« PředchozíPokračovat »
Anti-federal feeling of Administration.-Hostility to Supreme Court of United States.-Laws of Georgia declared void.--Course of President.-Interference in Election.-Views of Opposition. Rejection of Mr Van Buren.-Nomination as Vice President.Conduct of Opposition.-Anti-masonic Party.-Conduct of Foreign Affairs.-Cherokee Question.-Difficulties with the Northwestern Indians.-Conduct of the Governor of Illinois.— War with Sacs and Foxes.-Cholera among Troops.-Capture of Black Hawk.-Northeastern boundary.-Negotiation with State of Maine.-Award disapproved of by Senate.
THE dissolution of the federal cabinet in the third year of General Jackson's term, took place at a time when the public mind had begun to entertain a more definite opinion as to his views of national policy, than it was able to form during the first year of his administration. Time, the great explainer of mysteries, had partially removed the veil, which was drawn over his views during the Presidential canvass, and the nation was not compelled to deduce its conclusions from oracular re
marks on disputed questions of domestic policy designedly left ambiguous; but was furnished with a safer criterion in the action of the executive Government, upon the great national interests, which were brought under its cogni
At the commencement of his career, the executive appeared to have adopted the idea, that having been elected upon the principle of reform, no sounder position could be taken, than that of opposition to the characteristic po
litical measures of his predecessor. During the contest, those measures had been denounced as inexpedient and unconstitutional; and a decent regard for consistency seemed to prescribe a temporary deviation at least from the policy, which had been so unsparingly condemned.
The efforts of the executive, consequently, were at first directed to establish some distinction between the policy of the preceding administration and that which had been created with the view of effecting a reform.
It was soon discovered, that not enough could be done in diminishing the number of offices, or the expenses of the Government, to gratify the public expectation; which had been raised by the violence of the party press to unreasonable height; nor would a reform in these respects have satisfied those, who had been most instrumental in effecting the change. The public men from the South, [who were the leaders of the party, that had succeeded in electing General Jackson,] had long entertained a settled hostility to the policy, which had been adopted by the federal government, after the experience of the war with Great Britain, and which was so steadily pursued during the administrations of Mr Monroe and Mr Adams. Their influence was accordingly exerted to effect a change in the settled policy of the country, and to bring the government back to what was denominated the doctrines of the Jeffersonian School.
In reviewing the history of the two administrations immediately
preceding the present, it was impossible not to perceive, that the action of the federal government had been extended to many new interests, which were from time to time recommended to its attention, as the country advanced in wealth and population.
A plan of fortifying the coast had been adopted upon the recommendation of scientific engineers; and measures had been taken to gradually create a navy and provide the means of increasing it according to the wants of the country. The currency was restored to its former state of soundness by the agency of the United States Bank, and the public credit elevated by a wise financial policy. A system of internal improvement was adopted with the view of developing the resources of the country, and facilitating the intercourse between the different states; and measures were taken to improve the manufacturing skill of the nation by legislative protection of domestic industry. The supremacy of the federal government within its constitutional limits was maintained by judicial decisions, conceived in wisdom and enforced with vigor ; and by the mode of disposing of the public domain, a strong motive in favor of union was addressed to the pecuniary interests of the several states.
As this policy had a tendency to attach the people to the general government by a conviction of its benefits, it was denounced by the anti-federal statesmen tending towards consolidation, and strenuous efforts were made to place the new administration
in opposition to its leading meas
After some time this hostility began to manifest itself, but rather through the prominent friends. of the administration in Congress than by any unequivocal steps on the part of the executive. The discordant materials of which the administration party was composed caused no sinall embarrassment in adopting any decided course. While the southern members almost universally espoused the anti-federal doctrines, the friends of the President in the west and in Pennsylvania, were no less decidedly in favor of internal improvement and domestic manufactures; and his partizans in New York were wavering between a desire to retain the confidence of their constituents at home and to propitiate the antifederalists of the south by yielding to their views.
In this state of affairs the President could not adopt any definite plan of policy, without hazarding the loss of one of the two sections into which his party was divided. The alternative was thus presented to him of choosing between them, and placing his administration before the country simply upon its merits, or of endeavoring to keep together partizans of such conflicting views by a temporising policy.
At the commencement of his administration, his declaration of an intention to confine the action of the federal government to the objects pointed out in the constitution, although ambiguous, was deemed an evidence of a bias in favor of the anti-federal doctrines,
and his rejection of the Maysville and Lexington road bill afforded an additional indication of the same character.
The systein of gradually fortifying the coast, and of making surveys pursuant to the act of 1824, was continued as before; and the sanction given by the President to the various appropriations for internal improvements made during the second session of the twentyfirst Congress showed, that in his rejection of other bills for that purpose, he was governed by no constitutional principle, but rather by his own ideas of expediency. Still his unwillingness to prosecute the internal improvement of the country upon an enlarged scale, checked the action of Congress, and his veto was hailed with great exultation in the southern section of the union.
