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TABLE OF CONTENTS.
I. A MUCH-NEeded Reform
II. ESTEER, THE POOR JEWESS
III. THE ASTROLOGER'S TOWER. By Mrs. E. F. Ellet
VI. SONNET. By H. T. Tuckerman
VII. LANDSCAPE GARDENING, AND RURAL ARCHITECTURE IN AMERICA.
Cottage Residences; or a Series of Designs for Rural Cottages
VIII. NEW. A Poem. By Rev. Ralph Hoyt
IX. EOTHEN; OR TRACES OF TRAVEL BROUGHT HOME FROM THE EAST.
X. NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE
XI. MR. FORREST'S SECOND RECEPTION IN ENGLAND
XVI. MISCELLANY-NEW COMEDY OF FASHION; MR. HUDSON'S LEC
MR. POE'S LECTURE ON THE POETS; PLAGIARISM;
DEATH OF REV. SYDNEY SMITH
XVII. NEW YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY
We wish to address a serious word to thoughtful minds and patriotic hearts among all our political parties,-though, indeed, it is chiefly from those of our own, the party of Democratic freedom, movement and openness to suggestions of reform, that we must expect any favorable hearing for such suggestion as we desire to make.
In the first place, all will agree with us in one thing-that our Presidential Elections have become tremendous nuisances. That they seem to be growing worse and worse every time, is equally clear. Only reflect upon the recollections of 1840 and 1844. Is it not a monstrous evil that the whole country should be agitated with such a desperate struggle of parties, as that which, in both those years, has raged over the whole length and breadth of the land, from centre to extremest circumference? Are not these frequent shocks too violent, too convulsing, too dislocating? Is it a trifling mischief, that our population, divided into two almost equal numerical halves, should be every four years thus precipitated against each other, with all the animosity, bitterness, revilings, and resentments which now mingle all their bad elements to swell that huge evil of Party Spirit, which all deplore, yet all share, and all contribute to stimulate? That so much time should be wasted, so much capital squandered, so much energy misapplied, so much bad feeling mutually excited, so much demoralization, public and private, engendered? Surely, on this point, at
least, all of our readers will heartily agree.
But, how is the evil to be remedied? is the next consideration ;-or, if not susceptible of remedy, at least mitigated? Fewer elections-a longer tenure of the Presidency,-will probably be the answer of most to whom the question for the first time presents itself. The suggestion once thrown out by General Jackson, of six years and a single term, will doubtless occur to almost every reader. Would that change mend the matter? Far, indeed, from it; and General Jackson never made a greater mistake in his life.
For what is it that has swelled our Presidential elections into what we see them now? What is it but the immense importance already attaching to them-the immense interests already involved in them? If the importance of the office, from its controlling veto influence on legislation for four years, is increased-if the interests involved in it, by converting the general tenure of all the benefits of its patronage from four years to six, are magnified in the proportion of those figures-what other effect could be produced than to swell the very evil which is thus sought to be remedied by a process akin, in wisdom, to that of extinguishing a fire by the addition of fuel?
But it may be said, we should at least have a long period of intermission. Allow one or two years for the actual contest, there would be at least four or five of something like repose. This is
a fallacy. Have we any intermission -any repose-anything better than a slight, momentary lull, in the perpetually raging storm? And, surely, it would be proportionately worse, if the fury of the storm were to be increased, by the stimulation of the causes to which it is chiefly to be ascribed. It is not every four years, that we hold a Presidential Election now. It is every year; in some States, every half-year. Not only every member of the federal legislature, but, as a general rule, every officer of every State government, executive and legislative-nay, every town clerk and every village constable-is elected on Presidential principles, Presidential interests, Presidential tendencies. Whig songs for 1848 are already set to music -already sung by the roystering patriotism of bar-room politics. The echoes of the shouts which greeted President Polk's inaugural are yet in one ear, while the other is already saluted with party clamors and party discussions having reference to the formation of issues and organizations for the election of his successor. Gentlemen may cry peace,peace,but there is no peace!-rest, rest, but there is no rest! And all this, -or a large part of it-grows out of the vast magnitude of the consequences of an election, on the present tenure of power by a victorious party. This is the great motive-this the perpetual stimulus. Hence the hope and the effort--hence the anger and the disappointment--hence the strong excitement of all the ambitions, interests, intrigues, and passions which attend one of these great struggles of parties, and which become immediately transferred with scarcely diminished violence, even though the loudness of their expression may subside for a while-to the next renewal of the same still beginning, never ending contest.
The true remedy lies exactly in the opposite direction. Attack the effect in its causes. Do not dream of reducing the former by magnifying the latter, but in proportion as you reduce the latter the former will subside, if we may never expect to see it wholly disappear. Make a Presidential Election less important; make the splendor of the Presidential prize less an object of temptation to deep intrigue and desperate struggle on the part of great politicians; make its patronage less an object of ambition and cupidity to the masses of minor ones who overspread the country
who raise the clamors-organize and work the machineries-govern the local political affairs-and direct, if they do not create, a large part at least of the public opinion. Shorten the Presidential tenure; and reduce the Executive patronage. This is the only remedy, and matters have reached such a pass that it must soon be applied, and all reflecting men must soon admit into their minds the truth of its necessity.
