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Harrison, William Henry 1773-1812

Ninth President of the United States; in 1841; Whig; born in Berkeley, Charles City co., Va., Feb. 9, 1773; was a son of Benjamin Harrison, governor of Virginia, and was educated at Hampden-Sidney College. He began preparations for the profession of medicine, but soon abandoned it for a military life. In 1791 Washington commissioned him an ensign. Made a lieutenant in 1792, he afterwards became an efficient aide to General Wayne, and with him went through the campaign in Ohio, in 1794. After the treaty of Greenville (1794), he was placed in command of Fort Washington, on the site of Cincinnati, and was promoted to captain. While on duty at North Bend, he was married to Anna, daughter of Judge Symmes, an extensive land-owner there. In 1797 he was appointed secretary of the Northwest Territory, and left the army. In 1799 he became a delegate to Congress, and was made the first governor of Indian Territory in 1801. That office he held until 1813, and, as superintendent of Indian affairs, performed efficient service. In the course of his administration, he made thirteen important treaties with different tribes. Harrison, at the head of troops, gained a victory over the Indians, Nov. 7, 1811, at Tippecanoe (q. v.). He was in command of the Army of the Northwest in the second war for independence, in which post he was distinguished for prudence and bravery. Resigning his commission in 1814, he was employed in making treaties with the Indians for cessions of lands. From 1816 to 1819 he was member of Congress from Ohio, and from 1825 to 1828 was in the United States Senate, having previously served a term in the Ohio Senate. In 1828 President Adams sent him as minister to Colombia, South America, and on his return he made his residence in North Bend, O. In 1840 he was elected President of the United States, receiving 234 votes out of 294 (see cabinet, President's). Just one month after he entered upon his duties, April 4, 1841, he died in the national capital. President Harrison's remains lie in a vault upon an eminence overlooking the Ohio River, at North Bend.

While governor of the Indiana Territory, General Harrison, suspicious of the movements of Tecumseh (q. v.), and also of the Prophet (see Elkswatawa), invited them to an interview at Vincennes. Though requested not to bring more than thirty followers, Tecumseh appeared with about 400 warriors. The council was held in a field just outside the village. The governor, seated on a chair, was surrounded by several hundred of the unarmed people, and attended by judges of the territory, several officers of the army, and by Winnemack, a friendly Pottawattomie chief, who had on this as on other occasions given Harrison [265] notice of Tecumseh's hostile designs. A sergeant and twelve men from the fort were stationed under some trees on the border of the field, and the Indians, who sat in a semicircle on the ground, had left their rifles at their camp in the woods, but brought their tomahawks with them. Tecumseh, in an opening speech, declared the intention of the tribes, by a combination, not to countenance any more cessions of Indian lands, except by general consent. He contended that the Indians were one people, and the lands, belonging to the whole in common, could not be alienated by a part. This position was combated by Harrison, who asserted that the lands sold had been so disposed of by the occupants, and that the Shawnees had no business to interfere. When these words were interpreted, Tecumseh, with violent gesticulations, declared the governor's statements were false, and that he and the United States had cheated and imposed upon the Indians. As he proceeded with increased violence, his warriors sprang to their feet, and began to brandish their tomahawks. Harrison started from his chair, and drew his sword, as did the officers around him. Winnemack cocked his loaded pistol, and the unarmed citizens caught up whatever missiles were at hand. The guard of soldiers came running up, and were about to fire upon the Indians, but were checked by the governor, who asked the interpreter what was the matter. On being informed, he denounced Tecumseh as a bad man; that, as he had come under promise of protection, he might depart in safety, but he must instantly leave the neighborhood. The council broke up, and Tecumseh retired to his camp. On the following morning, to allay all suspicions, he expressed regret for his conduct, and asked for and obtained another interview, at which he disclaimed all hostile intentions against the white people, but gave the governor to understand that he should adhere to his determination to oppose all cessions of land thereafter. Chiefs of other tribes, who were with him, declared their intention to adhere to the new confederacy. Anxious to ascertain the real intentions of the Shawnee chief, Harrison visited his camp, when Tecumseh told him that he should make war on the Americans with reluctance, and promised,

Harrison's grave.

if the recent cessions were given up, and the principle adopted by the United States government of taking no more land from the Indians without the consent of all the tribes, he would be their friend and ally, for he knew the pretended friendship of the British was only selfishness. Yet, if the Americans persevered in their methods of getting the land of the Indians, he should be compelled to join that people in war against the people of the United States.

Before the declaration of war against England in June, 1812, Kentucky and Ohio made preparations for such an event. Early in May Governor Scott, of Kentucky, in obedience to instructions from the War Department, had organized ten regiments of volunteers, making an effective force of 5,500 men; and Governor [266] Meigs, of Ohio, promptly responded to the call for troops to accompany Hull to De troit. General Harrison, then governor of Indiana Territory, had already caused block-houses and stockades to be erected in various parts of his territory as defences against the Indians, and the militiamen were placed in a state of preparation for immediate action when called upon. Having been authorized by the national government to call upon Kentucky for any portion of its contingent of troops, he repaired to Frankfort, where he was honored with a public reception. He expressed his views freely concerning the imminent peril in which General Hull was placed, and suggested a series of military operations in the Northwest. The fall of Detroit and the massacre at Chicago caused the greatest excitement in Kentucky, and volunteers were offered by thousands. It was the general desire of the volunteers and militia of the West that Harrison should be their leader against the British and Indians. Governor Scott was requested by some of the leading men in Kentucky to appoint him commander-in-chief of the forces of that State, and he was commissioned Aug. 25, 1812. A corps of mounted volunteers was raised, and Maj. Richard M. Johnson became their leader. While Harrison was on his way northward from Cincinnati with his troops he received the commission of brigadier-general from the President, with instructions to take command of all the forces in the territories of Indiana and Illinois, and to co-operate with General Hull and with Governor Howard, of Missouri. These instructions were issued before the disaster to Hull was known. He hesitated to accept the commission because of the delicate relations in which it might place him with General Winchester, commander of the Army of the Northwest. He pressed forward to Piqua, and sent a detachment to relieve Fort Wayne (q. v.). At Piqua Harrison was joined by mounted volunteers under Johnson, when the army in the wilderness of Ohio numbered 2,200 men. The Indian spies reported: “Kaintuckee is crossing as numerous as the trees.” It was determined by a council of officers to strike the neighboring Indians with terror by a display of power. Harrison divided the army. One detachment of mounted dragoons, under Colonel Simrall, laid waste (Sept. 19, 1812) the Little Turtle's town on the Eel River, excepting the buildings erected by the United States for the then deceased chief on account of his friendship since the treaty of Greenville in 1794. Another detachment, under Col. S. Wells, was sent, Sept. 16, to destroy a Pottawattomie town on the Elkhart River, 60 miles distant; while Colonel Payne, with another detachment, laid in ashes a Miami village in the forks of the Wabash, and several other towns lower down that stream, with their corn-fields and gardens.

