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POLITICAL OPINIONS,



BY A CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES.



A Iruih cloihtd in apt luords^

Is an armed soldier, going forth to victory.



CHICAGO:
E. B. MYERS & CHANDLER,

18G5.



IMRODIICTORY NOTICE

Pi'cpaped for the I'lihli.slicrs hjj a tli.'iihii/iiisJied tfurist.



WiTUOUT coiuiuittuig myself to all the [irojiositious
euuuciated in this pamphlet, I yet regard it, as a whole,
as a produetiuu of rare merit, as well from the crystal
clearness of its style, as from the profound thought and
patriotic feeling which it evince^ on every page. Such
discussions are greatly needed at the [ireseut time.

The war of arms is happily ended ; but that of ideas
rages still. The sword has done its work, and now
tlie ])en must resume its functions. And fortunate, truly,
will the country be, if it show suflicient wisdom to
welcome calm argument, and candid investigation, con-
(InctL'd in the tone of this temperate essay addressed to
tlie intellect, in i)rf^ference to the usual political appeals
to the lowest passions, ajid meanest prejudices of human
nature.



POLITICAL OPINIONS.



BY A CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES.



A truth clothed in apt xvords,

Is an armed soldier, going forth to vidory.






CHICAGO:

E. B. MYERS & CHANDLER,

LAW BOOKSELLERS AND PUBLISHERS.

1865.






Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year of onr Lord 1865, by

E. B. MYERS & CHANDLER,

In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Northern
District of Illinois.



OOlsrTEIl^TS.



SBCTION PAGB

I. Sovereignty not in the People, but in the Law 5

n. Distinction between Natural and Political Rights.. 5

ni. Dignity op Office — the Popular Error 6

IV. Compensation for Public Service 1

"V". Number op Offices and Length op Official Terms ... 8

VI. Executive Appointments to Office 9

VII. The Negro and the Suffrage 11

VIII. Election op Executive and Judicial Officers 12

IX. The True System op Banking 13

X. Inter-State Relations and Commissioners 14

XI. Encouragement of American Genius 16

XII. The Great Powers of Government 17

XIII. Special Legislation 19

XIV. The Inquest by Common Law Jury 19

XV. Military Tribunals 20

XVI. Appointment op Provisional Governors 22

XVII. Cause op the Rebellion — a Negro Territory 22

XVIII. Effect op the War on Party Politics 23



POLITICAL OPINIONS.



I.

SOVEREIGNTY NOT IN THE PEOPLE, BUT IN THE LAW.

The law alone, is supreme. It governs alike majorities
and minorities — the states and the nation. The people
never govern. They only choose the ministers of the
Law, which is over all. If the law did not control ma-
jorities, the Eepublic could not endure. The invisible
sovereignty of the Law, bears the same relation to the
state, that the Invisible Deity does to the church.

II.

THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN NATURAL RIGHTS, AND
POLITICAL RIGHTS.

Natural rights come by birth ; Political rights by the
civil law. As to natural rights all persons are born free
and equal ; but no one can have any political rights,
except such as are conferred by the Sovereign Political
Authority,

Political rights are given, not by any abstract rule of
right and wrong, but from sound discretion, as seems most
conducive to " the greatest good of the greatest number."

The right to life, food, and the orderly use of one's



6 POLITICAL OPINIONS.

faculties, comes by birth ; but no one can have by birth
a right to vote or hold office. The rule that native white
men vote at the age of twenty-one years ; that women do
not vote at all ; that foreign-born residents may vote after
a certain probation and certain ceremonies ; and that the
suffrage is altogether denied to Indians and negroes, has
nothing to do with natural rights. The sovereign author-
ity deemed it wise to establish this rule, it may see fit to
change it ; but whether the old rule be adhered to, or a
new one be adopted, has as little to do with the " inalien-
able rights of man," as the appointment of a minister to
the court of St. James. Either all human beings have a
natural right to vote, without regard to age, sex, race or
condition, or no one has such right, except it be conferred
by law.

III.

THE DIGNITY OF OFFICE — THE POPULAR ERROR.

