James Garland.

Letter of James Garland, to his constituents online

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Online LibraryJames GarlandLetter of James Garland, to his constituents → online text (page 1 of 6)
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The Presidential question, fellow-citizens, having assumed a decided aspect, and
there being but two candidates before the American People, for their suffrages at the
ensuing election, Martin Van Buren and William Henry Harrison, it becomes the dutv
of every citizen to choose between them. Having myself determined on the suppu
of General Harrison, I feel it a duty which I owe to you, being your representative
in Congress, to state the reasons on which that determination is founded.

When I supported Mr. Van Buren for the Presidency at the last election, I did so
under the firm conviction that he would administer the Government according to the
strictest and most rigid principles of the republican faith ; arrest the systematic inva-
sion of the rights of the States by federal authority ; check the usurpations and en-
croachments of the Executive department ; introduce the most rigid system of econ-
omy and simplicity into the expenditures and practices of the Government, and resist
the enlargement of Executive power and patronage, by all the means in his power. —
Mr. Van Buren's speeches and published opinions, although I did not concur Avith him
in every thing, justified this opinion. In all this, fellow-citizens, I have been sadly de-
ceived; and believing that his practices, since he ascended the Executive chair, have
been at war with his previous professions, and that the system of policy and measures
which he is now urging upon the country, will sap the foundations of our republican
institutions, overthrow the liberty and destroy the prosperity of the country, and erect
upon their ruins an inveterate and intolerable despotism, I feel it my duty to my coun-
try and to you to oppose his re-election.

I will now state the measures which Mr. Van Buren proposes, for the purpose of es-
tablishing that policy which I regard so dangerous and fatal in its consequences, and
briefly assign the reasons upon which I found my objections to them. The first Ls

The Sub-Treasury Scheme.

By this scheme it is proposed to place the actual and constant custody of the pub-
lic moneys in the hands of subordinate agents of the Treasury, who by the Consti-
tution will be a/y/»oj''?z?aZ^Ze by the President, and remoyafc/e at his will. That act of
legislation which commits to the custody of these subordinate agents the public purse,
indirectly, but effectually, places it Avithin the power of the President ; who will always
have a key, in the constitutional power of removal, by Avhich to unlock the strongest
vault. No pains or penalties which can be imposed, or bond and security exacted,
can resist this constitutional power of removal, and secure the public treasure against
the grasp of an aspiring and ambitious Chief Magistrate. When it is remembered
that the President, by the Constitution, is commander-in-chief of the army and navy
— wields the whole appointing power, and is the sorwreofall patronage, it cannot
but be perceived that in addition to powers already fearful and dangerous, this system
will add another — tb° control of the public purse — Avhich will make the Executive, in
its power and influence omnipotent. Tl^se, fellow-citizens, are no phantoms of my
imagination ; no inventions of my brain, to excuse or justify my abandonment of this
Administration. They sprang from higher and more important sources ! Thef
sprang from the republicans of 1798-'99, and from an able and truly patriotic report
made in 1826, from a committee of the Senate of the United States of which Mr.
"Van Buren himself was a member; directed against like principles and like dangers.

This scheme will not only place the virtual custody of the public money in tlie hands
of the President, but will add to the already overswollen number of the '■'■official
horde''' a new6a^c7t,and add largely to the already immense and prodigal expenditures of
the Government, The bill which the Executive committee of the House of Ftepre-

2 U- ^ I

sentatives has reported, proposes to add four principal officers, and appropriates about
$40,000. The number of subordinate officers at the discretioM of the four principals. —
This will be the beginning, but what will be the end none can with certainty predict ;
but judging of the future by the past, I augur nothing preservative of our free insti-
tutions, or beneficial to the people. 1 have no doubt there will be a rapid accumulation
of both.

