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DEBATES OF CONGRESS,
FROM 1789 TO 1856.
FROM GALES AND SEATON'S ANNALS OF CONGRESS; FROM THEIR
REGISTER OF DEBATES; AND FROM THE OFFICIAL
REPORTED DEBATES, BY JOHN C. RIVES.
THE AUTHOR OF THE THIRTY YEARS' VIEW.
D. APPLETON & COMPANY, 346 & 348 BROADWAY.
ENTERED according to Act of Congress, in the year 1856, by
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern District of New York.
NINETEENTH CONGRESS. FIRST SESSION
PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES
THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
CONTINUED FROM VOL VIII.
MONDAY, March 13, 1826.
column to promote party views or individual
aggrandizement, I should deem myself an imiAmendment of the Constitution.
tator-yes, sir, & humble imitator of the The House, on motion of Mr. MoDUF- wretch who applied the torch of destruction to FIE, resolved itself into a Committee of the the phesian temple to gain an execrable imWhole, Mr. McLane, of Delaware, in the mortality, chair, on the resolutions for the amendment It would be a vain regret, sir, to express my of the constitution.
sorrow, that I cannot spread before the comMr. BRYAN addressed the committee as fol- mittee the rich classical repast with which they lows:
have been so sumptuously regaled by the honorMr. Chairman: I regret that, to the other able gentleman from Massachusetts, (Mr. EVERdisadvantages under which I labor in address- ETT.) It has not been my lot, like him, to breathe ing the committee in this stage of the debate, the inspiring zephyrs of the land of Homer; I that of bodily indisposition should be added; have not had my imagination fired, and my heart but as I have the privilege of the floor to-day, exhilarated and ennobled by treading the plains I am determined to exercise it.
of Marathon and Platea; I have not mused I am not desirous to impose upon this com- | amid the ruins of Athens, and gathered lessons mittee a general essay upon the constitution ; of political wisdom from the silent, but impresbut I confess, sir, I am solicitous to explain sive memorials of her departed greatness; nor the reasons of my vote, and willing to assume has fair science, "rich with the spoils of time," all the just responsibilities of my station. In unfolded to me those secret treasures which she doing this, as briefly as I can, I may be permit- could not conceal from that honorable gentleted to regret my political inexperience, and man. want of constitutional learning; but, sir, I de- I come not here, sir, from the Lyceum or the rive some consolation from the belief that, if I Portico; I come, sir, from the court-yards and am inexperienced, I am also unprejudiced. I cotton-fields of North Carolina; and I come, have not been reared at the feet of any politi- sir, to proclaim the wishes and assert the rights cal Gamaliel; my opinions of men and meas of the people I have the honor to represent. ures, erroneons though they may be, are my My life, sir, has been spent among the people own; they have not been assumed by compact, of my native State ; the most valued part of and therefore, sir, I feel myself at liberty to my political information has been derived from correct and amend them as experience may dic- association and converse with my fellow-cititate. Upon the subject of this constitutional zens. I know their wants, and I feel them too; reformation, I have earnestly endeavored to dis- I know, sir, that they wish to participate in the cover the true meaning and spirit of the consti- election of the Chief Magistrate of this Union, tution, and am sincerely desirous to carry these and that they are dissatisfied with the present into full and complete effect. God forbid that mode of expressing their voice-if expression it I should ever be so weak or so wicked as to may be called. displace one stone of this hallowed temple In endeavoring to reply to the argument of where liberty delights to dwell, for any other the honorable gentleman from Massachusetts, purpose than to secure her permanent abode. I hope he will do me the justice to believe that Î most solemnly assure the committee, that, if I do so in a spirit of kindness and respect. I I could be impelled by other motives--more should do violence to my own feelings were I especially, sir, if I should attempt to unfix a l to act otherwise ; for, although I differ from
