SHOULD the League of Nations ever decide upon a uniformity of laws for all nations, and should a constitution be established as a standard, the constitution of the United States which is built on broad democratic principles might be taken as a model. Next to that of this great Republic, the Roumanian constitution might be suggested as one of the broadest of human documents for a free people to live under. For, with the exception of three particular points, it is, in letter and in spirit, strongly similar to that of the United States.
Basically, Roumania is a democracy, a monarchical democracy, of course, but it is a broad democracy nevertheless. The people rule. The sovereign, its King, executes the will of his people by sanctioning and enforcing the laws of the land. The people frame their laws through their representatives and His Majesty the King, like our chief executive, the President, approves and executes the laws. As our president so is the King, in the fullest sense of the word, the representative of the people and his duty is to express their will in action. The very preamble of every act of the King expresses this idea. It reads:
"Ferdinand the first, By the Grace of God and the will of the nation to all present and their posterity, Greeting." He rules by the will of the people.
The Roumanian constitution and its laws which are enacted from time to time constitute, in a sense, a composite of American and English democracy. Its system of government differs, as I said, from ours in three points only. These are:
1. Roumania is a monarchical democracy, while our country is a republic.
2. The religion, which is Greek Orthodox, is the official faith of the State, while under our American system the church is separated from the State.
3. The compulsory military service by conscription, which every male must perform; while under our American constitution no military service is demanded from the citizens, except in time of war when a special law is enacted. In every other respect the two systems are similar.
On the other hand Roumanian government also resembles that of England: (a) in that it is a constitutional monarchy; (b) in its liberal laws as such; (c) in its parliament; (d) in the prerogatives which the King exercises; (e) in the love the people have for their sovereigns葉he King and Queen, and in many other respects.
Equality Before the Law
All stand equal in the eyes of Roumanian law. It recognizes no class distinction; titles of nobility do not exist in the Kingdom, nor does the law recognize any distinction of creed, religion, race, or color.
Universal suffrage is recognized under the constitution and the civil rights of the Roumanian woman, like those of her American sister, are respected on a basis of equality of the two sexes.
"All aliens who reside on Roumanian territory," says the constitution, "enjoy the protection given by the law to persons and property in general." Individual liberty is guaranteed, and no one may be deprived of his liberty without due process of law. The English dictum that "every man's home is his castle," is as sacred in Roumania as it is in Great Britain. No Roumanian home may be invaded without due process of law. No one may be deprived of his property, and no property may be alienated without adequate compensation, nor without process of law. The law of Eminent Domain is recognized in Roumania as it is under our American law, under which property may be condemned for public use wherever public interest demands, but adequate compensation must be given to the owner.
Full liberty is guaranteed to the press, and Roumanian journalists know how to respect this liberty.
The State furnishes free education to such an extent that the annual budget for education is equal, in proportion, to the American. Industrial enterprise is encouraged by the State. And in this, too, the law does not make any distinction of class, color, or creed. All stand on an equal footing before the law.
The constitution recognizes the Greek Orthodox church as the dominant religious institution in the entire Kingdom. This is, first, because the great majority of the people belong to that church. Second, because throughout its history the State has always recognized it as the mother church. In this respect Roumania does not differ from Great Britain. England has the "Church of England." And yet, the word liberty was never defined in broader meaning than by the English. Notwithstanding the great influence which English aristocracy, the House of Lords, the Crown and the Church exercise in England, no other people has ever enjoyed more liberty than the English. Every religious denomination stands on an equal footing with the Church of England. But the dominant Church of the empire is the Church of England. It is an ancient institution and it has remained traditionally undisturbed. Like the constitution of the land it does not interfere with the liberty of any other church or creed.
Roumania, too, has its great traditions. True to these traditions, so sacred to every Roumanian, the Greek Orthodox church has remained the dominant church of the land. In Roumania, as in England, every other denomination enjoys equal freedom of conscience, and the state church enjoys no greater privileges than any other denomination.
Trial by jury is a constitutional provision. Every Roumanian inhabitant when charged with a crime is entitled to be tried by twelve of his peers.
Privacy in correspondence, in telegrams and telephone communications is guaranteed under the constitution. This sacred right is inviolable.
The right of peaceable assembly is another provision sacred to every Roumanian. Public meetings where citizens may assemble and discuss matters of public interest are freely allowed. Associations may be formed without the slightest restriction. These are regulated by law but only in the broadest sense. The right to petition exists without the least restraint.
Government by the People
All powers of the State emanate from the people. These powers are delegated to the authorities in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.
Legislative powers are exercised collectively by the King and national representatives. The latter serve in two houses葉he Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. No law can be enacted without these three legislative agencies. Any one of these three may introduce bills, except such as affect the budget, which must first be voted by the Chamber of Deputies.
