec.5. Political law, as has been observed, is that system or form of fundamental rules, called the constitution, by which the people in their political capacity, or as a body politic, agree to be governed. The nature of this law will more clearly appear from a more particular definition of constitution, and from a description of the manner in which a constitution is made. (Chap. V.)
Sec.6. The word municipal was used by the Romans to designate that which related to a municipium, which was a free town, or city. The rights of a citizen of such free city or town were called municipal rights, and its officers were called municipal officers. In this country, the word is not only used in this limited sense, but is extended to what pertains to a state. Hence the body of laws which prescribe the duties of the citizens of a state, are called the municipal or civil law. And the term is used to distinguish the laws made by the legislature, or law-making power of the state, from the constitution, or political law, adopted by the people in their political capacity.
Sec.7. If, as has been said, the laws of the Creator form a perfect rule of conduct for all mankind, and ought in all cases to be obeyed, then all human law ought to agree with the divine law. If a human law is contrary to the divine law, or if it requires us to disobey the commands of God, it is not binding, and should not be obeyed. So the Scriptures teach. They speak approvingly of men who disobeyed human authority, and who gave as the reason, that it was their duty to obey God rather than men; and they furnish many examples of good men who submitted to severe punishment, even to death, rather than do what they knew to be contrary to the divine will.
Sec.8. But although the divine will as revealed in the Scriptures, is a perfect rule or law for all mankind, and although human laws ought to conform to the divine law, yet it would be impossible to govern the people of a state by that law alone. The divine law is broad, and comprehends rules to teach men their whole duty; but it does not specify every particular act of duty. Much of it consists of general principles to which particular acts must be made to conform. It requires men to deal justly with each other; but men do not always agree as to what is right. Human laws, therefore, become necessary to declare what shall be considered just and right between man and man.
Sec.9. It may be observed, further, that all the divine precepts could not be carried into effect in civil government. They are spiritual, and reach to the thoughts and intents of the heart. They require us to love our Creator supremely, and our neighbor as ourselves; in other words, to do to others as we would that they should do to us. But as the omniscient God only knows when men fail in these duties, no human authority could enforce such a law. Human laws, therefore, have respect chiefly to the outward acts of men, and are designed to regulate their intercourse with each other.
Sec.10. Although the laws of the state can not compel men to fulfill the great law of love, it is nevertheless morally binding upon all. A perfectly holy Creator could consistently require of his moral and accountable creatures nothing less than supreme love to himself, and equal love to one another. This, as has been remarked, is in accordance with the law of nature, which is right in the nature of things. (Chap. III. Sec.2, 3.)
Sec.11. While the divine law accords perfectly with the principles of natural justice, the giving of it to mankind manifests the wisdom and benevolence of the supreme Lawgiver. Man is so formed, that it is for his highest happiness strictly to obey this law. The generous man, in relieving the wants of others, contributes to his own happiness. The boy who divides an apple with his fellow, is more happy than he would be if he retained the whole to himself. It is generally true, that, in performing acts of kindness and charity to others, we most effectually promote our own happiness, and feel the saying to be true, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
Different Forms of Government. Monarchy; Aristocracy; Democracy; Republic.
Sec.1. Governments have existed in a great variety of forms. The earliest governments of which we have any knowledge, are the patriarchal. Patriarch, from the Greek, pater, father, and arkos, chief, or head, means the father and ruler of a family. This kind of government prevailed in the early ages of the world, and in a state of society in which the people dwelt together in families or tribes, and were not yet formed into states or nations. The patriarchal government existed before the flood, and for a long period afterward. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the fathers of the Hebrew race, as also the sons of Jacob, the heads of the twelve tribes, were called patriarchs.
Sec.2. After their departure from Egypt, the government of the Hebrews was a theocracy. This word is from theos, God, and kratos, power, and signifies a government by the immediate direction of God. The laws by which they were governed were given to them on Mount Sinai by God himself, their leader and king. This theocratic form of government, with some changes, existed until the coming of the Messiah.
Sec.3. But the forms of government which have most prevailed, are designated by the terms, monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, or republic. These words severally indicate by what persons, and in what manner, the governing power of a state is exercised. This power is usually called the sovereign, or supreme power. Where kings rule, they are called sovereign; and where the power is in the hands of the people, the people are sovereign. In the strict sense of the term, however, entire sovereignty, or supreme power, exists only where power is exercised by one man, or a single body of men, uncontrolled or unrestrained by laws or by any other power. But in a more general sense, it is that power in a state which is superior to all other powers within the same.
Sec.4. A form of government in which the supreme power is in the hands of one person, is called a monarchy. The word monarch is from two Greek words, monos sole or only, and arkos, a chief; and is a general name for a single ruler, whether he is called king, emperor, or prince. A government in which all power resides in or proceeds from one person, is an absolute monarchy. If the power of the monarch is restrained by laws or by some other power, it is called a limited monarchy.
Sec.5. A monarchy is called hereditary in which the throne passes from father to son, or from the monarch to his successor, by inheritance. On the death of a sovereign, the eldest son is usually heir to the crown; or if there is no son, it falls to the daughter, or some other relative. A monarchy is elective, where, on the death of the ruler, his successor is appointed by an election. A few such monarchies have existed.
