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

The Congressional Register

 16 June 1789 
[Text omitted. -Ed.]*
The house went into a committee of the whole on the bill for establishing an executive department, to be denominated the department of foreign affairs.
Mr. Trumbull in the chair.
The first clause, after recapitulating the title of the officer and his duties, had these words; "To be removable from office by the president of the United States."
Mr. White .
The constitution gives the president the power of nominating, and by and with the advice and consent of the senate, appointing to office. As I conceive the power of appointing and dismissing to be united in their natures, and a principle that never was called in question in any government, I am averse to that part of the clause which subjects the secretary of foreign affairs to be removed at the will of the president. In the constitution special provision is made for the removal of the judges, that I acknowledge to be a deviation from my principle: but as it is a constitutional provision, it is to be admitted. In all cases, not otherwise provided for in the constitution, I take it that the principle I have laid down is the governing one. Now the constitution has associated the senate with the president, in appointing the heads of departments; the secretary of foreign affairs is the head of a department; for the words of the law declare, that there shall be a department established, at the head of which shall be an officer to be so denominated. If then the senate is associated with the president in the appointment, they ought also to be associated in the dismission from office. Upon the justness of this construction, I take the liberty of reviving the motion made in the committee of the whole, for striking out those words, "to be removable from office by the president of the United States."
The gentleman has anticipated me in his motion: I am clearly in sentiment with him that the words ought to go out. It is in the recollection of the committee, that when the subject was last before us this power was excepted to; and although the words were then allowed to stand, it was generally understood that it should be farther debated. I then was opposed to giving this power to the president, and am still of opinion that we ought not to make this declaration, even if he has the power by the constitution.
I would premise, that one of these two ideas are just, either that the constitution has given the president the power of removal, and therefore it is nugatory to make the declaration here; or it has not given the power to him, and therefore it is improper to make an attempt to confer it upon him. If it is not given to him by the constitution, but belongs conjointly to the president and senate, we have no right to deprive the senate of their constitutional prerogative; and it has been the opinion of sensible men that the power was lodged in this manner. A publication of no inconsiderable eminence, in the class of political writings on the constitution, has advanced this sentiment. The author, or authors (for I have understood it to be the production of two gentlemen of great information) of the work published under the signature of Publius, has these words:
"It has been mentioned as one of the advantages to be expected from the co-operation of the senate, in the business of appointments, that it would contribute to the stability of the administration. The consent of that body would be necessary to displace as well as appoint. A change of the chief magistrate therefore would not occasion so violent or so general a revolution in the officers of the government as might be expected if he were the sole disposer of offices. Where a man in any station has given satisfactory evidence of his fitness for it, a new president would be restrained from attempting a change, in favor of a person more agreeable to him, by the apprehension that the discountenance of the senate might frustrate the attempt, and bring some degree of discredit upon himself. Those who can best estimate the value of a steady administration will be most disposed to prize a provision, which connects the official existence of public men with the approbation or disapprobation of that body, which from the greater permanency of its own composition, will in all probability be less subject to inconstancy, than any other member of the government."
Here this author lays it down, that there can be no doubt of the power of the senate in the business of removal. Let this be as it may, I am clear that the president alone has not the power. Examine the constitution; the powers of the several branches of government are there defined; the president has particular powers assigned him; the judicial have in like manner powers assigned them; but you will find no such power as removing from office given to the president. I call upon gentlemen to shew me where it is said that the president shall remove from office; I know they cannot do it. Now I infer from this, that as the constitution has not given the president the power of removability, it meant that he should not have that power; and this inference is supported by that clause in the constitution, which provides that all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for and conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. Here is a particular mode prescribed for removing; and if there is no other mode directed, I contend that the constitution contemplated only this mode. But let me ask gentlemen if any other mode is necessary? For what other cause should a man be removed from office? Do gentlemen contend that sickness or ignorance would be sufficient cause? I believe if they will reflect they cannot instance any person who was removed for ignorance; I venture to say there never was an instance of this nature in the United States. There has been instances where a person has been removed for offences; the same may again occur, and are therefore judiciously provided for in the constitution. But in this case, is he removed for his ignorance, or his error which is the consequence of his ignorance? I suppose it is for his error, because the public are injured by it; and not for incapacity. The president is to nominate the officer, and the senate to approve; here is provision made against the appointment of ignorant officers. They cannot be removed for causes which subsisted before their coming into office; their ignorance therefore must arise after they are appointed; but this is an unlikely case, and one that cannot be contemplated as probable.
I imagine, sir, we are declaring a power in the president which may hereafter be greatly abused, for we are not always to expect a chief magistrate in whom such entire confidence can be placed as in the present. Perhaps gentlemen are so much dazzled with the splendor of the virtues of the present president, as not to be able to see into futurity. The framers of the constitution did not confine their views to the first person who was looked up to, to fill the presidential chair; if they had they might have omitted those checks and guards with which the powers of the executive are surrounded; they knew from the course of human events, that they could not expect to be so highly favored of heaven, as to have the blessing of his administration more than seven or fourteen years— after which, they supposed a man might get into power, who it was possible might misbehave. We ought to follow their example, and contemplate this power in the hands of an ambitious man, who might apply it to dangerous purposes. If we give this power to the president, he may from caprice remove the most worthy men from office; his will and pleasure will be the slight tenure by which an office is to be held, and of consequence you render the officer the mere state dependent, the abject slave of a person who may be disposed to abuse the confidence his fellow citizens have placed in him.
Another danger may result; if you desire an officer to be a man of capacity and integrity, you may be disappointed. A gentleman possessed of these qualities, knowing he may be removed at the pleasure of the president, will be loath to risk his reputation on such insecure ground; as the matter stands in the constitution, he knows if he is suspected of doing any thing wrong, he shall have a fair trial, and the whole of his transactions developed by an impartial tribunal; he will have confidence in himself when he knows he can only be removed for improper behaviour. But if he is subjected to the whim of any man, it may deter him from entering into the service of his country; because if he is not subservient to that person's pleasure, he may be turned out, and the public may be led to suppose for improper behaviour; this impression cannot be removed, as a public enquiry cannot be obtained. Beside this it ought to be considered, that the person who is appointed will probably quit some other office or business in which he is occupied. Ought he after making this sacrifice in order to serve the public, to be turned out of place without even a reason being assigned for such behaviour— perhaps the president does not do this with an ill intention; he may have been misinformed; for it is presumable that a president may have round him, men envious of the honors or emoluments of persons in office, who will insinuate suspicions into his honest breast, that may produce a removal; be this as it may, the event is still the same to the removed officer. The public suppose him guilty of mal-practices— hence his reputation is blasted, his property sacrificed; I say his property is sacrificed, because I consider his office as his property; he is stript of this, and left exposed to the malevolence of the world, contrary to the principles of the constitution, and contrary to the principles of all free governments, which are that no man shall be despoiled of his property, but by a fair and impartial trial.
