The Same Subject Continued, and Re-Eligibility of the Executive
From the Independent Journal.
Wednesday, March 19, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE administration of government, in its largest sense, comprehends all
the operations of the body politic, whether legislative, executive, or
judiciary; but in its most usual, and perhaps its most precise
signification. it is limited to executive details, and falls peculiarly
within the province of the executive department. The actual conduct of
foreign negotiations, the preparatory plans of finance, the application
and disbursement of the public moneys in conformity to the general
appropriations of the legislature, the arrangement of the army and navy,
the directions of the operations of war -- these, and other matters of a
like nature, constitute what seems to be most properly understood by the
administration of government. The persons, therefore, to whose immediate
management these different matters are committed, ought to be considered
as the assistants or deputies of the chief magistrate, and on this
account, they ought to derive their offices from his appointment, at
least from his nomination, and ought to be subject to his
superintendence. This view of the subject will at once suggest to us the
intimate connection between the duration of the executive magistrate in
office and the stability of the system of administration. To reverse and
undo what has been done by a predecessor, is very often considered by a
successor as the best proof he can give of his own capacity and desert;
and in addition to this propensity, where the alteration has been the
result of public choice, the person substituted is warranted in
supposing that the dismission of his predecessor has proceeded from a
dislike to his measures; and that the less he resembles him, the more he
will recommend himself to the favor of his constituents. These
considerations, and the influence of personal confidences and
attachments, would be likely to induce every new President to promote a
change of men to fill the subordinate stations; and these causes
together could not fail to occasion a disgraceful and ruinous mutability
in the administration of the government.

With a positive duration of considerable extent, I connect the
circumstance of re-eligibility. The first is necessary to give to the
officer himself the inclination and the resolution to act his part well,
and to the community time and leisure to observe the tendency of his
measures, and thence to form an experimental estimate of their merits.
The last is necessary to enable the people, when they see reason to
approve of his conduct, to continue him in his station, in order to
prolong the utility of his talents and virtues, and to secure to the
government the advantage of permanency in a wise system of

Nothing appears more plausible at first sight, nor more ill-founded upon
close inspection, than a scheme which in relation to the present point
has had some respectable advocates -- I mean that of continuing the chief
magistrate in office for a certain time, and then excluding him from it,
either for a limited period or forever after. This exclusion, whether
temporary or perpetual, would have nearly the same effects, and these
effects would be for the most part rather pernicious than salutary.

One ill effect of the exclusion would be a diminution of the inducements
to good behavior. There are few men who would not feel much less zeal in
the discharge of a duty when they were conscious that the advantages of
the station with which it was connected must be relinquished at a
determinate period, than when they were permitted to entertain a hope of
obtaining, by meriting, a continuance of them. This position will not be
disputed so long as it is admitted that the desire of reward is one of
the strongest incentives of human conduct; or that the best security for
the fidelity of mankind is to make their interests coincide with their
duty. Even the love of fame, the ruling passion of the noblest minds,
which would prompt a man to plan and undertake extensive and arduous
enterprises for the public benefit, requiring considerable time to
mature and perfect them, if he could flatter himself with the prospect
of being allowed to finish what he had begun, would, on the contrary,
deter him from the undertaking, when he foresaw that he must quit the
scene before he could accomplish the work, and must commit that,
together with his own reputation, to hands which might be unequal or
unfriendly to the task. The most to be expected from the generality of
men, in such a situation, is the negative merit of not doing harm,
instead of the positive merit of doing good.

Another ill effect of the exclusion would be the temptation to sordid
views, to peculation, and, in some instances, to usurpation. An
avaricious man, who might happen to fill the office, looking forward to
a time when he must at all events yield up the emoluments he enjoyed,
would feel a propensity, not easy to be resisted by such a man, to make
the best use of the opportunity he enjoyed while it lasted, and might
not scruple to have recourse to the most corrupt expedients to make the
harvest as abundant as it was transitory; though the same man, probably,
with a different prospect before him, might content himself with the
regular perquisites of his situation, and might even be unwilling to
risk the consequences of an abuse of his opportunities. His avarice
might be a guard upon his avarice. Add to this that the same man might
be vain or ambitious, as well as avaricious. And if he could expect to
prolong his honors by his good conduct, he might hesitate to sacrifice
his appetite for them to his appetite for gain. But with the prospect
before him of approaching an inevitable annihilation, his avarice would
be likely to get the victory over his caution, his vanity, or his

An ambitious man, too, when he found himself seated on the summit of his
country's honors, when he looked forward to the time at which he must
descend from the exalted eminence for ever, and reflected that no
exertion of merit on his part could save him from the unwelcome reverse;
such a man, in such a situation, would be much more violently tempted to
embrace a favorable conjuncture for attempting the prolongation of his
power, at every personal hazard, than if he had the probability of
answering the same end by doing his duty.

