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fest your attachment to it, your sense of its value, and your devotion to its true principles, that you have sought this occasion. It is not to pay an ostentatious personal compliment. If it were, it would be unworthy, both of you and of me. It is not to manifest attachment to individuals, independent of all considerations of principles; if it were, I should feel it my duty to tell you, friends as you are, that you were doing that which, at this very moment, constitutes one of the most threatening dangers to the Constitution itself. Your gift would have no value, in my eyes; this occasion would be regarded by me as an idle pageant; if I did not know that they are both but modes, chosen by you, to signify your attachment to the true principles of the Constitution; your fixed purpose, so far as in you lies, to maintain those principles; and your resolution to support public men, and stand by them, so long, and no longer, than they shall support and stand by the Constitution of the Country. "The Constitution of the Country!"
Gentlemen, often as I am called to contemplate this subject, its importance always rises, and magnifies itself, more and more, before me. I cannot view its preservation as a concern of narrow extent, or temporary duration. On the contrary, I see in it a vast interest, which is to run down with the generations of men, and to spread over a great portion of the earth with a direct, and over the rest with an indirect, but a most powerful influence. When I speak of it here, in this thick crowd of fellow-citizens and friends, I yet behold, thronging about me, a much larger and more imposing crowd. I see a united rush of the present and the future. I see all the patriotic of our own land, and our own time. I see also the many millions of their posterity, and I see, too, the level's of human liberty from every part of the earth, from beneath the oppressions of thrones, and hierarchies, and dynasties, from amidst the darkness of ignorance, degradation, and despotism, into which any ray of political light has penetrated; I see all those countless multitudes gather about us, and I hear their united and earnest voices, conjuring us, in whose charge the treasure now is, to hold on, and hold on to the last, by that which is our own highest enjoyment, and their best hope.
Filled with these sentiments, Gentlemen, and having through my political life, hitherto, always acted under the deepest conviction of their truth and importance, it is natural that I would have regarded the preservation of the Constitution as the first great political object to be secured. But I claim no exclusive merit. I should deem it, especially, both unbecoming and unjust in me, to separate myself, in this respect, from other public servants of the people of Massachusetts. The distinguished gentlemen who have preceded and followed me in the representation of the city, their associates from other districts of the State, and my late worthy and most highly
esteemed colleague, are entitled, one and all, to a full share in the public approbation. If accidental circumstances, or a particular position, have sometimes rendered me more prominent, equal patriotism and equal zeal have yet made them equally deserving. It were invidious to enumerate these fellow-laborers, or to discriminate among them. Long may they live! and I could hardly express a better wish for the interest and honor of the States, than that the public men, who may follow them, may be' as disinterested, as patriotic, and as able as they have proved themselves.
There hare been, Gentlemen, it a true, anxious moments. Tlul was an anxious occasion, to which the gentleman who has addressed me, in your behalf, has alluded; I mean the debate in January, 1890. It seemed to me then that the Constitution was about to be abandoned. Threatened with most serious dangers, it was not only not defended, but attacked, as I thought, and weakened and wounded in its vital powers and faculties, by those to whom the country naturally look for its defence and protection. It appeared to me that the Union was about to go to pieces, before the people were at all aware of the extent of the danger. The occasion was not sought, but forced upon us; it seemed to me momentous, and I confess that I felt that even the little that I could do, in such a crisis, was called lor by every motive which could be addressed to a lover of the Constitution. I took a part in the debate, therefore, with my whole heart already in the subject, and, careless for every thing in the result, except the judgment which the people of the United States should form, upon the questions involved in the discussion. I believe that judgment has been definitely pronounced; but nothing is due to me, beyond the merit of having made an earnest effort to present the true question to the people, and to invoke for it that attention from them, which its high importance appeared to me to demand.
The Constitution of the United States, Gentlemen,'» of a peculiar structure. Our whole system is peculiar. It is fashioned according to no existing model, likened to no precedent, and yet founded on principles, which lie at the foundations of all free governments, wherever such governments exist. It is a complicated system. It is elaborate, and in some sense artificial, in its composition. We have twenty-four State sovereignties, all exercising legislative, judicial, and executive powers. Some of the sovereignties, or States, had long existed, and, subject only to the restraint of tlio power of the parent country, had been accustomed to the forms and to the exercise of the powers of Representative Republics. Others of them are new creations, coming into existence only under the Constitution itself; but all now standing on an equal footing.
The General Government, under which all these States are united, a not, as has been justly remarked by Mr. Gray, a confederation. It is much more than a confederation. It is a popular representative government, with all the departments, and all the functions and organs of such a government. But it is still a limited, a restrained, a severely-guarded government. It exists under a written Constitution, and all that human wisdom could do, is done, to define its powers, and to prevent their abuse. It is placed in what was supposed to be the safest medium between dangerous authority on the one hand, and debility and inefficiency on the other. I think that happy medium was found, by the exercise of the greatest political sagacity, and the influence of the highest good fortune. We cannot move the system either way, without the probability of hurtful change; and as experience has taught us its safety, and its usefulness, when left where it is, our duty is a plain one.
