The Government Class Book eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 386 pages of information about The Government Class Book.

Sec.9.  Among the earliest proceedings of the convention was the offering of a resolution, declaring that “a national government ought to be formed, consisting of legislative, judiciary, and executive.”  This resolution was strongly opposed by a large portion of the delegates, because it proposed to establish a national government.  They were in favor of continuing the confederation with a slight enlargement of the powers of congress, so as to give that body the power to lay and collect taxes, and to regulate commerce.  But the friends of a national government prevailed; and we have now a complete government, consisting of the three departments, legislative, executive, and judicial.

Sec.10.  Under the confederation, there was no executive to execute the ordinances of congress; nor a national judiciary, the state courts being used for all judicial purposes.  There was only a legislature; and that consisted of a single body, called the congress, appointed by the state legislatures, and having scarcely power enough to entitle it to the name of legislature.

Sec.11.  But, although the present government, with these three departments of power, and controlling, in matters of general concern, the action of the state governments and of individuals, is properly a national government; yet it is not wholly such, but partly national and partly federal; some of the federal features of the confederation having been retained in the constitution, as will appear on a further examination of this instrument.  Hence the union is still called, with propriety, the federal union, and the government the federal government.

Chapter XXIX.

Legislative Department.  House of Representatives.

Sec.1.  The first article of the constitution describes the manner in which the legislature is formed, and prescribes its principal powers.  It declares, “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a congress of the United States, which shall consist of a senate and house of representatives.”  Members of the old congress were appointed by the state legislatures for one year, and might be recalled by them at any time.  Representatives are now chosen for two years.  It was thought that a single session was too short a term for men in general to acquire the knowledge and experience necessary to a right performance of the responsible duties of a representative.  Besides, measures are often left unfinished at the close of a session; and those who have once examined their merits and demerits, can dispose of them more promptly than new members.

Sec.2.  The same clause declares that “the electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature.”  The qualifications of electors were various in the different states. (Chap.  VI, Sec.8.) In some of them, owners of property, or tax-payers, in others, freeholders only, were voters.  In some, only the latter voted for the higher officers; in a few, suffrage was almost universal.  It was presumed that no state would object to its own rule for electing the popular branch of its legislature.  It is proper that a representative should be chosen directly by those whose wants he is to make known, and whose rights he is to guard.

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