In the address of the republican members of the Legislature of Virginia, which ac-
companied the immortal report of 1798. It is said:

'' If measures can mould Governments, and if an uncontrolled power of construc-
tion, is surrendered to those who administer them, their progress may be easily fore-
seen, and their end easily foretold. A lover of monarchy, who opens the treasures of
corruption, by distributing emolument among devoted partisans, may at the same time
be approaching his object, and deluding the people with professions of republicanism.
He may confound monarchy and republicanism by the art of definition. He may var-
nish over the dexterity which ambition never fails to display, with the pliancy, of lan-
guage, the seduction of expediency, or the prejudices of the times. And he may
come at length to avow, that so extensive a territory as that ot the United States, can
only be governed by the energies of monarchy ; that it cannot be defended except by
standing armies; and that it cannot be united, except by consolidation."

The measures of the Administration of John Adams, which tended to these ends,
and which aroused the jealous enthusiasm of the republicans of that day, to deter-
mined and vigorous resistance, consisted, as they stated,

" In FISCAL SYSTEMS and ARRANGEMENTS, which kcep an host of commercial and
wealthy individuals embodied and obedient to the mandates of the Treasury.

"In armies and navies, which will, on the one hand, enlist the tendency of man to
pay homage to his fellow creature, who can feed or honor him ; and, on the other, em-
ploy the principle of fear, by punishing imaginary insurrections, under the pretence of
preventive justice.

"In the swarms of oflScers, civil and military, who can inculcate political tenets,
tending to consolidation and monarchy, both by indulgencies and severities, and can
act as spies over the free exercise of human reason.

"In restraining the freedom of the press, and investing the Executive with legisla-
tive, executive, and judicial powers, over a numerous body of men.

'' And, that we may shorten the catalogue, iu establishing, by successive precedents,
such a mode of construing the constitution as will rapidly remove every restraint upon
Federal power."

If these objections against the Administration of John Adams, with its limited num-
ber of public' officers, small amount of public expenditure, and proposed regular army
were just, how much more strongly do they apply to the present Administration, with
its swarm of office-holders, immense amount of expenditure, army, and proposed or-
ganization of an active militia force, general consolidating measures? If this state of
things be laaturely considered, we can in truth say, in the language of that address,
" Let history be consulted ; let the man of experience reflect; nay, let the artijicers of
monarchy be asked, what further materials they can need for building up their favo-
rite system."

In the report of Mr. Benton m 1826, Irom the committee on Executive Patronage,
of which Mr. Van Buren was a member, the sources and influence of executive pa-
tronage are thus described :

"To be able to show to the Senate a full and perfect view of the power and work-
ings of Federal patronage, the committee addressed a note, immediately after they
were charged with this inquiry, to each of the Departments, and to the Postmaster
General, requesting to be informed of the whole number of persons employed, and the
whole amount of money paid out, under the direction of their respective Departments.
The answers received are hereunto submitted, and made part of this report. With
the Blue Book, they Avill discover enough to show that the predictions of those who
were not blind to the defects of the constitution are ready to be realized ; that the
power and infixience of federal patronage, contrary to the argument in the ' Fede-
ralist,'' is an overmatch for the power and influence oj State patronage ; that its
workings wiU contaminate the purity of all elections, and enable the Federal Govern-
ment, eventually to govern throughout the States, as effectually as if they were s-^
many provinces of one vast empire."

Its concentration and effects in the hands of the President, are thus most admirably
and accurately drawn:

