Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

and which facilitated the transaction of business vote of the people was to be taken; and obviawhile preserving the decorum of the body. There ting all excuse for caucuses and conventions to was probably not an instance of disorder, or a concentrate public opinion by proposing a second disagreeable scene in the chamber, during his election between the two highest in the event of long continued presidency. He classed demo- no one receiving a majority of the whole number cratically in politics, but was as much the favorite of district votes in the first election. The plan of one side of the house as of the other, and that reported was in these words: in the high party times of the war with Great

" That, hereafter the President and Vice-PresBritain, which so much exasperated party spirit. ident of the United States shall be chosen by the

Mr. Gaillard was, as his name would indicate, People of the respective States, in the manner of French descent, having issued from one of following: Each State shall be divided by the those Huguenot families, of which the bigotry of legislature thereof, into districts

, equal in num

ber to the whole number of senators and repreLouis XIV., dominated by an old woman, depriv- sentatives, to which such State may be entitled ed France, for the benefit of other countries.

in the Congress of the United States; the said districts to be composed of contiguous territory; and to contain, as nearly as may be, an equal number of persons, entitled to be represented, under the constitution, and to be laid off, for the first time, immediately after the ratification of

this amendment, and afterwards at the session CHAPTER XXVIII. of the legislature next ensuing the appointment

of representatives, by the Congress of the United AMENDMENT OF THE CONSTITUTION IN RELA. States; or oftener, if deemed necessary by the

TION TO THE ELECTION OF PRESIDENT AND State; but no alteration, after the first, or after VICE-PRESIDENT.

each decennial formation of districts, shall take

effect, at the next ensuing election, after such The attempt was renewed at the session of and succeeding Friday, in the month of August

,

alteration is made. That, on the first Thursday, 1825–26 to procure an amendment to the con- of the year one thousand eight hundred and stitution, in relation to the election of the two twenty-eight, and on the same days in every first magistrates of the republic, so as to do away fourth year thereafter, the citizens of each State, with all intermediate agencies, and give the elec- tors of the most numerous branch of the State

who

possess the qualifications requisite for election to the direct vote of the people. Several Legislature, shall meet within their respective specific propositions were offered in the Senate districts, and vote for a President and Viceto that effect, and all substituted by a general President of the United States, one of whom, at proposition submitted by Mr. Macon—"that a

least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same

State with himself: and the person receiving the select committee be appointed to report upon the greatest number of votes for President, and the best and most practicable mode of electing the one receiving the greatest number of votes for President and Vice-President:' and, on the mo- Vice-President in each district shall be holden to tion of Mr. Van Buren, the number of the com- have received one vote : which fact shall be immittee was raised to nine-instead of five-the mediately certified to the Governor of the State,

to each of the senators in Congress from such usual number. The members of it were ap- State, and to the President of the Senate. The pointed by Mr. Calhoun, the Vice-President, and right of affixing the places in the districts at were carefully selected, both geographically as which the elections shall be held, the manner of coming from different sections of the Union, and holding the same, and of canvassing the votes

,

and certifying the returns, is reserved, exclupersonally and politically as being friendly to sively, to the legislatures of the States. The the object and known to the country. They Congress of the United States shall be in session were: Mr. Benton, chairman, Mr. Macon, Mr. on the second Monday of October, in the year one Van Buren, Mr. Hugh L. White of Tennessee, the same day in every fourth year thereafter: and

thousand eight hundred and twenty-eight, and on Mr. Findlay of Pennsylvania, Mr. Dickerson of the President of the Senate, in the presence of New Jersey, Mr. Holmes of Maine, Mr. Hayne the Senate and House of Representatives, shall of South Carolina, and Col. Richard M. Johnson open all the certificates, and the votes shall then of Kentucky. The committee agreed upon a

be counted. The person having the greatest

number of votes for President, shall be Presiproposition of amendment, dispensing with elec- dent, if such number be equal to a majority of tors, providing for districts in which the direct the whole number of votes given ; but if no per