H. OF R.]
[MARCH, 1826. him materially on some points, yet, when I can from the fathers of the revolution, and the agree with him, I do so with lively satisfaction. framers of this constitution, and the States who He has told us, sir, that it would be unconstitu- adopted it. The powers of this executive chief tional to make these amendments. Unconsti- excited very lively apprehensions in the bosoms tutional ! sir. This assertion is certainly con- of some of the purest and wisest of our foretradictory to experience-to the constitution fathers. Some thought they had an “awful itself; and the argument seems to move in a squinting” at monarchy—they imagined that circle. We know, sir, that amendments have they could discern " the diadem sparkling on been made; that one of these, the amendment his brow, and the imperial purple flowing in of 1804, by confining the choice of the States, his train.' And how, sir, did the advocates of when the election devolves upon the House of the constitution endeavor to lull these appreRepresentatives, to three, instead of the five hensions ? Not, sir, as that honorable gentlehighest on the list of those voted for by the man has done, by endeavoring to persuade the electors, has made a material change; it im- people that his powers were not great; but paired too, sir, a federative power, and in that they were necessary to give proper consistcreased a popular one. Suppose, sir, that it ency and strength to the system—that he was should be necessary to vest in the General Gov- properly checked by the other departments, ernment powers which an emergency might that he was elected for short periods, and liable render essential for the preservation of the Un- to impeachment—but, above all, that he was ion. Cases might occur which I do not even dependent upon the people. Let us examine, wish to imagine. Must these powers be usurped sir, a few of his constitutional attributes. He at the hazard of revolution and bloodshed ? is the representative of his country, among
the Must we sit here like the Roman Senate-qui- nations of the earth. He originates treaties, etly fold our arms, and await our destruction and, with the advice of the Senate, confirms with dignity? or must we not rather apply for them; and they are the supreme law of the these powers in the mode prescribed by the land.' It is his prerogative to receive ambassaconstitution ? Our ancestors well knew that dors, and with the advice of the Senate, to send they could not pierce the veil of futurity, and them. He is Commander-in-Chief of the Army provide for events beyond the ken of mortal and Navy of the United States. His qualified wisdom. They provided a remedy, sir, for evils veto gives him an important agency in legislawhich might be disclosed by experience and tion itself. He can elevate to offices of the practice; and they provided a security against greatest dignity and emolument. His patronage amendments proposed from "light and tran- embraces the distribution of millions. He opesient causes" by the mode in which alone they rates upon the hopes and fears of thousands. can be effected. The honorable gentleman from Although he has not the constitutional power Massachusetts has sought to draw an argument of making war, yet by means of his other powin support of his position from the proviso of ers he can at any time place his country in a belthe fifth article of the constitution," that no ligerent state. Suppose he should refuse to reamendment which may be made prior to the ceive the British or French ambassador, or send year 1808, shall in any manner affect the first him home with contumely and insult. Suppose, and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the under the act for the suppression of the slave first article; and that no State, without its con- trade, he should order our cruisers to capture sent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in vessels in the Mediterranean, or upon some unthe Senate.” Now, sir, to my mind, this clause, founded suspicions. Indeed, sir, many cases so far from helping his argument, militates might be supposed, when, by an undue exercise most strongly against it; it indicates, to my of a constitutional power, he might draw upon understanding, that this special exception was us the anger of a foreign nation. But, says necessary to exempt from amendment, for a the honorable gentleman from Massachusetts, limited time, the first and fourth clauses men- the King of Great Britain can elevate to the tioned in it, and to confine any amendment of peerage the humblest individual, and ennoble the federative feature in the Senate, which should him and his posterity. Indeed, sir, he seemed deprive a State of its equal right, to the special to describe the dazzling honors of a coronet case of the States consenting to it. I should, with so much rapture, that those who did not therefore, sir, most strongly infer, according to know him might have suspected that, during a very old and sound rule of construction, that his residence abroad, he had conceived an affecthe power of amendment in other cases, was to tion for what Chatham could not refuse. be inferred. Self-preservation is the primary Before I dismiss this brief examination, sir, law of societies, as well as of individuals, and, lest I should be mistaken, I will take the liberty if necessary, we must act upon it.
to say, that, although I believe the powers of • The honorable gentleman from Massachu- the President to be great, yet I believe
setts seems to think that the powers of the them to be necessary for the safety of the RePresident have been greatly magnified by my public. What the jealous statesmen of the revhonorable friend from South Carolina, (Mr. Mc-olution, with Washington at their head, have DUFFIE ;) he deems them very limited, and not given, I will not presume to impair. The stress the proper object of much jealousy. I can as- or intent of my argument, sir, is to show, that sure him, sir, that he thinks very differently the greater power, the greater necessity that
(H. OF R. the due dependency on the people should be State may be entitled in Congress," &c. It preserved.