The decided opinion expressed in his message at the opening of the second session, in favor of the power of Congress to protect domestic industry was received in the same quarter with less favor; but this again was qualified by a recommendation to reduce those duties, which were regarded as oppressive in the Southern States. On this point, however, there was much difference of opinion among the friends of the administration, and the whole subject was properly left to the wisdom of Congress, with a recommendation of harmony and good feeling. The unreserved expression of his hostility to the United States Bank, furnished a more decided proof of his anti-federal bias; and the doctrines advanced in his message rejecting the bill for the rechar
tering that institution, were justly looked upon, as evincing his determination to enforce those views with the whole influence of the Government. In no instance however did this anti-federal feeling manifest itself, in a mode more calculated to excite apprehensions as to the stability of the political institutions of the country, than in the course adopted in reference to the controversy between the State of Georgia and the Cherokee Indians. With the view of depriving that tribe of the countenance and advice of the missionaries, a law was enacted by the Georgia legislature, requiring all white persons residing in the Indian country, to take an oath of allegiance to the State; and two missionaries being arrested under that law, they were discharged on the ground, that they were residing there and acting as agents of the federal Government, in disbursing the fund annually provided by Congress for the civilization of the Aborigines. A disavowal having been obtained from the government at Washington of their agency, they were again arrested under the law; and the fact of residence being proved, notwithstanding the unconstitutionality of the State law was pleaded, they were sentenced to four years confinement at hard labor in the Penitentiary of Georgia. Steps were immediately taken to bring this decision of the State Court in review before the Supreme Court of the United States; and after a full consideration of the subject, the Court decided, that the law of Georgia was contrary to the constitution,
treaties and laws of the United States, and consequently void; and a mandate was issued to the State Court reversing its judgment and ordering the missionaries to be discharged. Upon the delivery of this mandate to the State Court, it refused to obey it; and shortly after the decision, an article appeared in the semiofficial Journal of the Government denying the soundness of the decision of the Supreme Court. The representatives of Georgia at Washington openly asserted, that the President would not enforce the judgment; and the opinion previously expressed by him in favor of the course adopted by that State, and the support afforded to her measures against the Cherokees, afforded too much ground for that assertion.
The right of the federal judiciary to maintain the supremacy of the federal constitution, laws and treaties, was thus openly brought in question; and recurring to the attempt to repeal the 25th section of the Judiciary act at the last Congress, many began to believe that the Government had fallen into the hands of a party, that was hostile to its powers and willing to curtail them so far, as to render it unable to defend itself from the encroachments of the States. Although that attempt was promptly defeated, and that by so triumphant a majority as to demonstrate the futility of the expectations of those, who sought to make the government depend upon the states; still the fact that the measure was brought forward by the Judiciary Committee, and sustained by those who were
generally deemed to represent the views of the administration in Congress, induced a common belief that it formed part of a system of policy, which aimed to curtail the prerogatives and diminish the powers of the federal government. As this policy was regarded with great distrust in all quarters, except at the South, and by a few politicians in the eastern and middle States, it was not explicitly avowed as adopted by the government. On the contrary, efforts were made to exonerate the President from the charge, that he was hostile to the supremacy of the federal judiciary, and his friends insisted, that he could not be called upon to enforce the decisions of the supreme court, until the powers confided to that tribunal should prove to be inadequate to that end. However undeniable this might be, it was too true that this collision between the Supreme Court and the State Government, had been in a great measure occasioned by his refusal to enforce certain provisions of the Indian intercourse act, directing the President of the United States to repel all encroachments upon the territory secured to the tribes by treaty. With the view of rescuing the government from the hands of those, who took this narrow view of its duties and its powers, a strong opposition was organized, under the denomination of National Republicans, and the various topics calculated to render the President unpopular were urged with all the skill and force that political ambition and party animosity could inspire.
The friends of the administration on their part were not idle, and in the contest which ensued, they were aided by all the influence and patronage of the federal Government. At no time since the commencement of our history had the executive and the public functionaries dependent upon him taken so direct a part in the elections; and the consequence of this interference was, to cause the contest to degenerate into a personal struggle to a degree, that had not been before witnessed in the United States. The personal qualities of the President and his military services were relied upon in those States, where his course of policy was deemed counter to public sentiment; and his anti-federal construction of the constitution, and the inconsistency between his professions and his course after his election, were overlooked in consideration of his success in the war with England and her Indian Allies. The mode in which the election was conducted increased the tendency, already sufficiently great on the part of the President, to shape the public policy according to his personal feelings and prejudices. Like all men of strong character his passions partook of the strength of his will; and being in a sphere comparatively new, he was less under the influence of his own judgment, than of those to whose better information he was accustomed to defer. With the best intentions, he was, therefore very liable to err; and in his hostility to the views of his political opponents, he was thus led to espouse