The Executive Power

Nature of the Executive Power. The best constitution for the executive department and the powers with which it should be entrusted, said Judge Story, are problems among the most important and probably the most difficult of the solution of any involvement in free governments’ theory. The first of these problems have already been discussed; it remains now to consider the powers and duties which probably belong to the executive department.

Roughly speaking, the executive power may be classified under the following heads:

First, that which relates to foreign relations and which may be denominated the diplomatic power.

Second, that which has to do with the execution of the laws and the government’s administration may be denominated the administrative power.

Third, that which relates to the conduct of war may be described as the military power.

Fourth, the power to grant pardons to persons charged with or convicted of a crime may be called the executive’s judicial power.

Fifth, that which relates to legislation or the legislative power.

The constitutions of all states entrust the chief executive, either alone or in conjunction with the legislature or one chamber thereof, with authority to conclude treaties and other international agreements with foreign states. He is the representative of the state in its relations with foreign powers. He appoints diplomatic representatives to foreign states and receives those accredited to him by foreign states.

The power to receive a foreign diplomatic representative is generally interpreted to include the power to recognize or refuse to recognize the state’s independence, which he represents, or the government’s legitimacy that accredits him. Strictly speaking, the treaty making power is neither purely executive nor purely legislative in character. As Esmein remarks, it constitutes a sort of mixed zone occupied at the same time by both the legislative and executive authorities. But whether it be executive or legislative in character, there is practically no difference of opinion regarding the wisdom of entrusting it to the executive.

The legislature, or one chamber of it, however, may very properly be vested with the negative power of ratification as a means of checking the errors or abuses of an unwise, ambitious, or unscrupulous executive, though owing to the peculiar nature of the treaty-making power, the legislature cannot wisely be allowed direct participation in the negotiation. Alexander Hamilton was well observed that accurate and comprehensive knowledge of foreign policies, steady and systematic adherence to the same views, a nice and uniform sensibility to national character, decision, secrecy, and dispatch are incompatible with the genius of a body so variable and so numerous.

The legislature’s fluctuating and multitudinous composition, he continued, forbid us to expect in it qualities that are essential to the proper execution of such a trust. Nevertheless, as Story observed, it is too much to expect that a free people would confide to a single magistrate, however respectable, the sole authority to act conclusively upon the subject of treaties.

In a few monarchical states like Great Britain, this power is exclusively in the executive’s hands, parliament having no share except. Where legislation may be necessary to perfect the treaty or carry it into effect, in such states, therefore, the executive is both the negotiating and ratifying authority. But during and following the World War, this feature of the British constitution was the subject of considerable criticism by certain Liberals and by the members of the Labor party who demanded the introduction of what they called democratic control of foreign policy.

They charged that British diplomacy was characterized by too much secrecy and too little regard for public opinion that Great Britain had been committed to unwise foreign engagements without the public’s approval and parliament’s knowledge. Some even charged that she had been led into the World War through secret bungling diplomacy, when if the public had been kept properly informed, and its wishes followed, England would never have been involved in the conflict.

They demanded, therefore, that all treaties should be laid before parliament for its assent. When the new Labor government came into power in 1922, it announced that this procedure would be followed. However, with the return to power of the Conservative party, the old practice was reverted to.

In the majority of states, however, monarchies and republics, the assent of the legislature or one branch of it, are essential to the validity of all treaties or certain classes of them. In the United States, for example, the consent of the State is required by the constitution. However, the executive’s right to conclude certain kinds of international agreements independently of the Senate has long been acquiesced in.

In practice, the power of the United States Senate is not restricted to the mere negative function of ratifying or rejecting the treaties negotiated by the executive. Still, it claims and has often exercised the right of virtually amending those submitted for its approval.

The House of Representatives likewise exercises an indirect share in the treaty-making power through its right to give or withhold its consent to legislation which may be necessary to carry into execution a treaty such, for example, as one which stipulates for an appropriation of money. Moreover, the necessity for its approval of treaties which have to do. The regulation of foreign commerce, such as commercial reciprocity agreements, is now admitted by both the Senate and the President.

In the German Republic, treaties and alliances concluded by the president require the assent of the Reichstag when they relate to subjects which fall within the jurisdiction of the Reich, which would seem to include practically all treaties and alliances, except minor agreements between the individual states themselves or with their foreign neighbors relating to matters, which are within their competence.

In France, treaties of peace and commerce and treaties that involve the finances or territory of the state or affect the personal or property rights of Frenchmen in foreign states must receive both chambers’ assent. However, the French chambers cannot modify or amend treaties submitted for their consideration as the Senate of the United States may but must approve or reject them as a whole.

The requirements of the Finnish and Polish constitutions are essentially the same as that of France. In Czechoslovakia, commercial treaties and those that entail financial burdens and those who impose military or personal burdens upon the citizens must be approved by parliament. The Belgian requirement is practically the same. In Brazil and Chile, apparently, all treaties without exception must be approved by both congress houses.

In the United States, where one hears much criticism of the existing constitutional rule Which places it within the power of one more than one-third of the members of the Senate to defeat the ratification of treaties, ratification by both houses of Congress by a simple majority has recently been proposed by various statesmen and publicists.

As already pointed out in an earlier chapter, Switzerland, a recent constitutional amendment, provides a popular referendum on treaties of more than fifteen years duration. This amendment introduces the principle of popular control of diplomacy in a form that is not found in any other country.

Administrative powers: Power of Appointment.

In the internal administration domain, the principal power and duty of the executive are to direct and supervise the execution of the laws. He is the chief of the administration and the responsible head of the civil service. As such, he exercises a wide power of control over the administrative service personnel through his power to appoint, direct, and remove his subordinates.

In most republican states and a few of the monarchical types, the chief executive’s power is limited by the requirement that his appointments shall be approved by one branch of the legislature. Thus in the United States, the President’s nominations must be confirmed by the Senate. This practice is followed in some Latin American constitutions and those of the American republic’s component states.

The power of the President of the United States to remove, however, is not limited by the necessity of obtaining the consent of the Senate, as is the case in making appointments, and it is now settled that Congress has no constitutional right to abridge his power of removal. Ordinarily, the chief executive’s appointing power extends Only to political, judicial, and military functionaries. Still, in some European states (e.g., Czechoslovakia), the constitution gives him the power to appoint university professors.

