TO RICHARD HENRY LEE.
[Ms., Lee Papers, American Philosophical Society, a draft is in the Samuel Adams Papers, Lenox Library.]
Boston Augt 29th. 1789.
MY DEAR SIR
The Power of removing federal Officers at the Pleasure of the President is to be found the Constitution or it is not. If it is, What Need was there of an Act or Decision of Congress to authorize it? But if it is not, could Congress give so important a Power? What have the United States been contending for? Liberty. This is the great Object of their State Governments, and has not the federal Constitution the same Object in View? If therefore a Doubt arises respecting the Exercise of any Power, no Construction, I conceive, should militate with the main Design, or Object of the Charter. If there is a total Silence in the Constitution, is it not natural to conclude that an Officer holding during Pleasure is removable by the same Power which appointed him, whether vested in a single Person, or a joint Number? I am sensible, it is said, that a single Person, being amenable for his Exercise of Power will use the utmost Circumspection. This may be true, but may not this Idea be carried too far in Practice? May not some Powers vested in a single Man give him such Weight and Influence as to render any Restraint from his feeling himself amenable of little, or no Effect. If this Power lodged in the Discretion of a single Person will afford a greater Security against Corruption because of his Amenability, why should not the Power of appointing as well as removing Officers be given to him? In the one Case the gracious Hand may be held forth, in the other, the threatning Rod; and both may be used for improper Purposes. In England, “the King can do no wrong” is a Maxim. His Ministers are made accountable for him; and how often have corrupt Ministers and Councellors been brought to the Block for Follies and Crimes committed by their Royal Masters who can do no Wrong? And it may also be asked, how often such Ministers and Councellors have found Means to get themselves screened from Punishment through the Influence of their Masters, by procuring Parliamentary Sanctions to such Crimes and Follies? But in the Removal of Officers the President has not a Constitutional Council. He must therefore be solely accountable. I need