« ForrigeFortsett »
their services, not authorized by law; and, if any, what other mal-practices have been committed by the said Judges, or either of them, and that the said committee be authorized to compel the attendance of persons, and the production of papers, to promote this investigation. The resolution was read, and then, on question of Mr. CALL, the following letter was read.
Hon. Richamp CALL :
SIn : I have had the honor of receiving a note from you, addressed to me, as United States’. Attorney for East Florida, and asking information whether the Judge of the Superior Court of that district has ever charged fees for services performed in his judicial capacity. At the May term of the Superior Court of East Florida, in 1824, Judge Smith established a number of rules for the government of the practice of his Court, by which provision is made for the transacting and doing of much business in vacation, which previously had been done in term, viz: such as making orders for commissions to take foreign testimony; and hearing and deciding on motions for amending pleadings, &c. and other matters and questions generally aiding in the usual progress of a suit. For all which services, when performed, Judge Smith has charged fees. I have paid them, and I believe every attorney of his (Judge Smith) Court has done the same. It is proper to mention, that in the United States and territorial cases, Judge Smith has never charged fees. I remain sir, your very obedient servant, EDGAR MACON. Feb. 2d, 1825.
Mr. CALL then rose, and said, it had become his ainful duty to arraign before this House one of the judicial officers of this government—a duty on which he entered with reluctance and regret. But it was one from which he could not shrink, when he considered that he should be wanting in fidelity to the interests of those whom he represented, if he were to permit the charges alleged against this individual to pass without investigation. It is stated, said he, by a gentleman whose reputation for honor, integrity, and intelligence, cannot be questioned—a gentleman who occupies the respectable and responsible station of District Attorney of the United States for the district of East Florida, that the Hon. Joseph L. SMITH, a Judge of the District Court of the United States, receiving from this government a salary of 1500 dollars per year, has so far forgotten the respect which he owes to himself, and the elevated station which he occupies, as to demand and receive fees for the É. of those duties which properly belong to is judicial character. | Sir, in the various departments of this government, there is no power so absolute, and none which should be administered with more wisdom and purity, than your Judiciary. It is the sanctuary to which all must fly when life, fortune, and reputation, is endangered; and the interest of the whole community demands that its purity and integrity should be preserved even beyond suspi. cion. , Sir, in those sections of your country where society is well organized, and where its moral influence is calculated to suppress vice, and promote virtue, even there, no institution is more necessary than an intelligent and virtuous judiciary. But this necessity becomes more imperious in a country whose society is scarcely yet formed—where strangers have congregated from all parts of the world, speaking every variety of language, and possessing every variety of passion, prejudice, and * common to their several countries and educa. On. Sir, Florida is yet peopled by persons who are strangets to your, laws, your language, and your government, or by adventurers, who have been driven, on the wave
of emigration, in pursuit of fortune, or a better home. They look to you for protection, and they look to your officers for examples of justice and morality. Sir, the paltry pence which the learned judge has wrung from the hands of honest industry, or from the unfortunate victim of oppression, who has sought protection in your courts of justice, is not the only evil we deprecate; it is the pernicious effect of his example in showing a disregard to law, reason, and decorum, which we most deplore. For my own part, sir, I have ever considered, that he who presides in the temple of justice should be as pure and unspotted as he who officiates at the altar of the Most High; and that ignorance or corruption in your judiciary, is an evil not less to be lamented than apostacy in your religion. From what cause, sir, has this extraordinary conduct of the judge originated 2 . Surely he will not plead ignorance of law, reason, and the rules of decorum ? If he does, sir, he is unworthy of the administration of justice. Is he corrupt—does he pervert reason, and misconstrue law, to gratify his avarice If so, let him be hurled with indignation from the bench he has dishonored, and dismantled of the robes whose purity he has polluted. I am aware, sir, that he will endeavor to shelter himself under the statute book of the territory; but let me tell you, sir, he will find no protection there. There is no section or provision in the laws of the territory, which allows him the privilege of demanding fees. He knows that it was never the intention of the Council to allow him this privilege. I, sir, was an humble member of the Legislative Council which enacted those laws; it sat in St. Augustine, the residence of Judge Smith. Twice, during a short session, did the friends of this gentleman propose to allow him fees of office for the performance of his judicial duties, and twice was that proposition rejected, with disdain, by the Legislative Council. Hence, sir, I have not even the charity to believe that he has sinned through ignorance, or that he has committed an honest error of judgment. If I mistake not, he heard the discussion which took place in the Legislative Council, on the proposition to allow him fees, and he knows it to have been rejected. Sir, I blush to have been the organ of communication to this House, of so unusual, and so disreputable an occurrence. But, sir, it is your officer of whom we complain; you sent him to us, and we ask you to take him away. I hope, sir, the resolution under consideration will be adopted, and that the most prompt and energetic measures may be taken by the House to promote this investigation. Mr. FOOT, of Connecticut, said he presumed there could be no objection to the adoption of this resolution, proposing an inquiry merely. His only regret in regard to it was, that the gentleman had thought it necessary, in this stage of the business, to have gone into a statement of the facts of the case. He could have wished that the gentleman had reserved his facts until the report of the committee should have been made. The question was then taken on the resolution, which was agreed to without opposition.
