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Special Message

March 23, 1842

To the House of Representatives of the United States.

A resolution adopted by the House of Representatives on the 16th instant, in the following words, viz, "Resolved, That the President of the United States and the heads of the several Departments be requested to communicate to the House of Representatives the names of such of the members (if any) of the Twenty-sixth and Twenty-seventh Congresses who have been applicants for office, and for what offices, distinguishing between those who have applied in person and those whose applications were made by friends, whether in person or by writing," has been transmitted to me for my consideration.

If it were consistent with the rights and duties of the executive department, it would afford me great pleasure to furnish in this, as in all cases in which proper information is demanded, a ready compliance with the wishes of the House of Representatives. But since, in my view, general considerations of policy and propriety, as well as a proper defense of the rights and safeguards of the executive department, require of me as the Chief Magistrate to refuse compliance with the terms of this resolution, it is incumbent on me to urge, for the consideration of the House of Representatives, my reasons for declining to give the desired information.

All appointments to office made by a President become from the date of their nomination to the Senate official acts, which are matter of record and are at the proper time made known to the House of Representatives and to the country. But applications for office, or letters respecting appointments, or conversations held with individuals on such subjects are not official proceedings, and can not by any means be made to partake of the character of official proceedings unless after the nomination of such person so writing or conversing the President shall think proper to lay such correspondence or such conversations before the Senate. Applications for office are in their very nature confidential, and if the reasons assigned for such applications or the names of the applicants were communicated, not only would such implied confidence be wantonly violated, but, in addition, it is quite obvious that a mass of vague, incoherent, and personal matter would be made public at a vast consumption of time, money, and trouble without accomplishing or tending in any manner to accomplish, as it appears to me, any useful object connected with a sound and constitutional administration of the Government in any of its branches.

But there is a consideration of a still more effective and lofty character which is with me entirely decisive of the correctness of the view that I have taken of this question. While I shall ever evince the greatest readiness to communicate to the House of Representatives all proper information which the House shall deem necessary to a due discharge of its constitutional obligations and functions, yet it becomes me, in defense of the Constitution and laws of the United States, to protect the executive department from all encroachment on its powers, rights, and duties. In my judgment a compliance with the resolution which has been transmitted to me would be a surrender of duties and powers which the Constitution has conferred exclusively on the Executive, and therefore such compliance can not be made by me nor by the heads of Departments by my direction. The appointing power, so far as it is bestowed on the President by the Constitution, is conferred without reserve or qualification. The reason for the appointment and the responsibility of the appointment rest with him alone. I can not perceive anywhere in the Constitution of the United States any right conferred on the House of Representatives to hear the reasons which an applicant may urge for an appointment to office under the executive department, or any duty resting upon the House of Representatives by which it may become responsible for any such appointment.

Any assumption or misapprehension on the part of the House of Representatives of its duties and powers in respect to appointments by which it encroaches on the rights and duties of the executive department is to the extent to which it reaches dangerous, impolitic, and unconstitutional.

For these reasons, so perfectly convincing to my mind, I beg leave respectfully to repeat, in conclusion, that I can not comply with the request contained in the above resolution.


John Tyler, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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