Page images
PDF
EPUB

Speech in Congress.

The Presidency and General Politics.

6

Just as you

man knows any thing which I do not, he can show it. But to return : General Taylor, in his Allison letter says:

"Upon the subject of the tariff, the currency, the improvement of our great highways, rivers, lakes, and harbors, the will of the people, as expressed through their Representatives in Congress, ought to be respected and carried out by the Executive.'

Now, this is the whole matter-in substance, it is this: The people say to General Taylor, 'If you are elected shall we have a National bank ?' He answers, 'Your will, gentlemen, not mine.' 'What about the tariff ?' 'Say yourselves.'

Shall our rivers and harbors be improved ?' please.' 'If you desire a bank, an alteration of the tariff, internal improvements, any or all, I will not hinder you ; if you do not desire them, I will not attempt to force them on you. Send up your members of Congress from the various districts, with opinions according to your own, and if they are for these measures, or any of them, I shall have notbing to oppose ; if they are not for them, I shall not, by any appliances whatever, attempt to dragoon them into their adoption.' Now, can there be any difficulty in understanding this ? To you, Democrats, it may not seem like principle; but surely you can not fail to perceive the position plain enough. The distinction between it and the position of your candidate is broad and obvious, and I admit you have a clear right to show it is wrong, if you can; but you have no right to pretend you can not see it at all. We see it, and to us it appears like principle, and the best sort of principle at that the principle of allowing the people to do as they please with their own business. My friend from Indiana (Mr. C. B. Smith) has aptly asked, 'Are you willing to trust the people ?' Some of you answered, substantially, 'We are willing to trust the people; but the President is as much the representative of the people as Congress.' In a certain sense, and to a certain extent, he is the representative of the people. He is elected

Speech in Congress.

The Presidency and General Politics,

by them, as well as Congress is. But can be, in the nature of things, know the wants of the people as well as three hundred other men coming from all the various localities of the Nation? If so, where is the propriety of having a Congress ? That the Constitution gives the President a negative on legislation, all know; but that this negative should be so combined with platforms and other appliances as to enable him, and, in fact, almost compel him, to take the whole of legislation into bis own hands, is wbat we object to-is wbat General Taylor objects to—and is what constitutes the broad distinction between you and us. To thus transfer legislation is clearly to take it from those who understand with minuteness the interests of the people, and give it to one who does not and can not so well understand it. I understand your idea, that if a Presidential candidate avow his opinion upon a given question, or rather upon all questions, and the people, with full knowledge of this, elect him, they thereby distinctly approve all those opinions. This, though plausible, is a most pernicious deception. By means of it measures are adopted or rejected, contrary to the wishes of the whole of one party, and often nearly half of the other. The process is this: Three, four, or half a dozen questions are prominent at a given time; the party selects its candidate, and be takes his position on each of these questions. On all but one his positions have already been indorsed at former elections, and his party fully committed to them; but that one is new, and large portion of them are against it. But what are they to do? The whole are strung together, and they must take all or reject all. They can not take what they like and leave the rest. What they are already committed to, being the majority, they shut their eyes and gulp the whole. Next election, still another is introduced in the same way. If we run our eyes along the line of the past, we shall see that almost, if not quite, all the articles of the present Democratic creed have been at first forced upon the party in this very way.

Speech in Congress.

On the Presidency.

And just now, and just so, opposition to internal improvements is to be established if Gen. Cass shall be elected. Almost half the Democrats here are for improvements, but they will vote for Cass, and if he succeeds, their votes will have aided in closing the doors against improvements. Now, this is a process which we think is wrong. We prefer a candidate who, like Gen. Taylor, will allow the people to bave their own way regardless of his private opinion ; and I should think the internal-improvement Democrats at least, ought to prefer such a candidate. He would force nothing on them which they don't want, and he would allow them to have improvements, which their own candidate, if elected, will not.

