« ZurückWeiter »
The state of the electoral votes was known very soon after the commencement of the session, and very little else could be done, except to prepare for the canvass in the house of representatives. The candidates were all on the ground, and looking with great anxiety to the eventful 9th of February. Three states were represented each by a single member, who, instead of composing one two hundred and thirteenth part of the house, as in ordinary cases, in the decision of this important question, represented one twentyfourth part of the union, and his influence and power was increased almost in a ten-fold proportion. In such a state of things, human nature must have arrived to an unexampled degree of perfection, to have entirely excluded all sinister considerations from the breasts of the candidates, and those who were to be the instruments of their elevation.
Canvass in the house of representatives. The superior number of General Jackson's electoral votes, the number of states in which he had a majority, and the general belief that he was the second choice of the west, seemed to insure his election. To make his case the more certain, the legislature of Kentucky, when they saw their favorite candidate out of the question, passed à resolution by a majority of nearly seven eighths, requesting their delegation to give the vote of that state to Jackson. The general's cause remained in this promising situation until nearly the close of January, when his friends found, to their great surprise, that the western delegation would support Mr. Adams. This section, by uniting with the south, would unquestionably bring in General Jackson, and by joining the east, would as certainly effect the election of Mr. Adams. In this manner, Mr. Clay held the destinies of the nation in his own hands. The course of reasoning adopted on this occasion, aside from the intrinsic merits of the question, was, that by the election of Mr. Adams, the department of state would become vacant, and would probably be conferred on Mr. Clay, and would be the proper stepping stone to the next presi dency. The west would then be fairly entitled to the office, and would have right to claim the support of the east. On the other hand, should General Jackson be chosen, there will be no vacancy in the office of secretary of state; and from what was then supposed to be the uncompromising character of the general, it was not expected that he would make one. There could be no well grounded expectation that the immediate successor of General Jackson would be
taken from an adjoining state; his elevation, therefore, must put an end to the prospects of Mr. Clay in relation to the next presidency. We will, therefore, say his friends, support Mr. Adams, under a firm belief that he will be selected to fill the department of state, and have the support of the east, at a future period, for the chief magistracy.
The peculiar situation of Mr. Clay, who, instead of being before the house as a candidate himself, had the power of deciding whether Jackson or Adams should be president, rendered him an object of extreme suspicion. Every word or look of himself, or his friends, was narrowly watched, or construed according to the wishes of the anxious observer. An anonymous publication appeared in a Philadelphia paper, called the Columbian Observer, purporting to be a letter to the editor, from a member of the Pennsylvania delegation, stating that a corrupt bargain had been made between Mr. Clay and his friends on the one part, and Mr. Adams on the other, that, if the former would support the latter for the presidency, in case of a successful issue, Mr. Clay should be secretary of state; and that similar overtures had been made to General Jackson, and indignantly rejected, and expressing the apprehensions of the writer, that on this account the election would terminate in favor of Adams.
Mr. Clay answered it by a publication in the National Intelligencer, declaring his belief that the letter was a forgery, but if genuine, pronouncing the member, whoever he might be, a base and infamous calumniator, a dastard, and a liar." This was replied to by a publication in the same paper, under the signature of George Kremer, one of the Pennsylvania delegation, who, without expressly admitting himself to be the writer, held himself responsible for the correctness of the statements.
On the 3d of February, Mr. Clay rose in his place, and after stating the facts, and requesting that a committee might be appointed to investigate the truth of the charges, to the end that if guilty he might be punished, and if not that his character, and that of the house, which he consi dered as implicated in continuing him as their speaker under these aspersions, might be vindicated, resigned the chair to Mr. Taylor of New York during the discussion. Mr. Forsyth moved that the subject be referred to a committee to be chosen by ballot. Mr. Kremer avowed himself willing to meet the inquiry, and abide the result. After considerable discussion, Mr. Forsyth's resolution was adopted on the
following day, and a committee of seven appointed. Soon afterwards they addressed a letter to Mr. Kremer, informing him of the time and place of their meeting, for the purpose of receiving any evidence or explanations he might have to offer on the subject. In a reply of considerable length, Mr. Kremer denied their jurisdiction, and declined appearing before them, either as an accuser or a witness, or for any purpose connected with their commission. No person appearing before the committee in relation to the business, they reported the fact to the house, and were discharged.
Many of Mr. Clay's friends thought that his extreme sensibility led him unnecessarily to trouble the house on this occasion. Until this proceeding gave consequence to the publication, it had appeared only in one paperr, published in Philadelphia, not of any great celebrity-had been seen by few-was a weak and badly written production, and would have passed off as one of the short-lived slanders of the day. In the present state of the press, if a public functionary undertakes to seek out, contend with, or reply to, every slanderous publication, he will find little time to devote to the service of his country.