There is little difference of opinion regarding the wisdom of the executive appointment of the higher officials. However, whether the executive should be independent in his choice or subject to the control of a council or a senate, there is no such unanimity of opinion or practice. In defense of the method provided by the constitution of the United States, Hamilton observed that it is not easy to conceive a plan better calculated than this to promote a judicious choice of men for filling the offices of the Union, and it will not need proof that on this point must essentially depend the character of its administration. He declared that one man of discernment is better fitted to analyze and estimate the peculiar qualities adapted to particular offices than a body of men of equal or perhaps even of superior discernment.

The executive’s sole and undivided responsibility, he went on to say, naturally begets a livelier sense of duty and more exact regard to reputation. He will inquire with more earnestness and decide with more impartiality. He will have fewer personal attachments to gratify than will a body of men. He will be less liable to be misled by his private friendships and affections or, at all events, his conduct will be more open to scrutiny and less liable to be misunderstood. Nevertheless, the provision that the executive’s nominations should receive the assent of the Senate, Hamilton admitted, would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President and would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters.

Power of Direction

Flowing from the chief executive’s right to select and dismiss his subordinates is the right to direct them. This power varies in extent in different countries, and in the same state, it often varies as regards different officials. In monarchies, and in republics like France, where monarchical traditions are still strong, the executive’s directing power (which of course means the ministry) is very great. In the United States, the executive’s power to direct his subordinates is often limited by legislative acts that specify in more or less detail the powers and duties of such officials.

Thus, Congress’s act organizing the treasury department contains no reference to any presidential power of direction and indicates that the administration of the finances is to be kept under the control of Congress rather than under the executive. Various statutes confer upon the President specific authority to issue instructions and orders to the heads of departments. But aside from specific grants of authority, the President also has a certain power of direction, which is inherent like his office. He is not obliged to show statutory authority.

The Ordinance Power.

An important power belonging to most states’ chief executive is that which is commonly known as the ordinance power le boudoir reglementary of the French, a sort of subsidiary power of legislation that takes decrees, orders, or regulations. (French réglements German, Verordnungen). This power is frequently expressly conferred on a king or a president of a republic by the constitution.

In the United States, the power is derived from the clause of the federal constitution which charges the President with the execution of the laws and in France from a somewhat similar clause which imposes upon him the duty of overseeing (surveiller) and ensuring the execution of the laws (Art. 3, Const. Law of Feb..25, 1875). In the absence of express authority in the constitution, it may be deduced from the office’s very nature as a necessary and inherent power.

It is considered a part of the royal prerogative in monarchical states in the absence of constitutional or statutory prohibitions or restrictions. Where the constitution expressly confers the power, it is usually qualified by the condition that ordinances promulgated by the executive must not modify or suspend the laws (statutes) or that they must be such only as are necessary or appropriate to the execution of the laws, or that their purpose must be merely to supply the details in the application of the laws.

Occasionally constitutions Confer on the executive an extraordinary power of ordinance making in times of emergency. Thus the constitution of Denmark empowers the king in such cases, if the legislature is not in session, to issue laws of temporary application subject to the restriction that they must not be contrary to the constitution and must be laid before the legislature at the next session.

Upon the European War outbreak in 1914, a considerable ordinance power was conferred upon the executives in most belligerent countries. Thus by the Defense of the Realm Act of Nov. 27, 1914, the British king (in council) was given power “during the continuance of the present war to issue regulations for securing the public safety and the defense of the realm” a practically unlimited authority. In pursuance of this delegation of power, an elaborate series of regulations were put into effect, which virtually placed the country under a martial law regime.

Kinds of Ordinances.

From the point of view of their nature or purpose, ordinances may be variously classified. Thus the German jurists distinguish between “law” ordinances (Rechtsverordnungen) and “administrative” ordinances (Verzualtungsverordnungen). The effect of the former is to create new law or to modify the existing law. They are essentially a Species of executive legislation and are designated by the Germans as material law in contradistinction to formal law.

The “administrative” ordinances are orders or regulations addressed to administrative authorities and contain rules governing the administrative services’ conduct or functioning. They do not, therefore, bind or affect directly private citizens. At least under the old constitution in Prussia, the latter type of ordinances could be issued by the proper administrative authority without the necessity of legislative authorization. Still, the former, after 1850, When Prussia acquired a constitution, required legislative authorization, which was often and generously granted.

Ordinances may be further classified in a threefold division: First, those who are, in their nature and effect, laws promulgated by the chief executive in pursuance of a general power of legislation conferred upon him by statute. Such are the decrees issued by the French republic president for the government of the French colonies. As a consequence of this authority, he and not the French parliament is the legislative organ for the colonies.

Second, ordinances issued by the executive in pursuance of legislative authority to regulate specific matters. Such delegations of legislative authority to the president are common in France. Thus, an act of parliament authorizes the president to determine by decree the regime of non-navigable waters, regulate the conditions of appointment and promotion of judges, modify or suspend existing laws relating to taxes, etc.

Third, ordinances are issued upon “invitation” of parliament to complete and regulate the details of the execution of a particular law. This form of the ordinance is also widespread in France. These statutes are ordinarily brief, contain only the legislature’s essential ideas, and leave the details to be supplied by ordinance.

The Ordinance Power in France

Today nearly every important act of the French parliament concludes with the familiar clause an ordinance of public administration shall determine the measures proper for assuring the present law’s execution. The ordinances issued in pursuance of this injunction complete the law. They supply the details without which it would be unenforceable. The Germans call them supplementary ordinances (Ergoinzungsverordnungen).

They constitute, says Duguit, a sort of “prolongation” of the law which they supplement. Duguit maintains, properly it would seem, that ordinances such as these are materially and intrinsically veritable acts of legislation, though not much in form.

In consequence of this practice, especially in recent years, it has come to pass that a large and important part of French legislation is in the form of ordinances, in theory, promulgated by the president, in fact by the ministers. Naturally, complaints have not been lacking that they are sometimes contrary to the existing statutes. But until 1907, their legality could not be attacked before the Council of State (the supreme administrative court of France) because the Council, considering them as a species of delegated legislation and therefore assimilate to acts of parliament, held that it had no more jurisdiction to declare them null and void than it did to pronounce a statute of parliament illegal.

