« FöregåendeFortsätt »
working of the human heart, doubt how the law would be executed ? Is it not certain, that it would be most rigidly enforced against all officers who should venture to oppose him, either in the Federal or State Governments, with a corresponding indulgence and lenity towards those who support him ? A single view, without prolonging the discussion, will decide. Should there be a President of such exalted virtue and patriotism as to make no discrimination between friend and foe, the law would be perfectly useless ; but if not, it would be made the pretext for the indiscriminate removal of all, who may refuse to become his active and devoted partisans; and it would thus prove either useless, or worse than useless.
With the object which the mover of the bill has in view, it seems to me, he ought to take the very opposite courseand instead of making it the duty of the President to remove, he ought to impose restrictions on the power of removal, or divest him entirely of it. Place the office holders, with their yearly salaries, beyond the reach of the Executive power, and they would in a short time be as mute and inactive as this bill proposes to make them. Their voice, I promise, would then be scarcely raised at elections, or their persons be found at the polls.
But suppose the immediate object of the bill accomplished, and the office holders rendered perfectly silent and passive, it might even then be doubted whether it would cause any diminution in the influence of patronage over elections. It would, indeed, greatly reduce the influence of the office hold
They would become the most insignificant portion of the community, as far as elections were concerned. But just in the same proportion as they might sink, the no less formidable corps of office seekers would rise in importance. The struggle for power between the ins and the outs would not abate in the least, in violence or intensity, by the silence or inactivity of the office holders—as the amount of patronage,
the stake contended for, would remain undiminished. Both sides, those in and those out of power, would turn from the passive and silent body of incumbents, and court the favor of the active corps, that panted to supplant them; and the result would be-an annual sweep of the former, after every election, to make room to reward the latter, and this on whichever side the scale of victory might turn.
The consequence would be rotation with a vengeance. The wheel would turn round with such velocity that any thing like a stable system of policy would be impossible. Each temporary occupant, that might be thrown into office by the whirl, would seize the moment to make the most of his good fortune, before he might be displaced by his successor, and a system (if such it might be called) would follow, not less corrupting than unstable.
With these decisive objections, I cannot give my support to the bill ; but I wish it to be distinctly understood, that in withholding it, I neither retract nor modify any sentiment I have expressed in relation to the patronage of this Government. I have looked over, since the commencement of this discussion, the report I made as chairman of a select committee on the subject in 1835, and which has been so frequently referred to in debate by those on the opposite side of the Chamber, and I find nothing which I would omit, if I had now to draw it, but much, which time and reflection would induce me to add, to strengthen the grounds I then assumed. There is not a sentence in it incompatible with the views I have presented on the present occasion.
I might here, Mr. President, terminate my remarks, as far as this bill is concerned ; but as the general question of patronage is at all times one of importance under our system of Government, and especially so, in my opinion, at the present juncture, I trust that I shall be indulged in offering my opinion somewhat more at large in reference to it.
If it be desirable to reduce the patronage of the Govern
ment (and I hold it to be eminently so), we must strike at the source--the root, and not the branches. It is the only way that will not, in the end, prove fallacious. The main sources of patronage may be found in the powers, the revenue, and the expenditures of the Government; and the first and necessary step towards its reduction, is to restrict the powers of this Government within the rigid limits prescribed by the constitution. Every extension of its powers beyond, would bring within its control subjects never intended to be placed there, followed by increased patronage, and augmented revenue and expenditure.
We must, in the next place, take care not to call the acknowledged powers of the Government into action beyond the limits which the common interest may render necessary, nor pervert into means of doing, what it was never intended by the constitution we should have the right to do. Of all the sources of power and influence, perversion of the powers of the Government has proved, in practice, the most fruitful and dangerous—of which our political history furnishes many examples, especially in reference to the money power, as will appear in the course of my remarks.
After restricting the powers of the Government within proper limits, the next important step would be to bring down the income and expenditures to the smallest practicable amount. It is a primary maxim under our system, to collect no more money than is necessary to the economical and constitutional wants of the Government. We have, in fact, no right to collect a cent more. Nothing can tend more powerfully to corrupt public and private morals, or to increase the patronage of the Government, than an excessive or surplus revenue, as recent and sad experience has abundantly proved. Nor is it less important to restrict the expenditures within the income. It is, in fact, indispensable to a restricted revenue, as the increase of the former must, in the end, lead to an increase of the latter. Nor
must an exact administration, and a rigid accountability in every department of the Government, be neglected. It is among the most efficient means of keeping down patronage and corruption, as well as the revenues and expenditures, just as the opposite is among the most prolific sources of both.
It is thus, and thus only, that we can reduce effectually the patronage of the Government, to the least amount consistent with the discharge of the few, but important duties, with which it is charged,—and render it, what the constitution intended it should be, a cheap and simple Government, instituted by the States, for their mutual security, and the more perfect protection of their liberty and tranquillity. It is the way pointed out by Jefferson and his associates of the Virginia school,—which has ever been distinguished for its jealous opposition to patronage, as the bane of our political system ; as is so powerfully illustrated in the immortal document so frequently referred to in this discussion—the report to the Virginia Legislature, on the alien and sedition law, in the year 1799.
But there is, and ever has been, from the first, another and opposing school, that regarded patronage with a very different eye, not as a bane, but as an essential ingredient, without which the Government would be impracticable ; and whose leading policy is, to enlist in its favor the more powerful classes of society, through their interest, as indispensable to its support. If we cannot take lessons from this school, on the question of reduction of patronage, we may at least learn, what is of vast importance to be known,how and by what means this school has reared up a system, which has added so vastly to the power and patronage of the Government, beyond what was contemplated by its framers, as to alarm its wisest and best friends for its fate. With the view of furnishing this information, so intimately connected with the object of these remarks, I propose to give a
very brief and rapid narrative of the rise and progress of
At the head of this school stands the name of Hamilton, than which there is none more distinguished in our political history. He is the perfect type and impersonation of the national or Federal school (I use party names with reluctance, and only for the sake of brevity), as Jefferson is of the State Rights Republican school. They were both men of eminent talent, ardent patriotism, great boldness, and comprehensive and systematic understandings. They were both men, who fixed on a single object far ahead, and converged all their powers towards its accomplishment. The difference between them is, that Jefferson had more genius, Hamilton more abilities; the former leaned more to the side of liberty, and his great rival more to that of power. They both have impressed themselves deeply on the movements of the Government-but, as yet, Hamilton far more so than Jefferson, though the impression of the latter is destined in the end, as I trust, to prove the more durable of the two.
It has been the good fortune of the school of which Mr. . Jefferson is the head, to embody their principles and doctrines in written documents (the report referred to, and the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions), which are the acknowledged creed of the party, and may at all times be referred to, in order to ascertain what they are in fact. The opposite school has left no such written and acknowledged creed, but the declaration and acts of its great leader leave little doubt as to either its principles or doctrines. In tracing them, a narrative of his life and acts need not be given. It will suffice to say, that he entered early in life into the army of the Revolution, and became a member of the military family of Washington, whose confidence he gained and retained to the last. He next appeared in the convention, which framed the constitution, where, with his usual bold