In the Eepublic, all honors and powers belong to the
offices established by law, and not to the men by whom
the office may happen to be administered. The emperor
of France, is himself the government. The president of
the United States is only the executive hand of the Law.

Within the last thirty years, the American people have
gradually lost sight of the distinction between the office,
which is incorruptible, and the office-holder who is some-
times the contrary, and have included both in their
derision and contempt.

This was a popular crime, and the just punishment
follows inexorably in its train. The office-holder in the
United States is, for the time being, invested with a por-



POLITICAL OPINIONS.



tion of the power and dignity of the Eepublic, and ought,
for the sake of the office, to be respected accordingly. As
a man you may despise him, but as your superior in the
state, you should do him reverence in his official character.
To act otherwise is to disgrace, not the office-holder, but
your country.

One of the first steps toward the restoration of the
Eepublic, is to restore in the hearts of the people, a sin-
cere respect for the offices through which their govern-
ment is administered.

lY.

COMPENSATION FOR PUBLIC SERVICE.

The principal who cheats his employees out of half
the value of their service, will drive honest and capable
men out of his employment, and induce others to enter
it who will persuade themselves that it is, at least,
excusable to make cheating even, by cheating.

No more cunning or successful scheme for prostituting
the government to base purposes, was ever devised by
the wit of demagogues, than, under the honest-sounding
watch- word of "economy in public affiiirs," to reduce the
compensation for public service so low that competent
and faithful men cannot devote their undivided time
and ability to the public business.

The success of this scheme rapidly drove the integrity
and talent of the country into the management of private
corporations, commercial ventures, and manufacturing
enterprises, in which industry could provide for the
maintenance of families, the education of childi'en, and
the comfort of old age.



POLITICAL OPINIONS.



But the experiment has been fiilly tried. The accursed
rule of " Poor pay and the steahngs in," including every
species of indirect plunder to make up the deficiency of
wages, has been substituted for the good old maxim that
"the laborer is worthy of his hire," and retained till
the extent and number of official corruptions have become
absolutely appalling.

The ancient rule must be restored. The compensation
for public service must be such that it will be an induce-
ment to the highest order of ability to devote itself to
the promotion of the public good. The salary of each
of&ce should enable the holder to support a respectable
position in society, and accumulate something for the
" rainy day " which every one ought to anticipate. There
is no such thing as reducing salaries below the acceptance
of knaves ; the only recourse is to elevate them to the
acceptance of honest men.

Finally, every man who shall have served his country
well, in any high office, must be provided for life, with a
sufficient pension to support a family decently. For it
is monstrous to turn a President or a Senator out of a
more than imperial office to cam the support of his
household by common toil.

V.

THE NUMBER OF OFFICES AND THE LENGTH OF
OFFICIAL TERMS.

He who takes a public office, ought to lay aside all
other absorbing cares, and devote his best energies to the
public service. K he has been engaged in other business,
he should so far give it up that it will not prevent him



POLITICAL OPINIONS.



I



from rendering the best and highest service to his
sovereign. Therefore, a sufficient amount of duty should
be required of the incumbent of each office, to sufficiently
occupy his time, and require his abilities. And the
official term should be sufficiently long to warrant a
citizen in giving up a lucrative business, and enable him
to master all the difficulties of the situation, and give the
public the benefit of his schooling and experience, and
acquit himself with that honor which every right-minded
man esteems.

An infinite reform would be wrought by dividing the
whole number of public offices by three, and multiplying
the temis and the salaries by the same number. The
effect on the American Congress would be equally happy
and astonishing. It has become impossible for Congi-ess
to deliberate : it can act with its present numbers, only
like a board of supervisors, through committees whose
chief business is to shirk personal responsibility, cover up
the common ignorance and incompetency, and build
bridges for the passage of every species of legislative
speculation.

VI.

EXECUTIVE APPOINTMENTS TO OFFICE.

