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Congress is bound by our written Constitution. But as to the first point, Congress has much more than offset the difference by entirely excluding the executive from all share or voice in the guidance of legislation, and reducing it to be the blind instrument of any orders the legislature may choose to give. Experience is rapidly showing that within the framework of the Constitution there is hardly any limit to the evil which legislative anarchy can set on foot. No doubt the President has great power if he will stoop to intrigue and the use of offices, but as he must do that in subjection to members of Congress, it only emphasizes his weakness. The strongest test of all governments is finance. Notwithstanding the absolute power of the House of Commons, the whole subject is left to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He regulates the revenue, and in conjunction with his colleagues the expenditure, subject only to acceptance or rejection by Parliament. The result is incomparably the first public finance in the world. With us the subject is in the hands of committees of Congress, and, as if to reach the acme of confusion, the expenditure and the revenue are entrusted to different committees in the House alone, to say nothing of those of the Senate and the conference committees. For the consequences, it is only necessary to point to our national finance of the last five years, a disgrace to a civilized nation. If the country should find that the change to a Democratic majority in the government results in no substantial improvement it would seem as if it would be tempted to ask the reason why.
Again Mr. Snow says:
"Nor is it to be assumed, because England has suppressed the 'spoils system' that only responsible government is capable of accomplishing this task; it is the argument 'post hoc, propter hoc,' and really proves nothing."
Putting one assertion against another, I remark, that there is not, in all political history, a more perfect example of cause and effect. After the reform act of 1852 was passed, which was on the direct proposal of a responsible ministry, the
ministers were held personally accountable for the execution of it. If any of them made a political appointment he was at once attacked in the House by individual members of the opposition, and so roasted, that he was not only very careful not to repeat the offence, but served as a warning to others. Some years ago Mr. Disraeli was suspected of appointing a relative to a minor office. He was instantly and publicly put upon the rack in the House, and went through a pitiable process of shuffling and evasion-a punishment which he did not need more than once. Mr. Gladstone said very truly that he had not power to appoint even a tide-waiter. Our President and heads of departments are under tremendous pressure from members and senators, and in yielding they have nothing directly to fear beyond an investigating committee, which can only be appointed by a majority of one or both Houses, and whose report, coming long after the event, and generally whitewashing its own party and condemning the other, is received by the country only with contempt.
"It may be said further, that we have in the Senate one of the most efficient legislative bodies that have ever existed in any country. It is the object at once of the admiration and the envy of the statesmen of Europe of all parties; * and even our most severe critics are constrained to admit the excellence of its legislative methods. We have a powerful corrective in the Senate of the inefficient House legislation."
I ask any impartial student to spend a winter in Washington and find out for himself whether the Senate is not rapidly becoming a club of rich men, devoted, in a great and increasing degree, to the promotion of local and private interests. Its members are elected by the State Legislatures, much more easily managed than the voters at large, and they care chiefly for the interests only of their own State. They are elected for longer terms than any other member of the government.
* Readers are recommended to examine the simple descriptive account of the Senate given by Hon. James Bryce in his American Commonwealth, and decide if that is the impression which he succeeds in conveying.
Being renewed by fractions the Senate never dies, which the House does every two years. By their power of confirming the higher appointments, the Senators hold the President in an iron grasp, and compel him by the "courtesy of the Senate" to divide those appointments among their States. The Senate is certainly more powerful than the House, though whether it corrects its work for better or for worse, is another question, but to the President it is a complete and irresponsible dictator. Nothing but the full strength of executive power backed by the nation can prevent it from becoming, in the long run, a tyrannical oligarchy, notoriously one of the worst of governments.* In reply to the probable charge of "Anglo-mania," I believe, and have no hesitation in expressing that belief, that our Congress possesses a higher average of ability and intelligence, and quite as high an average of intention as the British Parliament, and that if we could exchange systems of doing business for twenty-five years, our government would have the reputation of purity and efficiency, and the government of Great Britain that of inefficiency and corruption.
