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LEGISLATIVE EMBODYMENT OF PUBLIC OPINION.
THE twenty-ninth Congress has thus far been confirmative of those democratic measures, for the establishment of which the great battle of November, 1844, was fought, and therefore contrasts favorably with that which succeeded the disastrous issue of the campaign of 1840. The great war which commenced in General Jack son's first term, between parties for principles and policies, was decided in the campaign of 1844 against Clayism, with all its false and fatal heresies of doctrine. In this hard-fought contest, three times did the democracy triumph over their federal foes, who, backed by the selfish interests of a wealthy few, and armed with all that looseness of construction in regard to the Constitution which could torture plain provisions for the good of the whole into exclusive allowances for the advantage of the few, sought to change the face of our institutions by perpetuating the distinctions of classes. The first election of General Jackson presented a great and cheering triumph of the popular will over the corrupt intrigues of personal ambition; and it signally punished that great crime of the whig leader the coalition. The corrupt combinations of individuals to cheat the people of their choice of a President being promptly rebuked, the second election of Jackson was for the preservation of the country against those mammoth monied monopolies and corrupt corporations which were already encircling the liberties of the people, restraining their free action, thwarting
their intentions, and cheating them of their hopes. The whole bank interest and monied power-the vast combinations of those who fattened on government bounties and partial legislation, with those who hoped for gain, and those who cowered before the threatening corporate creditor, pressed eagerly into the fight under the banner of that bold and bad man, in whom was embodied, alike in his political and personal character, all that was corrupt, anti-republican and anti-democratic in his party. They rallied in their fierce energies, and fought with all the desperation which the fear of losing their ill-gotten control of popular rights could inspire. Notwithstanding all the power of money, the skill and reckless audacity of the great leader, and the enthusiastic support of unscrupulous followers, an overwhelming defeat was sustained by them from the body of the people. The corruptions which had, become so deep-rooted, were not, however, to be at once destroyed; nor was one victory over so determined, sagacious and powerful an enemy as an allpervading monied monopoly, to be decisive in its results. The election of Mr. Van Buren defeated a renewal of the attempt to carry the Presidency into the House of Representatives for disposal, through corrupt coalition, by running three or four distinct candidates, and thus preventing an election by the people, and collaterally assailing the principles represented by the masses. In the mean time a combination of fortuitous circumstances was
This was the task; and all of it that was accomplished was the passage of the tariff. The independent treasury law of the people was, indeed, repealed; but the promised bank was not forthcoming. The distribution of the lands and the bankrupt acts were passed, and speedily repealed by the same parties, with the fearful haste of the necromancer, unexpectedly alarmed by the spectres he had raised. For the promised payment of the debt was substituted the contraction of twenty millions additional. For the bringing the expenses within the revenue was substituted a large deficit; and, to the infinite chagrin of the doctors, the exchanges became, without a national bank, more regular and cheap than ever before. The patient provokingly recovered his health while the quack was making preparations to cure him. The high tariff was indeed passed, and, as if to compensate for failure in other respects, a most severe dose of protection was administered; so severe that, in spite of the vast recuperative energies of the country, the elasticity of its resources, the untiring enterprise of the people, and favorable seasons for the developement of agricultural wealth, the country has tardily progressed in its outward commerce. The product of that tariff to the treasury has been, for the fiscal year 1846, $846,197 less than in the previous year. For the four years of its operation the present tariff has produced an average of 25 millions only at a time of great expansion of the currency; and its production has diminished under the increasing stringency of the money-market during the last year. This anti-industrial, anti-commercial monument of the influence of the money power, with an increased debt, was all that remained to the nation from the results of the combination of 1840. The vigorous attack of a swarming, uns rupulous and desperate enemy had shaken but not overthrown the great principles, to establish which the three preceding victories were, it seems, scarcely sufficient. A disappointed and embittered enemy again rallied to the conflict in 1844. Again was the ghost of a National Bank opposed to the Independent Treasury. Again the distribution of the land revenues was offered as a tempting bribe to tax payers in embar
