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is a preposterous vanity to Americans, and the would reject any bill from the House which the rock-ribbed conservatism of China is vanity to majority of its members did not like-would reall the world else. It makes no difference whatject it thirty times as easily as once. On the name is given to the set of ideas which cause a other hand, the House, finding its measure repeople to cling tenaciously to their own fashions. jected once, would not pass it a second time It remains a fact that the Americans are an ex- until changes in the personnel of the Senate tremely conservative people, while not desiring should give indications of a change in its temper. to be considered so.
The difference between the executive modes To the great majority of Americans it is a of the two countries is still more marked. Any matter of no consequence whence they derived measure which passes the Commons is supposed their institutions—in what ancient quarry their to have received the royal sanction in advance at forefathers digged. The popular Fourth of July the hands of her Majesty's Ministers, or, failing conception is that they were invented, made out that, at the hands of her Majesty's Opposition, of whole cloth, struck out at a heat; that they who straightway become Ministers. Hence the sprang into existence Minerva-like without ges- subsequent approval of the bill is a matter of tation or heredity. It needs no professor of evo- form, and a matter of course. But the President lution to tell us that this kind of birth for a gov- of the United States would veto a bill without ernment as for an individual is impossible. His- hesitation as many times, and under as many torically the American form of government is different forms and guises, as Congress should the British government of the last century with pass it—as President Hayes did during the rehereditary succession left out. I am speaking cent session of Congress; and in so doing he now of the form of government, and not of the would be sustained by public opinion as exermachinery by which it is kept going; of the legis- cising a lawful discretion. The country might lative, executive, and judicial processes, not of think the discretion erroneously exercised, but the distribution of the suffrage or the sources of the right to exercise it would never be quespower. The form of King, Lords, and Com- tioned. As a matter of fact nine tenths of all mons was adopted not only for the Federal Gov- the Executive vetoes in the annals of Congress ernment, but for each of the thirteen original have been salutary and conducive to the public States, and has been copied in regular succession weal; and probably the same proportion will by twenty-five additional States—King, Lords, hold good as to the vetoes of the State Govand Commons without hereditary succession, ernors. The veto power is a conservative force and of limited tenure.
which has nothing corresponding to it under exSince the adoption of this form of govern- isting English practice. The unqualified power ment far greater changes of substance have taken of restraint which the upper House exercises place in England than in America. The powers over the lower in the United States is also one vested in the President, Senate, and House of of the lost arts of government in the United Representatives, and in each of them, are no Kingdom, and I suppose very few desire, and whit less now than they were under George none expect, to see it restored. Washington. Those of the Crown and the Lords The question whether the United States are vastly less than they were under George III. might usefully ingraft upon their system of So attenuated have these become that it is a mat- government the principal improvement wrought ter of dispute whether they have any direct in the English system since the separation of the powers left that can be successfully asserted two countries, has been a good deal discussed in against the Commons. Indirect powers they pamphlets and on the rostrum of late years. have, undoubtedly, of considerable magnitude Reduced to its simplest terms, the question is, and import, the greatest being the influence ex- whether it would be wise for the United States ercised by the Lords upon the elections of the to have one government like the House of ComCommons. This, however, is the influence of mons, upon which public opinion can impinge landownership rather than of lordship. The and concentrate readily and effectively, or three House of Lords a short time since rejected the governments, to wit, President, Senate, and Irish Volunteer Bill after its passage by the Com- House of Representatives, upon which public mons. Possibly they may reject it a second time, opinion is dispersed and unable to act effectively for it will surely come up again. But after its except at certain periods fixed in the almanac, third passage by the Commons the Lords will and even then not simultaneously upon all three pass it also, not because they will like it any bet- La question not so easily answered as this stateter than before, but because they must. And so ment of it would seem to imply. To accomplish it would be with any other bill about which the such a change it would be necessary to give the Commons should show any decided purpose and members of the Cabinet seats on the floor of determination. The Senate of the United States Congress, to confide to them the initiative of the