APPEAL BY THE SPEAKER TO THE HOUSE,
The SPEAKER, (Mr. CLAY,) rose from his place, and requested the indulgence of the House for a few moments, whilst he asked its attention to a subject, in which he felt himself deeply concernned. A note had appeared this morning in the National Intelligencer, under the name, and with the authority, as he presumed, of a member of this House from Pennsylvania, (Mr. KnoxE",) which adopted, as his own, a previous letter, published in another print, containing serious and in. jurious imputations against him, and which the author avowed his readiness to substantiate by proof. These charges implicated his conduct, in regard to the pending Presidential election; and the respectability of the sta. tion which the member holds, who thus openly prefers
FEB. 3, 1825.3
them, and that of the people whom he represents, entitled them to grave attention. It might be, indeed, worthy of consideration, whether the character and dignity of the House itself did not require a full investigation of them, and an impartial decision on their truth. For, if they were true, if he were capable, and base enough, to betray the solemn trust which the Constitution had confided to him; if, yielding to personal views and considerations, he could compromit the highest interests of his country, the House would be scandalized by his continuing to occupy the chair with which he had been so long honored in presiding at its deliberations, and he merited instantaneous expulsion. Without, however, presuming to indicate what the House might conceive it ought to do, on account of its own purity and honor, he hoped that he should be allowed respectfully to solicit, in behalf of himself, an inquiry into the truth of the charges to which he referred. Standing in the relations to the House, which both the member from Pennsylvania and himself did, it appeared to him that here was the proper place to institute the inquiry, in order that, if guilty, here the proper punishment might he applied, and, if innocent, that here his character and conduct may be vindicated. He anxiously hoped, therefore, that the House would be pleased to direct an investigation to be made into the truth of the charges. Emanating from the source which they did, this was the only notice which he could take of them. If the House should think proper to raise a Committee, he trusted that some other than the ordinary mode pursued by the practice and rules of the House would be adopted to appoint the Committee. The SPEAKER having concluded his observations, and called Mr. TAYLOR to the chair, in his place— Mr. FORSYTHI, of Georgia, rose, and said, he hoped that the address of the Speaker would be entered on the Journal, and that the document, to which he had referred, should be laid on the table ; and that the address and the document would be referred to a committee of nine members, to be chosen by ballot. Mr. KREMER, of Pennsylvania, rose, and said, if, upon an investigation being instituted, it should appear that he had not sufficient reason to justify the statements he had made, he trustel he should receive the marked reprobation which had been suggested by the Speaker.— Let it fall where it might, Mr. K. said, he was willing to meet the inquiry, and abide the result. Mr. K. moved that the “card” of the honorable Speaker, referred to in “another card,” should also be referred to the committee, and entered on the Journal of the House. Mr. FORSYTH said he had not intended to make any distinct motion about entering the “card” on the Jourmal of the House; but had supposed it proper that the Speaker's communication should be entered on the Journal, and, with the paper which gave rise to it, be referred to a committee. Mr. MERCER, of Virginia, felt some difficulty as to the proper mode of proceeding in this case, and the insertion of the Speaker's address on the Journal of the House, on account of the address having been orally delivered. He had never heard of a proceeding exactly of this sort. It appeared to him, that the preferable way of bringing the subject before the House, would be for the Speaker to address a letter to the Speaker pro tenpore, setting forth the cause of complaint which he had verbally stated to the House, and it would then be proper to refer that letter to any committee that might be appointed. He suggested this course as most becoming the House; and it was one which could occasion no delay, as a few minutes would be sufficient for the Speaker to commit his address to paper. On the suggestion of the Acting Speaker, Mr. KREMER withdrew his motion to refer the “card,” the proposition not being before the House to refer “another card.”