Sec.6. An absolute monarchy is sometimes called despotism. The word despot is from the Greek, and means master, or lord. It has nearly the same meaning as tyrant, which also is from the Greek, and signifies king. These words at first meant simply a single ruler. They are now applied, for the most part, to rulers who exercise authority over their subjects with severity. In an absolute despotism, the monarch has entire control over his subjects. They have no law but the will of the ruler, who has at command a large force of armed men to keep his people in subjection. The governments of Russia and Turkey are highly despotic.
Sec.7. An aristocracy is a form of government in which the power is exercised by a privileged order of men, distinguished for their rank and wealth. The word aristocracy is from the Greek word aristos, best, and kratos, power, or krateo, to govern; and means a government of the best. It is also used for the nobility of a country under a monarchical government. Nobles are persons of rank above the common people, and bear some title of honor. The titles of the English nobility are those of duke, marquis, earl, viscount, and baron. These titles are hereditary, being derived from birth. In some cases they are conferred upon persons by the king.
Sec.8. A democracy is a government of the people; the word democracy being from the Greek demos, the people, and krateo, to govern. In a government purely democratic, the great body of freemen meet in one assembly to make and execute the laws. There were some such governments in ancient Greece; but they necessarily comprised small territories, scarcely more than a single town. The freemen of a state could not all meet in a single assembly.
Sec.9. The government of this country, though a government of the people, is not one of the kind just described; it is a republic. A republic is a government in which the power to enact and execute the laws is exercised by representatives, who are persons elected by the people to act for them. Yet, as not only the election of representatives, but the adoption of the constitution or form of government itself is the act of the people; and as, therefore, all power comes from the people, the government is also democratic; and is properly called a democratic republic, or a representative democracy.
Sec.10. A republic is sometimes also called a commonwealth. Common signifies general, and is applied to what belongs to or is used by the people generally. Weal means welfare or happiness. Wealth also was formerly sometimes used for weal. Hence commonwealth means strictly the common good, or the common happiness. In a general sense it signifies a state; but it is properly applied to a free state, one in which the people enjoy common rights and privileges. Hence every state in the union is a commonwealth or republic.
The Nature and Objects of a Constitution, and the Manner in which it is made.
Sec.1. Of all the different forms of government which have existed, a republican government, on the plan of that which has been established in this country, is believed to be best adapted to secure the liberties of a people, and to promote the general welfare. Under the reign of a wise and virtuous ruler, the rights of person and property may be fully enjoyed, and the people may be in a good degree prosperous. But the requisite virtue and wisdom have seldom been found in any one man or a few men. And experience has proved that the objects of civil government may be best secured by a written constitution founded upon the will or consent of the people.
Sec.2. The word constitute is from the Latin, and signifies to set, to fix, to establish. Constitution, when used in a political sense, means the established form of government of a state. In a free government, like ours, it is properly called the political law, being established by the people as a body politic, or political body. (Chap. III, Sec.5.) It is also called the fundamental law, because it is the foundation of all other laws of the state, which are enacted by the legislature for regulating intercourse between the citizens, and are called the municipal or civil law, and must conform to the fundamental, or political law.
Sec.3. A constitution is in the nature of an agreement between a whole community or body politic and each of its members. This agreement or contract implies, that each one binds himself to the whole, and the whole bind themselves to each one, that all shall be governed by certain laws and regulations for the common good.
Sec.4. The nature of a constitution will further appear from the manner in which it is made. It is evident that a people, in establishing a constitution, must have some right or authority to act in the business. Whence this right is derived, we will not now stop to inquire. There is, however, somewhere power to enact a law authorizing the people to make a constitution and prescribing the manner in which it is to be made.
Sec.5. In forming a constitution, the people must act collectively. But their number is too large to meet in a single assembly. Therefore they choose a small number to act for them. One or more are chosen in each county, or smaller district, and are called delegates. A delegate is a person appointed by another with power to transact business as his representative. The assembly composed of the delegates so elected, is called convention; a name given to most public meetings other than legislative assemblies. Delegate and representative are words of nearly the same meaning. The latter, however, usually designates a person chosen to assist in making the laws of the state.
Sec.6. The rules agreed upon by the convention as a basis of government, are arranged in proper form. The several portions relating to the different subjects are called articles, and numbered; and the articles are divided into sections, which also are numbered. But what has been thus prepared by the convention is not yet a constitution. It is only a draft of one, and can not become a constitution without the consent of the people to be given at an election. If a majority of the persons voting at such election vote in favor of the proposed constitution, it is adopted, and becomes the constitution of the state.
Sec.7. One of the most valuable rights of the people under a free government, is the right to have a constitution of their own choice. Indeed it is in this right that their freedom principally consists. It is by the constitution that their rights are secured. All the people join in establishing the constitution; but they do not all unite in making and executing the laws; in other words, they do not themselves administer the government; this is done by their representatives. But if these should enact unjust and oppressive laws; the people, having by their constitution reserved the right to displace them, may do so by electing others in their stead.
Sec.8. In an absolute monarchy the people have no political rights—the right to establish a form of government for themselves, and the right to elect those who are to make and administer the laws. The monarch has entire control over his subjects. He can take their lives and property when he pleases. His will is their law; and he has at command a large force of armed men to keep his people in subjection.
Sec.9. In a limited monarchy, the people have some political rights. Such a monarchy is Great Britain. The king or sovereign is in a measure restrained by laws; and he can not make laws alone. The laws are framed and agreed to by parliament, and must be approved by the king or queen. Parliament consists of two bodies of men, the house of lords and the house of commons. The members of the latter are elected by the people, who, in such election, exercise a political right.