principal measures of legislation, to hold them would greatly facilitate and expedite the business collectively responsible for everything, and to of Congress to have the heads of the executive send them adrift whenever for any reason they departments within reach when information is should fail of the support of a majority of the wanted; and here it must be allowed that the popular branch of the Legislature. Mechanical argument on his side is strong. Under existing difficulties in the way of such an arrangement, methods the procuring of information from a dewhich are very considerable if not insurmount- partment for the use of the House is most cumable, will be noticed hereafter. An initial step bersome and dilatory. Some member of the has been proposed in the form of a bill in Con- House, on resolution day (which comes once gress by Senator Pendleton, of Ohio, which pre- a week), offers a resolution calling for it. The sents no difficulties at all except the difficulty of House may adopt the resolution or reject it, or getting a majority to agree to it. The bill pro- refer it to a standing committee. In the latter vides that seats shall be assigned to the Cabinet case the committee can report it back when the in both branches of Congress; that they shall be committee is called in its order, which will hapfree to occupy them at all times, and required to pen about three times in the course of a session, be present at certain times to answer questions the mover having meanwhile lost all responsipropounded to them, in the same way as her bility for his resolution, and the committee havMajesty's Ministers are catechised by members ing assumed it. Most commonly, however, the of the House of Commons. The right to par- House adopts or rejects the resolution without ticipate in general debate is not recorded by the referring it. It is then engrossed by a clerk, bill, and the right to vote is denied by the Con- signed, and certified, and conveyed by a messtitution.
senger to the Secretary of the proper department, Looking at the general run of questions and who refers it to a bureau where manuscript is answers in Parliament where members are at accumulated upon it more or less. Then the anliberty to ask the Right Honorable Secretary of swer is sent back to the Secretary, who takes This what he thinks about the deterioration of time to consider whether the information ought the quality of Irish butter, and the Under-Secre- to be given at all. Before it actually reaches the tary of That whether the survivors of Rorke's House all interest in it has perhaps evaporated, Drift have been allowed an extra flannel shirt or, if it be still alive, the time when it would have and trousers as a reward for their gallant con- been most useful has gone by. It frequently duct-two questions which, with others of like happens, however, that some part of the desired gravity, were propounded in the writer's hear- information is wanting, or is furnished in such ing at the sitting of the 16th of June last—it shape that it is unintelligible to the member who would seem hardly worth the effort of passing called for it, so that a supplementary resolution Mr. Pendleton's bill in order to get so little as he of inquiry must be sent through the same devious offers to give. I have attended many spelling- channel. By this time, probably, nobody cares schools that were livelier and more entertaining. whether the question is ever answered at all. The right to join in general debate saves the Evasion of the point of an interrogatory is Ministerial bench from becoming a mere class in not uncommon when the answer is communiconundrums. Indeed, it would seem impossible cated in writing. If the Secretary is reluctant to to draw a line between answers to questions and give the information, or if he wishes to puzzle a general debate thereon. In the greater number political adversary, or wear out his patience, or of cases where information is sought by the Legis- do anything except deal frankly and openly with lature concerning the acts of the Executive, what him, it is very easy to employ words which seem is especially wanted is the reason for the act. to answer, but do not. Such trickery is imposWhen the head of a department is asked for his sible when the parties are brought face to face in reasons for a particular line of action, he must an open court of two or three hundred practiced be allowed to choose his own words, and decide dialecticians. A good illustration is found in the for himself how much time is needed for his ex- colloquy which took place in the House of Complanations. It is impossible to open the mouths mons on the 14th of August, when the Secretary of the Cabinet in Congress, and close them at for the Colonies was asked whether it was true the same time. The Cabinet would probably that a price had been put on King Cetewayo's decline to occupy the seats offered to them on head. Of course, the gravamen of such an insuch conditions, and the power to compel their quiry was whether her Majesty's Government attendance is at least doubtful.
