« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
FOR ОСТOBER, 184 9.
A HISTORY OF PARTIES.*
THE publication of the Statesman's Man- | ual, which contains, besides the Addresses and the Messages of the Presidents, a memoir of each and the history of their administration, will probably have the effect in future to give a more solid and accurate character to political writings upon questions of the day. After giving our readers a brief review of this new and valuable work, and pointing out a few statistical errors, which have escaped the notice of the author and compiler, it is our intention to enter upon a brief history of the rise and progress of the two parties, which originated during the formation of the Constitution. We believe that most of our political readers, if they will follow us in this history, will confess that the current opinions of the day, and which are studiously maintained by the opposition presses, in regard to the origin of the present Whig Republican party, are false opinions; and they will have the satisfaction of finding that the line of policy at present taken by the Whigs is an unbroken line, transmitted to them by their republican founders from the time of the origin of the Constitution.
himself with these, is like studying theology in the primer. A great many, indeed, of the class called politicians, are formed upon the labor-saving principle, and with some few, certain clever points of statesmanship may be developed on the basis of the science made easy; but most of these cases serve chiefly to reveal the distinction between the profession of politics and a political education.
To understand fully and clearly the principles on which our government has been administered-to comprehend the relations of the various policies with the circumstances of the nation to trace their connection with later events, we must know not merely what has been done, but why it was done must know what was thought by the actors to know this, and to make the lesson of experience available to the present, we must resort to the cotemporaneous exposition from the voices and pens of the statesmen who conceived, who debated, or who executed, the systems that have prevailed.
A compilation the most important of any which could be made, in a selection of American State papers, is given us in the A first want in every nation in which work of Mr. Williams. The Messages of politics is a profession of free choice, is a the Presidents are dignified and intelligent collection of the documentary history of treatises on the national interests, containthe government. Politicians are, no more ing, generally, sound definitions (in the abthan scholars, made by the study of epit-stract view, at least,) of the theory of our omes. A narrative history of the administration of public affairs may answer very well the purpose of those who seek nothing beyond general ideas; but for one who is in search of a political education to content
Republican system, and so far as they reason debatable points, make use only of dispassionate and logical arguments. At the same time, they contain better expressions of the sentiments of the parties by
*The Addresses and Messages of the Presidents of the United States; Inaugural, Annual and Special, from 1789 to 1846. BY EDWIN WILLIAMS. New York: Edward Walker.
VOL IV. NO. IV. NEW SERIES.
whom, respectively, the Presidents were elected, than can be found in the speeches of members of Congress, or in the writings of the partisan editors. The President has always been regarded as the only authorized single exponent of the party principles, and however more conspicuous in point of leadership, active advocacy, or talent others may have been, their expositions receive but a limited respect compared with the general consideration attached to the Messages as authoritative party manifestoes. Nothing, certainly, could have been farther from the design of those who compounded the theory of our government, than that, in its practical operation, the President should be the official head of a party. They intended for him an independent position, similar to that of the British sovereign; but it is impossible thus to isolate any office from party influence, which rests on popular election. An ingeniously-compounded electoral system was devised as the only partition practicable between the people and the President; but in the first instance, the people selected the President in advance of the electors, and as soon as the system placed an impediment in the way of the popular will, it was broken through by a constitutional amendment; and we have now electoral colleges only to show the futility of an effort to base a high office in a Republic founded on universal, or nearly universal suffrage, on any other foundation than that of popular choice. The evils which our fathers might have feared from this reduction in the position intended for the chief magistrate have not wholly overtaken us, and there are good reasons, considering the dignity, restraint, and caution, seeming inseparable from the office, why the President should, in preference, be considered the annunciator of the general sentiments, at least, held by the dominant party-in other words, the majority of the people.
The "Statesman's Manual," of which the Presidents' Messages form the principal part, should be on the table of every political editor, and in the library of every professional politician; and it is adapted to other uses than those of a mere book of reference. It is compiled upon such a design that it is entirely suited to the purpose of general reading, and could not fail to interest any man moderately inquisitive on matters of
political information. The Messages of each President are preceded by a tolerably full biography, and followed by a history of his administration, detailing a considerable portion of the party operations, and other influences at work upon the government. It thus brings together matter naturally connected, explains the causes of events which are mentioned in bare detail in formal histories, and to the ordinary reader, adds intelligibility and interest to the Messages.
