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Civic Definitions- What is a Veto - History

Civic Definitions- What is a Veto - History


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Veto - power given the President to refuse to sign a bill that has been passed by Congress, thus blocking its becoming a law. Congress can override a veto with a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate. American presidents have vetoed about 2500 acts of Congress, of which Congress has overridden about 100. "Veto" means "I forbid" in Latin.

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OTHER WORDS FROM veto

They were looking for “electorally generated veto points” — that is to say, elected bodies that could block change.

It took about a year, but they changed that golden-share, that veto power over major transactions into what they called the Public Interest Foundation.

A state law passed just before Ikrata’s arrival gave the city of San Diego an effective veto at SANDAG.

If reformers hope to succeed in curbing overpolicing, they will first have to overcome the challenge of underpolicing, which has often allowed officers to exercise an effective veto on reform.

San Diego needs support from just two other cities to exercise a veto .

Immediately, there was a national groundswell of voices calling for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to veto the bill.

By giving an artistic veto to a madman, we submit to the mindset of a slave.

In his veto message, Christie also chided Democratic lawmakers for “using their lawmaking authority to play politics.”

With the second veto on Friday, however, all bets seemed to be off.

In fact, because the House never voted, he never got the chance to sign or veto anything.

The worthy knight not being now alive to veto the project, a figure of him has been placed opposite the College in Edmund Street.

It made me furious, too, to see my ambition nipped with the frost of a possible veto from Miss Smawl.

This protection was exercised mainly through the use of the veto power given to the tribunes.

And this repeal is demanded because a single State interposes her veto , and threatens resistance!

To make it possible for the tribunes to give such protection, the veto had been granted to them.


Civic Definitions- What is a Veto - History

a vote that blocks a decision

the power or right to prohibit or reject a proposed or intended act (especially the power of a chief executive to reject a bill passed by the legislature)

veto, blackball, negative (verb)

vote against refuse to endorse refuse to assent

"The President vetoed the bill"

forbid, prohibit, interdict, proscribe, veto, disallow, nix (verb)

"I forbid you to call me late at night" "Mother vetoed the trip to the chocolate store" "Dad nixed our plans"

Wiktionary (0.00 / 0 votes) Rate this definition:

A political right to disapprove of (and thereby stop) the process of a decision, a law etc.

An invocation of that right.

Webster Dictionary (0.00 / 0 votes) Rate this definition:

an authoritative prohibition or negative a forbidding an interdiction

Etymology: [L. veto I forbid.]

a power or right possessed by one department of government to forbid or prohibit the carrying out of projects attempted by another department especially, in a constitutional government, a power vested in the chief executive to prevent the enactment of measures passed by the legislature. Such a power may be absolute, as in the case of the Tribunes of the People in ancient Rome, or limited, as in the case of the President of the United States. Called also the veto power

Etymology: [L. veto I forbid.]

the exercise of such authority an act of prohibition or prevention as, a veto is probable if the bill passes

Etymology: [L. veto I forbid.]

a document or message communicating the reasons of the executive for not officially approving a proposed law -- called also veto message

Etymology: [L. veto I forbid.]

to prohibit to negative also, to refuse assent to, as a legislative bill, and thus prevent its enactment as, to veto an appropriation bill

Etymology: [L. veto I forbid.]

Freebase (0.00 / 0 votes) Rate this definition:

A veto – Latin for "I forbid" – is the power to unilaterally stop an official action, especially the enactment of legislation. A veto can be absolute, as for instance in the United Nations Security Council, whose permanent members can block any resolution. Or it can be limited, as in the legislative process of the United States, where a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate may override a Presidential veto of legislation. A veto only gives power to stop changes, not to adopt them. Thus a veto allows its holder to protect the status quo. The concept of a veto body originated with the Roman consuls and tribunes. Either of the two consuls holding office in a given year could block a military or civil decision by the other any tribune had the power to unilaterally block legislation passed by the Roman Senate.


