Gambar halaman

the vote of the House negatived, the power to construct roads or canals of any character, whether military, commercial or for the transportation of the mail. It was not until the last administration, that the broad power to the extent now claimed, limited only by the arbitrary discretion of Congress, was asserted and attempted to be maintained by the Executive and by Congress. It was not until that period that its dangers were fully perceived. The President had manifested, in the message before us, that he had been an attentive observer of its progress, and its probable, if not its inevitable consequences. He could not shut his eyes to the constant collisions, the heart burnings, the combinations and the certain corruption to which its continual exercise would tend, both in and out of Congress. In the conscientious discharge of Constitutional duty, which he was not at liberty to decline, he had withheld his signature from this bill, and had frankly submitted to us his views upon this important question; and he trusted we would deliberate upon it temperately, as we should, and in the vote which we were about to give up the reconsideration of this bill, according to the powers of the Constitution, express the opinions which we entertain, and not make a false issue, growing out of a personal assault upon the character or motives of the Chief Magistrate.

By denying the power to construct roads and canals, by refusing to assume the exercise of any doubtful power, and by deeming

it safest to refer the question to our common constituents for an amendment to the Constitution, the President had deprived himself of a powerful branch of Executive patronage and influence, and has thereby given the most conclusive evidence of his integrity of purpose, and the strongest refutation of the affected and stale cant of his enemies, that, because he was once a leader of the armies of his country, he would be disposed in the civil government to assume more powers than legitimately belonged to him. The power of interposing the Executive veto upon the legislation of Congress had been often exercised since the commencement of the Government under the present Constitution. It had generally been exercised upon Constitutional ground. But instances were to be found where the power had been exercised wholly upon the grounds of the inexpediency of the measure. single instance he would cite. On the 28th February, 1797, General Washington returned, with his objections, to the House in which it originated, a bill which had passed Congress, and which had been presented to him for his signature, entitled 'An act to ascertain and fix the military establishment of the United States.' He withheld his signature from this bill, not because of the unconstitutionality of its provisions, but because, in his opinion, it was inexpedient to pass it. Mr Madison, during his administration, had put its veto upon several bills besides the bonus bill. The exercise of this constitution


al power by the Executive, had never been received with alarm; but, on the contrary, had been regarded, as it was intended to be, as a necessary and wholesome check upon the acts of the legislature.

Mr P. P. Barbour rose and said, he felt impelled, by an imperious sense of justice, to say something in vindication and justification of the Chief Magistrate of the Union, against the strong animadversion in which gentlemen had indulged towards him, because he had dared to do his duty.

Was it in the contemplation of those who framed the Constitution, that the President should be set up as a mere pageant, with powers possessed in theory, but never to be reduced to practice? or was it intended that this veto upon legislation, like every other power, should be exercised whensoever the occasion should occur to make it necessary? Do not gentlemen perceive that they might, with as much much reason, complain that the Senate had negatived one of our bills? for they, too, are only a coordinate branch of the legislature, as is the Executive Magistrate.

Sir, each department, and every branch of each department of Government has its appropriate functions assigned. The counThe country expects and requires every one to do its duty, whether it consists of one man or a plurality of men. And whosoever shall fail to do so, though he may hope to consult his safety by an avoidance of responsibility, will find that he has forfeited the esteem and confidence which are inva

riably awarded by public opinion to firmness and fidelity in the performance of public trusts.

The Constitution proceeds upon the idea that Congress, composed of the Senate and House of Representatives, is not infallible. It has, therefore, erected the additional barrier of the Executive veto against hasty or injudicious action.

It contemplates that veto as countervailing the opinion of one third of both Houses, because its interposition makes the concurrence of two thirds of both Houses necessary. To complain, then, of its exercise is to quarrel with the form of Government under which we live. It is the precise reverse of a complaint which we have often heard of in a European monarchy. There, the King complained whenever the Parliament refused to register his edicts. Here, the Congress are to complain whenever the Chief Magistrate declines to register their will.

I rejoice, sir, that he has so declined. I congratulate my country that, in this instance, the Chief Magistrate has displayed as much of moral, as he heretofore did of physical courage.

The main purpose of the gentleman from Ohio seems to be to inculcate the opinion that the rejection of the bill in question was with a view to acquire popularity. Look at the circumstances of the case, and tell me whether this opinion can be sustained.

This bill was not only carried by a majority, as it must have been, but by a decisive majority

of both Houses of Congress. Can any man suppose that a President who set out upon an adventure in quest of popularity, would make his first experiment against a question which, by passing both Houses of Congress, seemed to carry with it the approbation of the States, and the people of the States? On the contrary, if he were going for himself rather than for his country, would he not, by approving the bill, have just floated down the current of apparent public opinion, without encountering the least impediment in his course? Instead of this, sir, what has he done? Regarding his country more than himself, looking with an eye that never winked to the public good, and not to his personal aggrandizement, he has withholden his approval from this bill, which was a favorite bantling with a majority of both Houses of Congress; he has thus placed himself in a position where he has to win his way to public approbation, in this respect, under as adverse circumstances as the mariner who has to row up stream against wind and tide.

Sir, the man who is in quest of popularity and power would have taken a different course. By approving this bill and thus continuing the system of internal improvement, the President would have commanded an immense amount of patronage, as well in the disbursement of countless millions of money, as in appointments to office. And yet, though these means of power and influence would be at his own command, though he presents the

rare example of an Executive Magistrate rejecting the use of that which would contribute so much to personal aggrandizement, he is still charged with courting popularity.