General Winchester arrived at Harrison's camp on Sept. 18, when the latter resigned his command to that superior in rank. The troops almost mutinied, for they revered Harrison. The latter returned to St. Mary to collect the mounted men from Kentucky, to march on towards Detroit. At Piqua he received a letter from the War Department assigning him to the command of the Northwestern army, which, it was stated, would consist, “in addition to the regular troops and rangers in that quarter, of the volunteers and militia of Kentucky and Ohio, and 3,000 from Virginia and Pennsylvania,” making his whole force 10,000 men. He was instructed to provide for the defence of the frontiers, and “then to retake Detroit, with a view to the conquest of Canada.” He was invested with very ample powers. “You will command such means as may be practicable,” said the despatch from the War Department. “Exercise your own discretion, and act in all cases according to your own judgment.” His soldiers rejoiced, and were ready and eager to follow wherever he might lead. He arranged with care an autumn campaign, which contemplated the seizure of the important position at the foot of the rapids of the Maumee, or Miami, and, possibly, the capture of Malden and Detroit, making his base of military operations the foot of the rapids (see Meigs, Fort). There were nearly 3,000 troops at St. Mary on Oct. 1. Fort Defiance, at the junction of the Maumee and Auglaize, was made a post of deposit for provisions, and a corps of observation was placed at Sandusky. The mounted Kentuckians were formed into a regiment, and Major Johnson was [267] appointed its colonel; and these, with Ohio mounted men under Colonel Findlay, formed a brigade commanded by Gen. E. W. Tupper, of Ohio, who had raised about 1,000 men for the service. Harrison ordered the construction of a new fort near old Fort Defiance; but his operations were soon afterwards disturbed by antagonisms between Tupper and Winchester. The latter dismissed Tupper from his command and gave it to Allen, of the regulars, when the Ohio troops absolutely refused to serve under any but their old commander. It was really a conflict between regulars and volunteers, and the intended expedition against Detroit was postponed. Harrison was much annoyed, but prosecuted his plans with extraordinary vigor for a winter campaign. General Tupper had entered upon an independent expedition with 650 mounted volunteers, and endeavored to seize the post at the foot of the Maumee Rapids; but, after a bold attempt, he was repulsed by the British and Indians there. Some further attacks upon the Indians succeeded, and smoothed the way for the final recovery of Michigan; but as winter came on the suffering of the troops was severe, especially of those under Winchester. The whole effective force then (December, 1812) in the Northwest did not exceed 6,300, and a small artillery and cavalry force. Yet Harrison determined to press on to the rapids and beyond if possible. On Dec. 30 Winchester moved towards the rapids. Harrison, having heard of the presence of Tecumseh on the Wabash with a large force of Indians, recommended Winchester to abandon the movement; but the latter did not heed the advice. He reached the rapids, and was summoned to the River Raisin to defend the inhabitants at Frenchtown and its vicinity.

Site of Fort defiance, in 1860.

Winchester pressed on, and there occurred a dreadful massacre of troops and citizens on Jan. 22, 1813 (Frenchtown). This event ended the campaign. With 1,700 men General Harrison took post on the high right bank of the Maumee, at the foot of the rapids, and there established a fortified camp. Nothing of importance occurred during the winter. Troops were concentrated there, and in March (1813) Harrison sent a small force, under Captain Langham, to destroy the British vessels frozen in the Detroit River near Amherstburg (Fort Malden). The ice in the vicinity had broken up, and the expedition was fruitless. The attack on Fort Meigs by the British and Indians followed in May. The attack on Fort Stephenson (see Stephenson, Fort) followed, and the summer of 1813 was passed in completing arrangements for the invasion of Canada.

The veteran Isaac Shelby, then governor of Kentucky, joined Harrison at Camp Seneca, with about 4,000 mounted volunteers from his State. He had called for a certain number, and twice as many came as he asked for. They were gathered at Newport and Cincinnati. With Maj. John Adair and John J. Crittenden as his aides, Governor Shelby pressed forward towards Lake Erie. Col. Richard M. [268] Johnson's troop was among Shelby's men. Harrison was rejoiced to see them come. Perry had secured the coveted control of Lake Erie, and thus reinforced and encouraged, Harrison moved immediately, and on Sept. 15-16, 1813, the whole army of the Northwest—excepting some troops holding Fort Meigs and minor posts—were on the borders of the lake, at a point now called Port Clinton. General McArthur, who had succeeded Clay in command of Fort Meigs, was ordered to embark artillery, provisions, and stores from that place, and on the 20th the embarkation of the army upon Perry's vessels began. The weather was delightful, and the whole army were in high spirits. They rendezvoused first at Put-in-Bay Island, on the 24th, and the next day were upon the Middle Sister Island. The Kentuckians had left their horses on the peninsula between Sandusky Bay and Portage River, and were organized as infantry. In sixteen armed vessels and about 100 boats the armament started from the Detroit River. On the way a stirring address by General Harrison was read to the troops, which concluded as follows: “The general entreats his brave troops to remember that they are sons of sires whose fame is immortal; that they are to fight for the rights of their insulted country, while their opponents combat for the unjust pretensions of a master. Kentuckians, remember the River Raisin! but remember it only while victory is suspended. The revenge of a soldier cannot be gratified upon a fallen enemy.” Expecting to be attacked at their landing-place, the troops were debarked, Sept. 28, in perfect battle order, on Hartley's Point, nearly 4 miles below Amherstburg. No enemy was there. Proctor, who was in command at Fort Malden, taking counsel of prudence and fear, and in opposition to the earnest entreaties and indignant protests of his officers and Tecumseh, had fled northward with his army and all he could take with him, leaving Fort Malden, the navy buildings, and the storehouses smoking ruins. As the Americans approached the town, they met, instead of brave Britons and painted savages, a troop of modest women who came to implore mercy and protection. Their fears were removed by the kind-hearted leaders, and the Americans entered Amherstburg with the bands playing Yankee Doodle. The loyal inhabitants had fled with the army. The flotilla arrived at Detroit on the 29th, and the same day Colonel Johnson arrived with his troop of cavalry. Harrison had encamped at Sandwich, and all started in pursuit. The enemy was overtaken at the Moravian Towns, on the Thames, and defeated in battle (see Thames, battle of the). Detroit and all Michigan were recovered. All that Hull had lost was regained. Col. Lewis Cass was left at Detroit, with a strong garrison, as military governor of the territory. Soon after his victory General Harrison resigned his commission.