These are serious considerations, and such I trust as will make impressions on the minds of gentlemen anxious to promote the public welfare, and secure distributive justice to themselves and their posterity.
When this subject was laid before the committee, it was said that it appeared absurd, that an inferior officer should be removed only by impeachment. There is a clause in the constitution empowering congress to vest the appointment of inferior officers in the president alone, courts of law or heads of departments. These offices may also be established on such terms as the legislature shall judge proper; but neither the appointment or removal of heads of departments can be otherwise performed than is directed by the constitution.
To return to my argument, I have stated that if the power is given by the constitution, the declaration in the law is nugatory, and I will add, if it is not given it will be nugatory also to attempt to vest the power. If the senate participate on any principle whatever in the removal, they will never consent to transfer their power to another branch of the government; therefore they will not pass a law with such a declaration in it.
Upon this consideration alone, if there was no other, the words should be struck out, and the question of right, if it is one, left to the decision of the judiciary. It will be time enough to determine the question when the president shall remove an officer in this way. I conceive it can properly be brought before that tribunal; the officer will have a right to a mandamus to be restored to his office, and the judges would determine whether the president exercised a constitutional authority or not.
Some gentlemen think the constitution takes no notice of this officer, as the head of a department; they suppose him an inferior officer in aid of the executive. This I think is going too far; because the constitution, in the words authorising the president to call on the heads of departments for their opinions in writing, contemplates several departments; it says "the principal officer in each of the executive departments."
I have seriously reflected on this subject; and am convinced that the president has not this power by the constitution; and that if we had the right to invest him with it, it would be dangerous to do so.
Mr. Huntington .
I think the clause ought not to stand. It was well observed, that the constitution was silent respecting the removal, otherwise than by impeachment. I would likewise add, that it mentions no other cause of removal, than treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. It does not, I apprehend, extend to cases of infirmity or incapacity. Indeed it appears hard to me, that after an officer has become old in an honorable service he should be impeached for this infirmity. The constitution I think must be the only rule to guide us on this occasion, as it is silent with respect to the removal, congress ought to say nothing about it; because it implies that we have a right to bestow it, and I believe this power is not to be found among the enumerated powers delegated by the constitution to congress.
It was said, if the president had this authority, it would make him more responsible for the conduct of the officer: But if we have a vicious president who inclines to abuse this power, which God forbid, his responsibility will stand us in little stead; therefore that idea does not satisfy me, that it is proper the president should have this power.
Mr. Sedgwick .
I wish the words to be struck out; because I conceive them to be unnecessary in this place. I do conceive, Mr. speaker, that this officer will be the mere creature of the law; and that very little need be said to prove to you that of necessity this ought to be the case. I apprehend likewise that it requires but a small share of abilities to point out certain causes for which a person ought to be removed from office, without being guilty of treason, bribery, or malfeasance; and the nature of things demands that it should be so. Suppose, sir, a man becomes insane by the visitation of God, and is likely to ruin our affairs, are the hands of government to be confined from warding off the evil? Suppose a person in office, not possessing the talents he was judged to have at the time of the appointment, is the error not to be corrected? Suppose he acquires vicious habits, an incurable indolence, or total neglect of the duties of his office, which forebode mischief to the public welfare, is there no way to arrest the threatened danger? Suppose he becomes odious and unpopular by reason of the measures which he pursues, and this he may do without committing any positive offence against the law, must he preserve his office in despite of the public will? Suppose him grasping at his own aggrandizement, and the elevation of his connections, by every means short of the treason defined by the constitution, hurrying your affairs to the precipice of destruction, endangering your domestic tranquility, plundering you of the means of defence, by alienating the affections of your allies, and promoting the spirit of discord, is there no way suddenly to seize the worthless wretch, and hurl him from the pinnacle of power? Must the tardy, tedious, desultory road, by way of impeachment, be travelled to overtake the man who, barely confining himself within the letter of the law, is employed in drawing off the vital principle of the government? Sir, the nature of things, the great objects of society, the express objects of this constitution require that this thing should be otherwise. Well, sir, this is admitted by gentlemen; but they say the senate is to be united with the president in the exercise of this power. I hope, sir, this is not the case; because it would involve us in the most serious difficulty. Suppose a discovery of any of those events which I have just enumerated were to take place when the senate is not in session, how is the remedy to be applied? This is a serious consideration, and the evil could be avoided no other way than by the senate's sitting always. Surely no gentleman of this house contemplates the necessity of incurring such an expence. I am sure it will be very objectionable to our constituents; and yet this must be done, or the public interest be endangered by keeping an unworthy officer in place until that body shall be assembled from the extremes of the union.
It has been said that there is a danger of this power being abused if exercised by one man: Certainly the danger is as great with respect to the senate, who are assembled from various parts of the continent, with different impressions and opinions. It appears to me that such a body is more likely to misuse this power than the man whom the united voice of America calls to the presidential chair. As the nature of the government requires the power of removal, I think it is to be exercised in this way by a hand capable of exerting itself with effect, and the power must be conferred upon the president by the constitution, as the executive officer of the government.
I believe some difficulty will result from determining this question by a mandamus. A mandamus is used to re-place an officer who has been removed contrary to law; now, this officer being the creature of the law, we may declare that he shall be removed for incapacity, and if so declared, the removal will be according to law.
Mr. Madison .
If the construction of the constitution is to be left to its natural course with respect to the executive powers of this government, I own that the insertion of this sentiment in law may not be of material importance, though if it is nothing more than a mere declaration of a clear grant made by the constitution, it can do no harm; but if it relates to a doubtful part of the constitution, I suppose an exposition of the constitution may come with as much propriety from the legislature as any other department of government. If the power naturally belongs to the government, and the constitution is undecided as to the body which is to exercise it, it is likely that it is submitted to the discretion of the legislature, and the question will depend upon its own merits.
