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[翻译字幕]THE MAKING OF A NATION - American History: Early Leaders Debate the Issue of Presidential Powers

来源:慢速英语   时间:2013-01-03 10:51:10

建国史话 (18):制定宪法之三

From VOA Learning English, welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION – American history in Special English. I’m Steve Ember. This week in our series, we continue the story of the United States Constitution.

In May of 1787, a group of America's early leaders met in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They planned to amend the Articles of Confederation. That document established a loose union of the 13 states. Instead, they wrote a completely new constitution. It created America's system of government and recognized the rights of its citizens.

Last week, we talked about the debate at the convention over the Virginia Plan. The plan was prepared by James Madison and other delegates from the state of Virginia. It described a national government with a supreme legislature, executive and judiciary. Some delegates feared that such a central government would take away power from the states. But in the end, they approved the proposal.

On June 1, they began debate on the issue of a national executive.

It seemed every delegate at the Philadelphia convention had something to say about the issue. They had been thinking about it for some time.
 

US Constitution - We The People

Almost every delegate was afraid to give the position extended powers. Almost no one wanted America's chief executive to become as powerful as a king. Still, many of the delegates had faith in the idea of a one-person executive. Others demanded an executive of three people.

James Wilson of Pennsylvania argued for a single executive. He said the position required energy and the ability to make decisions quickly. He said these would best be found in one person.

Edmund Randolph of Virginia disagreed strongly. He said he considered a one-person executive as "the fetus of monarchy."

John Dickinson of Delaware said he did not denounce the idea of having a government headed by a king. He said a monarchy was one of the best forms of government in the world. However, in America, he said, a king was "out of the question."

The debate over the size of the executive leadership lasted a long time. Finally, the delegates voted for a one-person executive.

The question of how to limit power was a major part of the delegates’ conversation, according to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

THOMAS: “We’re still talking about it. What are the limits of the national government? What is the role of the national government? How do we protect individual rights, individual liberties, et cetera?”

And, he says, that question continues to be asked in America today.

During the debate at the convention, other questions about the national executive arose. One question was the executive's term. Should the executive serve just once or could that person be re-elected?

Alexander Hamilton argued for a long term of office. He said if a president served only a year or two, America soon would have many former presidents. These former presidents, he said, would fight for power. And that would be bad for the peace of the nation.

Benjamin Franklin argued for the right of re-election. The people, he said, were the rulers of a republic. And presidents were the servants of the people. If the people wanted to elect the same president again and again, they had the right to do this.

In the final document, the president's term was set at four years with re-election permitted.

Next came the question of how to choose the president. It was a most difficult problem. The delegates debated and voted, and then re-debated and re-voted, on a number of proposals. James Wilson proposed that the executive be elected by special representatives of the people, called electors. Several delegates disagreed. They said the plan would be too difficult to carry out and would cost too much money.

One delegate proposed that the president be elected by the state governors. He said the governors of large states would have more votes than the governors of small states. Nobody liked this proposal, especially delegates from the small states.

Another proposal was to have the president elected directly by the people. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts was shocked by this idea.

The people do not understand these things, he said. A few dishonest men can easily fool the people. The worst way to choose a president, he said, would be to have him elected by the people.

The convention voted on the issue 60 times. In the end, the delegates agreed that the president should be chosen by electors named by state legislatures.

Now, someone said, we have decided how to choose the president. But what are we to do if he does bad things after being chosen? We should have some way of dismissing that person.

Yes, the delegates agreed. It should be possible to try the president, and if he is found guilty, remove him from office.

Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania spoke in support of the right of impeachment, should the president be persuaded to betray his trust.

The delegates approved a proposal for removing a president found guilty of bribery, treason or other high crimes.

The last major question about executive authority was the question of veto power over the national legislature.

Not one delegate was willing to give the president complete power to reject new laws. And yet they felt he should have some voice in the lawmaking process. If this were not done, they said, the office of president would have little meaning. And the national legislature would have the power of a dictator.

James Madison offered a solution.

The president should have the power to veto a law, Madison said. But his veto could be overturned if most of the members of the legislature voted to pass the law again.