Inaugural Address>head>

On March 4, 1841, the President for a single month only delivered the following address:

Called from a retirement which I had supposed was to continue for the residue of my life to fill the chief executive office of this great and free nation, I appear before you, fellow-citizens, to take the oath which the Constitution prescribes as a necessary qualification for the performance of its duties; and in obedience to a custom coeval with our government and what I believe to be your expectations, I proceed to present to you a summary of the principles which will govern me in the discharge of the duties which I shall be called upon to perform.

It was the remark of a Roman consul in an early period of that celebrated republic that a most striking contrast was observable in the conduct of candidates for offices of power and trust before and after obtaining them, they seldom carrying out in the latter case the pledges and promises made in the former. However much the world may have improved in many respects in the lapse of upward of 2,000 years since the remark was made by the virtuous and indignant Roman, I fear that a strict examination of the annals of some of the modern elective governments would develop similar instances of violated confidence.

Although the fiat of the people has gone forth proclaiming me the chief magistrate of this glorious Union, nothing upon their part remaining to be done, it may be thought that a motive [269] may exist to keep up the delusion under which they may be supposed to have acted in relation to my principles and opinions; and perhaps there may be some in this assembly who have come here either prepared to condemn those I shall now deliver, or, approving them, to doubt the sincerity with which they are now uttered. But the lapse of a few months will confirm or dispel their fears. The outline of principles to govern measures to be adopted by an administration not yet begun will soon be exchanged for immutable history, and I shall stand either exonerated by my countrymen, or classed with the mass of those who promised that they might deceive and flattered with the intention to betray. However strong may be my present purpose to realize the expectations of a magnanimous and confiding people, I too well understand the dangerous temptations to which I shall be exposed from the magnitude of the rower which it has been the pleasure of the people to commit to my hands not to place my chief confidence upon the aid of that Almighty Power which has hitherto protected me and enabled me to bring to favorable issues other important but still greatly inferior trusts heretofore confided to me by my country.

The broad foundation upon which our Constitution rests being the people—a breath of theirs having made, as a breath can unmake, change, or modify it—it can be assigned to none of the great divisions of government but to that of democracy. If such is its theory, those who are called upon to administer it must recognize as its leading principle the duty of shaping their measures so as to produce the greatest good to the greatest number. But with these broad admissions, if we would compare the sovereignty acknowledged to exist in the mass of our people with the power claimed by other sovereignties, even by those which have been considered most purely democratic, we shall find a most essential difference. All others lay claim to power limited only by their own will. The majority of our citizens, on the contrary, possess a sovereignty with an amount of power precisely equal to that which has been granted to them by the parties to the national compact, and nothing beyond. We admit of no government by divine right, believing that so far as power, is concerned the beneficent Creator has made no distinction among men; that all are upon an equality; and that the only legitimate right to govern is an express grant of power from the governed. The Constitution of the United States is the instrument containing this grant of power to the several departments composing the government. On an examination of that instrument it will be found to contain declarations of power granted and of power withheld. The latter is also susceptible of division into power which the majority had the right to grant, but which they did not think proper to intrust to their agents, and that which they could not have granted, not being possessed by themselves. In other words, there are certain rights possessed by each individual American citizen which in his compact with the others he has never surrendered. Some of them, indeed, he is unable to surrender, being, in the language of our system, unalienable. The boasted privilege of a Roman citizen was to him a shield only against a petty provincial ruler, while the proud democrat of Athens would console himself under a sentence of death for a supposed violation of the national faith—which no one understood and which at times was the subject of the mockery of all—or the banishment from his home, his family, and his country, with or without an alleged cause, that it was the act not of a single tyrant or hated aristocracy, but of his assembled countrymen. Far different is the power of our sovereignty. It can interfere with no one's faith, prescribe forms of worship for no one's observance, inflict no punishment but after well-ascertained guilt, the result of investigation under rules prescribed by the Constitution itself. These precious privileges, and those scarcely less important of giving expression to his thoughts and opinions, either by writing or speaking, unrestrained but by the liability for injury to others, and that of a full participation in all the advantages which flow from the government, the acknowledged property of all, the American citizen derives from no charter granted by his fellow-man. He claims them because he is himself a man, fashioned by the [270] same Almighty hand as the rest of his species, and entitled to a full share of the blessings with which He has endowed them. Notwithstanding the limited sovereignty possessed by the people of the United States and the restricted grant of power to the government which they have adopted, enough has been given to accomplish all the objects for which it was created. It has been found powerful in war, and hitherto justice has been administered, an intimate union effected, domestic tranquillity preserved, and personal liberty secured to the citizen. As was to be expected, however, from the defect of language and the necessarily sententious manner in which the Constitution is written, disputes have arisen as to the amount of power which it has actually granted or was intended to grant.