The proper filling of offices by executive appointment,
is impossible under the present system. The theory of
the government is, that officers appointed by or under the
direction of the President, will be selected without
reference to the petty local interests and prejudices,
which more or less affect every community. As things
now are, this theory is not realized once in a thousand



10 POLITICAL OPINIONS.

times. Nearly every such appointment is controlled by
" a ring ; " and thougli a citizen were wiser than Solomon,
and more just than Aristides, and though in addition to
that, four-fifths of the community should desire his
appointment, he would have no more chance than "the
man in the moon " of receiving the office.

The remedy for this infinite evil is simple. Let Ex-
ecutive Commissions be created once in four years, to sit
at the capital of each State, and hear, and in the first
instance decide upon, all applications for appointment to,
or removal from any executive office. Eequire all appli-
cations to be in wiiting, and to be filed in the ofiice of
a United States clerk or other proper officer, a reasonable
time for inspection and remonstrance, before the sitting of
the commission. Cause a calendar to be made, and every
application to be entered upon it, and make a timely
publication of that calendar in a public newspaper. Let
the majority of the commission be citizens of other States
than that in which they are to act. Have the hearing
public and summary, and allow no appeals fi'om their
decision except in cases of forgery or fi'aud.

The government must cease the practice of sending
abroad, as representatives of the United States, men
destitute of that knowledge of foreign affairs, and general
political history, without wliich the consul, or it may be
a higher ofl&cer, appears like a fool, and disgraces his
country accordingly.



POLITICAL OPINIONS. 11

VII.

THE NEGRO AND THE SUFFRAGE.

As a race, negro men are incapable of attaining tlie
average intelligence and abiHtj of American white men,
twenty-one years of age. The negi'O therefore exists in a
state of perpetual minority. He may be made free, but
he cannot become a citizen.

But if he were ever so intelligent, he would have no
right to citizenshij). Even our American women, as
intelligent, cultivated and lovely as any in the world, are
not made citizens, because the Sovereign Power of the
country does not deem it wise to impose upon them the
burdens of citizenship.

The right of sufii-age has been already too much
extended. The duties of an American Citizen are too
great and too sacred to be performed by every member of
the human race. The privilege of naturalization has been
frightfully abused. And this abuse has created in the
towns and cities of the country large numbers of voters
who are confessedly and notoriously used by artful
demagogues to control elections, elevate unworthy men
to office, and secui'e the passage of unwise or corrupt
measures.

The naturalization laws may be well enough, but the
administration of them has become, to use an army
phi'ase, terribly demoralized. Naturalizations are made
by wholesale, and he must be a wretched foreigner
indeed, who cannot procure "naturalization papers"
under present practices.

The fathers of the Eepublic thought a property quaM-



12 POLITICAL OPINIONS.

cation of the sufirage wise. Not that every man fit to
vote would have the specified amount of property, but
that as a general rule, men who were honest, industrious
and intelligent enough to vote, would accumulate at least
the requu'ed amount of property. The foundation of the
rule was this — the law protects both the person and the
property ; therefore both the person and the property
should be represented by the suffrage. The experiment
has been tried, but no respectable statesman will hazard
his reputation, by a declaration that the abolition of the
property qualification has benefited the country.

VIII.

THE ELECTION OF EXECUTIVE AND JUDICIAL OFFICERS.

The supreme burlesque on republican government, was
the selection of judges and sheriffs by popular vote. The
true doctrine is, that those who enact the laws, shall be
freely selected by the voice of the majority ; and shall be
answerable directly to the people for the proper discharge
of their dutie?. In other words, the legislator is a repre-
sentative. But though the legislator may be called a
servant of the people ; the law^ to which he gives form,
is, and ought to be their master. It should govern alike
those who opposed and those who favored it — the minor-
ity and the majority. Executive and judicial officers are
its ministers^ — not representatives of the people. Neither
executive nor judicial power can justly be representative.
In the exposition and execution of the law, the popular
prejudices, caprice and clamor, ought to be no more
heeded than the wail of the wind, or the moan of the
sea. Therefore candidates for executive or judicial office,



POLITICAL OPINIONS. 13

sliould not be compelled, or permitted, to run round their
districts, begging or buying the votes of every malefactor
whom it may be their duty to consign to the penitentiary ;
but all such officers should be so selected and appointed,
as to be independent, not of the law, but of the commu-
nity over which they are to administer the law. If the
law be not satisfactory, it may be changed in the author-
ized mode; but while if stands, its ministers should
command and enforce obedience.