son have such majority, then a second election two the election is sure to be made on the secshall be held, on the first Thursday and suc- ond trial. But to provide for a possible continceeding Friday, in the month of December, then next ensuing, between the persons having the gency—too improbable almost ever to occurtwo highest numbers, for the office of President: and to save in that case the trouble of a third which second election shall be conducted, the popular election, a resort to the House of Represult certified, and the votes counted, in the resentatives is allowed; it being nationally unsame manner as in the first; and the person having the greatest number of votes for President, important which is elected where the candidates shall be the President. But, if two or more per- were exactly equal in the public estimation.sons shall have received the greatest and equal Such was the plan the committee reported; and number of votes, at the second election, the it is the perfect plan of a popular election, and House of Representatives shall choose one of has the advantage of being applicable to all electhem for President, as is now prescribed by the constitution. The person having the greatest tions, federal and State, from the highest to the number of votes for Vice-President, at the first lowest. The machinery of its operation is easy election, shall be the Vice-President, if such and simple, and it is recommended by every connumber be equal to a majority of the whole sideration of public good, which requires the abannumber of votes given, and, if no person have such majority, then a second election shall take donment of a defective system, which has failedplace, between the persons having the two highest the overthrow of usurping bodies, which have numbers, on the same day that the second elec- seized upon the elections—and the preservation to tion is held for President, and the person having the people of the business of selecting, as well as the highest number of votes for Vice-Presidentelecting their own high officers. The plan was shall be the Vice-President. But if two or more persons shall have received the greatest number unanimously recommended by the whole comof votes in the second election, then the Senate mittee, composed as it was of experienced men shall choose one of them for Vice-President, as is taken from every section of the Union. But it now provided in the constitution. But, when a second election shall be necessary, in the case did not receive the requisite support of twoof Vice-President, and not necessary in the case thirds of the Senate to carry it through that of President, then the Senate shall choose a Vice- body; and a similar plan proposed in the House President, from the persons having the two of Representatives received the same fate there highest numbers in the first election, as is now prescribed in the constitution."

-reported by a committee, and unsustained by

two-thirds of the House : and such, there is too The prominent features of this plan of election much reason to apprehend, may be the fate of are: 1. The abolition of electors, and the direct future similar propositions, originating in Convote of the people; 2. A second election between gress, without the powerful impulsion of the peothe two highest on each list, when no one has a ple to urge them through. Select bodies are not majority of the whole; 3. Uniformity in the the places for popular reforms. These reforms mode of election.—The advantages of this plan are for the benefit of the people, and should bewould be to get rid of all the machinery by gin with the people; and the constitution itself, which the selection of their two first magistrates sensible of that necessity in this very case, has is now taken out of the hands of the people, and very wisely made provision for the popular initiusurped by self-constituted, illegal, and irrespon- ative of constitutional amendments. The fifth sible bodies,—and place it in the only safe, prop- article of that instrument gives the power of beer, and disinterested hands—those of the people ginning the reform of itself to the States, in their themselves. If adopted, there would be no pre- legislatures, as well as to the federal government text for caucuses or conv

nventions, and no resort to in its Congress: and there is the place to the House of Representatives,-where the largest begin, and before the people themselves in State is balanced by the smallest. If any one their elections to the general assembly. And received a majority of the whole number of dis- there should be no despair on account of the failtricts in the first election, then the democratic ures already suffered. No great reform is carried principle-the demos krateo—the majority to suddenly. It requires years of persevering exergovern—is satisfied. If no one receives such tion to produce the unanimity of opinion which majority, then the first election stands for a is necessary to a great popular reformation : but popular nomination of the two highest—a nomi- because it is difficult, it is not impossible. The nation by the people themselves out of which / greatest reform ever effected by peaceful means

in the history of any government was that of the days. The six bills reported were.

1. To reparliamentary reform of Great Britain, by which gulate the publication of the laws of the United the rotten boroughs were disfranchised, populous States, and of the public advertisements. 2. To towns admitted to representation, the elective secure in office the faithful collectors and disbursfranchise extended, the House of Commons puri-ers of the revenue, and to displace defaulters. 3. fied, and made the predominant branch-the To regulate the appointment of postmasters. 4. master branch of the British government. And To regulate the appointment of cadets. 5. To how was that great reform effected ? By a few regulate the appointment of midshipmen. 6. To desultory exertions in the parliament itself? No, prevent military and naval officers from being but by forty years of continued exertion, and by dismissed the service at the pleasure of the Preincessant appeals to the people themselves. The sident.-In favor of the general principle, and society for parliamentary reform, founded in objects of all the bills, the report accompanying 1792, by Earl Grey and Major Cartwright, suc-them, said: ceeded in its efforts in 1832; and in their success “In coming to the conclusion that Executive there is matter for encouragement, as in their patronage ought be diminished and regulated. conduct there is an example for imitation. They on the plan proposed, the committee rest their carried the question to the people, and kept it there opinion on the ground that the exercise of great

patronage in the hands of one man, has a constant forty years, and saw it triumph—the two patriotic tendency to sully the purity of our institutions founders of the society living to see the consum- and to endanger the liberties of the country. This mation of their labors, and the country in the doctrine is not new. A jealousy of power, and

of the influence of patronage, which must always enjoyment of the inestimable advantage of a accompany its exercise, has ever been a distin“Reformed Parliament."

guished feature in the American character. It displayed itself strongly at the period of the formation, and of the adoption, of the federal constitution. At that time the feebleness of the old confederation had excited a much greater dread of anarchy than of power- of anarchy among

the members than of power in the head '—and CHAPTER XXIX.