Presidential Vetoes

/tiles/non-collection/f/fdr_vetomessage_2008_231_002.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object In 1935, FDR came to the House Chamber to deliver his veto message in person.

Article I, section 7 of the Constitution grants the President the authority to veto legislation passed by Congress. This authority is one of the most significant tools the President can employ to prevent the passage of legislation. Even the threat of a veto can bring about changes in the content of legislation long before the bill is ever presented to the President. The Constitution provides the President 10 days (excluding Sundays) to act on legislation or the legislation automatically becomes law. There are two types of vetoes: the “regular veto” and the “pocket veto.”

The regular veto is a qualified negative veto. The President returns the unsigned legislation to the originating house of Congress within a 10 day period usually with a memorandum of disapproval or a “veto message.” Congress can override the President’s decision if it musters the necessary two–thirds vote of each house. President George Washington issued the first regular veto on April 5, 1792. The first successful congressional override occurred on March 3, 1845, when Congress overrode President John Tyler’s veto of S. 66.

The pocket veto is an absolute veto that cannot be overridden. The veto becomes effective when the President fails to sign a bill after Congress has adjourned and is unable to override the veto. The authority of the pocket veto is derived from the Constitution’s Article I, section 7, “the Congress by their adjournment prevent its return, in which case, it shall not be law.” Over time, Congress and the President have clashed over the use of the pocket veto, debating the term “adjournment.” The President has attempted to use the pocket veto during intra- and inter- session adjournments and Congress has denied this use of the veto. The Legislative Branch, backed by modern court rulings, asserts that the Executive Branch may only pocket veto legislation when Congress has adjourned sine die from a session. President James Madison was the first President to use the pocket veto in 1812.


The Veto and the UN Security Council

The veto, a power held by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (P5), has been a point of contention among many UN Member States since the establishment of the UN Charter at the San Francisco Conference of 1945. This veto power gives the P5 (France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Russia, and China) the effective power to block any draft resolution presented to the Security Council.

The power of veto was established under Article 27 of the UN Charter, which states:
1. Each member of the Security Council shall have one vote.
2. Decisions of the Security Council on procedural matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members.
3. Decisions of the Security Council on all other matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members provided that, in decisions under Chapter VI, and under paragraph 3 of Article 52, a party to a dispute shall abstain from voting.

While the word “veto” is not specifically used, Article 27 requires the unanimity of the P5 in order for a resolution to pass, meaning any “no” vote on the part of a P5 state constitutes a veto. The power of veto was accorded to the “Big Five” in order to secure their acceptance of the UN Charter. However, during negotiations in San Francisco, some states were concerned that the power of the veto would leave the Security Council (SC) powerless to act in the event of a conflict involving one of the P5 states, and tried, unsuccessfully, to have the veto power reduced. For a basic summary of the veto debate at San Francisco, visit the UN website’s page on the San Francisco Conference, and for a more in depth background on the negotiation of the veto, see this paper titled, “The Founding of the United Nations – International Cooperation as an Evolutionary Process” published by the Academic Council on the United Nations System.

Today, discussions about the veto persists, with some characterizing it as an issue critical to the legitimacy and effectiveness of the Security Council. The most recent concerns about the veto center around the SC’s failure to act on certain crises, such as Russia’s involvement in Ukraine and most notably, the conflict in Syria. Helpful resources to illuminate the history of the use of the veto at the UN have been published by The Guardian and Security Council Report. Due to these cases of inaction, recent efforts to address the veto focus on the importance of preventing and intervening in mass atrocity situations, recalling that the primary responsibility of the SC is to maintain global peace and security.

