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acquainted with the various and extensive interests committed to its charge, and prepared with a system of policy to advance and sustain them. They were framed to suit the purposes of his partians in different parts of the union, and could be made available to promote his popularity with partiesof the most hostile principles.
To the advocates of a protecting tariff, it might be represented, that the protection of all that was required for the defence of the country, would necessarily embrace more than the country was now ready to manufacture: while its opponents were conciliated by a promise to reduce the duties to a revenue standard.
The enemies of internal improvement were secured by his veto of the Maysville-road bill; while its friends were prevented from deserting by an avowal of his willingness to sanction improvements of a national charac
On other questions, where no strong interests were arrayed in opposition, a more decisive
course was taken.
Thus in relation to the Cherokee Indians, it was determined to withdraw from them the protection they had until then received from the federal government by virtue of its treaties, and to intrust them to the discretion of Georgia.
This determination, the first unfortunate step in disregarding the obligation of the laws, and substituting in their place individual will and popular feeling, was adopted upon his accession
to power, and served as a decided indication of the intention of the cabinet to build up and consolidate the administration party, by rewarding its supporters through the powers of the government.
This, in some measure, changed the character of the parties which existed previous to his election. They had until that event assumed a sectional hue, the south supporting him, and the north opposing him, and each hoping to control the policy of the government.
It was soon found, that by yielding altogether to the views of his southern supporters, too much would be hazarded in the middle and western states, where they could not be brought to sanction the southern policy as to the tariff and internal improvement.
A temporizing policy was therefore adopted upon those points, and an effort was made to introduce new questions creating broader parties, and consolidating the party strength by dividing the community on subjects, where sectional interests do not come in collision with party obligations.
This was the more necessary, as the alienation of Mr. Calhoun and his friends had taken from the administration a portion of its strength at the south, and rendered it incumbent on them to supply the deficiency from other quarters.
While such a direction, therefore, was given to the patronage and power of the government, as stimulated the prominent and
more active partisans to greater zeal and new exertions in the service of the party; appeals were constantly made to popular prejudices, and efforts were made to excite the jealousies of different classes of the community, and to array them against each other as hostile parties, having conflicting interests.
With this view, the propriety of re-chartering the U. S. bank was brought into discussion long before any movement was made by that institution for a renewal of its charter; and the public mind was agitated, and popular prejudice excited, by charging it with exercising an undue and improper influence over the currency, and with being a monopoly tending to foster the interests of overgrown capitalists at the expense of the labouring classes. The poor were told, that their interests were adverse to those of their more wealthy neighbours, and they were exhorted to array themselves in opposition to their employers.
The power of erecting corporations was stigmatized, as an usurpation tending to create monopolies inconsistent with the nature of a free government, and to increase the power of capitalists to the injury of the labouring classes.
These indications could not be mistaken. It was obvious, that those to whom the administration of the government was intrusted, were seeking to maintain their power by a most dangerous appeal to those very pas
sions which government was established to control.
The conservative principles essential to the orderly existence of society were thus hazarded in a struggle to preserve the emoluments of office; and the singular spectacle was presented, of the party out of power striving to maintain the authority of the government and the supremacy of the laws, in opposition to the systematic efforts of those in power, to bring the principles upon which they depended into disrepute.
It was not probable, that all those who lent themselves to the propagation of these principles, were aware of their dangerous tendency. They only thought that they were popular, and looked no farther than to the manner in which they were received by the multitude for the evidence of their truth.
The legitimate result of these doctrines, however, led to a dissolution of all government, by weakening its powers at the same moment, that the disorderly passions of the idle and the ignorant were roused into action by addresses which stimulated their cupidity, and destroyed their reverence for legal authority.
Thus the determination of the president to acquiesce in the annulling by Georgia of the treaties and laws for regulating the intercourse with the Indians, was sustaining the will and interests of a state government, in opposition to the established law of the union. His continued acqui
escence in the violation of those laws, after the decision of the supreme court of the United States, declaring the ground assumed by Georgia to be unconstitutional, was setting up his individual will in opposition to the constitutional tribunals of
the country. His declaration, that he would construe the constitution for himself, was an example of insubordination, that too many were ready to follow.
His intimation, that "the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes," tended to excite the poor against the rich, to create a contempt of legal restraint, and to stimulate the mass, through their cupidity, to the commission of excesses inconsistent with the good order of society; while the new test that he adduced of the constitutionality of his course, i. e. its approval by a majority of the people in the general election, was substituting a new and entirely different government in the place of that which had been framed by the convention of 1787.
That government was regulated by a written constitution, which was to be the supreme law of the land.
When any question arose as to the meaning of the constitution, the supreme court of the United States was constituted as the tribunal to decide finally upon its true meaning. When any alteration was required, either to extend or abridge the powers of the government, a mode was prescribed to effect that alteration: but nowhere is it to be found,
that the people in their primary or their legislative assemblies are to give a construction to that constitution, still less that an inference is to be drawn as to its true meaning from their votes at a general election.
