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much less objectionable than the one now proposed by my honorable colleague.
[Mr. Bell, here rose and said that he wished it to be understood by the gentleman and the House, that he would have voted against the amendment himself.]
Mr. Brown replied, then he apprehended he need not spend so much time against the gentleman's bill, since he began to suspect that when it might come to the test he did not mean to vote for it himself. But how can the authority of Mr. Madison be invoked in favor of this bill, when it is known that it was his giant arm that dealt the blows that terminated the existence of the alien and sedition laws: The great principle that pervaded the sedition law is the same as in this bill. That bill punished all those who should utter or publish anything defamatory against our rulers; this punishes all who shall intermeddle in elections, either for or against our rulers; not those only who are, but those who desire and offer to become our rulers ; not in a few of the higher departments, but in all of them, both State and federal, civil and military. That punished all offending citizens, this only such as have superadded to the duties of citizenship those of official station. That was, indeed, less odious than the present bill. There the truth could be given in evidence in order to shield the citizen from punishment; here truth has no advocate, and innocence finds no protection; true or false, one single word, uttered in an election more favorable to one party than the other, shall subject the citizen to the enormous fine of one thousand dollars. He may have expressed an opinion unfavorable to his own party; he may have only insisted on the superior qualifications of one candidate over those of another; or he may have only urged some gallant achievement in war or some noble self-denying deed in time of peace, as a consideration which entitled one party to the gratitude of the country over his competitor and rival. But I need not compare the relative merits of the present bill and the sedition law. The same spirit animates them botha spirit that seeks to prostrate the dearest rights and privileges of the people-a spirit that alike destroys the freedom of the press and the liberty of speech-a spirit which Mr. Madison
allu wo exurpace. wir, 1 challenge casuistry lisen w uraw any sensible and clear distinction between the sedition law, Mr. Crittenden's bill, and the bill of my honorable colleague. They all contain the same principle, and that principle stands at open war with those great provisions of the Constitution which secure to the people the freedom of the press and the liberty of speech.
From 1791 to 1837, with the exception of the alien and sedition laws, no attempt was made to force such legislation as this on the country. During that long period the people were contented that every citizen, whether a public officer or not, should enjoy his constitutional rights. That the assumption of office was but the assumption of new duties and liabilities for the public good, and should, therefore, be attended with no sacrifice or destruction of his personal rights as a free citizen of this great republic. During all this time, I maintain that our elections-all of them both State and federal, were eminently free: free as they could be—free as the air we breathe and the water we drink. Everywhere through this wide country, on our election days, every American citizen walked forth to the ballot-box in his own personal majesty, paying no homage, save to himself and the laws and the Constitution. I appeal to the history of our elections in the great contest between the elder Adams and Mr. Jefferson; to the no less excited canvass between the 2d Adams and Gen. Jackson ; to the contest between Mr. Clay, the now “great discarded," and General Jackson ; in fine to every one of our elections, to show that all of them, every where, have been as free as our glorious Constitution, and the proud, indomitable spirit of our countrymen could make them.
What occasion, then, was there for the revival of this twicerepudiated doctrine of abridging the privileges of the people repudiated by the wisest and best men that ever lived in any age or in any country? The first reason given, and the one most relied upon, is, that the President in office may use his patronage so as to give him an undue advantage over all competitors. This patronage consists in the power of making appointments under the express, or implied understanding, not my colleague perceive that the appropriate remedy would have to be found, not in a gag bill, but in the amendment of the Constitution, changing the appointing power into other hands, or limiting the period of presidential service to a single term of four or six years? By the last amendment, no contest ever could take place between the ins and the outs. It would then be, in every instance, not who should be put out, but who should be put into the presidential seat. Then, sir, there could be no selfish motive prompting to an abuse of Executive patronage; nor any adequate one for charging corruption and ambition on any man who was faithfully endeavoring honestly to administer the Government. It was under these views that I have already submitted a proposition to amend the Constitution of the United States, in a way that will, in my opinion, be the true and proper remedy for all complaints, real and pretended, against Executive patronage and dictation. I shall call it up in a few days, and see what course the gentleman and his friends will take on this subject. But, sir, in the meantime, I hesitate not to say, that this patronage is greatly overrated, as to its influence on elections. On an average, the President cannot make more than a dozen or two important appointments in each State; these could not produce even a ripple on the broad and mighty surface of its population; beside this, an over-active zeal never fails to weaken the cause it espouses.