Sir, I hail this act of the President as ominous of the most auspicious results. Among the many excellent doctrines which have grown out of our republican system, is this; that the blessings of freedom cannot be enjoyed without a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles. In this instance we are making that recurrence. It would seem, sir, that the period of about thirty years constitutes a political cycle. Thirty years

ago, at the opening of the present century, our Government was drawn back to its original principles; the vessel of state, like one at sea, had gotten upon a wrong tack, and the new pilot who was then placed at the helm, brought it again into the right course for the purpose of reaching its proper destination. In the progress of a long voyage it has again declined from its proper course. And I congratulate the whole crew that we have found another pilot with enough of skill in navigation and firmness, again to correct the declination. The present Chief Magistrate, sir, had done the State some service' heretofore; but in my estimation it was but as dust in the balance, compared with the good which he has now done.

I not only concur with the President as far as he goes in his views, but I go farther. He denies the power of Congress to

construct roads, with a claim of jurisdiction So do I. He admits that, as the Constitution has been long construed, the power to appropriate money for such purposes as are really national, must be acquiesced in, until the difficulty is removed by an amendment. In this I differ from the President, as he has a right to differ from me and from both Houses of Congress. But as I claim the right to follow the lights of my own judgment, so I am always ready to acknowledge that of the President to do the


But I will not now go into the Constitutional question. Apart from this, let me ask whether there are not abundant reasons for the course which the President has pursued? He tells you the subject has been involved in doubt, and has produced much diversity of opinion. This is a part of the political history of the country. Is it not the part of wisdom, as well patriotism, to submit this question to the States, in the form of amendment, rather than press on against the known will of a large portion of them? The States feel a deep sense of loyalty to the Union; but they feel, too, that they have rights to demand as well as duties to perform. Let us not place them in a situation where they may be driven to a course that would be called patriotism by some and rebellion by others, but which, by whatsoever name it might be called, would endanger the success of our great experiment, the benefits of which concern the whole human family. The course

suggested by the Chief Magistrate is calculated to avert these dangers. When members on this floor maintain any principles, they have no weight but that which belongs to them as individuals; but when a suggestion comes from the Executive, and especially accompanying his rejection of a bill, it brings with it all the authority to which the opinion of a branch of the Government is entitled. An issue is thus made up between him and Congress, which will cause the people to deliberate; and thus we may hope that it will be calmly decided by them, so as to put the subject forever to rest.

Šir, there are other reasons why this course, pursued by the Executive, should meet our decided approbation. I allude to the inequality and demoralizing tendency of this system.

A distribution made upon principles of actual inequality will produce deep disgust on the one side, and fostering corruption on the other.

I mean no offence to any State or individual; the remark applies without distinction, to all States and individuals, under all circumstances. Sir, the history of all people, nations, tongues and languages teaches us the same melancholy truth, that all Governments, of whatever form, have finally perished by corruption.

Mr Vance said that, the course pursued by the President would not operate on his mind, either for or against that individual. He reminded the House that he had himself been always an advocate of the system of internal improve

ment. He stated that, by that system the west must stand or fall. Unless it be sustained, the west can never have any participation in the appropriations of the General Government. As soon as the wealth derived from emigration shall be exhausted, the west must be drained of every dollar unless this system be continued. It is only by its continvance that the prosperity of those who now live in the west can be prevented from becoming hewers of wood and drawers of water to the Eastern States. He stated that the south had, during the last year, received more of the disbursements of the General Government than had been expended in the whole of the western country on internal improvement. He then defended his colleague from the attack made upon him by the gentleman from Tennessee. His colleague (Mr Stanberry) was able to sustain himself. That gentleman should have more gratitude for his colleague and for the balance of the Ohio and Kentucky and Pennsylvania delegation, who would now vote against him on the question. For himself, he felt no disappointment, for he had foretold from the stump the course which the present administration would take. His colleagues had also, from the stump declared that they well understood the thing, and that General Jackson was the firm, steady and consistent friend of internal improvement. It was clear that he had so far succeeded in concealing his real feelings on the subject as to deceive those gentlemen. They had, however,

gone hand in hand with the gentleman from Tennessee, and had gained the victory. They had attained the triumph and now they were receiving their reward. When this message came into the House it struck a damp to the feelings of those individuals, who then felt the final destruction of all their fond hopes.

Mr Bell said, when the member from Ohio (Mr Stanberry), took his seat, his feelings had prompted an immediate reply, not more because of the unprecedented manner of the attack upon the message which had been the subject of remark, than of the nature of the allusion which had been made to a bill not now before the House.

The member from Ohio has told the House that a majority of its members were dragooned into the passage of the Indian bill by the Heads of Departments. had hoped that we should hear no more upon the subject of that bill, upon this floor, in the tone which had been so finely indulged by many of the gentlemen who had spoken against it, particularly as the concluding argument had been waived. It was not enough that, in the discussion of that bill when it was directly before the House, every epithet of reproach had been thrown out against its author: that one member should say it was perfidious; another, that it was infamous, and a third, that open bribery had found a sanction in the officers of the Government; and all these denunciations did pass almost unnoticed by the friends of the administration. I sat still and for

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »