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preside ; and adopting for this purpose modes of reasoning which, even under the influence of all proper feeling towards high official station, it is difficult to regard as respectable. It appeals to every prejudice which may betray men into a mistaken view of their own interests, and to every passion which may lead them to disobey the impulses of their understanding. It urges all the specious topics of State rights and national encroachment against that which a great majority of the States have affirmed to be rightful, and in which all of them have acquiesced. It sows, in an unsparing manner, the seeds of jealousy and ill-will against that government of which its author is the official head. It raises a cry, that liberty is in danger, at the very moment when it puts forth claims to powers heretofore unknown and unheard of. It affects alarm for the public freedom, when nothing endangers that freedom so much as its own unparalleled pretences. This, even, is not all. It manifestly seeks to inflame the poor against the rich ; it wantonly attacks whole classes of the people, for the purpose of turning against them the prejudices and the resentments of other classes. It is a State paper which finds no topic too exciting for its use, no passion too inflammable for its address and its solicitation. Such is this message. It remains now for the people of the TJnited States to choose between the principles here avowed and their government. These cannot subsist together. The one or the other must be rejected. If the sentiments of the message shall receive general approbation, the Constitution will have perished even earlier than the moment which its enemies originally allowed for the termination of its existence. It will not have survived to its fiftieth year.
THE SPOILS TO THE VICTORS.10
I BEGIN with the subject of removals from office for opinion's sake, -one of the most signal instances of the attempt to extend executive power. This has been a leading measure, a cardinal point, in the course of the administration. It has proceeded, from the first, on a settled system of proscription
10 In the Fall of 1832, a National Republican Convention being held at Wor. cester, Massachusetts, Webster addressed the body in a speech of considerable length, reviewing the course of the administration. Among the various topics urged by him, the Presidential abuse of the power of removal from office was justly made prominent. “To the victors belong the spoils” had thengrown into
for political opinions; and this system it has carried into operation to the full extent of its ability. The President has not only filled all vacancies with his own friends, generally those most distinguished as personal partisans, but he has turned out political opponents, and thus created vacancies, in order that he might fill them with his own friends. I think the number of removals and appointments is said to be two thousand. While the administration and its friends have been attempting to circumscribe and to decry the powers belonging to other branches, it has thus seized into its own hands a patronage most pernicious and corrupting, an authority over men's means of living most tyrannical and odious, and a power to punish free men for political opinions altogether intolerable. You will remember, Sir, that the Constitution says not one word about the President's power of removal from office. It is a power raised entirely by construction. It is a constructive power, introduced, at first, to meet cases of extreme public necessity. It has now become coextensive with the executive will, calling for no necessity, requiring no exigency, for its exercise; to be employed at all times, without control, without question, without responsibility. When the question of the . President's power of removal was debated in the first Congress, those who argued for it limited it to extreme cases. Cases, they said, might arise in which it would be absolutely necessary to remove an officer before the Senate could be assembled. An officer might become insane; he might abscond : and from these and other supposable cases, it was said, the public service might materially suffer, if the President could not remove the incumbent. And it was further said, that there was little or no danger of the abuse of the power for party or personal objects. No President, it was thought, would ever commit such an outrage on public opinion. Mr. Madison, who thought the power ought to exist, and to be exercised in cases of high necessity, declared, nevertheless, that if a President should resort to the power when not required by any public exigency, and merely for personal objects, he would deserve to be impeached. By a very small majority,– I think, in the Senate, by the casting vote of the Vice-President,-Congress decided in favour
common use as a sort of maxim or proverb suited to the case: I well remember having often heard it quoted by the partisans of the President as a just and safe rule of action in regard to the official patronage of the government. Probably a more immoral and debasing principle was never invoked, to help on the work of political corruption; and Webster had good reason to be alarmed at the extraordinary change of habit thus inaugurated in our National State. The whole speech is exceedingly able, of course; but there is, I think, something of special cause why the part here given should be kept in mind.