It cannot be doubted that a system thus complicated must be accompanied by more or less of danger, in every stage of its existence. It has not the simplicity of despotism. It is not a plain column, that stands self-poised and self-supported. Nor is it a loose, irregular, unfixed, and undefined system of rule, which admits of constant and violent changes, without losing its character. But it is a balanced and guarded system; a system of checks and controls; a system in which powers are carefully delegated, and as carefully limited; a system in which the symmetry of the parts is designed to produce an aggregate whole, which shall be favorable to personal liberty, favorable to public prosperity, and favorable to national glory. And who can deny, that by a trial of fifty years, this American system of government has proved itself capable of conferring all these blessings? These years have been years of great agitation throughout the civilized world. In the course of them the face of Europe has been completely changed. Old and corrupt governments have been destroyed, and new ones, erected in their places, have been destroyed too, sometimes in rapid succession. Yet, through all the extraordinary, the most extraordinary scenes of this half century, the free, popular, representative government of the United States has stood, and has afforded security for liberty, for property, and for reputation, to all citizens.
That it has had many dangers, that it has met critical moments, is certain. That it has now dangers, and that a crisis is now before it, is equally clear, in my judgment. But it has hitherto been preserved, and vigilance and patriotism may rescue it again.
Our dangers, Gentlemen, are not from without. We have nothing to fear from foreign powers, except those interruptions of the occupations of life which all wars occasion. The dangers to our system, as a system, do not spring from that quarter. On the contrary, the pressure of foreign hostility would be most likely to unite us, and to strengthen our union, by an augmented sense of its utility and necessity. But our dangers are from within. I do not now speak of those dangers which have in ill ages beset republican governments, such as luxury among the rich, the corruption of public officers, and the general degradation of public morals. I speak only of those peculiar dangers, to which the structure of our government particularly exposes it, in addition to all other ordinary dangers. These arise among ourselves; they spring up at home; and the evil which they threaten is no less than disunion, or the overthrow of the whole system. Local feelings, and local parties, a notion sometimes sedulously cultivated, of opposite interests, in different portions of the Union, evil prophecies respecting its duration, cool calculations upon the benefits of separation, a narrow feeling, that cannot embrace all the States, as one country, an unsocial, anti-national, and half-belligerent spirit, which sometimes betrays itself, — all these undoubtedly are causes which affect, more or less, our prospect of holding together. All these are unpropitious influences.
The Constitution, again, is founded on compromise, and the most
Eerfecl and absolute good faith, in regard to every stipulation of this ind contained in it, is indispensable to its • preservation. Every attempt to accomplish even the best purpose, every attempt to grasp that which is regarded as an immediate good, in violation of these stipulations, is full of danger to the whole Constitution. I need not say, also, that possible collision between the General and the State Governments, always has been, is, and ever must be, a source of danger to be strictly watched by wise men.
But, Gentlemen, as I have spoken of dangers now, in my judgment, actually existing, I will state at once my opinions on that point, without fear, and without reserve. I reproach no man, 1 accuse no man; but I speak of things as they appear to me, and I speak of principles and practices which I deem most alarming. I think, then, Gentlemen, that a great practical change is going on in the Constitution, which, if not checked, must completely alter its whole character. This change consists in the diminution of the just powers of Congress on the one hand, and in the vast increase of Executive authority on the other. The government of the United States, in the aggregate, or the legislative power of Congress, seems fast losing, one after another, its accustomed powers. On* by one, they are practically struck out of the Constitution. What has become of the power of Internal Improvement? Does it remain in the Constitution, or is it erased by the repeated exercise of the President's Veto, and the acquiescence in that exercise of all who call themselves his friends, whatever their own opinions of the Constitution may be? The power to create a National Bank — a power exercised for forty years, approved by all Presidents, and by Congress at all times, and sanctioned by a solemn adjudication of the Supreme Court — is it not true that party has agreed to strike this power, too, from the Constitution, in compliance with what has been openly called the interests of party? Nay, more; that great power, the power of protecting Domestic Industry, who can tell me whether that power is now regarded as in the Constitution, or out of it?
But, if it be true, that the diminution of the just powers of Congress, in these particulars, has been attempted, and attempted with more or less success, it is still more obvious, I think, that the Executive power of the government has been dangerously increased. It is spread, in the first place, over all that ground, from which the legislative power of Congress is driven. Congress can no longer establish a Bank, controlled by the laws of the United States, amenable to the authority, and open, at all times, to the examination and inspection of the legislature. It is no longer constitutional to make such a Bank, for the safe custody of the public treasure. But of the thousand State corporations already existing, it is Constitutional for the Executive government to select such as it pleases, to intrust the public money to their keeping, without responsibility to the laws of the United States, without the duty of exhibiting their concerns, at any time, to the Committees of Congress, and with no other guards or securities, than such as Executive discretion on the one hand, antl the Banks themselves on the other, may see fit to agree to.
And so of Internal Improvement. It is not every thing in the nature of public improvements, which is forbidden. It is only that the selection of objects is not with Congress. Whatever appears to the Executive discretion to be of a proper nature, or such as comes within certain not very intelligible limits, may be tolerated. And even with respect to the Tariff itself, while as a system it is denounced as unconstitutional, it is probable some portion of it might find favor.
But it is not the frequent use of the power of the Veto — it is not the readiness with which men yield their own opinions, and see important powers practically obliterated from the Constitution, in order to subserve the interest of the party — it is not even all this, which furnishes, at the present moment, the most striking demonstration of the increase of Executive authority. It is the use of the power of patronage; it is the universal giving and taking away of all place and office, for reasons no way connected with the public service, or the faithful execution of the laws; it is this which threatens with overthrow all the true principles of the Government. Patronage is reduced to a system. It is used as the patrimony, the property of party. Every office is a largess, a bounty, a favor; and it is expected to be compensated by service and fealty. A numerous and well-disciplined corps of office-holders, acting with activity and zeal, and with incredible union of purpose, is attempt
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