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Article 2, Section 2, Clauses 2 and 3

Document 38

Federal Farmer, no. 14

17 Jan. 1788Storing 2.8.173--76

To continue the subject of appointments:--Officers, in the fifth place, may be appointed by the heads of departments or courts of law. Art. 2. sect. 2. respecting appointments, goes on--"But congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers as they think proper in the president alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments." The probability is, as the constitution now stands, that the senate, a branch of the legislature, will be tenacious of the power of appointment, and much too sparingly part with a share of it to the courts of law, and heads of departments. Here again the impropriety appears of the senate's having, generally, a share in the appointment of officers. We may fairly presume, that the judges, and principal officers in the departments, will be able well informed men in their respective branches of business; that they will, from experience, be best informed as to proper persons to fill inferior offices in them; that they will feel themselves responsible for the execution of their several branches of business, and for the conduct of the officers they may appoint therein.--From these, and other considerations, I think we may infer, that impartial and judicious appointments of subordinate officers will, generally, be made by the courts of law, and the heads of departments. This power of distributing appointments, as circumstances may require, into several hands, in a well formed disinterested legislature, might be of essential service, not only in promoting beneficial appointments, but, also, in preserving the balance in government: a feeble executive may be strengthened and supported by placing in its hands more numerous appointments; an executive too influential may be reduced within proper bounds, by placing many of the inferior appointments in the courts of law, and heads of departments; nor is there much danger that the executive will be wantonly weakened or strengthened by the legislature, by thus shifting the appointments of inferior officers, since all must be done by legislative acts, which cannot be passed without the consent of the executive, or the consent of two-thirds of both branches--a good legislature will use this power to preserve the balance and perpetuate the government. Here again we are brought to our ultimatum:--is the legislature so constructed as to deserve our confidence?

6. Officers may be appointed by the state governments. By art. I. sect. 8. the respective states are authorised exclusively to appoint the militia-officers. This not only lodges the appointments in proper places, but it also tends to distribute and lodge in different executive hands the powers of appointing to offices, so dangerous when collected into the hands of one or a few men.

It is a good general rule, that the legislative, executive, and judicial powers, ought to be kept distinct; but this, like other general rules, has its exceptions; and without these exceptions we cannot form a good government, and properly balance its parts, and we can determine only from reason, experience, and a critical inspection of the parts of the government, how far it is proper to intermix those powers. Appointment, I believe, in all mixed governments, have been assigned to different hands--some are made by the executive, some by the legislature, some by the judges and some by the people. It has been thought adviseable by the wisest nations, that the legislature should so far exercise executive and judicial powers as to appoint some officers, judge of the elections of its members, and impeach and try officers for misconduct--that the executive should have a partial share in legislation--that judges should appoint some subordinate officers, and regulate so far as to establish rules for their own proceedings. Where the members of the government, as the house, the senate, the executive, and judiciary, are strong and complete, each in itself, the balance is naturally produced, each party may take the powers congenial to it, and we have less need to be anxious about checks, and the subdivision of powers.

If after making the deductions, already alluded to, from the general power to appoint federal officers the residuum shall be thought to be too large and unsafe, and to place an undue influence in the hands of the president and council, a further deduction may be made, with many advantages, and, perhaps, with but a few inconveniencies; and that is, by giving the appointment of a few great officers to the legislature--as of the commissioners of the treasury--of the comptroller, treasurer, master coiner, and some of the principal officers in the money department--of the sheriffs or marshalls of the United States--of states attornies, secretary of the home department, and secretary at war, perhaps, of the judges of the supreme court--of major-generals and admirals. The appointments of these officers, who may be at the heads of the great departments of business, in carrying into execution the national system, involve in them a variety of considerations; they will not often occur, and the power to make them ought to remain in safe hands. Officers of the above description are appointed by the legislatures in some of the states, and in some not. We may, I believe, presume that the federal legislature will possess sufficient knowledge and discernment to make judicious appointments; however, as these appointments by the legislature tend to increase a mixture of power, to lessen the advantages of impeachments and responsibility, I would by no means contend for them any further than it may be necessary for reducing the power of the executive within the bounds of safety. To determine with propriety how extensive power the executive ought to possess relative to appointments, we must also examine the forms of it, and its others powers; and these forms and other powers I shall now proceed briefly to examine.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 4, Article 2, Section 2, Clauses 2 and 3, Document 38
The University of Chicago Press

Storing, Herbert J., ed. The Complete Anti-Federalist. 7 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

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