Sec.10. But the political right of establishing a constitution or form of government, is not enjoyed by the people of that country. They have no written instrument, like ours, called constitution, adopted by the people. What is there called the constitution, is the aggregate or sum of laws, principles, and customs, which have been formed in the course of centuries. There is therefore no restraint upon the power of parliament; hence no law which may be enacted is contrary to the constitution; and the people have not the same security against the enactment of unjust laws as the people of the United States.
Qualifications of Electors; or, by whom Political Power is exercised in the States of this Union.
Sec.1. One of the first provisions usually inserted in a constitution of a free state, is that which declares who shall be allowed to take a part in the government; that is, to whom the political power shall be intrusted. As this power is exercised by voting at elections, the constitution very properly prescribes the qualifications of electors, or, in other words, declares what shall be necessary to entitle a man to the right of voting, or the right of suffrage. When, therefore, we speak of the people politically, we mean those only who are qualified electors.
Sec.2. To be competent to exercise the right of suffrage, a person must be a freeman, or, as we sometimes say, he should be his own master. While under the control of a parent or guardian, he might be constrained to act contrary to his own judgment. All our state constitutions, therefore, give this right only to free male citizens of the age of twenty-one years and upwards; twenty-one years being the age at which young men become free to act for themselves.
Sec.3. But even if this freedom were obtained at an earlier age, it would not be expedient to bestow this right upon persons so young. They have not the necessary knowledge and judgment to act with discretion. Some are competent at an earlier age; but a constitution can make no distinction between citizens. It has therefore, in accordance with the general opinion, fixed the time at the age of twenty-one, when men shall be deemed capable of exercising the rights and performing the duties of freemen.
Sec.4. That a man may vote understandingly, he must have resided long enough in the state to have become acquainted with its government and laws, and to have learned the character and qualifications of the persons for whom he votes. State constitutions therefore require, that electors shall have resided in the state for a specified period of time, varying, however, in the different states from three months to two years. In most of the states, they must also have resided for some months in the county or district, and be residents of the town in which they offer to vote.
Sec.5. But in giving the right of suffrage to all free male citizens twenty-one years of age, it is not given to every man, because all men of that age are not citizens. Persons born in foreign countries and residing here are aliens, and are not entitled to the political rights of persons born in this country. They are presumed to have too little knowledge of our government, and to feel too little interest in public affairs, on their first coming hither, to be duly qualified for the exercise of political power. Laws, however, have been enacted for naturalizing aliens after they shall have resided here long enough to become acquainted with and attached to our government. By naturalization they become citizens, entitled to all the privileges of native or natural born citizens, (Chap. XXXIV, Sec.3, 4.)
Sec.6. The constitutions of most of the states confer the rights of an elector on white male citizens only. Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, are the only states in which colored men have the same electoral rights as white citizens. In New York, men of color owning a freehold estate (an estate in lands) of the value of $250, are qualified voters.
Sec.7. It is provided also in state constitutions, that electors committing infamous crimes are disfranchised. Franchise is a right or privilege enjoyed by the citizens of a state. Hence the right of voting at elections is called the elective franchise; and an elector, when deprived of this privilege, is disfranchised. An infamous crime is one which is punishable by imprisonment in a state prison. Men guilty of high crimes are deemed unfit to be intrusted with so important a duty as that of electing the persons who are to make and execute the laws of the state. It is provided, however, that if such persons are pardoned before the expiration of the term for which they were sentenced to be imprisoned, their forfeited rights are restored.
Sec.8. By the earliest constitutions of many of the old states, electors were required to own property, or to have paid rents or taxes, to a certain amount. In the election of the higher officers, freeholders only were entitled to vote. A freeholder is an owner of real estate, (property in lands,) which he holds in his own right, and may transmit to his heirs. In the constitutions of the newer states, property has not been made a qualification of an elector; and in the amended constitutions of the old states this restriction upon the elective franchise has been removed, until it has nearly ceased to exist in the United States. It is now enjoyed by all white male freemen, with few exceptions, in almost every state of the Union.
Sec.1. For the convenient exercise of political power, as well as for the purposes of government generally, the territory of a state is divided into districts of small extent. It has been remarked, that the people of a state, being too numerous to meet in one assembly to make laws and transact the public business, elect a small number to represent them. But to elect these representatives and other officers, and to adopt the constitution, or fundamental law of the state, are political duties, which must be performed by the people in person, and in a collective capacity. Hence the necessity of small territorial divisions, in which the people may assemble for political purposes.
Sec.2. A state is divided into counties, and these are divided into towns or townships. The people of every county and every town have power to manage their local concerns. The corporate powers of counties and towns, and the election and the powers and duties of county and town officers, will be given in subsequent chapters.
Sec.3. The electors of the state meet every year in their respective towns for the election of officers. Meetings for electing town officers are, in a majority of the states, held in the earlier part of the year. Most officers elected by the people, other than town officers, are chosen at the general state election, which, in most of the states, is held in October or November.
Sec.4. Elections are conducted by persons designated by law, or chosen by the electors of the town for that purpose. It is their duty to preserve order, and to see that the business is properly done. They are usually called judges of elections, or inspectors of elections. Persons also, (usually two,) serve as clerks. Each clerk keeps a list of the names of the persons voting, which is called a poll-list. Poll, which is said to be a Saxon word, signifies head, and has come to mean person. Thus, so much a head means so much for every person By a further change it has been made to signify an election, because the persons there voting are numbered. Hence, "going to the polls" has obtained the same meaning as going to an election.
