SENATE

From Agepedia

Jump to: navigation , search

SENATE. This term has been applied to bodies of very different powers and constitutions in different countries. The Roman senate (senatus), in the early periods of the city (see Patricians), participated in the judicial and executive powers of the king, and even in the management of military affairs, by means of its influence with the people. Historians commonly attribute its creation to the wisdom of Romulus; but it may be asserted, without exception, that, among all the civilized nations around the Mediterranean, a senate, or select body of elder citizens, was considered no less essential and indispensable than a popular assembly. Such a council, says Aristotle, there always is, whether the constitution be aristocratical or democratical. It is also generally said that the number was increased, under Tarquinius Priscus, to 300. However this may be, it is plain that it corresponded to the tribes, the 300 houses (genks), which originally composed the three tribes, being represented in the senate, each by its decurio, or head. At a later period, the choice (lectio) of the senators was connected with the censorship. Every lustre (i. e. every five years), the censor read aloud the names of the senators, the worthiest first; and the one first named was called princeps senatus. Those who were unworthy of the dignity were degraded by the omission of their names. The equestrian order was the nursery from which the senate was supplied. In the time of the republic, a senator was required to have property of the value of about $18,000; in the time of Augustus, of $27,000. The supreme officers of government assembled the senate, which acted on propositions laid before it by them, article by article, and decided by a majority of voices. A decree of the senate was3 called a senatus consultum. If a tribune opposed the decree, or the senate was not full, the act was called senatus auctoritas, and was submitted to the people. The tribunes of the people could reject eveiy proposition before the senate by their veto. (q. v.) All matters of public administrationthe choice of public officers, legislation, and questions1 of peace and warwere within the jurist diction of the senate, which likewise superintended the financial concerns of the republic. The authority of the senate was styled audoritas; that of the people, potestas: the former decreed (decernebat), the latter ordered (jubebat). Still, in those cases in which it was subject to the decisions of the people (plebisscita), the authority of the senate was extensive; and in other matters its acts (senatus consulta) had the force of laws. Under the emperors, the senate gradually lost its political consideration ; but until the time of Constantine the Great, many imperial decrees, which the senate issued by the command of the emperors, were called senatus considta, and took the place of the laws enacted by the people (leges). It finally became so submissive, that it often decided on the propositions of the emperors, without deliberation, by acclamation.The French senate came into existence after the revolution of the 18th Brumaire, which placed Bonaparte at the head of the government, when he caused a new (the fourth) constitution to be drawn up (Dec. 13, 1799), which, besides three consuls, the tribunate, and the legislative body, established a conservative senate (senat conservateur), consisting of eighty members, of at least forty years old. The senate was to choose its own members for life, on the nomination of the first consul, the tribunate, and the legislative body; preserve the constitution, and, with this view, inspect the acts of the legislative body ; choose the consuls, tribunes, and members of the legislature, from the lists presented by the departments ; and supply vacancies by the choice of one of the three individuals nominated by the three other branches of government. Each senator had a yearly pension of 25,000 francs, afterwards increased (exclusive of the senatories) to 36,000. This body soon became a tool in the hands of the first consul, for the conversion of the republic into a monarchy. This took place when the senate sanctioned the decree proposed bv the council of Bonaparte, for a new change in the constitution of France. The fundamental law, or senatiisconsulte, of Aug. 15, 1801, declared the dignity of consul to be for life, and rendered the senate dependent on the first consul, by giving him the power of choosing or nominating the greater part of them, and appointing them ministers, &c. The first consul was bound to give the senate information of all treaties, before making them public. Bonaparte, as president of the senate, now caused the senators to take the oath of allegiance to him. By trie senatusconsulte of Jan. 4, 1803, a benatorerie was created in each district of the courts of appeal, endowed with a palace and a yearly income of from 20,000 to 25,000 francs, from the national domains : these (thirtytwo in number) the first consul conferred on the members of the senate for life. At a later period, the senate was composed of the imperial princes, the dignitaries of the empire, and 136 members. Two committees were appointed, one for personal liberty and the other for the freedom of the press, which, however, made no opposition to the wishes of the emperor. It is well known that a senatusconsults of the same body which had declared Napoleon emperor (May 18, 1804), declared the throne vacant (April 3, 1814). (See Napoleon.) The new constitution granted by Louis XVIII (see Charts) substituted a hereditary chamber of peers for the imperial senate. In 1831, the peerage was limited to the life of the incumbent. (See Peer.)The Russian senate is a supreme council of state, constituted by Alexander I in 1810, and consisting of thirtytwo members, and four presidents, all named by the emperor. It has no power over the will of the emperor, but is merely a medium for transacting all affairs of the empire, except foreign affairs. It is divided into four departments ; of legislation, justice, war, and finance.The senate of the U. States is composed of two senators for each member of the confederacy, chosen by the states for a term of six years. (See Congress of the United States.) The vicepresident of the XL States is the presiding officer. Besides its legislative capacity, it has, in some measure, the character of an executive council, its consent being necessary for the ratification of treaties, and for the appointment of ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the supreme court of the U. States, heads of departments, and some other officers. (See President.) The senate is also a high court of impeachment.In most of the states, the legislatures are divided into two houses, one of which is called the senate (in New Jersey, the legislative council; in Vermont, there is but one house), and is, inmost instances, chosen for a longer term of service, and sometimes for larger districts than the more popular branch (the assembly, house of representatives, house of commons). In some states, it performs the functions of an executive council, and generally forms the high court of im peachraent for the state. (See Constitutions.)