In framing the new constitution which was proclaimed by King Ferdinand on March 28, 1923, every precaution was taken to safeguard the rights of the people, and at the same time also to secure the stability of the government. Thus, the promulgation of every law must be attended by the Minister of Justice, whose duty it is to preserve a copy of the original bill, while a duplicate is preserved in the archives of the State. He is also the keeper of the Great Seal of the State, and must publish every law enacted.
As chief executive, the powers of the King are regulated by the constitution. All laws are executed in the name of the King, while he, on the other hand, carries out the will of the people.
The two Chambers, in their respective assemblies, represent the nation. Each branch adopts its own rules and is the sole judge of every case brought before it. Two-thirds vote is required to unseat a member in the chamber to which he was elected. By accepting an appointive office the appointee loses his seat.
The people's representative is immune from arrest during the session of the chamber to which he was elected.
The principle of Home Rule is recognized under the Roumanian constitution with respect to local matters only耀uch that may affect a town, a community or a district. These are ruled by their respective boards or councils.
All sessions of the chambers are public. Each of the chambers directs its own police, and its executive power rests in its president. No armed force may be posted at the door of either chamber without the chamber's consent.
The term for which members of both the legislative branches are elected is four years. These representatives are elected by districts. Their number is fixed by law, according to population. Twenty-five years is the minim vim age of a candidate for election as Deputy, whereas the minimum age of a candidate to the Senate is 40 years.
The constitution provides representation for all classes. Thus, besides the representatives elected by the voters of each district, the following groups are also represented in the Senate, and members are elected by their respective colleges, namely: the Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Labor, and Agriculture. The total number of representatives of these groups is limited to six.
By virtue of their high positions in the State or Church the following are also entitled to be seated in the Senate:
The heir to the throne at the age of 18; the Metropolitan of the Country; the Diocesian Bishops of the Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic Churches (if they are elected according to law). Every other faith having at least 200,000 communicants may also elect or appoint its head to the Senate. The Academy is also represented by its president in the Senate.
The constitutional powers of the King are hereditary in the male line of descent of primogeniture from the late King Charles. The female line of descent is excluded. In the absence of male issue, the oldest brother of King Charles, or the descendant of his brother becomes the successor to the throne. In the absence of such, the King may, with the consent of the chambers, indicate his successor from one of the European dynasties.
In case of the throne becoming vacant, the Sovereign is elected at a joint session of the two chambers from a dynasty of Western Europe. During the vacancy of the throne the constitutional powers are exercised in the name of the people by the council of Ministers.
The King reaches his majority at the age of 18. Before ascending the throne he takes the following oath in the midst of the joint session of the two chambers:
"I swear to observe the constitution and the laws of the Roumanian people, to uphold their national rights and the integrity of their territory."
The King, with the approval of the national representatives, may nominate a regency in his life time, to exercise the royal power after his death. He may rule over no other State, except with the consent of the two chambers.
The person of the King is inviolable. The members of his Cabinet, or Ministers, are directly responsible to him. And yet, with all the powers which the constitution gives the King, no act of his has any validity unless countersigned by a Minister. The King, on the other hand, appoints and dismisses his Ministers at will.
The whole machinery of the Roumanian government is so organized, and its different agencies so interwoven with one another, that there exists no absolute power. One authority is greater than the other but, at the same time, the very highest authority needs the approval of another authority though the latter may be inferior in power, before any of its acts become valid. Here is an illustration:
The King is the highest authority of the land. He may sanction or refuse to approve laws enacted by the legislature; he has the right of amnesty in political cases; but he may not intervene with, or suspend the course of the administration of justice. He appoints or confirms appointments to public office according to law. But he may not create any office. He makes the necessary regulations for the execution of the laws, but has no power to suspend any of the laws he regulates. He is the head of the armed forces, and may confer military ranks. He may also confer decorations in conformity with an express law. He has the right to coin money under a special law. He may conclude commercial and navigation treaties with foreign states, but in every case the matter in question must first be submitted to the legislative power and approved by it. As in every other democracy, it is the legislature that has the main power, and the King only executes the will of his people. It is the "vox populi" that is heard all over the land; it is the spirit of democracy that pervades the air, and it is that spirit which rules.