Presently, there are two main proposals seeking to address the issue of the veto and the overall working methods of the Security Council: the France-Mexico joint political declaration and the ACT Group’s Security Council Code of Conduct. The first originated with French President François Hollande’s call at the 2013 UN General Assembly debate for all P5 states to collectively pledge to not use their veto in cases of mass atrocity, which was followed by French Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius’ op-ed. This call has since manifested itself in France and Mexico’s joint political declaration for the P5 to restrain the use of the veto in instances of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

The second is the ACT Group’s proposed Security Council Code of Conduct, which is open to all Member States as current, or potential future members of the SC. The Code of Conduct is a pledge to support SC action in cases of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, and to not vote against any credible draft resolutions to prevent or end such situations. The Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein circulated a concept note formally inviting all Member States to endorse the Code in early September 2015.

Both of these proposals seek to prevent inaction on the part of the Security Council in cases of genocide, mass atrocities, and war crimes, and have received broad support from a number of Member States. This map, developed and maintained by the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect, illustrates which UN Member States have signed on to each proposal. Notably, many have described the two proposals as “mutually reinforcing,” with the French-Mexican proposal applying only to the P5 and the ACT proposal applying to the entire membership. The drafters of each proposal seem to share this view, and have publicly expressed support for the other’s initiative.

Other groups have also expressed interest in addressing misuse of the veto. The Elders, in their recommendations for UN reform, include a call for P5 states to pledge not to use, or threaten to use, their veto without public explanation, and commit fully to working to find common ground.

For more information on the subject of the veto, please visit the following sites:

Key Documents
France-Mexico Political Declaration: English, French
ACT Group Code of Conduct: English, French, Spanish


Legal Challenges to the Line Item Veto Act of 1996

The day after the Line Item Veto Act of 1996 passed, a group of U.S. senators challenged the bill in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. U.S. District Judge Harry Jackson, who was appointed to the bench by Republican President Ronald Reagan, declared the law unconstitutional on April 10, 1997. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, ruled the senators did not have standing to sue, tossing their challenge and restoring the line item veto power to the president.

Clinton exercised the line item veto authority 82 times. Then the law was challenged in two separate lawsuits filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. A group of lawmakers from the House and Senate maintained their opposition to the law. U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan, also a Reagan appointee, declared the law unconstitutional in 1998. His ruling was affirmed by the Supreme Court.

The Court ruled that the law violated the Presentment Clause (Article I, Section 7, Clauses 2 and 3) of the U.S. Constitution because it gave the president the power to unilaterally amend or repeal parts of statutes that had been passed by Congress. The court ruled that the Line Item Veto Act of 1996 violated the process that the U.S. Constitution establishes for how bills originating in Congress become federal law.


What Veto family records will you find?

There are 2,000 census records available for the last name Veto. Like a window into their day-to-day life, Veto census records can tell you where and how your ancestors worked, their level of education, veteran status, and more.

There are 299 immigration records available for the last name Veto. Passenger lists are your ticket to knowing when your ancestors arrived in the USA, and how they made the journey - from the ship name to ports of arrival and departure.

There are 5,000 military records available for the last name Veto. For the veterans among your Veto ancestors, military collections provide insights into where and when they served, and even physical descriptions.

There are 2,000 census records available for the last name Veto. Like a window into their day-to-day life, Veto census records can tell you where and how your ancestors worked, their level of education, veteran status, and more.

There are 299 immigration records available for the last name Veto. Passenger lists are your ticket to knowing when your ancestors arrived in the USA, and how they made the journey - from the ship name to ports of arrival and departure.

There are 5,000 military records available for the last name Veto. For the veterans among your Veto ancestors, military collections provide insights into where and when they served, and even physical descriptions.


Most surprising US Presidential veto?

Please keep this discussion to 20 years or more in the past, per our rules. Thank you.

Carter vetoed a bill that would give raises to doctors working at the V.A., which not only was surprising, but his veto got overridden nearly unanimously (which is even more shocking since his party controlled both the house and senate at the time): https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1980/08/27/veto-on-va-doctor-pay-overridden/a3ad784d-cbb3-475e-881d-5f9cfd5f6da0/

Also, Lincoln’s pocket veto of the Wade-Davis bill was a direct break with his own party and caused a lot of dissension within the Republican Party, but he ultimately survived the controversy and came out ahead.

