No. 230. [2d Session.
COMMUNICATED TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, FEBRUARY 17, 1823.
Mr. Fuller, from the Committee on Naval Affairs, to whom was committed a resolution respecting the equal selection of midshipmen for the navy from the different States, reported:
By the second section of the second article of the constitution of the United States, the President is vested with power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to nominate and appoint all officers whose appointment is not otherwise provided for by the constitution; thus giving him the exercise of his discretion, without any limitation as to place of birth or residence in such appointments. This latitude in selecting persons of suitable character and qualification's must have been deemed indispensable to enable the Executive power to fulfil the high trust of providing for the "faithful execution" of the laws, and at the same time involves a responsibility which would have been considerably diminished by such a restriction as is suggested by the resolution. In appointing officers in the civil department, for the performance of duties which are local in their nature, the committee believe that a regard to the circumstance of residence and of the political and individual relations of the persons selected must frequently be among the considerations most important to a just decision. Nor is there any reason to doubt that a due regard to this consideration, in accordance with local predilections and the spirit and genius of a free people, has guided the Executive of the United States as far, hitherto, as the public good requires.
In the army and the navy less scope is afforded to the Executive in filling the higher grades of service, as long established usage limits the selection of suitable persons to an inconsiderable number, whose education and probationary character are deemed to render them the only subjects of such selection. It is only in the appointments to the lower grades, from which at a future day the highest ranks of the military and naval corps are to be filled, that the utmost latitude is afforded to the President for consulting the future interests of the country, by enrolling in her defence an adequate number of brave, intelligent, patriotic, and virtuous officers; and the committee are of opinion that any restriction by law, even if permitted by the constitution, would be highly pernicious in its operation, and might often result in the appointment of persons incompetent and unsuitable.
In regard to the appointment of midshipmen, the particular subject of the present inquiry, it appears, by the letter of the Secretary of the Navy Department accompanying this report, that a disposition sufficiently favorable to a general and fair participation of naval preferment has constantly pervaded that Department, and has been no otherwise counteracted than was unavoidable from circumstances beyond its control.
The committee fully concur in the propriety and policy of enrolling in the naval service the meritorious, young men of the interior States, whenever they manifest a solicitude to enter it; and they are persuaded that such a disposition on their part has always been encouraged, and will continue to be so, as far as a due regard to the constitutional discretion and responsibility of the Executive will permit. They therefore recommend the following resolution:
Resolved, That any provision, by law, restraining the Executive of the United States in the selection of midshipmen, is inexpedient.
Navy Department, January 25, 1823.
In answer to the inquiry in your letter of the 21st instant, whether any general rules are adopted in the Department by which the selection of midshipmen is made, particularly as relates to their residence, I have, the honor to state that the general rule by which I have been governed in this respect, is, to apportion them among the several States, according to the ratio of representation in Congress, when the applicants were unexceptionable as to character and qualifications for the service. The disproportion, however, was so great that I have not as yet been able to bring about an apportionment among the several States, according to the rule alluded to. But as, in all new appointments, due regard is had to the principle, the object will before long be effected. Whether it would be expedient to adopt by law this rule, leaving no discretion on the subject to the Department, may well be questioned. Although the applicants in the aggregate are very numerous, yet there are some States from which there are but few; and if the Department should be bound by law to conform in all cases to this rule, the selection might not always be of the most deserving and best qualified.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant.
Hon. Timothy Fuller, Chairman Naval Committee, House of Representatives.