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is, that they are of such a kind as to expose them, in an especial manner, to that sleepless jealousy, that stern republican scrutiny, that acute and astute inspection, which distinguish the present as they have distinguished all preceding generations of men in this ancient Commonwealth. Allowing this to be so, let me present to you my own views of the present aspect of our public affairs.
In my opinion, a decisive majority of all the people of the United States has been, for several years past, opposed to the policy of the existing administration. I shall assume this in what I have further to say, because I believe it to be true; and I believe that events are on the wing, and will soon take place, which will proclaim the truth of that position, and will show a majority of three fourths of the votes of the electoral colleges in favor of a CHANGE OF MEN. Taking this, for the present, as the true state of political feeling and opinion, I next call your attention to the very extraordinary excitement, agitation, and I had almost said commotion, which mark the present moment throughout every part of the land. Why are these vast assemblages everywhere congregated? Why, for example, am I here, five hundred miles from my own place of residence, to address such an assembly of Virginians on political subjects? And why does every day, in every State, witness something of a similar kind? Has this ever been seen before ? Certainly not in our time, and once only in the time of our fathers. There are some present here who witnessed, and there are others who have learned from the lips of their parents, the state of feeling which existed in 1774 and 1775, before the resort was made to arms in order to effect the objects of the Revolution. I speak now of the time when Patrick Henry, standing, as we now do, in the open air, was addressing the Virginians of that day, while at the same moment James Otis and his associates were making the same rousing appeal to the people of Massachusetts. From that time to this there has been nothing in any degree resembling what we now behold. This general earnestness, this universal concern of all men in relation to public affairs, is now witnessed for the first time since the Revolution. Do not men abandon their fields in the midst of seed-time or of harvest, do they not leave their various occupations, as you have now done, to attend to matters which they deem more important? And is it not so
through all classes of our citizens throughout the whole land? Now, the important question I wish to put, and I put it as a question fit for the mind of the statesmen of Virginia, — I propose it, with all respect, to the deep deliberation and reflection of every patriotic man throughout the country, - is this: If it be true that a majority of the people of the United States have, for some years, been opposed in sentiment to the policy of the present administration, why IS IT NECESSARY that these extraordinary efforts should be put forth to turn that administration out of power, and to put better men in their places? We inhabit a free country; - every office of public trust is in our own hands, at the disposal of the people's own suffrages; all public concerns are controlled and managed by them, at their own pleasure; and the reliance has always been on the ballot-box, as an effectual means to keep the government at all times in conformity with the public will. How, then, has it happened, that, with all this, such extraordinary efforts have been necessary to put out a particular administration? Why has it not been done by the silent power of the elective franchise? Why has not the government been changed both in its policy and in the men who administer it? I desire from the free, the thinking men of Virginia, an answer to that question. When the elections are everywhere showing that a large majority of the people are opposed in sentiment to the existing administration, I desire them to tell me how that administration has held its place and pursued its own peculiar system of measures so long?
My answer to my own question is this: In my judgment, it has come to be true, in the actual working of our system of government, that the executive power has increased its influence and its patronage to such a degree as to counteract the will of a majority of the people, and has continued to do so until that majority has not only become very large, but till it has united in its objects and in its candidate, and, by these strenuous and extraordinary efforts, is enabled to turn the administration out of power. I believe that the patronage of the executive in our government has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished. I believe that it does enable the incumbents to resist the public will, until the country is roused to a high and simultaneous effort, and the imperative mandate of the public voice dismisses the unfaithful servants from their places. The citadel of the administration can only be carried by general storm.
Now, I ask, can it be supposed that this government can go on long in a course of successful operation, if no change can be produced without such an effort as that in which the people of this country are now engaged? I put it to the old-fashioned republicans of Virginia. I ask them, whether it can be supposed that this free republican government of ours can last for half a century longer, if its administration cannot be changed without such an excitement, I may say such a civil revolution, as is now in progress, and, I trust, is near its completion ?
I present this case as the greatest and strongest of all proofs that executive power in this country has increased, and is become dangerous to liberty.
If this be so, then I ask, What are the causes which have given and have augmented this force of executive power? The disciples of the ancient school of Virginia long entertained the opinion, that there was great danger of encroachment by the general government on the just rights of the States; but they were also alarmed at the possibility of an undue augmentation of the executive power. It becomes us, at a crisis like the present, to recur to first principles, — to go back to our early history, and to see how the question actually stands.
