« PreviousContinue »
Mr. President, to express to you our most cordial wishes for your health and happiness."
To which address the president replied: "GENTLEMEN: I accept, with lively satisfaction, the congratulations which you have been pleased to tender to me upon this occasion. You may be assured that it shall be my undeviating endeavor to cultivate with the nations which you respectively represent, the most cordial relations of amity and good will. In this I shall be guided by the cardinal policy of this government, and, I doubt not, cheered by your kind and zealous co-operation.
"Permit me also to offer to you, individually, my best wishes for your welfare."
The president was then presented individually to the gentlemen composing the corps, exchanging salutations with them in his usual cordial manner.
On Monday, March 19th, at three o'clock, P. M., M. Bodisco, the minister from the emperor of Russia to the president of the United States, with his two secretaries—not having been able to attend at the general reception of the diplomatic corps-was received by the president, to whom he made the following address:
"MR. PRESIDENT: Remarkable military deeds, accomplished amid. difficulties, and enhanced by great modesty, have brought to the knowledge of the American people your high qualifications. Your energy and your wisdom have been deservedly appreciated, and magnificently rewarded, by the supreme magistracy to which the choice of a great nations has elevated you. The conservative principles you have proclaimed, and the assurances you have given, will be everywhere accepted as pledges of peace; and all interested in the welfare of the Union must sincerely wish that the success of your administration should completely correspond to your good intentions and devotion to your country.
"The emperor, my august master, taking a permanent interest in the welfare of the United States, has learned, with great satisfaction, that the national decision has called to the presidency a citizen so distinguished for his eminent qualities and his great integrity.
"The firm and honorable policy of the emperor, the benevolence and purity of his intentions, give great facilities to his ministers, in their relations with the governments to which they are accredited. I am, Mr President, highly gratified to be able to add, that my official intercourse has always been perfectly satisfactory. The successive administrations, during the time of my residence in Washington, have uniformly shown me the kindest dispositions, and I have constantly found that they were equally anxious to insure the continuation of the excellent relations so happily existing between Russia and the United States. I am convinced, Mr. President, that those friendly relations will receive a stronger impulse under your auspices; and you will permit me to assure you that I really wish to render myself worthy of your confidence."
The president responded in the following terms.
"SIR: The desire which you have expressed, to render yourself worthy of the confidence of this government, can not fail to be realized, if your future career shall correspond to your past conduct. During the long period for which you have been accredited at Washington, you have formed ties and associations in our country which have given you an interest in its continued and increasing prosperity; and you have secured the friendship and affection of the social circles in this district, while the confidence of your august sovereign has been the merited reward of your fidelity to the true honor and interests of Russia. It shall be my study to cultivate and strengthen the friendly relations between the United States and Russia— relations which have hitherto been cemented by mutual good offices, and which I hope may ever remain unimpaired. It requires no prophetic eye to discern that a mutually-beneficial intercourse is destined, and perhaps speedily, to arise between the territories of our respective nations, which border on the Pacific.
"Thanking you, sir, for the kind allusions you have been pleased to make touching myself personally, I welcome you most cordially, as a gentleman with whom official relations will be made agreeable by the courtesy of his deportment, and as the representative of a great nation, on terms of the most friendly intercourse with my country."
Among the earliest subjects which required the attention of the new administration, was the consideration of applications for office, which were numerous and urgent from the adherents of the successful party, from various parts of the Union. Although a general removal of persons appointed to office under the administration of Mr. Polk was not immediately resolved upon, yet the president and cabinet perceived that a very general change was expected, not only in the appointments of ministers and consuls to foreign countries, and other important offices in the domestic relations of the country, but in the minor and less responsible offices connected with the different departments of the government, including those under the control of the postmaster-general. To relieve the president from the labor, care, and embarrassments of personal applications to him for office, as had been practised under democratic administrations, it was determined by General Taylor and his cabinet, that all applications for office should be referred to the departments to which they respectively belonged, and after being considered by the head of such department, that the decision on the subject should be made at a meeting of the president and cabinet-after which the nomination should be made by the president, if during the recess, and the commission issued; the person so appointed then to enter on his duties, until the final action of the senate on his nomination took place.
Under these circumstances, numerous appointments to office were made by the president and cabinet, during the recess of the senate, and were
very generally confirmed by that body at the next meeting of Congress, although much dissatisfaction was felt by the democratic party, and expressed by the newspaper presses opposed to the administration. It was argued, that General Taylor having avowed his independence of party connections on his nomination to the presidency, he had consequently received a large democratic support at the election, and that it was not, therefore, generally expected by the people that an entire removal of democrats holding office under the general government should take place. A different construction of the president's position, however, was made by the cabinet and the whig press; they claimed that General Taylor was elected as a whig, and that the people had given him full power by the election to sustain his administration by the appointment of his friends to office. Removals and appointments, therefore, continued to be made from time to time, although the change was not complete, many democrats being suffered to remain in office, particularly in those of minor consideration.
It soon became evident that whatever course the administration of General Taylor might pursue with regard to appointments to office, it would not be sustained by a majority in the national legislature. The senate, at its meeting on the 5th of March, to act on executive business, was ascertained to have a decided majority against the administration, and notwithstanding the favorable indications at the elections of members of the house of representatives, in 1848, and previous to the presidential election, the representatives elected to the 31st Congress after the accession of General Taylor to the presidency, during the year 1849, showed the probability of an opposition majority in the house, when they should assemble in December of that year.