To elaborate on why for both, Carter defended himself by claiming that the bill would add $80 million per year to the deficit and that it would compensate civilian doctors at the V.A. higher than military doctors, which he found unfair. Congress was horrified at the optics of vetoing a bill supporting care for veterans and resoundingly overrode his veto by a margin of 401-5 in the House and 85-0 in the Senate.

Lincoln's main objection to the Wade-Davis bill was that it claimed seceded states needed to rejoin the Union, while Lincoln had maintained all along that the secession was unconstitutional and that the seceded states were still in the Union. Also the Wade-Davis bill was likely unconstitutional itself, since it required seceded states to ban slavery, but before the 13th Amendment (which had not been passed yet), Congress had no authority to regulate slavery in the states. Lincoln favored his own 10% plan for Reconstruction, which focused on restoring state governments quickly and was less punitive, but also publicly stated that he did not want to commit to any Reconstruction plan before the war was won.

For my original comments on Lincoln "surviving the controversy and coming out ahead," that was referring to the controversy around the Wade-Davis bill. Despite alienating a large number of Radical Republicans including Davis, Lincoln was ultimately overwhelmingly re-elected for both the Republican ticket and presidency, while Davis lost his reelection bid. Booth's assassination of Lincoln had nothing to do with the Wade-Davis bill.


Heckler's veto refers to restrictions on speech inciting hostile reactions

Although some scholars make reference to a string of heckler&rsquos veto cases, the idea appears across a wide range of cases in First Amendment law as a label critical for any claim, made in defense of the government&rsquos suppression, that speech inciting hostile reactions may be restrained.

The offense to audiences and their reactions to expression generally have been important justifications for restrictions on speech. Issues of obscenity and &ldquofighting words&rdquo are common examples. The circumstances that raise a heckler&rsquos veto, in which the claim of offense has been viewed with much greater skepticism, can be distinguished in two ways. First, speech protected by raising the heckler&rsquos veto objection is considered to have some value or contribution to public debate, unlike the forms of speech that the Supreme Court has left categorically unprotected. Second, cases involving supposed hecklers&rsquo vetoes usually concern the behavior of crowds, not an impressionable observer or an individual who might be provoked to fight.


Veto of the Civil Rights Bill

I regret that the bill which has passed both Houses of Congress, entitled “An Act to protect all persons in the United States in their civil rights, and furnish the means of their vindication,” contains provisions which I cannot approve, consistently with my sense of duty to the whole people, and my obligations to the Constitution of the United States. I am, therefore, constrained to return it to the Senate (the House in which it originated) with my objections to its becoming law.