However, in 1907, the Council of State abandoned its traditional view in this respect, took jurisdiction of a case involving the validity of such an ordinance, and pronounced it null and void as being more than the authority of the president who issued it. The result of this epoch-making decision is that the ordinance power of the French president, as of every administrative authority, is now subject to judicial control, as in the United States.

The Ordinance Power in the United States.

In the United States, the executive’s ordinance power is less important because of Congress’s practice and the state legislatures of framing their statutes in more detail, thus obviating the necessity of supple meting them utilizing executive regulation to render them enforceable. Nevertheless, the President’s ordinance power is very considerable, and few people are aware of the extent to which it is used or of the quantity of subsidiary legislation in the form of executive orders and regulations actually in force of the character of this administrative legislation.

Professor Fairlie says: “There are indeed, besides presidential proclamations and executive orders, many elaborate systems of executive regulations governing the transaction of business in each of the executive departments, and in the various services both Within and without these departments.”

These include organized codes of regulations for the army, the navy, the postal service, the consular service, the customs service, the internal revenue service, the coast guard, the patent office, the pension office, the land office, the Indian service, the steamboat inspection service, the immigration, and the naturalization bureaus, and the civil service rules.

In addition to long-established types of regulations, there have been many new series of regulations issued in recent years both before the World War and more recently by the new war agencies, such as the Food and Fuel Administration, the WIndustriesies Bard, and the War Trade Board. By acts of Congress in 1933 and 1934, President F. D. Roosevelt was given extensive powers of a legislative character.

In addition to this volume of subordinate legislation in presidential proclamations, orders, and regulations, there is a vast body of more specialized rules, orders, and instructions issued by the various departments, bureaus, and commissions.

The Ordinance Power in Great Britain.

In Great Britain, the king no longer has any inherent power of legislation for completing the laws utilizing proclamations or ordinances as he once had. Still, he may issue regulations addressed to the crown servants for the conduct of public affairs. Moreover, the power to make ordinances that have the force of law and binding & such upon the whole community is frequently conferred upon the crown by statute, especially in respect to such matters as education, public health, etc.

These ordinances are known as “statutory rules and orders,” They are published every year in a volume similar to that containing the statutes of parliament. The practice of delegating the power of subsidiary legislation of this kind to the crown has steadily increased in recent years until its quantity and importance have become very great.

The Military Power of the Executive.

The executive’s military power usually includes the supreme command of the army and navy and other military forces of the state. In some monarchical countries like Great Britain, it also embraces the right to declare war. However, since it belongs to parliament to provide the means of prosecuting the war, parliamentary consent is in effect necessary.

In the United States, however, this latter authority is vested in Congress, though the executive in his conduct of the country’s foreign relations can bring about a condition of affairs that will make war a practical necessity. In the German Empire, under the old constitution, the emperor could declare offensive war only with the consent of the Bundesrat.

Under the new constitution, the power to declare war and make peace rests with parliament. In Czechoslovakia, a three-fifths majority of the legislature is necessary for a declaration of war. In France, the assent of both chambers is necessary. No! where, even where the executive may initiate hostilities, can extensive war be waged for any length of time without the legislature’s approval since it and not the executive controls the means for the war’s prosecution.

Nearly everywhere the right of the executive to dispose of the forces, plan and direct the campaigns, select the commanders, establish blockades, and, in general, do whatever in his judgment may be necessary or expedient to destroy the power of the enemy and prosecute the war to a successful conclusion, is recognized.

Moreover, it belongs to the President of the United States, in particular, to occupy, hold, and govern temporarily those portions of the enemy’s country which have come under the control of the armed forces, and, to this end, he may displace the established civil authority and institute military government, and invest it with such powers as he may choose to confer upon it.

Finally, during the existence of the war, it belongs to the executive to suspend the ordinary civil guarantees that the constitution has established to protect the individual in time of peace.

As commander of the armed forces, he may establish martial law, suspend the writ of habeas corpus, declare certain acts ordinarily innocent to be military offenses, order the arrest of persons committing them, suppress newspapers, and the like. Many constitutions authorize the president, in times of emergency or grave crises when war does not exist, to declare martial law the “state of siege” as it is called in Europe and to temporarily suspend the citizens’ constitutional rights.

War always brings a vast addition to the executive’s power and enables him to assume something of the character of a dictator. Nevertheless, the experience of the past and the testimony of political thinkers almost without exception have concurred in defending the practice of concentrating the military power in the hands of a single person.

In the military organization of the state dualism is out of a place of all the cares or concerns of government, the direction of war said Alexander Hamilton:

“most peculiarly demands those qualities which distinguish the exercise of power by a single hand. The direction of war implies the direction of the common strength and the power of directing and employing the common strength form a useful and essential part in the definition of the executive authority.”

The command and application of the public force said, Chancellor Kent:

“to execute the laws, to maintain peace, and to resist foreign invasion, are powers so obviously of an executive nature and require the exercise of qualities so peculiarly adapted to this department, that they have always been exclusively appropriate to it in every well organized government on earth.”

The Pardoning Power

Finally, the right of pardon or clemency (the Droit de grace of the French) is by common consent regarded as a natural and necessary part of the executive power. Beccaria stood almost alone among the political writers of his time in condemning the practice of granting pardons to those whom the courts have convicted of a crime.

While considering it to be one of the most useful and necessary attributes of monarchs, Montesquieu did not regard it as having any place in republics. Some English lawyers of high standing, observed Chancellor Kent, have strangely concluded that it cannot exist in a republic because nothing higher is acknowledged than the magistrate. But, as Kent very properly added,

It may be fairly insisted that the power may exist with greater safety in free states than in any other government forms because abuses of the discretion unavoidably confided to the magistrate in granting pardons are better guarded against by the sense of responsibility under which he acts.

Considerations of justice and humanity require that the principle of clemency shall have a place in justice administration. No system for the administration of justice is or can be free from imperfections. It is impossible, says Esmein, that there should not occur at times in the administration of justice judicial errors, resulting in the condemnation of innocent persons.