slowly preparing the way for a renewed and vigorous campaign on the part of the oft-defeated but still pertinacious party,composed of factions, classes and cliques, each seeking some special benefit at the hands of the people.— The wide-spread meshes of the monied power were producing their effects in ruining those who had been lured into the toils by the false and fatal bait of paper credit. The derangement of the currents of business, produced by the destruction of those dealers who form the channels for the interchange of products, caused by the collapse of the overstrained credits in which they had indulged, was stagnating markets and depressing prices. The masses of delinquent bank-debtors, seeking to be freed from the results of their own incautiousness, formed a powerful auxiliary to those who promised to all parties the fulfilment of their wishes, reckless of right or constitutional means.The disordered finances and vacillating exchanges were a fruitful theme of complaint to active and industrious men; and a new bank was held out as the only means of restoration. The pains and ills of returning sobriety were to be allayed by renewed intoxication. For each and all of the multiplied evils that by a singular combination affected the commercial world at the same time, the capacious saddle bags of the whig leaders contained a nostrum. Bankrupt individuals were offered repudiation; bankrupt corporations multiplied credits; bankrupt state governments the land revenues, taken from a deficit federal treasury; and to supply the latter, taxes on consumable articles were to be laid, so high as to prevent the consumption. These were promised as specifics; and if, despite these sagacious laws, wheat still continued to grow and labor to bring forth value, those facts were to be taken as evidence of the wisdom of the enactments. The public mind, wearied with the struggle, and temporarily weakened by the reaction of the monied excitement, consented to employ the quacks. They were to pay the government debt, amounting to about five millions, when they came into power; reduce the expenses to the revenue; create a bank; regulate the exchanges; pass a bankrupt act; distribute the public lands among the states, and establish a high tariff to replenish the exchequer and protect
rassed states. Again was the protection of capital opposed to freedom of commerce and industry; and also-the progeny of defeated hopes in the last campaign-the abolition of the constitutional veto was declared for. The desperate and reckless gamblers, foiled in their designs, sought, in the madness of their disappointment, to emasculate the Constitution by tearing from its fair proportion that invaluable veto, the exercise of which had endeared it to republicans and democracy as it had embittered their opponents. Most truly had the veto power of the Executive fulfilled the expectations entertained of it by the framers of the Constitution, as expressed by Col. Mason, in 1787, during the debates as reported by Madison :
"He expected great advantage from it. Notwithstanding the precautions taken in the constitution of the legislature, it would still so much resemble that of the individual states, that it must be expected frequently to pass unjust and pernicious laws. This restraining power was therefore essentially necessary. It would have the effect not only of hindering the final passage of such laws, but would discourage demagogues from attempting to get them passed."
stood by the Constitution, to resist the encroachments of the combined cliques in whose path the constitutional veto was so effective a barrier. They combated for a repeal of the tariff, which operates so unjustly in favor of capital at the expense of labor, and so injuriously on the federal revenues and commerce of the country. They contended for a restoration of the Independent Treasury, and for the removal, by enhancing facilities, of restrictions upon commerce. Faithful to the duties of citizenship, and confident in the soundness of our institutions, they responded promptly to the fraternizing call of their brethren in Oregon and Texas. The selfish fear that the stability of our government was proportioned to the number of acres it covered, did not deter them from adding a new state to the Union, and extending territorial jurisdiction to the shores of the Pacific.Standing on the broad basis of the Constitution and individual rights-in opposition to innovation and encroachment, they conquered. The victories of '28, 32 and '36 were repeated in 1844. The last crowning triumph was decisive, and perpetuates the principles for which the previous struggles were undertaken. The delusive theories and fatal heresies that were sought to be impressed upon the policy of the country are forever demolished. On the present Congress devolves the great duty of restoring to the federal government that symmetry of form and regularity of movement necessary to the equal distribution of the national wealth, and to the national policy that comprehensiveness of views and impartiality of purpose, which recognises in the most perfect freedom of individual enterprise the most active element in the national advancement; which looks upon the industry of one man in the sphere of action where chance or choice may have placed him, as equally valuable to the community, and equally deserving of protection against oppression at home or abroad, as that of others to which a meretricious importance is attempted to be given through the designs of politicians or the cunning of capitalists.
