Antifederalist No. 73
DOES THE PRESIDENTIAL VETO POWER INFRINGE ON
THE SEPARATION OF DEPARTMENTS?

Some Antifederalists considered the executive veto power to be the least objectionable part of the president's authority under the Constitution. (See Antifederalist No. 74). The anonymous "WILLIAM PENN," however, reflected at length on this issue--his comments are incisive--and concluded that it was "a political error of the greatest magnitude, to allow the executive power a negative." The essay appeared in the [ Philadelphia] Independent Gazetteer, January 3, 1788.

. . . . I believe that it is universally agreed upon in this enlightened country, that all power residing originally in the people, and being derived from them, they ought to be governed by themselves only, or by their immediate representatives. I shall not spend any time in explaining a principle so well and so generally understood, but I shall proceed immediately to that which I conceive to be the next in order.

The next principle, without which it must be clear that no free government can ever subsist, is the DIVISION OF POWER among those who are charged with the execution of it. It has always been the favorite maxim of princes, to divide the people, in order to govern them. It is now time that the people should avail themselves of the same maxim, and divide powers among their rulers, in order to prevent their abusing it. The application of this great political truth, has long been unknown to the world, and yet it is grounded upon a very plain natural principle. If, says Montesquieu, the same man, or body of men, is possessed both of the legislative and executive power, there is NO LIBERTY, because it may be feared that the same monarch, or the same senate, will enact tyrannical laws, in order to execute them in a tyrannical manner. Nothing can be clearer, and the natural disposition of man to ambition and power makes it probable that such would be the consequence. Suppose for instance, that the same body, which has the power of raising money by taxes, is also entrusted with the application of that money, they will very probably raise large sums, and apply them to their own private uses. If they are empowered to create offices, and appoint the officers, they will take that opportunity of providing for themselves, and their friends, and if they have the power of inflicting penalties for offences, and of trying the offenders, there will be no bounds to their tyranny. Liberty therefore can only subsist, where the powers of government are properly divided, and where the different jurisdictions are inviolably kept distinct and separate.1

____________________
1
Ishall illustrate this doctrine by an example. A burgher of a certain borough of Switzerland was elected Bailiff, or Chief Magistrate, for one year, according to the constitution of the place. Shortly after his appointment, he sent for one of his neighbors, and ordered him to pull off his boots. The honest neighbor was astonished, and attempted to remonstrate, but the bailiff was determined to exert his authority, and threatened to send him to jail, if he did not yield him an immediate

-209-

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