FEDERALIST No. 67
The Executive Department
From the New York Packet.
Tuesday, March 11, 1788.
To the People of the State of New York:
THE constitution of the executive department of the proposed government,
claims next our attention.
There is hardly any part of the system which could have been attended
with greater difficulty in the arrangement of it than this; and there
is, perhaps, none which has been inveighed against with less candor or
criticised with less judgment.
Here the writers against the Constitution seem to have taken pains to
signalize their talent of misrepresentation. Calculating upon the
aversion of the people to monarchy, they have endeavored to enlist all
their jealousies and apprehensions in opposition to the intended
President of the United States; not merely as the embryo, but as the
full-grown progeny, of that detested parent. To establish the pretended
affinity, they have not scrupled to draw resources even from the regions
of fiction. The authorities of a magistrate, in few instances greater,
in some instances less, than those of a governor of New York, have been
magnified into more than royal prerogatives. He has been decorated with
attributes superior in dignity and splendor to those of a king of Great
Britain. He has been shown to us with the diadem sparkling on his brow
and the imperial purple flowing in his train. He has been seated on a
throne surrounded with minions and mistresses, giving audience to the
envoys of foreign potentates, in all the supercilious pomp of majesty.
The images of Asiatic despotism and voluptuousness have scarcely been
wanting to crown the exaggerated scene. We have been taught to tremble
at the terrific visages of murdering janizaries, and to blush at the
unveiled mysteries of a future seraglio.
Attempts so extravagant as these to disfigure or, it might rather be
said, to metamorphose the object, render it necessary to take an
accurate view of its real nature and form: in order as well to ascertain
its true aspect and genuine appearance, as to unmask the disingenuity
and expose the fallacy of the counterfeit resemblances which have been
so insidiously, as well as industriously, propagated.
In the execution of this task, there is no man who would not find it an
arduous effort either to behold with moderation, or to treat with
seriousness, the devices, not less weak than wicked, which have been
contrived to pervert the public opinion in relation to the subject. They
so far exceed the usual though unjustifiable licenses of party artifice,
that even in a disposition the most candid and tolerant, they must force
the sentiments which favor an indulgent construction of the conduct of
political adversaries to give place to a voluntary and unreserved
indignation. It is impossible not to bestow the imputation of deliberate
imposture and deception upon the gross pretense of a similitude between
a king of Great Britain and a magistrate of the character marked out for
that of the President of the United States. It is still more impossible
to withhold that imputation from the rash and barefaced expedients which
have been employed to give success to the attempted imposition.
In one instance, which I cite as a sample of the general spirit, the
temerity has proceeded so far as to ascribe to the President of the
United States a power which by the instrument reported is EXPRESSLY
allotted to the Executives of the individual States. I mean the power of
filling casual vacancies in the Senate.
This bold experiment upon the discernment of his countrymen has been
hazarded by a writer who (whatever may be his real merit) has had no
inconsiderable share in the applauses of his party; and who, upon
this false and unfounded suggestion, has built a series of observations
equally false and unfounded. Let him now be confronted with the evidence
of the fact, and let him, if he be able, justify or extenuate the
shameful outrage he has offered to the dictates of truth and to the
rules of fair dealing.
The second clause of the second section of the second article empowers
the President of the United States "to nominate, and 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 United States whose appointments are NOT in the Constitution OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR, and WHICH SHALL BE ESTABLISHED BY LAW." Immediately after this clause follows another in these words: "The President shall have power to fill up all VACANCIES that may happen DURING THE RECESS OF THE SENATE, by granting commissions which shall EXPIRE AT THE END OF THEIR NEXT SESSION." It is from this last provision that the pretended power of the President to fill vacancies in the Senate has been deduced. A slight attention to the connection of the clauses, and to the obvious meaning of the terms, will satisfy us that the deduction is not even colorable.
The first of these two clauses, it is clear, only provides a mode for
appointing such officers, "whose appointments are NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR in the Constitution, and which SHALL BE ESTABLISHED BY LAW"; of course it cannot extend to the appointments of senators, whose appointments are OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR in the Constitution, and who are ESTABLISHED BY THE CONSTITUTION, and will not require a future establishment by law. This position will hardly be contested.
The last of these two clauses, it is equally clear, cannot be understood
to comprehend the power of filling vacancies in the Senate, for the
following reasons: First. The relation in which that clause stands to
the other, which declares the general mode of appointing officers of the
United States, denotes it to be nothing more than a supplement to the
other, for the purpose of establishing an auxiliary method of
appointment, in cases to which the general method was inadequate. The
ordinary power of appointment is confined to the President and Senate
JOINTLY, and can therefore only be exercised during the session of the
Senate; but as it would have been improper to oblige this body to be
continually in session for the appointment of officers and as vacancies
might happen IN THEIR RECESS, which it might be necessary for the public service to fill without delay, the succeeding clause is evidently
intended to authorize the President, SINGLY, to make temporary
appointments "during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions
which shall expire at the end of their next session." Second. If this
clause is to be considered as supplementary to the one which precedes,
the VACANCIES of which it speaks must be construed to relate to the
"officers" described in the preceding one; and this, we have seen,
excludes from its description the members of the Senate. Third. The
time within which the power is to operate, "during the recess of the
Senate," and the duration of the appointments, "to the end of the next
session" of that body, conspire to elucidate the sense of the provision,
which, if it had been intended to comprehend senators, would naturally
have referred the temporary power of filling vacancies to the recess of
the State legislatures, who are to make the permanent appointments, and
not to the recess of the national Senate, who are to have no concern in
those appointments; and would have extended the duration in office of
the temporary senators to the next session of the legislature of the
State, in whose representation the vacancies had happened, instead of
making it to expire at the end of the ensuing session of the national
Senate. The circumstances of the body authorized to make the permanent
appointments would, of course, have governed the modification of a power
which related to the temporary appointments; and as the national Senate
is the body, whose situation is alone contemplated in the clause upon
which the suggestion under examination has been founded, the vacancies
to which it alludes can only be deemed to respect those officers in
whose appointment that body has a concurrent agency with the President.
But last, the first and second clauses of the third section of the
first article, not only obviate all possibility of doubt, but destroy
the pretext of misconception. The former provides, that "the Senate of
the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State,
chosen BY THE LEGISLATURE THEREOF for six years"; and the latter
directs, that, "if vacancies in that body should happen by resignation
or otherwise, DURING THE RECESS OF THE LEGISLATURE OF ANY STATE, the Executive THEREOF may make temporary appointments until the NEXT MEETING OF THE LEGISLATURE, which shall then fill such vacancies." Here is an express power given, in clear and unambiguous terms, to the State Executives, to fill casual vacancies in the Senate, by temporary
appointments; which not only invalidates the supposition, that the clause before considered could have been intended to confer that power
upon the President of the United States, but proves that this supposition, destitute as it is even of the merit of plausibility, must have originated in an intention to deceive the people, too palpable to be obscured by sophistry, too atrocious to be palliated by hypocrisy.
I have taken the pains to select this instance of misrepresentation, and
to place it in a clear and strong light, as an unequivocal proof of the
unwarrantable arts which are practiced to prevent a fair and impartial
judgment of the real merits of the Constitution submitted to the consideration of the people. Nor have I scrupled, in so flagrant a case, to allow myself a severity of animadversion little congenial with the general spirit of these papers. I hesitate not to submit it to the decision of any candid and honest adversary of the proposed government, whether language can furnish epithets of too much asperity, for so shameless and so prostitute an attempt to impose on the citizens of America.
1. See CATO, No. V.
2. Article I, section 3, clause 1.