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an illegitimate influence equal to the work of perverting the national councils and corrupting the national morals. To this influence Whigs professing respect for principle are forbidden to resort. We would blush to confess ourselves willing to employ unconstitutional means to accomplish even the most laudable and necessary results.
The eagerness with which parties at the present day are wont to grasp at the presidency as the embodiment of power and influence in this democratic republic, renders an examination of the constitutional character of the executive authority of the first importance. It may result with the permission of candor and good sense in turning the eyes of statesmen to that branch of the government which is its great democratic feature, and in directing the hopes of patriots to a source of power constitutionally able to fulfil their expectations. This inquiry may appear useless to those popular-will worshippers who consider usurped authority, and even despotic force, legitimate means, so that they be used in concert with the cox populi. But those who value right and reason, will appreciate their force as well as the necessity of their frequent reiteration.
The peculiarity of our Constitution is, that it lodges the whole body of legislative power in the national legislature, composed of the immediate representatives of the people. Within the bounds prescribed by the Constitution, there is no power but theirs. They are the head of the nation—its will—in respect to which the other organic functions of the government are mere mechanical agencies travelling within the circuit of the Constitution, doing what the hands in subjection to the will find to do.
By this feature our Constitution is distinguished from the monarchies and despotisms which have usurped the rights of the people. If we have advanced one step beyond the maxims of absolutism, it is in stripping the executive of all authority to force the will of the many to succumb to the will of an individual.
We are not always careful to distinguish the English Constitution from our own in this respect. The strong points of resemblance in the two systems are apt to lead to the conclusion that there are no essential differences between them; a mistake
by no means unnatural, though tending » lead us astray from the rule of the Conaitution.
The individual interests of royalty reqwt that the embryo of legislation should b hatched under the royal care. That which is to become legislative policy, must favt become ministerial policy. The influence of the crown moulding public measures at the outset is as obviously necessary to preserve the peculiar interests of monarchy a it is certainly directed towards strengthening the power and influence of the crows and aristocracy. We have no unnatsnl institutions disturbing the equilibrium d complete political equality, and therefos we need no such feature in our Constitotion. We have no desire to create sue inequalities, and therefore avoid an institt.tion tending to such a result. Politki equality enables to enjoy the blessing? s untrammelled legislation.
But granting that no evils would resdi from intrusting our Executive with the same influence upon legislation that s conceded to the crown and ministry, «-■ constitutional character is such that simik powers could not be exercised. The President is indeed surrounded by a cabinet a many respects analagous to the ministry, but unlike the ministry they have no direct communication with the legislator'', through which their influence on lege lation could be exerted. This direct communication is the lever by which the crown moves Parliament.
The absurdity of such a communication between the President and Congress is t* apparent to need comment. Our judiciosConstitution, for the wisest reasons, studiously avoided an institution at war wkt the democratic principles upon which our government stands.
The early constitution of the State of New York, while it remained a coloniil possession of Great Britain, received froo the model of the mother country the ides of a ministry in the council that surrounded and aided the governors. While we remained a colony, the pliancy of the council in the hands of the colonial governors arti the home government, satisfied the expectations of its European projectors ; but as the democratic element became more perfectly developed, the council became merged in the senate, stripping the go'irnor of everything except his strictly ixecutive functions.
It is impossible by any construction of he Constitution to concede to the Presilent the right to interfere in the ferments ,nd discussions that precede the final acion of the Legislature, preparatory to ubmitting acts of legislation to him for lis constitutional sanction. Such a contraction has not yet been, and, probably, lever will be attempted; but, unless it is uccessfully accomplished, the position we lave assumed is unimpeachable.
It may be urged that the Constitution, i assigning to the President the duty of (resenting to Congress at its opening a tatement of the condition of the country, ind of submitting to their consideration neasures suitable for legislation, intended o place him in communication with Confess, and to give him weight in their leliberations; but the argument will be bund upon examination to be fallacious.
The President, from his elevated posiion overlooking the interests of the whole lation, is supposed to acquire much inormation suitable to inform the deliberaions of Congress. Whether the supposiion is correct, and whether the President n reality possesses a clearer insight into he state of the country than the prominent lolitical men who compose the Legislature, nay be questioned; but the provision is larmless, and the whole system would aplear incomplete without it. With the iraple suggestion ends the legitimate duty >f the President. The Legislature would ustly be impatient of receiving advice rora even so respectable a source; much ess would submit to dictation.
