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JAN. 25, 1837.]
Freedom of Elections.
(H. of R.
traordinary and powerful political union which now sanctioned by this House be held in memory. Let it controls the public administration.
never be forgotten that it passed only by opposing patIt must
, I think, Mr. Speaker, strike every observer, ronage to patronage, money to money, and arraying corwho is not blinded by interest or party rage, that some ruption against corruption. The people and the States malignant distemper has seized upon, and now deeply were brought to desire and demand a more equal divisaffects
, our political system. At all former periods we ion of the spoils—of that portion of the public moneys had
, it is true, great party excitement, much crimination which, according to former practice, would have been and recrimination between the respective parties, more or employed in corrupting particular States or sections of less violent denunciation, complaints of gross infractions the Union, and in attaching them to the party in power of the constitution, and other irregularities and abuses; by appropriating it to various objects of local improve. and, doubtless
, there have been irregularities and abuses In no other way was it possible to have defeated under every administration; but, sir, it must be apparent the manifest determination of those in power to add the to every one that there are some features in the charac-entire accruing surplus in the Treasury to the enormous ter of the present times, some circumstances of excess patronage already within their control. It was by them or novelty developed in the practical operation of our decreed that the expenditures should be raised to the peculiar form of government, which were unknown and standard of the existing revenue. But mark the instant unfelt at any former period. A new character is rapidly change in their policy: the moment it was ascertained, farming and attaching to our American institutions, and by a test vote in this House, that the surplus was about birth has been given to new theories as to their ultimate to be rescued from their insatiate grasp, the gentleman destiny. I can only glance at those general results, as from North Carolina (Mr. McKar] was upon his legs, conclusions which present themselves upon a review of proposing to reduce the revenue; and more patriots the actual state of things. It is an old maxim, or propo- sprung up in one moment, in this House, than I had bition, that power is never so absolute, or the danger dreamed were to be found in the ranks of public men in that it will become perpetual so great, as when it is the whole country. commenced and wielded in the name, and by the au. The entire party now became satisfied that the revethority of the people. The trutb of this saying is con nue should be speedily reduced to the actual wants of the krmed by the experience of this country at this time. Government. The views of the President himself, it It is demonstrated that the partition of power, establish seems, underwent a great and sudden change. In his ed by the constitution between several departments of message to Congress at the last session, he thonght the the Government, and all other barriers interposed by sur might be well applied to the increase of the pub. that instrument, have not been sufficient to prevent the lic defences, and to various objects of national imporpractical accumulation of all power in a single depart. tance. Then he was of opinion that the famous compro. ment. That a complete change has taken place in the mise act, as it is called, was too sacred to be touched; action of the Government, within the last few years, is that it involved too many interests, connected itself with too manifest to require elaborate illustration. Take one too many delicate sympathies, to be disturbed for the striking evidence of the fact, which has struck me pain. mere purpose of getting clear of a surplus revenue for fully
, yet forcibly. I have been in the habit of making a few years. The extraordinary increase of the revenue long, and often circuitous, journeys to this Capitol, from from the public lands in that year he regarded only as
distant residence, during the last nine or ten years; an evidence of the increasing prosperity of the country, ead during all that period there have been subjects of and practical proof of the beneficient and successful ad tiore or less interest among the people, and which were ministration of public affairs, of which be was at the to be settled and regulated at this seat of Government head. A surplus then had no terrors in it. But since and power. For the first few years of my experience the passage of the act for distributing it among the 19 passing over the country, the inquiry was, “What States, it would seem that nothing is so replete with horwill Congress do?” when any subject of public and na rible mischief, in the mind of the President or of the tional interest or policy was spoken of. " What will the party, as a surplus in the Treasury! The famous comHouse of Representatives do? What will the repre. promise act no longer presents any obstacle to the resentatives of the people do?" But, sir, we hear these duction of the tariff
; the extraordinary increase of the inquiries no longer. No one now asks, nor seems to sales of the public lands is discovered to be the retate