The final convention document listed more details about the office. For example, it said the president had to a "natural born citizen" of the United States or a citizen at the time the Constitution was adopted. The president must have lived in the United States for at least 14 years and be at least 35 years old.

The executive would be paid. But the pay could not be increased or reduced during the term in office. The president would be commander-in-chief of the armed forces and, from time to time, report to the legislature on the state of the Union.

The final document also gave the words by which a president would be sworn-in. Every four years -- for more than 200 years now -- each president has repeated this oath of office:

"I do solemnly swear … that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Another major issue debated by the convention was a national judiciary, a federal system of courts and judges.

The delegates knew a lot about the issue. Thirty-four of them were lawyers. Eight were judges in their home states

One question hung heavy in the air. The states had their own courts and judges. Did the national government need its own system, too?

Several delegates said no. Roger Sherman of Connecticut said existing state courts were enough. Besides, he said, a system of national courts would be too costly.

John Rutledge of South Carolina opposed a national system of lower courts. But he argued for a Supreme Court.

Eventually, the convention voted for both. There would be a Supreme Court and a system of lower courts. These courts would hear cases involving national laws, the rights of American citizens, and wrongdoing by foreign citizens in the United States.

State courts would continue to hear cases involving state laws.

The next question concerned the appointment of national judges.

Some delegates believed judges should be appointed by the legislature. Others believed they should be appointed by the president.

James Wilson argued in support of having one person appoint judges. He said experience showed that large bodies could not make appointments fairly or openly.

John Rutledge disagreed strongly. By no means, he said, should the president appoint judges. He said that method looked too much like monarchy.

Benjamin Franklin then told a funny little story. In Scotland, he said, he understood that judges were appointed by lawyers. They always chose the very best lawyer to be a judge. Then they divided that person’s cases among themselves.

The delegates voted on the issue. They agreed that the legislature could decide how many judges would sit on the Supreme Court. The president would appoint the judges. The legislature could establish lower courts from time to time. The president would appoint those judges, too.

The issues involving the executive and the federal courts were serious questions that most delegates felt strongly about. But the most hotly debated issue of the convention was still to come. Would small states and large states have an equal voice in the central government? That will be our story next week.

You can find our series online with transcripts, MP3s, podcasts and pictures at www.voanews.cn. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. I'm Steve Ember, inviting you to join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION -- American history in VOA Special English.
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This was program #18

1787年5月,美国早期领袖在费城开会,他们原计划对确定了美国13个州松散体制的《邦联条例》进行修正,但最后却编纂了一部全新的宪法。这份政治文件创立了美国的政府体系,承认了公民享有的权利,至今依旧是美国的根本大法。

然而,制宪大会的进展并非一帆风顺。会议一开始,与会代表就一致同意,大会有权改变已经做出的决定。因此,提案并不是讨论后投票表决就算完事了,任何代表都可以要求对任何议题进行重新讨论。这样一来,很多被否决的议题几天、甚至几周后又会提上日程,代表们就此不厌其烦地辩论。如果以流水帐的方式讲述费城制宪大会的始末,恐怕会让人十分费解,因此我们的故事只好围绕主要议题展开。

除了可以改变决定外,大会代表还通过了一项保密规则。他们在议会大楼外面安排站岗的卫兵,报社记者一律不许旁听,会议代表也不得公开讨论会议内容。保密规则引起了人们对大会的各种猜测,特别是在欧洲。大多数欧洲人都相信,这次大会是要讨论在美国设立王权。欧洲人认为,共和体制只适合于瑞士这种小国家,在美国这样幅员辽阔的国家行不通。

不少人开始猜测,哪位欧洲王子将出任美国国王。有人觉得肯定是普鲁士的亨利王子,另外一些人更看好英国国王乔治三世的次子弗雷德里克·奥古斯塔斯王子。在新闻封锁的情况下,就连很多美国人也都对这些说法将信将疑。

制宪大会召开时,托马斯·杰斐逊担任美国驻法国代表。他听说会议采取保密措施后,非常气愤,因为他坚信,言论和新闻应该自由。直到四十多年后,詹姆斯·麦迪逊才解释了大会采取保密规则的原因。他说,如果大会对外公开的话,任何大会代表都不会改变自己的主张,因为这样做就意味着公开承认自己原来是错的。麦迪逊说,如果制宪大会没有保密,肯定会一败涂地。