By the first section of the bill, all persons born in the United States, and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are declared to be citizens of the United States. This provision comprehends the Chinese of the Pacific States, Indians subject to taxation, the people called Gipsies, as well as the entire race designated as blacks, people of color, negroes, mulattoes, and persons of African blood. Every individual of these races, born in the United States, is by the bill made a citizen of the United States. It does not purport to declare or confer any other right of citizenship than Federal citizenship it does not propose to give these classes of persons any status as citizens of States, except that which may result from their status as citizens of the United States. The power to confer the right of State citizenship is just as exclusively with the several States, as the power to confer the right of Federal citizenship is with Congress. The right of Federal citizenship, thus to be conferred in the several excepted ratios before mentioned, is now, for the first time, proposed to be given by law. If, as is claimed by many, all persons who are native born, already are, by virtue of the Constitution, citizens of the United States, the passage of the pending bill cannot be necessary to make them such. If, on the other hand, such persons are not citizens, as may be assumed from the proposed legislation to make them such, the grave question presents itself whether , where eleven of the thirty-six States are unrepresented in Congress at the time, it is sound policy to make our entire colored population, and all other excepted classes, citizens of the United States. Four millions of them have just emerged from slavery into freedom. Can it be reasonably supposed that they possess the requisite qualifications to entitle them to all the privileges and immunities of citizenship of the United States? Have the people of the several States expressed such a conviction? It may also be asked, whether it is necessary that they should be declared citizens in order that they may be secured in the enjoyment of the civil rights proposed to be conferred by the bill> Those rights are, by Federals as well as by State laws, secured to all domiciled aliens and foreigners, even before the completion of the process of naturalization and it may safely be assumed that the same enactments are sufficient to give like protection and benefits to those for whom this bill provides special legislation. Besides the policy of the Government, from its origin to the present time, seems to have been that persons who are strangers to and unfamiliar with our institutions and laws, should pass through a certain probation at the end of which, before attaining the coveted prize, they must give evidence of their fitness to receive and to exercise the rights of citizens as contemplated by the Constitution of the United States. The bill in effect proposes a discrimination against large numbers of intelligent, worthy and patriotic foreigners, and in favor of the negro, to whom, after long years of bondage, the avenues to freedom and intelligence have just now been suddenly opened. He must of necessity, from his previous unfortunate condition of servitude, be less informed as to the nature and character of our institutions than he who, coming from abroad, has to some extent, at least, familiarized himself with the principles of a Government to which he voluntarily intrusts life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Yet it is now proposed by a single legislative enactment to confer the rights of citizens upon all persons of African descent, born within the excluded limits of the United States, while persons of foreign birth, who make our land their home, must undergo a probation of five years, and can only then become citizens upon proof that they are of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the same. The first section of the bill also contains an enumeration of the rights to be enjoyed by those classes so made citizens in every State and Territory of the United States. These rights are, to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties and give evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, or convey real and personal property, and to have full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens. So, too, they are made subject to the same punishments, pains, and penalties common with white citizens, and to none others. Thus a perfect equality of the white and colored races is attempted to be fixed by a Federal law in every State of the Union, over the vast field of State jurisdiction covered by these enumerated rights. In no one of them can any State exercise any power of discrimination between different races. In the exercise of State policy over matters exclusively affecting the people of each State, it has frequently been thought expedient to discriminate between the two races. By the statutes of some of the States, North as well as South, it is enacted, for instance, that no white person shall intermarry with a negro or mulatto. Chancellor Kent says, speaking of the blacks, that marriages between them and the whites are forbidden in some in some of the States where slavery does not exist, and they are prohibited in all the slaveholding States by law and when not absolutely contrary to law, they are revolting, and regarded as an offence against public decorum. I do not say that this bill repeals State laws, on the subject of marriage between the two races, for as the whites are forbidden to intermarry with the blacks, the blacks can only make such contracts as the whites themselves are allowed to make, and therefore cannot, under this bill, enter into the marriage contract with the whites. I take this discrimination, however, as an instance of the State policy as to discrimination, and to inquire whether, if Congress can abrogate all State laws of discrimination between the two races, in the matter of real estate, of suits, and of contracts generally, Congress may not also repeal the State laws as to the contract of marriage between the races? Hitherto, every subject embraced in the enumeration of rights contained in the bill has been considered as exclusively belonging to the States they all relate to the internal policy and economy of the respective States. They are matters which, in each State, concern the domestic condition of its people, varying in each according to its peculiar circumstances and the safety and well-being of its own citizens. I do not mean to say that upon all these subjects there are not Federal restraints as, for instance, in the State power of legislation over contracts, there is a Federal limitation that no State shall pass a law impairing the obligations of contracts and, as to crimes, that no State shall pass an ex-post-facto law and, as to money, that no State shall make any thing but gold and silver as legal tender. But where can we find a Federal prohibition against the power of any State to discriminate, as do most of them, between aliens and citizens, between artificial persons called corporations, and naturalized persons, in the right to hold real estate? If it be granted that Congress can repeal all State laws discriminating between the two races on the subject of suffrage and office? If Congress shall declare by law who shall hold lands, who shall testify, who shall have capacity to make a contract in a State, that Congress can also declare by law, without regard to race or color, shall have the right to act as a juror or as a judge, to hold any office, and finally to vote, in every State and Territory of the United States. As respects the Territory of the United States, they come within the power of Congress, for as to them the law-making power is the Federal power but as to the States, no similar provision exists, vesting in Congress the power to make such rules and regulations for them.