This is more particularly the case in relation to that part of the instrument which treats of the legislative branch, and not only as regards the exercise of powers claimed under a general clause giving that body the authority to pass all laws necessary to carry into effect the specified powers, but in relation to the latter also. It is, however, consolatory to reflect that most of the instances of alleged departure from the letter or spirit of the Constitution have ultimately received the sanction of a majority of the people. And the fact that many of our statesmen most distinguished for talent and patriotism have been at one time or other of their political career on both sides of each of the most warmly disputed questions forces upon us the inference that the errors, if errors there were, are attributable to the intrinsic difficulty in many instances of ascertaining the intentions of the framers of the Constitution rather than the influence of any sinister or unpatriotic motive. But the great danger to our institutions does not appear to me to be in a usurpation by the government of power not granted by the people, but by the accumulation in one of the departments of that which was assigned to others. Limited as are the powers which have been granted, still enough have been granted to constitute a despotism if concentrated in one of the departments. This danger is greatly heightened, as it has been always observable that men are less jealous of encroachments of one department upon another than upon their own reserved rights. When the Constitution of the United States first came from the hands of the convention which formed it, many of the sternest republicans of the day were alarmed at the extent of the power which had been granted to the federal government, and more particularly of that portion which had been assigned to the executive branch. There were in it features which appeared not to be in harmony with their ideas of a simple representative democracy or republic, and knowing the tendency of power to increase itself, particularly when exercised by a single individual, predictions were made that at no very remote period the government would terminate in virtual monarchy. It would not become me to say that the fears of these patriots have been already realized; but as I sincerely believe that the tendency of measures and of men's opinions for some years past has been in that direction, it is, I conceive, strictly proper that I should take this occasion to repeat the assurances I have heretofore given of my determination to arrest the progress of that tendency if it really exists, and restore the government to its pristine health and vigor, as far as this can be effected by any legitimate exercise of the power placed in my hands.

I proceed to state in as summary a manner as I can my opinion of the sources of the evils which have been so extensively complained of and the correctives which may be applied. Some of the former are unquestionably to be found in the defects of the Constitution; others, in my judgment, are attributable to a misconstruction of some of its provisions. Of the former is the eligibility of the same individual to a second term of the Presidency. The sagacious mind of Mr. Jefferson early saw and lamented this error, and attempts have been made, hitherto without success, to apply the amendatory power of the States to its correction. As, however, one mode of correction is in the power of every President, and consequently in mine, it would be useless, and perhaps invidious, to enumerate the evils of which, in the opinion of many of our fellow-citizens, this error of the sages who framed the Constitution may have been the [271] source and the bitter fruits which we are still to gather from it if it continues to disfigure our system: It may be observed, however, as a general remark, that republics can commit no greater error than to adopt or continue any feature in their systems of government which may be calculated to create or increase the love of power in the bosoms of those to whom necessity obliges them to commit the management of their affairs, and surely nothing is more likely to produce such a state of mind than the long continuance of an office of high trust. Nothing can be more corrupting, nothing more destructive of all those noble feelings which belong to the character of a devoted republican patriot. When this corrupting passion once takes possession of the human mind, like the love of gold, it becomes insatiable. It is the never-dying worm in his bosom, grows with his growth, and strengthens with the declining years of its victim. If this is true, it is the part of wisdom for a republic to limit the service of that officer at least to whom she has intrusted the management of her foreign relations, the execution of her laws, and the command of her armies and navies, to a period so short as to prevent his forgetting that he is the accountable agent, not the principal; the servant, not the master. Until an amendment of the Constitution can be effected public opinion may secure the desired object. I give my aid to it by renewing the pledge heretofore given that under no circumstances will I consent to serve a second term.

But if there is danger to public liberty from the acknowledged defects of the Constitution in the want of limit to the continuance of the executive power in the same hands, there is, I apprehend, not much less from a misconstruction of that instrument as it regards the powers actually given. I cannot conceive that by a fair construction any or either of its provisions would be found to constitute the President a part of the legislative power. It cannot be claimed from the power to recommend, since, although enjoined as a duty upon him, it is a privilege which he holds in common with every other citizen: and although there may be something more of confidence in the propriety of the measures recommended in the one case than in the other, in the obligations of ultimate decision there can be no difference. In the language of the Constitution, “all the legislative powers” which it grants “are vested in the Congress of the United States.” It would be a solecism in language to say that any portion of these is not included in the whole.

It may be said, indeed, that the Constitution has given to the executive the power to annul the acts of the legislative body by refusing to them his assent. So a similar power has necessarily resulted from that instrument to the judiciary, and yet the judiciary forms no part of the legislature. There is, it is true, this difference between these grants of power: the executive can put his negative upon the acts of the legislature for other cause than that of want of conformity to the Constitution, while the judiciary can only declare void those which violate that instrument. But the decision of the judiciary is final in such a case, whereas in every instance where the veto of the executive is applied it may be overcome by a vote of two-thirds of both Houses of Congress. The negative upon the acts of the legislative by the executive authority, and that in the hands of one individual, would seem to be an incongruity in our system. Like some others of a similar character, however, it appears to be highly expedient, and if used only with the forbearance and in the spirit which was intended by its authors it may be productive of great good, and be found one of the best safeguards to the Union. At the period of the formation of the Constitution the principle does not appear to have enjoyed much favor in the State governments. It existed but in two, and in one of these there was a plural executive. If we would search for the motives which operated upon the purely patriotic and enlightened assembly which framed the Constitution for the adoption of a provision so apparently repugnant to the leading democratic principle that the majority should govern, we must reject the idea that they anticipated from it any benefit to the ordinary course of legislation. They knew too well the high degree of intelligence which existed among the people and the enlightened character of the State legislatures not to have the [272] fullest confidence that the two bodies elected by them would be worthy representatives of such constituents, and, of course, that they would require no aid in conceiving and maturing the measures which the circumstances of the country might require. And it is preposterous to suppose that a thought could for a moment have been entertained that the President, placed at the capital, in the centre of the country, could better understand the wants and wishes of the people than their own immediate representatives, who spend a part of every year among them, living with them, often laboring with them, and bound to them by the triple tie of interest, duty, and affection. To assist or control Congress, then, in its ordinary legislation could not, I conceive, have been the motive for conferring the veto power on the President. This argument acquires additional force from the fact of its never having been thus used by the first six Presidents—and two of them were members of the convention, one presiding over its deliberations, and the other bearing a larger share in consummating the labors of that august body than any other person. But if bills were never returned to Congress by either of the Presidents above referred to upon the ground of their being inexpedient or not as well adapted as they might be to the wants of the people, the veto was applied upon that of want of conformity to the Constitution or because errors had been committed from a too hasty enactment.

