« PředchozíPokračovat »
not banished from the House, its spirit would be rendered less intemperate. Such were our impressions, when the mask was suddenly thrown aside, and we saw the torch of discord lighted and blazing before our eyes. Every effort has been made to revive the animosities of the House, and inflame the passions of the nation. I am at no loss to perceive why this course has been pursued. The gentleman has been unwilling to rely upon the strength of his subject, and has, therefore, determined to make the measure a party question. He has probably secured success, but would it not have been more honorable and more commendable, to have left the decision of a great constitutional question to the understanding, and not to the prejudices of the House. It was my ardent wish to discuss the subject with calmness and deliberation, and I did intend to avoid every topic which could awaken the sensibility of party. This was my temper and design when I took my seat yesterday. It is a course at present we are no longer at liberty to pursue. The gentleman has wandered far, very far, from the points of the debate, and has extended his animadversions to all the prominent measures of the former administrations. In following him through his preliminary observations, I necessarily lose sight of the bill upon your table.
The gentleman commenced his strictures with the philosophic observation, that it was the fate of mankind to hold different opinions as to the form of government which was preferable. That some were attached to the monarchical, while others thought the republican more eligible. This, as an abstract remark, is certainly true, and could have furnished no ground of offence, if it had not evidently appeared that an allusion was designed to be made to the parties in this country. Does the gentleman suppose that we have a less lively recollection than himself
, of the oath which we have taken to support the constitution; that we are less sensible of the spirit of our government,
or less devoted to the wishes of our constituents ? Whatever impression it might be the intention of the gentleman to make, he does not believe that there exists in the country an anti-republican party. He will not venture to assert such an opinion on the floor of this House. That there may be a few individuals having a preference for monarchy is not improbable; but will the gentleman from Virginia, or any other gentleman, affirm in his place, that there is a party in the country who wish to establish monarchy? Insinuations of this sort belong not to the legislature of the union. Their place is an election-ground or an ale-house. Within these walls they are lost; abroad, they have had an effect, and I fear are still capable of abusing popular credulity.
We were next told of the parties which have existed, divided by the opposite views of promoting executive power and guarding the rights of the people. The gentleman did not tell us in plain language, but he wished it to be understood, that he and his friends were the guardians of the people's rights, and that we were the advocates of executive power.
I know that this is the distinction of party which some gentlemen have been anxious to establish; but it is not the ground on which we divide. I am satisfied with the constitutional powers of the executive, and never wished nor attempted to increase them; and I do not believe, that gentlemen on the other side of the House ever had a serious apprehension of danger from an increase of executive authority. No, sir, our views, as to the powers which do and ought to belong to the general and state governments, are the true sources of our divisions. I co-operate with the party to which I am attached, because I believe their true object and end is an honest and efficient support of the general government, in the exercise of the legitimate powers of the constitution.
I pray to God I may be mistaken in the opinion I entertain as to the designs of gentlemen to whom I am
opposed. Those designs I believe hostile to the powers of this government. State pride extinguishes a national sentiment. Whatever is taken from this
gov. ernment is given to the states.
The ruins of this government aggrandize the states. There are states which are too proud to be controled; whose sense of greatness and resource renders them indifferent to our protection, and induces a belief, that if no general government existed, their influence would be more extensive, and their importance more conspicuous. There are gentlemen who make no secret of an extreme point of depression, to which the government is to be sunk. To that point we are rapidly progressing. But I would beg gentlemen to remember, that human affairs are not to be arrested in their course, at artificial points. The impulse now given may be accelerated by causes at present out of view. And when those, who now design well, wish to stop, they may find their powers unable to resist the torrent. It is not true, that we ever wished to give a dangerous strength to executive power. While the government was in our hands, it was our duty to maintain its constitutional balance, by preserving the energies of each branch. There never was an attempt to vary the relation of its powers. The struggle was to maintain the constitutional powers of the executive. The wild principles of French liberty were scattered through the country. We had our jacobins and disorganizers. They saw no difference between a king and a President, and as the people of France had put down their king, they thought the people of America ought to put down their President. They, who considered the constitution as securing all the principles of rational and practicable liberty, who were unwilling to embark upon
the tempestuous sea of revolution in pursuit of visionary schemes, were denounced as monarchists. A line was drawn between the government and the people, and the friends of the government were marked as the enemies of the people. I hope, however, that the government and the people are now the same; and I
pray to God, that what has been frequently remarked, may not, in this case, be discovered to be true, that they, who have the name of the people the most often in their mouths, have their true interests the most seldom at their hearts.
The honorable gentleman from Virginia wandered to the very confines of the federal administration, in search of materials the most inflammable and most capable of kindling the passions of his party.
He represents the government as seizing the first moment which presented itself, to create a dependent monied interest, ever devoted to its views. What are we to understand by this remark of the gentleman? Does he mean to say, that Congress did wrong in funding the public debt? Does he mean to say, that the price of our liberty and independence ought not to have been paid? Is he bold enough to denounce this measure as one of the federal victims marked for destruction ? Is it the design to tell us, that its day has not yet come, but is approaching; and that the funding system is to add to the pile of federal ruins ? Do I hear the gentleman say, we will reduce the army to a shadow, we will give the navy to the worms, the mint, which presented the people with the emblems of their liberty and of their sovereignty, we will abolish—the revenue shall depend upon the wind and waves, the judges shall be made our creatures, and the great work shall be crowned and consecrated by relieving the country from an odious and oppressive public debt? These steps, I presume, are to be taken in progression.
The gentleman will pause at each, and feel the public pulse. As the fever increases, he will proceed, and the moment of delirium will be seized to finish the great work of destruction.
The assumption of the state debts has been made an article of distinct crimination. It has been ascribed to the worst motives: to a design of increasing a dependent monied interest. Is it not well known, that those debts were part of the price of our revolutionthat they rose in the exigency of our affairs, from the efforts of the particular states, at times when the federal arm could not be extended to their relief? Each state was entitled to the protection of the union, the defence was a common burden, and every state had a right to expect, that the expenses attending its individual exertions in the general cause, would be reimbursed from the public purse. I shall be permitted further to add, that the United States, having absorbed the sources of state revenue, except direct taxation, which was required for the support of the state gove ernments, the assumption of these debts was necessary to save some of the states from bankruptcy.
The internal taxes are made one of the crimes of the federal administration. They were imposed, says the gentleman, to create a host of dependants on executive favor. This supposes the past administrations to have been not only very wicked, but very weak. They lay taxes in order to strengthen their influence. Who is so ignorant as not to know, that the imposition of a tax would create an hundred enemies for one friend? The name of excise was odious; the details of collection were unavoidably expensive, and it was to operate upon a part of the community least disposed to support public burdens, and most ready to complain of their weight. A little experience will give the gentleman a new idea of the patronage of this government. He will find it not that dangerous weapon in the hands of the administration, which he has heretofore supposed it; he will probably discover that the poison is accompanied by its antidote, and that an appointment of the government, while it gives to the administration one lazy friend, will raise up against it ten active enemies. No! The motive ascribed for the imposition of the internal taxes, is unfounded it is uncharitable. The federal administration, in creating burdens to support the credit of the nation, and to