They may alter the constitution, and they may elect representatives to administer it, but the courts, and not they, are to construe it; and until it is altered in the prescribed mode, all rights secured under it, whether to states, Indian tribes, or individuals, are sacred, or, if invaded, it can only be by the power of the majority, violating principle in the pride of strength. The obvious results of these new doctrines was to abolish the representative character of the government. According to these, a contested election was to decide, without appeal, all disputed constitutional questions, and the will of the people as expressed at the elections, was thus substituted in the place of a representative government under a writ ten constitution.
In conformity with this view, great deference was manifested for the will of the people, and jealousies were studiously fomented among the labouring classes against all who had acquired, either by industry or talent, the means of independence.
Numbers alone were considered entitled to respect, and the appeals to principle, law and the constitution, became less frequent, and were less regarded as the election drew nigh.
In the zeal to swell the majo
rity by numbers, a more dangerous influence was invoked into the contest; and the national prejudices of the naturalized citizens were appealed to, in order to insure their undivided support to the administration.
It must not be supposed, that this discreditable effort to obtain the majority was confined to one party. The opposition also brought their cause into disrepute by their endeavours to enlist that class of voters, through their foreign prejudices, in their ranks.
The friends of the administration, however, were more successful in securing this support, and the party clamour against the aristocracy of wealth, found a ready response among those who, in their own countries, had always regarded, and with too much reason, the powers of the government as inseparably connected with the oppression and suffering, which had driven them from their native shores; and who looked upon what are called the higher orders of society as the hereditary and natural oppressors of the labouring classes. In their minds, the wealthy and the educated were associated with their ideas of an hereditary nobility, living upon the industry of the rest of the community, having no sympathy with the productive classes, and regarding society and government as objects of interest only so far as they furnish the means of gratification to the pampered appetites of an idle and luxurious aristocracy.
Wholly unlike as such a no
bility are to the wealthy merchants and mechanics of the United States, (men who have gained their wealth by their own industry,) still the ignorant and deluded emigrants, who were admitted to the elective franchise, were not qualified to make the distinction, and eagerly enlisted themselves on the side of the administration, because it was "a contest between the poor and the rich," and in their own countries they had found too little of kindness from the rich to regard them with favour here.
By this class of voters, and they were both numerous and active, the merits of the administration were not taken into consideration. They were qualified by education, nor by circumstances, to form a competent judgment upon the measures of the president, nor upon the principles upon which they were defended; and although laws passed at an early period, in a different state of the country, had conferred upon them the right of suffrage, the exercise of that right by a numerous class, under the influence of foreign feelings and prejudices, so far contributed to prevent the periodical elections from being a true expression of the opinions of the American people. It was in effect a departure from the theory of the government of the United States. That government is founded upon the maxim, that an enlightened people is competent to govern itself, and that political power is nowhere so safely vested, as in the mass of the community.
To prevent an abuse of this power, a system of general education extending to the family of the poorest labourer, was established, almost coeval with the government.
As the labouring classes acquired political power, intelligence and knowledge were imparted to them, in order to enable them to exercise it with discretion. However competent, therefore, the productive classes thus prepared may be to exercise the right of suffrage, no such competency was to be found in the emigrants, whom various causes, but all growing out of their wretchedness and political degradation at home, had thrown in such multitudes upon our shores since the general pacification of Europe.
It seemed as if those very classes which had previously supplied her armies and navies, now swelled the tide of emigration, and that America was thus used as a receptacle for a population both useless and dangerous in their native countries.
To such an extent had migration from Europe increased, that during the year 1832 38,183 alien passengers arrived in the seaports of the United States, and many thousands, of which no account could be taken, came over the frontiers from Canada and New-Brunswick.
Of these not a few were paupers, and there is too good reason to know, that many emigrants of this character were furnished with funds to pay their passage to this country by the public authorities, with the sole view of
relieving the community from the expense of their maintenance.
In some instances the bad faith of the municipal authorities in the European cities, went so far as to induce them to disgorge their prisons and penitentiaries upon our shores.
It could not, therefore, be expected that an influence of this description, introduced into our elections, could be exercised other than injuriously. So far as it produced any effect, it was necessarily adverse to the sober sense of the American people, and consequently prevented, to that extent, the elections from being the expression of the opinion of the country. Even among the native population, the contest did not turn entirely upon the policy of the administration.
The great military services of General Jackson had gained for him general popularity, and many who did not altogether approve of his measures, attributed his errors to mistaken views. His honesty of purpose was questioned by comparatively few, and all admired the boldness and firmness with which he pursued those measures, that had been adopted and avowed as the policy of his administration.
He was styled, too, the representative of the democratic party, and the people were constantly assured, that his sole object was to deprive the federal government only of those powers which it had usurped, and to bring it within the limits prescribed by the constitution.