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About The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923 | View Entire Issue (June 1, 1919)
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VOL, 19, NO, 6
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THE COMMONER, LINCOLN, NEB.
Nebraska land la soiling at the present time
for $200 and $300 an acre. The laiguage
makors will bo compelled t) Invent a moro de
scriptive title than that of dirt cheap.
Horr Erzborger declares that tho treaty of
peace presented to him Is tho devil's own work.
This intimation that the German secret service
had somebody on tho drafting committee ought
to bo looked into.
Sunday baseball has Anally been legalized in
Now York city. The primary object, presum
ably, is to onablq those of its citizens still able
to move to take "some kind of an antidote for
tho Sunday New York" newspaper.
Tho chairman of the republican national com
mittee announces that what tho country nees
is not less politics but more of it. Judging from
tho attitude of Senators Borah and Lodge he
seems to have some senatorial support in tho
Tho natural bent of the lawyer is to find
flaws in any legal, document presented to him
for consideration. That's what the trouble with
tho republican senators who are criticising the
league of nations. The habit .is constitutional
with them oven if tho covenant isn't.
Tho republican senate seems to bo running
true to form. It has named as secretary of that
body a man who was formerly a lobbyist for the
harvester trust. Wo extend our condolences to
tho woolen trust, which appears to havo been
unablo to r.o-elect its former Washington representative.
Tho domand of the railway investors' league
that tho government shall guarantee their in
vestments sounds rather cheeky until we re
member that the republican congress has al
ways been in favor of guaranteeing tho returns
of the. manufacturers of tho country through
tho protective tariff device.
Ponroso was elected tho floor leader of the.
republican senators by virtue of . tho progres
sive votes. They explain their action by saying
that they had to choose between Penrose and
democratic control of that body. Judging from
their previously-expressod opinions about Pen
rose this seems to havo been an instance where
men chose tho worsor of what they regarded as
Congress ought not to havo any difficulty In
solving tho problem of what to do with the
railways. The leaguo of Investors in railway
stocks and bonds Is demanding that the govern
ment guarantee a fixed return on the monev
they havo in these securities. After that is
done we .suppose they will havo no objections
to the publishers and the farmers being KUarw
an teed returns on their investments
nr " ' . iT
Limitation of Terms
Below will be found the President's letter op
posing any limitation on the number of presi
dential terms. While it is written as a protest
against an amendment which had passod the
senate limiting tho President to ONE term, it
gives tho President's reason for opposing ANY
limitation whatever. Tho letter was written
early in 1913, to A. Mitchell Palmer, now at
torney general, who was chairman of the demo
cratic caucus in the house of representatives at
the time, and reads as follows:
"My dear Palmer:
"Thank you warmly for. yotfr letter of Feb. 3,
1913. It was characteristically considerate of
you to ask my views with regard to the joint
resolution which has just come over fr6m the
house with regard to the presidential term. I
have not hitherto said anything about this ques
tion because I had not observed that there was
any evidence that the public was very much
interested in it. I must have been mistaken
in this, else the senate would hardly have acted
so promptly upon It. It is a matter which con
cerns the character and conduct of the great
office upon the duties of which. I am about to
enter. I feel, therefore, that in the present
circumstances I should not be acting consis
tently with my ideals with regard to tho rule
of entire frankness and plain speaking that
ought to exist between public servants and the
house whom they serve if I did not speak about
it without reserve of any kind and without
thought of the personal embarrassment.
"The question is simply this: Shall our Presi
dents be free so far as the law is concerned to
seek a second term of four years, or shall they
be' limited by a constitutional amendment to a
single term of four years or to a single term
extended to six years. I can. approach the ques
tion from a. perfectly impersonal point of view
because I shallmost carefully abide by the judg
ment of my party and the public as to whether
I shall bo a candidate for the presidency in
191 C. I absolutely pledge myself to resort to
nothing but public opinion to decide that ques
tion. The President ought be absolutely de
prived of every other means .of deciding it. He
can be. I shall use to the utmost every proper
influence within my reach to see that he is be
fore the term. to which I have been elected is
.out. That side of the matter need disturb no
"And yet if he is' deprived of very other
means of deciding the question, what becomes
of the argument for a constitutional limitation
to a single term? The argument is not that it
is clearly known just how long each President
should remain in office. Four years is too long
a term for a President who is Hot a true spokes
man of the people, who is imposed upon arid
does not lead. It is too short a term for a
President who is doing or attempting a great
work of reform and who has not had time to
finish it. To chango the term to six years would
inJJS?rea8e the likelill00d of its being too
long without any assurance that it would in
happy cases be long enough. A fixed constitu
tional limitation to a single term of office is
po!nlyof "view.1,7 unsatisfactory fr every.