sanctioned assassination as a means of getting Mr. Pendleton expressly disclaims the inten- rid of an enemy in war. The Right Honorable tion to introduce or even to pave the way for the Secretary replied that he did not know whether English style of parliamentary government. The a price had been put on Cetewayo's head or not. advantage he ascribes to his measure is that it He was evidently apprehensive that the thing
had been done, and he hesitated to condemn the ing in harness together, instead of contrariwise, practice lest he should cast censure upon the as now often happens. Under existing arrangecommander of the forces in South Africa. The ments a Republican President can usually be Opposition saw the opening, and rushed at it. relied upon to be at cross-purposes with a DemoAfter a brief skirmish the Chancellor of the Ex- cratic Congress all the time, and with a Republichequ was fain to admit that assassination was can Congress half the time. President Johnson's an unjustifiable mode of warfare, and to pro- Administration was a continued scene of conflict nounce against it in unqualified terms. Under between the executive and legislative branches, our system it would have been impossible either growing out of differences respecting the reconto get a satisfactory answer from an unwilling struction of the Southern States; and the fact Secretary, or to punish him for withholding it. that both President and Congress belonged to
Committees of Congress have a more ex. the same political party served rather to intensify peditious way of obtaining information. They than to mitigate the bitterness between them. invite the Secretary to attend their sittings, and, President Grant commenced his civic career with although he may come or not as he pleases, he a prodigious quarrel of the same sort, growing generally does come, and, through the medium out of the attempted annexation of San Domingo, of questions and answers and verbal colloquy, he leading to the ostracism of such men as Sumner, soon puts the members in possession of all the Schurz, and Trumbull, the evil consequences of facts they desire to know, and of his own reasons which have not even yet disappeared. The relaand opinions also. But what transpires in a com- tions between Congress and President Hayes mittee-room is supposed to be secret. None but were those of mutual suspicion and aversion until members of the committee are enlightened in a very recent period, when active hostilities broke this way. Congress itself is as much in the dark out, and veto messages followed each other like as the public in reference to the proceedings of the discharges of a Gatling gun. In the cases of committees. In fact, Congress depends upon the President Johnson and President Grant the civil newspaper reporters for the details of such pro- service was used unsparingly to tempt the weak ceedings, which are wormed out of members and break down the strong among their oppowith every variety of inexactitude. Now, pub- nents in Congress. The public offices furnished licity and responsibility — responsibility for the ammunition for the fray, and demoralization was question, and responsibility for the answer—are spread far and wide. The course pursued was as desirable as expedition in the obtaining of in- very much in harmony with the precedents of formation, and precision in its character when George III., and the personal quarrels of that obtained; and all these desiderata may be se- monarch with the most eminent men of his day. cured by Mr. Pendleton's bill. But it is hardly It is much to President Hayes's credit that he conceivable that the reform proposed should be has abstained from such exhibitions of spite, but merely a change of vehicles by which informa- we have no guarantee that his next successor tion is conveyed from the departments to Con- may not arm himself with the carnal weapons of gress, like substituting the telephone in place of eighty thousand offices when he comes in collipen and ink. The tendency to a change of sub- sion, as he probably will, with the politicians at stance—a change in the relations which the legis- the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Civillative and executive branches of government hold service reform is the crying problem of the day, toward each other—would grow stronger with and the difficulties that beset it would be dimineach day's wrestling in the arena of Congressional ished by any step which should insure to the debate. Indeed, it is only in this view that the Executive a majority in the Legislature, or to the measure calls for any philosophical attention. Legislature the control of the Executive, whichPersonal contact is a step toward fusion of the ever form of expression be preferred. two bodies brought together. There will still be The independence of the two, or rather of a wide difference between English and Ameri- the three, branches of government is so inbred can methods of administration, but less difference and ingrained among American conceptions, that than before. If the American Cabinet is ever to the idea of the President controlling Congress, or become what the English Cabinet is—an execu- Congress controlling the President, is repulsive tive committee of the popular branch of the Legis- at first sight. But seeing that both are elected lature—the first step in that direction will be by the people at regular and short intervals, the something like Mr. Pendleton's bill. It is pro- evils arising from such a condition, whether more posed now to glance at the principal advantages or less, can not be dangers to liberty, and they and disadvantages of such a change.