although the impression was nearly universal that a government of more energetic character

had become indispensably necessary, yet, eren REDUCTION OF EXECUTIVE PATRONAGE.

under the influence of this conviction-such was

the dread of power and patronage—that the In the session 1825–26, Mr. Macon moved that States, with extreme reluctance, yielded their the select committee, to which had been com

assent to the establishment of the federal gof

ernment. Nor was this the effect of idle and mitted the consideration of the propositions for visionary fears, on the part of an ignorant multiamending the constitution in relation to the elec- tude, without knowledge of the nature and tention of President and Vice-President, should also dency of power. On the contrary, it resulted be charged with an inquiry into the expediency knowledge, —from the heads of statesmen, unsur

from the most extensive and profound political of reducing Executive patronage, in cases in

passed, in any age, in sagacity and patriotism. which it could be done by law consistently with Nothing could reconcile the great men of that the constitution, and without impairing the effi- day to a constitution of so much power, but the ciency of the government. The motion was adopt- guards which were put upon it against the abuse ed, and the committee (Messrs. Benton, Macon, played itself throughout the instrument. To this

of power. Dread and jealousy of this abuse disVan Buren, White of Tennessee, Findlay of Penn- spirit we are indebted for the freedom of the sylvania, Dickerson, Ilolmes, Hayne, and John- press, trial by jury, liberty of conscience, freedom son of Kentucky) made a report, accompanied of debate, responsibility to constituents, power by six bills; which report and bills, though not of impeachment, the control of the Senate orer

appointments to office; and many other proviacted upon at the time, may still have their use sions of a like character. But the committee canin showing the democratic principles, on practical not imagine that the jealous foresight of the time, points of that day (when some of the fathers of great as it was, or that any human sagacity, the democratic church were still among us);

could have foreseen, and placed a competent guard

upon, every possible avenue to the abuse of and in recalling the administration of the govern- power. The nature of a constitutional act exment, to the simplicity and economy of its early cludes the possibility of combining minute per

a

[ocr errors]

fection with general excellence. After the exer- have a circle of greater or less diameter, of which
tion of all possible vigilance, something of what he is the centre and the soul--a circle composed
ought to have been done, has been omitted; and of friends and relations, and of individuals em-
much of what has been attempted, has been found ployed by himself on public or on private account
insufficient and unavailing in practice. Much re- —the actual increase of federal power and patron-
mains for us to do, and much will still remain for age by the duplication of the revenue, will be,
posterity to do—for those unborn generations to not in the arithmetical ratio, but in geometrical
do, on whom will devolve the sacred task of progression--an increase almost beyond the pow-
guarding the temple of the constitution, and of er of the mind to calculate or to comprehend.”
keeping alive the vestal flame of liberty.
" The committee believe that they will be act-

This was written twenty-five years ago. Its
ing in the spirit of the constitution, in laboring
to multiply the guards, and to strengthen the anticipations of increased revenue and patronage
barriers, against the possible abuse of power. If are more than realized. Instead of fifty millions
a community could be imagined in which the of annual revenue during the lifetime of persons
laws should execute themselves-in which the then living, and then decmed a visionary specu-
power of government should consist in the enact-
ment of laws—in such a state the machine of lation, I saw it rise to sixty millions before I
government would carry on its operations with- ceased to be a senator; and saw all the objects
out jar or friction. Parties would be unknown. of patronage expanding and multiplying in the
and the movements of the political machine would
but little more disturb the passions of men, than same degree, extending the circle of its influence,
they are disturbed by the operations of the great and, in many cases, reversing the end of its crea-
laws of the material world. But this is not the tion. Government was instituted for the protec
case. The scene shifts from this imaginary re- tion of individuals-not for their support. Office
gion, where laws execute themselves, to the thea-
tre of real life. wherein they are executed by civil

was to be given upon qualifications to fill it—not and military officers, by armies and navies, by upon the personal wants of the recipient. Proper courts of justice, by the collection and disburse-persons were to be sought out and appointed ment of revenue, with all its train of salaries, | (by the President in the higher appointments, jobs, and contracts; and in this aspect of the re, and by the heads of the different branches of ality, we behold the working of PATRONAGE, and discover the reason why so many stand ready, in service in the lower ones); and importunate any country, and in all ages, to flock to the stand-suppliants were not to beg themselves into an ard of POWER, wheresoever, and by whomsoever, office which belonged to the public, and was only it may be raised.