, shat the chosen delegates of the people in Con. sult of a diseased instead of a healthful and prosperous gress may feel or think upon any subject. The form action of the political system. It was worthy of note of interrogation is changed. The question is, both from that the gentleman from New York (Mr. CAMBRELENG] Ctizen and foreigner, what will the President do? What suddenly discovered that corruption threatened the sill he say in his message? What will Andrew Jackson States by the distribution of the surplus, without seem. dal What will the people's President do? His will and ing ever to bave spent a thought about the corruptions purpose ascertained, it is understood that Congress will which threatened the country from permitting the sur. senform their action to it. This single fact in the history plus to be expended, or rather prodigally squandered, of this country will be sufficient to stamp the present as by the General Government. the period of transition from a popular representative (Mr. Bell here gave way to a call for the orders of Government to the Government of an elective presiden- the day. The subject did not again come up till the fol-of a political chief. A revolution in the Government - lowing Tuesday, when Mr. Bell concluded his speech.] in some sense, complete. We have no longer a Gov. Mr. Bell, after noticing an article in the morning's trament constituted of two or more separate depart. Globe, which reflected upon him, spoke as folllows: Realm of an executive and of a legislative department. Before I resume my remarks, Mr. Speaker, upon the Al power, in substance and effect, is concentrated in subject of my motion, 1 beg leave to do an act of justice be hands of one department--in one head; and that to the gentleman from North Carolina, (Mr. McKay,) to sexd , I am sorry to say, is the head of a party:
whom I alluded when I addressed the House the other The only example of the independent action of this day. That gentleman has, I know, always been an adlizeze upon any subject in which the President was vocate for a reduction of the revenue; and when I de. pleased to manifest any decided interest, which has oc scribed him as having presented his resolution immedi. otted within the last iwo years, was the passage of the ately after it became manifest that the surplus would be ??suite ur distribution bill at the last session. But let distributed, at the last session, I referred to him merely 13 the circumstances under which that measure was as the organ of the party in that step. I presumed that
H. OF R.]
Freedom of Elections.
[Jan. 25, 1837.
he was glad to avail himself of the change of sentiment pled uuder foot. If any Senator shall dare to oppose which had recently manifested itself among his political any important nomination of the President, or to question associates in the House, in carrying out his own long the propriety of a treaty, he is denounced as the tool of cherished policy.
a faction, or, if he belongs to the dominant party, his When I was interrupted by the call for the orders of conduct is instantly branded as an act of infidelity to the the day when last up, I was digressing from the point party! Then, sir, I repeat that the Senate no longer which I had intended to establish, which was, that all exercises its most important constitutional functions; and actual power was now concentrated in the hands of the that the design of its peculiar structure is defeated. It Executive; and I refer to the general acquiescence of is also manifest that a revolution has taken place in the this House in the will of the President, as evidence of practical operation of the Government. the truth of my proposition; but the condition of the But there are other symptoms, indicating a highly disSenate will illustrate my position more clearly. Ac eased state of the body politic. The charges upon
the cording to all the early expounders of the constitution, the people-the permanent annual expenditures of the GovSenate was constituted upon the principle of long terms ernment-have been increased ten milions, or nearly a and a select constituency, the State Legislatures, for the hundred per cent., during the present administration, purpose of giving greater stability and uniformity to the and chiefly within the last two years! And, after careaction of the Government. It was intended as a coun. ful examination, I am able to state, further, that this esti. terpoise to the Representatives of the people in this mate of the astonishing increase of the public burdens House, who were supposed to be more under the influ is exclusive of the increased amount of pensions grantence of popular impulses. I beg leave to quote a sen ed under the present administration, and of the large tence or two from a celebraled volume, upon the sub sums paid in extinguishing the Indian lille to the public ject of the peculiar structure of the Senate:
lands! The entire charge upon the people for support “ As the cool and deliberate sense of the community of the Government of their choice, in all the various deought, in all Governments, and actually will, in all free pariments of the public service, did not exceed twelve Governmenis, ultimately prevail over the views of its millions and a balf, exclusive of the public debt, when rulers, so there are particular moments in public affairs the present Chief Magistrate assumed the management when the people, stimulated by some irregular passion of public affairs. The present annual charge upon the or some illicit advantage, or misled by the artful misrep. people, for the same objects, and which appear to be resentations of interested men, may call for measures permanent, exceeds twenty-three millions! What do which they themselves will afterwards be most ready to you say, sir, to an increase of ten millions in eight years, lament and condemn. In these critical moments, how and this under an administration which ousted the presalutary will be the interference of some temperate and ceding one upon a charge of profligacy and extravarespectable body of citizens, in order to check the mis gance, and came in pledged to retrenchment and reform? guided career, and to suspend the blow meditated by But what is still more surprising is, that none of the the people against themselves, until reason, justice, and great establishments for the public defence have received truth, can regain the authority over the public mind.” any considerable augmentation in the mean time. Not.