In addition to these matters, the compilation contains the Declaration of Independence; the Articles of Confederation; the present Constitution, with the decisions of the Supreme Court on all contested points submitted to its jurisdiction; epitomes of the State Constitutions; lists of the members of the Continental and Constitutional Congresses, extending from 1774 to 1846; votes of the States at the Presidential elections; lists of the several Cabinets; Ministers abroad; chronological table, &c. An analytical index is added.
In the matter of errors and defects, so important in a work of this character, we notice but a limited proportion. The copies of the messages from which it is printed are pure, the typographical revision well made, the mechanical execution very fair.
We notice one omission-a proclamation of Washington (other proclamations being inserted) in relation to the resistance to the excise on distilled spirits, issued Sept. 1792, and which is referred to in the message of November of that year, does not appear. Several errors meet us in the historical part of the work. Page 378, it is stated that Mr. Clay was elected Speaker of the House for the "second time," in Dec. 1815; it was the third time, as he had been previously Speaker of the 12th and 13th Houses. On page 354 is a considerable error, for which one of the "authentic writers on American history" appears responsible. It is stated that of the 79 Representatives who voted for the War bill, in 1812, 62 were from the Southern and but 17 from the Northern States; and that in both Houses only 21 voted for the bill. This is deci dedly bad history. The list of yeas and nays shows that on the passage of the War bill in the House, of the 79 yeas, 33 were from the North, and 46 from the South
and West; and that instead of the war being altogether "a measure of the South and West," it was voted for by a majority of the Representatives of the Middle States (21 to 18,) and that the whole North gave nearly as many votes for (33) as against (38) the measure. There are rather too many errors in the Election Tables, pages 15441546. In the election of 1796, Jefferson's vote is given at 69 in one place, 68 in another; it was neither, but 67, the whole vote being 138, and John Adams's 71.Election of 1800, nine States are named as voting for Jefferson on the 36th ballot in the House: Vermont should be added, making ten. 1817-John Marshall had four instead of five votes as Vice-President in Connecticut. 1820-the vote for Monroe is given at 231, without that of Missouri: the vote as counted by the tellers, and declared by the President of the Senate (see all the papers of the day,) was 231 for Monroe with, or 228 without Missouri's vote. To make up 231, while excluding Missouri, the table gives one vote too many to each of these States, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Tennessee. The stray vote for John Quincy Adams is credited to Massachusetts; it was New Hampshire, however, and not Massachusetts, which broke the unanimity of Monroe's re-election. 1824in the election of President by the House, Alabama looks very much out of place in the support of Mr. Adams; her three votes were cast for Jackson. 1836-Col. Johnson's vote for Vice-President is made 144, but should be 147, exactly half the whole vote. These errors corrected, as we hope they will be in a future edition, this table will be the only full and correct one of the Presidential elections we have seen published. Page 1547-Geo. Cabot's appointment as Secretary of the Navy is stated to have been made in 1789, which could not have well been; the department not being created until 1798. In the list of Secretaries of the Navy, Jacob Crowninshield, of Mass., is omitted; and Robert Smith, of Md., in the list of Attorney Generals. In a work not intended for a standard character, these errors might be allowed to pass.
With the idea of incorporating the histories of the political parties in that of the administration, we are particularly pleased,
and in our view this feature gives a most decided addition to the value of the work. We regret only that it has not been carried to a farther extent, and that on certain important points, in particular, the action and motives of parties are not more elaborately set forth. The history of parties in the United States is to be written. At the proper time it will be done, and if the proper historian undertakes the work, it will be found that few books of greater interest, or better calculated for instruction, have been written. It will open all the machinery of administration, will reveal the secret sources of motion, and trace their connection to apparent events. It will be regarded as an adjunct to the national history as necessary as the glossaries to the old writers.
We are tempted, having the subject before us, to annex a compendious account of the parties that have hitherto divided the Union.
In the divisions upon the question of the acceptance of the Constitution framed by the Convention of 1787, we discover the origin of the parties that have continued, with various modifications, to the present time. Of the 55 members who attended the deliberations of the convention, 39 signed the constitution it had prepared, and 16 declined affixing their names. In the discussions following, before the people, and in State conventions, the friends and opponents of the Constitution were in most of the larger States nearly balanced. The votes by which it was finally ratified in the several conventions, amendatory recommendations and other considerations disarming much of the opposition, were as follows: