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characteristic of despotism. If the same power, that makes the law, can construe it to suit his interest, and apply it to gratify his vengeance; if he can go further, and execute, according to his own passions, the judgment which he himself has pronounced upon his own construction of laws which he alone has made, what other features are wanted to complete the picture of tyranny? Yet all this, and more, is proposed to be done by this act: by it the President alone is empowered to make the law, to fix in his mind, what acts, what words, thoughts or looks, shall constitute the crime contemplated by the bill. He is not only authorized to make this law for his own conduct, but to vary it at pleasure, as every gust of passion, every cloud of suspicion shall agitate or darken his mind. The same power, that formed the law, then applies it to the guilty or innocent victim, whom his own suspicions, or the secret whisper of a spy, have designated as its object. The President then having construed and applied it, the same President is by the bill authorized to execute his sentence, in case of disobedience, by imprisonment during his pleasure. This then comes completely within the definition of despotism; an union of legislative, executive and judicial powers. But this bill, sir, does not stop here; its provisions are a refinement upon despotism, and present an image of the most fearful tyranny. Even in despotisms, though the monarch legislates, judges and executes, yet he legislates openly; his laws, though oppressive, are known, they precede the offence, and every man, who chooses, may avoid the penalties of disobedience. Yet he judges and executes by proxy, and his private interests or passions do not inflame the mind of his deputy.
But here the law is so closely concealed in the same mind that gave it birth—the crime is “ exciting the suspicions of the President”—that no man can tell what conduct will avoid that suspicion : a careless word, perhaps misrepresented or never spoken, may be sufficient evidence, a look may destroy, an idle ges
ture may ensure punishment; no innocence can protect, no circumspection can avoid the jealousy of suspicion. Surrounded by spies, informers and all that infamous herd which fatten under laws like this, the unfortunate stranger will never know either of the law of accusation or of the judgment, until the moment it is put in execution: he will detest your tyranny, and fly from a land of delators, inquisitors and spies. This, sir, is a refinement upon the detestable contrivance of the decemvirs. They hung the tables of their laws so high, that few could read them; a tall man, however, might reach-a short one might climb and learn their contents; but here the law is equally inaccessible to high and low, safely concealed in the breast of its author; no industry or caution can penetrate this recess and attain a knowledge of its provisions, nor even if they could, as the rule is not permanent, would it at all avail.
Having shown, that this bill is at war with the fundamental principles of our government, I might stop here in the certain hope of its rejection. But I can do more; unless we are resolved to pervert the meaning of terms, I can show, that the constitution has endeavored to 6 make its surety doubly sure, and take a bond of fate,” by several express prohibitions of measures like the one you now contemplate. One of these is contained in the ninth section of the first article; it is at the head of the articles which restrict the powers of Congress, and declares, “ that the emigration or importation of such persons as any of the states shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited prior to the year 1808.” Now, sir, where is the difference between a power to prevent the arrival of aliens and a power to send them away as soon as they arrive? To me they appear precisely the same.
The constitution expressly says, that Congress shall not do this; and yet Congress are about to delegate this prohibited power and say the President may exercise it, as his pleasure may direct.
