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ing to seize on the strong posts, and to control, effectually, the expression of the public will. As has been said of the Turks in Europe, they are not so much mingled with us, as encamped among us. And it is more lamentable, that the apathy which prevails in a time of general prosperity, produces, among a great majority of the people, a disregard to the efforts and objects of this well-trained and effective corps. But, Gentlemen, the principle is vicious; it is destructive and ruinous; and whether it produces its work of disunion to-day or to-morrow, it must produce it in the end. It must destroy the balance of the government, and so destroy the government itself. The government of the United States controls the army, the navy, the custom-house, the post-office, the land-offices, and other great sources of patronage. What have the States to oppose to all this? And if the States shall see all this patronage, if they shall see every officer under this government, in all its ramifications, united with every other officer, and all acting steadily in a design to produce political effect, even in State governments, is it possible not to perceive that they will, erelong, regard the whole government of the Union with distrust and jealousy, and finally with fear and hatred ?
Among other evils, it is the tendency of this system to push party feelings and party spirit to their utmost excess. It involves not only opinions and principles, but the pursuits of life and the means of living, in the contests of party. The Executive himself becomes but the mere point of concentration of party power; and when Executive power is exercised or is claimed for the supposed benefit of party, party will approve and justify it. When did heated and exasperated party ever complain of its leaders for seizing on new extents of power ?
This system of government has been openly avowed. Offices of trust are declared, from high places, to be the regular spoils of party victory; and all that is furnished out of the public purse, as a reward for labor in the public service, becomes thus a boon, offered to personal devotion and partisan service. The uncontrolled power of removal is the spring which moves all this machinery; and I verily believe the government is, and will be, in serious danger, till some check is placed on that power. To combine and consolidate a great party by the influence of personal hopes, to govern by the patronage of office, to exercise the power of removal at pleasure, in order to render that patronage effectual, — this seems to be the sum and substance of the political systems of the times. I am sorry to say, that the germ of this system had its first being in the Senate.
The policy began in the last year of Mr. Adams's administration, when nominations made by him to fill vacancies occurring by death or resignation, were postponed, by a vote of the majority of the Senate, to a period beyond the fourth of March then next; and this was done with no other view than that of giving the patronage of these appointments to the in-coming President. The nomination of a Judge of the Supreme Court, anong others, was thus disposed of. The regular action of the government was, in this manner, deranged, and undue and unjustly-obtained patronage came to be received as among the ordinary means of government. Some of the gentlemen, who concurred in this vote, have since, probably, seen occasion to regret it. But they thereby let loose the lion of Executive prerogative, and they have not yet found out how they can drive it back again to its cage. The debates in the Senate on these questions, in the session of 1828, 1829, are not public; but I take this occasion to say, that the minority of the Senate, as it was then constituted, including, among others, myself and colleague, contended against this innovation upon the Constitution, for days and for weeks; but we contended in vain.
The doctrine of patronage thus got a foothold in the government. A general removal from office followed, exciting, at first, no small share of public attention ; but every exercise of the power rendered its exercise in the next case still easier, till removal at will has become the actual system on which the government is administered.
It is hardly a fit occasion, Gentlemen, to go into the history of this power of removal. It was declared to exist in the days of Washington, by a very small majority in each House of Congress. It has been considered as existing to the present time. But no man expected it to be used as a mere arbitrary power; and those who maintained its existence, declared, nevertheless, that it would justly become matter of impeachment, if it should be used for purposes, such as those to which the most blind among us must admit they have recently seen it habitually applied. I had the highest respect for those who originally concurred in this construction of the Constitution. But, as discreet men of the day were divided on the question; as Madison and other distinguished names were on one side, and Gerry and other distinguished names on the other, one may now differ from either, without incurring the imputation of arrogance, since he must differ from some of them; and I confess my judgment would have been that the power of removal did not belong to the President alone; that it was but a part of the power of appointment, since the power of appointing one man to office, implies the power of vacating that office, by removing another out of it; and as the whole power of appointment is granted, not to the President alone, but to the President and Senate, the true interpretation of the Constitution would have carried the power of removal into the same hands. I have, however, so recently expressed my sentiments on this point, in another place, that it would be improper to pursue this line of observation further.