. Mr. FORSYTH suggested to the gentleman from Virginia, and to the House, that there was no necessity for taking an order, such as had been spoken of, for reducing the address of the Speaker to writing. He took it for granted that the address of the Speaker, to-day, like his address when he enters the chair, or ieaves it, though orally delivered, might be entered on the Jour. nal; this was a matter to be arranged by the speaker and Clerk; all that was necessary was for the House to direct the address to be entered on the Journal. Mr. LIVERMORE, of New Hampshire, observed, that he did not see how it was possible to enter the communication of the Speaker on the Journal, since it was merely verbal ; and he moved to lay the motion of the gentleman from Georgia, (Mr. Fonsyva,) on the table, until the House should be in possession of that commu. nication in a written form. The question on Mr. LIVERMORE's motion was put, and negatived. Mr. FOOT, of Connecticut, said, there was a manifest propriety in the course proposed by the gentleman from Georgia. The Journal is, at all times, under the revision of the Speaker of the House. The entry of this ad. dress, under the direction of the House, will of course be made under the direction of the Speaker, and it was not to be supposed that it would not be properly stated. There was, besides, a manifest impropriety in the temporary Speaker receiving a letter from the actual Speaker—it would be, in fact, Mr. Speaker, laying before the House a letter from Mr. Speaker. Mr. M'DUFFIE, of South Carolina, expressed his regret that a motion to lay this subject on the table had not prevailed. It was very obvious that this was a question of great magnitude, involving a preliminary inquiry whether it is proper for the House to ag on the subject at all. It comes upon us suddenly, said he—it is new, and unexpected. . Under this sudden impression, by which the House is excited, we are called upon to act. Mr. M'D. submitted to the House whether it would not become its dignity to pause, until to-morow, before it determined to take upon itself the investigation and settlement of a personal controversy, commenced elsewhere, on principles of honor. He was lot certain that the House might not be properly called upon to act on this subject: but he was opposed to deciling that question now, and he was opposed to spreading the matter on the Journal, because doing so woud commit the House to go on with the investigation. For his part, he could not say that he was prepared to go into the consideration of a subject, which, if opened here, might take up the remainder of the session. Mr. LINCOLN, of Maine, said, that, according to his understanding, there were no chargespresented to the House, on this occasion, against any one. If there had been, he believed they would not have been considered entitled to credit, by him, or any one else, very few excepted, in this House or in this nation. He viewed the whole matter as an out-door busines. An anonymous letter had appeared in a public prin, and certain cards had passed between individuals in relation to it; but in these the House had no certain—nither of these communications was before it. If indeed any thing had passed within the House, disrespectful tither to the person or character of the Speaker, such was his regard for the station, such his respect for the feelings, and such his admiration of the character of that officer, that he should certainly be one of the first to afford him the investigation which he now requested, and which would then be his undoubted right, to assert his rights or redress his wrongs. But, as that was not the case, he thought any further prosecution of the business would merely be throwing a firebrand into the nation, that would kindle a flame in almost every breast within it. He hoped the House would not proceed hastily on this subject. The nation was already much excited. It looked towards
this House with a jealous eye. It needed no further cause of excitement than the present juncture naturally presented. And was it wise, in such a state of things, to make an anonymous newspaper communication an affair of legislation and of question here 2 The subject had come upon the House suddenly—he believed, unexpect. edly. It addressed itself strongly to the feelings of gentlemen. For one, he would acknowledge, it had powerfully affected his own. He was no prepared now to discuss it; but gentlemen could not but perceive at a glance, that it embraced questions too important by far to be acted upon hastily. His own view was, that the House ought not to act upon it at all, especially not at this moment, on a sudden suggestion, when he was persiaded many members of the House did not even know what were the contents of the publications referred to, and of the communication which related to them. He hoped the House would take time to reflect upon the course which, under all the circumstances, the interest of the nation required. Mr. Forsyth said, he had by no means a desire unnecessarily to press the consideration of this subject.— But, said he, what are we conversing about? A communication from the Speaker. Whereisit ? It is verbally given to us. There must be some notice taken of it.