Sec.5. When the inspectors are ready to receive votes, one of them makes it known by proclaiming with a loud voice, that "the polls are now open." The inspectors receive from each voter a ballot, which is a piece of paper containing the names of the persons voted for, and the title of the office to which each of them is to be elected. Ballot, from the French, means a little ball, and is used in voting. Ballots are of different colors; those of one color signifying an affirmative vote, or yes; those of another color a negative vote, or no. From this has come the application of the word ballot to the written or printed ticket now used in voting.
Sec.6. If no objection is made to an elector's voting, the ballot is put into the box, and the clerks enter his name on the poll-list. If the inspectors suspect that a person offering to vote is not a qualified elector, they may question him upon his oath in respect to his qualifications as to age, the term of his residence in the state and county, and citizenship. Any bystander also may question his right to vote. This is called challenging. A person thus challenged is not allowed to vote until the challenge is withdrawn, or his qualifications are either proved by the testimony of other persons, or sworn to by himself.
Sec.7. In a few states, the voters are registered. A list is kept of the names of all who have, upon examination, been ascertained to be qualified electors; and those only whose names are on the register are allowed to vote. Thus many interruptions to voting by the examination of voters at the polls, and much illegal voting, are prevented. Voters in some states are also required to take what is called the "elector's oath," in which they promise to be true and faithful to the state and its government, and to the constitution of the United States; and to give their votes as they shall judge will conduce to the best good of the same.
Sec.8. After the polls are closed, the box is opened, and the ballots are counted. If the number of ballots agrees with the number of names on the poll-lists, it is presumed no mistake has been made, either in voting or in keeping the lists. If the election is one for the choosing of town officers, it is there determined who are elected, and their election is publicly declared.
Sec.9. The election of county and state officers can not be determined by the town canvassers. A statement of the votes given in each town for the persons voted for, is sent to the county canvassers, who, from the returns of votes from all the towns, determine and declare the election of the officers chosen for the county. To determine the election of state officers, and of such others as are elected for districts comprising more than one county, a statement of the votes given for the several candidates, is sent by the several boards of county canvassers to the state canvassers, who, from the returns of votes from the several counties, determine the election of the state officers.
Sec.10. In a few states, voting at elections is done viva voce. These words mean by word of mouth. In voting in this manner, the elector speaks the name of the person for whom he votes.
Sec.11. In most of the states, persons are elected by a plurality of votes. An election by plurality is when the person elected has received a higher number of votes than any other, though such number be less than a majority of all the votes given. Suppose, for example, three candidates receive 1000 votes: One receives 450; another, 300; the third, 250 votes. The first, having the highest number, though not a majority, is elected. In the New England, or eastern states, a majority, that is, more than one-half of all the votes given, is necessary to the election of many of the higher officers. The least number of votes out of 1000, by which a person can be elected by this rule, is 501.
Sec.12. Either of these modes is liable to objection. When a simple plurality effects an election, 1,000 votes may be so divided upon three candidates as to elect one by 334 votes; or of four candidates, one may be elected by 251 votes, and against the wishes of nearly three-fourths of the electors. An objection to the other mode is, that if no person receives a majority of all the votes, another election must be held. Numerous trials have, in some instances, been necessary to effect a choice; and the people of a district have remained for a time without a representative in the state or national legislature.
Division of the Powers of Government.
Sec.1. Having shown the nature of a constitution and the manner in which it is made and adopted, it will next be shown how the powers of government under a state constitution are divided. As the excellence of a form of government consists much in a proper separation and distribution of power, this subject deserves special attention.
Sec.2. We notice first the separation of the political and civil powers. The words political and civil are often used as having the same meaning. Thus, speaking of the system of government and laws of a country, we use the general term, "political institutions," or "civil institutions;" either of which is deemed correct. But these words have also a particular signification, as has already been shown in the distinction made in preceding chapters between political rights and civil rights, and between the political law and the municipal or civil laws. (Chap. II, and III.) Hence it appears, that what we mean by political power is the power exercised by the people in their political capacity, in adopting their constitution and electing the officers of the government; and that, by the civil power is meant the power exercised by these officers in administering the government.
Sec.3. In an absolute government, no such distinction exists; all power is centered in the supreme ruler. There is no political law binding on him. Being himself restrained by no positive laws or regulations that have been adopted by the people, or that may be altered by them, the people have no political rights. In a mixed government, or limited monarchy, political power is exercised to some extent. Although there is no written constitution adopted by the people, as in a republic, the members of one branch of the law-making power are elected by the people. In such election they are said to exercise political power.
Sec.4. We notice next the division of the civil power. This power, in well constructed governments, is divided into three departments, the legislative, the executive, and the judicial. The legislative department is that by which the laws of the state are made. The legislature is composed of two bodies, the members of which are elected by the people. In limited monarchies where one branch of the legislature is elective, the other is an aristocratic body, composed of men of wealth and dignity, as the British house of lords.
Sec.5. The executive department is intrusted with the power of executing, or carrying into effect, the laws of the state. There is in this department a governor, assisted by a number of other officers, some of whom are elected by the people; others are appointed in such manner as the constitution or laws prescribe. The powers and duties of the governor of a state will be more particularly described in another place.