Judiciary power is taken from courts, and given to the executive; the previous safeguard of a presentment by a grand inquest, is removed: the trial by jury is abolished; the public trial,” required by the constitution, is changed into a secret and worse than inquisitorial tribunal. Instead of giving “ information on the nature and cause of the accusation,” the criminal, alike ignorant of his offence, and the danger to which he is exposed, never hears of either, until the judgment is passed and the sentence is executed. Instead of being “confronted with his accusers,” he is kept alike ignorant of their names and their existence; and the forms of a trial being dispensed with, it would be a mockery, to talk of “ process for witness," or the “ assistance of counsel for defence." Thus are all the barriers, which the wisdom and humanity of our country has placed between accused innocence and oppressive power, at once forced and broken down. Not a vestige even of their form remains. No indictments, no jury, no trial, no public procedure, no statement of the accusation, no examination of the witnesses in its support, no counsel for defence : all is darkness, silence, mystery and suspicion. But, as if this were not enough, the unfortunate victims of this law are told, in the next section, that, if they can convince the President that his suspicions are unfounded, he may, if he pleases, give them a license to stay. But how can they remove his suspicions, when they know not on what act they were founded? How take proof to convince him, when he is not bound to furnish that on which he proceeds ? Miserable mockery of justice! Appoint an arbitrary judge, armed with legislative and executive powers added to his own! Let him condemn the unheard, the unaccused object of his suspicions, and then to cover the injustice of the scene, gravely tell him, you ought not to complain, you need only disprove facts you have never heard, remove suspicions that have never been communicated to you; it will be easy to convince your judge, whom you shall not approach.
that he is tyrannical and unjust, and when you have done this, we give him the power, he had before, to pardon you if he pleases !
So obviously do the constitutional objections present themselves, that their existence cannot be denied, and two wretched subterfuges are resorted to, to remove them out of sight. In the first place, it is said, the bill does not contemplate the punishment of any crime, and therefore the provisions in the constitution, relative to criminal proceedings and judiciary powers, do not apply. But have the gentlemen, who reason thus, read the bill, or is every thing forgotten, in our zealous hurry to pass it? What are the offences upon which it is to operate? Not only the offence of being “ suspected of being dangerous to the peace
and safety of the United States,” but also that of being “concerned in any treasonable or secret machinations against the government thereof”—and this, we are told, is no crime. A treasonable machination against the government, is not the subject of criminal jurisprudence! Good heaven! to what absurdities does not an over zealous attachment to particular measures lead us! In order to punish a particular act, we are forced to say, that treason is no crime, and plotting against our government is no offence! And to support this fine hypothesis, we are obliged to plunge deeper into absurdity, and say, that the acts, spoken of in the bill, are no crimes, and therefore the penalty, contained in it, is not a punishment, but merely a prevention ; that is to say, we invite strangers to come amongst us; we declare solemnly, that government shall not prevent them; we entice them over by the delusive prospects of advantage; in many parts of the union we permit them to hold lands, and give them other advantages while they are waiting for the period at which we have promised them a full participation of all our rights. An unfortunate stranger, disgusted with tyranny at home, thinks he shall find freedom here; he accepts our conditions ; he puts faith in our promises; he vests
his all in our hands : he has dissolved his former connexions and made your country his own: but while he is patiently waiting the expiration of the period that is to crown the work, entitle him to all the rights of a citizen—the tale of a domestic spy, or the calumny of a secret enemy, draws on him the suspicions of the President, and unheard, he is ordered to quit the spot he had selected for his retreat, the country which he had chosen for his own, perhaps the family which was his only consolation in life, he is ordered to retire to a country whose government, irritated by his renunciation of its authority, will receive only to punish himand all this, we are told, is no punishment!
So manifest do these violations of the constitution appear to me, so futile the arguments in their defence, that they press seriously on my mind and sink it even to despondency. They are so glaring to my understanding, that I have felt it my duty to speak of them in a manner, that may perhaps give offence to men whom I esteem, and who seem to think differently on this subject; none, however, I can assure them, is intended. I have seen measures carried in this House, which I thought militated against the spirit of the constitution; but never before have I been witness to so open, so wanton, so undisguised an attack..
I have now done, sir, with the bill, and come to consider the consequences of its operation. One of the most serious has been anticipated, when I described the blow it would give to the constitution of our country. We should cautiously beware of the first act of violation; habituated to overleap its bounds, we become familiarized to the guilt, and disregard the danger of a second offence; until proceeding from one unauthorized act to another, we at length throw off all restraint which our constitution has imposed; and very soon not even the semblance of its form will remain.
But, if regardless of our duty as citizens, and our solemn obligations as representatives; regardless of the rights of our constituents; regardless of crery sanc