« ZurückWeiter »
its power of governing only through its agents or officers. These officers are selected directly or indirectly by the vote of the people. Once elected, they generally have an independent tenure of office for the period for which they are chosen. They are not merely servants, but agents or representatives of the people. Sovereignty is not delegated to them. That always remains with the people. That which is delegated is the immediate power of exercising certain governmental functions. These officers represent the sovereign body; they do not become sovereign themselves.
§ 23. Distribution of Powers in United States. The federal government exercises its powers under the constitution as follows: (1) Legislative powers are exercised by a congress consisting of (a) a senate, composed of two senators from each state chosen by the state legislatures; (b) a house of representatives, composed of members elected directly by the people. (2) Executive powers are exercised by a president and his subordinate officers. (3) Judicial powers are exercised by the supreme court, created by the constitution, and by subordinate courts, created by congress.
Under the federal constitution, the national government exercises its powers through three general departments, corresponding in name and character to the three branches of government which we have mentioned in a previous chapter.15 As stated above, the legislative powers are exercised by a congress, which consists of two distinct bodies, known, respectively, as the senate and the house of representatives. The executive power is vested in a president of the United States and his subordinate executive officers. The judicial power is vested in a supreme court of the United States and in such inferior courts as congress may, from time to time, ordain and establish.
The Senate.-The senate is sometimes referred to as the upper house of congress. At the time of the formation of the constitution, there was some difference of opinion as to whether the members of the national legislature should be chosen by the States as such, or by the people directly, without the intervention of the State governments. One of the results of this discussion was the provision that the senate should be made up of two senators from each state, chosen by the legislatures thereof, and this provision was accompanied by a constitutional guaranty that "no State, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the senate."
The House of Representatives. Unlike the senate, the members of the lower house are elected by a direct vote of the people; and, for the purpose of securing a proper distribution of representatives, each State is divided into what are called " congressional districts," each district electing one representative. The lower house being the direct representatives of the people, the constitution provides that it shall have "exclusive power to originate all bills for the purpose of raising revenue."
The President.- The president is the chief executive officer of the United States government, and as such controls the practical administration of the laws. In addition to his executive functions, however, he plays an important part in legislation. When a bill has passed both houses of congress, it is necessary that it receive his approval before it can become a law, unless, after he has declined to approve it, it be again passed by a two-thirds vote of both houses.16 This power of the president is called the "veto power," because he communicates his refusal of assent to any law by writing upon it the word "Veto," meaning "I forbid." The president also has the power, by and with the advice of the senate, to appoint the justices of the various courts of the United States, as well as many of the subordinate executive officers.
The Supreme Court. The supreme court is the highest court of appellate jurisdiction in the federal system, and is supplemented by various subordinate courts, the nature of which will be explained in a subsequent chapter. One of the most characteristic functions of the supreme court is of a quasi-legislative character. In it is vested the power of determining whether the laws passed by congress or any State legislature are in harmony with the federal constitution or not. If congress or a State legislature pass any law in excess of its powers, or in any way conflicting with that constitution, such a law is called an "unconstitutional law," and is void.
§ 24. The State Governments. The state governments have inherent in themselves all power, except so far as they are limited by their own or the federal constitution. As to all matters not delegated to the federal government, each State adopts its own system of laws and institutions, the only control upon it being that growing out of the constitutional provision that "the United States shall guarantee to every state in this Union a republican form of government." Consequently, although there is considerable uniformity in the governmental systems of the various States, yet on many points there is also much diversity. It is not within
16. If, however, a bill passed by congress be neither vetoed nor approved by the president within ten
days after its passage, it becomes a law without his approval.
the limits of the present work to discuss these differences between the various State systems, but merely to mention some features which are common to all the States.
A State constitution differs radically. in its character from the federal constitution. We have seen that the federal constitution is chiefly made up of a grant of powers to the federal government, and that the federal government is limited to the powers given it, either expressly or by implication, by that instrument. In other words, the federal government has no powers whatever except such as are given it by the federal constitution. State governments have inherent in themselves, however, all power, except so far as they are limited by either the federal constitution or their own. A State constitution, therefore, has for its object the limitation of the powers which the States would otherwise have, while the federal constitution grants to the federal government powers which it would not otherwise possess. An act of congress must not conflict, as we have seen, with the constitution of the United States. A law passed by the State legislature must be put to the test of conformity with (1) the constitution of the United States; (2) with the laws passed by congress; (3) with the treaties entered into by the United States government, which are in the federal constitution declared to be part of the supreme law of the land; and (4) with the constitution of the particular State.
