« ZurückWeiter »
Upon the whole view of the subject, feeling the firmest conviction, that there is no constitutional impediment in the way of repealing the act in question, upon the most fair and candid interpretation of the constitution; believing, that principles advanced in opposition, go directly to the destruction of the fundamental principle of the constitution, the responsibility of all public agents to the people; that they go to the establishment of a permanent corporation of individuals invested with ultimate, censorial and controling power over all the departments of the government, over legislation, execution and decision, and irresponsible to the people; believing that these principles are in direct hostility with the great principle of representative government; believing that the courts, formerly established, were fully competent to the business they had to perform, and that the present courts are useless, unnecessary and expensive; believing, that the supreme court has heretofore discharged all the duties assigned to it, in less than one month in the year, and that its duties could be performed in half that time; considering the compensations of the judges to be amongst the highest, given to any of the highest officers of the United States, for the services of the whole year; considering the compensations of all the judges greatly exceeding the services assigned them, as well as considering all the circumstances attending the substitution of the new system for the old one, by increasing the number of judges, and compensations, and lessening their duties by the distribution of the business into a greater number of hands, &c.—whilst acting under these impressions, I shall vote against the motion now made for striking out the first section of the repealing bill.
SPEECH OF JAMES A. BAYARD,
THE JUDICIARY BILL,
DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE
UNITED STATES, FEBRUARY 19, 1802.*
In committee of the whole, Mr. Bayard spoke as follows :
MR. CHAIRMAN, I must be allowed to express my surprize at the course pursued by the honorable gentleman from Virginia, (Mr. Giles,) in the remarks which he has made on the subject before us. I had expected that he would have adopted a different line of conduct. I had expected it as well from that sentiment of magnanimity which ought to have been inspired by a sense of the high ground he holds on the floor of this House, as from the professions of a desire to conciliate, which he has so repeatedly made during the session. We have been invited to bury the hatchet, and brighten the chain of peace. We were disposed to meet on middle ground. We had assurances from the gentleman that he would abstain from reflections on the past, and that his only wish was that we might unite in future in promoting the welfare of our common country. We confided in the gentleman's sincerity, and cherished the hope, that if the divisions of party were not banished from the House, its spirit would be rendered less intemperate. Such were our impressions, when the mask was suddenly thrown aside, and we saw the torch of discord lighted and blazing before our eyes. Every effort has been made to revive the animosities of the House, and inflame the passions of the nation. I am at no loss to perceive why this course has been pursued. The gentleman has been unwilling to rely upon the strength of his subject, and has, therefore, determined to make the measure a party question. He has probably secured success, but would it not have been more honorable and more commendable, to have left the decision of a great constitutional question to the understanding, and not to the prejudices of the House. It was my ardent wish to discuss the subject with calmness and deliberation, and I did intend to avoid every topic which could awaken the sensibility of party. This was my temper and design when I took my seat yesterday. It is a course at present we are no longer at liberty to pursue. The gentleman has wandered far, very far, from the points of the debate, and has extended his animadversions to all the prominent measures of the former administrations. În following him through his preliminary observations, I necessarily lose sight of the bill upon your table.
* See page 126.
The gentleman commenced his strictures with the philosophic observation, that it was the fate of mankind to hold different opinions as to the form of government which was preferable. That some were attached to the monarchical, while others thought the republican more eligible. This, as an abstract remark, is certainly true, and could have furnished no ground of offence, if it had not evidently appeared that an allusion was designed to be made to the parties in this country. Does the gentleman suppose that we have a less lively recollection than himself, of the oath which we have taken to support the constitution; that we are less sensible of the spirit of our government, or less devoted to the wishes of our constituents ? Whatever impression it might be the intention of the gentleman to make, he does not believe that there exists in the country an anti-republican party. He will not venture to assert such an opinion on the floor of this House. That there may be a few individuals having a preference for monarchy is not improbable; but will the gentleman from Virginia, or any other gentleman, affirm in his place, that there is a party in the country who wish to establish monarchy? Insinuations of this sort belong not to the legislature of the union. Their place is an election-ground or an ale-house. Within these walls they are lost; abroad, they have had an effect, and I fear are still capable of abusing popular credulity.
We were next told of the parties which have existed, divided by the opposite views of promoting executive power and guarding the rights of the people. The gentleman did not tell us in plain language, but he wished it to be understood, that he and his friends were the guardians of the people's rights, and that we were the advocates of executive power.
I know that this is the distinction of party which some gentlemen have been anxious to establish ; but it is not the ground on which we divide. I am satisfied with the constitutional powers of the executive, and never wished nor attempted to increase them; and I do not believe, that gentlemen on the other side of the House ever had a serious apprehension of danger from an increase of executive authority. No, sir, our views, as to the powers which do and ought to belong to the general and state governinents, are the true sources of our divisions. I co-operate with the party to which I am attached, because I believe their true object and end is an honest and efficient support of the general government, in the exercise of the legitimate powers of the constitution. .
I pray to God I may be mistaken in the opinion I entertain as to the designs of gentlemen to whom I am
opposed. Those designs I believe hostile to the powers of this government. State pride extinguishes a national sentiment. Whatever is taken from this government is given to the states.
The ruins of this government aggrandize the states. There are states which are too proud to be controled; whose sense of greatness and resource renders them indifferent to our protection, and induces a belief, that if no general government existed, their influence would be more extensive, and their importance more conspicuous. There are gentlemen who make no secret of an extreme point of depression, to which the government is to be sunk. To that point we are rapidly progressing. But I would beg gentlemen to remember, that human affairs are not to be arrested in their course, at artificial points. The impulse now given may be accelerated by causes at present out of view. And when those, who now design well, wish to stop, they may find their powers unable to resist the torrent. It is not true, that we ever wished to give a dangerous strength to executive power. While the government was in our hands, it was our duty to maintain its constitutional balance, by preserving the energies of each branch. There never was an attempt to vary
the relation of its powers. The struggle was to maintain the constitutional powers of the executive. The wild principles of French liberty were scattered through the country. We had our jacobins and disorganizers. They saw no difference between a king and a President, and as the people of France had put down their king, they thought the people of America ought to put down their President. They, who considered the constitution as securing all the principles of rational and practicable liberty, who were unwilling to embark upon the tempestuous sea of revolution in pursuit of visionary schemes, were denounced as monarchists. A line was drawn between the government and the people, and the friends of the government were marked as the enemies of the people. I hope, however, that the gov