« 上一頁繼續 »
addressed to themselves; but they are apt to acquire a habit of looking with indifference upon the public interests, and of tolerating conduct from which an unpractised man would revolt. Office is considered as a species of property; and government rather as a means of promoting individual interests, than as an instrument created solely for the service of the people. Corruption in some, and in others a perversion of correct feelings and principles, divert government from its legitimate ends, and make it an engine for the support of the few, at the expense of the many. The duties of all public officers are, or, at least, admit of being made so plain and simple, that men of intelligence may readily qualify themselves for their performance; and I cannot but believe, that more is lost by the long continuance of men in office, than is generally to be gained by their experience. I submit therefore to your consideration, whether the efficiency of the government would not be promoted, and official industry and integrity better secured, by a general extension of the law which limits appointments to four years.
"In a country where offices are created solely for the benefit of the people, no one man has any more intrinsic right to official station than another. Offices were not established to give support to particular men, at the public expense. No individual wrong is therefore done by removal, since neither appointment, nor continuance in office, is matter of right. The incumbent became an officer with a view to public benefits; and when these re
quire his removal, they are not to be sacrificed to private interests. It is the people, and they alone, who have a right to complain, when a bad officer is substituted for a good one. He who is removed has the same means of obtaining a living, that are enjoyed by the millions who never held office. The proposed limitation would destroy the idea of property, now so generally connected with official station; and although individual distress may be sometimes produced, it would, by promoting that rotation which constitutes a leading principle in the republican creed, give healthful action to the system."
In speaking of the tariff, the president stated, that its operation thus far had not proved so injurious to agriculture and commerce, or as beneficial to manufactures, as had been anticipated; that foreign, importations had not diminished, while domestic competition, under an illusive excitement, had increased the production much beyond the demand for home consumption; and that consequently, there had ensued "low prices, temporary embarrassment, and partial loss." In discussing this topic, the president urgently recommended the laying aside local prejudices and the like, and the dealing with it on a truly national scale, under "the patriotic determination to promote the great interests of the whole."
The balance in the treasury, on the 1st of January, 1829, was stated to be nearly $6,000,000. The receipts of the year were estimated at above
$24,600,000, while the expendi
tures, it was thought, would amount to
more than $26,000,000; so that the balance in the treasury, at the end of the current year, would be a little less than $4,500,000. During the year, $12,405,000 had been paid on account of the public debt; which amounted now to $48,565,406. "The sudden withdrawal from the banks in which it had been deposited, at a time of unusual pressure in the money market," said the president, of so large a sum as nearly $9,000,000, which was paid off on the 1st of July, it was feared "might cause much injury to the interests dependent on bank accommodations. But this evil was wholly averted by an early anticipation of it at the treasury, aided by the judicious arrangements of the officers of the Bank of the United States."
In anticipation of the time, when, by the payment of the debt, the demand upon the federal treasury should be greatly diminished; while by the progress of commerce the revenue should be largely increased; it was suggested, that the surplus should be apportioned among the several states, " according to their ratio of representation." In the same connection, the president urged, that there be no resort to strained constructions of the Constitution, but an appeal to the people, to amend the national charter in all matters requiring it. "The scheme has worked well," he remarked. "It has exceeded the hopes of those who devised it, and become an object of admiration to the world. We are responsible to our country, and to the glorious cause of self-government, for the preservation of so great a good. The great mass of legislation, relating to our internal affairs, was intended to be left, where the federal convention
found it, in the state governments. . . . I cannot theiefore too strongly or earnestly, for my own sense of its importance, warn you against all encroachments upon the legitimate sphere of state sovereignty. Sustained by its healthful and invigorating influence, the federal system can never fall."
Many suggestions relating to the treasury department were next offered. They bore upon the method of collecting the revenue; the large amount of public money outstanding; the release of debts to the government, "where the conduct of the debtor is wholly exempt from the imputation of fraud;" and the numerous frauds committed on the treasury, which had necessitated several prosecutions. "And," continued the president, "in connection with this subject, I invite the attention of
Congress to general and minute inquiry into the condition of the government, with a view to ascertain what offices can be dispensed with, what expenses retrenched, and what improvements may be made in the organization of its various parts, to secure the proper responsibility of public agents, and promote efficiency and justice in all its operations."