— How? The Journal must either state the words of the communication, or the Clerk must undertake to state the substance of it. Now, if this communication had been of the character of other addresses from the Speaker of this house, it would go on the Journal as a matter of course. It had been announced by the chair, however, that such was not the case, and a motion had become necessary to procure its insertion in the Journal. when it is placed where it ought to be, he had not the slightest objection that a decision upon the motion for the appointment of a committee on the subject should be deferred unil to-morrow. We must, sooner or later, said Mr. F. determine whether it is proper that an investigation of his matter shall take place or not. , I am myself now ready to decide that question, but should not be sorry if the decision should be delayed. The only question now before the House, was, whether the matter should be entered on the Journal. Mr. M'LANE, of Delaware, observed, that, if the present question ested only on what had passed out of the house, he should acquiesce in the opinion expressed by the gentleman rom South Carolina: but he thought that the course whith this affair had taken within the House had gone to var, very materially, its general character: and the House, Serhaps, would find itself bound, under these circumstaices, to prosecute the inquiry. How stands the case ? asked Mr. M'L. The Speaker complains that certain charges have been made against his conduct, originaly in an anonymous publication, of which a member of the House has since virtually acknowledged himself to be the author. An honorable member rises in his place, and avows the charges as having been made by him, and backs that avowal, by inviting an inquiry into heir truth. The charges themselves are weighty, and important; and, if proved, undoubtedly draw after them ālthe consequences which have been stated. The charges are made by a member in his place. That member asks an investigation—the Speak•r of this House, against whom the charges are prefered, asks the same. For his own part, the request being made by the speaker and reiterated on the other side, he was perfectly willng to award the investigation asked for. Mr. MERCER again rose. In what he had suggested when first up, he said he had no intention to object to the institution of a committee to inquire into this subject: his only difficulty was, as to the mode of proceeding, tcc. With reference to the suggestion, that this was a personal affair between the two gentlemen concerned, so far from considering that fact an objection to inquiry, it would with him be an argument in favor of it.
prised of any such controversy between members of this House, he should, for his own part, have held himself solemnly bound, as a member of this House—as a citizen of this country—as a Christian—to interpose the authority of this House, to prevent any such consequences as might result from it. He held it to be the duty of every member of this House to take such measures as would prevent such consequences. This course had been pursued in England, and had been attempted here, &c. Mr. M. made some further observations, the import of which was, that he did not think form in this matter very material, though he thought it would have been better if the communication of the speaker had been made in writing. Mr. ISACKS, of Tennessee, said, that he rose as well to express his regret at the course this subject had taken, as to express briefly his views of the question before the House. Mr. I, said, that the honorable Speaker had thought proper, by an address to the House, to ask an inquiry into a transaction in which he felt himself deeply implicated. The member from Pennsylvania, alluded to in this address, had risen in his place, and expressed an entire willingness and desire that this inquiry should be made. So far, then, as the two members were concerned, it was certainly proper that the House should adopt the course proposed. It is, said he, to be sure, another question, whether this House will consider itself the proper Forum in which these two gentlemen should settle their differences. But, so far as this House should think itself concerned, I, for one, will, on this, as I would on every other occasion, say, that, when any member shall rise in his place, and ask an inquiry into his conduct, I shall give it to him; and I shall vote for this inquiry. An objection has been made to the manner in which the inquiry has been asked. The Speaker chose to make it by way of address, and not in writing. The other member directly concerned in the matter, acceptedit in that way. The matter is, then, as substantially before us, as if it had been in writing, when it shall be put on the Journal. If we have the substance, we need not so much regard the form, as to give the subject a different direction. Mr. COOK, of Illinois, said he took it for granted, that the Speaker had presented to the House, as specifically as he could, the nature of the charges which he had asked the House to investigate. It was not the address of the Speaker, but the letter which contained the charges against him, that was to be the subject of investigationThe inquiry which was asked by the Speaker was proper, in relation to the character of this House, and the interests of the country. The letter referred to in the Speaker's address, did not operate, in its accusatory property, on the Speaker alone, but on a portion of the other members of this House. Let gentlemen turn to that letter, and they would find that it contained charges as pernicious to the character of this House, and of the nation generally, as to the Speaker. Mr. WEBSTER here interposed, he said, with great reluctance, to call his friend from Illinois to order. He submitted to him whether, on a motion to refer the letter, &c. it was proper to enter into an investigation of the nature of the charges contained in it, &c. Mr. COOK disclaimed any design to violate order in his observations, and desisted. The question was loudly called for, and was taken on ordering the address of the Speaker to be entered on the journal, and decided in the affirmative. Mr. CONDICT, of New-Jersey, then moved to postpone the further consideration of the remaining proposition (for the appointment of a committee, &c.) until tomorrow. Which motion was agreed to, and the subject postponed until to-morrow.