Mr. Snow quotes the very popular provision of the
* Since the above was written, the Senate has itself furnished the strongest of arguments in favor of my position. The question was of the repeal of the so-called "Sherman Silver Law of 1890." The President called an extra session of Congress for the purpose, and urged it strongly in his message. The House of Representatives responded promptly by a large majority. The Senate has dallied for two months, allowing a small minority to obstruct its proceedings, and to endanger a conclusion, for which almost the whole country is clamoring in the loudest tones. The fact is, they are Senators before anything else. This body of equal potentates, two from each State, has established the principle, that nothing must be done upon compulsion, but everything by trading, the trading being based upon the wants of their respective States, or, the private interests which control them, and with a lofty indifference to the welfare or the wishes of the people at large. What is needed is the presence of some one armed with authority, and of whom they are afraid, or, to speak plainly, a lion tamer with a whip. The only person who can perform this function, is the Secretary of the Treasury, acting for the President, and representing through him the whole nation and all the States. If Mr. Carlisle were to stand up in the Senate, in accordance with the Pendleton report, and with the press and public opinion thundering behind him, were to demand a vote in the name of the nation, every Senator might be cowed. The question will have to be settled whether the people of the United States exist for the Senate, or the Senate for the people; and, if the people expect to settle it in their own favor, they will need to put forth their whole strength.
Massachusetts constitution, which says that neither the executive, legislative nor judicial branches shall exercise the powers of the others. Unfortunately it does not define what are executive and what legislative powers, and as the practice has been in this country, both with the nation and the States, to leave the legislatures, in spite of some feeble constitutional restrictions, to fix the boundaries at their own pleasure, it is not surprising that the executive is thrown prostrate, and that the legislative body, quite as greedy of power as any individual, has absorbed the functions of two branches, and shows a strong inclination for those of the third. If the object is good and steady government in the interest of the whole people, instead of the rule of faction, anarchy and private interests, then the guidance of legislation is just as much executive work as that of the post-office or the mint.
In truth, the preponderance of legislative power is not peculiar either to England or the United States. The strongest lesson which representative government by universal suffrage, whereof the world has never had any experience till within this century, is this, that such preponderance is the greatest visible danger which threatens the future of popular government. In France, after a century of oscillations between executives too weak to govern, and too strong to be kept under control, universal suffrage has solidly established the republic. Yet it is apparently drifting to shipwreck from the weakness of executive power and the domination of the chambers. The President is elected by the chambers and not by the people, having not even the power of dissolution without the consent of the senate. The chambers control the whole government, including the budget, by their committees; and employ themselves in setting up and pulling down ministries, the various groups combining for the purpose and for no other. The prospect is that there will have to be either a readjustment of powers or another revolution. In Italy the case is just about as bad, and if not in Germany,
it is prevented by a still worse evil, that the master of a million bayonets is able thus far to impose his will both on parliament and the nation.
Leaving apart other nations, the struggle which is coming in this country, almost as momentous, though not so obvious as that with slavery, is between legislative and executive power. If taken in time it may give us executive power strong enough to govern, but responsive and obedient to the will of the nation. If neglected too long it must end as anarchy always ends, in military rule. The conditions for settling this problem are perhaps more favorable in this country than anywhere else. We have, in president, governor, or mayor, a single executive head elected directly by the people at large and dependent upon them only. But these heads are carefully kept out of sight and touch with the people by the intervention of the legislature. What is wanted is that the latter should stand on one side and let the executive have the same chance of addressing its constituents and presenting its case and arguments that the legislature has. But this the legislature will never do of its own motion. And here we have the real reason why the Pendleton Report has never received any attention from Congress. Mr. Snow says that for the Cabinet to take part in debate would evidently not be in accordance with the intention of the framers of the Constitution. It is difficult to see where he finds the intention in the absence of language, but the intention as well as the act of the First Congress is obvious enough. The question was, whether Hamilton's report on the finances should be submitted orally or in writing. It was argued on one side that members could not understand it without personal explanation, and on the other that they wanted to take it home and study it. It seems as if a child could have pointed out that both advantages were open to them, but the assigned reasons were not the real ones. Members shrank instinctively from an agency which would compel them to personal and public responsibility.