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before, and the system of revenue and finance established under his predecessors; the merit claimed for General Jackson, with regard to the payment of the public debt, is not justly his due ; that the credit of this provident plan of gradually reducing the debt, was principally due to Mr. Lowndes, a distinguished member of Congress from South Carolina ; and President Adams and the Congress acting with him, had faithfully pursued this wise and prudent course, having reduced the national debt, by the appropriation of about ten millions annually. The credit of managing our foreign relations with ability is not denied to General Jackson by his political opponents. With regard to his course in other matters, it is thus summed up by Mr. Bradford, in his history of the federal government :
“ The promises of President Jackson's friends and supporters were not realized. They, indeed, were rewarded; but not without a gross disregard to economy; and whoever would not flatter the president, nor applaud his measures, however honest, were removed from office ; and his professed friends exclusively intrusted with commissions which should be given only to the upright and patriotic.
“ But his arbitrary conduct in the management of the public moneys was most highly objectionable and most alarming to the friends of constitutional law, who considered the funds of the government entirely under the control of the representatives of the people; except that the executive should be allowed discretion as to the time and manner of expending the money appropriated by law. His conduct, therefore, in seizing on the public funds, and withdrawing them from the Bank of the United States, where Congress had ordered them to be deposited and kept, was very generally condemned, as an act of a most arbitrary nature, and of very dangerous precedent. And it was not so much this single act, arbitrary and unauthorized as it was, as the principle assumed by the president, in this measure, of a right in the executive to go beyond law, and contrary to law even ; and to make his own opinion, rather than the laws of Congress, the rule of his conduct.
“ The conduct of President Jackson was not, in all respects, so favorable to the hopes of those who had been sanguine in their belief of the perpetuity of the republic, as that of his two immediate predecessors. Of the others, it is not necessary here to speak. They made the constitution a guide in their practice as well as in their professions ; and assumed little or no powers not clearly vested in the chief magistrate of the Union. In monarchies, the reigning prince has high discretionary powers. The exercise of the royal prerogative is often carried to a great extent; and thus the rights of the subjects are liable to be violated by the mere will of the king. In a republic, it is at least theoretically otherwise. Where the discretion of the magistrate is the rule and measure of his official acts, however patriotic are his purposes, equal and impartial justice can not be expected. He is not infallible, and may err in his judgment. He is
subject to like passions and prejudices, as other men, and will probably act from partial and improper feelings. From this source, there is always great danger to a republican government. The people must check all usurpation, and all arbitrary assumption of power in their rulers, or their liberties will be temporary and evanescent. If several successive chief magistrates of the Union are arbitrary in administering the government, and repeatedly transcend or disregard the provisions of the constitution, many generations will not have passed, before their civil freedom will be lost beyond recovery, and the people subject to as despotic rule as that of Cæsar, or Napoleon, or the autocrat of Russia. Unless the constitution be the guide, the government of the United States, once highly blest, will be that of misrule and despotism."
MARTIN VAN BURE N.
The seven presidents of the United States whose lives and administrations we have noticed in the preceding pages, it will have been observed, were all descended from emigrants from the British isles; their official terms occupy a space of forty-eight years, or nearly half a century from the adoption of the constitution; and each of them had witnessed the period when the nation acquired her independence. We now enter upon a new era, and, leaving those whose early lives carry our memories back to the men and the times of our revolutionary struggle, we proceed to sketch the career of our eighth president, who, to use his own words,“ unlike all who have preceded him, was born after the revolution was achieved;" belonging, also, to another race by descent, as well as to a later age.
The ancestors of Mr. Van Buren, both paternal and maternal, were among the early emigrants from Holland to the colony of New Nether. lands, now the state of New York. The family have always resided in the ancient town of Kinderhook, Columbia county, on the east bank of the Hudson river. The father of the president, Abraham Van Buren, was a farmer of moderate circumstances, who is represented to have been an upright and intelligent man, of strong common sense, and pacific disposition. The maiden name of the mother of the president was Hoes, also of Dutch descent. The name was originally Goes, and was one of some distinction in the history of the Netherlands. She was twice married ; first to Mr. Van Alen, by whom she had two sons and a daughter, all of whom have been many years deceased. James I. Van Alen was a respectable lawyer of Columbia county, who was honored with several important offices, and with whom his younger half-brother was connected in business at his entrance to the bar.
The mother of Mr. Van Buren was distantly connected with the family of his father before their marriage. She was distinguished for her amia