Imagens das páginas


[ocr errors]

ling influence

upon the great question of South American emancipation. We have seen the fell spirit of civil dissension rebuked, and, perhaps, forever stifled, in that republic, by the love of independence. If it be true, as appearances strongly indicate, that the spirit of independence is the master spirit, and if a corresponding sentiment prevail in the other states, this devotion to liberty cannot be without a proper effect upon the counsels of the mother country. The adoption by Spain of a pacific policy towards her former colonies an event consoling to humanity, and a blessing to the world, in which she herself cannot fail largely to participate — may be most reasonably expected.

The claims of our citizens upon the South American governments generally, are in a train of settlement, while the principal part of those upon Brazil have been adjusted; and a decree in council, ordering bonds to be issued by the minister of the treasury for their amount, has received the sanction of his imperial majesty. This event, together with the exchange of the ratifications of the treaty negotiated and concluded in 1828, happily terminates all serious causes of difference with that power.

Measures have been taken to place our commercial relations with Peru upon a better footing than that upon which they have hitherto rested; and if met by a proper disposition on the part of that government, important benefits may be secured to both countries.

Deeply interested as we are in the prosperity of our sister republics, and more particularly in that of our immediate neighbor, it would be most gratifying to me were I permitted to say, that the treatment which we have received at her hands has been as universally friendly, as the early and constant solicitude manifested by the United States for her success, gave us a right to expect. But it becomes my duty to inform you that prejudices long indulged by a portion of the inhabitants of Mexico against the envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of the United States, have had an unfortunate influence upon the affairs of the two countries, and have diminished that usefulness to his own which was justly to be expected from his talents and zeal. To this cause, in a great degree, is to be imputed the failure of several measures equally interest

ing to both parties, but particularly that of the Mexican government to ratify a treaty negotiated and concluded in its own capital, and under its own eye. Under these circumstances, it appeared expedient to give to Mr. Poinsett the option either to return or not, as in his judgment the interest of his country might require, and instructions to that end were prepared; but before they could be despatched, a communication was received from the

government of Mexico, through its charge d'affaires here, requesting the recall of our minister. This was promptly complied with; and a representative of a rank corresponding with that of the Mexican diplomatic agent near this government was appointed. - Our conduct towards that republic has been uniformly of the most friendly character; and having thus removed the only alleged obstacle to ħarmonious intercourse, I cannot but hope that an advantageous change will occur in our affairs.

In justice to Mr. Poinsett, it is proper to say, that my immediate compliance with the application for his recall, and the appointment of a successor, are not to be ascribed to any evidence that the imputation of an improper interference, by him, in the local politics of Mexico, was well founded; nor to a want of confidence in his talents or integrity; and to add, that the truth of that charge has never been affirmed by the federal government of Mexico; in their communications with this,

I consider it one of the most urgent of my duties to bring to your attention the propriety of amending that part of our constitution which relates to the election of President and Vice-President. Our system of government was, by its framers, deemed an experiment; and they, therefore, consistently provided a mode of remedying its defects.

To the people belongs the right of electing their chief magistrate; it was never designed that their choice should, in any case, be defeated, either by the intervention of electoral colleges, or by the agency confided, under certain contingencies, to the House of Representatives. Experience proves, that, in proportion as agents to execute the will of the people are multiplied, there is danger of their wishes being frustrated. Some may be unfaithful; all are liable to err. So far, therefore, as the people can, with

convenience, speak, it is safer for them to express their own will.

The number of aspirants to the presidency, and the diversity of the interests which may influence their claims, leave little reason to expect a choice in the first instance; and, in that event, the election must devolve on the House of Representatives, where, it is obvious, the will of the people may not be always ascertained, or, if ascertained, may not be regarded. From the mode of voting by states, the choice is to be made by twenty-four votes; and it may often occur, that one of those will be controlled by an individual representative. Honors and offices are at the disposal of the successful candidate. Repeated ballotings may make it apparent that a single individual holds the cast in his hand. May he not be tempted to name his reward? But even without corruption — supposing the probity of the representative to be proof against the powerful motives by which it may be assailed — the will of the people is still constantly liable to be misrepresented. One may err from ignorance of the wishes of his constituents; -another, from the conviction that it is his duty to be governed by his own judgment of the fitness of the candidates; finally, although all were inflexibly honest — all accurately informed of the wishes of their constituents

- yet, under the present mode of election, a minority may often elect the President; and when this happens, it may reasonably be expected that efforts will be made on the part of the majority to rectify this injurious operation of their institutions. But although no evils of this character should result from such a perversion of the first principle of our system - that the majority is to govern – it must be very

certain that a President elected by a minority cannot enjoy the confidence necessary to the successful discharge of his duties.

