« ZurückWeiter »
Speech in Congress.
The Veto Power.
erable ability, was in particular concern about it. He thought it altogether novel and unprecedented for a President, or a Presidential candidate, to think of approving bills whose Constitutionality may not be entirely clear to his own mind. He thinks the ark of our safety is gone, unless Presidents shall always veto such bills as, in their judgment, may be of doubtful Constitutionality. However clear Congress may be of their authority to pass any particular act, the gentleman from Kentucky thinks the President must veto it if he has doubts about it. Now I have neither time nor inclination to argue with the gentleman on the veto power as an original question ; but I wish to show that General Taylor, and not he, agrees with the earliest statesmen on this question. When the bill chartering the first Bank of the United States passed Congress, its Constitutionality was questioned ; Mr. Madison, then in the House of Representatives, as well as others, had opposed it on that ground. General Washington, as President, was called on to approve or reject it. He sought and obtained, on the Constitutional question, the separate written opinions of Jefferson, Hamilton, and Edmund Randolph, they then being respectively Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, and Attorney General. Hamilton's opinion was for the power; while Randolph's and Jefferson's were both against it.
Mr. Jefferson, in his letter dated February 15th, 1791, after giving his opinion decidedly against the Constitutionality of that bill, closed with the paragraph which I now read:
'It must be admitted, however, that unless the President's mind, on a view of every thing which is urged for and against this bill, is tolerably clear that it is unauthorized by the Constitution ; if the pro and the con hang so even as to balance his judgment, a just respect for the wisdom of the Legislature would naturally decide the balance in favor of their opinion; it is chiefly for cases where they are clearly
Speech in Congress.
The Veto Power.
Gen. Taylor's Views.
misled by error, ambition, or interest, that the Constitution has placed a check in the negative of the President.'
"General Taylor's opinion, as expressed in his Allison letter, is as I now read :
"The power given by the veto is a high conservative power; but, in my opinion, should never be exercised, except in cases of clear violation of the Constitution, or manifest haste and want of consideration by Congress.
"It is here seen that, in Mr. Jefferson's opinion, if, on the Constitutionality of any given bill, the President doubts, he is not to veto it, as the gentleman from Kentucky would have him to do, but is to defer to Congress and approve it. And if we compare the opinions of Jefferson and Taylor, as expressed in these paragraphs, we shall find them more exactly alike than we can often find any two expressions having any literal difference. None but interested fault-finders, can discover any substantial variation.
"But gentlemen on the other side are unanimously agreed that Gen. Taylor has no other principle. They are in utter darkness as to his opinions on any of the questions of policy which occupy the public attention. But is there any doubt as to what he will do on the prominent question, if elected ? Not the least. It is not possible to know what he will or would do in every imaginable case; because many questions have passed away, and others doubtless will arise which none of us have yet thought of; but on the prominent questions of currency, tariff, internal improvements, and Wilmot proviso, General Taylor's course is at least as well defined as is General Cass's. Why, in their eagerness to get at General Taylor, several Democratic members here have desired to know whether, in case of his election, a bankrupt law is to be established. Can they tell us General Cass's opinion on this question ? (Some member answered, 'He is against it.') Aye, how do you know he is? There is nothing about it in the platform, nor elsewhere, that I have seen. If the gentle
Speech in Congress.
The Presidency and General Politics.
Just as you
man knows any thing which I do not, he can show it. But to return : General Taylor, in his Allison letter says:
"Upon the subject of the tariff, the currency, the improvement of our great bighways, rivers, lakes, and harbors, the will of the people, as expressed through their Representatives in Congress, ought to be respected and carried out by the Executive.'