The power of determining whether a State law is or is not in conflict with the State constitution is vested in the highest court of appellate jurisdiction in the State, usually called the preme court" of the State; but if its conformity with the federal constitution, laws, or treaties be questioned, and the State courts decide that it is not in violation thereof, the matter may be taken to the United States supreme court for final decision.17
In all the States the legislature consists of two bodies, corresponding in their general nature to the national senate and house of representatives. The number of members both in the upper house and in the popular branch varies greatly in the different States. The members of both houses are chosen by popular vote. The chief executive officer is in every State called the " gover" and his term of office varies in the different States from
17. The federal constitution itself provides that "the constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made or which shall be made under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby,
anything in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding." Const. art. 6. Therefore any State law which is inconsistent with a law or treaty of the United States is inconsistent with the United States constitution, which declares such laws and treaties to be part of the supreme law of the land.
one to four years. In most States the governor possesses the power to veto any act of the legislature, but in the States of Delaware, North Carolina, and Rhode Island no such power is vested in him.
The federal constitution contains various limitations upon State action. These will be shown in a subsequent chapter.
§ 25. Local Self-Government. For the purpose of local selfgovernment, the States have divided their territory, and created subordinate political bodies, such as villages and cities, to act as agencies of the State in the local government of particular districts. All the subordinate political bodies created for this purpose, whether in the form of villages, cities, counties, or towns, etc., are called "municipal corporations," or "quasi municipal corporations." This plan of local self-government through public corporations is a natural consequence of the theory of sovereignty in the people. If the people are sovereign, they have a right to govern themselves,- to have home rule. A municipal corporation is a corporate institution, established by a State as an agency of the State in the local government of particular districts. By a corporate institution or body corporate is meant, as we shall hereafter see, a collection of individual persons who are organized in such a way that a legal personality results distinct from the members who compose it. This legal personality is possessed of a corporate name by which it is known, and it continues to exist in spite of changes by death or otherwise in its membership. A corporation may also be formed, as we shall see hereafter, for the conduct of private business. It is then called a "private corporation"; but we are at present interested in those only which are formed for governmental purposes.
There are three different types of local government in vogue in the United States. In the first, or New England type, which is peculiar to the six New England States, the town is the political subdivision of primary importance. Through its agency the
18. The exact nature of a corporation can be best understood by an illustration. Let us suppose that five persons wish to begin the conduct of a certain business, and think it desirable to do this in the form of a corporation. They agree among themselves to purchase a certain percentage of the stock of the corporation as soon as formed. When the corporation is organized according to law, the five members or stock-holders do not become identified with the corporation, but are merely in business relations with it. They are
stock-holders in it, and as such entitled to their share of the profits produced by it, but the corporation is something distinct from them. And so it is with a public corporation. Every citizen is in one sense a member of it, and yet he is not identified with it. The corporation continues to exist, even though he may die or move out of its jurisdiction. The corporation, whether public or private, is, for most purposes, a legal entity. It can act only through its agents or officers,
ordinary functions of local government are exercised. In these States there are counties, it is true, but they are little more than judicial districts. The second type, which has been adopted chiefly by the southern States, makes the county the important political unit, while the town or township is assigned to a secondary place. The third type, which is adopted by most of the northwestern States, is a compromise between the "town" and "county" plans. Here both the county and the township are important elements, the local governmental powers being vested in both. For the government of the more thickly populated districts, each of the States has adopted a still different and more complicated system that of the city and village; the former in the larger urban localities; the latter in the smaller. Again, for educational purposes, the counties or townships are also divided into school-districts. To incorporated cities and villages, it is customary to apply the name "municipal corporations" while counties, school-districts, etc., are usually classed as "quasicorporations." 19
All public corporations are the creatures of the State. The State legislature may change or even abolish them at will.
§ 26. Citizenship and Naturalization. Under the Articles of Confederation, there was no such thing as citizenship of the United States. Citizenship was a State matter exclusively. In the constitution, however, citizenship of the United States is repeatedly referred to; and in the fourteenth amendment, State citizenship is also mentioned. No person can be a citizen of any State unless he is also a citizen of the United States.20 If, however, he is a citizen of the United States, he becomes, by virtue of such citizenship, a citizen of the State in which he resides.
Citizenship in the United States may be by nature or by naturalization. Citizenship by nature is the result of birth within the territorial limits of the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof. The process of naturalization is available to free white persons and to persons of African nativity or descent.21 Naturalization is covered by the following rules: (1) The applicant must declare on oath two years prior to his admission that it is his bona fide intention to become a citizen of the United States, and that he renounces all allegiance to foreign powers. (2) At the time of his admission, he must have been for five years a resident within the United States, and at least one year in the State or territory where he is admitted. (3) He must renounce
19. See 28 Cyc. 117.
20. Cooley Const. Law 244. 21. U. S. Rev. St. § 2169. By special treaties, members of certain Indian tribes have been accorded the
privilege of becoming citizens. Such a treaty was entered into with the Chootaws in 1830 and with the Cherokees in 1836.