" The whole of this great power will centre in the President. The King of Eng-
land is the ' fountain of honor ;' the President of the United States is the source of
patronage. He presides over the entire system of federal appointments, jobs, and
contracts. He has ' power' over support of the individuals who administer the system.
He makes and unmakes them. He chooses from the circle of his friends and sup-
porters, and may dismiss them, and upon all the principles of human actions will dis-
miss them, as often as they disappoint his expectations. His spirit will aniniate their
actions in all the elections to State and federal offices. There may be exceptions ; but
the truth of a general rule is proved by the exception. The intended check and con-
trol of the Senate, without new constitutional or statutory provisions, will cease to
operate. Patronage will penetrate this body, subdue its capacity of resistance, chaia
it to the car of power, and enable the President to rule as easily, and much more
securely, with than without the nominal check of the Senate. If the President was
himself the officer of the people, elected by them, and responsible to them, there would
be less danger from this concentration of all power in his hands ; but it is the business
of statesmen, to act upon things as they are, not as they would wish them to be. —
We must then look forward to the time when the public revenue will be doubled ; when
the civil and military officers of the Federal Government will be quadrupled ; Avhen
its influence over individuals will be multiplied to an indefinite extent ;^when the no-
mination of the President can carry any man tlirsugh the Senate, and his recommen-
dation can carry any measure through the two Houses of Congress ; when the prin-
ciple of public action will be open and avowed — the President wants my vote, and I
want his patronage ; I Avill vote as he wishes, and he will give me the office I wish
for. What will this be but the government of one man? and what is the government
of one man but a monarchy ? Names are nothing. The nature of a thing is in its
substance, and the name soon accommodates itself to the substance."

In another part of this report it is said :

" The power of patronage, unless checked by the vigorous interposition of Congress,
must go on increasing, until Federal influence in many parts of this confederation,
Avill predominate in elections as completely as British influence predominates in rotten
boroughs and towns, and in the great naval stations of Portsmouth and Plymouth. In
no part of the practical operations of the Federal Government has the predictions of
its ablest advocates been more completely falsified, than in this subject of patronage."

Again : this report, for the purpose of showing what had been and what would be
he increase of executive power and patronage, says :

" The patronage of the Federal Government, at the beginning, was founded upon a
revenue of two millions of dollars. It is now operating upon twenty-two millions,
and within the life time of many now living, must operate upon fifty. The whole


present, about one-half, say ten millions of it, are appropriated to the principal and
interest of the public debt ; which, from the nature of the object, involves but little
patronage. In the course of a few 'years, this debt, without great mismanagement,
must be paid off. A short period of peace, and a faithful application of the sinking
fund, must speedily accomplish that most desirable object. Unless the revenue be
then reduced, a work as difficult m republics as in monarchies, the patronage of the
Federal Government, great as it already is, must, in-the lapse of a few years, receive
a vast accession of strength. The revenue itself will be doubled, and instead of one-
half being applicable to the objects of patronage, the whole will take that direction.
Thus, the reduction of the public debt, and the increase of pubUc revenue, will multi-
ply in 9. fourfold degree, the number of persons in the service of the Federal Go-
vernment, the quantity of public money in their hands, and the number of objects to
which it is applicable ; but as each person employed will have a circle of greater
or less diameter, of which he is the centre and the soul, — a circle composed of friends
and relations, and individuals, employed by himself on public or on private account —


If these gentlemen were sincere in these expositions and sentiments, and that they

were, I do not doubt, what a fearful ar^ay of present and appalling picture oi future
danger from the swelling tide of executive power and patronage do they present. —
These gentlemen then thought that there was no other way of avoiding the rum of
our institutions and the destruction of our liberties, than diminishing this immense
mass of executive patronage. Hear them :

" In coming to the conclusion that Executive patronage ought to be diminished and
REGULATED On the plan proposed, the committee rest their opinion on the ground that
the exercise of great patronage in the hands ot one man, has a constant tendency to
sully the purity of our institutions, and to endanger the liberties of the country."

Now, fellow- citizens, all the causes of danger and alarm which existed in 1826, are
in full operation, and the predicted increase of officers and pubHc revenue more than
realized. And yet this republican President is proposing a scheme Avhich not only
adds a new batch of public officers, and a new item of expenditure to the present list,
but which will place in his actual control the whole revenue of the nation. What
more, can poAver desire, to do its works of ambition or oppression?