may be wholly imaginary. The objection oftenThe principal advantage would be the estab- est raised to the plan of bringing the Cabinet lishment of harmony between the Legislature and officers into Congress is that the power of the the Executive, so that they might always be pull- Executive would be unduly augmented; that
this power is already swollen beyond reasonable his having a Cabinet capable of leading the bounds by means of the patronage; that mem- House, and ex necessitate rei in harmony with it. bers of Congress are already sufficiently under The next advantage claimed for the plan is Executive influence as sharers of the patronage; that it would bring the whole framework of govand that under the proposed régime the powers ernment more within the range and influence of of Congress would be submerged under those of public opinion. Whether this would be a real the President. This objection is not only falla- advantage under our system of universal sufcious in itself, but it involves a complete miscon- frage is a debatable question, which will be conception of the objects sought to be attained. sidered further on; but that it would have the These objects are avowedly to blend the two effect mentioned can not be doubted. At present functions of government together, which is not the Administration can be brought to account the same thing as overthrowing and destroying only once in four years. Its measures are often one of them. But experience shows that parlia- taken with indifference to public opinion, oftener mentary government tends to the absorption of still in ignorance, and sometimes in defiance of executive power by the Legislature rather than of it. The people seldom or never rule effectively legislative power by the Executive. The course with reference to a particular measure, but only of English history is conclusive upon this point, with reference to a sum total and average of all and that of French history has furnished some the measures for which an administration or notable illustrations of it since the establishment party can be held responsible. Instances might of the republic. If we suppose the seven mem- be enumerated where the people have voted bers of the American Cabinet to be placed upon against measures after they were passed, and the floor of Congress with all the rights and when opposition to them had ceased to be effecprivileges extended to delegates from the Terri- tive. The mischief had been actually done, and tories (who are likewise extra-constitutional mem- the after-indignation of the public served perbers), their influence and standing would depend haps to punish, but not to prevent or cure. The upon their ability, experience, and force of char- repeal of the Missouri Compromise and the soacter. At first the President might choose a called "back-pay grab" were cases of this kind. Cabinet of his own cronies, as General Grant Neither the annexation of Texas nor the purdid, without reference to their training, their emi- chase of Alaska could have been accomplished nence in public life, or their acceptableness to by popular vote, or under any system where the anybody but himself. A selection thus made judgment of the people could have been brought may answer its purposes without any great harm to bear upon them in good time. Chastisement in mere routine work, already organized in bu- is often a good thing, but prevention of the ofreaus and divisions and circumlocution, and es- fense is better. Most commonly the offense itpecially in a country which needs more than any- self is forgotten before the election comes round, thing else to be let alone. But when brought having been superseded by some new exciteinto the rough-and-tumble of parliamentary life ment. Moreover, the periods for settling acthe House will soon find out which of them are counts with the three branches of government fit for their places and which are not. The jack- are not the same, the nearest approach to a gendaw with peacock's feathers in his tail was soon eral verdict being the quadrennial election for plucked by the nobler fowls in the farmyard, and President, at which time one of the biennial elecso it would be with any pretender of statecraft tions for members of the House of Representawho should be thrust into competition with three tives occurs. The Senators are elected at no or four hundred of the shrewdest and most ac- particular time; but one third of the whole numtive, if not the most highly trained intellects of ber must go out every two years. the country, and required ex officio to be a leader Public opinion is thus greatly scattered and among them. His position would soon become frustrated in its action upon particular measures, too miserable to be borne. The law of natural se- being much less prompt and effective than its lection would come in play, and after more or less action in England, where it strikes the whole floundering and groping, which must be looked government at once through the House of Comfor in any political transition, the President would mons. Geographical distance and preoccupalearn to choose for his Cabinet men who were tion with State affairs are accountable, in some acceptable to the House, and capable of leading degree, for the slower and less energetic moveit. Thus the Cabinet would be virtually the ments of public opinion upon Washington City; choice of the House, although nominally that of but still more is this sluggishness chargeable to the President. The President would still be their the division of responsibility at Washington, and chief, and eventually his will must prevail over to the fact that nobody's term of office can be theirs, within