ELECTION OF PRESIDENT. On motion of Mr. WltighT, the House went into com
mittee of the whole on the state of the Union, and again took up the report of the committee appointed to prepare rules to be observed, by the House, in the election of a President of the United States. The question recurring, from yesterday, on the motion of Mr. INGHAM, to strike out the last clause of the third rule, which directs that the galleries shall be cleared on the demand of the delegation of any one State— Mr. M*DUFFIE rose, and addressed the House as follows: Mr. Speaker: If I could agree with the honorable member from Massachusetts, (Mr. WEastER,) that this is a proposition of inconsiderable importance, I certainly should not ask the committee to bestow any portion of its attention upon any remarks of mine. It is true, that the proposition immediately under consideration, is, apparently, of but little moment; but when we advert to the principles involved in it, and the consequences which may flow from it, I consider it a subject of very great importance. We have been correctly told by the gentleman from Delaware, (Mr. M'LANE,) that this question derives it importance, principally from the consideration, that our decision will constitute a precedent for future times; and we are distinctly called upon to adopt the proposition now, not in reference to existing circumstances—not with a view to obviate any anticipated disturbances in the gallery during the approaching election—but for the disinterested purpose of providing a precedent, for the security of those who are to come after us. A little consideration, I think, will satisfy the committee, that the strongest objection to this measure grows out of the fact, that it will be regarded as a precedent. If, indeed, it be a matter of small importance; if we have no cause to apprehend immediate danger; if no fears are entertained that our proceedings will be disturbed or overawed by any injudicious exhibition of excitement or violence, on the part of those who may behold them from the galleries, why should we adopt the proposition? Whence this extraordinary providence for the security of our successors? Why should we thus gratuitously provide for dangers that may never occur * Will not those who shall occupy our places in future time, be capable of providing for the tranquillity and safety of their own deliberations 2 If in any future emergency there should be indications that our successors will not be permitted to exercise the most unbiassed freedom of deliberation, in performing the important function of electing a President, will the precedent we are called upon to establish be necessary to enable them to guard against the danger? Will they not have the same power then, that we have now But let us look at the other side of the question. What will be the effect of the adoption of this rule It is one of those propositions which can only be correctly appreciated, by taking into consideration principles which may seem to be remotely and almost imperceptibly connected with it. What, then, are those principles? Sir, we can be at no loss for an answer to this question. The honorable member from Delaware, with that candor and independence which always characterize his deportment here, comes out boldly and manfully, with a distinct avowal of the principles upon which he rests the defence of the proposition to clear the galleries.—We are told by that gentleman, that the people have no right to inspect our conduct here, in regard to this great subject, the election of a President of the United States; that we owe them no responsibility for our conduct in the discharge of that duty, and that they have no right to— [Mr. M'LANE here rose, by leave, to explain. If, said he, I understand the gentleman as referring to any remark made by me, he has certainly misapprehended my argument. I disclaim any intention of withholding from the people of the United States a knowledge of our proceedings here. The people have a right to know, and they shall know them. The argument for which I con
tended was this : That the immediate constituents of a member of Congress have no right to instruct him in relation to his vote in the election of a President: that he is wholly independent of his constituents in giving that vote, further than the responsibility which a high-minded and conscientious man feels in discharging a solemn duty devolved upon him, and his ultimate responsibility. I freely admitted, that the will of a majority of the people of the United States, was entitled to great respect, not to be easily put by, but not of imperative authority, on this question.] Mr. M'DUFFIE resumed. I gave way, with great pleasure, to allow the gentleman from Delaware an opportunity of explaining; but I do not perceive that his explanation has materially varied the doctrines I have ascribed to him. It is certain, however, that I have not misrepresented the argument used by that gentleman yesterday, for I have before me his very words, taken down as he uttered them, to which I now call the attention of the committee. “We are called upon,” said he, “to act here, in voting for a President, not as the representatives of the people.” “We are not responsible to the people;”and he asked, “Who has a right to come here, and superintend or inspect our proceedings?” These are the precise words used by the gentleman from Delaware; and, construe