One purpose of the pardon is to correct such errors. As Esmein remarks, it is impossible that the criminal law in fixing the punishment of crime should foresee all the extenuating circumstances that may have attended the commission of a particular offense.

The power of pardon then being required by considerations of humanity and sound public policy, the same considerations conspire, said Hamilton, to dictate that this benign prerogative should be fettered or embarrassed as little as possible.

In China (Const. 1928, Art. 87), the president may grant pardons only with the supreme court’s approval. In some of the American Union states, the executive in the exercise of this power is associated with an advisory board charged with investigating applications for clemency and making recommendations to the executive. Many constitutions except the offense of impeachment from the executive’s pardoning power, and a few make the same exception in the case of treason.

An impeachment is a form of trial usually conducted by the legislature for crimes committed by high officials, and the purpose of the exception referred to is to remove the temptation of the executive to shield public officials, especially those of his own selection, who might be his instruments or his partners in crime. Treason being a crime leveled against the immediate being of the society, when the laws have once ascertained the offender’s guilt, there seems a lightness in referring the expediency of an act of mercy towards him to the judgment of the legislature.

With these exceptions, the power of pardon is general and unqualified. So far as the President of the United States is concerned, it may be exercised before and after conviction, and it usually embraces the remission of fines and forfeitures and the granting of reprieves and commutations. It also includes the right of amnesty or the right of absolving by general proclamation large numbers of persons from the consequences of their acts, a power which considerations of humanity and public policy make a necessity in times of internal disturbance insurrection.

Miscellaneous Powers of the Chief Executive.

Such in summary are the powers commonly conferred upon or exercised by the chief executive leaving aside for the moment those which relate to legislation to be discussed in the next section. In addition to these, certain miscellaneous powers are conferred upon the chief executive by some states’ constitutions. Thus, Austria’s constitution empowers the president to create and confer professional titles, legitimize illegitimate children, and it adds that other powers may be conferred upon him by law.

That of Czechoslovakia authorizes the president to grant donations and pensions in special Cases upon recommendation of the ministry; that of Finland authorizes the president to naturalize aliens and release Finns from their nationality. In contrast, Chile authorizes the president to grant pensions and retirement allowances to widows and orphans following the laws, grant juridical personality to private corporations, and cancel the same and approve or disapprove their statutes.

By a sort of blanket clause, Chile’s constitution charges the president with the administration and government of the state. It declares that his authority extends to everything which has as its purpose the preservation of internal public order and external security, following the constitution and the laws. The long enumeration of his specific powers in the constitution does not, therefore, exhaust his authority.


Power of the Executive concerning Legislation.

” The relation of the supreme executive to the legislative organ,”

said Sidgwick: “is one of the knottiest points in constitutional construction,” and it is the nature of this relationship that serves to distinguish the two most important forms of government, the cabinet system, and the presidential system, from each other. In practice, there is no state in. The sphere of the executive power is totally separate from and independent of that of the legislature, not even those in which the presidential system of government is found.

Everywhere the executive is given a certain power of control over the legislature’s work and of participation directly or indirectly in the function of legislation. Conversely, in all states, the chief executive is subject in certain respects to the legislature’s control through its power to create offices and prescribe their duties, establish government services, appropriate money for their maintenance, and impose duties or obligations upon him.

The executive’s control over the legislature consists of the pointer to summon it and to Open, adjourn, and prorogue its sessions and, in countries having the cabinet system of government, to dissolve it and to order new elections.

In republican states, the executive’s power to convene the legislature is usually limited to the calling of extraordinary sessions in times of emergency for the consideration of special matters that need immediate attention. In most such states, either the constitution or the statutes prescribe the date for assembling the regular sessions of the legislature, and no call of the executive is necessary.

In states having the cabinet form of government, however, the legislature usually convenes only upon the executive’s call. In most cases, the executive, which, of course, means the cabinet, is required to summon it at certain stated intervals. In some states (e.g., Czechoslovakia), he must summon it upon demand of a certain number of its members.

In the former case, the legislature assembles automatically, as it were, and opens its proceedings without the participation of the executive in the latter, the formality of opening the session is a function of the executive or his representative, who performs the duty with more or less ceremony, such as the reading of a speech from the throne or the reading by the prime minister of a ministerial declaration outlining the policy of the cabinet, if it happens, to be a new one.

In the European monarchical countries, the executive’s right to prorogue the sittings of the legislature, that is, to suspend the session to a certain date in the future, is generally provided for by constitutional provision. However, in republics, such power is rarely recognized as belonging to the executive. In countries with the cabinet system of government, the executive is usually invested with adjourning the legislature subject to certain limitations.

In states having the presidential system of government, the executive’s power is usually limited to adjourning the legislature only when the two chambers are unable to agree upon a time of adjournment. In all states having the cabinet form of government, the executive is vested with the power of dissolving the legislature, or rather the popular chamber, that is, of terminating the members’ mandates and thus putting an end to the legal existence of the chamber. But generally, the exercise of this power is subject to certain limitations. With a few unimportant exceptions, it can be done only upon the advice of a responsible ministry. In most instances, the dissolution must be followed within a certain period by new elections and the new parliament’s convening.

Theoretically, the British executive is not subject to any limitations regarding the ordering of new elections and the new parliament’s summoning. Still, practically the conditions of the British parliamentary system make it a necessity.

In the republics of America where the presidential system of government prevails, generally, the executive’s right to dissolve the legislature, or either chamber of it is not recognized. The mandates of members of the legislature are terminated only by the legal expiration of the terms for which they are chosen or by resignation or expulsion.

The more direct participation of the executive in legislation consists of furnishing the legislature with information concerning the country’s legislative needs in recommending measures for its consideration sometimes, though rarely, in the initiation of legislative projects in approving or disapproving its acts and in promulgating those which are approved.

The wisdom of requiring the executive to furnish the legislature with information concerning the state of public affairs and of recommending legislation to meet the needs and conditions of the public service rests on the obvious fact that the executive, from the very nature of his office, must have more extensive sources of information concerning domestic and foreign affairs than the legislature can be expected to possess.