For our own part, our preference is clear for an annual term, with unrestricted reëligibility; upon which, custom would soon fix the law of one or two reëlections as the proper limit of individual ambition.
What! A Presidential Election every year? An earthquake annually? A political revolution with every revolution of the seasons?
Softly, softly, we reply-you forget that if we should have four times as many Presidential Elections, they would be in more than equivalent proportion reduced in importance and excitement. A Presidential Election would then add little or nothing to the excitement of an ordinary local election. These latter we have every year, and must continue to have. Nay, no one of them would be attended with half the excitement that now pervades them all. As before remarked, every one of them is already a Presidential Election-and an election having reference to a four-years' Presidential tenure, with all its passions, its ambitions and its bitternesses. The Presidential question would no longer be the Aaron's rod to swallow up all the rest. It would be, as it ought to be, subordinate to the State and Municipal questions upon which the State and Municipal elections ought to turn. It would then add nothing sensibly to their excitement, while they would be relieved from the factitious excitement which they now borrow from it. Of a verity, this appears to us so plain, that we are only astonished that it is not already an universal conviction, already ripe for immediate translation into action as a practical constitutional reform. That it will, that it must, very soon be so, we cannot doubt.
But-(shall again exclaim the objector)-shall we have an annual sweep of offices a yearly rotation of the great vicissitude of In and Out! It is bad enough as it is now-would you quadruple the evil already so pernicious?
No, certainly not. On the contrary, we
would indeed apply an effectual cure to this evil. It is now tolerated to some extent every four years, because the public mind feels that even though an experienced incumbent may be superseded by another who has yet to make himself familiar with his new duties, the prospect of a four years tenure is long enough to make a few months of inefficient experimental settling down in the office of little importance in comparison with the motives inclining a victorious party to this species of reward to its more meritorious or more necessitous friends. This length of tenure is also sufficient to constitute an attraction to the latter to tempt them from other modes of industry-to lead them to hope for office, aim for it, labor for it, and finally to press hard upon the central dispensing sources of patronage, with "powers of application" hard, hard indeed to be withstood. All this would be changed under an annual tenure of the Presidency. Neither would the public mind then tolerate unnecessary political changes of office from year to year; nor would a President, a candidate for annual reëlection, then venture upon them; nor would office thus fugitive and slippery in the grasp be an object of pursuit or desire to any extent comparable with the present miserable state of things in this respect. Even, therefore, without any restriction upon the power of official patronage, this one simple change at the central mainspring of the general machinery, would go far to apply the remedy so much needed throughout the now disordered action of the farthest extremities.
But we do not propose to stop here. We would in that case fix a regular term for all offices in their nature susceptible of such limitation, and deprive the Executive of the power of removal without cause to be assigned to the Senate. Subject to the check of an annual responsibility, the Executive would then take very good care that those reasons should always be good ones. The extent of the federal official patronage would then be confined to the offices falling vacant irregularly from time to time, here and there. Taking four or six years as the general tenure, every year would witness the expiration of only one-fourth or onesixth of the commissions of office, instead of the whole being considered, as now, subject to the action of the vast patronage power of the Executive. The
altered state of things to which we refer, as the certain result of the suggested reforms, would moreover generate such a state of public feeling on the subject, that the usage would soon, we are sure, grow up to be, to re-appoint all faithful and serviceable officers, of secondary grade, without reference to their politics.
Is not the simple suggestion of these thoughts enough to carry home to every mind an earnest desire to realize in practice the change that would then come over the spirit of our politics?
To attempt to apply similar views to the action of a party or an administration now, is out of the question. No party coming into power, or already in it, will-or indeed, in reference to the practical necessities of position, ought to undertake such a suicidal quixotism. The existing evils are but the fruit and foliage produced by a necessity of nature from the deep root, and the vital sap which it sends circulating through the minutest ramifications of the structure. It is the system which is wrong; but the system, as time and the progress of events have developed it, has to be administered on its own principles. To be in the system, and to attempt, while in the system, to defy and nullify its principles, is at once absurd in theory and self-destructive in practice. A President is more governed by his party, than his party by its President. General Jackson could not carry out in practice many of the ideas which he entered on the Presidency most honestly desirous of adhering to. Contrast, too, General Harrison's undoubtedly sincere professions on this subject, with the performance of his one single month, and of the continued action of his Cabinet while it adhered to his successor, and constituted the administration unmitigatedly Whig. The system, the system, we repeat, tends to create a necessity which an administration can only modify and direct, but can neither resist nor evade. It comes into power, for instance, with vast numbers of distinguished and meritorious friends needing office quite as much as existing incumbents-as well, or better qualified for its duties-expecting it, desiring it, and supported by the general local feeling of their party, which expects and desires the proposed changes, and which will be disappointed and displeased if that expectation is not gratified.
And when it is then come in mind,