İn the course of the last session, Gentlemen, several Bills passed the Senate, intended to correct abuses, to restrain useless expenditure, to curtail the discretionary authority of public officers, and to control government patronage. The Post-Office Bill, the CustomHouse Bill, and the Bill respecting the tenure of office, were all of this class. None of them, however, received the favorable consideration of the other House. I believe, that in all these respects, a reform, a real, honest reform, is decidedly necessary to the security of the Constitution; and while I continue in public life, I shall not halt in my endeavors to produce it. It is time to bring back the government to its true character of an agency for the people. It is time to declare that offices, created for the people, are public trusts, not private spoils. It is time to bring each and every Department within its true original limits. It is time to assent, on one hand, to the just powers of Congress, in their full extent, and to resist, on the other, the progress and rapid growth of Executive authority.
These, Gentlemen, are my opinions. I have spoken them frankly, and without reserve. Under present circumstances, I should wish to avoid any concealment, and to state my political opinions, in their full length and breadth. I desire not to stand before the country as a man of no opinions, or of such a mixture of opposite opinions, that the result has no character at all. On the contrary, I am desirous of standing as one who is bound to his own consistency by the frankest avowal of his sentiments, on all important and interesting occasions. I am not partly for the Constitution, and partly against it; I am wholly for it, for it altogether, for it as it is, and for the exercise, when occasion requires, of all its just powers, as they have heretofore been exercised by Washington, and the great men who have followed him in its administration.
I disdain, altogether, the character of an uncommitted man. I am committed, fully committed ; committed to the full extent of all that I am, and all that I hope, to the Constitution of the country, to its love and reverence, to its defence and maintenance, to its warm commendation to every American heart, and to its vindication and just praise, before all mankind. And I am committed against every thing, which, in my judgment, may weaken, endanger, or destroy it. I am committed against the encouragement of local parties and local feelings; I am committed against all fostering of anti-national spirit ; I ain committed against the slightest infringement of the original compromise, on which the Constitution was founded; I am committed against any and every derangement of the powers of the several departments of the Government, against any derogation from the Constitutional authority of Congress, and especially against all extension of Executive power; and I am committed against any attempt to rule the free people of this country by the power and the patronage of the Government itself. I
am committed, fully and entirely committed, against making the government the people's master.
These, Gentlemen, are my opinions. I have purposely avowed them, with the utmost frankness. They are not the sentiments of the moment, but the result of much reflection, and of some experience in the affairs of the country. I believe them to be such sentiments as are alone compatible with the permanent prosperity of the country, or the long continuance of its Union.
And, now, Gentlemen, having thus solemnly avowed these sentiments, and these convictions, if you should find me hereafter to be false to them, or to falter in their support, I now conjure you, by all the duty you owe your country, by all your hopes of her prosperity and renown, by all your love for the general course of liberty throughout the world — I conjure you, that, renouncing me as a recreant, you yourselves go on — right on — straight forward, in maintaining with your utmost zeal, and with all your power, the true principles of the best, the happiest, the most glorious Constitution of a free government, with which it has pleased Providence, in any age, to bless any of the nations of the earth.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, JANUARY 14, 1836, ON MR. BENTON'S RESOLUTIONS, FOR APPROPRIATING THE SUR. PLUS REVENUE TO NATIONAL DEFENCE.
It is not my purpose, Mr. President, to make any remark on the state of our affairs with France. The time for that discussion has not come, and I wait. We are in daily expectation of a communication from the President, which will give us light; and we are authorized to expect a recommendation by him of such measures as he thinks it may be necessary and proper for Congress to adopt. I do not anticipate him. I do not forerun himn. In this most important and delicate business, it is the proper duty of the Executive to go forward, and I, for one, do not intend either to be drawn or driven into the lead. When official information shall be before us, and when measures shall be recommended upon the proper responsibility, I shall endeavor to form the best judgment I can, and shall act according to its dictates.
I rise, now, for another purpose. This resolution has drawn on a debate upon the general conduct of the Senate during the last session of Congress, and especially in regard to the proposed grant of the three millions to the President on the last night of the session. My main object is to tell the story of this transaction, and to exhibit the conduct of the Senate fairly to the public view. I owe this duty to the Senate. I owe it to the committee with which I am connected; and although whatever is personal to an individual is generally of too little importance to be made the subject of much remark, I hope I may be permitted to say that, in a matter, in regard to which there has been so much misrepresentation, I wish to say a few words for the sake of defending iny own reputation.
This vote for the three millions was proposed by the House of Representatives as an amendment to the fortification bill; and the loss of that bill, three millions and all, is the charge which has been made upon the Senate, sounded over all the land, and now again renewed. I propose to give the true history of this bill, its origin, its progress, and its loss.
Before attempting that, however, let me remark, for it is worthy to be remarked, and remembered, that the business brought before the Senate last session, important and various as it was, and both