to be administered for the public good. Such * The patronage of the federal government at the beginning, was founded upon a revenue of was the theory of the government. Practice has two millions of dollars. It is now operating upon reversed it. Now office is sought for support, twenty-two millions; and, within the lifetime of and for the repair of dilapidated fortunes; applimany now living, must operate upon fifty. The cants obtrude themselves, and prefer “ claims” to whole revenue inust, in a few years, be wholly office. Their personal condition and party serapplicable to subjects of patronage. At present about one half, say ten millions of it, are appro- vices, not qualification, are made the basis of the priated to the principal and interest of the public demand: and the crowds which congregate at debt, which, from the nature of the object, in- Washington, at the change of an administration, volves but little patronage. In the course of a few years, this debt, without great mismanage

supplicants for office, are humiliating to behold, ment, must be paid off. A short period of peace, and threaten to change the contests of parties and a faithful application of the sinking fund, from a contest for principle into a struggle for must speedily accomplish that most desirable ob

plunder. ject. Unless the revenue be then reduced, a work as difficult in republics as in monarchies, the

The bills which were reported were intended patronage of the federal government, great as it to control, and regulate different branches of already is, must, in the lapse of a few years, 1e- the public service, and to limit some exercises ceive a vast accession of strength. The revenue of executive power. 1. The publication of the itself will be doubled, and instead of one half being applicable to objects of patronage, the government advertisements had been found to be whole will take that direction. Thus, the reduc-subject to great abuse--large advertisements, and tion of the public debt, and the increase of reve- for long periods, having been often found to be nue, will multiply in a four-fold degree the num- given to papers of little circulation, and sometimes ber of persons in the service of the federal gov- of no circulation at all, in places where the adverernment, the quantity of public money in their hands, and the number of objects to which it is tisement was to operate—the only effect of that applicable; but as each person employed will favor being to conciliate the support of the paper,

V ol I.-6

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

a

or to sustain an efficient one. For remedy, the principle should be legalized. 3. The appointbill for that purpose provided for the selection, ment of military cadets was distributed accordand the limitation of the numbers, of the news- ing to the Congressional representation, and papers which were to publish the federal laws which has been adopted in practice, and perhaps and advertisements, and for the periodical report become the patronage of the member from a of tneir names to Congress. 2. The four years' district instead of the President. 5. The selection limitation law was found to operate contrary to of midshipmen was placed on the same footing, its intent, and to have become the facile means and has been followed by the same practical conseof getting rid of faithful disbursing officers, in- quence, 6. To secure the independence of the stead of retaining them. The object of the law army and navy officers, the bill proposed to do, was to pass the disbursing officers every four what never has been done by law,-define the years under the supervision of the appointing tenure by which they held their commissions power, for the inspection of their accounts, in and substitute “good behavior” for the clause order that defaulters might be detected and drop- which now runs “during the pleasure of the ped, while the faithful should be ascertained and President.” The clause in the existing comcontinued. Instead of this wholesome discrimina- mission was copied from those then in use, do tion, the expiration of the four years' term came rived from the British government; and, in to be considered as the termination and vacation making army and navy officers subject to disof all the offices on which it fell, and the crea- mission at the will of the President, departs from tion of vacancies to be filled by new appointments the principle of our republican institutions, and at the option of the President. The bill to re- lessens the independence of the officers. medy this evil gave legal effect to the original intention of the law by confining the vacation of office to actual defaulters. The power of the President to dismiss civil officers was not attempted to be curtailed, but the restraints of responsibility were placed upon its exercise by requiring CHAPTER XXX. the cause of dismission to be communicated to Congress in each case. The section of the bill to

EXCLUSION OF MEMBERS OF CONGRESS FROY that effect was in these words: That in all

CIVIL OFFICE APPOINTMENTS. nominations made by the Pres.dent to the Senate, to fill vacan’ies occasioned by an exer- An inquiry into the expediency of amending cise of the President's power to remove from the constitution so as to prevent the appointment office, the fact of the removal shall be stated to of any member of Congress to any federal office the Senate at the same time that the nomination of trust or profit, during the period for which he is made, with a statement of the reasons for which was elected, was moved at the session 1825–26, such officer may have been removed.This was by Mr. Senator Thomas W. Cobb, of Georgia; intended to operate as a restraint upon removals and his motion was committed to the considerwithout cause, and to make legal and general ation of the same select committee to which had what the Senate itself, and the members of the been referred the inquiries into the expediency committee individually, had constantly refused of reducing executive patronage, and amending to do in isolated cases. It was the recognition the constitution in relation to the election of of a principle essential to the proper exercise of President and Vice-President. The motion as the appointing power, and entirely consonant to submitted only applied to the term for which the Mr. Jefferson's idea of removals; but never ad- senator or representative was elected-only mitted by any administration, nor enforced by carried the exclusion to the end of his constituthe Senate against any onc-always waiting the tional term; but the committee were of opinion legal enactment. The opinion of nine such that such appointments were injurious to the insenators as composed the committee who pro- dependence of Congress and to the purity of posed to legalize this principle, all of them demo- legislation; and believed that the limitation on cratic, and most of them aged and experienced, the eligibility of members should be more compreshould stand for a persuasive reason why this hensive than the one proposed, and should extend

« AnteriorContinuar »