I am clearly of opinion with the gentleman from South-Carolina (Mr. Smith,) that we ought in this and every other case to adhere to the constitution, so far as it will serve as a guide to us, and that we ought not to be swayed in our decisions by the splendor of the character of the present chief magistrate, but to consider it with respect to the merit of men who, in the ordinary course of things, may be supposed to fill the chair. I believe the power here declared is a high one, and in some respects a dangerous one; but in order to come to a right decision on this point, we must consider both sides of the question. The possible abuses which may spring from the single will of the first magistrate, and the abuse which may spring from the combined will of the executive and the senatorial qualification.
When we consider that the first magistrate is to be appointed at present by the suffrages of three millions of people, and in all human probability in a few years time by double that number, it is not to be presumed that a vicious or bad character will be selected. If the government of any country on the face of the earth was ever effectually guarded against the election of ambitious or designing characters to the first office of the state, I think it may with truth be said to be the case under the constitution of the United States. With all the infirmities incident to a popular election, corrected by the particular mode of conducting it, as directed under the present system, I think we may fairly calculate, that the instances will be very rare in which an unworthy man will receive that mark of the public confidence which is required to designate the president of the United States. Where the people are disposed to give so great an elevation to one of their fellow citizens, I own that I am not afraid to place my confidence in him; especially when I know he is impeachable for any crime or misdemeanor, before the senate, at all times; and that at all events he is impeachable before the community at large every four years, and liable to be displaced if his conduct shall have given umbrage during the time he has been in office. Under these circumstances, although the trust is a high one, and in some degree perhaps a dangerous one, I am not sure but it will be safer here than placed where some gentlemen suppose it ought to be.
It is evidently the intention of the constitution that the first magistrate should be responsible for the executive department; so far therefore as we do not make the officers who are to aid him in the duties of that department responsible to him, he is not responsible to his country. Again, is there no danger that an officer when he is appointed by the concurrence of the senate, and has friends in that body, may chuse rather to risk his establishment on the favor of that branch, than rest it upon the discharge of his duties to the satisfaction of the executive branch, which is constitutionally authorized to inspect and controul his conduct; and if it should happen that the officers connect themselves with the senate, they may mutually support each other, and for want of efficacy reduce the power of the president to a mere vapor, in which case his responsibility would be annihilated, and the expectation of it unjust. The high executive officers, joined in cabal with the senate, would lay the foundation of discord, and end in an assumption of the executive power, only to be removed by a revolution in the government. I believe no principle is more clearly laid down in the constitution than that of responsibility. After premising this, I will proceed to an investigation of the merits of the question upon constitutional ground.
I have since the subject was last before the house, examined the constitution with attention, and I acknowledge that it does not perfectly correspond with the ideas I entertained of it from the first glance. I am inclined to think that a free and systematic interpretation of the plan of government, will leave us less at liberty to abate the responsibility than gentlemen imagine. I have already acknowledged, that the powers of the government must remain as apportioned by the constitution. But it may be contended, that where the constitution is silent it becomes a subject of legislative discretion; perhaps, in the opinion of some, an argument in favor of the clause may be successfully brought forward on this ground: I however leave it for the present untouched.
By a strict examination of the constitution on what appears to be its true principles, and considering the great departments of the government in the relation they have to each other, I have my doubts whether we are not absolutely tied down to the construction declared in the bill. In the first section of the 1st article, it is said, that all legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a congress of the United States. In the second article it is affirmed, that the executive power shall be vested in a president of the United States of America. In the third article it is declared, that the judicial power of the United States shall be be vested in one supreme court, and in such inferior courts as congress may from time to time ordain and establish. I suppose it will be readily admitted, that so far as the constitution has separated the powers of these great departments, it would be improper to combine them together, and so far as it has left any particular department in the entire possession of the powers incident to that department, I conceive we ought not to qualify them farther than they are qualified by the constitution. The legislative power are vested in congress, and are to be exercised by them uncontrolled by any other department, except the constitution has qualified it otherwise. The constitution has qualified the legislative power by authorising the president to object to any act it may pass, requiring, in this case two-thirds of both houses to concur in making a law; but still the absolute legislative power is vested in the congress with this qualification alone.
The constitution affirms, that the executive power shall be vested in the president: Are there exceptions to this proposition? Yes there are. The constitution says that, in appointing to office, the senate shall be associated with the president, unless in the case of inferior officers, when the law shall otherwise direct. Have we a right to extend this exception? I believe not. If the constitution has invested all executive power in the president, I venture to assert, that the legislature has no right to diminish or modify his executive authority.
The question now resolves itself into this, Is the power of displacing an executive power? I conceive that if any power whatsoever is in its nature executive it is the power of appointing, overseeing, and controling those who execute the laws. If the constitution had not qualified the power of the president in appointing to office, by associating the senate with him in that business, would it not be clear that he would have the right by virtue of his executive power to make such appointment? Should we be authorised, in defiance of that clause in the constitution, "The executive power shall be vested in a president," to unite the senate with the president in the appointment to office? I conceive not. If it is admitted we should not be authorised to do this, I think it may be disputed whether we have a right to associate them in removing persons from office, the one power being as much of an executive nature as the other, and the first only is authorised by being excepted out of the general rule established by the constitution, in these words, "the executive power shall be vested in the president."
The judicial power is vested in a supreme court, but will gentlemen say the judicial power can be placed elsewhere, unless the constitution has made an exception? The constitution justifies the senate in exercising a judiciary power in determining on impeachments: But can the judicial power be farther blended with the powers of that body? They cannot. I therefore say it is incontrovertible, if neither the legislative nor judicial powers are subjected to qualifications, other than those demanded in the constitution, that the executive powers are equally unabateable as either of the other; and inasmuch as the power of removal is of an executive nature, and not affected by any constitutional exception, it is beyond the reach of the legislative body.
If this is the true construction of this instrument, the clause in the bill is nothing more than explanatory of the meaning of the constitution, and therefore not liable to any particular objection on that account. If the constitution is silent, and it is a power the legislature have a right to confer, it will appear to the world, if we strike out the clause, as if we doubted the propriety of vesting it in the president of the United States. I therefore think it best to retain it in the bill.
I hoped, Mr. chairman, after the discussion this subject had received on a former occasion, that it would have been unnecessary to re-examine it. The arguments against the clause are reiterated, but I trust without a chance of success. They were fully answered before; and I expect the impressions made at that time are not already effaced. The house, as well as the committee of the whole, have determined that those words shall be inserted in the bill; the special committee could therefore do no less than place them where they are; a deference is due to the decision of the house.