The Executive veto cannot be urged as in objection to this position, as to the right >( the Executive to interfere with legislaion. The President cannot make a law wr fashion one already made. For the risest ends he is intrusted with the power >f opposing a temporary clog to legislaion, which becomes powerless if a sufficient proportion of the Legislature choose •o overlook his objections.
This authority can only be exercised inder the Constitution in three cases: "hen an act pf legislation is in violation >f the Constitution; when it tends to disturb the equilibrium of the organic functions of the government; and when it has
been procured by corruption. Differences of opinion exist in relation to this subject, which we will not undertake to reconcile at this time; but we assume with abundant reason that in this limitation of the veto to the enumerated cases the great body of the Whigs and most intelligent Democrats will agree.
We will in vain look for illustrations of this distinction to the practices of the last Presidents; but if we look back to the times of the early Presidents, who yielded respect for the Constitution to no behests of party policy, or individual ambition, we shall find these principles operating in their purity.
If we have established that the interference of the Executive with legislation is inconsistent with the prerogatives of Congress, it is no less apparent that such an assumption of power is inconsistent with the position and duties assigned to him by the Constitution.
The Executive, in order to fulfil the expectations of the Constitution, must hold himself aloof from all sectional partialities, and one-idea partisanship. That degree of confidence in him which is necessary to the harmonious conduct of public affairs, can only be drawn forth from every section of the country, by strict impartiality in the administration of government. In order to secure permanence and efficiency to the government, the best understanding must exist between the Executive and every section of the country. Our peculiar Constitution renders it of the utmost importance that he should avoid incurring the distrust or resentment of any State or section of the Union. Composed as the federal Union is of free sovereign States, held together by a sense of mutual dependence and interest, watchful and distrustful of the sovereignty they have voluntarily erected over themselves, the confidence of all should be sedulously cultivated rather than impaired. By this means the natural jealousy which must exist between the superior and the subordinate sovereignties may be held in check, and made a source of the greatest benefit, instead of danger to the Union.
Shall attention to these facts secure the harmony of the national family, or shall their neglect be suffered to foment disagreement and end in dissolution?
The Executive is in great measure responsible for the feeling which prevails toward tTie general Government. The Legislature is in session during a portion only of the year; it is then dissolved, and its members are returned to mingle with the people in the ordinary avocations of life. Its political acts survive its official dissolution, and live in the policy of government. The Executive, on the contrary, throughout the whole of his official career, is identified with the government. In his hands the wheels of government are kept in motion, after the power which originated their motion has for all substantial purposes ceased to exist. He gives vital power to their abstract determinations. Through him the policy of the government is felt in its application to persons and property. Consequently he can by just and impartial administration soothe the irritation excited by an unpopular law, or throw the country into discontent with the wisest legislation by the misuse of his powers.
In this view of the position of the Executive, it is apparent that distrust of the man must reflect odium upon the government administered by him. If the President is known to have strong local attachments, we look for discrimination in application of the laws favoring the objects of his affection. If he entertains strong resentments, the eye is turned to the quarter lying within the ban of his displeasure, to see the visitations of his resentment in the form of onerous discriminations and unfavorable constructions.
The President has within his actual, though not his constitutional power, the ability to favor particular States or local interests, in the application, or rather misapplication, of the laws. If he entertains partialities strong enough to corrupt his integrity, he has the means of gratifying them. If he is influenced by prejudice, or dislike, he finds frequent opportunities of indulging them. As an instance of this kind, we may point to the comparatively recent exhibition of Executive recklessness, which forced the necessities of western navigation to yield to the conveniences of more favored portions of the country. Instances of this kind are so abundant, and fresh in the minds of our readers, that further particularity is unnecessary.
We are glad to forbear pressing this
topic, for we are inclined rather to exahi* office by remembering the dignity it ituk ed under the first Presidents, thin to hemean it by recalling the littlenesses wbci have soiled it in the hands of their degenerate successors.