If any doubt these doctrines, let them look over the
political history of the last twenty years. There is not
one of the innovations which are here condemned, that
has not worked the injury of the honest, industrious,
intelligent and worthy ; and the encouragement and pro-
motion of every class of political knaves and vagrants.
And it is the poor, not the rich, who suffer most heavily
from these subversions of the true principles of the
government

IX.

THE TRUE SYSTEM OF BANKING.

One extreme naturally follows another, and the mean
between two opposite extremes, is commonly right. The
first extreme was a national bank, corrupting the govern-
ment. The second extreme was an indiscriminate wild-
cat state bank system, impoverishing the people. The
mean between these opposite extremes of the centraliza-
tion and the diffusion of financial power, is a national
currency, under a national law, secured by private prop-
erty, and conducted by private enterprise, under the
supervision of fit ministers of the law. The issue of



14 POLITICAL OPINIONS.

currency by state banks sliould be prohibited by law.
Productive securities, sucli as interest-paying bonds, and
real estate tbat will command good rents, should be fur-
nished, recorded, and put within the power of the United
States courts in the judicial district where the bank is
located, and at the national capital. Suitable penalties
should be provided as well against the misuse of deposits,
as for the non-redemption of bills ; and the judges should
be required to charge their grand juries, at least four times
in each year, to diligently inquire into and true present-
ment make, of all violations of the banking law, which
should be given them in charge, or otherwise come to their
knowledge. Instead of creating an army of new office-
holders, the enforcement of the banking law should be
committed to the present judicial and executive officers
of the government. Let every citizen have in his own
judicial district, a record of securities deposited at the
national capital, a grand jury, prosecuting attorney, judge,
petit jury, and marshal, to enforce a sufficient law, and
there need be little fear of any considerable losses. Under
such a system, honest, able and prudent bankers would
thrive, and their bill-holders and depositors prosper.

X.

INTER-STATE RELATIONS AND COMMISSIONERS.

No one is fit to hold any great office, either state or
national, who has not traveled through the most important
sections of the Republic. Travel, contact with the people
in different localities, actual knowledge by personal ob-
servation, of the wants and advantages of many commu-
nities, — these things are essential to cosmopolitan ideas.



POLITICAL OPINIONS. 15

The trouble witli too many of our office-holders, espe-
cially with members of Congress, is, that they know too
little of the country outside of their own districts. The
want of this knowledge makes men narrow-minded, pre-
judiced and contemptible.

These states are not insignificent provinces, they are
empires, and the Great Republic is in strictness entitled
to be called the Empire of Empires, and the government
of the states and the nation must be comprehensive,
liberal, and grand, accordingly.

The American Congress should, from time to time,
make a tour of the country in a body. They would in
this way spend the people's time and money to much
better purpose than they ofttimes do.

The legislatures of the different states should, from
time to time, entertain the legislatures of other, especially
the more remote states ; and each state should keep at the
capitals of some, if not all of the other states, a High
State Commissioner, to disseminate among the people
whatever information might lead to, or increase commer-
cial intercourse between the people of the different states ;
or to the opening of new markets for produce and manu
factures ; or to inducing the immigration of such classes
as can be spared from one, and are needed in the other
state ; and to promoting such distributions and invest-
ments of capital as the wants of the country require.

These things inaugurated and continued for a period of
ten years, would repay incalculably the expenses they
would require.



16 POLITICAL OPINIONS.

XI.

THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF AMERICAN GENIUS.

A system should be pei'fected for offering a regular
annual list of honors and rewards for the highest achieve-
ments in agriculture, commerce, manufactures, science,
art, and literature. The effect of such a system in devel-
oping the powers of the American people, would be
wonderful. It would be equal to hunting through the
country with a lantern, to find fit persons for places of
honor, trust and profit. It should embrace everything
that makes a nation great. It should be so arranged that
it would give the state and national governments, year by
year, the names of the volunteer contributors to every
branch of business and occupation, so tested and classified
as to be available for practical purposes. Every aspirant
for honest fame might try his fortune here. Essays on
our foreign relations, would show who possessed the
proper qualifications for foreign appointments ; articles
on the practical administration of powers and offices,
would show who might be prudently entrusted with such
administration ; literary and scientific efforts would show
the names, residences, and abilities of those from whom
philosophers, historians, poets and teachers might be
selected.

