Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the party to appear, at a given day, before them, to answer the articles. The process is served by the sergeantat-arms of the Senate, and due return is made thereof under oath.

$ 128. The articles thus exhibited, need not, and indeed do not, pursue the strict form and accuracy of an indictment. They are sometimes quite general in the form of the allegations ; but always contain, or ought to contain, so much certainty, as to enable the party to put himself upon the proper defence, and also, in case of an acquittal, to avail himself of it, as a bar to another impeachment. Additional articles may be exhibited, perhaps, at any stage of the prosecution.

$ 129. When the return day of the process for appearance has arrived, the Senate resolve themselves into a court of impeachment, and the Senators are at that time, or before, solemnly sworn, or affirmed, to do innpartial justice upon the impeachment, according to the Constitution and laws of the United States. The person inpeached is then called to appear and answer the articles. If he does not appear in person, or by attorney, his default is recorded, and the Senate may proceed ex parte (that is, on the claim of one side) to the trial of the impeachment. If he does appear in person, or by attorney, his appearance is recorded. Counsel for the parties are admitted to appear, and to be heard upon an impeachment.

§ 130. When the party appears, he is entitled to be furnished with a copy of the articles of impeachment, and time is allowed him to prepare his answer thereto. The answer, like the articles, is exempted from the necessity of observing great strictness of form. The party may plead, that he is not guilty, as to part, and make a further defence, as to the residue ; or he may, in a few words, saving all exceptions, deny the whole charge or charges ; or he may plead specially, in justification or excuse of the supposed offences, all the circumstances attendant upon the case. And he is also indulged with the liberty of offering argumentative reasons, as well as facts, against the charges, in support, and as part, of his

answer, to repel them. It is usual to give a full and particular answer separately to each article of the accusation.

$ 131. When the answer is prepared and given in, the next regular proceeding is, for the House of Representatives to file a replication to the answer in writing, in substance denying the truth and validity of the defence stated in the answer, and averring the truth and sufficiency of the charges, and the readiness of the House to prove them at such convenient time and place, as shall be appointed for that purpose by the Senate. A time is then assigned for the trial; and the Senate, at that period or before, adjust the preliminaries and other proceedings proper to be had, before and at the trial, by fixed regulations; which are made known to the House of Representatives, and to the party accused. On the day appointed for the trial, the House of Representatives appear at the bar of the Senate, either in a body, or by the managers selected for that purpose, to proceed with the trial. Process to compel the attendance of witnesses is previously issued at the request of either party, by order of the Senate ; and at the time and place appointed, they are bound to appear and give testimony. On the day of trial, the parties being ready, the managers to conduct the prosecution open it on behalf of the House of Representatives, one or more of them delivering an explanatory speech, either of the whole charges, or of one or more of them. The proceedings are then conducted substantially, as they are upon common judicial trials, as to the admission or rejection of testimony, the examination and cross-examination of witnesses, the rules of evidence, and the legal doctrines, as to crimes and misdemeanors. When the whole evidence has been gone through, and the parties on each side have been fully heard, the Senate then proceed to the consideration of the case. If any debates arise, they are conducted in secret ; if none arise, or after they are ended, a day is assigned for a final public decision by yeas and nays upon each separate charge in the articles of impeachment. When the court is assembled for this purpose, the question is propounded to each member of the Senate by name, by the President of the Senate, in the following manner, upon each article, the same being first read by the Secretary of the Senate. "Mr. how say you, is the respondent guilty, or not guilty, of a high crime and misdemeanor, as charged in the – article of impeachment ?” Whereupon the member rises in his place, and answers guilty, or not guilty, as his opinion is. If upon no one article, two thirds of the Senate decide, that the party is guilty, he is then entitled to an acquittal, and is declared accordingly to be acquitted by the President of the Senate. If he is convicted of all, or any, of the articles, the Senate then proceed to fix, and declare the proper punishment. The pardoning power of the President does not, as will be presently seen, extend to judgements upon impeachment ; and hence, when once pronounced, they become absolute and irreversible.

§ 132. Having thus gone through the whole subject of impeachments, it only remains to observe, that a close survey of the system, unless we are egregiously deceived, will completely demonstrate the wisdom of the arrangements made in every part of it. The jurisdiction to impeach is placed, where it should be, in the possession and power of the immediate representatives of the people. The trial is before a body of great dignity, and ability, and independence, possessing the requisite knowledge and firmness to act with vigor, and to decide with impartiality upon the charges. The persons subjected to the trial are officers of the national government; and the offences are such, as may affect the rights, duties, and relations of the party accused, to the public in his political or official character, either directly or remotely. The general rules of law and evidence, applicable to common trials, are interposed, to protect the party against the exercise of wanton oppression, and arbitrary power. And the final judgement is confined to a removal from, and disqualification for, office ; thus limiting the punishment to such modes of redress, as are peculiarly fit for a political tribunal to administer, and as will secure the public against political injuries. In other respects, the offence is left to be disposed of by the common tribunals of justice, according to the laws of the land, upon an indictment found by a grand jury, and a trial by a jury of peers, before whom the party is to stand for his final deliverance, like his fellow-citizens.

CHAPTER XII.

Elections and Meetings of Congress.

$ 133. We next come to the fourth section of the first article, which treats of the elections and meetings of Congress. The first clause is, -". The time, places, and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State, by the Legislature thereof. But the Congress may, at any time, by law, make or alter such regulations, except as to the places of choosing Senators.” There is great propriety in leaving to the State Legislatures the right, in the first instance, of regulating the times and places of choosing the members of Congress, as every State is thus enabled to consult its own local convenience in the choice ; and it would be difficult to prescribe any uniform time or place of elections, which would, in all possible changes in the situation of the States, be found convenient for all of them. On the other hand, as the ability of the General Government to carry on its own operations depends upon these elections being duly had, it is plain, that it ought not to be left to the State governments, exclusively, to decide, whether such elections should be had, or not. The maxim of sound political wisdom is, that every government ought to contain in itself the means of its own preservation. And, therefore, an ulterior and paramount power is reserved to Congress, to make or alter the regulations as to such elections, so as to preserve the efficiency of the General Government. But, inasmuch as the State Legislatures are to elect Senators, the places of their meetings are left to their own discretion, as most fit to be decided by themselves, with reference to their ordinary duties and convenience. But Congress may still prescribe the times, at which such elections shall be made.

$ 134. The next clause is,-" The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year ; and such meeting shall be on the first Monday of December, unless they shall, by law, appoint a different day.” The importance of this provision can scarcely be overrated by a free people, accustomed to know their rights, and jealous in the maintenance of them. Unless some time were prescribed for the regular meetings of Congress, they would depend upon the good will and pleasure of Congress itself, or of some other department of the government. In times of violent factions, or military usurpations, attempts might be made to postpone such meetings for an unreasonable length of time, in order to prevent the redress of grievances, or secure the violators of the laws from condign punishment. Annual meetings of the legislature have long been deemed, both in England and America, a great security to liberty and justice ; and it was true wisdom to establish the duty of such annual meetings, by a political provision in the Constitution, which could not be evaded or disobeyed.

CHAPTER XIII.

Powers and Privileges of both Houses.

$ 135. The fifth section of the first article contains an enumeration of the powers, rights, and duties of each branch of the Legislature, in its separate and distinct organic character. The first clause is," Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns, and qualifications, of its own members; and a majority of each shall constitute a quorum to do business; but a smaller number may adjourn, from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members, in such

« AnteriorContinuar »