Sec.6. The judicial department is that by which justice is administered to the citizens. It embraces the several courts of the state. All judges and justices of the peace are judicial officers; and they have power, and it is their business to judge of and apply the law in cases brought before them for trial. A more particular description of the powers and duties of judicial officers, and the manner of conducting trials in courts of justice, will be given elsewhere. (Chap. XVII-XX.)
Sec.7. Experience has shown the propriety of dividing the civil power into these three departments, and of confining the officers of each department to the powers and duties belonging to the same. Those who make the laws should not exercise the power of executing them; nor should they who either make or execute the laws sit in judgment over those who are brought before them for trial. A government in which the different powers of making, executing, and applying the laws should be united in a single body of men, however numerous, would be little better than an absolute despotism.
Sec.8. Again, the legislative department of the civil power is divided. Under all our state constitutions, the legislature consists of two branches, both of which must agree to a proposed measure before it becomes a law; and in many of the states, it must also be approved by the governor. This is making the chief executive officer a third branch of the law-making power; and is not in accordance with the principle of keeping the several departments of the civil power separate and distinct from each other. The reason for this departure from the general principle mentioned, will be stated in another chapter. (Chap. XI. Sec.16.)
State Legislatures—how constituted.
Sec.1. The legislature of every state in the union is composed of two houses—a senate and a house of representatives. The latter, or, as it is sometimes called, the lower house, in the states of New York, Wisconsin, and California, is called the assembly; in Maryland and Virginia, the house of delegates; in North Carolina, the house of commons; and in New Jersey, the general assembly. In most of the states, the two houses together are called general assembly.
Sec.2. The senate, as well as the other house, is a representative body; its members being elected by the people to represent them. Why, then, is only one of the two branches called the house of representatives? Perhaps for this reason: Under the governments of the colonies, while yet subject to Great Britian, there was but one representative assembly. The other branch of the legislature was called a council, consisting of a small number of men who were appointed by the king. After the colonies became free and independent states, a senate was substituted for the old council, and although it is an elective body, the other house, being much more numerous, is called, by way of distinction, the house of representatives.
Sec.3. Senators are chosen annually in the six New England states, namely, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. In the other states they are elected for terms of two, three, or four years. In most of the states in which senators are elected for longer terms than one year, they are not all elected at the same time. They are divided into classes; and those of one class go out of office one year, and those of another class another year; so that only a part of the senators are elected every year, or every two, or three, or four years.
Sec.4. The senate, as distinguished from the house of representatives, is sometimes called the upper house. It was designed to be a more select body, composed of men chosen with reference to their superior ability, or their greater experience in public affairs.
Sec.5. Senators are differently apportioned in different states. In some states they are apportioned among the several counties, so that the number to be elected in each county shall be in proportion to the number of its inhabitants. In others they are elected by districts, equal in number to the number of senators to be chosen in the state, and a senator is elected in each district. The districts are to contain, as nearly as may be, an equal number of inhabitants; and sometimes they comprise several counties.
Sec.6. Representatives are apportioned among the counties in proportion to the population in each. In some states they are elected in districts of equal population, counties being sometimes divided in the formation of districts. In the New England states, representatives are apportioned among the towns. In about one-half of the states, they are elected annually; in the others, (including-most of the southern and western states,) they are elected every two years.
Sec.7. The different modes of apportioning members of the legislature have in view the same object—equal representation; that is, giving a member to the same number of inhabitants in one county or district as to an equal number in another. But in some counties the population increases more rapidly than in others. The representation then becomes unequal, being no longer in proportion to population.
Sec.8. In order to keep the representation throughout the state as nearly equal as possible; in other words, to secure to the people of every county or district their just proportion of the representatives, the constitution requires that, at stated times, the people of the state shall be numbered, and a new apportionment of senators and representatives be made among the several counties according to the number of inhabitants in each county; or if the state is one in which members of the legislature are chosen in districts, a new division of the state is made into districts.
Sec.9. But the periods of time between the enumerations of the people, are not the same in all the states. In some states the enumerations are made every ten years; in others, shorter periods have been fixed, from eight down to four years. This enumeration or numbering of the people is called taking the census. Census is from the Latin, and was used by the ancient Romans to signify a declaration or statement made before the censors by the citizens, containing an enumeration or register of themselves, their wives, children, servants, and their property and its valuation. In the United States, although the census sometimes includes a similar register, the word usually means simply an enumeration of the people.
Sec.10. The constitution also prescribes the qualifications of senators and representatives. If, as qualifications for an elector, full age, citizenship, and a considerable term of residence in the state and county, are properly required, as we have seen, (Chap. VI. Sec.2-5,) they must be at least equally necessary for those who make the laws. In no state, therefore, are any but qualified electors eligible to the office of senator or representative. In some states, greater age and longer residence are required; and in some, the age and term of residence have been still further increased in the case of senators. The property qualification formerly necessary for members of the legislature, as well as for voters, has been almost entirely abolished. (Chap. VI. Sec.8.)
Sec.11. If a member of the legislature dies, or resigns his office before the expiration of the term for which he was chosen, the vacancy is filled by the election of another person at the next general election, or at a special election called for that purpose, or in such other manner as the constitution may provide. But a person chosen to fill a vacancy, holds the office only for the remainder of the term of him whose place he was chosen to supply.
Meetings and Organization of the Legislature.
