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tend to subvert or endanger the government of the United States, yet a concerted resistance to the laws of a State, which is one of the forms of " levying war" within the meaning of that phrase, might have in it no element of an offence against the United States, and might have no tendency to injure their sovereignty. Besides, if resistance to the government of a State were to be made treason against the United States, the offender, as was well said by Mr. Madison, might be subject to trial and punishment under both jurisdictions. In order, therefore, to free the definition of treason of all complexity, and to leave the power of the States to defend their respective sovereignties without embarrassment, the Convention wisely determined to make the crime of treason against the United States to consist solely in acts directed against the United States themselves.
The other error of the committee consisted in omitting from the definition the qualifying words of the statute of Edward III., "giving them aid and comfort," which determine the meaning of "adhering" to the public enemy. These words were added by the Convention, and the crime of treason against the United States was thus made to consist in levying war against the United States, or in adhering to their enemies by the giving of aid and comfort.3
With respect to the nature of the evidence of this
1 Elliot, V. 450.
2 The effect of these words is as if the statute read "adhering to the enemy by giving him aid and
comfort," and not as if they were two separate offences.
3 See the debate, Elliot, V. 447–
crime, the committee provided that no person should be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses. But to make this more definite, it was provided by an amendment, that the testimony of the two witnesses should be to the same overt act; and also that a conviction might take place on a confession made in open court. The punishment of treason was not prescribed by the Constitution, but was left to be declared by the Congress; with the limitation, however, that no attainder of treason should work corruption of blood, or forfeiture, except during the life of the person attainted.1
1 Ibid. Art. III. § 3 of the Constitution.
REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE OF DETAIL, CONTINUED. ELECTION AND POWERS OF THE PRESIDENT.
IN describing the manner in which the Constitution and powers of the Senate were finally arranged, I have already had occasion to state, that, after the report of the committee of detail came in, — vesting the appointment of the President in the national legislature, creating a term of seven years, and making the incumbent ineligible a second time, -a direct election by the people was negatived by a large majority. This mode of election, as a means of removing the appointment from the legislature, would have been successful, but it was inadmissible on other accounts. In the first place, it would have given to the government a character of complete consolidation, so far as the executive department was concerned, to have vested the election in the people of the United States as one community. In the second place, not only would the States, as sovereignties, have been excluded from representation in this department, but the slaveholding States would have had a relative weight in the election only in the proportion of their free inhabitants. On the other hand, to provide that the executive should be appointed by
electors, to be chosen by the people of the States, involved the necessity of prescribing some rule of suffrage for the people of all the States, or of adopting the existing rules of the States themselves. Probably it was on account of this embarrassment, that a proposition for electors to be chosen in this mode was negatived, by a bare majority, soon after the vote rejecting a direct election of the President by the people. There remained the alternatives of an election by one or both of the houses of Congress, or by electors appointed by the States in a certain ratio, or by electors appointed by Congress.. The difficulty of selecting from these various modes led the Convention to adhere to an election by the two houses; and when the disadvantages of this plan, already described, had developed the necessity for some other mode of appointment, the relations between the Senate and the executive were, as we have seen, sent to a grand committee, who devised a scheme for their adjustment.
In this plan it was proposed that each State should appoint, in such manner as its legislature might direct, a number of electors equal to the whole number of senators and representatives in Congress to which the State might be entitled under the provisions of the Constitution already agreed upon. The advantages of this plan were, that it referred the mode of appointing the electors to the States themselves, so that they could adopt a popular election, or an election by their legislatures, as they might prefer; and
1 August 24. Elliot, V. 472, 473.
that it would give to each State the same weight in the choice of the President that it was to have in the two houses of Congress, provided a majority or a plurality of the electoral votes were to determine the appointment. The committee recommended that the electors should meet in their respective States, on the same day, and vote by ballot for two persons, one of whom, at least, should not be an inhabitant of the same State with themselves; and that the person having the greatest number of votes, if such number were a majority of all the electoral votes, should be the President. To this part of the plan, there was likely to be little objection. But the mode of electing the President in case of a failure to concentrate a majority of the electoral votes upon one person, or in case more than one person should have such a majority, was the most difficult part of the whole scheme. The object of the committee was to devise a process which should result in the election both of a President and a Vice-President; and they proposed to make the person having the next largest number of electoral votes the Vice-President. If two of the persons voted for should have a majority of all the votes, and the same number of votes, then the Senate were immediately to choose one of them, by ballot, as the President; if no person should have such a majority, then the Senate were to choose the President by ballot from the five highest on the list of candidates returned by the electors. If a choice of the President had been effected by the electoral votes, the person having the next highest number of electoral votes