them as he may, they convey doctrines against which I feel bound to enter my protest. This rule, supported by these arguments, involves the idea that, in the election of a Chief Magistrate of the nation, we act here wholly independent of the people, and are under no obligation to regard their will, however solemnly expressed and certainly ascertained. What would be the impression carried down to future times, by the adoption of this rule, under the existing circumstances ! If the question had been taken without argument, and the rule adopted, various opinions would be hereafter entertained as to its principle and its objects. It might be regarded as a mere matter of police. But, after what has occurred, if it were now to be adopted without some protest against the principles upon which it has been vindicated, what would be the consequence It would become a precedent for times less pure, perhaps, than the present, and would be expounded by the argument of the gentleman from Delaware. We should thus contribute to consecrate principles, which I am sure this body would never intentionally sanction. Are we not bound, therefore, by the highest considerations, not only to reject the rule, but to set the seal of our solemn reprobation upon the arguments by which we have been urged to adopt it? But, let us for a moment inquire into the pernicious uses to which this rule may be applied, as a precedent; the only view in which its advocates regard it as of any importance. Whatever confidence I may have in the purity of the present House of Representatives, I cannot close my eyes upon the probability that its members will not always be elevated above the reach of corruption. Suppose, then, that some future House of Representatives should resolve to elect a President;from corrupt motives, such as would certainly expose them to the execrations of an indignant people: How would they proceed? Their first step would be to close the galleries, and exclude the public eye from an immediate view of their proceedings. But would they stop here? No, sir; they would have it in their power to cover their conduct with a veil of impenetrable and eternal mystery, by laying upon the House an injunction of secrecy. Nor would the temptation to adopt such a measure, be greater than the facility of its adoption... By the rules reported, the House acts by states on all questions incidental to the election. There are six or seven states represented here, upon an average, by little more than a member each, and thirty or forty members, representing a majority of states, could, by co-operation, decide any question. And thus would you place it in the pow
er of a small and corrupt minority, to screen their conduct for ever from the view of those to whom they are responsible. If, as we have been told, we are to esta. blish a precedent for times less pure than the present, let us not put an instrument into the hands of the unprincipled and ambitious, by which they can most effectually consummate their corrupt and nefarious purposes Let me now solicit the serious attention of the committee, to the extraordinary doctrine avowed by the gentleman from Delaware. Are we, indeed, independent of the people of the United States, in the exercise of the high trust of electing a President? Do we cease to be their representatives, when we resolve ourselves into an electoral college, to perform that function 2 Are we to make a selection without reference to their will, however solemnly and constitutionally expressed ? Are we to assume the character of independent Judges, acting for ourselves, and not for the people I will attempt to establish the negative of these questions. There are many of our public men, who stand high in the estimation of the country, and who have made a distinguished figure in the service of the republic, who maintain that, even in our legislative capacity, we are bound to yield implicit obedience to the known will of our constituents, however ascertained. A signal instance of the practical recognition of this principle, was exhibited some six or eight years ago, in relation to the celebrated compensation law. That measure, by which the members of Congress provided for the increase of their own pay, produced a degree of popular excitement and dissatisfaction, which no question, of the same apparent magnitude, had ever produced before. And what was the consequence 2 The same Congress, at the very next session, almost before the members were warm in their seats, took steps to repeal the obnoxious law; and a majority of those who voted for its repeal, avowedly did so, against their own deliberate convictions, because it was the known wish of their constituents. But, sir, there is a plain and striking distinction between the relation we bear to our constituents in discharging the ordinary functions of legislation, and that which we bear to them, in performing the extraordinary electoral function of choosing a President. My own opinion always has been, (and I should be unworthy the seat I occupy, if, entertaining that opinion, I were now to conceal or suppress it,) that, in matters of general legislation, the representative is not absolutely bound by the will of his constituents, because he is bound by the still higher and paramount obligation of the constitution itself. By that instrument, “all legislative power is vested in Congress.” Now, what is