There is another ground for the adoption of the veto principle, which had probably more influence in recommending it to the convention than any other. I refer to the security which it gives to the just and equitable action of the legislature upon all parts of the Union. It could not but have occurred to the convention that in a country so extensive, embracing so great a variety of soil and climate, and consequently of products, and which from the same causes must ever exhibit a great difference in the amount of the population of its various sections, calling for a great diversity in the employments of the people, that the legislation of the majority might not always justly regard the rights and interests of the minority, and that acts of this character might be passed under an express grant by the words of the Constitution, and therefore not within the competency of the judiciary to declare void, that however enlightened and patriotic they might suppose from past experience the members of Congress might be, and however largely partaking, in a general way, of the liberal feelings of the people, it was impossible to expect that bodies so constituted should not sometimes be controlled by local interests and sectional feelings. It was proper, therefore, to provide some umpire from whose situation and mode of appointment more independence and freedom from such influences might be expected. Such a one was afforded by the executive department constituted by the Constitution. A person elected to that high office, having its constituents in every section, State, and subdivision of the Union, must consider himself bound by the most solemn sanctions to guard, protect, and defend the rights of all and of every portion, great or small, from the injustice and oppression of the rest. I consider the veto power, therefore, given by the Constitution to the executive of the United States solely as a conservative power, to be used only, first, to protect the Constitution from violation; secondly, the people from the effects of hasty legislation where their will has been probably disregarded or not well understood; and, thirdly, to prevent the effects of combinations violative of the rights of minorities. In reference to the second of these objects I may observe that I consider it the right and privilege of the people to decide disputed points of the Constitution arising from the general grant of power to Congress to carry into effect the powers expressly given; and I believe with Mr. Madison that “repeated recognitions under varied circumstances in acts of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the government, accompanied by indications in different modes of the concurrence of the general will of the nation,” as affording to the President sufficient authority for his considering such disputed points as settled.

Upward of half a century has elapsed since the adoption of the present form of government. It would be an object more highly desirable than the gratification [273] of the curiosity of speculative statesmen if its precise situation could be ascertained, a fair exhibit made of the operations of each of its departments, of the powers which they respectively claim and exercise, of the collisions which have occurred between them or between the whole government, and those of the States or either of them. We could then compare our actual condition after fifty years trial of our system with what it was in the commencement of its operations and ascertain whether the predictions of the patriots who opposed its adoption or the confident hopes of its advocates have been best realized. The great dread of the former seems to have been that the reserved powers of the States would be absorbed by those of the federal government and a consolidated power established, leaving to the States the shadow only of that independent action for which they had so zealously contended and on the preservation of which they relied as the last hope of liberty. Without denying that the result to which they looked with so much apprehension is in the way of being realized, it is obvious that they did not clearly see the mode of its accomplishment. The general government has seized upon none of the reserved rights of the States. As far as any open warfare may have gone, the State authorities have amply maintained their rights. To a casual observer our system presents no appearance of discord between the different members which compose it. Even the addition of many new ones has produced no jarring. They move in their respective orbits in perfect harmony with the central head and with each other. But there is still an undercurrent at work by which, if not seasonably checked, the worst apprehensions of our anti-federal patriots will be realized, and not only will the State authorities be overshadowed by the great increase of power in the executive department of the general government, but the character of that government, if not its designation, be essentially and radically changed. This state of things has been in part effected by causes inherent in the Constitution and in part by the neverfailing tendency of political power to increase itself. By making the President the sole distributer of all the patronage of the government the framers of the Constitution do not appear to have anticipated at how short a period it would become a formidable instrument to control the free operations of the State governments. Of trifling importance at first, it had early in Mr. Jefferson's administration become so powerful as to create great alarm in the mind of that patriot from the potent influence it might exert in controlling the freedom of the elective franchise. If such could then have been the effects of its influence, how much greater must be the danger at this time, quadrupled in amount as it certainly is, and more completely under the control of the executive will than their construction of their powers allowed or the forbearing characters of all the early Presidents permitted them to make. But it is not by the extent of its patronage alone that the executive department has become dangerous, but by the use which it appears may be made of the appointing power to bring under its control the whole revenues of the country. The Constitution has declared it to be the duty of the President to see that the laws are executed, and it makes him the commander-in-chief of the armies and navy of the United States. If the opinion of the most approved writers upon that species of mixed government which in modern Europe is termed monarchy in contradistinction to despotism is correct, there was wanting no other addition to the powers of our chief magistrate to stamp a monarchical character on our government but the control of the public finances; and to me it appears strange indeed that any one should doubt that the entire control which the President possesses over the officers who have the custody of the public money, by the power of removal with or without cause, does, for all mischievous purposes at least, virtually subject the treasure also to his disposal. The first Roman emperor, in his attempt to seize the sacred treasure, silenced the opposition of the officer to whose charge it had been committed by a significant allusion to his sword. By a selection of political instruments for the care of the public money a reference to their commissions by a President would be quite as effectual an argument as that of Caesar to the Roman knight. I am not insensible of the [274] great difficulty that exists in drawing a proper plan for the safe-keeping and disbursement of the public revenues, and I know the importance which has been attached by men of great abilities and patriotism to the divorce, as it is called, of the treasury from the banking institutions. It is not the divorce which is complained of, but the unhallowed union of the treasury with the executive department, which has created such extensive alarm. To this danger to our republican institutions and that created by the influence given to the executive through the instrumentality of the federal officers I propose to apply all the remedies which may be at my command. It was certainly a great error in the framers of the Constitution not to have made the officer at the head of the treasury department entirely independent of the executive. He should at least have been removable only upon the demand of the popular branch of the legislature. I have determined never to remove a Secretary of the Treasury without communicating all the circumstances attending such removal to both Houses of Congress.