These circumstances led to a developement of the course which Mr. Clay took in relation to the presidential election, after it was known that he was not one of the three returned to the house; by which it appeared that he considered General Jackson, though a distinguished military offi cer, as destitute of the requisite talents and qualifications for the presidency. That in his opinion it was hazardous to the liberties of the country to elevate a person to the chief magistracy, the duties of which are all of a civil nature, merely because he had been a successful general. That on the other hand he considered Mr. Adams as possessing in a high degree the requisite qualifications; that his talents were of the first order, and his life had been spent in the proper school for the office. With these views, it appeared that Mr. Clay had early, decidedly, and uniformly expressed his determination to support Mr. Adams.
On the 9th of February, at noon, the president of the senate, accompanied by that body, attended in the representatives' chamber, and having appointed tellers from each house, and opened the votes and caused them to be counted, declared the number of votes for each person to their respective offices, and the result to be that there was no choice of a president; and that John C. Calhoun was chosen vice
president for the ensuing term; and after remarking that the remaining duties in relation to the choice of a president devolved on the house of representatives, he, with the body over which he presided, withdrew.
The house immediately divided itself into state sections, and proceeded to the choice of a president. On the first ballot, Adams had the votes of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New York, Maryland, Kentucky, Ohio, Louisiana, Illinois, and Missouri-13. Jackson had the votes of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana, Alabama, and Mississippi-7. And Crawford had the votes of Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina-4. The votes of the representatives, taken individually, were eighty-seven for Adams, seventy-one for Jackson, and fiftyfour for Crawford. Mr. Adams, though not having a majo. rity of the votes of the electors, or of the house of representatives taken individually, yet having a majority of the states, was declared to be duly elected.
Inauguration. As had been usual on the occasion of the coming in of a new administration, the senate was convened on the 4th of March, by special call of the president going out of office, for the purpose of acting upon such nominations as the new chief magistrate should make. The inauguration took place on that day with the accustomed ceremonies, the only essential part of which consisted in the president's taking the oath, before some proper magistrate, "faithfully to execute the office, according to the best of his ability, and to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States." As there is usually a large collection of citizens to witness this transaction, an inaugural address is expected. Mr. Adams delivered one of an hour's length, highly complimentary to the administration of his predecessor, professing to follow in his steps, and pledging himself to devote his talents to the good of the nation.
Principles of forming a new cabinet. The formation of a new cabinet, and the course to be pursued by the president in relation to rewarding his friends with the offices in his gift, were subjects of intense interest with the multitudes who had been active in his elevation. For wise reasons, the constitution has vested the power of appointment in the president, with the approbation of the senate, and fixed the term of office, except in the single instance of the judiciary, to be during his pleasure. This vast power and patronage is thus deposited, with an expectation that it will
be exercised for the good of the people. They require at the hands of the chief magistrate, that he call forth the best talents, adapted to the discharge of the duties of the office to which the appointment is made; that the power of removal be not exercised in a whimsical, capricious, or revengeful manner; and that these powers be not prostituted to subserve the private views, or reward the particular friends, of the man on whom the duty is devolved.
Most of the important offices in the gift of the executive require the whole attention of the incumbent. Many times be is obliged to make great sacrifices, and give up lucrative private employments, which cannot be resumed at pleasure, to devote himself to the public service. At best, it is a humiliating circumstance to a high minded man, to hold an office on which he must depend for a subsistence, at the will of another, even when he supposes that the power of removal will be exercised with discretion. Some experience, at least, is necessary to the due discharge of the duties of public office, as well as in the other concerns of life. These considerations seem to demand of the executive, great caution in the exercise of this high prerogative. They require the continuance in office of faithful, intelligent, and talented public servants, so long as they discharge their duties well. The main reason for vesting the power of removal in the president, with no other limitation than that of his pleasure, was, that where the incumbent was found to be incompetent or unfaithful, he might be discharged without a public inquiry. Where the executive, deviating from this plain course, adopts the principle of making vacancies for the purpose of rewarding the exertions of particular friends, or of gratifying a hostile spirit towards political opponents, he can expect no honorable man to accept an office under his administration. He must look for public servants among parasites and sycophants, who, calculating upon a short tenure, will make their offices subservient to private views. They commence often without talent, always without experience, and soon leave them to a new set of expectants. A worse state of things cannot be imagined. To such a course, however, bad as it is, a new president coming in by a contested election, is urged by a host of applicants, which requires all the wisdom and firmness of the most exalted character to resist.
Mr. Adams' course. Mr. Adams came into office, not in competition with the preceding administration, but with a powerful opposition, and with less unanimity than any of