The house has determined to make a declaration of their construction on the constitution. I am perfectly in sentiment with the majority on this occasion; and contend that if this power is not in the president, it is not vested in any body whatever. It cannot be within the legislative power of the senate, because it is of an adverse nature; it cannot be within the executive power of the senate, because they possess none but what is expressly granted by the constitution. If gentlemen will point out where the constitution confers this power upon the senate, I will read my recantation, and subscribe to the justness of their doctrine.
I am not satisfied that removability shall be acquired only by impeachment. Were the advocates of this doctrine aware of its consequences when they advanced it? The senate has the sole power of trying impeachments; the president is here out of the question. If no officer can be constitutionally removed but by impeachment, it applies to subordinate officers as well as heads of departments. For the constitution only gives power to congress to establish offices by law, and vests the appointment in the president. If these officers are not removable but by impeachment, what is to become of our affairs when any of the accidents occur which were enumerated by the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Sedgwick)? Are we to take the circuitous route of impeachment? The dilatory and inefficient process by that mode, will not apply the remedy to the evil till it is too late to be of advantage. Experience has fixed an eternal stigma upon the system of impeachments; witness the case I mentioned the other day of Warren Hastings before the British lords; what delays and uncertainty with the forms of trial, details of evidence, arguments of council, and deliberate decision! I ask gentlemen, can there be a greater evil than this in any government? Why then will gentlemen advocate a doctrine so obnoxious to the principles of the constitution, when a more favourable construction is at hand?
As to the principle of the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. White) that he who appoints must remove; it may be a good one, but it is not a general one. Under this government, officers appointed by the people are removed by the representatives of the state legislatures. I take it that the best principle is that he who is responsible for the conduct of the officer, ought to have the power of removing him; by adhering to this principle we shall be led to make a right decision on the point in debate. Perhaps it might be equally right that the responsible person should have the appointment of those who are to aid him. But this case is qualified by an express stipulation in the constitution; and therefore must be submitted to. Yet nevertheless, the responsibility is kept up: the president takes the lead in the business; he nominates; wherefore he becomes answerable for the officer. But whose officer is he? Not the senate's; for they have no executive business to perform. The executive duties are all vested in the president. Then the president executes the duties of foreign affairs. He is answerable for this conduct— to whom? To be sure, to the senate. But he does not appoint the officer; he first selects, without advice of the senate; he cannot appoint. This is a check to an improper choice; but does not destroy the responsibility of the president, if he nominates a vicious or improper character.
It may be contended, on the gentleman's principles, that the president shall have the power of removal; because it is he who appoints. The constitution says he shall nominate, and under certain qualifications appoint. The senate do not appoint; their judgment only is required to acquiesce in the president's nomination. Where then is, the natural responsibility placed? because, where that is ought to be the power of removal. The constitution contemplates no other principle. If we were to insert the contrary one, the government must go to destruction.
Mr. White .
Mention has been made of impeachments, as the only mode of removing an officer: I will explain my ideas on this point in order that the committee may be masters of my particular objections to the clause: I consider impeachments necessary to be employed in cases respecting an officer who is appointed during good behaviour; thus the judges can only be removed by impeachment: the president and vice-president hold their offices for the terms mentioned in the constitution, not liable to be removed from office in any other way; these circumstances are a deviation from my general principle, but have nevertheless a proper ground to be supported on; the electors who appoint the president, cannot assemble to exercise the authority which would naturally be in them. With respect to the judges, it is found necessary for the proper and uncorrupt administration of justice and the security of freedom, to have them independent in their stations so that they be not removable at pleasure; to them therefore the doctrine of impeachment is peculiarly applicable; it may properly be extended farther, in cases where the president is desirous of retaining an officer who ought not to be retained; this house has the power of controling him, and may impeach the officer before the senate; in either of these three cases impeachments are necessary.
I have no doubt in my mind but an officer can be removed without a public trial. I think there are cases in which it would be improper that his misdemeanors should be publicly known; the tranquility and harmony of the union might be endangered, if his guilt was not secreted from the world. I have therefore no hesitation in declaring as my sentiment, that the president and senate may dismiss him.
The constitution contemplates a removal in some other way besides that by impeachment, or why is it declared in favor of the judges only, that they shall hold their offices during good behaviour? Does not this strongly imply that without such an exception there would have been a discretionary power in some branch of the government to dismiss even them?
My colleague (Mr. Madison) has acknowledged that clause to be unnecessary, if the constitution is allowed its free operation: Now it is my wish that it should have such an operation, and not be wrested by a declaration in a law contrary to what I take to be the true construction; if we are silent on this point, it will probably be allowed a fair interpretation when the power is required to be exercised; but if it could not be adjusted easily in that place, I would rather the judiciary should decide the point than us, because it is more properly within their department.
I differ also with my colleague in the principle that he has laid down, that this is in its nature an executive power. The constitution supposes power incident to government, and arranges it into distinct branches with or without checks; but it enumerates under each department the powers it may exercise; the legislature may exert its authority in passing laws relating to any of its particular powers: The executive power is vested in the president; but the executive powers so vested, are those enumerated in the constitution: he may nominate and by and with the advice and consent of the senate appoint all officers, because the constitution gives this power, and not because the power is in its nature a power incident to his department; my idea of the legislative and executive powers are precisely the same; the legislature may do certain acts because the constitution says, they shall have power to do them, and the executive magistrate is authorised to exercise powers because they are vested in him by the same instrument: It has given him the power of appointment under certain qualifications, the power of removal is incident to the power of appointment, and both equally dependant upon the arrangement made in the constitution. Consequently a dismission from office must be brought about by the same modification as the appointment.
Several objections have arisen from the inconvenience with which the power must be exercised, if the senate is blended with the executive, and therefore it is inferred that the president ought exclusively to have this power: If we were framing a constitution, these arguments would have their proper weight and I might approve such an arrangement. But at present, I do not consider we are at liberty to deliberate on that subject; the constitution is already formed, and we can go no farther in distributing the powers than the constitution warrants.
It was objected that the president could not remove an officer unless the senate was in session, but yet the emergency of the case might demand an instant dismission. I should imagine that no inconvenience would result on this account; because on my principle, the same power which can make a temporary appointment can make an equal suspension; the powers are apposite to each other.
The gentleman says, we ought not to blend the executive and legislative powers farther than they are blended in the constitution. I contend we do not. There is no expression in the constitution which says that the president shall have the power of removal from office; but the contrary is strongly implied; for it is said, that congress may establish offices by law, and vest the appointment, and consequently the removal, in the president alone, in the courts of law, or heads of departments. Now, this shews that congress are not at liberty to make any alteration by law in the mode of appointing superior officers; and consequently that they are not at liberty to alter the manner of removal.