The influence of the executive in controlling the freedom of the elective franchise through the medium of the public officers can be effectually checked by renewing the prohibition published by Mr. Jefferson forbidding their interference in elections further than giving their own votes, and their own independence secured by an assurance of perfect immunity in exercising this sacred privilege of freemen under the dictates of their own unbiased judgments. Never with my consent shall an officer of the people, compensated for his services out of their pockets, become the pliant instrument of executive will.

There is no part of the means placed in the hands of the executive which might be used with greater effect for unhallowed purposes than the control of the public press. The maxim which our ancestors derived from the mother-country that “the freedom of the press is the great bulwark of civil and religious liberty” is one of the most precious legacies which they have left us. We have learned, too, from our own, as well as the experience of other countries, that golden shackles, by whomsoever or by whatever pretence imposed, are as fatal to it as the iron bonds of despotism. The presses in the necessary employment of the government should never be used “to clear the guilty or to varnish crime.” A decent and manly examination of the acts of the government should be not only tolerated, but encouraged.

Upon another occasion I have given my opinion, at some length, upon the impropriety of executive interference in the legislation of Congress, that the article in the Constitution making it the duty of the President to communicate information and authorizing him to recommend measures was not intended to make him the source in legislation, and, in particular, that he should never be looked to for schemes of finance. It would be very strange, indeed, that the Constitution should have strictly forbidden one branch to the legislature from interfering in the origination of such bills and that it should be considered proper that an altogether different department of the government should be permitted to do so. Some of our best political maxims and opinions have been drawn from our parent isle. There are others, however, which cannot be introduced in our system without singular incongruity and the production of much mischief, and this I conceive to be one. No matter in which of the Houses of Parliament a bill may originate nor by whom introduced—a minister or a member of the opposition—by the fiction of law, or rather of constitutional principle, the sovereign is supposed to have prepared it agreeably to his will and then submitted it to Parliament for their advice and consent. Now the very reverse is the case here, not only with regard to the principle, but the forms prescribed by the Constitution. The principle certainly assigns to the only body constituted by the Constitution (the legislative body) the power to make laws, and the forms even direct that the enactment should be ascribed to them. The Senate, in relation to revenue bills, have the right to propose amendments, and so has the executive by the power given him to return them to the House of Representatives with his objections. It is in his power also to propose amendments in the existing revenue laws, suggested by his observations [275] upon their defective or injurious operation. But the delicate duty of devising schemes of revenue should be left where the Constitution has placed it, with the immediate representatives of the people. For similar reasons the mode of keeping the public treasure should be prescribed by them, and the further removed it may be from the control of the executive the more wholesome the arrangement and the more in accordance with republican principle.

Connected with this subject is the character of the currency. The idea of making it exclusively metallic, however well intended, appears to me to be fraught with more fatal consequences than any other scheme having no relation to the personal rights of the citizens that has ever been devised. If any single scheme could produce the effect of arresting at once that mutation of condition by which thousands of our most indigent fellowcitizens by their industry and enterprise are raised to the possession of wealth, that is the one. If there is one measure better calculated than another to produce that state of things so much deprecated by all true republicans, by which the rich are daily adding to their hoards and the poor sinking deeper into penury, it is an exclusive metallic currency. Or if there is a process by which the character of the country for generosity and nobleness of feeling may be destroyed by the great increase and necessary toleration of usury, it is an exclusive metallic currency.

Among the other duties of a delicate character which the President is called upon to perform is the supervision of the government of the Territories of the United States. Those of them which are destined to become members of our great political family are compensated by their rapid progress from infancy to manhood for the partial and temporary deprivation of their political rights. It is in this District only where American citizens are to be found who under a settled policy are deprived of many important political privileges without any inspiring hope as to the future. Their only consolation under circumstances of such deprivation is that of the devoted exterior guards of a camp—that their sufferings secure tranquillity and safety within. Are there any of their countrymen who would subject them to greater sacrifices, to any other humiliations than those essentially necessary to the security of the object for which they were thus separated from of their fellow-citizens? Are their rights alone not to be guaranteed by the application of those great principles upon which all our constitutions are founded? We are told by the greatest of British orators and statesmen that at the commencement of the War of the Revolution the most stupid men in England spoke of “their American subjects.” Are there, indeed, citizens of any of our States who have dreamed of their subjects in the District of Columbia? Such dreams can never be realized by any agency of mine. The people of the District of Columbia are not the subjects of the people of the States, but free American citizens. Being in the latter condition when the Constitution was formed, no words used in that instrument could have been intended to deprive them of that character. If there is anything in the great principle of unalienable rights so emphatically insisted upon in our Declaration of Independense, they could neither make nor the United States accept a surrender of their liberties and become the subjects—in other words, the slaves—of their former fellowcitizens. If this be true—and it will scarcely be denied by any one who has a correct idea of his own rights as an American citizen—the grant to Congress of exclusive jurisdiction in the District of Columbia can be interpreted, so far as respect the aggregate people of the United States, as meaning nothing more than to allow to Congress the controlling power necessary to afford a free and safe exercise of the functions assigned to the general government by the Constitution. In all other respects the legislation of Congress should be adapted to their peculiar position and wants and be conformable with their deliberate opinions of their own interests.