These are the sentiments of James Madison. Now, withstanding the liberal annual appropriations for the insir, we know that the Senate is reduced to a state of ab crease and support of the navy, that branch of the pubsolute submission-given over to the guidance of every lic defence was, last year, notoriously in a most disgracepopular gale blown up by the artifices of as unprinci- ful state of dilapidation; and what is still more surpripled and reckless a class of men as ever made their ap- sing, although we have confessedly a military Presipearance in any age or country. If the sea of public dent, yet at no period since the foundation of the Gov. sentiment, thrown into commotion by the puffings of erment was the army in a more deplorable condition, ibat great political bellows, the Globe, shall happen to nor our military operations more discreditable to the set in half a dozen different directions in the same fort. country! I affirm that the military service of the counnight, the unhappy Senate must tack and change its try is, at this moment, in the last slage of disorder and course as often, or be denounced as contumacious, and imbecility. Our officers, of the highest merit, are disopposed to the voice of the people. In truth, the Sen. contented and dispirited; our highest military talents disate described by Madison is no more. It is the most credited by defective organization, and the want of due supple and compliant body of the two, not only as re. attention and co-operation on the part of the Executive gards the sudden impulses of popular feeling, but also Government. Three major generals have had their the mandates of power.
" Northern laurels converted into Southern willows" in But, further, as to the Senate. The members of that the course of little more than twelve months, and the body were designed by the authors of the constitution spectacle has been exhibited of a handful of savages setto be the advisers and counsellors of the President in the ting at defiance the arms and resources of this great exercise of the appointing power. It is remarkable that confederated republic for years! Yet all that devoted it was the early opinion of both Mr. Jefferson and Colo and gallant men could do, unsupported by the Govern nel Hamilton, ihe leaders of the two extremes in poli- ment, has been done by ihe subordinate officers and sol tics, that the concurrence of the Senate was necessary diers, both regulars and volunteers. These Indian wars before the President could remove a public officer; but which will have cost the Government fifteen millions be I do not mean to press this point, nor do I wish to dis fore they are concluded, it is now sufficiently manifest turb the settled doctrine in relation to it. It is certain bad their origin in the gross misconduct of our agents that the Senate was designed by the constitution to be the frauds of our own citizens upon the Indians, and th taken into the council of the President in making trea culpable neglect, if not connivance, of ihe Government ties, as well as in making the most important appointo wars which have entailed disgrace upon our arms and ments, when it prescribed, as a condition to the validity ! slain upon our national character! I.et us hear no mor of all treaties and appointments, “the advice and cons of the moneys extorted, by the energy and address sent of the Senate.'' But, sir, while the power of the the President, from foreign Powers, when, for ever veto, vested in the President over the proceedings of million thus restored to the pockets of our merchant Congress, Aourishes in excess, what has become of a the people are laxed iwo millions, by reason of the gro similar power in the Senate over the treaties and ap neglect of our domestic affairs. pointments of the President? Abrogated, rescinded, i omit to notice the deranged condition of the curre expunged, practically, from the constitution, and tram cy and of exchange, because that is a subject whic,
must, for a long time, be judged of by prejudice. But bad sympto:ng. Whence the action of our chosen form I cannot pass over, in this enumeration of the actual of government, in so many essential branches of it, so state of the country, the condition of the public press. contrary to all that was boped and predicted of its results The great source of light and knowledge bas been cor by its immortal founders? I will endeavor to expound rupted by the patronage which bas been lavished upon to you. In the first place, the patronage of the Governit by this House and by the Executive Government. ment, we shall find, upon inquiry, to have been extendThe most important instrument employed in the moral ed immeasurably beyond any thing anticipated, or even improvement of society has been polluted and broken conjectured, by the framers of the constitution. I had up. No one knows what to believe or disbelieve, un occasion to refer to the historical fact, in addressing the les he shall liave the evidence of personal knowledge House upon another subject, at a former session, that and confidence. I, of course, do not mean that there the entire patronage of the Post Office Department was are no exceptions among the public journals, which wholly unnoticed and disregarded in the estimate of the come under this description. À morbid appetite bas amount of patronage about to be conferred upon the been created, and fostered chiefly by the example of the Federal Government by the adoption of the constitution official organ, (the Globe,) for violent denunciation, in in its present form. This single branch of patronage, unfective, and calumny; and party excitement and preju. | foreseen and unprovided against by the illustrious authors dices have risen to such excess, that the mass of the of the constitution, is now perhaps greater in influence followers