The true workings of the laws, observed Judge Story, the defects in the nature or arrangements of the general systems of trade, finance, and justice, and of the military, naval, and civil establishments are more readily seen and are more constantly under the View of the executive than they can be of any other department.

There is great wisdom, therefore, is not merely allowing but in requiring the President to lay before Congress all facts and information which may assist their deliberations, and enabling him at once to point out the evil and to suggest the remedy.

The Executive Veto.

The most important power of the executive in connection with legislation arises from the almost universal practice of making his approval essential to the validity of the legislature’s acts. This power of the executive to disapprove acts of the legislature is popularly known as the veto of or, as it was called by the writers of The Federalist, the president’s “qualified negative.”

In a few states, like Great Britain, the veto power is absolute and cannot be overcome by any legislature’s vote, however large. However, due to the thoroughgoing development that the cabinet system has undergone, the power of disapproval has necessarily fallen into desuetude. It will probably not be exercised again unless in very exceptional cases.

In the great majority of constitutions, the executive’s veto power is qualified; that is to say, it may be overridden by the legislature, provided an extraordinary majority of the members. Usually, two-thirds concur in passing the measure disapproved.

In France, the veto of the executive is merely suspension in character. It can be exercised simply to compel reconsideration by the legislature of measures passed by it and disapproved by the president. It is, says Esmein, a preservative against possible abuses and dangers of the parliamentary initiative.

A repassage of the vetoed measure by an ordinary majority of the members makes it a valid law, notwithstanding the executive veto’s interposition. In fact, the suspension veto has never been exercised in France a single time since the Third Republic’s establishment, and it may, therefore, be regarded as a dead letter. Since the cabinet system of government exists in France, there is not likely to be an occasion for the exercise by the president of the veto power.

The veto’s principal purposes are to prevent hasty and ill-considered action by the legislature and to furnish the executive with a means of defense against the legislature’s encroachments upon his constitutional powers. Hamilton pointed out a strong tendency, a tendency “almost irresistible” in republican governments, for the legislative authority to absorb every other.

The representatives of the people, he observed, are sometimes inclined to fancy that they are the people themselves and assert an imperious control over the other departments. As they commonly have the people on their side, they always act with such momentum to make it very difficult for the other members of the government to maintain the balance of the constitution.

A mere parchment delineation of the three departments’ boundaries, Hamilton went on to remark, is insufficient. Hence, each must be furnished with constitutional arms for its own defense against the other’s depredations. Without the power of veto, the executive might be gradually stripped of his authority and even annihilated by the legislature’s successive resolutions. The possibility of this danger is all the greater in a country like the United States, where the executive has not the right of adjournment of prorogation or dissolution.

The veto power continued Hamilton, not only serves as a “shield to the executive,” but it furnishes an additional security against the enactment of unwise legislation and establishes a salutary check upon the evil effects of faction, precipitant, and want of consideration. Where, however, the executive’s constitutional rights are not involved, in short, where the difference of opinion between the executive and the legislature relates to the wisdom or expediency of the measure, the veto power should be used sparingly. A wise executive will be inclined not to set his own judgment against that of the legislature but will yield to its public policy views.

To the argument sometimes advanced that the executive’s veto power may be employed to prevent the enactment of good laws and bad ones, it may be replied that the power cannot be effectually exercised if an extraordinary majority of the legislature are favorably disposed toward the law vetoed. Such an argument, said Hamilton, will have little weight with those who have a proper appreciation of the mischiefs of that inconstancy and mutability in the laws that form the greater blemish in our governments’ character and genius. We should rather look with favor upon every device intended to restrain the evils of our legislation evils which, since Hamilton’s day, have certainly grown to be of the first magnitude.

Where the veto power is qualified, that is, where the legislature may overcome the objection of the executive, a larger number than a bare majority concurring, the means are provided for enabling the executive to point out the defects of legislation submitted for his approval and of compelling a reconsideration by the legislature of its former action. In short, when exercised, it is in effect an appeal to the legislature itself and merely asks a revision of its own judgment. Especially is this true in the United States, where the executive is obliged to state the reasons for his objections and where the legislature is required to reconsider measures vetoed.

The Immunity of the Executive from the Judicial Process.

It may be laid down as a preposition of almost universal application that the chief executive cannot control the ordinary courts either for criminal or political policies.

In the United States, the President is responsible for. Still, one body for his criminal acts, namely, the Senate organized as a court of impeachment, a court whose jurisdiction over the President is limited to removing him from office and disqualifying him from again holding public office. He cannot be arrested or in any manner restrained of his liberty or interfered with by order of any court or compelled to obey any judicial process or to give evidence either by personal testimony or deposition in any court.

The courts of the United States have uniformly declined to issue processes against him or to restrain him by injunction or in any way control his discretionary authority. However, the immunity of the President from responsibility to the courts for his criminal acts ceases with the expiration of his term of office. As soon as he becomes a private citizen, the courts may take his person’s jurisdiction and compel him to answer for his misconduct.

Moreover, the courts have no scruples against inquiring into the legality of the orders and regulations issued by him and declaring them null and void when in their opinion, they are not authorized by the constitution or laws. Furthermore, the chief executive’s immunity does not belong to his subordinates, not even the members of his cabinet, Over them, the courts freely exercise control, and the orders of the President are no defense for violations of the constitution and laws by them.

As the President acts for the most part through subordinates, the courts are thus enabled to restrain him from administering the government to violate the constitution and the laws.

Some doctrinaires have criticized the executive’s exemption from the control of the courts to survive the monarchical doctrine that the king can do no wrong. Hence, it is dangerous and inconsistent with the theories of republican government. However, experience and reason teach that the principle rests upon political necessity considerations and sound public policy.

It is impossible to subject the supreme head of the government to the control of the courts without impairing his independence, interfering with the discharge of his high duties, and destroying the executive power’s unity. To attempt it would lead to useless conflicts between the executive and the judiciary, since, controlling as he does the machinery of execution, he might successfully resist the execution of judicial process directed against him or pardon himself of any punishment court might attempt to inflict upon him.

The experience shows that the dangers prophesied from the executive’s personal independence are mostly imaginary. Indeed, they are far less than those who would follow from subjecting him to the constant interference of the courts and exposing the people to the dangers of anarchy.