In this, as in all other matters of public concern, policy requires that as few impediments as possible should exist to the free operation of the public will

. Let us, then, endeavor to so amend our system, that the office of chief magistrate may not be conferred upon any citizen but in pursuance of a fair expression of the will of the majority.

I would therefore recommend such an amendment of the constitution as may remove all intermediate agency in the

election of the President and Vice-President. The mode may be so regulated as to preserve to each state its present relative weight in the election; and a failure in the first attempt may be provided for by confining the second to a choice between the two highest candidates. In connection with such an amendment, it would seem advisable to limit the service of the chief magistrate to a single term of either four or six years. If, however, it should not be adopted, it is worthy of consideration whether a provision, disqualifying for office the representatives in Congress on whom such an election may have devolved, would not be proper.

While members of Congress can be constitutionally appointed to offices of trust and profit, it will be the practice, even under the most conscientious adherence to duty, to select them for such stations as they are believed to be better qualified to fill than other citizens; but the purity of our government would doubtless be promoted by their exclusion from all appointments in the gift of the President, in whose election they may have been officially concerned. The nature of the judicial office, and the necessity of securing in the cabinet, and diplomatic stations of the highest rank, the best talents and political experience, should, perhaps, except these from the exclusion.

There are, perhaps, few men who can for any great length of time enjoy office and power, without being more or less under the influence of feelings unfavorable to the faithful discharge of their public duties. Their integrity may be proof against improper considerations immediately addressed to themselves; but they are apt to acquire a habit of looking with indifference upon the public interests, and of tolerating conduct from which an unpractised man would revolt. Office is considered as a species of property; and government rather as a means of promoting individual interest, than as an instrument created solely for the service of the people. Corruption in some, and in others a perversion of correct feelings and principles, divert government from its legitimate ends, and make it an engine for the support of the few at the expense of the many. The duties of all public officers are, or at least admit of being, made so plain and simple, that men of intelligence may readily qualify themselves for their performance; and

I cannot but believe that more is lost by the long continuance of men in office than is generally to be gained by their experience. I submit, therefore, to your consideration, whether the efficiency of the government would not be promoted, and official industry and integrity better secured, by a general extension of the law which limits appointments to four years.

In a country where offices are created solely for the benefit of the people, no one man has any more intrinsic right to official station than another. Offices were not established to give support to particular men at the public expense. No individual wrong is therefore done by removal, since neither appointment to nor continuance in office is matter of right. The incumbent became an officer with a view to the public benefits ; and when these require his removal, they are not to be sacrificed to private interests. It is the people, and they alone, who have a right to complain when a bad officer is substituted for a good one. He who is removed has the same means of obtaining a living that are enjoyed by the millions who never held office. The proposed limitation would destroy the idea of property, now so generally connected with official station; and although individual distress may be sometimes produced, it would, by promoting that rotation which constitutes a leading principle in the republican creed, give healthful action to the system.

No very considerable change has occurred, during the recess of Congress, in the condition of either our agriculture, commerce, or manufactures. The operation of the tariff has not proved so injurious to the two former, or as beneficial to the latter, as was anticipated. Importations of foreign goods have not been sensibly diminished; while domestic competition, under an illusive excitement, has increased the production much beyond the demand for home consumption. The consequences have been, low prices, temporary embarrassment, and partial loss. That such of our manufacturing establishments as are based upon capital, and are prudently managed, will survive the shock, and be ultimately profitable, there is no good reason to doubt.

To regulate its conduct, so as to promote equally the

« AnteriorContinuar »