"The argument for it rests upon temporary
conditions which can easily be removeHy faw
Presidents it is said, are effective for one-haTf
thir erm only because they devote their
attention during the last two years of the term
to building up the influences and, above aUthS
organization by which they hope and purpose
to secure a second nomination and election t?
Is this Illicit power, not the! Megitimit?' in
fluenco with the country, that the adyScates It
a constitutional chango profess to be afraid of
'in the. same way with regard to
th choice ot
"The nominations should h .i. ,.
the people at. the polls; convention flT hl
determine nothing but paraffiL
should bo made up of the men who m8?
expected if elected, to carry thogo platff P
.to effect. It is not necessary to at end to i'
people's business by constitutional ameMmS
if you will only actually put the busSt
tho people's own hands. 3 lnto
"I think it may safely be assumed that w
will be d.ono within the next four years Ci
can be done by statute. It need not wait f
constitutional change. That being done Z
question of the presidential term can be SI
cussed on its merits.
"It must be dear to everybody who has
studied our political development at all that
the character of the presidency is passine
through a transitional change. We know what
the office is now and what use must ho made"
of it, but we do not kn.w what it is going to '
work into, and until we do know we shall not
know what constitutional change, If any is
needed, it would be best to make. '
"I must speak with absolute freedom and
candor. in this matter or not speak at all, and
it seems to me that the present position of the
presidency in our actual system as we use it Is
quite abnormal and must lead eventually to
something very different. He is expected by the '
nation to be the leader of his party as welt as
the chief executive officer of the government,
and the country will take no excuses from him.
He must play the part, and play it successfully,
or lose the country's confidence. He must be
prime minister, as much concerned with the
g idance of legislation as with the just and
orderly execution of law. And he is the spokes
man of the nation in even the most momentous
and delicate dealings of tho government with
foreign nations. Why, in such circumstances,
, should he be responsible to no one for four long
years? All the people's legitimate spokesmen In
the , house of representatives, and one-third ot
their representatives- in tho senate are brought
to book every two years.
"Why not the President, if he is to be the
leader of the party and the spokesman of
policy? Sooner or later, it would seem, he must
be made answerable to opinion in a somewhat
more informal and intimate fashion answer
able, it may be, to the houses which he seeks
to lead either personally or through a cabinet
as well as to the people for whom thoy speak.
But that is a matter to be worked out as It
inevitably will be in some natural American way
which we cannot yet even predict.
The present fact is that the President is new
responsible for what happens in Washington in
every large matter, and so long as ho is com
manded to lead he is surely entitled to a certain
amount of power all the power he can get
from the support and 'convictions and opinions
of his fellow countrymen; that he ought to w
suffered to use nat power against his opponent
until his work is done. It will be difficult for
him to. abuse it. He holds it upon sufferance i
the pleasure of public opinion. Everyone eise,
his opponents included, have access to opinwj
as hd has. He must keep the confidence oi u
country by earning it, for he can keep u
other 'way. . tfftf
"Put tho pres-nt customary limitation or w
terms into the constitution if you don iTl
people to take care of themselves, but maw
two terms (not one, because four years is i oh
too long), and give the President flfj
to win the full service by proving wmseu
fOr it. ' . nncMtfl-
"If you wish to learn the result of consul
tional ineligibility to re-election ask any io
goernor of New Jersey, for example, w
effect is in actual experience. He wj ;the
how cynically and Tvith what complacence
politicians bAn-'od against him waited ior
inevitable end of his term to take their m &
with his successor. Constituti ms place an
place no limitations upon their power.
"They may control what governors "p
as .long as1 they please, as long as they c
their. outside power and influence together.
smile at the goming and going of goven
. some men in Washington have smiiea
coming and going of Presidents, as upon fc
ephemeral, which passed an 1 were soon
got rid of it if you but sat tight and w
"As things stand now, the people nus. 1U.
likely be cheated than served by lurww .g
tions'ofthe President's eligibility. Hs
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