Let it be borne in mind, that tbe I Ckk can only be maintained by consUnllybrej ing government back to the purity of tat Constitution. Occasional departures m; not produce its overthrow, but if they t> suffered to widen and deepen without <w rection, the point of Bafety will be pa**-: much sooner than is generally suppose Agitations have arisen at different perk-iof our national existence, both at the Kirt. and at the South, produced by Do grit' ances justifying their severity, yet evbaE the startling fact that the Union is una'' from the moment an impression arises, lit the course of government is hostile to uj section of the country. We will not hs; to write the darkest part of our biw but leave it to the recollection of the **-■ informed, to point to those instances ciitsatisfaction to which we refer.
In view of these facts, it is fearful tookserve sections of country having intere* at variance with their neighbors stoning'J elect a representative of their individcJ opinions. This effort is the more dan»e ous, as passions aroused in such coat*d spread their infection to the breasts of tt most patriotic citizens, and deepea W breach with a rapidity soon placing * malady beyond the power of remedy.
We may again turn for instruction H>i» English Constitution, where this dacgt-ra skilfully avoided. The King is profo^1 of no party. He surrounds himsdi ■? ministers representing the predomu*-'] policy. With changes of policy, the a* istry rise and fall—one day centenKd themselves the hopes of the country, t next borne down by the weight of pof18^ displeasure. The King only remain c changeable—the father of his couEtry— attached to no party, bound by no pk^* Such at least is the impression »W that Constitution aims to create. A*1*' ingly those political overthrows wto'1 j the most conservative of the enlightft« nations so often overtake tha ministry. F' trating it under a weight o" odium, <^r;" reach the authority or the influen«^" crown. Were the King identified *& F ticular public measures, as it is claimed our Presidents should be, such overthrows ■vould endanger not only the efficiency of the executive head, but its very existence.
This distinction has not been attended :o in the Constitution recently emanated from the French National Assembly, and ire may yet see the truth of these observations verified in the history of that unfor:unate Republic.
. It follows from these considerations, that be continuance of constitutional authority n the executive department is deeply invested in the separation of the Executive rom all sectional and all violent political igi tattoos.
We are now prepared to examine the irinciples and policy of this one-idea party.
It proposes to support and possibly to sleet to the Presidency a man committed .<> certain opinions and pledged to certain neasures hostile to the extension of slave7 beyond its present limits. But he must ind will be more than this, if he represents the feeling of his party. He will be the ,-humpion of free labor and the sworn en:my of slave labor in every form. We do aot say that he would violate the guarantees of the Constitution to the South—we Jo not think he would; but he will be recognized both at the North and at the South as opposed to domestic slavery in ivery form. To draw any other conclusion is mere idling.
Thus it is proposed to hurry the Executive into a partisan warfare, which must inevitably place him at war with either the North or the South, in reference to a question which has always been the most exciting, and which seems destined to try the strength of our institutions and our patri)tism. It matters not whether Northern w Southern influence predominates, the effect will be equally deplorable in distracting and dividing the nation, and shattering the bond of confidence that holds us in unity. WThat would be the consequence if J pro-slavery party should fill the public nfnees at the North with men devoted to the triumph of their opinions? What would result from an attempt to appoint imti-slavery office-holders throughout the South? Let the country reflect upon this. But if a President is elected by either of those parties, such a result, however deplorable, must follow.
We will not pursue this theme, but leave to the candor and discernment of wellmeaning men of all parties the task of tracing these tendencies to their end.
But what are the great ends to be attained by thus running the Republic in hazard of dissolution, sufficiently important to justify that great risk? They would be among the following:—
To secure legislation on the subject from impediment, from the misuse of the veto.
To secure a presidential recommendation.
To secure the indirect influence of the Executive—its patronage, and the like.
This is the sum of all the means which the Executive can bring to the aid of the one idea. From the veto all that can be asked is, that it shall not intercept legislative action in regard to the extension or recognition of slavery in the territories. So far as that legislative action is protected by the Constitution, Gen. Taylor promises all that could be asked of any candidate, even were he to represent the free soil party itself. His pledges to this point are explicit; he will confine the veto to its legitimate use.
