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the protective policy, which he did not apprehend. The one was that suggested by the Senator, and the other, that of bringing the whole duties to one uniform low average, ad valorem, without any discrimination, for or against any duty. It would be too soon to discuss the relative merits of the two at this time ; and, in fact, he had not made up his mind on the subject. A review must soon take place ; it cannot be postponed beyond one or two years, when it will be the proper time to examine their respective merits. In the meanwhile, he was prepared to say, that he would be ready to go into it with a liberal spirit, and a disposition to do equal and exact justice to all, and to adopt that, which, after a full examination, shall appear to be the best calculated to promote the interest and harmony of the whole.
On the Bill to prevent the Interference of certain
Federal Officers in Elections, delivered in the Senate, February 22d, 1839.
Mr. CALHOUN said : I belong, Mr. President, to that political school which regards with a jealous eye the patronage of this Government, and believes that the less its patronage the better, consistently with the objects for which the Government was instituted. Thus thinking, I have made no political move of any importance, for the last twelve or thirteen years, which had not for its object, directly or indirectly, the reduction of patronage. But, notwithstanding this, I cannot bring my mind to support this bill, decidedly as I approve of its object. Among other difficulties, there is a constitutional objection, which I cannot surmount, and
which I shall, without further remark, proceed to state and consider.
This bill proposes to inflict the penalty of dismission on a large class of the officers of this Government, who shall electioneer, or attempt to control or influence the election of public functionaries either of the General or State Governments, without distinguishing between their official and individual character, as citizens; and the question is-Has Congress the constitutional right to pass such a law? This, again, involves a prior and still more general question-Has this Government the authority to interfere with the electoral rights of the citizens of the States ?
In considering this general question, I shall assume, in the first place, what none will deny, that it belongs to the States separately to determine who shall, and who shall not, exercise the right of suffrage ; and, in the second, that it belongs to them, in like manner, to regulate that right; that is, to pass all laws that may be necessary to secure its free exercise, on the one hand, and to prevent its abuse on the other. next advance the proposition, which no one in the least conversant with our institutions, or familiar with the constitution, will venture to question ; that, so far as citizens are concerned, this right belongs solely to the States, to the entire exclusion of the General Government, which can in no wise touch or interfere with it, without transcending the limits of the constitution. Thus far there can be no difference of opinion.
But a citizen may be also an officer of this Government, which brings up the question-Has it the right to make it penal for him to use his official power to control or influence elections ? Can it, for instance, make it penal in a collector, or other officer, who holds a bond, in his official character, on a citizen, to threaten to enforce it, if he should refuse to vote for his favorite candidate? I regard this proposition as not less clear than the preceding. Whenever the Govern
ment invests an individual with power, which may be used to the injury of others, or the public, it is manifest that it not only has the right, but that it is in duty bound to prevent its abuse, as far as practicable. But it must be borne in mind, that a citizen does not cease to be one in becoming a Federal officer. This Government must, accordingly, take special care, in subjecting him to penalties, for the abuse of his official powers, that it does not interfere in any wise with his private rights as a citizen, which are, as has been stated, under the exclusive control of the States. But no such care is taken either in this bill or the substitute proposed by its author. Neither makes any distinction whatever between the official and private acts of the officer as a citizen. The broadest and most comprehensive terms are used, comprehending and subjecting all acts without discrimination as to character, to the proposed penalty. Under its provisions, if an officer should express an opinion of any candidate, say of a President, who was a candidate for reelection, whether favorable or unfavorable, or whisper an opinion relating to his administration, whether good or bad, he would subject himself to the penalty of this bill, as certainly as if he had brought the whole of his official power to bear directly on the freedom of election. That a bill, containing such broad and indiscriminate provisions, transcends the powers of Congress, and violates in the officer the electoral rights of the citizen, held under the authority of his State, and guaranteed by the provision of the constitutionwhich secures the freedom of speech to all — is too clear, after what has been said, to require additional illustration. It cannot pass without enlarging the powers of the Government by the abridgment of the rights of the citizen.
But, it may be replied, that there are instances where the Government has subjected its officers to penalties for acts of a private character, over which the constitution has
given it no control. Such, undoubtedly, is the fact—and its right to do so, in the instances referred to in the discussion, cannot be denied ; but all such cases are distinguished from that under consideration by lines too broad to be mistaken. In all of them, the acts prohibited were, in the first place, such as were incompatible with the official duties enjoined ; as in the case of the prohibition of commissaries to purchase or deal in articles similar to those which it is made their official duty to purchase, in order to prevent frauds on the public. And in the next, the acts prohibited involved only civil rights, belonging to the officer as an individual, and not political rights, which belong to him as a citizen. The former he may yield at pleasure, without discredit or disgrace-but the latter he cannot surrender without debasing himself, and giving up a sacred trust vested in him by the State of which he is a member, for the common good ; nor can this Government demand its surrender, without transcending its powers, and infringing the rights of the States and their citizens.
It may also be said, that, in most cases, it would be impossible to distinguish between the official and the political acts of the officer, so as to subject the former to penal restraints, without interfering with the latter; and that it would, in practice, render ineffective the admitted right of the Government to punish its officers for the abuse of their official powers. It may be so; but little or no evil can result. Whatever defect of right this Government may labor under, in such cases, is amply made up by the plenary power of the States, which have an unlimited control over the electoral rights of its citizens, whether officers of this Government or not. To them the subject may be safely confided. It is they who are particularly interested in seeing that a right so sacred shall not be abused, nor the freedom of election impaired. We must not forget that the States and the people of the States are our constituents and supe
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riors, and we but their agents; and that, if the right in question be abused, or the freedom of election impaired, it is they, and not we, who must mainly suffer, and who, of course, are the best judges of the evil and the remedy. If the policy of the States demand it, they may impose whatever restraint they please on the federal officers within their respective limits, in order to guard against their control or influence in elections; and, if it be necessary, may divest them entirely of the right of suffrage. To those who are so much more interested, and competent to judge and act on this subject than we are, I am for leaving the decision as to what onght to be done, and the application of the remedy. Entertaining these views, I am forced to the conclusion that this bill is unconstitutional; and if there were no other reason to oppose its passage, would be compelled to vote against it.
But there are others sufficiently decisive to compel me to withhold my support, were it possible to remove the constitutional objection. So far from restricting the patronage of the President, should the bill become a law, it would, if I mistake not, greatly increase his influence. He has now the almost unlimited power of removing the officers of this Government-a power the abuse of which has been the subject of much and, in my opinion, of just complaint on the part of the Chamber to which the mover of this bill belongs, on the ground that it was calculated to increase unduly the power and influence of that department of the Government. Now what is the remedy this bill proposes for that evil ? To put restrictions on the removing power ? The very reverse. Το make it the duty, as it is now the right, of the President to remove ; and in discharging this high duty he is made the sole judge, without limitation or appeal. The fate of the accused would be exclusively in his hand, whether charged with the offence of opposing or supporting his administration. Can any one, the least conversant with party morals, or the