You all well know that, in the formation of a constitution for the government of this country, the great difficulty its framers encountered was with regard to the executive power. easy to establish a House of Representatives, and a second branch of the government in the form of a Senate, for it was a very obvious principle, that the States should be represented in one House of Congress as the people were represented in the other. But the great and perplexing question was, how to limit and regulate the executive power in such a manner, that, while it should be sufficiently strong and effective for the purposes of government, it should not be able to endanger civil liberty. Our fathers had seen and felt the inconvenience, during the Revolutionary war, of a weak executive in government. The country had suffered much from that cause. There was no unity of purpose or efficiency of action in its executive power. As the country had just emerged from one war, and might be plunged into another, they were looking intently to such a constitution as should secure an efficient executive. Perhaps it remains to be seen whether, in this respect, they had not better have given
less power to this branch, and taken all the inconvenience arising from the want of it, rather than have hazarded the granting of so much as might prove dangerous, not only to the other departments of government, but to the safety and freedom of the country at large.
In the first place, it is the executive which confers all the favors of a government. It has the patronage in its hands, and if we look carefully at the proceedings of the past and present administrations, we shall see that in the course of things, and to answer the purposes of men, this patronage has greatly increased. We shall find that the expenditures for office have been augmented. We shall find that this is true of the civil and diplomatic departments; we shall find it is true of all the departments; of the post-office, and especially of the commercial department. Thus, to take an instance from one of our great commercial cities, in the custom-house at New York, the number of officers has, in twelve years, increased threefold, and the whole expense, of course, in the same propcrtion.
Then there is the power of removal, a power which, in some instances, has been exercised most remorselessly. By whatever party it is wielded, unless it be called for by the actual exigencies of the public service, Virginia, more than any State of the Union, has ever rejected, disowned, disavowed, the practice of removal for opinion's sake. I do honor to Virginia in this respect. That power has been far less practised in Virginia than in certain States where the spoils doctrine is known to be more popular. But this power of removal, sanctioned as it is by time, does exist, and I have seen it exercised, in every part of the country where public opinion tolerated it, with a most unspar
I will now say, however, that which I admit to be very presumptuous, because it is said notwithstanding the illustrious authority of one of the greatest of your great men, - a man better acquainted with the Constitution of the United States than any other man; a man who saw it in its cradle, who held it in his arms, as one may say, in its infancy, who presented and recommended it to the American people, and who saw it adopted very much under the force of his own reasoning and the weight of his own reputation, who lived long enough to see it prosper
ous, to enjoy its highest honors, and who at last went down to the grave beneath ten thousand blessings, for which, morning and evening, he had thanked God; I mean James Madison. Yet even from this great and good man, whom I hold to be chief among the just interpreters of the Constitution, I am constrained, however presumptuous it may be considered, to differ in relation to one of his interpretations of that instrument. I refer to the opinion expressed by him, that the power of removal from office does exist in the Constitution as an independent power in the hands of the President, without the consent of the Senate. I wish he had taken a different view of it. I do not say that he was wrong; that in me would be too hazardous. I advert to this here, to show that I am not now for the first time preaching against the danger of an increase of executive power; for when the subject was in discussion before Congress, in 1835, I expressed there the same opinions which I have now uttered, and which have been only the more confirmed by recent experience. The power of removal places the hopes and fears, the living, the daily bread of men, at the disposal of the executive, and thereby produces a vast mass of executive influence and control. Then, again, from the very nature of things, the executive power acts constantly; it is always in being, always in the citadel and on the look-out; and it has, besides, entire unity of purpose. They who are in have but one object, which is to keep all others out; while those who are not in office, and who desire a change, have a variety of different objects, as they are to be found in different parts of the country. One complains of one thing, another of another; and, ordinarily, there is no strict unity of object, nor agreement on candidates, nor concert of action; and therefore it is that those wielding power within the fortress are able to keep the others out, though they may be more numerous. Hence we have seen an administration, though in a minority, yet, by the continued exercise of power, able to bring over a majority of the people's representatives to the support of such a measure as the sub-treasury, which, when it was first proposed, received but little favor in any part of the country.
Again; though it may appear comparatively inconsiderable, yet, when we are looking at the means by which the executive power has risen to its present threatening height, we must not overlook the power of, I will not say a pensioned, but of a patron