Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

United States, with the sums received by each. In the revenue department, in the port of New York, according to this list, they amount in number to one hundred and seven. ty-four, and their wages to $148,921. In the port of Norfolk, in Virginia, forty-one officers are employed, at an expense of upwards of $16.000, to collect a revenue short of $65,000.

The liberties of the people, the committee apprehend, would be much less at hazard, if they had any controlling voice in the choice of the chief magistrate, by whom this mighty engine is to be wielded; but according to the present system, they have but a remote and inefficient voice. On the whole, the committee lament their inability to work out a radical reform, but present, as the result of their labors, and as only the commencement of what ought to be done, six bills, having for their object the reduction of executive patronage, recommending it to future legislatures to perfect the work.

One of the bills provided, that the selection of newspapers in which the laws and public advertisements should be printed, in each state, should be made by their espective delegations in congress. A second, that the postmasters at the larger offices, should be appointed by the president, with the consent of the senate. A third, that military and naval officers should be commissioned during good behaviour. Two others related to the mode of selecting midshipmen, and cadets for the military academy. The most important one provided, that the president, in his nominations to the senate, in every case where the vacancy had been made by the removal of a former incumbent, should state the reasons for such removal. The committee seemed to be well aware that this power placed in the president, to be exercised at pleasure, and without being required to assign reasons, was liable to great abuse; and that an injudicious, and much more a capricious use of it, was detrimental to the commonwealth. That a diligent, faithful, and intelligent performance of official duty, gave the incumbent a title to the confidence of his superior; and a reasonable expectation that he should not be removed without cause. They had not yet learned the doctrine, that rotation in the offices in the gift of the executive, was conducive to their faithful discharge; they supposed, indeed, that when to the other qua. lifications which the incumbent might possess, in common with

many of his fellow-citizens, was added the important one of experience in the discharge of its duties, the public

interest would be jeopardized by a capricious change; more especially as he would, knowing he held the office by such a tenure, be induced to sacrifice public good to private emolument. In their opinion, offices created for the benefit of the community, should never be prostituted to reward favorites. They seem to have foreseen, that after a warmly contested election, the successful candidate would be strongly urged to make use of this all-powerful instrument to reward his friends, and punish his opponents; that his own inclinations, together with what he might suppose would be conducive to his re-election, would lead to the same object, and that their combined influence would be irresistible. They adduced no instances of such a corrupt and unprincipled course; no president having, as yet, ventured on the experiment of removing faithful officers, for the purpose of rewarding the active instruments of his election. But they argued with great force, as well from the imperfections of human nature, as from the history of other countries, that such might, and probably would be the case in future, which they considered as one of the last stages of degeneracy and corruption.

In another report, from the same committee, in which they recommend an amendment of the constitution, providing that “no senator or representative shall be appointed to any civil office, place, or emolument, under the authority of the United States, until the expiration of the presidential term in which such person shall have served as a senator oy representative,” they denominate this power of making vacancies, a kingly prerogative, and consider the exercise of it, when the vacancies are filled, for the most part, from members of congress, as effectually destroying the independence of that body.

The report, with its accompanying bills, after being published and distributed, has hitherto lain dormant on the files of the senate. The course pursued by the administration of 1825, in regard to the principal topics, was calculated to allay the apprehensions intended to be excited. No vacan. cies were made, on account of the part which the incumbent had taken in the preceding contest, and no undue proportion of such as occurred, were filled from the halls of congress. As an electioneering project, the report stands unrivalled in the annals of congress. It touched, with a masterly hand, the most sensitive chords, inducing a belief that a large portion of the revenue was expended in corrupt. ing tủe purity of elections, not, indeed, by direct bribery, but in a manner more fatal to the liberties of the people, by prostituting the power of removal and appointment to that purpose, and maintaining a host of useless officers, dependent on the executive will. That this enormous power was now in the hands of a chief magistrate, who was not the choice of the people, and who would make use of the whole weight of executive patronage, to secure his re-election.

The reports were ably drawn, and pointed out in strong language the prominent dangers to which the republic was exposed. The misfortune was, that this committee, who, in 1826, so faithfully warned the people against these dangers, should, in 1830, be reduced to the alternative of abandoning the principles of their reports, or the administration of their choice.

A bill for the relief of F. Larche, of little consequence in itself, which had passed the senate without opposition, in the house of representatives was made the occasion of a serious and protracted debate, on account of a principle supposed to be involved in its passage.