The influence of office-holders is more than counterbalanced by that of office-seekers Let us examine it, first as to the personal exertions of the parties themselves. Mr. Van Buren since March, 1837, has been in. Mr. Clay, Mr. Webster, and General Harrison, have all wanted to get in by putting Mr. Van Buren out. Mr. Webster makes his electioneering tour through the northwest; Mr. Clay moves out upon the north, and arrogantly traverses Mr. Van Buren's own country. Gen. Harrison takes charge of the mighty West, keeping up a brisk correspondence, remnodeling his old political opinions, and putting himself in as acceptable a position as possible between the contending parties of the day. Sir, do you not see at once that, on the score of personal exertions, it is precisely three to one in favor of the patronage, so many offices to bestow, that it gives him an overwhelming advantage over all competitors. Well, let us pause and examine the weight of this objection. He can appoint one Secretary of State, and that one will have to work against three Secretaries expectant without—that is, against Mr. Clay's Secretary, Mr. Webster's Secretary, and General Harrison's Secretary-three to one again-and so of the Secretary of War, and all the other secretaries; and, in fact, of all the other officers and agents of the Government, great and small. I have always doubted whether this power of conferring office was much calculated to advance the popularity of a President. Many are always expecting to be called, while but few can actually be chosen. The disappointed often fall back into a state of indifference as to the future success of the President, and sometimes find revenge for his supposed neglect and ingratitude in the open abandonment and denunciation of him. Sir, I do not pause in the line of this argument to give you instances of this sort during the period of General Jackson's administration; they abounded to an extent which few have suspected; they have no doubt abounded more or less in the history of every administration.
Mr. Speaker, I have already stated that, for nearly half a century, the people of the United States were contented and satisfied with the unbounded and unquestioned freedom of their elections. What occasion was there, then, for the revival of this twice rejected proposition ? twice rejected, at the time of introduction, by my honorable colleague, in 1837. Sir, I remember well the pretext then offered for its revival. It was the alleged dictation of General Jackson-his dictation in writing his Gwinn and Shelbyville letters, and expressing himself freely and fully on the public men and the public measures of the day. These, sir,were the pretexts for all this cry of dictation and of bringing Executive patronage to bear on the freedom of elections. And yet, sir, now that the occasion has gone by-now that the smoke of party contest has cleared up, so far as General Jackson is concerned, no man can be found who can lay his finger on a single line or sentence, ever written by General Jackson about those times, that has the slightest resemblance to dictation to
stronger than mere counsel or advice, and yet is a shade lower than an imperative order. In the light of this definition, I defy any man living to show me a single expression in the Gwinn letter which evinces the slightest wish on the part of General Jackson to dictate—to order or command his countrymen what course to pursue in the selection of his suc
General Jackson was the acknowledged head of the Republican party; he saw the dangers which surrounded it; he knew well the numerous and powerful enemies that were engaged to overthrow and destroy it; he knew well its strength and power and invincibility, so long as it should remain undivided. When Judge White was brought forward, he instantly perceived the dangers of division, and wrote his Gwinn letter of counsel and advice, but not of dictation; a letter expressive of no preference of Mr. Van Buren over Judge White; a letter exhorting only to unanimity, and pointing out, in his judgment, the best means of attaining it. Yet, for doing this, he was denounced by my colleague and his party as a tyrant, a despot, and dictator. Yes, sir, for writing such a letter as this, that man, whose whole life had been one continued scene of noble and gallant daring in defence of his country, was denounced as a Roman dictator-ready and resolved to overturn those very liberties which he would have died to maintain. Sir, the advice and counsel of General Jackson on that occasion might by many have been considered injudicious, or even indelicate, according to the taste and fancy of individuals. But I maintain, before my countrymen and the world, that the charge of dictation, so loudly and repeatedly made by my col-. league and his party, is no where sustained by that letter.
But this unfounded charge of dictation is sometimes attempted to be sustained by a reference to his Shelbyville letter ; a letter written in reply to an invitation to partake of a public dinner proposed to be given to him by the noble-hearted Democracy of Bedford county. He declined attending; alluded to the recent and frequent political tergiversations which had occurred, but prophesied boldly that the people of Tennessee, in spite of them, would stand true and steadfast to their ancient