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Here, sir, is a preamble, for which there is no proposed enactment. It alleges certain conduct to be a high misdemeanor, yet proposes no penalty or punishment for the crime. Why, then, is it intruded here on this paper? Sir, I take it to be a perfect anomaly; a thing unknown before in the history of legislation. I again demand to know why it is put down in the preamble, but not inserted in the enacting clause of the bill ? I can draw but one conclusion from this strange fact, and that is, that the doctrine will do to profess but not to practice; to · show off a speech upon, in order to excite popular feelings, but not to be established as one of the laws of the land, which it is known would have to be repealed so soon as its operation was seen and understood. I mean to examine this dangling supernumerary presently to show that the arguments in its favor are all fallacious, and the facts on which it purports to be based have no existence. I pass on to the second clause of the preamble, in the following words:
“Whereas, complaints are also made that officers of the United States, or persons holding offices or employments under the authority of the same, are in the babit of intermeddling in elections, both State and Federal, otherwise than - by giving their votes ; and whereas, such a practice is a violation of the freedom of elections, and a gross abuse, which ought to be discountenanced by the appointing power, and prohibited by law."
“Be it enacted, 8c., That, from and after the first day of July next, no officer, agent, or contractor, or other person holding an office or employment of trust or profit under the Constitution and laws of the United States, shall, by the contribution of money or other valuable thing, or by the use of the franking privilege, or the abuse of any other official privilege or function, or by threats and menaces, or in any other manner, intermeddle with the election of any member or members of either House of Congress, or of the President or Vice President of the United States, or of the Governor or other officer of any State, or of any member or members of the Legislature of any State; and every such officer or other person offending therein, shall be held to be guilty of a high misdemeanor; and on conviction in any court of the United States, having jurisdiction thereof, shall pay a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars.”
This is the first section of the bill. According to its provisions, it will be seen that every grade of office and every variety of employment, under the United States, is included; also, that every thing and any thing said or done by them (except
not exceeding one thousand dollars. Now, sir, the application of this law to my own State is what I desire to bring before the House. There, sir, we have but few public officers of
any grade, except our postmasters; we have some half dozen of these, on an average, in each county. Those at our county towns commonly receive some two or three hundred dollars-rarely so much as five hundred. At the lesser villages and country stores, and at the neighborhood post-offices, it is quite frequent that the compensation does not amount to fifty or one hundred dollars. The office is in fact taken as an encumbrance, submitted to for neighborhood convenience. Now, sir, all these postmasters, beside being officers of the United States, are citizens of the United States and of the State of Tennessee. They are deeply interested as citizens in the elections, both State and Federal; in the county elections of sheriffs, clerks, registers, &c.; in the military elections of those officers, under whom they may have to serve in times of war. Yet, sir, it is proposed that a little fifty-dollar appointment as postmaster is to weigh down all his other interest as a citizen; and, if he dare open his mouth in favor of one candidate or the other, he is to be instantly fined one thousand dollars. If called on to state a fact in his own knowledge, and perhaps in the knowledge of nobody else, which it is of the highest consequence to the country should be known—a fact which became known to him long before he was a postmaster-he must conceal that fact; he must suppress and hide the truth from his countrymen, or pay down the penalty of one thousand dollars. Sir, is this my colleague's notions of the liberty, freedom and purity of our elections? To speak out will affect the elections just as far as truth and character will and ought to affect them; to seal up his lips and suppress the truth will also affect the election, and put men into office who have no honesty in civil affairs, nor courage nor skill for the defence of the country in military appointments. Now, sir, there are, on an average for each county in Tennessee, a half-dozen of our fellow-citizens who have the common rights of citizens; they have the liberty of speech under all the guarantees of the Constitution; they have, however,
pelled to stand silent and gagged in the midst of their fellowcitizens. . Sir, is this the freedom after which my colleague has been seeking under this bill? If it is, God forbid that he should ever find it. For one, I repudiate and scorn such distinctions in a free country. I repudiate and scorn a principle that sets one neighbor as a spy over another, and which enables one man to propagate the vilest falsehood on another, because his exposure can only be made by a postmaster, whose lips are hermetically sealed under the enormous penalty of one thousand dollars. Sir, this bill should be rather called a bill offering a premium to falsehood and defamation ; a bill to enslave a large portion of American freemen, because they are willing to undertake the performance of high and necessary public duties; a bill to establish slavery in all our elections, by depriving one portion of the community of those rights and privileges allowed to all the rest.