In reply to this it will be said that Gen. Taylor's views, in relation to the constitutionality of the measures proposed, are not known. It may be, say the objectors, that he will take different views of the subject from those we entertain. Upon this doubt hangs the only argument which can be used to sustain the Tree soil movement.
Let us state the point fairly. A man must be elected who is known to conform to the opinions we entertain of the means which can be constitutionally employed to prevent the further extension of slavery. He must be pledged to pronounce certain measures constitutional, which are not even so definitely proposed that it is possible to judge of their conformity to the Constitution. In fine, he must in every case put free soil, one-idea construction on the Constitution, taking good care to destroy every measure of legislation injuriously affecting the progress of free soil opinions.
But should the President be found compliant, there is still another tribunal which may negative the force of the desired legislation: must that tribunal also be packed with men of your opinions? The honest voice of the nation would cry out against any attempt to forestall a decision of the Supreme Court by securing the appointment of judges entertaining certain opinions. But why that may be done with the President, who, as it regards the veto, is but a preventive instead of a retributive tribunal, we cannot perceive.
We hesitate not to pronounce such a course dangerous in the extreme to the security of liberty and property, destructive of independence and impartiality in the executive decisions, and injurious to public morals. It is but another attempt of radical democracy to grasp at independent opinion, and prostrate it before the will of the majority. It is plainly better that legislation should be temporarily interrupted than that a precedent should be established capable of being used for the most violent ends. The use of such means belongs to a temporizing policy incapable of appreciating the value of what is magnanimous.
In order to excuse the use of such means as an extreme remedy suited to a desperate disease, it devolves on the one-idea party to show that either their principles or their measures are in danger from abuse of the veto by Gen. Taylor. This is impossible. The most that is pretended is, that no assurances of friendly sympathy have been given them by the nominee of the Whig party. As for a hint of an opinion to the contrary, the thing is not pretended.
Can there be any, it will be asked, who profess to be willing to use any influence of the Executive unauthorized by the Constitution? There are such, and they are by far the most difficult to contend with, as they obstinately persist in drawing their arguments from what they are pleased to call practical views. These are the practical men of the one-idea party, (if the paradox is pardonable.) They profess contempt for such metaphysical abstractions as those which are honored by our Constitution as profound truths. They regard nothing but immediate and practical results, losing sight of remote though certain consequences. Let these men be the mouth-piece of the party.
"The President," say they, "has an indirect influence, not conferred by the Constitution, but acquired through certain extrinsic channels, too effective to be neglected. We have seen," they continue,
"that the Executive can plunge the rata into war or restore it to the blessnsgs d peace as suits his caprice; letrfhat sac-. power be exerted in behalf of uniwra liberty, and its triumph is secure."
But has not that very assumptkc a power been the theme of your jnst i* proach? Then will you use means wlsei you condemn in an adversary as dtstrrtive of liberty and subversive to the Constitution in the prosecution of your **: plans? To confess this is to confess i yourselves a deeper reproach than tkef can be charged with; for they enfy? means which they maintain to be conaitv tional,—you employ those very mean* si mitting their dishonesty.
Though disguised under specious Mbk. or what is worse, under no name at d the instruments they unblushingly prop* to use are the influence of Washington—;-■ support of official patronage—the po««c* the lobby.
Corruption'is the source of the influx they covet. Corruption, therefore, Ok? invoke to the aid of humanity. B* humanity scorns the offering and & hypocritical worshipper. It is imposstto trace that which we have designalw » the indirect influence of the Executive, *t'' it exhibits more than a natural symp^r in principle and in pursuit with the paw to which he owes his elevation, to *■'• other source than to the misuse of tofficial powers. The President sb»: agree with the party by which he a supported as to the principles upon ww* government should be conducted, h true that from his position inpohfc* he must have formed opinions on all * great subjects of general and sertK» interest. If he has not great strength ■ mind he may find himself at times attnc1* too strongly by his partialities, or repn-*by his aversions. Human nature istf exempt from such weaknesses; but '•*.' afford no apology to those who *<** convert an inconsiderable bias into as*'" partisanship.
We hear it admitted on all sides d* the power of the Executive has \** stretched beyond the limits of the CoKJ tution. It has even been charged •*' reproach that our President is "^ powerful than the, King of Great Bri1*5 That no such power was intended »'