Let us then leave the constitution to a free operation, and let the president, with or without the senate, carry it into execution: Then, if any one supposes himself injured by their determination, let them have recourse to the law, and its decision will establish the true construction of the constitution.
Mr. Boudinot .
This is a question, Mr. speaker, that requires full consideration, and ought only to be settled on the most candid discussion; it certainly involves the right of the senate to a very important power. At present I am so impressed with the importance of the subject, that I dare not absolutely decide on any principle, although I am firmly persuaded we ought to retain the clause in the bill; and, so far as it has been examined, I agree that it is a legislative construction of the constitution necessary to be settled for the direction of your officers. But if it is a deviation from the constitution, or in the least degree an infringement upon the authority of the other branch of the legislature, I shall most decidedly be against it. But I think it will appear, on a full consideration of this business, that we can do no otherwise than agree to this construction, in order to preserve to each department the full exercise of its powers, and to give this house security for the proper conduct of the officers who are to execute the laws.
The arguments adduced are to shew, that the power of removal lies either in the president and senate, or the president alone, except in cases of removal by impeachment. There is nothing I take it in the constitution, or the reason of the thing, that officers should be only removable by impeachment: Such a provision would be derogatory to the powers of government, and subversive of the rights of the people. What says the constitution on the point? (I fear, sir, it has not been rightly apprehended;) That the house of representatives shall have the sole power of impeachment; that the senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments; and judgment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold them in future; then comes the clause declaring absolutely, that he shall be removed from office on impeachment for and conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanors. It is this clause which guards the rights of the house, and enables them to pull down an improper officer, although he should be supported by all the power of the executive. This then is a necessary security to the people, and one that is wisely provided in the constitution. But I believe it is no where said, that officers shall never be removed but by impeachment; but it says they shall be removed on impeachment. Suppose the secretary of foreign affairs shall misbehave, and we impeach him; notwithstanding the clearest proof of guilt the senate might only impose some trifling punishment and retain him in office, if it was not for this declaration in the constitution.
Neither this clause nor any other goes so far as to say it shall be the only mode of removal; therefore we may proceed to enquire what the other is. Let us examine whether it belongs to the senate and president. Certainly, sir, there is nothing that gives the senate this right in express terms; but they are authorised in express words to be concerned in the appointment: And does this necessarily include the power of removal? If the president complains to the senate of the misconduct of an officer, and desires their advice and consent to the removal, what are the senate to do? Most certainly they will enquire if the complaint is well founded. To do this they must call the officer before them to answer: Who then are the parties? The supreme executive officer against his assistant, and the senate are to set judges to determine whether sufficient cause of removal exists. Does not this set the senate over the head of the president? But suppose they shall decide in favor of the officer, what a situation is the president then in, surrounded by officers with whom by his situation he is compelled to act, but in whom he can have no confidence, reversing the privilege given him by the constitution, to prevent his having officers imposed upon him who do not meet his approbation?
But I have another more solid objection, which places the question in a more important point of view. The constitution has placed the senate as the only security and barrier between the house of representatives and the president. Suppose the president has desired the senate to concur in removing an officer, and they have declined; or suppose the house have applied to the president and senate to remove an officer obnoxious to them, and they determine against the measure, the house can have recourse to nothing but an impeachment, if they suppose the criminality of the officer will warrant such procedure. Will the senate then be that upright court which they ought to appeal to on this occasion, when they have prejudged your cause? I conceive the senate will be too much under the controul of their former decision, to be a proper body for this house to apply to for impartial justice.
As the senate are the dernier1 resort, and the only court of judicature which can determine on cases of impeachment, I am for preserving them free and independent, both on account of the officer and this house. I therefore conceive that it was never the intention of the constitution to vest the power of removal in the president and senate; but as it must exist somewhere, it rests on the president alone. I conceive this point was made fully to appear by the honourable gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Madison); inasmuch as the president is the supreme executive officer of the United States.
If the doctrine of the gentleman from South-Carolina is true, then it follows that every officer has perpetuity in office, at least during good behaviour. If this is to be the case, there was no necessity for declaring in the constitution that the judges shall hold their offices during good behavior. This would be destroying the responsibility of the president; and establishing such a principle in the government as would be extremely dangerous.
It was asked if ever we knew a person removed from office by reason of sickness or ignorance? If there never was such a case, it is perhaps nevertheless proper that they should be removed for those reasons; and we shall do well to establish the principle.
Suppose your secretary of foreign affairs rendered incapable of thought or action by a paralytic stroke: I ask whether there would be any propriety in keeping such a person in office, and whether the salus populi2 the first object of republican governments does not absolutely demand his dismission? Can it be expected that the president is responsible for an officer under these circumstances, although when he went into office he might have been a wise and virtuous man, and the president well inclined to risk his own reputation upon the integrity and abilities of the person?
I conceive it will be improper to leave the determination of this question to the judges. There will be some indelicacy in subjecting the executive action in this particular to a suit at law; and there may be much inconvenience if the president does not exercise this prerogative until it is decided by the courts of justice.
From these considerations, the safety of the people, the security of this house, and the adherence to the spirit of the constitution, I am disposed to think the clause proper; and as some doubts respecting the construction of the constitution has arisen, I think it also necessary; therefore, I hope they will remain.
I have attended to the arguments of the gentlemen who oppose the motion for striking out; and I apprehend that their reasoning is not perfectly consistent. The construction of some gentlemen is, that the power of removal is given to the president by the constitution. Others are of opinion that the constitution is silent; and therefore the house ought to give it. To oppose these adverse arguments, I must return to my strong ground on which my opponents dare not venture. I state again, if the constitution has given the power, it is unnecessary to give it here; or if it has not given it, we have no right to confer it, because it is not within the enumerated powers delegated to congress.
Gentlemen have said that it is proper to give a legislative construction of the constitution. I differ with them on this point: I think it an infringement on the powers of the judiciary. It is said we ought not to blend the legislative, executive or judiciary powers, farther than is done by the constitution; and yet the advocates for preserving each department pure and untouched by the others, call upon this house to exercise the powers of the judges in expounding the constitution: what authority has this house to explain the law? But if it has this privilege, the senate is also invested with it as part of the legislature, and in exercising it on the present question, we shall be likely to differ; if the constitution is silent and gentlemen admit this, it is possible the senate may view it with a favorable eye to their own right, and reject the bill on account of this clause. A great deal of mischief has arisen in the several states, by the legislatures undertaking to decide constitutional questions: Sir, it is the duty of the legislature to make laws, your judges are to expound them.