I have spoken of the necessity of keeping the respective departments of the government, as well as all the other authorities of our country, within their appropriate orbits. This is a matter of difficulty in some cases, as the powers which they respectively claim are often not [276] defined by any distinct lines. Mischievous, however, in their tendencies as collisions of this kind may be, those which arise between the respective communities which for certain purposes compose one nation are much more so, for no such nation can long exist without the careful culture of those feelings of confidence and affection which are the effective bonds to union between free and confederate States. Strong as is the tie of interest, it has been often found ineffectual. Men blinded by their passions have been known to adopt measures for their country in direct opposition to all the suggestions of policy. The alternative, then, is to destroy or keep down a bad passion by creating and fostering a good one, and this seems to be the corner-stone upon which our American political architects have reared the fabric of our government. The cement which was to bind it and perpetuate its existence was the affectionate attachment between all its members. To insure the continuance of this feeling, produced at first by a community of dangers, of sufferings, and of interests, the advantages of each were made accessible to all. No participation in any good possessed by any member of our extensive confederacy, except in domestic government, was withheld from the citizen of any other member. By a process attended with no difficulty, no delay, no expense but that of removal, the citizen of one might become the citizen of any other, and successively of the whole. The lines, too, separating powers to be exercised by the citizens of one State from those of another seem to be so distinctly drawn as to leave no room for misunderstanding. The citizens of each State unite in their persons all the privileges which that character confers and all that they may claim as citizens of the United States, but in no case can the same person at the same time act as the citizen of two separate States, and he is therefore positively precluded from any interference with the reserved powers of any State but that of which he is for the time being a citizen. He may, indeed, offer to the citizens of other States his advice as to their management, and the form in which it is tendered is left to his own discretion and sense of propriety. It may be observed, however, that organized associations of citizens requiring compliance with their wishes too much resemble the recommendations of Athens to her allies, supported by an armed and powerful fleet. It was, indeed, to the ambition of the leading states of Greece to control the domestic concerns of the others that the destruction of that celebrated confederacy, and subsequently of all its members, is mainly to be attributed, and it is owing to the absence of that spirit that the Helvetic Confederacy has for so many years been preserved. Never has there been seen in the institutions of the separate members of any confederacy more elements of discord. In the principles and forms of government and religion, as well as in the circumstances of the several cantons, so marked a discrepancy was observable as to promise anything but harmony in their intercourse or permanency in their alliance, and yet for ages neither has been interrupted. Content with the positive benefits which their union produced, with the independence and safety from foreign aggression which it secured, these sagacious people respected the institutions of each other, however repugnant to their own principles and prejudices.

Our confederacy, fellow-citizens, can only be preserved by the same forbearance. Our citizens must be content with the exercise of the powers with which the Constitution clothes them. The attempt of those of one State to control the domestic institutions of another can only result in feelings of distrust and jealousy, the certain harbingers of disunion, violence, and civil war, and the ultimate destruction of our free institutions. Our confederacy is perfectly illustrated by the terms and principles governing a common copartnership. There is a fund of power to be exercised under the direction of the joint councils of the allied members, but that which has been reserved by the individual members is intangible by the common government or the individual members composing it. To attempt it finds no support in the principles of our Constitution.

It should be our constant and earnest endeavor mutually to cultivate a spirit of concord and harmony among the [277] various parts of our confederacy. Experience has abundantly taught us that the agitation by citizens of one part of the Union of a subject not confided to the general government, but exclusively under the guardianship of the local authorities, is productive of no other consequences than bitterness, alienation, discord, and injury to the very cause which is intended to be advanced. Of all the great interests which appertain to our country, that of union—cordial, confiding, fraternal union —is by far the most important, since it is the only true and sure guarantee of all others.

In consequence of the embarrassed state of business and the currency, some of the States may meet with difficulty in their financial concerns. However deeply we may regret anything imprudent or excessive in the engagements into which States have entered for purposes of their own, it does not become us to disparage the State governments, nor to discourage them from making proper efforts for their own relief. On the contrary, it is our duty to encourage them to the extent of our constitutional authority to apply their best means and cheerfully to make all necessary sacrifices and submit to all necessary burdens to fulfil their engagements and maintain their credit, for the character and credit of the several States form a part of the character and credit of the whole country. The resources of the country are abundant, the enterprise and the activity of our people proverbial, and we may well hope that wise legislation and prudent administration by the respective governments, each acting within its own sphere, will restore former prosperity.

Unpleasant and even dangerous as collisions may sometimes be between the constituted authorities of the citizens of our country in relation to the lines which separate their respective jurisdictions, the results can be of no vital injury to our institutions if that ardent patriotism, that devoted attachment to liberty, that spirit of moderation and forbearance for which our countrymen were once distinguished, continue to be cherished. If this continues to be the ruling passion of our souls, the weaker feelings of the mistaken enthusiast will be corrected, the Utopian dreams of the scheming politician dissipated, and the complicated intrigues of the demagogue rendered harmless. The spirit of liberty is the sovereign balm for every injury which our institutions may receive. On the contrary, no care that can be used in the construction of our government, no division of powers, no distribution of checks in its several departments, will prove effectual to keep us a free people if this spirit is suffered to decay; and decay it will without constant nurture. To the neglect of this duty the best historians agree in attributing the ruin of all the republics with whose existence and fall their writings have made us acquainted.