Methods by Which the President May Be Removed from Office in Other Countries-

In most other republics, the president’s immunity and the procedure by which he may be removed from office are similar in principle to those in the United States. In France, he may be impeached by the Chamber of Deputies, apparently for the crime of high treason only, and tried by the Senate constituted as a high court of justice. But singularly enough, neither the constitution nor the statutes of France contain any definition of the crime of high treason or prescribe the punishment therefor.

Does it belong to the Senate in these circumstances to determine whether the activities for which the president has been impeached is high treason and to fix the punishment therefore in case it is so held? It is a principle of French criminal law expressly affirmed by the Declaration of Rights in 1789 that no one may be punished except in virtue of a law that, in short, where there is no law, there is no penalty.

No case has arisen in France involving the application of the constitutional provision relative to the president’s trial for treason. In Chile, the president may be impeached by the chamber of deputies during his term and for six months after its expiration for acts by which the honor or security of the state may be gravely compromised, or the constitution or laws openly infringed and tried before the senate, which may by a two-thirds majority pronounce him guilty, in which case he is automatically removed from office.

The president of Brazil may be impeached by the chamber of deputies for both ordinary and official crimes. He is tried before the federal supreme court for the latter, before the senate. China’s president is declared to be immune from criminal prosecution while in office, except that he may be impeached for treason by the house of representatives (by a two-thirds vote) and tried by the senate.

If convicted by a two-thirds majority, he shall be expelled from office and further prosecuted before the supreme court. Austria’s president may be impeached for violation of the federal constitution by the two chambers in joint assembly and tried before the supreme constitutional court.

In case of conviction, he forfeits his office and may also be temporarily deprived of his political rights. Czechoslovakia president may be impeached (offenses not specified) by the chamber of deputies by a two-thirds majority and tried before the senate. Poland’s president may be impeached by the lower chamber (by a three-fifths majority) for betraying the country, violating the constitution, and for criminal offenses. In these cases, he is tried before the supreme court.

The new constitution of Germany declares that the president shall not be subject to criminal prosecution (for ordinary crimes) without the Reichstag’s consent. Still, he may be impeached by the latter body (by a two-thirds majority) and tried before the supreme judicial court for wrongful violation of the constitution or laws of the Reich? However, nothing is said concerning the punishment that the court may inflict if he is found guilty. It was probably the intention of the authors of the constitution that this should be regulated by statute.

Existing Methods Evaluated.-

Such are the usual methods by which the chief executives of republican states may be removed from office. The general principle IS the same everywhere, except that the body that hears the charges and renders the decision is in some states the legislature’s upper chamber, while in others, it is the supreme court. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Trial by a legislative chamber means trial by a political assembly. The requirement of an extraordinary vote to convict does not necessarily ensure the accused against conviction for political reasons. Trial by the supreme court affords greater assurance that the decision will be unaffected by political considerations. Still, it has the disadvantage of throwing upon the court the doubtful task of deciding What may, in fact, be a political rather than a strictly judicial question. On the whole, the latter method would seem to be preferable.

Popular Recall of the German President.

In one respect, the president of the German republic’s situation differs from that of all other republican chiefs of state. He may be recalled before the expiration of his term by a vote of the people. By a two-thirds vote of the Reichstag, the question of his removal may be submitted to a popular referendum. When such a resolution has been passed, the president is automatically suspended from office pending the electorate’s verdict.

The president may prevent the Reichstag from taking such action through his power of dissolution. Still, in that case, he would be under the necessity of obtaining the chancellor’s countersignature to the decree of dissolution. Since the chancellor is responsible for the Reichstag, it is doubtful Whether it could be obtained.

The Reichstag, however, is deterred from taking action looking to the recall of the president, unless it is reasonably certain that its proposal for his recall will be approved by the electorate since, by the terms of the constitution, a negative vote will have the effect of automatically dissolving the Reichstag. The effect of a popular verdict favorable to the president also amounts to the reelection of him, presumably for a full term of seven years.

Power of the French Parliament to Force the Resignation of the President-

The situation of the French president, in practice, is still more precarious concerning his tenure. Although by the constitution, he is elected for a term of seven years and can be removed only by impeachment and conviction for treason by the Senate, it is now apparently established by precedent that he may be forced by the hostile attitude of parliament to resign before I the expiration of his term.

Grevy’s resignation was demanded by parliament, and he complied with the demand. More recently still, Millerand was compelled to do likewise by the refusal of parliament to give its confidence to any ministry appointed by him, with the avowed purpose of compelling him to resign. He and his supporters vigorously protested that the act of parliament in thus compelling him to abandon his office before the legal expiration of his term was a violation of the constitution, but the protest was without effect.


The Presidency of the United States. If we leave aside the Swiss executives, which is sui generis because of its collegial organization and its peculiar relation to the legislature, the existing executives of republican states fall into three fairly well-differentiated classes, American, French, and German. The American type includes the presidency and governorship of the United States and the Latin American states’ presidencies, which have imitated the example of the United States.

The characteristic features of the office in these countries are, as already pointed out, the chief executive almost complete independence of the legislature, in respect to his mode of election, his tenure, the sources of his power, and how he exercises the authority conferred upon him by the constitution or which, as is sometimes contended, may be regarded as inherent the nature of his office.

His position is one of almost absolute irresponsibility to the legislature regarding his political acts and policies. As pointed out in an earlier chapter, his responsibility to the electorate that chooses him is practically unenforceable, unlike the presidents of cabinet governed republics, the American president’s Republics (except, of course, the few like Chile, which has the cabinet system) actually exercise, subject to no direct control by the legislature, the powers which the constitution confers upon them, and the same is true of the governors of states in the United States.

Lord Bryce once remarked that the United States’ presidency was generally recognized to be the greatest political office in the world. The office has often been characterized as monarchical in character because of the incumbent’s actual irresponsibility either to the people or their legislative representatives.