legislative power What does the term “legislation” necessarily involve 2 Inquiry, investigation, argument, deliberation, are its essential elements. The delegation, therefore, of the power to legislate, is, from the very nature of the function, the delegation of a discretionary power. If we are sent here to inquire, to investigate, to argue, and to deliberate; the laws we pass should, of course, be the result of these mental operations. But what is the nature of the trust which we are about to perform with closed doors, under the idea that we are under no responsibility at all to the people, for the manner in which we may discharge it? Is it a power which, like that of legislation, the constitution supposes the people to be incapable of performing Precisely the reverse, sir. The Constitution of the United States, both in theory and practice, distinctly involves the idea, that the people of the United States are not capable of making laws, but that they are capable of making a President. That constitution provides that the President shall be clected, if possible, by the people. The primary effort to make a choice, is made by the people. This, then, is obviously the favorite mode of the constitution, for the election of the President. As, therefore, the constitution assumes that the people are capable of making
this election, and prescribes the mode in which their will shall be expressed; their preference, whatever it may be, and to the extent at least that it is indicated by the electoral vote, reaches us through the regular channel ordained by the constitution,-and is not, as must generally be the case with instructions on matters of legislation, the mere ebullition of popular meetings, roused into action by some temporary excitement. So that the will of the people, on this subject, comes to us, consecrated and enforced by the constitution itself. What, then, is the argument of the advocates of the proposed rule o That we are bound by instructions on matters of legislation, which the constitution supposes the people to be incapable of performing ; and yet, in the perfor: mance of an act, which the constitution supposes, and justly supposes, the people to be more capable, because more worthy of performing, than ourselves, and which devolves upon us by an unavoidable contingency only, we are under no obligation to regard their opinion, nor subject to any responsibility for the manner in which we treat it! Never was there a more paradoxical argument advanced, in a grave deliberation. What does it amount to? Neither more nor less, than that the people know how to make laws better than we do ; and that we are more worthy of the trust of making a President, than the people. This is palpably inverting the principles of the constitution. Upon what principle is it, that the people of the United States have retained in their own hands the power of electing a President, and have not retained a single vestige of the power of legislation, on the generai concerns of the republic A single glance at the subject, will satisfy any one who comprehends the terms of the proposition, that acts of legislation cannot, in the nature of things, be performed by a multitude of people, dispersed over a vast territory, like that of the United States. If every citizen were a statesman, still would they be incapable of legislation; because they could not have those preliminary consultations, and that mutual interchange of ideas, which must necessarily precede every intelligent act of general legislation. They have, therefore, delegated that power entirely and exclusively to Congress. But have they the same obstacles to surmount, in electing a President? Are any preliminary consultations and interchanges of ideas, necessary to enable them to perform that act? On the contrary, every citizen gives his suffrage with more coolness, deliberation, and wisdom, in the ballot box of his own vicinity, than he would if all the people of the United States were collected together. The people, therefore, have retained the power of electing the President, under the idea that they are a safer depository of that power, than any which human wisdom could possibly devise. This, sir, is the principle of the constitution; and it is the principle of eternal truth. All experience has sanctified and confirmed it. The history of every people capable of freedom, demonstrates, that, in selecting officers, even of the highest grade, they are fully competent to form a correct judgment of the peculiar qualifications demanded by any emergency, or required for any office. Look into the history of those republics that have gone before us. Where do you find, illustrating either the civil or military departments of any nation, statesmen or generals of more elevated characters and splendid endowments, than those that were elected, even by the wild democracy of Athens, or the conflicting compound of aristocracy and democracy, that swayed the destinies of Rome 2 All the distinguished patriots and statesmen, who reflected so much glory upon those ages, and left such noble examples to re-animate the slumbering genius of succeeding generations, were elevated to office by the choice of the people. Sir, if there be any function which, in the organic operations of civil society, the people are peculiarly qualified to perform, it is, by a sort of instinctive perception, which seems almost to rise