The Roman Law
Among the many Roman characteristics so preeminently manifested in every vein and fibre of Roumanian life, the Roman law is the main artery in its body politic. With the spread of Roman influence and Roman law, to use a phrase of the great British scholar and diplomat, James Bryce, "the light of legal knowledge radiated from two centres, from Constantinople over the Balkans . . . from Italy, over the lands that lay north of her." Roumania was a Roman colony, its people are of Latin origin, descendants of the Romans, their customs, superstitions are Roman and, to a great extent, the very language of their Roman ancestors has been well preserved溶o wonder that they have also retained the Roman law. If Bracton, Coke or Mansfield should peruse a Roumanian statute book they might credit its contents to the diffusion of English law which, with the exception of the common law, is in itself Roman. The fact is that, no matter how similar the Roumanian law may be to that of England, it is "de facto" purely and simply Roman law which Roumanian jurisprudence has followed. Roumanian jurisconsults follow the Code Napoleon as far as practice and a few technicalities are concerned. This code differs somewhat from our Justinian code, but the laws in general are closely similar to ours. Only recently I had occasion to discuss this very subject with one of the leading members of the Roumanian bar and this is what that authority said when an American lawyer suggested to him the adoption of our system of jurisprudence:
"I find," he said, "very little difference between the two codes葉he Roumanian and the American codes of practice. I have made comparisons, and I find them almost alike. As to our laws in general, I have not as yet found any American statute to differ materially from our laws. There is nothing in our laws that can be unfavorably compared with those of any other civilized country." I have no doubt that he is right. Notwithstanding Roumania's geographical position in proximity to the Orient, its policy, its system of government, its high standard of education, its judiciary, military and administrative systems, its very social life, are those of an Occidental people. It is modern in many respects. It is progressive and is always leaning toward modernism容ven toward the ultra-modern.
A word in regard to its judiciary system:
Besides its inferior courts of original jurisdiction there are two appellate courts in the kingdom葉he Court of Appeal, to which appeals are taken from decisions in the inferior courts and questions of constitutionality which are taken to this court, and the Court of Cassation, which is the court of last resort. The judges in these courts are appointed by the King for life.
Trial by jury is recognized in all criminal and political offenses. All official acts are subject to review by the courts. The government, on the other hand, is supreme, and no act of the government, or that of a military commandant, may be reviewed by the courts.
No tax may be established or imposed without law. No district or community may be taxed without the approval of its local council. No special privileges may be granted in taxes, nor exemptions made or rebates allowed.
No monopolies may be constituted, except those fixed by law, and even then, for the benefit of the State only, or the district or community.
The annual budget is fixed by the Chamber of Deputies every year. Control of the accounts, receipts and disbursements is under a Court of Accounts. There is only one such court to supervise all the accounts of the Kingdom.
All laws and regulations are published in the Monitorul Oficial, which is the equivalent to our Congressional Record.
The Army and Navy
Every male inhabitant of Roumania is a part of one branch or the other of the armed forces. Roumanian arms are divided into three branches: 1) the active forces with a permanent staff; 2) the army in reserve and 3) the militia. Eligibility, length of service, rank and compensation are regulated by law.
No rank, decoration or military pension may be taken away except by a court of law. The contingents of the army are voted annually by the two chambers. The constitution provides for a supreme council for national defense. No foreign armed body may be admitted into the service of the State, nor into its territory except by virtue of a special law.
Bucharest is the capital and also the home of the Government. The parliament, the ministry and the King are located in the capital city.
At no time may the constitution be suspended. On the initiative of the King, or on that of one of the two chambers, the constitution may be revised. An absolute majority of two-thirds of the chambers is required to decide whether there is cause for revision. If cause for revision is found to exist, and it is so decided, a mixed commission is then appointed by the two chambers from among their members and this commission is charged with the revision of the constitution. Upon the filing of the report of the commission, and after it has been read twice by the two chambers within fifteen days, a majority of the two chambers in joint session may adopt the revision. Immediately after that adoption, the two chambers are automatically dissolved. The electorate is then convoked for a new election of representatives.
The newly constituted chambers, in accord with the King, proceed with the modification of the points recommended for revision. But no action whatever may be taken in that regard if two-thirds of the members are not present.
This, in brief, may give an idea of the character, culture and tendencies of the Roumanian people as reflected in its laws.
Roumania has a rich history; a history of suffering, of struggle, of heroism. It has a tradition to which it has remained true from generation to generation. It had heroes and great patriots in the past and it has great heroic men living. It is ruled by an enlightened King and it is proud of its progressive, active, influential and charming Queen. Her Majesty Queen Marie, a native of the Great British Empire, imbued as she is with that broad English spirit of liberty and democracy, has worked untiringly for the betterment of her subject people in Roumania. The visit to America of this charming Queen of Queens will no doubt have the effect of bringing the two countries in closer relation. Her stay here, no matter how brief, will cement the attachment that will hold the two nations in a close bond of lasting friendship. Let us hope that the spirit of democracy and the love of this good-hearted and broadminded Queen will guide the Roumanian people, led by their enlightened sovereigns, to greater glory, progress and happiness.