“Mr. Speaker, I have said Gen. Taylor's position is as well defined as is tbat of Gen. Cass. In saying this, I admit I do not certainly know what he would do on the Wilmot proviso. I am a Northern man, or, rather, a Western free State man, with a constituency I believe to be, and with personal feelings I know to be, against the extension of slavery. As such, and with what information I have, I hope, and believe, Gen. Taylor, if elected, would not veto the proviso; but I do not know it. Yet, if I knew he would, I still would vote for him. I should do so, because, in my judgment, his election alone can defeat Gen. Cass; and because, should slavery thereby go into the territory we now have, just so much will certainly happen by the election of Cass; and, in addition, a course of policy leading to new wars, new acquisitions of territory, and still further extensions of slavery. One of the two is to be President; which is preferable ?

“But there is as much doubt of Cass on improvements as there is of Taylor on the proviso. I have no doubt my self of Gen. Cass on this question, but I know the Democrats differ among themselves as to his position. My internal im provement colleague (Mr. Wentworth) stated on this floor the other day, that he was satisfied Cass was for improve

Speech in Congress.

The Presidency

ments, because he had voted for all the bills that he (Mr. W.) had.

So far so good. But Mr. Polk vetoed some of these very bills; the Baltimore Convention passed a set of resolutions, among other things, approving these vetoes, and Cass declares, in his letter accepting the nomination, that he has carefully read these resolutions, and that he adheres to them as firmly as he approves them cordially. In other words, Gen. Cass voted for the bills, and thinks the President did right to veto them; and his friends here are amiable enough to consider him as being on one side or the other, just as one or the other may correspond with their own respective inclinations. My colleague admits that the platform declares against the Constitutionality of a general system of improvement, and that Gen. Cass indorses the platform; but he still thinks Gen. Cass is in favor of some sort of improvements. Well, what are they? As he is against general objects, those he is for, must be particular and local. Now, this is taking the subject precisely by the wrong end. Particularity-expending the money of the whole people for an object which will benefit only a portion of them, is the greatest real objection to improvements, and has been so beld by Gen. Jackson, Mr. Polk, and all others, I believe, till now. But now, behold, the objects most general, nearest free from this objection, are to be rejected, while those most liable to it are to be embraced. To return : I can not help believing tbat Gen. Cass, when he wrote his letter of acceptance, well understood he was to be claimed by the advocates of both sides of this question, and that he then closed the door against all further expressions of opinion, purposely to retain the benefits of that double position. His subsequent equivocation at Cleveland, to my mind, proves such to have been the case.

“One word more, and I shall have done with this branch of the subject. You Democrats, and your candidate, in the main are in favor of laying down, in advance, a platform_a

Speech in Congress.

The Presidency.

The Republican Position

set of party positions, as a unit; and then of enforcing the people, by every sort of appliance, to ratify them, however unpalatable some of them may be. We, and our candidate, are in favor of making Presidential elections and the legislation of the country distinct matters; so that the people can elect whom they please, and afterward legislate just as they please, without any hindrance, save only so much as may guard against infractions of the Constitution, undue haste, and want of consideration. The difference between us is clear as noonday. That we are right we can not doubt. We hold the true Republican position. In leaving the people's business in their bands we can not be wrong. We are willing, and even anxious, to go to the people on this issue.

"But I suppose I can not reasonably hope to convince you that we have any principles. The most I can expect is, to assure you that we think we have, and are quite contented with them. The other day, one of the gentlemen from Georgia (Mr. Iverson), an eloquent man, and a man of learning, so far as I can judge, not being learned myself, came down upon us astonishingly. He spoke in what the Baltimore American calls the scathing and withering style.' At the end of his second severe flash I was struck blind, and found myself feeling with my fingers for an assurance of my continued physical existence. A little of the bone was left, and I gradually revived. He eulogized Mr. Clay in high and beautiful terms, and then declared that we had deserted all our principles, and had turned Henry Clay out, like an old horse, to root. This is terribly severe. It can not be answered by argument; at least, I can not so answer it. I merely wish to ask the gentleman if the Whigs are the only party he can think of, who sometimes turn old horses out to root ? Is not a certain Martin Van Buren an old horse which your own party have turned out to root ? and is he not rooting a little to your discomfort about now? But in not

« PreviousContinue »