Beside the topics already noticed, the president warmly commended the academy at West Point, urged the extending the benefits of the pension law to all the surviving Revolutionary veterans, and spoke of the removal of the Indian tribes, as called for by every consideration of policy and propriety. At the close of his message, the president gave his views on the subject of the United States Bank, which, as mark
ing out his determination in regard to that institution, and as closely connected with the excitement which subsequently arose on the subject, we quote in full: "The charter of the Bank of the United States expires in 1836, and its stockholders will most probably apply for a renewal of their privileges. In order to avoid the evils resulting from precipitancy in a measure involving such important principles, and such deep pecuniary interests, I feel that I cannot, in justice to the parties interested, too soon present it to the deliberate consid-* eration" of the legislature and the people. Both the constitutionality and the expediency of the law creating this bank, are well questioned by a large portion of our fellow-citizens; and it must be admitted by all, that it has failed in the great end of establishing a uniform and sound currency.
"Under these circumstances, if such an institution is deemed essential to the fiscal operations of the government, I submit to the wisdom of the legislature whether a national one, founded upon the credit of the government, and its revenue, might not be devised, which would avoid all constitutional difficulties; and, at the same time, secure all the advantage to the government and country, that were expected to result from the present bank."
The question of the public lands, always an interesting one, came before Congress early in the session, and gave rise to a very ardent and very important discussion. It is to be borne in mind, that, owing to the failure of many purchases made by speculators, and the inability of other buy\ou IIL—48
ers to pay when the full sum was due, so much public money on the land account was outstanding after some years, that a measure for the relief of insolvent purchasers was passed by Congress, and the upset price per acre was reduced from two dollars to one and a quarter, on condition that the payment should be immediate. The practice of selling at the minimum price, the lands not sold by public auction, failed, however, as is not surprising, to bring purchasers for the less valuable tracts, and the state governments, not unnaturally, looked upon the general government and its land system, as hostile to the progress of their sovereignties in population and prosperity.
This was the feeling of the western states especially, and in 1826, Senator Benton, who was virtually the representative of that section of the country, proposed a system of prices, graduated according to the actual value of the unsold lands, so as to secure a more evenly dispersed population; he also recommended the donation of small tracts to settlers, for the purpose of attracting such as were unable to migrate westward, in consequence of poverty. The views of Mr. Benton were warmly supported by the western states, who were disposed to claim entire and exclusive sovereignty over the lands within their boundaries, as was clearly shown by a vote of the General Assembly of Indiana, in January, 1829.
Some steps on the part of the general government seemed to be plainly required; and accordingly Mr. Foot, of Connecticut, on the 29th of December, submitted to the Senate a resolution, which, after amendment, was expressed in the following terms: "Resolved, That the committee on public lands be in! structed to inquire and report the quanj tity of public lands remaining unsold, within each state or territory; and whether it be expedient to limit, for a certain period, the sales of the public lands to such lands only as have heretofore been offered for sale, and are subject to entry at the minimum price; and also, whether the office of surveyorgeneral, and some of the land offices, may not be abolished without detriment' to the public interest; or whether it be expedient to adopt measures to hasten the sales, and extend more rapidly the surveys of the public lands."
Mr. Foot's design in proposing this resolution seemed to be manifest enough. The average annual sales of public lands amounted to a million of acres, and there were nearly a hundred millions of acres of the national domain, already surveyed, unsold; which he thought would supply the market, were the annual sales to experience a far more remarkable rise than was at all probable, for more than the life-time of one generation; so that, if his suggestions were adopted, a considerable retrenchment of the public expenditure might be effected, without any diminution of the revenue from that source, or any actual hindrance to the settlement of the west.