At the time of the invasion of New Orleans, a horse, cart, and slave, the property of Larche, was pressed into the service, and employed on the fortifications; and while thus employed, the slave was killed by a cannon shot from the enemy. The bill made provisions for paying the owner the value of the slave. The principle adopted at the close of the war, on this subject, was, that the United States should make compensation for private property, in public service, destroyed by the enemy, but not for human life; and the questions in the discussion of which the slave-holding and non-slave-holding states brought out all their forces, were, under which head the applicant's loss was to be classed, and whether slaves were property or persons? Aside from the obscurity thrown upon the subject, by the ingenuity of debate, it must have been

perfectly evident, that they partook of the nature of both. Possessing the human form, features, and mind, they were properly considered as persons; being by the laws of Louisiana, the subject of use, traffick, and transfer, they possessed the essential ingredients of pro. perty. This being the only claim of the kind, the question was not worth, in a pecuniary view, a single day's debate; and its discussion, on this occasion, served no other purpose but to awaken sectional jealousies. The committee of claims, to whom the subject was referred in the house of representatives, recommend the rejection of the bill, upon principle: they say, that “the emergency justified the impressment of every moral agent, capable of contributing to the defense of the place; to call upon the master to defend himself and slave, as well as the slave to defend his master. It would be the height of injustice to call upon the free citizens of states many hundred miles distant from the point assailed, to pour out their blood, and sacrifice their lives, for its defense, and, at the same time, exonerate from that service its own physical and moral force.

Men were wanted, and in that capacity the slave was put in requisi. tion. The master, too, might have been called upon, and his sons, and his hired servants, as they were in other parts of the country, where sons, and fathers, and husbands, fought and died, without having their lives valued, or compensated in money.

The slave-holding states took the alarm at the principles supposed to be involved in this report. They considered it as amounting to a direct denial that slaves were property, and an assertion that government had right, in cases of emergency, to put arms into their hands. To such an extent was the excitement, that General Taylor, a senator from Virginia, thought it necessary to give the alarm to the executive of that state, by transmitting a copy of the report, with such remarks as his apprehension of the fearful nature of the consequences suggested. The governor of Virginia responded, that “it was a question big with the fate of the union, and one well calculated to alarm the sensibilities of the patriot.”

No such views, however, were entertained by the opponents of the claim. They considered the property of the south in their slaves as sacred and untangible, as that in their houses, lands, and goods. They did consider, however, that in an emergency, like that of New Orleans, government had a right to adopt any measure deemed necessary for its defense. That human life, of which they supposed that slaves in common with others were possessed, which might be lost in the contest, was not to be compensated in money. The report was accepted in the house, and the question decided against the claim.

[ocr errors][merged small]

Fourth of July, 1826-Death of Adams and Jefferson-How noticed-Im

portant principles established during their political course-Freedom of political discussion, and of the press-Freedom of religious opinion-Its effects-Experiment of a state and national government over the same people-Difference of opinion, as to the manner in which conflicting claims of power are to be settled — Amelioration of criminal law-Confinement in penitentiaries substituted for corporal punishment-Imprisonment for debt ameliorated and nearly abolished-Laws relating to landed titles and the collection of debts improved—Internal improvements-Erie and Champlain canals-Other communications between the Atlantic and the west projected and commenced-Steam navigation-Its commencement, and rapid improvement-Fraud on the custom house at Philadelphia-Abduction of William Morgan-Project of a canal across the isthmus of Panama.

National jubilee. The 4th of July, 1826, completed fifty years since the declaration of independence gave birth to the nation. The day was noticed in all parts of the United States as a national jubilee. This anniversary, always affectionately remembered by the American people, had this year a peculiar interest. It seemed to be a period calling upon them to pause, look back, and observe the progress of events. Their numbers had quadrupled, progressing from two and an half to ten millions. Their wealth, strength, and means of defense had increased more than tenfold. From a small, scattered population, bordering on the western shores of the Atlantic, they had extended beyond the banks of the Mississippi to the base of the rocky mountains. The very singular occurrence on this day of the death of Adams and Jefferson, two of the three distinguished signers of the declaration of independence who lived to see its light, gave it a peculiar interest.

Death of president Adams. Mr. Adams died at his seat in Quincy, Mass., at six o'clock in the evening of the anniversary, at the age of ninety years. His illness, other than the general debility of age, was but of a few days continuance. A short period before his death, the citizens of Quincy requested his attendance at the proposed celebration. The infirmities incident to his years obliged him to decline, but he expressed his patriotic feelings in a sentiment to be used at their festive board INDEPENDENCE FOR EVER.

« ZurückWeiter »