大会另外一项有助于代表们畅所欲言的规则是“全体委员会”的辩论方式。虽然听起来有些好笑,但这种方式直到今天依然很有效。根据这一方式,大家可以就提案展开讨论、进行投票表决,并随时改变立场。只要是处于委员会阶段,他们的投票就不会进入永久性记录。

为了让费城会议成为“全体委员会”,与会代表推选来自麻萨诸塞的法官纳撒尼尔·戈勒姆担任委员会主席。每天早上十点,大会代表聚在一起,宣布大会是“全体委员会”,乔治·华盛顿起身离开大会主席的座位,让委员会主席纳撒尼尔·戈勒姆坐下。下午四点,“全体委员会”又宣布恢复为“费城会议”,纳撒尼尔·戈勒姆把位置让给乔治·华盛顿,然后由华盛顿宣布会议第二天早上继续。这是每天都要走的过场。

5月29号,会议代表们听取了维吉尼亚的詹姆斯·杰斐逊等代表提出的政府计划。当时年仅33岁的维吉尼亚州州长埃德蒙·伦道夫介绍了这项计划。他一上来先对美国现行的《邦联条例》大加赞赏,称编纂这一条例的人“明智”、“伟大”。不过,他又补充说,《邦联条例》是为战争期间的十三个州写的,如今美国已经成为一个独立的国家,因此需要在《邦联条例》的基础上进行补充,需要有一份永久性文件。

埃德蒙·伦道夫州长谈到了美国十三州的现状。他说的一切,其实与会代表都知道,那就是,美国很多地方的政府都已经难以为继了。埃德蒙·伦道夫指出,维吉尼亚代表在计划中提出了十五点主张,绝对没有把这些主张强加给费城大会的意思,希望代表们能深入讨论,各抒己见。

虽然其他州的代表也提出了各自的计划,但是从一开始,维吉尼亚的计划就是最具影响力的。在接下来的三个月里,代表们对计划里的条款逐项讨论,投票表决,有时还会再次讨论。维吉尼亚代表提出的计划成了费城制宪大会讨论的基础,并最终成为美国宪法的基础。

费城大会原本是要对《邦联条例》进行改进,使其更加有效,但是维吉尼亚代表提出的计划却是要建立一个全新的中央政府。与会代表们从5月30号开始对这项计划展开辩论。埃德蒙·伦道夫一上来就提出了一项修正案,他指出,计划要求建立各州联盟是行不通的。他认为,美国的中央政府应该是一个国家政府,包括最高立法、行政和司法机构。
 
埃德蒙·伦道夫话音落后,会议厅里一片寂静。很多代表都好像僵在了那里,怀疑自己是不是听错了。对于大多数代表来说,三权分立不成问题,因为当时很多州已经实行了这种体制,但要建立一个“国家的”“享有最高权力的”中央政府,这到底意味着什么呢?

在接下来的很长时间里,与会代表围绕“联邦、国家、最高”这些词的定义展开了激烈讨论。詹姆斯·麦迪逊和宾夕法尼亚州州长格瓦诺·莫里斯提出了不同的解释。麦迪逊说,联邦政府针对州采取行动,而国家政府直接针对人民。莫里斯则认为,联邦政府只不过是根据各方诚意达成的协议,而国家政府拥有完整的运作系统和权力。

南卡罗来纳的皮尔斯·巴特勒想知道,为什么有必要建立一个国家政府。德拉瓦的约翰·迪金森回答说,“可我们是一个国家啊!我们是一个由很多州组成的国家。”莫里斯接着谈到了未来。他说,今天在费城参加会议的代表们的子子孙孙不会认为自己是宾夕法尼亚、纽约、或是北卡罗来纳的公民,他们会把自己看成是美国公民。

莫里斯说,我们这一代人会死去,我们的后代就是美国人。他表示,各州一定要隶属于一个享有最高权力的国家政府,因为“现在就建立一个最高政府,比20年后肯定会出现的独裁者强。”与会代表最终通过了建立国家政府的提案。