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Presidential election of 1825-Different modes of designating the chief magis.
trate in different countries-Original provisions of the American constitution-Amendment in consequence of the election of 1801-Attempts to amend the constitution in the congress of 1823-4-Five candidates presented-Their claims—Mr. Calhoun withdrawn-Organization of the parties--preparation for the contest-Number of newspapers in the United States--Their influence-Different modes of choosing electors-Proceedings of New York-Congressional caucus-Its result--State of the eleetoral votes-Candidates returned to the house-Preparations for the caucus-Mr. Clay's conduct impeached by Mr. Kremer--Brought before the house, and a committee of investigation appointed at the instance of Mr. Clay—Their proceedings and report-Joint meeting on the 9th of February -State of the votes in the house-Mr. Adams elected-Inauguration-Formation of the cabinet-Mr. Adams' course in relation to appointments and removals Second meeting of the 18th congress-Message Progress of the United States under Mr Monroe's administration--Proceedings of congress-Mr. Johnson's bill to abolish imprisonment for debt-Debates on the the Cumberland road bill-Claims of the west on the subject of internal improvements.
Presidential election of 1825. The designation of a person to administer the government for the presidential term, commencing the 4th of March, 1825, early in Mr. Monroe's last period, began to be the subject of much discussion. In all well regulated governments it has become a settled axiom, that the executive branch must be “one and indivisible.” Under whatever title this power is exercised, whether that of president, king, consul, or emperor, the trust is of the highest magnitude.
Different modes of designating the executive. In the governments of the eastern continent, some fortunate indi. vidual in each has been able to secure to himself, and his posterity the enjoyment of this power. The eldest son, however inferior his capacity, has usually succeeded to the throne of his father, with as little controversy as the child comes to the inheritance of any other patrimony. In some instances, the reigning prince has been allowed to appoint a successor by will, and dispose of the territory and subjects of the nation, in the same manner that individuals are al. lowed to dispose of their acquisitions. In the few instances where the elective principle has been attempted, it has been
attended with such confusion and bloodshed, that the people have been glad to resort to hereditary succession. They have considered it as one of the greatest calamities to have the right of succession become doubtful, so as to call upon them to exercise any powers in relation to the choice of a national chief. In European governments, experience has demonstrated that the elective principle is impracticable. Recent events in the republics of the south seem to confirm the same opinion ; one military chief after another, in rapid succession, and at the expense of the blood of his fellow-citizens, is placing himself at their head. Far better would it be that the executive should be permanent, and hereditary, than that the nation should periodically go through scenes of bloodshed, and domestic war, or be agitated by a constant succession of intrigues between rival aspirants to the office.
The rapidly increasing wealth and population of the United States, their rising importance in the view of Europe, and the great patronage attached to the office of chief magistrate, render each successive election more and more a matter of interest. Thousands of individuals, expecting more or less personal emolument from the elevation of their favorite chief, fall into his ranks, and bring to his aid a numerous train of dependents. Thousands of others, for the mere purpose of making themselves of consequence in the scale of society, enter the lists. Notwithstanding all the evils incident to a popular election of a chief magistrate in any form, hereditary accession, or even a tenancy for life, is hostile to the first principles on which the American govern. ment is based, and is not to be resorted to until all other modes have been unsuccessfully tried.
Original provisions of the constitution. In no part of their labors did the framers of the constitution find greater difficulties, than in settling the manner of designating the chief magistrate. It finally resulted in a mode singular, intricate, and guarded with pecular caution. Electors were to be chosen in the several states, and their votes given for two persons, one of whom was to execute the office of president for the ensuing four years, without designating which, The person having the greatest number of votes, so be it, it was a majority of the whole number of electors, was to be the president, and the next highest the vice president. If no one had a majority, or if the highest two had an equal number, the house of representatives, voting by states, were to elect one of the two for president, and the next highest was of course to be vice president. One object of the lat
ter office, to which, except in case of the death of the president, few duties were assigned, was to present as a successor, some prominent character whom one set of electors had judged competent to execute the office. Fortunately for the happiness and repose of the nation, at the commencement of the government, there was one candidate, and only one, who united all hearts in his favor. By the unanimous voice of his fellow-citizens, he sustained the office for two successive terms, without any thing deserving the name of opposition. At the third election, the distin. guished statesman whom two previous sets of electors had declared to be competent to the office, succeeded by a full vote. The election of 1801 presented a novel and curious scene. A party had risen up, and had become a majority of the nation, with a very high, honorable, and popular leader at their head, opposed to the administration of the elder Adams. To insure success, they were obliged to associate with their favorite character a man of great talents, but one in whose integrity few had confidence, and whom none wished to be president. Expecting a close vote, union became necessary, and the electors not being allowed to designate either for the office, Jefferson and Burr had a majojority, and an equal number of votes. This brought them both before the house of representatives, with equal claims to the presidency. A scene of contention, remembered only to be regretted, an lasting several days, ensued, which, after thirty-six ballotings, resulted in the choice of the people's favorite.