of the leaders on either side are prone to rush than all the other branches put together. So erring and into the most ruinous exiremes, to gratify their own or short-sighted are the wisest of mortals! In the second their leaders' passions or interest, heedless of truth, place, the weight and influence of this extended amount reckless of justice, and often, no doubt, unconscious of of patronage in the hands of the Executive, as an engine the injury which they inflict upon the country. When of power, bas been increased one hundred fold, of late, the most important branches of the public service have by the unconstitutional abuse of it, as I will presently thus been neglected, and suffered to fall into disorder; demonstrate. All former calculations of the probable when our arms are disgraced, the national justice com amount and influence of patronage in our scheme of promitted, our expenditures doubled, and our free Gov. government are thus bafied and set at defiance. Some ernment changed in its practical operation; what great degree of influence, through the use of patronage, may bon has the administration, under which all these things be admissible in the Executive, in order to secure proper have come to pass, bestowed upon the country by way talents and respect for the office of President, and to of recompense? It has been able to propagate itself! insure a due co-operation from the other departments of This
, the chief end. of its existence, and the only single the Government; but the basis of this influence has reebject kept in view from the beginning to the end of it, cently been enlarged to an extent which must, in the bas been accomplished! A man has been elevated to end, if not narrowed down, terminate in the entire dethe presidency who could and did boast, before the struction and overthrow of our system. A great misforAmerican people and the whole world, that he accounted tune is, that every other evil necessarily incident to a in glory enough for him to have served under such a free Government is increased in an equal ratio. The chiel as General Jackson! And our boasted institutions same increase and abuse of patronage which have conbare so soon developed such a result! The profound centrated all power in the bands of the Executive has observer of the causes of human events will seek no imparted a new stimulus, and consequently given in. other evidence, require no better proof than this simple creased fury, to party feeling and party coniests. The fact
, to convince him that the sun of American liberty is competition for honors and offices, always a prolific suffering an eclipse.
source of party divisions in a free Government, bas, by Is there nothing in this extraordinary catalogue, this the multiplication of vacancies and the tenure of party enumeration of alarming results in the action of our service by which offices are held, become so fierce as cherished political system, to awaken inquiry or excite the to threaten the peace and security-much more, the fears of the patriotic citizen? But I have omitted to no. comfort and happiness of suciety. From the same cause tice the most striking anomaly, the greatest phenomenon has also sprung the polluted and prostituted condition of of the times. After all that I have said of the deranged the public press, and every other corruption of the and distempered condition of public affairs, I am still times. The abuse of patronage is the Pandora's box of obliged to confess that the administration, which is justly our system; it is the original sin of our political condiresponsible for every evil of the times, is popular. But tion, to which every other sin of the times may be fairly it musi be borne in mind that there are various kinds of ascribed. popularity. It may be with administrations as it some. It is idle, Mr. Speaker, it is in vain to point out, from tipes happens to individuals, that the glare of a single year to year, in this hall
, as has been done, the existence splendid achievement has been sufficient to cover over, 1 of the grossest irregularities and abuses in every branch u sith a mantle, the errors and irregularities of a whole of the public service. It is in vain that these abuses and ble
, and still leave the fortunate actor in good odor with corruptions shall be stripped of their disguises, and porthe public. Popularity, in general, follows success in trayed to the country in all the disgusting deformity with all daring enterprises, and often when they are unlawful. which a rich imagination, and an eloquence not often It follows that popularity is not always the best test of surpassed in this or any other country, can invest them. merit of general propriety; it is sometimes artificial, fac. It is in vain that we institute investigations; resolve upon titious, and more seeming than real. When real, it is retrenchment and reform; that we enact laws to multiply often the homage of the prof gate and interested who checks, and increase the accountability of public offidie bought, or of the credulous and ignorant who are cers. It will be only cutting off the heads of the Hydra, dcluded. Then, whether popularity attaches to individ which will be eternally reproduced, until we shall have sals or administrations, it does not always augur well for the courage to attack and destroy the monster itself. 5 republic. Without undertaking to decide upon which all, all, sir, will be vain, while we suffer the original of these bases the popularity of this administration source of the evil to remain undisturbed. I repeat that Bands, I refer to the fact that it is popular merely as a it is labor ibrown away, it is time and talent exhausted lander proof of the novel and alarming developments of in fruitless efforts, to pursue with research, however reaur favorite system of government.