It has been said, that cases of impeachment do not extend to officers who are indolent or delirious. I said before, that if a person became indolent he will neglect his duty, and for that cause I presume he may be impeached. Gentlemen have found out that impeachment is a tedious process; I apprehend the person who is impeached will not think it a dilatory process, but such an one as is wisely inserted in the constitution for the protection of his person and property. The delay of which gentlemen complain, is the greatest bulwark of liberty. Our ancestors who were tenacious of their privileges, guarded them in the best manner they could devise to prevent the inroads of despotism. As well may gentlemen complain of the tedious process in other criminal cases, by indictment of a grand jury, and trial by a petit jury. I hope it is not contemplated, if it is I hope never to see adopted in this country a summary process, to hurry on judgment without reflection. Such doctrine may suit the meridian of Turkey, where a cadi can give the order and the bowstring at the same moment.3
If the constitution does not extend to insanity or disability by reason of sickness, then let the law declare him removed until his recovery, but gentlemen's arguments go to prove that the constitution authorises the removal for this reason; why the same argument would apply to the president and vice-president, if they were to become delirious, yet I think they could not constitutionally be removed for such a cause.
The constitution declares that an officer shall be removed by impeachment for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors; yet the doctrine of gentlemen will enable the president or the president with the advice of the senate to inflict the punishment without trial, when the constitution requires it to be done on impeachment and conviction. This appears to me so inconsistent, that I can by no means be reconciled to it. If this is wrong in the constitution, it may be proper to amend it in that particular, and when the subject of amendments is taken up, let congress recommend it with the other improvements to that system; but we cannot now proceed on this idea. For my part I think under the constitution as it now stands we have no other way to remove an officer than by impeachment.
The gentleman from Virginia has said, that the power of removal is executive in its nature. I do not believe this to be the case. I have turned over the constitutions of most of the states, and I do not find that any of them have granted this power to the governor. In some instances I find the executive magistrate suspends, but none of them have the right to remove officers; and I take it that the constitution of the United States has distributed the powers of government on the same principles which most of the state constitutions have adopted. For it will not be contended, but the state governments furnished the members of the late convention with the skeleton of this constitution.
The gentlemen have observed, that it would be dangerous if the president had not this power. But is there not danger in making your secretary of foreign affairs dependent upon the will and pleasure of the president? Can gentlemen see the danger on one side only? Suppose the president averse to a just and honorable war which congress have embarked in, can he not countenance the secretary at war (for it is in contemplation to establish such an officer) in the waste of public stores, and misapplication of the supplies? Nay, cannot he dragoon your officer into a compliance with his designs, by threatening him with a removal by which his reputation and property would be destroyed? If the officer was established on a better tenure he would dare to be honest; he would know himself invulnerable in his integrity, and defy the shafts of malevolence, though aimed with Machiavellian policy. He would be a barrier to your executive officer, and save the state from ruin.
But, Mr. chairman, the argument does not turn upon the expediency of the measure. The great question is with respect to its constitutionality. And as yet I have heard no argument advanced sufficiently cogent to prove to my mind that the constitution warrants such a disposition of the power of removal; and until I am convinced that is both expedient and constitutional, I cannot agree to it.
Mr. Gerry .
Some gentlemen consider this as a question of policy; but to me it appears a question of constitutionality, and I presume it will be determined on that point alone. The best arguments I have heard urged on this occasion, came from the honourable gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Madison ). He says the constitution has vested the executive power in the president; and that he has a right to exercise it under the qualifications therein made. He lays it down as a maxim, that the constitution vesting in the president the executive power, naturally vests him with the power of appointment and removal. Now I would be glad to know from that gentleman by what means we are to decide this question. Is his maxim supported by precedent drawn from the practice of the individual states? The direct contrary is established. In many cases the executive are not in particular vested with the power of appointment; and do they exercise that power by virtue of their office? It will be found that other branches of the government make appointments. How then can gentlemen assert that the powers of appointment and removal are incident to the executive department of government? To me it appears at best but problematical. Neither is it clear to me that the power that appoints naturally possesses the power of removal. As we have no certainty on either of these points, I think we must consider it as established by the constitution.
It has been argued that if the power of removal vests in the president alone, it annuls or renders nugatory the clause in the constitution, which directs the concurrence of the senate in the case of appointment; it behoves us not to adopt principles subversive of those established by the constitution. It has been frequently asserted on former occasions, that the senate is a permanent body and was so constructed in order to give durability to public measures. If they are not absolutely permanent, they are formed on a renovating principle which gives them a salutary stability: This is not the case either with the president or house of representatives; nor is the judiciary equally lasting, because the officers are subject to natural dissolution. It appears to me that a permanency was expected in the magistracy; and therefore the senate were combined in the appointment to office. But if the president alone has the power of removal, it is in his power at any time to destroy all that has been done. It appears to me that such a principle would be destructive of the intention of the constitution expressed by giving the power of appointment to the senate. It also subverts the clause which gives the senate the sole power of trying impeachments, because the president may remove the officer in order to screen him from the effects of their judgment on an impeachment. Why should we construe any part of the constitution in such a manner as to destroy its essential principles, when a more consonant construction can be obtained?
It appears very clear to me that however this power may be distributed by the constitution, the house of representatives have nothing to do with it. Why then should we interfere in the business? Are we afraid that the president and senate are not sufficiently informed to know their respective duties? Our interposition argues that they want judgment, and are not able to adjust their powers without the wisdom of this house to assist them; to say the least on this point, it must be deemed indelicate for us to intermeddle with them. If the fact is as we seem to suspect, that they do not understand the constitution, let it go before the proper tribunal; the judges are the constitutional umpires on such questions. Why, let me ask gentlemen, shall we commit an infraction of the constitution for fear the senate or president should not comply with its directions?
It has been said by my colleague, that these officers are the creatures of the law; but it seems as if we were not content with that; we are making them the mere creatures of the president; they dare not exercise the privilege of their creation, if the president shall order them to forbear; because he holds their thread of life, his power will be sovereign over them, and will soon swallow up the small security we have in the senate's concurrence to the appointment, and we shall shortly need no other than the authority of the supreme executive officer to nominate, appoint, continue or remove.