The late President Wilson pointed out that in the hands of a strong man, unafraid of responsibility and having the gift of leadership, the office’s power and influence are nearly unlimited. He himself attributed the President a triple role first, that of executive or administrative head of the government, the legal or constitutional role second, that of the leader of his political party and third, the guide and leader of the nation in legislation. According to Mr. Wilson, as the leader of his party, it belongs to the President to exercise a dominant role in the formulation of the party program. Since he alone of those who represent the country is chosen by it as a whole, he alone can be properly regarded as the spokesman of the country it belongs to him to assume the leadership in bringing about the enactment into laws of the measures in favor of which the nation has pronounced.

To this end, he is not limited to making perfunctory recommendations to congress and occasionally vetoing a bill which he disapproves, but may intervene personally with leading members by argument and persuasion, refuse to accept the recommendations of recalcitrant or hostile members for appointments, may make direct appeals to public opinion and in other ways employ pressure and use the whip hand to cause Congress to give effect to the policies and measures which he advocates. Mr. Wilson and some other Presidents before him were able to carry out this executive leadership theory with some success. Still, it has naturally found vigorous opponents. In practice, most Presidents have acted upon the negative principle that the leadership in legislation properly belongs to Congress and not to the President.

The Presidency of the French Republic.-

The presidential office in France represents the antithesis of the type described above. The French constitution is most generous in the extent of the powers which it confers upon the president. With the exception 3of the veto, it gives him virtually all the powers that are conferred by the constitution of the United States upon the American president and also other powers which commonly belong to kings, such as the power to convoke, prorogue, and adjourn the parliament, to dissolve the Chamber of Deputies (with the consent of the Senate), to introduce bills in parliament, to appoint commissaries to appear therein to give information and explanations, to create new offices, and to make appropriations of money from the treasury during the recess of parliament to meet unforeseen emergencies, etc.

The national assembly which framed the constitution apparently believed that it was creating an office of great power, one which would be independent of parliament. For this very reason, it was attacked by the republicans as inconsistent with true republicanism and even dangerous.

It turned out, however, that the fears of the republicans were unnecessary. After enumerating the president’s powers, the constitution proceeded to paralyze him to imprison him in an iron cage, as some French writers have characterized it by adding a brief clause that states that a minister must countersign every act of the president. All official acts by the president~appointments, dismissals, introduction of bills in parliament and the others ware in the form of decrees, each of which must be signed by a minister responsible, not to the president but the parliament the consequence of his signature.

Thus the president was placed under the guardianship of the ministers who are in turn dependent upon parliament. As a result, he can perform no official act, Whiis in the ministers’ opinion, parliament would not approve. Therefore, he is a dependency of parliament, and it is parliament, not the president, who really governs.

Commentators on the French constitution are accustomed to saying that the only power conferred by the constitution upon him can exercise freely and without the necessity of obtaining a minister’s consent to preside over national festivals. To this, Casimir-Perier, who resigned the office in a Spirit of some disgust after having occupied it for only six months, added the president’s power to send his resignation to parliament. He said the president was little more than an automaton and the record of his official acts consists of nothing but an autograph collection.

As stated above, the president is not only in large degree a figurehead, but it is now established by precedent that the parliament may, whenever it sees fit, compel him to resign. Aside from the conditions of the parliamentary system, which necessarily reduce the president’s role to a minimum, the mediocre, negative character of many of the men who have occupied the office has contributed to its enfeeblement. When Gravy became president after McMahon’s resignation in 1879, he expressed the view that the office was intended to afford an honorable retirement for weary veterans of long political struggles and that the duty of the president was to give advice, to efface himself, and not to act.

His own course as president was strictly in accord with that conception. Some of his successors, notably Loubet and Fallieres, imitated his example. At the first meeting of his cabinet, the former outlined the impersonal negative role he actually played. “I shall advise you,” he said, ”and at times criticize, but there will be no Elysée policy.” Several presidents with strong personalities have wished to exercise independently the powers that the constitution confers upon them and play a more active role in the country’s government.

Casimir~ Perier even announced his intention “not to neglect” the exercise of these powers at the time of his election. Still, he found it impossible given the parliament’s attitude and has always taken regarding its own right to govern. He resigned six months after his election and years afterward (1905) in a letter to the Temps. He described the president as an automaton without power, condemned to play the undignified role of signing whatever documents the ministers laid before him. Poincare entertained the same view of the presidential office, and he too desired to play a more important part in the country’s government. It must be admitted that in the field of foreign relations, at least he achieved some success.

When Millerand became president in 1920, he made known in no uncertain and not altogether tactful language his intention to do what he could to have the actual powers of the French president extended by constitutional amendment if necessary to enable him to play somewhat the same role as the President of the United States does. He also intimated that his ministers, although responsible to parliament, would be expected to accept his own views of public policy.

These utterances, which were regarded as violating the constitution, coupled with his taking sides with the Nationalist Party in the parliamentary elections of 1924, which was also regarded as conflicting with the spirit of the constitution, were the chief reasons parliament to force his resignation in 1924.

Doumergue, his successor, announced that his own policy would be that of an impartial neutral and that he would bow to parliament’s will. Like Grevy, Loubet, and Fallieres, he was little more than a ceremonial figurehead. Considering that parliament has refused to regard the president as a co-equal collaborator, has insisted upon controlling him, and has compelled those who have attempted to exercise the powers which the constitution gives them to resign, it is hard to see how the president of the French republic can ever be more than what he has often been described by French writers a prisoner in an iron cage, a mute idol in a pagoda, a mere dummy, a useless symbol to please the people, the emaciated shadow of an ROI faineant, etc.

The question has often been discussed in France as to the necessity or utility of such a choice. For a long time, its abolition was demanded by the Radical and Socialist parties, one of its leading advocates being Clemenceau (who, however, in 1921 was a leading and active candidate for the office).

There may be some excuse, they argued, for a hereditary figurehead in a monarchy, but there is no place for an elective one in a republic. Aside from the selection of the prime minister when a new cabinet is to be appointed function which might very well be discharged by the parliament itself or by a committee of parliament, the actual role of the president is ceremonial and decorative: presiding on the occasion of national fetes, attending inaugurations of various kinds, including the races and the annual military review at Longchamps, Opening expositions, conferring decorations awarding the grand prize, entertaining distinguished personages, and the like.