The usual course, when a resolution proposing an inquiry was presented, was to postpone the discussion till the committee should report something which required the action of Congress. On the present occasion, however, this course was not pursued; for Senator
Benton at once resisted the resolution, on the ground that its effect would be to check emigration to the new states in the west, and to deliver up large portions of them to the dominion of wild beasts.
Mr. Benton made his speech on the 18th of January, and as the presiding officer, Mr. Calhoun, among other fantastic notions, held, that he had
no power to preserve order in the debates in the Senate, the energetic member from Missouri took the largest liberty of saying whatever he thought best on this topic. On the 19th, Mr. Hayne, of South Carolina, adopting Mr. Benton's views, branched out still more widely, and gave utterance to heavy and sharp invectives against the eastern states especially, and advocated the doctrine of state rights in terms which startled sober-minded men. On the 20th, Mr. Webster, although he had not intended to speak at all, took the floor in reply, and delivered the first of his great speeches on this subject.
Our limits do not admit of entering into details respecting the speakers and speeches in this celebrated debate. Both Mr. Benton and Mr. Hayne undertook to reply to Mr. Webster, Mr. Hayne doing so under great excitement, and reiterating his charges against New England, and enlarging upon his views of state sovereignty and independence with much energy and boldness. Daniel Webster, whose great abilities and power as an orator were well known, and from whom a defence of the Constitution was universally looked for, did not refuse to meet the impulsive South Carolinian, and on the 26th of January, Ch. I.]
he uttered that memorable oration, which every man, woman, and
child in our country has heard of, and which was then, and has ever since been considered, not only a conclusive refutation of the charge of hostility on the part of the east towards the west, but also an unanswerable defence and exposition of the Constitution. It would be impossible to do justice to the scene, and the power of the orator, in any space at our command; and we shall not attempt it. It is sufficient to know, that the sentiments of Mr. Webster struck a responsive chord in the bosoms of millions, and the odious doctrine of nullification and disunion found no favor with our countrymen. So may it ever be!" Liberty and union, now and for ever, one and inseparable!"
The issue of this protracted discussion was the passage of the bill brought forward in the Senate by Mr. Benton early in the session; but it was taken to the House of Bepresentatives too near the day of adjournment, to allow time for consideration, and it was ordered, with others in the same circumstances, "to lie upon the table."
Next in importance to this debate, and the effect of Webster's great speech upon the internal affairs and relations of the Union, may be reckoned the revision of the tariff law.* The principal discussion arose respecting a bill re
* In Mr. Haync's speech on Mr. Foot's resolution, he sharply censured Daniel Webster, for apparent inconsistency and contradiction in opposing the tariff in 1824, and supporting it in 1828. For Mr. Webster's defence and reply, the reader must consult his great speech, spoken of above.
ported on the 27th of January, by Mr, Mallory, the chairman of the committee on manufactures, to regulate the entry of woolen importations; but it was renewed and extended by the introduction of other bills, and of amendments, the relevancy whereof to their original motions is not always obvious; and the entire effect was certainly hot in favor of the policy advocated (in this instance) by the southern party. Separate bills were introduced, providing for a reduction of duties on salt and molasses, tea and coffee, etc., which were passed by considerable majorities. The tonnage duties, and the whole question of a reciprocal policy, which, according to Mr. Benton, is the true commercial policy of the Union, were also largely discussed on this occasion. But the most instructive, and at the same time the most painful part of the business, was the disclosure of frauds on the revenue, amounting, it was said, to some $3,000,000 a year.
The appointments to office made during the recess, were not immediately submitted to the Senate for its approbation. A month expired before the commencement of the long list was presented, and more than two months had elapsed before the last name was sent in. This delay, which was attributed to the disagreement between the friends of the vice-president and of Mr. Van Buren, the secretary of state, although it no doubt helped to consolidate the strength of the administration, did not produce a general confirmation of the appointments. However widely opinions differed with regard to the necessity of that kind of "reform" which
REVISION OF THE TARIFF LAW.