Sec.1. The legislature meets as often as the constitution requires, to enact such laws as may be necessary to promote the public welfare, and to perform such other duties as are assigned to it by the constitution and the laws. In about half of the states, sessions are held annually; in the others biennially, or once in two years. A legislative session includes the daily meetings of a legislature from the time of its first assembling, to the day of final adjournment. Thus we say the session commenced in January and ended in March. The word session has reference also to a single sitting, from the hour at which the members assemble on any day, to the time of adjournment on the same day. Thus we say, the legislature holds a daily session of four hours; or, it holds two sessions a day, as the case may be.
Sec.2. Meetings of the legislature are held at a place permanently fixed by the constitution; at which place the principal state officers keep their offices. Hence it is called the seat of government, or perhaps more frequently, the capital of the state. Capital is from the Latin caput, the head, and has come to mean chief, or the highest. A capital city is therefore the chief city of a state or kingdom. But the word capital, applied to a city, now generally indicates the seat of government.
Sec.3. When the two houses have assembled in their respective chambers, some person designated for that purpose administers to the members of each house the oath of office, in which they solemnly swear (or affirm,) that they will support the constitution of the United States, and the constitution of the state, and faithfully discharge the duties of their office.
Sec.4. Each house then proceeds to organize for business, by appointing proper officers, and determining the right of members to seats in the house. In organizing a legislative body, the first thing done is the election of a presiding officer, or chairman, who is usually called speaker. The lieutenant-governor, in states in which there is one, presides in the senate, and is called president of the senate. In the absence of the presiding officer, a temporary speaker or president is chosen, who is called speaker or president pro tempore, commonly abbreviated, pro tem., which is a Latin phrase, meaning for the time.
Sec.5. The duty of the person presiding is to keep order, and to see that the business of the house is conducted according to certain established rules. When a vote is to be taken, he puts the question, which is done by requesting all who are in favor of a proposed measure, to say aye, and those opposed to say no. And, when a vote has been taken, he declares the question to be carried or lost. This part of a speaker's business is similar to that of the chairman of an ordinary public meeting.
Sec.6. The other officers chosen by each house are, a clerk to keep a record or journal of its proceedings; to take charge of papers, and to read such as are to be read to the house; and to do such other things as may be required of him; a sergeant-at-arms, to arrest members and other persons guilty of disorderly conduct, to compel the attendance of absent members, and to do other business of a like nature: also one or more door-keepers. The officers mentioned in this section are not chosen from the members of the house.
Sec.7. The constitution does not prescribe to either house the order of business, or the particular manner in which it shall be done; but authorizes each house to determine for itself the rules of its proceedings. But there are sundry things which it expressly enjoins. It determines what portion of the members shall constitute a quorum to do business. Quorum is the Latin of the English words, of whom, and has strangely come to signify the number or portion of any body of men who have power to act for the whole. Thus with reference to a legislative body consisting of a certain number of members, instead of saying, A majority quorum shall have power to act; or, A majority of whom shall have power to act, our constitutions generally say, A majority shall constitute a quorum to do business. In some states, more than a bare majority is required for a quorum.
Sec.8. Constitutions generally require also that the proceedings of legislative bodies shall be open to public inspection. The doors may be closed against spectators only when the public good shall require secrecy. And that the people may be fully informed of what is done, each house is required to keep and publish a journal of its proceedings.
Sec.9. Provision is also made, either by the constitution or by laws against injury or interruption to the business of the legislature. Members may not, by any prosecution at law, except for crimes and misdemeanors, be hindered during their attendance at the sessions of the legislature, nor in going to or returning from the same. Each house may compel the attendance of absent members. It may for good cause expel a member, and punish, not only its members and officers, but other persons, for disorderly conduct, or for obstructing its proceedings.
Manner of Enacting Laws.
Sec.1. When the two houses are duly organized and ready for business, the governor sends to both houses a written communication called message, in which, as the constitution requires, he gives to the legislature information of the condition of the affairs of the state, and recommends such measures as he judges necessary and expedient. The message is read to each house by its clerk.
Sec.2. But the measures to which the governor calls the attention of the legislature, are but a small portion of those which are considered and acted upon. Many are introduced by individual members. Others are brought into notice by the petitions of the people in different parts of the state. Petition generally signifies a request or prayer. As here used, it means a written request to the legislature for some favor—generally for a law granting some benefit or relief to the petitioners. Petitions are sent to members, usually to those who represent the counties or districts in which the petitioners live, and are by these members presented to the house.
Sec.3. Now it is evident, that a proper consideration of the numerous subjects pressed upon the attention of the legislature—some of them of very great importance—must require much labor. If the necessary investigation of so many subjects should occupy the time of the whole house, there would not be time enough to act upon one-half of them. Therefore, in order to dispatch business, the labor of the house must be divided, that the investigation of all the different subjects may be going on at the same time.
Sec.4. Hence arises the practice which prevails in all legislative bodies, of the appointment of committees. As soon as may be, after a house is organized, committees are appointed on all subjects usually acted on in the legislature. A legislative committee is generally composed of three, five, or seven members, who examine the subjects referred to them, and report the result of their examination to the house. Committees are appointed by the presiding officer of each house. Occasionally, though very rarely, they are elected by the house itself.