Nevertheless, most French men believe that chief of state of some kind, and exalted functionary to represent the state in its international relations, receive diplomatic representatives from foreign states, and personify the republic’s majesty, is desirable. Such a person, moreover, if he is esteemed and respected abroad, is capable Of exerting a valuable influence in the conduct of the foreign relations of the country, especially in concluding alliances and understandings with the heads of other states, as the examples of Faure, Carnot, and Poincaré showed. Parliament would doubtless tolerate the president’s positive action in this field if it were not partisan or unduly open.

Finally, the presidency has its value as a “magistracy of influence,” as Barthelemy characterizes it. Prevost-Paradol once described the president as a surveillance of the state. If he is a strong, popularly esteemed, impartial leader, he will exert a moral authority and a moderating influence in a country where party passions are strong, which will be wholesome and valuable.

The Presidency of the German Republic.-

The presidential office in Germany, from 1919 to 1934, differed from the American and French models. The president of the German republic was neither a powerful functionary such as the United States president nor a figurehead like the president of France. He occupied a position and played an intermediate character somewhere between the two, although approximating more nearly France. Like France, Germany had the cabinet system of government, which necessarily limited the role of the titular head of the state.

Among the framers of the German constitution, the Independent Socialists were opposed to the creation of the office of president on the ground that if the titular of the office were vested with the actual exercise of power as in the United States, Germany would be no better off than she was under the monarchy. On the other hand, if a genuine cabinet system were established under which the government would be carried on by ministers responsible to parliament, the president would be limited to playing a purely ornamental role, which in the independents’ opinion was not worth the cost.

The Prussian, Badenese, and Bavarian republics had decided to give up a titular chief executive’s luxury and to rely upon ministries, and the Reich should follow their example. However, a large majority of the members of the national assembly were in favor of a president of some sort. They might, therefore, choose between the three existing types, the Swiss, the American, and the French. But not one of these commended itself to the Swiss-type assembly because it was collegial in the organization, the American type. After all, it was regarded as autocratic and dangerous, the French. After all, it did not comport with the German conception of strong executive power.

The Germans had no taste for figureheads. It was argued that Germany must have a strong president who would worthily represent and personify the majesty of the state and act as a counterbalance to a parliament that might otherwise become omnipotent and dangerous. The office finally agreed on was a compound that embodied certain features of both the American and the French conceptions.

The American principle that the executive organ should be coordinate with the legislative organ was adopted, and this involved the rejection of the French principle of the election of the president by the legislature, which, as French experience had demonstrated, reduced the president to the position of a dependency of the legislature.

On the other hand, the French principle of ministerial responsibility to parliament, coupled with the president’s political irresponsibility, was introduced. But to ensure that the president would not be reduced to a figurehead’s role, his position as head of the state was strengthened by provision for his election by the people as in the United States.

Thus, while the Germans preferred a parliamentary government system, they preferred a parliamentarian whose mechanism Was controlled not by the legislature but by the people. They also preferred a system in which the ministry alone, and not the president also, as is virtually the case in France, should be responsible to the legislature.

More logical, democratically, than the United States, they also provided for the president’s popular recall. Much larger powers were also conferred upon him, especially in respect to legislation, than are conferred upon France’s president. Thus, although he was not given the power of veto, such as belongs to the President of the United States, he might submit it to a popular referendum if he disapproved of a bill passed by the Reichstag.

Therefore, he was not obliged as the president of France to promulgate it when it did not meet his approval. Likewise, if there was a disagreement between the two chambers over a bill, the president could submit the issue to a referendum. Article 48 gave him the power to declare a state of siege, suspend various constitutional rights of the citizen, and to govern virtually as a dictator, a power which was actually exercised more than once, whereas, in France, a state of siege can be declared only by parliament.

The president was also given the power to dissolve the lower chamber, whereas, in France, this power can be exercised by the president only with the consent of the senate. It is true that the president’s acts required for their validity the countersignature of the chancellor or some other minister, who was himself responsible to the Reichstag a requirement which so far as it relates to the power of dissolution was vigorously opposed by the parties of the Right in the National Assembly, on the ground, they argued, that the president would never be able to obtain the countersignature of a minister to the dissolution of a chamber of which he was himself a member and to which he was responsible.

The right of the president in case of a conflict between him and the chamber to dissolve the chamber and appeal to the people ought not, they said, be dependent upon the will of the chamber itself. Preuss, the principal author of the constitution, however, insisted upon the necessity of the countersignature. He argued that if (the president: and the ministry were in agreement, tcountersignatureure could be easily obtained ii van the ministry were opposed to dissolution or a referendum, it would resign, and the president would find a new chancellor who would give his signature.

Notwithstanding the necessity that the president was under to obtain ministerial approval of his acts, as, in France, his dependence upon parliament was considerably less than that of the French president. He could exercise his constitutional powers with greater freedom from parliamentary control.

It was clearly the intention of the authors of the constitution that the Reichstag should be given full political control over the government without meddling with the details of administration, as the French parliament so often does. In fact, a proposal made in the national assembly to give the Reichstag power to issue binding directions to the government was rejected. The parliament couldn’t reduce him to subjection and compel him to resign as the French parliament may.

If there was an irreconcilable conflict between him and the parliament, he could submit the conflict to the people for the decision, and if the parliament desired his resignation, its proposal for his recall, which could be made only by a two-thirds majority, had to be submitted to the people for their decision.

In this respect, his independence of parliamentary control was much greater than is that of the French president, who can be forced to resign by the vote of a simple majority of the Chamber of Deputies. As already stated, the fact that be derived his office from popular election insured him, certainly if he was a popular and highly esteemed chief magistrate, a position of strength and influence which the French president, elected as he is by parliament,_can never be sure of.

These arrangements were greatly altered in 1933 and 1934 by the Hitler dictatorship. The ministry was empowered to legislate without the parliament’s approval, and in practice, the president was reduced to the role of a figurehead. Finally, in August 1934, following the death of President Von Hindenburg, the powers and duties of the office were added to those of the chancellor, Adolf Hitler, who was to combine in his person both offices. Whether the office of president will ever be separated again from the chancellorship, or whether a king or emperor will replace both, is a matter on which it would be unsafe to make a prediction.

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