« AnteriorContinuar »
[This speech and the one following it are presented to indicate the political condition of the country, with respect to party feelings and issues. Mr. Clay, from his youth, had been a leader of the Jeffersonian Republican party, and hence in principle did not differ essentially from General Jackson, likewise brought up in that school. Even on the tariff question, which seemed to be the chief material issue that affected the country, these two leaders did not differ much, both of them being merely in favor of protecting manufacturing establishments during their infancy, and until they had acquired strength sufficient to enable them to compete with the older establishments. Among the followers of each of them were both tariff and free trade men.
Hence, in party debates it was rather difficult to present any well marked line of division as to principles. The personal qualities of individuals, therefore, became more important, and that may be regarded rather as an age of political hero worship. The views of Mr. Clay and of General Jackson, therefore, seemed to constitute what were popularly regarded as the principles of the Whig and Democratic parties.]
ON THE PRINCIPLES OF THE WHIG AND DEMOCRATIC PARTIES, DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, MARCH 7, 1844.
MR. SPEAKER: It is not my purpose to debate the bill now under consideration. The gentleman from Ohio, (Mr. Duncan,) who introduced it, thought proper to devote very little of his long speech to its merits. On the contrary, he declared that he did not feel capable of enlightening this House on any subject; that he had never, heretofore, spoken with that view; and that he was then about to make a speech for Buncombe.
As I am a citizen of that county, and have the honor of representing it on this floor, and as it has been my practice heretofore to reply to such individuals of his party as delivered political harangues to the citizens of my county, I regard it as proper for me to notice his effort of yesterday. I will suggest to the gentleman, however, for the benefit of any future exhibitions of this sort which he may be inclined to make, that he has utterly underrated the sagacity and mistaken the taste of my constituents. They are not quite gullible enough to swallow any portion of his doctrine, however well adapted it may be to the softer heads and coarser appetites of many of his own supporters.
During the two hours which, with the aid of his friends, the gentleman was able to obtain, he discussed the expenditures of government, Democracy and coon skins-spoke of toryism, tariff, proscription, and the peace party-denounced the bank, blue light federalism, and banners generally-condemned abolitionism, cider and the land distribution; he manifested much feeling against the Clay party and Whig songs, and went at large into the merits of bribery, frauds, the Hartford Convention, Van Burenism and Humbuggery; he also boasted largely of his knowledge of Greek, treated us to a lecture on the anatomy of the coon, and exhibited drawings of its entrails, which he declared he
intended to have engraved and published as a part of his speech. In addition to these matters, he said there were other things which he had not then time to go into, but which he intended to write out and circulate. That these topics have any relation to the bill of the gentleman, or to any bill which will probably ever be presented to this House, will not be pretended by anybody. But it was plain, Mr. Speaker, not only froin the declarations of the gentleman himself, but from what we witnessed on this floor and from intimations in other quarters, that he was making a regular-built electioneering effort for distribution over the country. The fact, well known to everybody here, that he has been selected on this occasion by his party, as was their former custom, to promulgate their political doctrines, gives consequence to his effort of yesterday, and furnishes me a full apology for a reply. And if I should descend to things which seem trivial in themselves, or unworthy of the dignity of this House, I hope it will be borne in mind that whatever a great party adopts as its creed, is of consequence, however trifling or contemptible it may be in itself. Whatever our opponents regard as fitting to influence even the least enlightened part of the community, is worthy of examination.
The gentleman declared, at the outset of his remarks, that he should not trouble himself with details, but that he should deal in wholesale falsehoods. The latter part of this declaration he repeated with great emphasis. As but half the time will be allowed me that was extended to him, I, too, will be prevented from going into details; but I design to deal only in general facts.
