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of the army and navy,-or can himself take the command immediately on his own shoulders. All this he can do, and there is no one that can question him.
It is hardly necessary that I should point out the fundamental difference between our King or Queen, and the President of the United States. Our Sovereign, we all know, is not responsible. Such is the nature of our constitution. But there is not on that account any analogy between the irresponsibility of the Queen and that of the President. The Queen can do no wrong; but therefore, in all matters of policy and governance, she must be ruled by advice. For that advice her ministers are responsible; and no act of policy or governance can be done in England as to which responsibility does not immediately settle on the shoulders appointed to bear it. But this is not so in the States. The President is nominally responsible. But from that every-day working responsibility, which is to us so invaluable, the President is in fact free.
I will give an instance of this. Now, at this very moment of my writing, news bas reached us that President Lincoln has relieved General Maclellan from the command of the whole army, that he has given separate commands to two other generals,-to General Halleck, namely, and alas ! to General Fremont, and that he has altogether altered the whole organization of the military command as it previously existed. This he did not only during war, but with reference to a special battle, for the special fighting of which he, as ex-officio Commander-in-Chief of the forces, had given orders. I do not hereby intend to criticise this act of the President's, or to point out that that has been done which had better have been left undone. The President, in a strategical point of view, may have been,very probably has been, quite right. I, at any rate, cannot say that he has been wrong. But then neither can anybody else say so with any power of making himself heard. Of this action of the President's, so terribly great in its importance to the nation, no one has the power of expressing any opinion to which the President is bound to listen. For four years he has this sway, and at the end of four years he becomes so powerless that it is not then worth the while of any demagogue in a fourth-rate town to occupy his voice with that President's name. The anger of the country as to the things done both by Pierce and Buchanan is very bitter. But who wastes a thought upon either of the men ? A past President in the United States is of less consideration than a past Mayor in an English borough. Whatever evil he may have done during
bis office, when out of office he is not worth the powder which would be expended in an attack.
But the President has his ministers as our Queen has hers. In one sense he has such ministers. He has high state servants who under him take the control of the various departments, and exercise among them a certain degree of patronage and executive power. But they are the President's ministers, and not the ministers of the people. Till lately there has been no chief minister among them, nor am I prepared to say that there is any such chief at present. According to the existing theory of the government these gentlemen have simply been the confidential servants of the commonwealth under the President, and have been attached each to his own department without concerted political alliance among themselves, without any acknowledged chief below the President, and without any combined responsibility even to the President. If one minister was in fault-let us say the Postmaster-General,-he alone was in fault, and it did not fall to the lot of any other minister either to defend him, or to declare that his conduct was indefensible. Each owed his duty and his defence to the President alone; and each might be removed alone, without explanation given by the President to the others. I imagine that the late practice of the President's cabinet has in some degree departed from this theory; but if so, the departure has sprung from individual ambition rather than from any preconcerted plan. Some one place in the cabinet has seemed to give to some one man an opportunity of making himself pre-eminent, and of this opportunity advantage has been taken. I am not now intending to allude to any individual, but am endeavouring to indicate the way in which a ministerial cabinet, after the fashion of our British cabinet, is struggling to get itself created. No doubt the position of Foreign Secretary has for some time past been considered as the most influential under the President. This has been so much the case that many have not hesitated to call the Secretary of State the chief minister. At the present moment, May 1862, the gentleman who is at the head of the war department has, I think, in his own hands greater pow. er than any of his colleagues.
It will probably come to pass before long that one special minister will be the avowed leader of the cabinet, and that he will be recognized as the chief servant of the State under the President. Our own cabinet, which now-a-days seems with us to be an institution as fixed as Parliament and as necessary as the throne, has grown by degrees into its present shape, and is
not, in truth, nearly so old as many of us suppose it to be. It shaped itself, I imagine, into its present form, and even into its present joint responsibility, during the reign of George III. It must be remembered that even with us there is no such thing as a constitutional Prime Minister, and that our Prime Minister is not placed above the other ministers in any manner that is palpable to the senses. He is paid no more than the others; he has no superior title; he does not take the highest rank among them; he never talks of his subordinates, but always of his
colleagues; he has a title of his own, that of First Lord of the Treasury, but it implies no headship in the cabinet. That he is the head of all political power in the nation, the Atlas who has to bear the globe, the god in whose hands rest the thunderbolts and the showers, all men do know. No man's position is more assured to him. But the bounds of that position are written in no book, are defined by no law, have settled themselves not in accordance with the recorded wisdom of any great men, but as expediency and the fitness of political things in Great Britain have seemed from time to time to require. This drifting of great matters into their proper places is not as closely in accordance with the idiosyncrasies of the American people as it is with our own. They would prefer to define by words, as the French do, what shall be the exact position of every public servant connected with their Government; or rather of every public servant with whom the people shall be held as having any concern. But nevertheless, I think it will come to pass that a cabinet will gradually form itself at Washington as it has done at London, and that of that cabinet there will be some recognized and ostensible chief.