of the existence of the power of removal, upon the grounds which I have mentioned ; granting the power in a case of clear and absolute necessity, and denying its existence everywhere else. Mr. President, we should recollect that this question was discussed, and thus decided, when Washington was in the executive chair. Men knew that in his hands the power would not be abused; nor did they conceive it possible that any of his successors could so far depart from his great and bright example, as, by the abuse of the power, and by carrying that abuse to its utmost extent, to change the essential character of the executive from that of an impartial guardian and executor of the laws into that of the chief dispenser of party rewards. Three or four instances of removal occurred in the first twelve years of the government. At the commencement of Mr. Jefferson's administration, he made several others, not without producing much dissatisfaction ; so much so, that he thought it expedient to give reasons to the people, in a public paper, for even the limited extent to which he had exercised the power. He rested his justification on particular circumstances and peculiar grounds; which, whether substantial or not, showed at least that he did not regard the power of removal as an ordinary power, still less as a mere arbitrary one, to be used as he pleased, for whatever ends he pleased, and without responsibility. As far as I remember, Sir, after the early part of Mr. Jefferson's administration, hardly an instance occurred for near thirty years. If there were any instances, they were few. But at the commencement of the present administration, the precedent of these previous cases was seized on, and a system, a regular plan of government, a well-considered scheme for the maintenance of party power by the patronage of office, and this patronage to be created by general removal, was adopted, and has been carried into full operation. Indeed, before General Jackson's inauguration, the party put the system into practice. In the last session of Mr. Adams's administration, the friends of General Jackson constituted a majority in the Senate ; and nominations, made by Mr. Adams to fill vacancies which had occurred in the ordinary way, were postponed, by this majority, beyond the third of March, for the purpose, openly avowed, of giving the nominations to General Jackson. A nomination for a Judge of the Supreme Court, and many others of less magnitude, were thus disposed of. *** And what did we witness, Sir, when the administration actually commenced, in the full exercise of its authority ? One universal sweep, one undistinguishing blow, levelled against all who were not of the successful party. No worth, public or private, no service, civil or military, was of power to resist the relentless greediness of proscription. Soldiers of the late war, soldiers of the Revolutionary war, the very contemporaries of the liberties of the country, all lost their situations. No office was too high, and none too low; for office was the spoil, and all the spoils, it is said, belong to the victors! If a man, holding an office necessary for his daily support, had presented himself covered with the scars of wounds received in every battle, from Bunker Hill to Yorktown, these would not have protected him against this reckless rapacity. Nay, Sir, if Warren himself had been among the living, and had possessed any office under government, high or low, he would not have been suffered to hold it a single hour, unless he could show that he had strictly complied with the party statutes, and had put a well-marked party collar round his own neck. Look, Sir, to the case of the late venerable Major Melville. He was a personification of the spirit of 1776, one of the very first to venture in the cause of liberty. He was of the Tea-Party; one of the very first to expose himself to British power. And his whole life was consonant with this its beginning. Always ardent in the cause of liberty; always a zealous friend to his country; always acting with the party which he supposed cherished the genuine republican spirit most fervently; always estimable and respectable in private life, he seemed armed against this miserable petty tyranny of party as far as man could be. But he felt its blow, and he fell. He held an office in the custom-house, and had held it for a long course of years; and he was deprived of it, as if unworthy to serve the country which he loved, and for whose liberties, in the vigour of his early manhood, he had thrust himself into the very jaws of its enemies. There was no mistake in the matter. His character, his standing, his Revolutionary services, were all well known ; but they were known to no purpose ; they weighed not one feather against party pretensions. It cost no pains to remove him ; it cost no compunction to wring his aged heart with this retribution from his country for his services, his zeal, and his fidelity. Sir, you will bear witness that," when his successor was nominated to the Senate, and the Senate was told who it was that had been removed to make way for that nomination, its members were struck with horror. They had not conceived the administration to be capable of such a thing; and yet, they said, What can we do? The man is removed; we cannot recall him ; we can only act upon the nomination before us? Sir, you and I thought otherwise;
1 The Hou. Nathaniel Silsbee, Webster's colleague in the Senate at the time referred to, was President of the Worcester Convention.
and I rejoice that we did think otherwise. We thought it our duty to resist the nomination to a vacancy thus created. We thought it our duty to oppose this proscription when, and where, and as, we constitutionally could. We besought the Senate to go with us, and to take a stand before the country on this great question. We invoked them to try the deliberate sense of the people ; to trust themselves before the tribunal of public opinion; to resist at first, to resist at last, to resist always, the introduction of this unsocial, this mischievous, this dangerous, this belligerent principle, into the practice of the government. Mr. President, as far as I know, there is no civilized country on Earth, in which, on a change of rulers, there is such an inquisition for spoil as we have witnessed in this free republic. The Inaugural Address of 1829 spoke of a searching operation of government. The most searching operation, Sir, of the present administration has been its search for office and place. When, Sir, did any English Minister, Whig or Tory, ever make such an inquest? When did he ever go down to low-water mark, to make an ousting of tide-waiters? When did he ever take away the daily bread of weighers, and gaugers, and measurers? Or when did he go into the villages, to disturb the little post-offices, the mail contracts, and any thing else, in the remotest degree connected with government? Sir, a British Minister who should do this, and should afterwards show his head in a British House of Commons, would be received by a universal hiss. I have little to say of the selections made to fill vacancies thus created. It is true, however,- and it is a natural consequence of the system which has been acted on,-that, within the last three years, more nominations have been rejected on the ground of wrofitness than in all the preceding forty years of the government. And these nominations, you know, Sir, could not have been rejected but by votes of the President's own friends. The cases were too strong to be resisted. Even party attachment could not stand them. In some, not a third of the Senate, in others not ten votes, and in others not a single vote, could be obtained ; and this for no particular reason known only to the Senate, but on general grounds of the want of character and qualifications; on grounds known to everybody else, as well as to the Senate. All this, Sir, is perfectly natural and consistent. The same party selfishness which drives good men out of office will push bad men in. Political proscription leads necessarily to the filling of offices with incompetent persons, and to a conSequent nual-execution of official duties. And in my opinion, Sir, this principle of claiming a monopoly of office by the right of conquest, unless the public shall effectually rebuke and