On the subject of the expenditures of the government, it will not be necessary for me to say many words. The gentleman from Ohio alleged that the expenses of the present administration greatly exceeded those of Mr. Van Buren's; but as he did not give us the data on which he based his calculations, I presume we are to take it as one of his wholesale declarations. Taking the reports made by Mr. Van Buren's own officers as true, the total expenditures of his four years, independent of payments on account of public debt and trust funds, cannot be made less than the sum of $112,000,000. But he says that many items of this expenditure were extraordinary, and refers particularly to the Florida war and some other things. Nothing, surely, Mr. Speaker, could be more extraordinary than some of those expenditures. For example: the sending from the forests of Florida to the city of New Orleans for wood, so as to make it cost $20 per cord; the manner in which steamboats were employed, and many other items. When these matters were brought to the attention of the nation, in the canvass of 1840, the gentleman and his political friends, so far from condemning any of these expenditures, defended and justified them all. Sir, as they thought them right then, we are authorized in coming to the conclusion, that if they should get into power again, we should have a repetition of these extraordinary expenditures.
To show conclusively the improvidence and extravagance of the late administration, let me call your attention to some other facts. When Mr. Van Buren came into power, he found in the Treasury, including the fourth installment which ought to have been distributed among
the States, the large sum of $17,109,473! There also came into the Treasury during his term, from the sale of the United States Bank stock and other sources than the ordinary revenue, the sum of $9,124,747! And he left a debt due, by outstanding Treasury notes, of $5,648,512! It thus appears that he not only expended all the revenues arising from the existing tariff, and from the sales of the public lands, but, in addition thereto, he expended the whole of the above large sum, viz: $31,882,732! for he did not leave a single million in the Treasury. If he expended no more than was necessary, then he and his party were highly culpable; because they neglected to provide means to sustain the government, without depriving the States of the fourth installment, which was due to them under the existing law, and without leaving the government in debt. But, if the existing laws were sufficient to provide the government with the means of paying its current expenses, then it is clear that he expended $31,882,732 too much.
Gentlemen cannot escape one or the other of these conclusions. But to show still more strongly the gross mismanagement as well as the reckless extravagance of that administration, let me bring to the attention of the House another fact. On the 4th of March, 1841, when Mr. Van Buren left the administration of the government, there were, as appears from House Document, No. 281:
Specific undrawn appropriations of all kinds
Indefinite appropriations drawn between the 4th of
March and 31st of December, 1841,
Treasury notes outstanding on the 4th of March, 1841, $ 5,648,512 00 There were, besides other liabilities then existing, arising out of Indian treaties, balances due militia, for navy pension fund, post office debt, taking the census, printing, Greenough's statue, and various other small items, enumerated in Document 62 and acts of last Congress, and Document 293, which, together, make the sum of
Adding all these, we have the total liabilities thrown upon the Whigs, when they came into power, to be
And now let us see what means existed to meet this heavy liability. The total amount of revenue which came in that year from customs, land sales, bonds of the United States Bank, and all other sources, after deducting the sum produced by the Whig tariff on luxuries, and the $2,428,247 expended before the 4th of March by the rejected administration, amounted to $13,000,000. Add to this the cash on hand in the Treasury, $862,055, and we have the sum of $13,862,055, as the whole amount which arose from all the sources provided by that administration.
How, then, stands the account? The administration of Mr. Van Buren left the government liable for the sum of $38,065,378 in that year, and all the means provided to pay it amounted to but $13,862,055, which, subtracted from the liabilities, leaves an excess of
the latter of $24,203,323. This large sum of twenty-four millions can be looked upon in no other light than a debt left by Mr. Van Buren's administration. Let us now see how the account stands. Mr. Van Buren, when he came into power had, as above stated, a surplus of $26,234,220. He went out, having expended this, leaving the gov ernment involved, above its means of paying, for the sum of $24,203,323. Putting them together, the surplus spent and the debt left, we have the vast sum of $50,437,543. We are, therefore, brought to the startling conclusion, that if Mr. Van Buren had come into office as most of the Presidents did, without any surplus on hand, he would have left the government fifty millions in debt. Whether gentlemen attribute this to his extravagance, or simply to his bad management in providing means for carrying on the government, is not at all material. They must come to one of these conclusions, and either is decisive against his capacity to administer the government of the country.
Should the last half of the expenditures of this year be equal to the first, the total expenses of the present administration for its four years will not reach $85,000,000. This, subtracted from the aggregate expenditures of Mr. Van Buren's four years, as above stated, leaves the sum of more than twenty-seven millions, showing thereby that by ejecting him from office this immense sum has been saved to the country in four years.