The object of the second section of the bill is to afford discriminating protection to colored persons in the full enjoyment of all the rights secured to them by the preceding section. It declares that “any person who, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, shall subject or cause to be subjected any inhabitant of any State or Territory to the deprivation of any rights secured or protected by this act, or to different punishment, pains, or penalties on account of such person having at any time been held in a condition of slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, or by reason of his color or race, than is prescribed for the punishment of white persons, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction shall be punished by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars, or imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both, in the discretion of the court.” This section seems to be designed to apply to some existing or future law of a State or Territory, which may conflict with the provisions of the bill now under consideration. It provides for counteracting such forbidden legislation, by imposing fine and imprisonment upon the legislators who may pass such conflicting laws, or upon the officers or agents who shall put or attempt to put them into execution. It means an official offence, not a common crime, committed against law upon the person or property of the black race. Such an act may deprive the black man of his property, but not of his right to hold property. It means a deprivation of the right itself, either by the State Judiciary or the State Legislature. It is, therefore, assumed that, under this section, members of a State Legislature who should vote for laws conflicting with the provisions of the bill, that judges of the State courts who should render judgments in antagonism with its terms, and that marshals and sheriffs who should as ministerial officers execute processes sanctioned by State laws and issued by State judges in execution of their judgments, could be brought before other tribunals and there subjected to fine and imprisonment, for the performance of the duties which such State laws might impose. The legislation thus proposed invades the judicial power of the State. It says to every State court or judge: If you decide that this act is unconstitutional if you hold that over such a subject-matter the said law is paramount, under color of a State law refuse the exercise of the right to the negro your error of judgment, however conscientious, shall subject you to fine and imprisonment. I do not apprehend that the conflicting legislation which the bill seems to contemplate is so likely to occur, as to render it necessary at this time to adopt a measure of such constitutionality. In the next place, this provision of the bill seems to be unnecessary, as adequate judicial remedies could be adopted to secure the desired end without invading the immunities of legislators, always important to be preserved in the interest of public liberty, notwithstanding the independence of the judiciary, always essential to the preservation of individual rights, and without impairing the efficiency of ministerial officers, always necessary for the maintenance of public peace and order. The remedy proposed by this section seems to be in this respect not only anomalous but unconstitutional, for the Constitution guarantees nothing with certainty if it does not insure to the several States the right of making index ruling laws in regard to all matters arising within their jurisdiction, subject only to the restriction, in cases of conflict with the Constitution and constitutional laws of the United States—the latter to be held as the supreme law of the land.