lentless and penetrating, the authors of corruption, of Noe, sir, 1 proceed io notice the general nature and fraud and peculation, in the public offices, while the staracter of the malady which is altended with so many prolific parent of all is permitted to survive. When was
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Freedom of Elections.
[Jas. 25, 1837.
more time, a greater proportion of business talent, more or Eastern States, who will be bold enough to deny the
the contest be for power in the State or in the Federal I come now, sir, lo notice and identify the specific Government, when both are, in my judgment, alike mer. vices, in the action of the Government, wbich I regard cenary, corrupt, and unprincipled. sir, when I thinko 88 tbe cause and source of all public abuses of which we the effect of this precedent, or rather what must be the complain. I have given a summary of them in the pre- effect of this practice of removal for opinion's sake, wher amble to the bill under consideration.
it shall once be fully established and acquiesced in, I an The first clause of that preamble assumes that she utterly amazed that any public man who countenance: practice of removal from office, for opinion's sake, has such a practice should escape the open expression o prevailed under the present administration. Can there public indignation, instead of receiving the applause anc be a question as to the fact? I know there is no gentle support of the people. What is the inevitable tendenci man upon this floor, who represents any of the Northern / of this practice? To corrupt, to reduce to the con
dition of mere creatures of executive will, every man But it is further declared, in the preamble to the bill who fils any office or holds any employment under Gov. which I have had the honor to submit, that the practice ernment; to compel them, whatever may be their own of removals from office for opinion's sake is an attack upsentiments
, or whatever they may think of the conduct on the public liberiy. It is so. Whoever weakens or of our administration, to support its measures, right or destroys any of the great and fundamental securities of wrong, or be driven from their places. Since the pre- the public liberty, attacks liberty herself. The elective cedent bas been established of a Government candidate franchise is undoubtedly the foundation stone of liberty for the presidency, they must support him also under a in this country; and he who seeks to corrupt it is a fue like penalty. It is proper, upon a question of this mag- I to that liberty which it was intended to secure, and which nitude, to have clear ideas. I have said that this system cannot survive the loss of its purity and independence. tends to corrupt the public officers. What is corrup- Every public officer who avows and practices upon this tion? Whenever any public officer or other citizen is in policy is, in practice, a foe to the liberties of his country. duced, either by the hope of office or promotion, or the This practice is also denounced in the preamble as a fear of losing an office or empluyment already in his high misdemeanor in any public officer who is guilty of possession, to give his influence or vote in favor of any it. After what I have already said, I believe I need not man's election, contrary to his private unbiased judg- occupy the time of the House in establishing this point. ment, it is a case of corruption.