Sir, I shall show you presently that those illustrious sages and patriots, who lived in the earlier and purer days of the Republic, rejected with scorn the very provisions of the bill now under consideration. Before I present their opinions on this branch of the subject, let me advert to the arguments and doctrines of my honorable colleague in relation to the appointing and removing power of the Executive; remember that the argument of the gentleman was made on the preamble of his bill, for which there was no corresponding prohibitory or penal enactment. The argument then, like the preamble, might therefore be regarded as a mere abstraction, calculated to do no particular good nor harm any way. But I know my honorable colleague too well not to understand that all the labor he has bestowed in ascertaining the opinion of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and other illustrious individuals, is not intended to be lost as a mere abstraction, accidently brought up in the course of this discussion. No, sir, that portion of the gentleman's argument will no doubt, in due season, make its appearance in the Whig papers of our State in blazing capitals. Well, sir, and what were the opinions of those illustrious men on the question of appointments
I begin with Gen. Washington. In his letter to Mr. Pickering, dated September, 1795, he uses the following emphatic language: “I shall not, while I have the honor to administer the Government, bring a man into any office of consequence, knowingly, whose political tenets are adverse to the measures which the General Government are pursuing; for this, in my opinion, would be a sort of political suicide : that it would embarrass its movements is most certain. But of two men equally well affected to the true interest of their country, of equal abilities, it is the part of prudence to give the preference to him against whom the least clamor can be excited.” Observe, sir, that in this opinion of Gen. Washington, he makes no reference to monarchist, or to persons opposed to that Revolution which secured to us our national independence. He goes beyond all this, and speaks of political tenets adverse to the measures of the General Government. This preamble recites that removals on political grounds are high misdemean
Gen. Washington declares that a difference in political tenets is sufficient grounds for refusing appointments. This preamble recites that removals upon political grounds is an attack on public liberty. Gen. Washington declares, that appointments to office of such as hold political tenets adverse to the principles of his administration of the Government, would be a sort of political suicide. Sir, this brief parallel between this recital in the bill and the opinions of Gen. Washington, directly on the point, ought for ever to seal the fate of this proposition, so far as his distinguished authority is concerned.
Immediately after the retirement of Gen. Washington, a contest sprung up for the succession between the elder Adams and Mr. Jefferson. The elements of party, before that time, had taken no definite form, or shape; they were “rudis indigestaque moles.” In that contest, however, they became settled and distinct. The Federalists adhered to Mr. Adams; the Republicans to Mr. Jefferson. Mr. Adams succeeded, and under him, the Federalists took possession of nearly every office of
volume of Mr. Jefferson's works, page 476. In his celebrated New Haven letter he remarks, “It would have been to me a circumstance of great relief, had I found a moderate participation of office in the hands of the majority ; I would gladly have left to timo and accident to raise them to their just share; but their total exclusion calls for prompter corrections.” In his letter to Levi Lincoln, 3d volume, page 477, he remarks: “I had foreseen, years ago, that the first Republican President who should come into office after all the places in the Government had become exclusively occupied by Federalists, would have a dreadful operation to perform; that the Republicans would consent to a continuation of every thing in Feueral hands was not to be expected, because neither just nor politic. On him was then to devolve the office of an executioner—that of lopping off.”
I read these extracts now only to establish the fact of a total exclusion from office of the Republicans under the elder Adams's administration. Mr. Jefferson succeeded Mr. Adams, He was elected by the Republican party, and was its great apostle and founder. The lapse of years has only thrown a holier reverence around his name, and the political researches of the age have only given a brighter lustre to the principles of simplicity, economy, and equality, which he inculcated on his followers. Sir, it is that hallowed reverence for his name and his principles, which is yet cherished by a large proportion of the American people, that my colleague attempts now to make subservient to the destruction of his true friends and followers, and to strengthen the reviving energies of ihat old Federal party which he so signally vanquished in 1801. Yes, sir, strange as it may seem, the watchword of “ Jefferson and liberty” is now being stolen by that very Federal party into whose ranks it once carried dismay and terror and destruction. What has any party to do with that watchword that holds in its rank and hugs to its bosom every anti-war Federalist on this floor, save one whose reformation dates back for twenty years, and whose devotion to Republican principles, during all that time, gives double assurance of the sincerity and thoroughness of his reformation? What, I repeat, has an Essex-junto