Would it promote the peace of the community, or the stability of the
government to have half a dozen men who had had credit enough to be
raised to the seat of the supreme magistracy, wandering among the people
like discontented ghosts, and sighing for a place which they were
destined never more to possess?

A third ill effect of the exclusion would be, the depriving the
community of the advantage of the experience gained by the chief
magistrate in the exercise of his office. That experience is the parent
of wisdom, is an adage the truth of which is recognized by the wisest as
well as the simplest of mankind. What more desirable or more essential
than this quality in the governors of nations? Where more desirable or
more essential than in the first magistrate of a nation? Can it be wise
to put this desirable and essential quality under the ban of the
Constitution, and to declare that the moment it is acquired, its
possessor shall be compelled to abandon the station in which it was
acquired, and to which it is adapted? This, nevertheless, is the precise
import of all those regulations which exclude men from serving their
country, by the choice of their fellowcitizens, after they have by a
course of service fitted themselves for doing it with a greater degree
of utility.

A fourth ill effect of the exclusion would be the banishing men from
stations in which, in certain emergencies of the state, their presence
might be of the greatest moment to the public interest or safety. There
is no nation which has not, at one period or another, experienced an
absolute necessity of the services of particular men in particular
situations; perhaps it would not be too strong to say, to the
preservation of its political existence. How unwise, therefore, must be
every such self-denying ordinance as serves to prohibit a nation from
making use of its own citizens in the manner best suited to its
exigencies and circumstances! Without supposing the personal
essentiality of the man, it is evident that a change of the chief
magistrate, at the breaking out of a war, or at any similar crisis, for
another, even of equal merit, would at all times be detrimental to the
community, inasmuch as it would substitute inexperience to experience,
and would tend to unhinge and set afloat the already settled train of
the administration.

A fifth ill effect of the exclusion would be, that it would operate as a
constitutional interdiction of stability in the administration. By
necessitating a change of men, in the first office of the nation, it
would necessitate a mutability of measures. It is not generally to be
expected, that men will vary and measures remain uniform. The contrary
is the usual course of things. And we need not be apprehensive that
there will be too much stability, while there is even the option of
changing; nor need we desire to prohibit the people from continuing
their confidence where they think it may be safely placed, and where, by
constancy on their part, they may obviate the fatal inconveniences of
fluctuating councils and a variable policy.

These are some of the disadvantages which would flow from the principle
of exclusion. They apply most forcibly to the scheme of a perpetual
exclusion; but when we consider that even a partial exclusion would
always render the readmission of the person a remote and precarious
object, the observations which have been made will apply nearly as fully
to one case as to the other.

What are the advantages promised to counterbalance these disadvantages?
They are represented to be: 1st, greater independence in the magistrate;
2d, greater security to the people. Unless the exclusion be perpetual,
there will be no pretense to infer the first advantage. But even in that
case, may he have no object beyond his present station, to which he may
sacrifice his independence? May he have no connections, no friends, for
whom he may sacrifice it? May he not be less willing by a firm conduct,
to make personal enemies, when he acts under the impression that a time
is fast approaching, on the arrival of which he not only MAY, but MUST,
be exposed to their resentments, upon an equal, perhaps upon an
inferior, footing? It is not an easy point to determine whether his
independence would be most promoted or impaired by such an arrangement.

As to the second supposed advantage, there is still greater reason to
entertain doubts concerning it. If the exclusion were to be perpetual, a
man of irregular ambition, of whom alone there could be reason in any
case to entertain apprehension, would, with infinite reluctance, yield
to the necessity of taking his leave forever of a post in which his
passion for power and pre-eminence had acquired the force of habit. And
if he had been fortunate or adroit enough to conciliate the good-will of
the people, he might induce them to consider as a very odious and
unjustifiable restraint upon themselves, a provision which was
calculated to debar them of the right of giving a fresh proof of their
attachment to a favorite. There may be conceived circumstances in which
this disgust of the people, seconding the thwarted ambition of such a
favorite, might occasion greater danger to liberty, than could ever
reasonably be dreaded from the possibility of a perpetuation in office,
by the voluntary suffrages of the community, exercising a constitutional

There is an excess of refinement in the idea of disabling the people to
continue in office men who had entitled themselves, in their opinion, to
approbation and confidence; the advantages of which are at best
speculative and equivocal, and are overbalanced by disadvantages far
more certain and decisive.