But a Prime Minister in the United States can never take the place there which is taken here by our Premier. Over our Premier there is no one politically superior. The highest political responsibility of the nation rests on him. In the States this must always rest on the President, and any minister, whatever may be his name or assumed position, can only be responsible through the President. And it is here especially that the working of the United States system of Government seems to me deficient,--appears as though it wanted something to make it perfect and round at all points. Our ministers retire from their offices, as do the Presidents; and indeed the ministerial term of office with us, though of course not fixed, is in truth much shorter than the Presidential term of four years. But our ministers do not, in fact, ever go out. At one time they take one position, with pay, patronage, and power; and at an
other time another position, without these good things; but in either position they are acting as public men, and are, in truth, responsible for what they say and do. But the President, on whom it is presumed that the whole of the responsibility of the United States Government rests, goes out at a certain day, and of him no more is heard. There is no future before him to urge him on to constancy; no hope of other things beyond, of greater honours and a wider fame, to keep him wakeful in his country's cause. He has already enrolled his name on the list of his country's rulers, and received what reward his country can give him. Conscience, duty, patriotism may make him true to his place. True to his place, in a certain degree, they will make him. But ambition and hope of things still to come are the moving motives in the minds of most men. Few men can allow their energies to expand to their fullest extent in the cold atmosphere of duty alone. The President of the States must feel that he has reached the top of the ladder, and that he soon will have done with life. As he goes out he is a dead man. And what can be expected from one who is counting the last lingering hours of his existence?" It will not be in my time," Mr. Buchanan is reported to have said, when a friend spoke to bim with warning voice of the coming rebellion. “It will not be in my time." In the old days, before democracy had prevailed in upsetting that system of Presidential election which the constitution had intended to fix as permanent, the Presidents were generally re-elected for a second term. Of the seven first Presidents five were sent back to the White House for a second period of four years. But this has never been done since the days of General Jackson; nor will it be done, unless a stronger conservative reaction takes place than the country even as yet seems to promise. As things have lately ordered themselves, it may almost be said that no man in the Union would be so improbable a candidate for the Presidency as the outgoing President. And it has been only natural that it should be so. Looking at the men themselves who have lately been chosen, the fault has not consisted in their non-re-election, but in their original selection. There has been no desire for great men; no search after a man of such a nature, that when tried the people should be anxious to keep him. “It will not be in says the expiring President. And so, without dismay, he sees the empire of his country slide away
from him. A President, with the possibility of re-election before him, would be as a minister who goes out, knowing that he may possibly come in again before the session is over,--and per
haps believing that the chances of his doing so are in his fa
Under the existing political phase of things in the United States, no President has any such prospect; but the ministers of the President have that chance. It is no uncommon thing at present for a minister under one President to reappear as a minister under another; but a statesman has no assurance that he will do so, because he has shown ministerial capacity. We know intimately the names of all our possible ministers,—too intimately as some of us think, and would be taken much by surprise if a gentleman without an official reputation were placed at the head of a high office. If something of this feeling prevailed as to the President's cabinet, if there were some assurance that competent statesmen would be appointed as Secretaries of State, à certain amount of national responsibility would by degrees attach itself to them, and the President's shoulders would, to that amount, be lightened. As it is, the President pretends to bear a burden, which, if really borne, would indicate the possession of Herculean shoulders. But, in fact, the burden at present is borne by no one. The government of the United States is not in truth responsible either to the people or to Congress.
But these ministers, if it be desired that they shall have weight in the country, should sit in Congress either as senators or as representatives. That they cannot so sit without an amendment of the constitution I have explained in the previous chapter; and any such amendment cannot be very readily made. Without such seats they cannot really share the responsibility of the President, or be in any degree amenable to public opinion for the advice which they give in their public functions. It will be said that the constitution has expressly intended that they should not be responsible, and such, no doubt, has been the case. But the constitution, good as it is, cannot be taken as perfect. The government has become greater than seems to have been contemplated when that code was drawn up. It has spread itself as it were over a wider surface, and has extended to matters which it was not then necessary to touch. That theory of governing by the means of little men was very well while the government itself was small. A President and his clerks may have sufficed when there were from thirteen to eighteen States; while there were no territories, or none at least that required government; while the population was still below five millions; while a standing army was an evil not known and not feared; while foreign politics was a troublesome embroglio in which it was quite unnec