The same causes will ever produce the same effects, and as long as the love of power is a dominant passion of the human bosom, and as long as the understandings of men can be warped and their affections changed by operations upon their passions and prejudices, so long will the liberties of a people depend on their own constant attention to its preservation. The danger to all well-established free governments arises from the unwillingness of the people to believe in its existence or from the influence of designing men diverting their attention from the quarter whence it approaches to a source from which it can never come. This is the old trick of those who would usurp the government of their country. In the name of democracy they speak, warning the people against the influence of wealth and the danger of aristocracy. History, ancient and modern, is full of such examples. Caesar became the master of the Roman people and the senate under the pretence of supporting the democratic claims of the former against the aristocracy of the latter; Cromwell, in the character of protector of the liberties of the people, became the dictator of England, and Bolivar possessed himself of unlimited power with the title of his country's liberator. There is, on the contrary, no instance on record of an extensive and well-established republic being changed into an aristocracy. The tendencies of all such governments in their decline is to monarchy, and the antagonist principle to liberty there is the spirit of faction—a spirit which assumes the character and [278] in times of great excitement imposes itself upon the people as the genuine spirit of freedom, and, like the false Christs whose coming was foretold by the Saviour, seeks to, and were it possible would, impose upon the true and most faithful disciples of liberty. It is in periods like this that it behooves the people to be most watchful of those to whom they have intrusted power. And although there is at times much difficulty in distinguishing the false from the true spirit, a calm and dispassionate investigation will detect the counterfeit, as well by the character of its operations as the results that are produced. The true spirit of liberty, although devoted, persevering, bold, and uncompromising in principle, that secured is mild and tolerant and scrupulous as to the means it employs, while the spirit of party, assuming to be that of liberty, is harsh, vindictive, and intolerant, and totally reckless as to the character of the allies which it brings to the aid of its cause. When the genuine spirit of liberty animates the body of a people to a thorough examination of their affairs, it leads to the excision of every excrescence which may have fastened itself upon any of the departments of the government, and restores the system to its pristine health and beauty. But the reign of an intolerant spirit of party among a free people seldom fails to result in a dangerous accession to the executive power introduced and established amid unusual professions of devotion to democracy.

The foregoing remarks relate almost exclusively to matters connected with our domestic concerns. It may be proper, however, that I should give some indications to my fellow-citizens of my proposed course of conduct in the management of our foreign relations. I assure them, therefore, that it is my intention to use every means in my power to preserve the friendly intercourse which now so happily subsists with every foreign nation, and that although, of course, not well informed as to the state of pending negotiations with any of them, I see in the personal characters of the sovereigns, as well as in the mutual interests of our own and of the governments with which our relations are most intimate, a pleasing guarantee that the harmony so important to the interests of their subjects, as well as of our citizens, will not be interrupted by the advancement of any claim or pretension upon their part to which our honor would not permit us to yield. Long the defender of my country's rights in the field, I trust that my fellow-citizens will not see in my earnest desire to preserve peace with foreign powers any indication that their rights will ever be sacrificed or the honor of the nation tarnished by any admission on the part of their chief magistrate unworthy of their former glory. In our intercourse with our aboriginal neighbors the same liberality and justice which marked the course prescribed to me by two of my illustrious predecessors when acting under their direction in the discharge of the duties of superintendent and commissioner shall be strictly observed. I can conceive of no more sublime spectacle, none more likely to propitiate an impartial and common Creator, than a rigid adherence to the principles of justice on the part of a powerful nation in its transactions with a weaker and uncivilized people whom circumstances have placed at its disposal.

Before concluding, fellow-citizens, I must say something to you on the subject of the parties at this time existing in our country. To me it appears perfectly clear that the interest of that country requires that the violence of the spirit by which those parties are at this time governed must be greatly mitigated, if not entirely extinguished, or consequences will ensue which are appalling to be thought of.

If parties in a republic are necessary to secure a degree of vigilance sufficient to keep the public functionaries within the bounds of law and duty, at that point their usefulness ends. Beyond that they become destructive of public virtue, the parent of a spirit antagonist to that of liberty, and eventually its inevitable conqueror. We have examples of republics where the love of country and of liberty at one time were the dominant passions of the whole mass of citizens, and yet, with the continuance of the name and forms of free government, not a vestige of these qualities remaining in the bosoms of any one of its citizens. It was the beautiful remark of a distinguished [279] English writer that “in the Roman senate Octavius had a party and Antony a party, but the Commonwealth had none.” Yet the senate continued to meet in the temple of liberty to talk of the sacredness and beauty of the Commonwealth and gaze at the statues of the elder Brutus and of the Curtii and Decii, and the people assembled in the forum, not, as in the days of Camillus and the Scipios, to cast their free votes for annual magistrates, or pass upon the acts of the senate, but to receive from the hands of the leaders of the respective parties their shares of the spoils and to shout for one or the other, as those collected in Gaul or Egypt and the lesser Asia would furnish the larger dividend. The spirit of liberty had fled, and, avoiding the abodes of civilized man, had sought protection in the wilds of Scythia or Scandinavia; and so under the operation of the same causes and influences will fly from our Capitol and our forums. A calamity so awful, not only to our country, but to the world, must be deprecated by every patriot and every tendency to a state of things likely to produce it immediately checked. Such a tendency has existed—does exist. Always the friend of my countrymen, never their flatterer, it becomes my duty to say to them from this high place to which their partiality has exalted me that there exists in the land a spirit hostile to their best interests, hostile to liberty itself. It is a spirit contracted in its views, selfish in its objects. It looks to the aggrandizement of a few, even to the destruction of the interests of the whole. The entire remedy is with the people. Something, however, may be effected by the means which they have placed in my hands. It is union that we want, not of a party for the sake of that party, but a union of the whole country for the sake of the whole country, for the defence of its interests and its honor against foreign aggression, for the defence of those principles for which our ancestors so gloriously contended. As far as it depends upon me it shall be accomplished. All the influence that I possess shall be exerted to prevent the formation at least of an executive party in the halls of the legislative body. I wish for the support of no member of that body to any measure of mine that does not satisfy his judgment and his sense of duty to those from whom he holds his appointment, nor any confidence in advance from the people, but that asked for by Mr. Jefferson, “to give firmness and effect to the legal administration of their affairs.”

I deem the present occasion sufficiently important and solemn to justify me in expressing to my fellow-citizens a profound reverence for the Christian religion and a thorough conviction that sound morals, religious liberty, and a just sense of religious responsibility are essentially connected with all true and lasting happiness; and to that good Being who has blessed us by the gifts of civil and religious freedom, who watched over and prospered the labors of our fathers, and has hitherto preserved to us institutions far exceeding in excellence those of any other people, let us unite in fervently commending every interest of our beloved country in all future time.

Fellow-citizens,—Being fully invested with that high office to which the partiality of my countrymen has called me, I now take an affectionate leave of you. You will bear with you to your homes the remembrance of the pledge I have this day given to discharge all the high duties of my exalted station according to the best of my ability, and I shall enter upon their performance with entire confidence in the support of a just and generous people.

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