The task of the American people for the present century, is clearly to take and occupy the northern continent of America. Its plains and valleys, its rivers and mountains, with their great
One would suppose that the eye of prophecy had penetrated the succeeding 53 years, and that our ancestral legislators had foreseen and applied a check to the intrigues of speculators and demagogues 1840. Some of the framers of the Constitution considered an absolute negative on the part of the Executive as essential to the preservation of liberty. But hitherto the requirement of a two-thirds majority to overrule it, has sufficed to keep in check the attempts of cliques upon the rights of the people. The demagogues, in their discouragement from attempt ing to get bad laws passed, boldly attacked the veto power, and sought to remove that obstacle to their ambitious designs. The spell, however, had passed. The hollowness of their quackery had become apparent. The public mind had recovered its tone. The very desperation of the partizans who announced the provisions of the glorious Constitution as obstacles to their designs, aroused public attention and startled the inert. The democracy of the country, which embraces the people,
mineral and agricultural wealth, are spread out before them; but, like a scanty garrison in a capacious castle, the numbers are too few, as yet, to man the whole effectively. They are, therefore, distributed at the most favorable points, the most distant and least settled of which, has equal claims and equal relations to the inheritance transmitted from our sires, as the oldest settlements on the borders of the Atlantic. The general policy of the democracy is to favor the settlement of the land, spread the bounds of the future empire, and to favor, by freedom of intercourse and external commerce, the welfare of the settlers, who are, for the most part, men of simple habits and strong hands, looking to mother-earth for their only capital, and to their own labor as the sole means of making it productive. These people, as firstcomers, have a perfect right to a first choice of the lands, and their claim on the common government is to throw the protection of the laws over them, and to see that they are not molested in their peaceful pursuits, their energies cramped, their industry restrained, nor the value of their labor diminished by any special privileges, in the shape of monopolies to associated-capital, either in absorbing produce in exchange for their credits, or in supplying necessary goods to the consumers. To effect this object has been the policy of the democratic party, in opposition to a contrary policy of the whig party. The latter have sought to prevent the occupation of territory; to cast without the pale of the Union him whose exigencies or enterprise carried him beyond an imaginary line as a boundary. They have sought to give the moniedclass, through the credit-system, and the manufacturing-class, through the protective-system, an undue proportion of the proceeds of the common industry; to confine the swelling population in a limited territory, and to force the industry of the whole into such channels as will throw the greatest profits into the hands of a few. The important acts of the present session of Congress, are peculiarly calculated to crush this latter policy, and give effect and permanency to the democratic view, which is that of the natural tendency of affairs on this continent. The progress of events added the great state of Texas to the Union; and the open
ing of the present session found her represented in Congress. A few months more perfected our connection with Oregon, over an extent of country 90,000 miles greater than Britain would ever before yield. That is to say, in June, 1846, the English Government accepted the same quantity of land on this continent, as a compromise, which in former negotiations she had declared utterly inadmissible, and the offer of which, on the part of the United States, in August, 1845, her minister declared inconsistent "with fairness and equity." The unhappily distracted state of Mexico, and the want of capacity for the conduct of affairs evinced on the part of those who alternately get possession of the government, as well as the want of principle, which induces one government to disregard the national acts of its predecessors, have been productive of a war, which, in itself, must hasten the occupation of the whole continent by the people of the United States. While vast tracts of new and fertile land are thus being continually added to the jurisdiction of the Union, a change in the land-policy of the government has been imperatively called for. The practicability of retaining the title and control of such extensive domains in the general government, and at the same time admitting the territories embracing them into the federal union, as co-equal with the original states, was seriously doubted by many of our wisest statesmen. All feared that they would be a source of discord; and not a few thought they saw, in that discord, the germ of a future dissolution of the Union. The notions at one time entertained, that the admission of new states into the Union operated as a surrender of the right of soil on the part of the United States, have been abandoned. All now agree, whether in the new or old states, that the lands are the common property of all the states, to be disposed of for their common benefit. The recognition of this principle by the new states, naturally induced a general disposition to sell the lands on the most liberal terms to actual settlers. The leading object has been the early settlement and cultivation of the land sold, and to effect this, price has been less an object than the manner of the sale. The lands have been uniformly held at $1 25 per acre, and preemption rights