When this question was agitated at a former period, I took no part in the debate. I believe it was then proposed without any idea or intention of drawing on a lengthy discussion, and to me it appeared to be well understood and settled by the house; but since it has been reiterated and contested again, I feel it my bounden duty to deliver the reasons for voting in the manner I then did and shall now do. Mr. chairman, I look upon every question which touches the constitution as serious and important, and therefore worthy of the fullest discussion, and the most solemn decision. I believe on the present occasion we may come to something near certainty, by attending to the leading principles of the constitution. In order that the good purposes of a federal government should be answered it was necessary to delegate considerable powers, and the principle upon which the grant was made intended to give sufficient power to do all possible good, but to restrain the rulers from doing mischief.
The constitution places all executive power in the hands of the president, and could he personally execute all the laws, there would be no occasion for establishing auxiliaries; but the circumscribed powers of human nature in one man, demands the aid of others. When the objects are widely stretched out, or greatly diversified, meandering through such an extent of territory as what the United States possess, a minister cannot see with his own eyes every transaction, or feel with his hands the minutiae that passes through his department; he must therefore have assistants: But in order that he may be responsible to his country, he must have a choice in selecting his assistants, a control over them, with power to remove them when he finds the qualifications which induced their appointment cease to exist. There are officers under the constitution who hold their office by a different tenure— your judges are appointed during good behaviour; and from the delicacy and peculiar nature of their trust it is right it should be so, in order that they may be independent and impartial in administering justice between the government and its citizens. But the removability of the one class, or immovability of the other are founded on the same principle, the security of the people against the abuse of power. Does any gentleman imagine that an officer is entitled to his office as to an estate? Or, does the legislature establish them for the convenience of an individual? For my part I conceive it intended to carry into effect the purposes for which the constitution was intended.
The executive powers are delegated to the president, with a view to have a responsible officer to superintend, control, inspect and check the officers necessarily employed in administering the laws. The only bond between him and those he employs is the confidence he has in their integrity and talents; when that confidence ceases the principal ought to have power to remove those whom he can no longer trust with safety. If an officer shall be guilty of neglect or infidelity, there can be no doubt but he ought to be removed; yet there may be numerous causes for removal which do not amount to a crime. He may propose to do a mischief, but I believe the mere intention would not be cause of impeachment; he may lose the confidence of the people upon suspicion, in which case it would be improper to retain him in service; he ought to be removed at any time, when, instead of doing the greatest possible good, he is likely to do an injury to the public interest by being combined in the administration.
I presume gentlemen will generally admit, that officers ought to be removed when they become obnoxious; but the question is, how shall this power be exercised? It will not I apprehend be contended, that all officers hold their offices during good behaviour. If this is the case it is a most singular government, I believe there is not another in the universe that bears the least semblance to it in this particular; such a principle, I take it, is contrary to the nature of things. But the manner how to remove is the question. If the officer misbehaves he can be removed by impeachment: But in this case is impeachment the only mode of removal? It would be found very inconvenient to have a man continued in office after being impeached, and when all confidence in him was suspended or lost: Would not the end of impeachment be defeated by this means? If Mr. Hastings, who was mentioned by the gentleman from Virginia [Delaware] (Mr. Vining), preserved his command in India, could he not defeat the impeachment now pending in Great Britain? If that doctrine obtains in America we shall find impeachments come too late; while we are preparing the process the mischief will be perpetrated, and the offender escaped. I apprehend it will be as frequently necessary to prevent crimes as to punish them; and it may often happen that the only prevention is by removal. The superintending power possessed by the president will perhaps enable him to discover a base intention before it is ripe for execution. It may happen that the treasurer may be disposed to betray the public chest to the enemy, and so injure the government beyond the possibility of reparation; should the president be restrained from removing so dangerous an officer, until the slow formality of an impeachment was complied with, when the nature of the case rendered the application of a sudden and decisive remedy indispensible?
But it will, I say, be admitted, that an officer may be removed; the question then is, by whom? Some gentlemen say by the president alone; and others, by the president, by and with the advice of the senate. By the advocates of the latter mode it is alledged, that the constitution is in the way of the power of removal being by the president alone. If this is absolutely the case there is an end to all further enquiry. But before we suffer this to be considered an insuperable impediment we ought to be clear, that the constitution prohibits him the exercise of what, on a first view, appears to be a power incident to the executive branch of government. The gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Madison), has made so many observations to evince the constitutionality of the clause, that it is unnecessary to go over the ground again: I shall therefore confine myself to answer only some remarks made by the gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. Smith). The powers of the president are defined in the constitution; but it is said, that he is not expressly authorised to remove from office: If the constitution is silent also with respect to the senate, the argument may be retorted. If this silence proves that the power cannot be exercised by the president, it certainly proves that it cannot be exercised by the president, by and with the advice and consent of the senate. The power of removal is incident to government; but not being distributed by the constitution, it will come before the legislature, and, like every other omitted case, must be supplied by law.
Gentlemen have said, when the question was formerly before us, that all powers not intended to be given up to the general government were retained. I beg gentlemen, when they undertake to argue from implication, to be consistent, and admit the force of other arguments drawn from the same source. It is a leading principle in every free government, it is a prominent feature in this, that the legislative and executive powers should be kept distinct; yet the attempt to blend the executive and legislative departments in exercising the power of removal, is such a mixing as ought not to be carried into practice or arguments grounded on implication. And the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. White's) reasoning is wholly drawn from implication. He supposes, as the constitution qualifies the president's power of appointing to office, by subjecting his nomination to the concurrence of the senate, that the qualification follows of course in the removal.
If this is to be considered as a question undecided by the constitution, and submitted on the footing of expediency, it will be well to consider where the power can be most usefully deposited for the security and benefit of the people. It has been said by the gentleman on the other side of the house (Mr. Smith) that there is an impropriety in allowing the exercise of this power; that it is a dangerous authority, and much evil may result to the liberty and property of the officer, who may be turned out of business without a moment's warning. I take it the question is not whether such power shall be given or retained; because it is admitted on all hands, that the officer may be removed; so that it is no grant of power, it raises no new danger. If we strike out the clause, we do not keep the power, nor prevent the exercise of it; so the gentleman will derive none of the security he contemplates by agreeing to the motion for striking out. It will be found that the nature of the business requires it to be conducted by the head of the executive; and I believe it will be found even there, that more injury will arise from not removing improper officers, than from displacing good ones. I believe experience has convinced us that it is an irksome business; and officers are more frequently continued in place after they become unfit to perform the duties, than turned out while their talents and integrity are useful. But advantages may result from keeping the power of removal, in terrorem,4 over the heads of the officers; they will be stimulated to do their duty to the satisfaction of the principal who is to be responsible for the whole executive department.