The third section gives the district courts of the United States exclusive cognizance of all crimes and offences committed against the provisions of this act, and concurrent jurisdiction with the circuit courts of the United States, of all civil and criminal cases affecting persons that are denied, or cannot enforce in the courts or judicial tribunals of the State or locality where they may be, any of the rights secured to them by the first section. The construction which I have given to the second section is strengthened by this third section, for it makes clear what kind of denial, or deprivation of rights secured by the first section, was in contemplation. It is a denial or deprivation of such rights in the courts or tribunals of the State. It stands, therefore, clear of doubt that the offence and the penalties provided in the second section are intended for the State judge who, in the clear exercise of his functions as a judge, not acting ministerially but judicially, shall decide contrary to this Federal law. In other words, when a State judge, acting upon a question involving a conflict between a State law and a Federal law, and bound, according to his own judgment and responsibility to give an impartial decision between the two, comes to the conclusion that the State law is valid and the Federal law is invalid, he must not follow the dictates of his own judgment, at the peril of fine and imprisonment. The legislative department of the Government of the United States thus takes from the judicial department of the States the sacred and exclusive duty of judicial decision, and converts the State judge into a mere ministerial officer, bound to decide according to the will of Congress. It is clear that in States which deny to persons, whose rights are secured by the first section of the bill, any one of those rights, all criminal and civil cases affecting them will, by the provisions of the third section, come under the executive cognizance of the Federal tribunals. It follows that if in any State, which denies to a colored person any one of all these rights, that person should commit a crime against the laws of a State—murder, arson, rape, or any other crime—all protection and punishment, through the courts of the State, are taken away, and he can only be tried and punished in the Federal courts. How is the criminal to be tried, if the offence is provided for and punished by Federal law? That law, and not the State law, is to govern. It was only when the offence does not happen to be within the province of Federal law that the Federal courts are to try and punish him under any other law. The resort is to be had to the common law, as modified and changed by State legislation, so far as the same is not inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States. So that over this vast domain of criminal jurisprudence, provided by each State for the protection of its citizens and for the punishment of all persons who violate its criminal laws, Federal law, wherever it can be made to apply, displaces State law. The question naturally arises, from what source Congress derives the power to transfer to Federal tribunals certain classes of cases embraced in this section. The Constitution expressly declares that the judicial power of the United States “shall extend to all cases in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority to all cases affecting ambassadors or other public ministers and consuls to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction to controversies to which the United States shall be a party to controversies between two or more States between a State and citizens of another State between citizens of different States between citizens of the same State claiming land under grants of different States and between a State, or the citizens thereof, and foreign States, citizens, or subjects.”

Here the judicial power of the United States is expressly set forth and defined and the act of September 24, 1789, establishing the judicial courts of the United States, in conferring upon the Federal courts jurisdiction over cases originating in State tribunals, is careful to confine them to the classes enumerated in the above recited clause of the Constitution. This section of the bill undoubtedly comprehends cases and authorizes the exercise of powers that are not, by the Constitution, within the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States. To transfer them to these courts would be an exercise of authority well calculated to excite distrust and alarm on the part of all the States, for the bill applies alike to all of them, as well as to those who have not been engaged in rebellion. It may be assumed that this authority is incident to the power granted to Congress by the Constitution as recently amended, to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the article declaring that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. It cannot, however, be justly claimed that, with a view to the enforcement of this article of the Constitution, there is at present any necessity for the exercise of all the powers which this bill confers. Slavery has been abolished, and at present nowhere exists within the jurisdiction of the United States. Nor has there been, nor is it likely there will be any attempts to revive it by the people of the States. If, however, any such attempt shall be made, it will then become the duty of the General Government to exercise any and all incidental powers necessary and proper to maintain inviolate this great law of freedom. The fourth section of the bill provides that officers and agents of the Freedmen’s Bureau shall be empowered to make arrests, and also that other officers shall be specially commissioned for that purpose by the President of the United States. It also authorizes the Circuit Courts of the United States and the Superior Courts of the Territories to appoint, without limitation, commissioners, who are to be charged with the performance of quasi judicial duties. The fifth section empowers the commissioners so to be selected by the court, to appoint, in writing, one or more suitable persons from time to time to execute warrants and processes desirable by the bill. These numerous official agents are made to constitute a sort of police in addition to the military, and are authorized to summon a posse commitatus, and even to call to their aid such portion of the land and naval forces of the United States, or of the militia, “as may be necessary to the performance of the duty with which they are charged.” This extraordinary power is to be conferred upon agents irresponsible to the Government and to the people, to whose number the discretion of the commissioners is the only limit, and in whose hands such authority might be made a terrible engine of wrong, oppression, and fraud. The general statutes regulating the land and naval forces of the United States, the militia, and the execution of the laws are believed to be adequate for any emergency which can occur in time of peace. If it should prove otherwise, Congress can at any time amend those laws in such a manner as, while subserving the public welfare, not to jeopard the rights, interests, and liberties of the people.