With respect, however, to this administration, I will say that the Whigs are not responsible for it generally, and that I feel under no obligation to defend it. When Mr. Tyler proved himself false to the Whig party, and abandoned its principles, we made a full surrender of him to our adversaries. But our conveyance was accompanied by no warranty either of title or soundness. The Democracy took him at their own risk. They cannot hold us responsible, because our assignment was without recourse, and without consideration. It is unkind in the gentleman from Ohio now to assail Mr. Tyler. He and his friends might have done so with great propriety. They might have imitated the magnanimity of Julius Cæsar, who, if he loved the treason, despised the traitor. But they did not do so; on the contrary, they courted his alliance; and, now, after having seduced, embraced, and made use of him-having disgraced him in the estimation of all the world-finding that he is soon to lose his official station, and that he can no longer be turned to account, they are endeavoring to expel him from the fold of the Democratic party, and turn him adrift in the world, friendless and alone, to depend on its cold charities. But he is unwilling to be thus unceremoniously expelled. He insists, through his official organs, that, inasmuch as he has done. more to defeat the Whig measures than any one else, and thereby rendered the greatest service to the Democratic party, he ought, in all fairness, to receive the nomination of their convention, affirms that Mr. Van Buren has no chance to beat Mr. Clay, and claims to be the only man in their ranks capable of succeeding. In this, perhaps, exists the secret cause of the attack of the member from Ohio. He designs, by a sudden thrust, to remove a rival from the path of his
favorite. I submit it to him, in all candor, to decide whether it is not ungenerous and ungrateful in him thus to assail his ally. He ought not to lift his hand against his brother.
Let us now, Mr. Speaker, proceed to inquire what are the principles of the present self-styled "Democratic party," about which the gentleman from Ohio has talked so much? It will be found on examination, that this party is governed by seven principles-as John Randolph is reported to have said of Thomas Ritchie--the five loaves and the two fishes. Or, in the language of John C. Calhoun, late a distinguished leader of this party, remarkable for his powers of generalization and condensation, and who was, thereby, enabled to analyse, simplify, and reduce to a single element these various principles, it is the "spoils party, held together by the cohesive attraction of public plunder!"
I shall endeavor to show, Mr. Speaker, in all the candor and sincerity on my part, that no injustice is done to the party by this definition of its principles. On the contrary, it is my deliberate, well settled, solemn conviction that the leaders of the party are held together by no other bond whatever. If an individual will only vote for them; if he will give them his influence in carrying elections, and promoting them to office, he will be considered a good Democrat, no matter how opposite his opinions on all questions of public policy may be to those which they happen to be professing at that time. I intend this remark of course only to apply to the politicians; for I am well aware that the great mass of the party in the country are honest and patriotic, and that they have been merely deceived by the professions of Democracy and love for the interest of the people, made by their leaders.
Without traveling out of the ground occupied by the gentleman from Ohio, I expect to be able to establish the truth of my position that his party is united only upon the principle above stated. The question which is likely to occupy more of our time during the present session than any other, is the tariff; and how does the party stand on that? Martin Van Buren, their generally acknowledged leader, voted not only for the tariff of 1824, but he also voted for that of 1828, (the highest tariff which ever existed in the country,) and which, because of its very excess, was condemned by Mr. Clay, Mr. Webster, and many other Whigs. Mr. Senator Wright, the confidential friend of Van Buren always, and the pressent Congressional leader of the party on all such questions, not only likewise voted for that same extravagant tariff of 1828, but he was mainly instrumental in carrying it through. He even voted for the Whig tariff of 1842, against which such an outery is now raised; and so did Mr. Senator Buchanan, another great Democratic leader, and but lately one of their candidates for the Presidency. I need not, however, multiply instances of this sort, but will ask if the whole party are united on tariff principles with these prominent individuals? Not at all, sir. When you look to the Southern section of the Union, you find among the Democrats, Free Trade men and Nullifiers, who are utterly hostile to all tariffs, denounce them as unconstitutional, systems only of fraud and plunder, and even, in some instances, are willing to dissolve the Union to get rid