There were various causes which operated to prevent the administration from being sustained by a majority in Congress. In the first place, the great personal popularity of General Taylor in consequence of his military achievements, and the great confidence felt in his character for integrity, it was evident, could not be extended to other persons with whom he was politically connected. Secondly, there were but few points of difference between the two great parties of whigs and democrats sufficiently distinct to animate and call out the voters in full force in the struggle for power. Various measures, once deemed important, had become obsolete ideas, and others were supported or opposed by men of both parties. Leaving out of view the dissatisfaction at first felt by many of the friends of Mr. Clay and other presidential candidates in 1848, at the nomination of General Taylor in preference to old and long-tried whigs, the elections for members of Congress showed that the people were not anxious to sustain the president by a majority of his political friends in the legislative branch of the government. It was also proved by the elections, that the appointments to office and other transactions of the cabinet had done
nothing to strengthen their power and establish their influence and popularity. The president and his cabinet therefore found themselves, in a short time after their accession to power, in a novel and embarrassing position, and they awaited the ensuing meeting of Congress doubtless with much anxiety. Previous administrations had been sustained by a majority in Congress, but that of General Taylor seemed certain of encountering an opposition majority in the senate, while the house of representatives, composed of three distinct parties, had a doubtful aspect in advance. The third party was composed of those who were called "Free-Soilers," advocating the application of restrictions on slavery by the acts of Congress organizing new territories.
It seems appropriate in this place to offer a few remarks on appointments to office, by the general government, and in doing so we shall partially adopt the language of a writer in a leading political review. every stage of its existence since the adoption of the federal constitution, in 1789, the American government has been sustained by political parties, and the measures adopted by successive administrations have generally been of a party character. We shall assume it to be a rule established and certain, that offices of political responsibility, or that carry with them a weight of political opinion, for the impeding or accomplishing the measure of the party in power, should be filled by men of that party. For the same reason that the majority of a state legislature will send only such a senator as will truly represent their opinion, it is necessary for a president to choose such persons to be members of his cabinet as will represent the opinion of the party. It were clearly an absurdity to do otherwise; it would be a defeating of the design of the constitution, which intends that the majority of opinion shall have its way. That offices of responsibility, or in other words, such offices as enable their incumbents to operate ex officio upon the opinion of the people, or to thwart or execute the laws, according to their pleasure or displeasurethat such offices should be filled by the appointment of members of the ruling party is, we think, most necessary; for if it is provided by the constitution that the majority should shape the conduct of the government, it is also provided, by necessity, that those only should be appointed to execute them, by whom we are most sure they will be fully and willingly executed. From this point of view it appears just, and even constitutional, that the entrance of a new party into power should be followed by an ejectment of all from office who were the originators, supporters, and executors, in a moral sense, of the measures of the displaced party. The important officers chosen by the people have been changed by the people, and the old incumbents ejected; and it is equally necessary that all important offices which carry with them a representative influence, bearing upon opinion, and the character of whose incumbents confirms or impairs, by official influence, the prevailing party, should be also ejected. Inde
pendently, therefore, of all theories of a rotation in office; of that political expediency which stimulates the canvasser with the hopes of office; independently, also, of all arguments that look to the effect of office-holding upon the characters of men; we hold it to be a necessity created by the nature of our government, that the change of rulers accomplished by the votes of the citizens should be followed by a change in the character of the government itself. That this change should be sufficiently, but not more than sufficiently, extended for the complete establishment of the party, and the accomplishment of all its measures, during the four years of its probation. What these offices may be, can be known only by experience. It might not seem, at first view, to be a matter of the least importance whether the cabinet should be of one mind on the leading questions of policy; and yet experience has shown that their unanimity on all impor tant measures is necessary for the efficient conduct of the government.
In a word, every office of political importance, or that confers a power to impede or favor the execution of the laws, or that has any executive responsibility to be exercised for or against the measures of the majority, must necessarily be filled by members of the prevailing party. The filling. of the elective offices with that party by the people, gives them a liberty of carrying out the popular will by filling appointments with the same. The purpose of the popular election was to give the supporters of a certain system of policy and economy a fair opportunity of trying it. The majority judged that it should be tried. But if the opinion of the majority prevails at all, it should prevail entire, or it is of no force. Half measures, or impeded measures-impeded by the personal opposition of members of the government, would not answer the end; when a party is in power, it must instate itself to the full, and rely upon the full efficacy of its policy to secure the favor of the nation, and not upon any compromises, or bribes to influential persons, who, in the end, would certainly thwart and traverse the measures of a government which they despise.
The foregoing argument, however, is not intended to be considered as making concessions to those who advocate a system of rotation in office. It is implied by the doctrine of rotation, that the office is created for the convenience and benefit of its incumbent, and not for that of the citizens at large. And because it were improper to favor ope man more than another, therefore each man must at some time in his life enjoy an office.
Let us suppose, for a moment, that offices are in fact created for the benefit of those who hold them, in the nature of pensions and annuities; unless they are equally distributed among all, they are converted into the most odious of monopolies. Some persons look upon offices as they do upon pensions and annuities, as benefits created for those who hold them, and they very justly conclude that these benefits should be enjoyed in rotation; but when it is perceived that offices are not established for the benefit of their incumbents, the idea of a right to office, or a term in office,