The First Federal Congress Project
Documentary History of the First Federal Congress

The Notes of William Samuel Johnson

Debate on the Foreign Affairs Act [HR-8]
Can the president remove federal officeholders?

 14 July 1789  
Johnson
1 Had formd. no Opinion. ( & am sorry could not have Credit) as believing that the Senate. wd. instantly. reject it coming in so Questionable. a shape.
2. Yet through out some tho'ughts. of the grounds of doubt which taken as Artful Argument. I defendd. it not but cooly attended the Argument. on the other side willing to be convinced, but own the more I hear the better am satisfyd. that those who hold that the President. has this Power by the Constitution. are wrong. I cannot find it there— Believe it is not there.
3. There is but one Argument. which all repeat. That it is expedient. & best the President. shoud have this power— Then they argue The 1st. Clause is a Grant of all power— The subsequent. Exceptions. to be taken strictly, & leaving this in the President.
4ly. I think they are mislead as many good Men have been in Divinity. They 1st. Form their plan, then seek for Texts of Scripture. to support. it. so here 1st think it best then find it in the Constitution. Wrong end. But examine it striped of the Ornament.
5ly. This a Grant, & compared to Grant of Land. It is not a Grant, but a Repartition. of the Powers or if a Grant poss'esses nothing so Vague & indefinite. consider it by itself— The Executive. shall be Vested What is executive.? Gentlemen. have shewn one thing here another. there. Suppose. this all could you have said what it was? The Legislative. Judicial. same could you have made anything of it. No. The Land shall be Vested— The Money shall be Vested What a Grant! Nothing. My Colleague's. Grant of 10 Acres. 20 Acres. & ca. Right. but how unlike this. toto Colo Differt.1 This misleads you— Thus apply Rules improperly.
6ly. But look to Constitution. The People speak— This People. Thus Circumstancd. as State Governments. Federal Govt.— We Grant— You are to find them in the grant or necessarily. implied or they are not The 1st. Not a Grant only a Repartition. They then go on to Define— None here that Rule that particulars control. the General if not repugnant. even if a Grant which it is not— As Release.
7ly. Consider. then the particulars.— Here the first Grant. of Power. The last but one a very comprehensive. one but not that convey this power.
8ly. See then if not Grantd. by necessary. Implication. in that Grant of Appointment.— It is from Nature. of thing as Tenants. at Will, A joint Will— 2ly. As universal Construction. & Practice.  Unumquodque dissolvitur. eodem. modo. quo ligatur2 can you show example to contrary? Is not this the case throughout. the world? In all the States— They found on double Implication. 1st. of a Grant where none— 2ly. Against an Actual. Power which clearly conveys it where no exception— So of Treaties. can President. do aught without the Senate?3 Treaties. may be dissolvd. by Agreement. can he Agree alone. They may be Declared Null when one party Violates— Can he declare— It is indeed an executive. Power but vested in President. & Senate. by Vesting the Appointment. to which it is necessarily incidental. This Construction. might place it any where  suppose. had given it to Legislature. or to Senate. by advice. of Representatives. or even in Supreme. Court. Could President. dismiss. They Presidents appointments. Is it not taught of Thos. Aquinas.
I meddle. not with expediency. It depends. on the Constitution. We sit not here to make a Constitution. but to execute the one we have. It is therefore. a waste of time to talk of it. I want no Powers. I will usurp none. but I will renounce none that are given. I wd. perhaps willingly have taken more.
Let me however just observe That the weakness of the Grant so Conferred lies not there— but in his want of duration.— & not particip blotted out not participating more conclusively in the Legislative. so as to hold firmly the Balance. between Senate. and Representatives. blotted out To Defend himself against. both.
What I chiefly regret is the Deception. we are putting upon the People. We all know That the Constitution. in this point was defendd. on the ground I contend for. That excellent. Federation. defendd. on this ground. We all did so. No sooner met, without a reason or Motive change our ground, & by a forced construction. give this power. What will People say wantonly insult their Understanding? Where is our Prudence & Policy—
William Samuel Johnson Papers, DLC. The manuscript is annotated "Draft Speech" by Johnson.
    1. Diametrically opposed.
    2. Every obligation is dissolved by the same means with which it is created.
    3. The words "do aught" through "Senate" are no longer visible in the manuscript. We have taken them from a transcription made in 1936 and kept with the document.

Recommended citation: Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, ed. Charlene Bickford, et al. (Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 2002). http://adh.sc.edu [Accessed (supply date here)]

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