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which appeal would be all the more impressive and solemn because resting on no other ground than that of high constitutional principle. It may be anticipated that the good sense of the nation may prevent such an appeal from being ever necessary. The constitutional negative of the Crown is a power, to use the words of Burke, “ the exercise of which is wisely forborne. Its repose may be the preservation of its existence, and its existence may be the means of saving the Constitution itself, on an occasion worthy of bringing it forth.”*
* Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol, A.D. 1777.
John Adams, afterwards the second President of the Republic, in his great work above quoted (vol. i. p. 70), expresses his “mortification” that the negative power of the Executive was imperfect, and the constitutional balance therefore “incomplete."
[President Polk, in his message of 1848, states that Washington once exercised his veto, and that six Presidents have done so. I have been unable to ascertain all the occasions.]
THE PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE.
We are familiar in this country with the lengthy document presented to both Houses of Congress by the President of the United States, at the opening of every new Session. This document, called the President's “message,” contains, among other matters, an exposition of the opinions and intentions of the President and his ministry, in regard to the principal public questions of the day.
It might naturally, therefore, be expected, that this message would be immediately taken into consideration by each House, in order, first, that a respectful acknowledgment might be given to the head of the State for his communication, and next, that an opportunity might be afforded for expressing at once, if need were, the concurrence or disapproval of either House in the general course of policy indicated by the message. And it may very well arise in that country, as it occasionally does in this, that the interests of the public may require an immediate expression of opinion on the part of the Legislature, as to whether it will support or oppose the policy of the ministry.
But to the President's message no answer is returned, and no discussion takes place upon
Under the two first Presidents of the Republic the practice was otherwise; and was, in fact, the same as our own. Mr. Justice Story thus describes the change, and records his opinion that it has not been for the public advantage.
“ Under President Washington and President John Adams, the practice was to deliver speeches. President Jefferson discontinued this course, and substituted messages; and this practice has been since invariably followed. ... When the habit was for the President to make a speech, it was in the presence of both Houses, and a written answer was prepared by each House, which, when accepted, was presented by a committee. At present, no answer whatever is given to the contents of the message. And this change of proceeding has been thought by many statesmen to be a change for the worse, since the answer of each House enabled each party in the Legislature to express its own views as to the matters in the speech, and to propose, by way of amendment to the answer, whatever was deemed more correct and more expressive of the public sentiment than was contained in either. The consequence was, that the whole policy and conduct of the administration came under solemn review; and it was animadverted on, or defended, with equal zeal and independence, according to the different views of the speakers in the debate; and the final vote showed the exact state of public opinion on all leading measures. By the present practice of messages, this facile and concentrated opportunity of attack or deence is completely taken away; and the attack or defence of the administration is perpetually renewed at distant intervals, as an incidental topic in all other discussions, to which it often bears very slight or no relation. The esult is, that a great deal of time is lost in collateral lebates, and that the administration is driven to defend itself in detail, on every leading motion and measure of the session."*
It is probably not difficult to account for the change of practice, although Mr. Justice cory passes from the subject without further
comment. The fact is, that no “ final vote" of either House of Legislature upon “the policy and conduct of the administration,” to which Mr. Justice Story refers, would have any necessary effect in compelling the President to change that policy. It might bring out very glaringly to public notice the circumstance, that the Legislature and the President were at variance upon the general policy of his government; but it would not oblige him to dismiss his ministry, or to vary his policy in any one particular. The “ patronage ” in the hands of the President, and his “influence," would most probably enable him to carry on the ordinary affairs of government during his four years of office. All his favourite measures might, indeed, be rejected, but at the same time his “influence” might be sufficient to prevent measures, adverse to his policy, being forced upon him. The late Whig President, Mr. Filmore, and his ministry, were in favour of Protective duties. They were not able to carry their policy into effect ; but during four years they prevented the contrary policy, which was that