The Government Class Book eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 319 pages of information about The Government Class Book.

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.

Chapter VIII.

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.

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