Amendment. The hazards to which Mr. Jefferson's election was exposed, in consequence of the equi-vote of Burr, led to an amendment of the constitution, designed to prevent the recurrence of a similar event. One of the first acts of the new administration was an alteration of that instrument, providing that the electors should designate each person to his respective office, and in case no one had a majority, the house of representatives, voting by states, were to chose one from the highest three to be president. This amendment, made at a period of high party excitement, has been found to be attended with inconveniences at least as great as those it was designed to prevent. It has diminished the respectability of the vice presidency, reducing it to a mere make-weight in the presidential can
But its most objectionable feature is, that it greatly multiplies the chances of bringing the election into the house of representatives, an event which all experience
proves ought, if possible, to be avoided. Such an occurrence gives the state of Missouri, with her single representative, an equal voice in the decision of an interesting question with the state of New York, with her million and a quarter of inhabitants, and thirty-four representatives. In every contested election, it has been found that the relation between the successful candidate and the active instruments of his elevation, is of that intimate and indissoluble nature, as invariably to lead to an expectation of reward on the one hand, and its bestowment on the other; and this must be expected to continue as long as human nature retains those imperfections which render government of any sort necessary. Hereby the republic receives detriment. Persons find their way into important public stations, which, but for their exertions in the cause of a successful chief, they would never have attained. In the congress of 1823-4, two efforts were made to remedy the evils expected to result from this source. One, by a resolution introduced by Mr. Mills into the senate, for an amendment of the constitution, the object of which was to restore the original process of electing a president : the other, a resolution introduced into the house of representatives by Mr. M.Duffie, from a committee appointed on the subject, providing that electors should be uniformly chosen by the people in districts; and that if, on counting the votes, it should be found that no one had a majority, the names of the highest two should be returned to the electors, for one of which they were again to vote, and the person having the greatest number to be president; and only in case where, on such second ballot, there was an equi-vote, should the election devolve on the house of representatives. These resolutions, and sundry others, having the same object in view, underwent various and animated discussions, and were finally negatived.
Although there was no limitation contained in the constitution, on the subject of a re-election, it had in practice become a settled principle, that no person should hold the office for more than two terms. But for this practice, the popularity of Mr. Monroe's administration, the general prosperity of the country, and the difficulty of concentrating public opinion on a successor, would probably have insured him a third term.
Candidates for 1825. Many statesmen of the first order were on the stage at this period, but no one so elevated above his fellows, as to attract the general attention. After considerable vibration of public sentiment, five candidates
were presented for consideration : Adams in the east; Crawford and Calhoun in the south ; Jackson and Clay in the west. Each had held distinguished stations in the government, and discharged their duties in harmony with each other, and with general approbation. Either of them were probably competent to execute the high office to which they aspired. The old division of parties, which, during its existence, presented but one candidate of each, had long since ceased; and public attention was now directed to five, all of the same party, and all agreeing upon the general principles on which the government should be administered. The old puritanic republican maxim, that public officers are the servants of the people, and are to discharge their duties solely with a view to their good, has long since been exploded, and, in practice, given place to the modern principle, that office is to be bestowed as a reward for previous service, and to be made subservient to the benefit of the successful candidate and his friends. Hence, in the present contest sprang up a furious zeal, among the advocates of the aspirants, without even the pretense of any great public object, in support of their claims.
Adams. The office of secretary of state, having under its direction the department of foreign affairs, necessarily leads the incumbent to an intimate acquaintance with the general system of European and American policy. It is on many accounts the best school for the presidency. The first talents within the power of the president to command, consistent with the principles of fidelity to the party who elected him, have been selected for the office. In every instance, with the exception of the first two presidents, a former secretary of state has been elected. Mr. Adams had sustained this office, and discharged its duties, with great reputation, during the presidency of Mr. Monroe ; his talents were unquestionably of the first order. He had long resided at foreign courts, and was intimately acquainted with their policy. His friends, and all who held or expected office under him, brought forward his claims with great zeal and confidence.
Jackson. The state of Tennessee, as early as the year 1822, by a legislative resolution, presented their favorite general. They urged in his favor the important military services he had performed, and the honor which thereby redounded to the country. The southwestern states, who had been particularly benefited by his achievements, it was expected, would unite in his support. The influence of the