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THE EXECUTIVE POWER
The Necessity of an Executive Department.-A government in which the powers of making, executing, and applying the laws were united in a body of men, however numerous, would be little better than a despotism. There must be a separate and distinct power to execute the laws. Laws are made for the purpose of protecting the good, punishing offenders, and securing the peace and prosperity of the Nation. Under the Articles of Confederation there was no National executive; only a presiding officer of Congress. Feebleness of government could be the only result of such a condition of affairs. No men were better able to understand the need of the concentration of executive powers than were those who framed the Constitution of 1787. Convinced of the necessity of such an officer, these men looked at existing models as exemplified in the frames of government of the various commonwealths. There they found, in every case, a State executive balanced as a power against the State Legislature. The establishment of a Federal executive, charged with the duty of securing obedience and enforcing the laws enacted by Congress, seemed the obvious course to pursue. The framers of the Constitution acted wisely in placing the Executive power in the hands of one person, because unity is favorable to prompt and energetic action. Discord and disagreement would follow divided responsibility, and frequent and injurious delays would result. The Constitution, therefore, provides for the establishment of the Executive Department, in which the one responsible head, with thousands of men as assistants to carry out the details, is able to make effective the body of laws which Congress has enacted for his guidance. The first and most important of all the duties of the Chief Executive is to see that the laws are faithfully executed (N).
The President of the United States.—The Executive power is vested in the President, who is the head and personal representative of the Nation (L 1). He represents the Nation as a whole, just as the Governor of the State represents the Commonwealth. He is simply the first citizen of a free nation, depending for his authority on neither title, nor official dress, nor insignia of office. The President is the only officer who is directly responsible to the Nation for the administration of the Government. He is strong because his rights come straight from the people; and, in the highest sense, he represents the people no less than do the members of the two houses of Congress. The independence of his position, with nothing either to gain or to fear from Congress, should set him free to think only of the welfare of the Nation. If he fails to rise to this lofty plane of National duty, he sinks into the obscurity of the distributer of the spoils of office. Responsibilities make men serious; and those incident to the office of President of the United States of America have caused the manifestation of noble qualities by all our Presidents.
Qualifications.—The qualifications for the offices of President and Vice President are the same (Am. 12). Foreignborn citizens are not eligible. The candidate for either office must have reached the age of thirty-five, and must have been fourteen years a resident of the United States (L 4). A child born to American parents while abroad would be a
natural-born citizen, provided the parents still retained their citizenship. Such person, so far as his birth is a factor, would be eligible to the Presidency.
Term of Office.—The term of office of both President and Vice President is four years, and they are eligible to reelection. The term of office is sometimes considered too short to insure a due degree of independence, and to enable the President to carry out a system of public policy. However, an unusually popular or capable man may be elected for a second term. Although no provision in the Constitution prevents election to a third term as President, no person has ever held the office for a third term. The burden of responsibility is too heavy to be borne long, and Washington set the example of retiring at the close of the second term. Jefferson, undoubtedly, could have been chosen for a third term in 1808; but his refusal established a custom which has since been followed, although efforts were made in 1876 and in 1880 to secure a third term for Grant. The hero of Appomattox was an exceptionally popular man; and a principle maintained against him is not apt to be departed from for many elections to come.
The Presidential Electors.—The President and Vice President are chosen by the Electoral College, which is composed of Presidential Electors chosen in the several States for that purpose. Each State is allowed to select a set of Presidential Electors equal in number to that of its Senators and Representatives together, and each Elector has one vote. No Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, can be appointed a Presidential Elector (L 2).
Each State may appoint or choose its quota of Electors in whatever manner it sees fit. At first they were more often
than otherwise chosen by the State Legislature, but now Presidential Electors are always elected by the people as a whole. The day of election must be the same in all the States (L 3). The people elect the Presidential Electors on the Tuesday next after the first Monday of November, in every fourth year: 1912, 1916, and so on. The first election occurred in 1789, when Washington was unanimously chosen President. He was also the unanimous choice in the second election, that of 1792.
The people on election day were at first not supposed to be voting for a President and Vice President, but for Presidential Electors. But since the election of Washington, the Electors have simply registered the result of the vote of the people. Soon after election day, long before the meeting of the Electors, we know who is to be the next President. The Electors are chosen to vote for specified candidates, and they do so.
Nomination of Presidential Candidates and Electors.Under all governments which grant any considerable degree of freedom, political parties arise, differing in their ideas and seeking to control the policy of the nation. Naturally, each party organization in the United States desires to elect to the highest office a man chosen from its ranks, and thus secure the management of public affairs.
In the Summer of the year before a President is to be seated, each party organization meets in its National Convention in some large city to nominate candidates for President and Vice President, and to adopt a platform setting forth the principles upon which the party proposes to stand. These conventions are called by the National Committees. The conventions called by the Republican and Democratic parties consist of four delegates at large from each State, usually