But, fellow-citizens, I will offer you further evidence of the enormity of this scheme,
from its present advocates. When Mr. Leigh, in a public speech at Petersburgh, in
Virginia, in 1834, suggested, with the utmost accuracy, the outlines of this scheme.
The ''Globe" then, as now, the £^.t'ec?^f?"fe_/J?'ess at Washington, broke out upon it
in strains of the most rabid fury, and denounced it, not only as dangerous in the ex-
treme, but unconstitutional. Just hear it:

"This is the notable planbyAvhich Senator Leigh \\o\Adi diminish the power of the
Executive over the depositories of public money ! Instead of suffering the President
to appoint one Treasurer, as he does now, he would have him ' appoint as many as
should be convenient.' Or if the appointment were taken out of the hands of the
President, Avith the concurrence of the Senators, it must be vested in the head of the
Treasury Department, to be made without their concurrence. And when appointed,
these officers must necessarily be, as all other Executive officers now are, subject to
removal at the will of the President, Mr. Leigh attacks the Constitution itself, when
he controverts these positions, as we shall hereafter show. And these Treasurers, all
appointed by the President, and removable at his will, with all the public money in their
actual possession — in their pockets, desks, trunks, and vaults — are, in the opinion of
Mr. Leigh, the constitutional depositories of the public moneys, in preference to the
State banks, which guard the public treasure as they do their own, over uhich the
President has no control, and to one Treasurer, who instead of having the money in
his actual possession, cannot possibly get a dollar of it into his hands, for any other
purpose than to pay his own salary and ordinary office expenses. It is fortunate for
General Jackson that he does not entertain Mr. Leigh'' s opinions. If he had sug-
gested such a system, what peals of patriotic indignation would have burst from elo-
quent Senators against the usurper and tyrant, who desired to get the millions of the
Treasury into the very hands of his partisans and parasites !"

I do not quote the '' Globe," because there is any value in its authority, or respect
due to its opinions; I quote it as the known organ of the Sub-treasury party, and as
embodying their sentiments upon this subject. It was fortunate for General Jackson,
quoth this veritable journal, in 1834, that he did not entertain Mr. Leigh's opinions,
for the very suggestion of such a system, would have drawn upon him '^ peals of pa-
triotic indignation''^ as a '■'■usiirper and tyrant who desired, to get the millions of the
Treasury into the very hands oi' his partisans and parasites. But it is very fortu-
nate for Mr. Van Buren that he does, in 1840, entertain tht- se very opinions, and has
not only suggested the '•'■system''^ but pressed it Avith a pertinacity and a recklessness
rarely equalled in the annals of the Government. Where are the "peals of patriotic
indignation" which the suggestion of this scheme of usurpation and tyranny Avould
have invoked upon the head of General Jackson? '■^Presto qitick,^'' changed into
honeyed adtdation and nursling lullabies to Martin Van Buren. This, according
to some of our modern " Jim Crow^^ political philosophers is consistency !

But, tellow-citizens, I Avill turn from the testimony of the " Executive press" at Wash-
ington, to the testimony of its primary satellite at Richmond, the " faithful Abdiel of
the Enquirer" — he Avhose Avhole political career has been so remarkable for its purity,
disinterestedness, fidelity, and consistency. What says this press about this notable
scheme ? In 1834, speaking of Mr. Leigh's scheme, the editor said:

♦' As to the letter of Mr. Leigh it may satisfy his tAventy-six friends ; but it certainly
^oes not satisfy us. The letter Avhich they have called forth, should call forth, in its

turn, another letter to explain the true meaning of that passage' which speaks of di-
vorcing all connexion with banks, State or Federal. Do you mean (they might say)
that the public money is to be left in ihe hands of the custom-house officers, responsi-
ble to the President and removal by him? If so, is Mr. Leigh prepared to incur the
irresistible objections urged hy the "Globe," and to increase in so alarming a degree
the patronage,power and injiuence of the Executive?"

This is what Mr. Van Buren means; and this will be the inevitable effects of the
adoption of his proposed scheme.