The seventh section provides that a fee of ten dollars shall be paid to each commissioner in every case brought before him, and a few of five dollars to his deputy or deputies for each person he or they may arrest and take before any such commissioner in general for performing such other duties as may be required in the premises. All these fees are to be paid out of the Treasury of the United States, whether there is a conviction or not but in case of conviction they are to be recoverable from the defendant. It seems to me that under the influence of such temptations, bad men might convert any law, however beneficent, into an instrument of persecution and fraud. By the eighth section of the bill, the United States Courts, which sit only in one place for white citizens, must migrate with the marshal and district attorney, and necessarily with the clerk (although he is not mentioned), to any part of the district, upon the order of the President, and there hold a court for the purpose of the more speedy arrest and trial of persons charged with the violation of this act and there the judge and officers of the court must remain, upon the order of the President, for the time therein designated.

The ninth section authorizes the President, or such person as he may empower for that purpose, to employ such part of the land or naval forces of the United States, or of the militia, as shall be necessary to prevent the violation and enforce the due execution of this act. This language seems to imply a permanent military force that is to be always at hand, and whose only business is to be the enforcement of this measure over the vast region where it intended to operate.

I do not propose to consider the policy of this bill. To me the details of the bill are fraught with evil. The white race and black race of the South have hitherto lived together under the relation of master and slave—capital owning labor. Now that relation is changed and as to ownership, capital and labor are divorced. They stand now, each master of itself. In this new relation, one being necessary to the other, there will be a new adjustment, which both are deeply interested in making harmonious. Each has equal power in settling the terms and, if left to the laws that regulate capital and labor, it is confidently believed that they will satisfactorily work out the problem. Capital, it is true, has more intelligence but labor is never ignorant as not to understand its own interests, not to know its own value, and not to see that capital must pay that value. This bill frustrates this adjustment. It intervenes between capital and labor, and attempts to settle questions of political economy through the agency of numerous officials, whose interest it will be to foment discord between the two races for as the breach widens, their employment will continue and when it is closed, their occupation will terminate. In all our history, in all our experience as a people living under Federal and State law, no such system as that contemplated by the details of this bill has ever before been proposed or adopted. They establish for the security of the colored race safeguards which go indefinitely beyond any that the General Government has ever provided for the white race. In fact, the distinction of race and color is by the bill made to operate in favor of the colored against the white race. They interfere with the municipal legislation of the States with relations existing exclusively between a State and its citizens, or between inhabitants of the same State an absorption and assumption of power by the General Government which, if acquiesced in, must sap and destroy our federative system of limited power, and break down the barriers which preserve the rights of the States. It is another step, or rather stride, towards centralization and the concentration of all legislative powers in the National Government. The tendency of the bill must be to resuscitate the spirit of rebellion, and to arrest the progress of those influences which are more closely drawing around the States the bonds of union and peace.

My lamented predecessor, in his proclamation of the 1st of January, 1863, ordered and declared that all persons held as slaves within certain States and parts of States therein designated, were, and thenceforward should be free and further, that the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, would recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons. This guaranty has been rendered especially obligatory and sacred by the amendment of the Constitution abolishing slavery throughout the United States. I, therefore, fully recognize the obligation to protect and defend that class of our people whenever and wherever it shall become necessary, and to the full extent, compatible with the Constitution of the United States. Entertaining these sentiments, it only remains for me to say that I will cheerfully co-operate with Congress in any measure that may be necessary for the preservation of civil rights of the freedmen, as well as those of all other classes of persons throughout the United States, by judicial process under equal and impartial laws, or conformably with the provisions of the Federal Constitution.

I now return the bill to the Senate, and regret that in considering the bills and joint resolutions, forty-two in number, which have been thus far submitted for my approval, I am compelled to withhold my assent from a second measure that has received the sanction of both Houses of Congress.

Washington, D.C., March 27, 1866.

Source: Andrew Johnson, His Life and Speeches by Lillian Foster, New York: Richardson & Co., 1866.


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