Any public officer who violates the freedom of elections In the preamble to the bill which I bave submitted for is guilty of a high misdemeanor. Any officer who atthe action of the House, the practice of removal from of tacks the public liberty, by the corruption of any of its 'fice upon political grounds is denounced as a violation of guards, is surely guilty of a high misdemeanor. But I the freedom of elections. It is so. Every improper or will establish this proposition by an authority higher than undue influence, or, in other words, every interest or mine, or any other living authority, however great and temptation brought to bear upon the mind of a qualified venerable. When the question was raised, in 1789, electar, in Great Britain, to induce him to vote for men whether the President possessed the power of removal, of measures contrary to the suggestions of his free and under the constitution, without the consent of the Sen. unbiased judgment, has ever been declared by the laws, I ate, Mr. Madison maintained the affirmative of the and denounced by every commentator upon tbe British proposition; and in answer to the objection that such a Constitution, as a violation of the freedom of elections. power would enable the President to exercise a danElections cannot be free where the volers or electors are gerous control over the public officers, and cause them either bribed by actual gifts or the promise of office, on to become the creatures of his will, Mr. Madison con. the one hand, or intimidated by the fear of the loss of of- tended, in an able argument, that no such danger was to fice, and often the means of subsisting their families, to be apprehended, for the reason “ that the wanton rema. support any particular candidate for the presidency or val of meritorious officers would subject bim to impeachvice presidency. The elective franchise, or the right of ment and removal from his own high trust. To disthe people to choose their own legislative or executive place a worthy man from office, Mr. Madison was of functionaries, so far from being an adequate security for opinion, would be an act of maleadministration, and conthe protection of the great objects for which Government sequently subject the President to an impeachment. was established, if it may be made dependent upon and the sentiments of Mr. Jefferson, in reply to an applicambservient to the will of any man, or any set of men, tion from his republican fellow.citizens of Wilmington, will be no security at all. It will be a mere mockery to remove an officer of the customs against whom no in imposition upon the people. It will only afford an charge of official delinquency could be made out, was apportunity to the ambitious and unprincipled to pussess worthy of his high character and known devotion to the themselves of unlawful power, through ihe medium of principles of civil liberty. lhe ordinary constitutional forms. By the theory of the “ We have," said that illustrious man, “ no passions constitution, all elections are to be determined by the will or interests different from those of our fellow-citizens. of choice of a majority of the qualified electors in the We have the same object, the success of representative leveral States; and this is the means provided for securing government. Nor are we acting for ourselves alone, a good administration and preventing a bad one-for puto but for the whole human race. The event of our ex. ting good men into office and power, and keeping out periment is to show whether man can be trusted with bad oaeg. But here are one hundred thousand voters or self-government. The eyes of suffering humanity are electors, who come to the polls and declare not their own fixed on us with anxiety, as their only hope; and on such will and choice, but the will of those who gave them their a theatre, and for such a cause, we must suppress all employments, and who hold the power of dispossessing smaller passions and local considerations. The leaders them. Power over a man's support and the subsistence of federalism say that man cannot be trusted with his of his family is, in general, power over his will. I am
own government. We must do no act which will re. not left free to vote as I please, in elections, when I am place them in the direction of the experiment. We made to understand that ibe office or employment which must not, by any departure from principle, dishearten the Bites me bresd, or supplies my family with ihe comforts mass of our fellow-citizens who have confided to us this ofife, will be taken from me if I do not vote for a par interesting cause. tácular candidate; and the election is not free in which If, sir, we are disposed to be guided by the authority the hundred thousand such votes are given. It it be said of the great founder of our systein, we have it bere prea that there are not so many office-holders, I answer that sented in the most authentic form. till who are employed on the public works of any kind, The second clause of the preamble to ihe bill declares and all who are engaged in furnishing supplies, or in any that the interference of public officers in elections is a atanger dependent upon the Government, may be fairly gross abuse. I have already remarked that it was a very included in the number. Let it not be said that the fallacious view to take of this subject, to say that one umber is at last insignificant. The power of the office hundred thousand votes was the extent of the power of hedders is immense, if we estimate their votes at one of the office-lolders, and other dependents of the Goy. lundred thousand only.
We have seen, by the result of ernment, in elections. The doctrine now is, that it is the recent ek ction, that the individual votes of the de the duty of the office-bolders, not only to vote in elecPendents upon the Government were sufficient to decide tions in favor of the administration candidates, but to the role of several of the States. But this is a very fal support them with all their influence and all their en. kraus view to take of the powers of the official corps in ergy. Such is the necessary result of the doctrine that elections, as I will presently show.