Sec.5. Some or all of the following committees are appointed in every legislature: a committee on finance, or the funds, income, and other money matters of the state, sometimes called the committee of ways and means; a committee on agriculture; a committee on manufactures; committees on the incorporation of cities and villages; on banks and insurance companies; on railroads; on canals; on education; on elections; on public printing, besides many others. So numerous are these subjects, that in constituting the committees, every member may be put on some committee.
Sec.6. All matters relating to these subjects of a general nature, which arise during the session, are referred to their appropriate committees. Thus, a question or proposition relating to banks, is referred to the committee on banks; matters relating to rail-roads, are referred to the committee on rail-roads; those relating to schools, are referred to the committee on education, &c. As these committees continue during the session, they are called standing committees. When a question arises having no relation to any subject on which there is a standing committee, it is usually referred to a special or select committee appointed to consider this particular matter.
Sec.7. Committees meet in private rooms, during hours when the house is not in session; and any person wishing to be heard in favor of or against a proposed measure, may appear before the committee having it in charge. Having duly considered the subject, the committee reports to the house the information it has obtained, with the opinion whether the measure ought or ought not to become a law. Measures reported against by committees, seldom receive any further notice from the house.
Sec.8. From what has been said, the utility of committees is readily seen. Although no proposed measure can become a law unless acted on and approved by the two houses, its necessity may be inquired into, and the information necessary to enable the house to act understandingly upon the question, may be obtained, as well by a few members as by the whole house. By the daily examination of so many subjects in committee, a large amount of business is soon prepared for the house to act upon, and much of its time is saved.
Sec.9. If a committee reports favorably upon a subject, it usually brings in a bill with its report. A bill is the form or draft of a law. Not all bills, however, are reported by committees. Any member of the house desiring the passage of a law, may give notice that he will, on some future day, ask leave of the house to introduce a bill for that purpose; and if, at the time specified, the house shall grant leave, he may introduce the bill. But at least one day's previous notice must be given of his intention to ask leave, before it can be granted.
Sec.10. The different steps in the progress of a bill, or the different forms of action through which it has to pass, are numerous. A minute description of them in a work designed chiefly for youth, will scarcely be expected. A thorough knowledge of the proceedings of legislative assemblies, can be practically beneficial, in after life, to but few of those who shall study this elementary treatise. Those who shall hereafter have occasion for this knowledge, will find works adapted to a more mature age, in which the subject is fully treated.
Sec.11. A bill, before it is passed, must be read three times; but it may not be read twice on any one day without unanimous consent, that is, the consent of the whole house; or, as is believed to be the rule in some bodies, the consent of three-fourths, or two-thirds of the house. In some legislatures, the rule allows the first and second readings to be on the same day. A bill is not to be amended until it shall have been twice read. Nor is it usual for it to be opposed until then; but it may be opposed and rejected at the first reading.
Sec.12. After a bill has been twice read, and fully debated and amended, it is proposed to be read on a future day the third time. If the question on ordering the bill to a third reading is not carried, the bill is lost, unless revived by a vote of the house to reconsider. But if the question to read the third time is carried, the bill is accordingly read on a future day, and the question taken on its final passage.
Sec.13. When the final vote is to be taken, the speaker puts the question: "Shall the bill pass?" If a majority of the members present vote in the affirmative, (the speaker also voting,) the bill is passed; if a majority vote in the negative, the bill is lost. Also if the ayes and noes are equal, it is lost, because there is not a majority in its favor. In a senate where a lieutenant-governor presides, not being properly a member, he does not vote, except when the ayes and noes are equal; in which case there is said to be a tie; and he determines the question by his vote, which is called the casting vote. In some states, on the final passage of a bill, a bare majority of the members present is not sufficient to pass it, in case any members are absent. The constitutions of those states require the votes of a majority of all the members elected to each house.
Sec.14. When a bill has passed one house it is sent to the other, where it must pass through the same forms of action; that is, it must be referred to a committee; reported by the committee to the house; and be read three times before a vote is taken on its passage. This vote having been taken, the bill is returned to the house from which it was received. If it has been amended, the amendments must be agreed to by the first house, or the second must recede from their amendments, or the amendments must be so modified as to secure the approval of both houses, before the bill can become a law.
Sec.15. Some young reader may inquire why a bill should take so long and slow a course through two different houses; and why one body of representatives is not sufficient. The object is to secure the enactment of good laws. Notwithstanding bills go through the hands of a committee and three different readings in the house; yet through undue haste, wrong information, or from other causes, a house may, and often does, commit serious errors. Legislatures are therefore divided into two branches; and a bill having passed one house is sent to the other where the mistakes of the former may be corrected, or the bill wholly rejected.
Sec.16. But in many of the states, a bill, when passed by both houses, is not yet a law. As the two houses may concur in adopting an unwise measure, an additional safeguard is provided against the enactment of bad laws, by requiring all bills to be sent to the governor for examination and approval. If he approves a bill, he signs it, and it is a law; if he does not sign it, it is not a law. In refusing to sign a bill, he is said to negative, or veto the bill. Veto, Latin, means, I forbid.
Sec.17. But no governor has full power to prevent the passage of a law. If he does not approve a bill, he must return it to the house in which it originated, stating his objections to it; and if it shall be again passed by both houses, it will be a law without the governor's assent But in such cases greater majorities are generally required to pass a law. In some states, a majority of two-thirds of the members present is necessary; in others, a majority of all the members elected. In a few states, only the same majorities are required to pass a bill against the veto as in the first instance. Or if the governor does not return a bill within a certain number of days, it becomes a law without his signature, or without being considered a second time. In some states, bills are not sent to the governor, but are laws when passed by both houses and signed by their presiding officers.