Now, this is the whole matter-in substance, it is this : The people say to General Taylor, 'If you are elected shall we have a National bank ?' He answers, 'Your will, gentlemen, not mine.' · What about the tariff ?''Say yourselves.' "Shall our rivers and harbors be improved ?' please.' 'If you desire a bank, an alteration of the tariff, internal improvements, any or all, I will not hinder you ; if you do not desire them, I will not attempt to force them on you. Send up your members of Congress from the various districts, with opinions according to your own, and if they are for these measures, or any of them, I shall have nothing to oppose ; if they are not for them, I shall not, by any appliances whatever, attempt to dragoon them into their adoption.' Now, can there be any difficulty in understanding this? To you, Democrats, it may not seem like principle; but surely you can not fail to perceive the position plain enough. The distinction between it and the position of your candidate is broad and obvious, and I admit you have a clear right to show it is wrong, if you can; but you have no right to pretend you can not see it at all. We see it, and to us it appears like principle, and the best sort of principle at that—the principle of allowing the people to do as they please with their own business. My friend from Indiana (Mr. C. B. Smith) has aptly asked, 'Are you willing to trust the people ? Some of you answered, substantially, We are willing to trust the people; but the President is as much the representative of the people as Congress.' In a certain sense, and to a certain extent, he is the representative of the people. He is elected
Speech in Congress.
The Presidency and General Politics,
by them, as well as Congress is. But can he, in the nature of things, know the wants of the people as well as three hundred other men coming from all the various localities of the Nation? If so, where is the propriety of having a Congress? That the Constitution gives the President a negative on legislation, all know; but that this negative should be so combined with platforms and other appliances as to enable him, and, in fact, almost compel him, to take the whole of legislation into his own hands, is what we object to-is what General Taylor objects to---and is what constitutes the broad distinction between you and us. To thus transfer legislation is clearly to take it from those who understand with minuteness the interests of the people, and give it to one who does not and can not so well understand it.
I understand your idea, that if a Presidential candidate avow his opinion upon a given question, or rather upon all questions, and the people, with full knowledge of this, elect him, they thereby distinctly approve all those opinions. This, though plausible, is a most pernicious deception. By means of it measures are adopted or rejected, contrary to the wishes of the whole of one party, and often nearly half of the other. The process is this: Three, four, or half a dozen questions are prominent at a given time; the party selects its candidate, and be takes his position on each of these questions. On all but one his positions have already been indorsed at former elections, and his party fully committed to them; but that one is new, and a large portion of them are against it. But what are they to do? The whole are strung together, and they must take all or reject all. They can not take what they like and leave the rest. What they are already committed to, being the majority, they shut their eyes and gulp the whole. Next election, still another is introduced in the same way.
If we run our eyes along the line of the past, we shall see that almost, if not quite, all the articles of the present Democratic creed have been at first forced upon the party in this very way.
Speech in Congress.
On the Presidency.
And just now, and just so, opposition to internal improvements is to be established if Gen. Cass shall be elected. Almost half the Democrats here are for improvements, but they will vote for Cass, and if he succeeds, their votes will have aided in closing the doors against improvements. Now, this is a process which we think is wrong. We prefer a candidate who, like Gen. Taylor, will allow the people to have their own way regardless of his private opinion; and I should think the internal-improvement Democrats at least, ought to prefer such a candidate. He would force nothing on them which they don't want, and he would allow them to have improvements, which their own candidate, if elected, will not.
“Mr. Speaker, I have said Gen. Taylor's position is as well defined as is that of Gen. Cass. In saying this, I admit I do not certainly know what he would do on the Wilmot proviso. I am a Northern man, or, rather, a Western free State man, with a constituency I believe to be, and with personal feelings I know to be, against the extension of slavery. As such, and with what information I have, I hope, and believe, Gen. Taylor, if elected, would not veto the proviso; but I do not know it. Yet, if I knew he would, I still would vote for him. I should do so, because, in my judgment, his election alone can defeat Gen. Cass; and because, should slavery thereby go into the territory we now have, just so much will certainly happen by the election of Cass; and, in addition, a course of policy leading to new wars, new acquisitions of territory, and still further extensions of slavery. One of the two is to be President; which is preferable ?
“But there is as much doubt of Cass on improvements as there is of Taylor on the proviso. I have no doubt my self of Gen. Cass on this question, but I know the Democrats differ among themselves as to his position. My internal im provement colleague (Mr. Wentworth) stated on this floor the other day, that he was satisfied Cass was for improve