The gentleman has supposed there will be great difficulty in getting officers of abilities to engage in the service of their country upon such terms. There has never yet been any scarcity of proper officers in any department of the government of the United States, even during the war; when men risked their lives and property by engaging in such service, there were candidates enough. But why should we connect the senate in the removal? their attention is taken up with other important business, and they have no constitutional authority to watch the conduct of the executive officers; and therefore cannot use such authority with advantage. If the president is inclined to shelter himself behind the senate with respect to having continued an improper person in office, we lose the responsibility which is our greatest security; the blame among so many will be lost. Another reason occurs to me against blending these powers: An officer who superintends the public revenue will naturally acquire a great influence. If he obtains support in the senate, upon an attempt of the president to remove him, it will be out of the power of the house, when applied to by the first magistrate, to impeach him with success; for the very means of proving charges of mal-conduct against him will be under the power of the officer; all the papers necessary to convict him may be withheld while the person continues in his office: Protection may be rendered for protection; and as this officer has such extensive influence it may be exerted to procure the re-election of his friends. These circumstances, in addition to those stated by the gentleman from Jersey, (Mr. Boudinot) must clearly evince to every gentleman the impropriety of connecting the senate with the president in removing from office.
I do not say these things will take effect now, and if the question only related to what might take place in a few years, I should not be uneasy on this point, because I am sensible the gentlemen who form the present senate are above corruption, but in future ages, (and I hope this government may be perpetuated to the end of time), such things may take place, and it is our duty to provide against evils which may be foreseen, but if now neglected will be irremediable.
I beg to observe further, that there are three opinions entertained by gentlemen on this subject. One is, that the power of removal is prohibited by the constitution; the next is, that it requires it by the president; and the other is, that the constitution is totally silent. It therefore appears to me proper for the house to declare what is their sense of the constitution. If we declare justly on this point it will serve for a rule of conduct to the executive magistrate; if we declare improperly the judiciary will revise our decision; so that at all events I think we ought to make the declaration.
Mr. Livermore .
I am for striking out this clause, Mr. chairman, upon the principles of the constitution, from which we are not at liberty to deviate. The honorable gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Sedgwick), calls the minister of foreign affairs the creature of the law, and that very properly; because the law establishes the office, and has the power of creating him in what shape the legislature pleases. This being the case, we have a right to create the office under such limitations and restrictions we think proper, provided we can obtain the consent of the senate; but it is very improper to draw as a conclusion from having the power of giving birth to a creature, that we should therefore bring forth a monster, merely to shew we had such power. I call that creature a monster that has not the proper limbs and features of its species; I think the creature we are forming is unnatural in its proportions. It has been often said, that the constitution declares the president, by and with the advice and consent of the senate, shall appoint this officer. This, to be sure, is very true, and so is the conclusion which an honorable gentleman (Mr. White) from Virginia drew from it, that an officer must be discharged in the way he was appointed.
I believe, Mr. chairman, this question depends upon a just construction of a short clause in the constitution, "The president shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls, judges of the supreme court, and all other officers of the United States." Here is no difference with respect to the power of the president to make treaties and appoint officers, only it requires in the one case a larger majority to concur than in the other. I will not by any means suppose that gentlemen mean, when they argue in favour of removal by the president alone, to contemplate the extension of the power to the repeal of treaties; because if they do, there will be little occasion for us to sit here. But let me ask these gentlemen, as there is no real or imaginary distinction between the appointment of ambassadors and ministers, or secretaries of foreign affairs, whether they mean that the president should have the power of recalling or discarding ambassadors and military officers, for the words in the constitution are "all other officers"— as well as he can remove your secretary of foreign affairs. To be sure they cannot extend it to the judges; because they are secured under a subsequent article, which declares they shall hold their offices during good behavior; they have an inheritance which they cannot be divested of, but on conviction of some crime. But I presume gentlemen mean to apply it to all those who have not an inheritance in their offices. In this case, it takes the whole power of the president and senate to create an officer; but half the power can uncreate him. Surely a law passed by the whole legislature, cannot be repealed by one branch of it; so I conceive in the case of appointments it requires the same force to supercede an officer as to put him in office.
I acknowledge that the clause relative to impeachment, is for the benefit of the people; it is intended to enable their representatives to bring a bad officer to justice, who is screened by the president; but I do not conceive with the honorable gentleman from South-Carolina (Mr. Smith), that it by any means excludes the usual ways of superceding officers. It is said in the constitution, that the house shall have the power of chusing their own officers. We have chosen a clerk, and I am satisfied a very capable one; but will any gentleman contend that we may not discharge him and chuse another and another as often as we see cause? And so it is in every other instance, where they have the power to make they have likewise the power to unmake. It will be said by gentlemen, that the power to make does not imply the power of unmaking; but I believe they will find very few exceptions in the United States.
Were I to speak of the expediency, every one of my observations would be against it. When an important and confidential trust is placed in a man, it is worse than death to him to be displaced without cause; his reputation depends upon the single will of the president, who may ruin him on bare suspicion: Nay, a new president may turn him out on mere caprice, or in order to make room for a favorite. This contradicts all my notions of propriety, every thing of this sort should be done with due deliberation; every person ought to have a hearing before they are punished. It is on these considerations that I wish the general principle laid down by the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. White) may be adhered to.
I will add one word more and have done. This seems Mr. chairman, altogether to be aimed at the senate: What have they done to chagrine us? Or why should we attempt to abridge their powers because we can reach them by our regulations in the shape of a bill? I think we had better let it alone. If the constitution has given them this power, they will reject this part of the bill, and they will exercise that one privilege judiciously, however they may the power of removal: If the constitution has not given it to them it has not vested it any where else; consequently this house would have no right to confer it.
On motion, the committee rose and reported progress.
    1. Last.
    2. The good of the people.
    3. Cadis were Turkish judges, usually on the local level, who had the power to render judgment, sentence, and execution at the same time.
    4. By way of threat.

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). XML version based on the Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, ed. Charlene Bickford, et al. (Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1992) Vol. 11, pp. 842-887; 889-973; 993-1076; 1079-1083; 1164-1171; 1174-1175; 1319-1334. [Accessed (supply date here)]

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