The grand advantage of this system would be, that
place and station would make no difference between com-
petitors. The shoemaker on his bench could compete
with the cabinet officer in his department ; the farmer's
son by the country fireside, could enter the list, and con-
tend for the honors, with the son of the millionaire in the
university.



POLITICAL OPIlSriONS. 17

The name and the effort of every one whose endeavor
should display more than common ability, should be pre-
served for future use. Graded honors should be given to
all whose productions should exhibit a high order of
talent ; and for the best, reasonable rewards should be
bestowed,

XII.

THE LIMITS AND RELATIONS OF THE GREAT POWERS OF
GOVERNMENT.

To allow power to define its own limits, and declare
conclusively the occasions for its exercise, is to permit
despotism, pure and simple.

The office of the Legislative department is to establish
rules for the control of cases subsequent to the rule.
It cannot declare what the law was, nor can it execute
the statutes it enacts. The rules it establishes govern >
the men who make them, as well as the rest of the com-
munity. It is evident that the legislative power, kept
within its true bounds, cannot change the nature of the
government.

The office of the Judicial department of the govern-
ment is to declare what the law was, at any given time,
and what the law requires to be done at the time when
the case arises. It cannot say what the law shall be, or
ought to be, and if its judgments be not voluntarily
obeyed, it has not the power to enforce them, without the
aid of another department. It has a voice, but no hands ;
and therefore if kept within its proper bounds, cannot
subvert the government.

The Executive department is the hands of the state.



18 POLITICAL OPINIONS.

Its office is to execute the requirements and tlie judg-
ments of tlie law ; without judicial interpretation, where
none is required ; with trial and adjudication, where con-
troversy arises. It can neither declare what the law
is, nor what it shall be. It may j)rimarily determine
that the occasion for action has arisen, but this decision
is at its peril, and subject to revision by the judiciary,
upon the demand of any one aggrieved. So that this
department, acting within its sphere, cannot overturn the
Eepubhc.

To some extent, each department is the aid and
servant of both the others. Each department appears
to exercise some powers which properly belong to the
others. But this confasion is apparent, rather than real —
by permission, rather than by usurpation. For example :
the legislature permits the courts to make rules of
practice, and executive officers to establish methods of
procedure; the courts permit the legislature and execu-
tive officers, to make inquiries and determinations in the
nature of trials and judgments ; and the executive
department appears in some things to be, not a grand
co-ordinate department of the government, holding the
sheriff's staff and the soldier's bayonet, but a mere
creature of the legislature and the courts. But when
controversies arise, each department stands revealed in
its true rank and dignity. The legislatui-e repeals
executive and judicial rules and regulations, and enacts
others in their place — the courts declare legislative and
executive acts and proceedings unauthorized and void —
and the executive power refuses to enforce a statute or a
judgment which is forbidden by the constitu.tion. In



POLITICAL OPINIONS.



19



cases whicli are only doubtful, eacli department should be
supported by the others. In clear cases of usurpation,
both should oppose the other.

Precedents of usurpation by each department of the
government may, doubtless, be found, but a bad pre-
* cedent cannot change the truth of a piinciple, however
much it may embarrass its action.

XIII.

SPECLiL LEGISLATION.

The proper business of a legislature is, to make laws,
not to grant privileges. There should be just and Hberal
laws for the formation of corporations both private and
municipal, but special charters should not be given, except
in cases of such extraordinary character and merit that
special privileges would be universally approved

A prohibition of special legislation would change, as
by magic, not only the character of the laws, but also
the character of the law-makers themselves. It would
destroy the lobby. The privileges now sold by corrupt


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Online LibraryA citizen of the United StatesPolitical opinions → online text (page 1 of 2)