Executive Department. Governor and Lieutenant-Governor.
Sec.1. The chief executive power of a state is, by the constitution, vested in a governor. The governor is chosen by the people at the general election; in South Carolina by the legislature. The term of office is not the same in all the states. In the six New England states, the governors are chosen annually; in the other states, for the different terms of two, three, and four years.
Sec.2. The qualifications for the office of governor are also different in the different states. To be eligible to the office of governor, a person must have been for a certain number of years a citizen of the United States, and for a term of years preceding his election a resident of the state. He must also be above a certain age, which, in a majority of the states, is at least thirty years; and in some states he must be a freeholder.
Sec.3. The powers and duties of a governor are numerous. He communicates by message to the legislature, at every session, information of the condition of the state of its affairs generally, and recommends such measures as he judges necessary and expedient. He is to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and to transact all necessary business with the officers of the government. He may convene the legislature on extraordinary occasions: that is, if, at a time when the legislature is not in session, a matter should arise requiring immediate attention, the governor may call a special meeting of the legislature, or as it is usually termed, an extra session.
Sec.4. A governor has power to grant reprieves and pardons, except in cases of impeachment, and, in some states, of treason. To reprieve is to postpone or delay for a time the execution of the sentence of death upon a criminal. To pardon is to annul the sentence by forgiving the offense and releasing the offender. A governor may also commute a sentence; which is to exchange one penalty or punishment for another of less severity; as, when a person sentenced to suffer death, is ordered to be imprisoned.
Sec.5. The governor has power also, in some of the states, with the consent of the senate, to appoint the higher officers of the militia of the state, and the higher civil officers in the executive and judicial departments. In a few of the states, there are executive councils whose advice and consent are required in such cases. In making such appointments, the governor nominates, that is, he names to the senate, in writing, the persons to be appointed. If a majority of the senators consent, the persons so nominated are appointed. Many other duties are by the constitution devolved upon the governor.
Sec.6. A lieutenant-governor has few duties to perform. He presides in the senate, in which he has only a casting vote. In the state of New York, he serves in some of the boards of executive officers. In nearly one-half of the states the office of lieutenant-governor does not exist. The chief object of electing this officer seems to be to provide a suitable person to fill the vacancy in the office of governor in case the latter should die, resign, be removed, or otherwise become incompetent.
Sec.7. When the lieutenant-governor acts as governor, the senate chooses from its own number a president. If the offices of both the governor and lieutenant-governor should become vacant, the president of the senate must act as governor. If there should be neither a governor, a lieutenant-governor, nor a president or speaker of the senate, then, the speaker of the house of representatives would become the acting governor. This is believed to be the rule for supplying vacancies in most if not all of the states.
Assistant Executive State Officers.
Sec.1. Among the executive officers who assist in the administration of the government, there are in every state, some or all of the following: a secretary of state, a controller or auditor, a treasurer, an attorney-general, a surveyor-general. The mode of their appointment and the terms of their respective offices, are prescribed by the constitution or by law. In some states they are appointed by the governor and senate; in others by the legislature; and in others they are elected by the people. They keep their offices at the seat of government of the state.
Sec.2. The secretary of state keeps a record of the official acts and proceedings of the legislature and of the executive departments, and has the care of the books, records, deeds of the state, parchments, the laws enacted by the legislature, and all other papers and documents required by law to be kept in his office. He causes the laws passed by the legislature to be published in one or more newspapers, as directed by law; and also to be printed and bound in a volume, and distributed among the state officers for their use, and among the county and town clerks, to be kept in their offices for the use of the people who wish to examine the laws. Also one or more copies are exchanged with each of the other states for copies of their laws to be kept in the state library. Various other duties are performed by the secretary.
Sec.3. The state auditor, in some states called controller, manages the financial concerns of the state; that is, the business relating to the money, debts, land and other property of the state. He examines and adjusts accounts and claims against the state, and superintends the collection of moneys due the state. When money is to be paid out of the treasury, he draws a warrant (a written order,) on the treasurer for the money, and keeps a regular account with the treasurer of all moneys received into and paid out of the treasury. And he reports to the legislature or other proper officers, a statement of the funds of the state, and of its income and expenditures during each year.
Sec.4. The treasurer has charge of all the public moneys that are paid into the treasury, and pays out the same as directed by law; and he keeps an accurate account of such moneys, specifying the names of the persons from whom they are received, to whom paid, and for what purposes. He also exhibits annually a statement of moneys received and paid out by him during the year, and of the balance in the treasury.
Sec.5. Auditors, treasurers, and other officers intrusted with the care and management of money or other property, are generally required, before they enter on the duties of their offices, to give bonds, in sums of certain amount specified in the law, with sufficient sureties, for the faithful performance of their duties. The sureties are persons who bind themselves to pay the state all damages arising from neglect of duty on the part of the officers, not exceeding the sum mentioned in the bond.
Sec.6. The attorney-general is a person learned in the law, appointed to act for the state in law-suits in which the state is a party. He prosecutes persons indebted to the state, and causes to be brought to trial persons charged with certain crimes. He also gives his opinion on questions of law submitted to him by the governor, the legislature, and the executive officers. In some states there is no attorney-general. In such states prosecutions in behalf of the state are conducted by the state's attorney for each county.