Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

The powers and duties of the president are next given. "The president shall be commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states when called into the actual service of the United States."

(Art. 2, §2.) Some of the reasons for giving to the executive the command of the public forces, have been given. (Chap. XXV, §2, 5.) It has also been observed, that a prompt and effectual execution of the laws is best secured by intrusting this power to a single individual. (Chap. XXXVIII, §2.) The constitution, (Art. I, §8, clauses 12-16,) give congress power over the army, navy, and militia, and "to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions." As this power is to be exercised upon sudden emergencies, congress has by law authorized the president to call out the militia for these purposes. And as the direction of the public forces is a power of an executive nature, it is intrusted to the executive.

§2. The president has also "power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment." The same power is exercised by the governors of the several states. (Chap. XII, §4.) Through partial or false testimony, or the mistakes of judges or juries, an innocent person may be convicted of crime; or facts may subsequently come to light showing the offense to be one of less aggravation than appeared on the trial. There should therefore be somewhere a power to remit the punishment, or to mitigate the sentence, or postpone its execution, as the case may seem to require; and by no other person or persons, it is presumed, would this power be more judiciously exercised than by the executive.

§3. The president has "power, by and with the advice and consent of the senate, to make treaties, to appoint embassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the supreme court," and other officers, "provided two-thirds of the senators concur." A _treaty_ is an agreement or contract between two or more nations, for regulating trade, or for restoring or preserving peace. This power ought therefore to be in the national government. In monarchical governments it belongs to the king. To confide so important a trust to the president alone, would be imprudent. To associate the house of representatives with the president and senate, as in making laws, would render it impossible to act with the decision, secrecy, and dispatch, which are sometimes necessary in making treaties.

§4. As the treaty-making power appears to be in its nature neither wholly executive nor wholly legislative, but to partake of the nature of both, a _part_ of the legislature is properly associated with the president. As the senate, being less numerous than the house, is capable of acting more promptly as well as more easily convened and at less expense, that body is more properly united with the executive in the exercise of this power. And it is equally proper that the power to appoint embassadors and others by whom treaties are negotiated, should be placed in the same hands.

§5. Treaties are negotiated; that is, the provisions or terms are arranged and agreed upon, by the agents of the two governments; and a copy of the articles of agreement is sent to each government to be approved and confirmed, or, as it is usually expressed, to be _ratified_. Both governments must ratify, or the treaty fails. Treaties are ratified, on the part of our government, by the president and senate. This is what is meant by their making treaties. The persons by whom treaties are negotiated are sometimes appointed by their governments for that special purpose; but the business is perhaps more frequently done by the permanent representatives or ministers of the respective governments.

§6. Each of the principal civilized nations has some officer at home who acts as agent in negotiating treaties and transacting business with foreign governments, and has also a representative at the seat of each foreign government for this purpose, and for keeping his government, apprised of what is done abroad. Our government has a minister in Great Britain, one in Russia, one in France, one in Spain, and one in each of the other principal commercial nations; and each of these nations has a minister residing at the city of Washington, the seat of government of the United States. The officer of our government who corresponds with foreign ministers here, and with our ministers abroad, is the secretary of state. The negotiation of treaties at home with the ministers of foreign governments residing here, is done by him.

§7. Representatives at foreign courts have different names or titles: embassadors, envoys, ministers, and chargès des affaires. An embassador who is intrusted with the ordinary business of a minister at a foreign court, is called an _embassador in ordinary_. An _embassador extraordinary_ is a person sent on a particular occasion, who returns as soon as the business on which he was sent is done. He is sometimes called _envoy_; and when he has power to act as he may deem expedient, he is called _envoy plenipotentiary_; the latter word signifying full power. An ordinary embassador or minister resides abroad, and acts in obedience to instructions sent him from time to time.

§8. Agents or representatives sent by our government to reside at foreign courts, are called _ministers_. Formerly those sent to the less important countries, were called _chargès des affaires_, who are ministers of a lower grade. The name, usually written chargès d'affaires, is French, and is pronounced _shar-zha-daf-fair_, accented on the first and last syllables. It means a person having charge of the affairs of his nation. It is not at present applied to any of our representatives abroad, all being called by the common name of minister.

§9. _Consuls_ are agents of inferior grade. They reside in foreign seaports. Their business is to aid their respective governments in their commercial transactions with the countries in which they reside, and to protect the rights, commerce, merchants, and seamen of their own nation. Hence much of their business is with masters of vessels, and with merchants. They also dispose of the personal estate of citizens of their own nation who die within their consulates, leaving no representative or partner in trade to take care of their effects.

§10. The appointment of judges of the supreme court by the president and senate, seems to be proper. Their election by the people, most of whom could have little or no knowledge of the persons who should be chosen, would be injudicious. Besides, the mass of the voters are not so competent to judge of the qualifications necessary for so important a judicial office, as those to whom the constitution has given the power of appointment.

§11. The power of appointing the head officers of the several executive departments, is with equal propriety given to the president and senate. As the president is in a measure responsible for the acts of his subordinates who conduct the business of these departments, and as, without their coöperation, he could scarcely carry out his own measures, it is proper that he should have the right of selecting them; and by being required to submit his choice to the body of senators for their approval, a sufficient safeguard is provided against the appointment of unworthy or incompetent men.

§12. "The president shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of the next session." (Art. 2, sec. 2, clause 3.) Without such a power somewhere, the public interests would often suffer serious injury before the senate should again be in session to act upon a nomination by the president. As it is his duty to see that the business of the executive offices is faithfully done, he seems to be the proper person to make such temporary appointment.

§13. The powers and duties of the president enumerated in the next section of the constitution, are all necessary to insure a successful administration of the government; and they are so clearly of an executive nature, that they could not with any degree of propriety have been devolved upon any other officer or department of the government.

§14. The last section of this article of the constitution enumerates the persons liable to be removed from office by impeachment, and the offenses for which they are thus removable. As in the state governments, so in the general government, impeachments are made by the house of representatives, and tried by the senate. (Chap. XX, §6-8; Cons. U.S., art. I, §2, 3.)