then proceeds to direct that they shall meet in I will admit, sir, that, before any amendment their respective States, and ballot for President is adopted, its adaptation to the genius and spirit and Vice President, and point out the mode of of the Government ought to be satisfactorily conducting the election by the Electoral Colascertained; for it is obvious that maxims and leges. political reasons, which would justly be entitled It seems to me, Mr. Chairman, that the conto great weight when applied to a consolidat- stitution here, by the word " State,” means the ed Government, one and ina visible, such as Commonwealth-the political society—the peoBritain, or any of the ancient Republics, would ple, or at least that portion of them who exerbe inapplicable to a Government compounded cise the elective franchise; and therefore, that, as ours is, of national and federative features. whenever the State Legislatures have exercised They too often serve to create false analogies, the power of appointing the electors, instead of and lead us astray from the true points of in- simply directing the mode in which the State quiry. The checks and balances of the Brit- should appoint them, they have violated the ish Constitution are contrived and intended to rights of the people. It would have been very protect and preserve the King, Lords, and Com- easy, if the power was intended to be given to mons, who are all integral parts of the same the Legislatures, to have used expressions plainState-different classes of the same political so- ly indicative of such an intent--and the inferciety. The checks and balances of our consti- ence that they would have done so, is rendered tution are intended to protect the Union, the to my mind irresistible, by recurring to the first States, and the people. The States, according clause of the third section, which prescribes the to the theory of our constitution, are independ mode of electing Senators. The expression ent members of a Confederacy, and are, them- there is, “The Senate of the United States shall selves, in many respects, sovereign. We must, be composed of two Senators from each State, therefore, always keep in our mind's eye, this chosen by the Legislature thereof,” &c. But leading and animating principle, when we sit the honorable gentleman from Virginia, the in judgment upon this great work of our fa- second from that State who spoke in this dethers. In all human affairs, “self-love, the spring bate, (Mr. STEVENSON,) contends, and his arguof action, moves the soul.” This principle is ment is supported by the honorable gentleman ever active and vigilant, and may be relied who immediately preceded me, (Mr. EVERETT,) upon as a faithful sentinel for its own preserva- that it is not only constitutional for the Legislation.
tures to exercise this power of appointing the The framers of the constitution well knew electors, but that it was even expected they that the States were the best guardians of State would do so. Sir, I do most conscientiously rights—the people of popular rights; it was differ from these gentlemen, and I will endeaonly necessary, therefore, to give them, respec- vor, by the indulgence of the committee, to show tively, in this form of government, adequate that, if the contemporary exposition of this part power, and their self-love and interest might be of the constitution, by its advocates, is to be relied upon, for their exercise and preserva- relied upon, that it was not so understood and tion: if this could be done, and the political explained. If Hamilton and Madison, commachine which was to be moved by these pow- bined, and agreeing upon this point, are entiers so adjusted, that they should have a har- tled to credit, it was intended that the people monious and salutary action, the grand object should exercise this power of appointment. of all government was attained—they had then I refer, sir, to the “ Federalist,” a series of a self-creating political movement, whose ob- essays written before the adoption of the conject was the happiness of the governed. It stitution, by Madison, Hamilton, and Jay, for would be collateral, Mr. Chairman, to the pres- the purpose of explaining and recommending it ent inquiry, and would also be presumptuous in to the people of the United States, and which me to attempt to point out to the committee is now resorted to, by all parties, as the ablest the many indications of these mixed principles. and most authoritative exposition of its true inThe subject before us regards solely the consti- tent and meaning. In No. LXVIII., Hamilton, tation of the President and Vice President. speaking of the mode of electing the President, Was it to be supposed that they should lose says, “It was desirable that the sense of the sight of these controlling principles in the mode people should operate in the choice of the perof appointing this great officer-the Executive son to whom so important a trust was to be Chief of the confederated Republic—whose confided. This end will be answered by comconstitutional action was to have so important, mitting the right of making it, not to any preso pervading an influence in the character of established body, but to men (electors) chosen the Government—the policy and the destiny of by the people, for the special purpose, and at the the nation? No, sir, it was not to be expected, particular conjuncture.” “A small number of nor has it so occurred. The constitution de persons (electors) chosen by their fellow-citizens clares that "each State shall appoint, in such from the general mass, will be most likely to manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a possess the information and discernment requinumber of electors, equal to the whole number site to so complicated an investigation.” The of Senators and Representatives to which the language of Mr. Madison, in the Convention of