The editor of the ''Enquirer" did not become passive as soon as the editor of the
''Globe" took its position ; and when he found such a large mass of the Democratic
Repubhcan party going in favor of this scheme, in his paper of the 8th of September,
1837, he pours out the following Jeremiad: "How is it thatthegreat mass of the two
parties seem to be respectively .?7i//i/no- the grounds they occupied in '34 ?" \.\\g friends
of the Administration violently assailed it ; most of the Republicans, with the Pre-
sident at their head, are inclined to support it. A better soldier than ourselves then
gave forth the most serious objections to the scheme." Here the editor of the " En-
quirer" makes a precious confession. He admits that the Republicans with the Pre-
sident at their head, have changed sides ; and yet, with reckless effrontery, he charges
as traitors and apostates all those Republicans who stood firm in their opposition, and
refused to change with him; thus, too, in the teeth of his own weighty and impregna-
ble objections.

In his paper of the 5th of September, 1837, the editor calls it a '' wiVcZ and dange-
rous scheme, establishing two sorts of currency — the better for the ofhcers of Govern-
ment — the baser one for the People."

In his paper of the ^20th October, 1837, he says, this '' notable scheme''' "tvill en-
large tht Executive power already too great for a republic."

I might multiply these extracts almost indefinitely, but these, with the endorsement
that those which I have quoted from the Globe, are irresistible, are sufficient, in all

What, fellow-citizens, is the substance of these objections ? Why, that this '■'■nota-
ble scheme'"' will so mcj^ea.se the power, enlarge the patronage, and extend the influ-
ence of the Executive department, as to ride over all the other departments, overcome
the rights of the States, sap the foundations of liberty, and rise into monarchy. Yes,
these are the objections of the "Richmond Enquirer," and with these objections upon
the lips of its editor, he is pursuing with ffi'e and sword, the very men who, agreeing
with him to the full extent of these objections, and unwilling to incur these dangers to
their country, have adopted the only mode of successfully avoiding them — opposition
to Mr. Van Ruren's re-election. For such conduct, coming from such a source, faithful
history will visit upon the head of its guilty author, that measure of scorn and indig-
nation which such treachery to the safety and true interests of the country justly me-
rits ; and Avill single out, in a blaze of truth not to be obscured, who the '■'reaV apos-
tate is !

As a further and most conclusive proof of the unanimity with which these objec-
tions to this "notable scheme" were entertained by the Administration party, it is pro-
per to remark, that when it was first proposed in the House of Representatives by my
immediate predecessor, it was most rudely and unceremoniously strangled in its birth,
and almost denied the rights of decent interment. Not a single member of the Admi-
nistration party, save Colonel Beale of Virginia, dared to vote for it, nor did a single
press, supporting the Administration, sustain it. The lightnings of their "patriotic
indignation" flashed upon it in successive streams, and the thunders of their denuncia-
tion poured upon it in their loudest peals ; and to all human appearance it was dead,
dead, dead. Yet, strange to tell, by the magic power of that political '■^ galvanisin''^
which has been recently practised with so much skill and success, this very ^'■notable
scheme''^ hns been resuscitated into life, animated with a new and a purer soul, and is
rapidly rising into the vigor of manhood, not as the "babe of Bethlehem" to do good,
but as the dragon of destruction to do mischief

Now, fellow-citizens, whatever the banks may have done, hoAvever unworthy of con-
fidence they may have rendered themselves, this does not diminish one single objec-
tion to the Sub -Treasury scheme. They remain unchanged and unaltered.

Another ground of objection to this notable scheme is, that it will endanger the safety
of the public money. It Avould seem to me, fellow-citizens, that facts alone were suf-

ficient to sustain the truth of this objection. The amount of losses by individual and
bank agency, stand thus:

Individual agency— by disbursing agents - - - $4,250,000
By collectors and receivers, to October, 1835 - - - . 2,178^022

Tt T, 1 A ■ ■ u $6,438,022

JtJy tJanks, as depositories, about - - ..- 750,000

Excess of loss by individual over bank agency - - - . $5,678,022

To this may be added about $300,000 for individual defalcations since October, 1837,

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Online LibraryJames GarlandLetter of James Garland, to his constituents → online text (page 1 of 6)