constitutional limits, but the suc- shortened by any amount of public clamor, uncess of his Administration would depend upon less for some impeachable offense. Now, if it be desirable to make the Government more amen- that novelty. M. Waddington gave offense to able to public opinion than it is, and to give the his party some months ago by saying that a parpeople a chance to act upon particular measures liamentary republic was a great experiment. The while they are pending, instead of passing judg- remark was both true and timely. The friends ment upon them in a lump after they have been of freedom throughout the world ardently wish adopted or rejected at Washington, some one success and permanence to the latest born of rebody of the three must be selected to receive the publics; but in its attempted blending of English impact of popular force; and it would naturally and American forms it is a new thing under the be the one which most often returns to the peo- sun, and has not yet passed beyond the region ple to give an account of itself, and to solicit the of experiment. In the Dominion of Canada parsuffrages of the community—to wit, the House liamentary government exists under a written of Representatives. And to enable the impact Constitution, and with the smallest thread of to reach the Executive as well as the Legislature connection with the Crown. If this connection -as frequently and as powerfully—a responsible were severed entirely, there is no reason to supCabinet, having seats in the House, initiating the pose that Canada would need to establish a principal measures of legislation, answering pub- dynasty, or do anything different from what she licly for all Executive acts, and standing or fall- does now. In America, there being no moning according to their ability to get their mea- archy, no hereditary governing power, whose sures and policy approved by the House, would hands must be tied, there is no force from beseem to be well adapted to that end.
hind pushing toward parliamentary forms of adThese are the principal but not the only ad- ministration. The movement is wholly in the vantages of the proposed change. Another may domain of theory. It appeals to the reason, not be mentioned before passing to the considera- to the necessities, of men; and it may fairly be tion of objections. Since all legislation relates urged as an objection against such doctoring, to one or other of the executive departments, that the country does not particularly feel the imposing duties or restrictions upon them, it need of medical treatment. would be manifestly advantageous to have the Again, in America the greatest possible extenbenefit of their experience, and to hear what they sion has been given to the democratic principle. have to say, not through incomplete and tedious The suffrage has been granted to all adult males, statements in writing, or private conferences in including, for instance, a vast body of blacks who committee-rooms, but through the medium of were only recently toiling under the lash of slafree public debate. Not long since the House very, and who will continue to toil under the lash of Representatives passed a bill transferring the of ignorance till they sink into their graves, and entire administration of Indian affairs from the their children succeed to a brighter inheritance. Interior Department to that of War, without The suffrage is granted every day to a still more consulting the Secretary of either!
mischievous class from the Old World, who have Turning to the other side, we remark, first, brought the doctrines of Lassalle and Karl Marx that responsible, or parliamentary, or cabinet gov- into an atmosphere where they can not be so ernment is the product of that natural evolu- summarily dealt with as at home. As the poption by which monarchical or personal govern- ulation of cities increases, a pernicious sort of ment turns itself into free government. Wher- demagogism gains ground. The idea that the ever it exists there has been a force from behind majority have a right to govern tends to expand pushing it on. It is a growth, and not a device. into the idea that what the majority want to do It was never invented by anybody; and, prob- is ipso facto right. The dangers arising from ably, the world's verdict upon it a priori would this condition are, I think, considerably overhave been that it would not work at all. Never- stated in Macaulay's letter to the editor of the theless, it is overrunning Europe irresistibly. Its works of Jefferson, and also in a recent widely highest development is found in England; but it read article in the " Atlantic Monthly Magazine." exists with scarcely less vigor in the Low Coun- But it is a serious question, and entirely apposite tries, Italy, and Scandinavia. Its various shad- to this discussion, whether, under such condiings are found everywhere, from Gibraltar to tions, it is wise to throw away any of those Constantinople. Wherever we hear of a minis- checks and balances which now and then disable terial crisis, we hear the tocsin of responsible the majority, prevent them from carrying hasty government. We never hear it in Russia, Prus- decisions into effect, and compel them to reconsia, Switzerland, or the United States, because sider their purposes and the grounds thereof. those countries are governed upon different prin- For the introduction of responsible government, ciples. The republic of France is aiming at in its entirety, would put more power into the ministerial responsibility with an elective Presi- hands of the majority than they now have, and a dent of limited tenure, and bids fair to achieve good deal more. It would make the House of