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Speech on the Impeachment of the President
Stevens, of Pennsylvania.
But such was the structure of their unequal society that it was very difficult to bring large malefactors to conviction and punishment for offenses involving disgrace and capital inflictions. Hence, wrongs committed by public men against the mere administration of Government, if prosecuted as such, were apt to escape punishment. Still it was necessary that such public offenders should be deprived of the opportunity of longer injuring the community, and another tribunal was established for their trial, compose of men elevated above the sphere or dread of influence; and to secure success the punishment for political offenses on such conviction was in most cases reduced to mere removal from office, without fine or imprisonment or disgraceful inflictions suffered. Although the criminal feature was still retained in England, it was very much modified, indeed entirely changed, under our Constitution.
But in England the objects of such trial were soon perverted. Passion, revenge, and malignity refused to let large malefactors escape from the hands of those who were prosecuting them by impeachment, and they changed the punishment to one of criminal extent, and inflicted death by the block and gallows, as well as imprisonment and banishment upon many of the high as well as low offenders. Many found themselves arraigned and tried for the deepest crimes at this form of proceeding, while the acts they had done were merely of a political character. It was in this perverted state of the English law that our Revolution broke out and our Constitution was formed. So that our statesmen and judges, groping in the dark for the right reason of the law and seeing it "as through a glass darkly, " so construed our law of impeachment that when the first cases under it came to be decided, and indeed all the sound cases, the judges, though somewhat mystified in the proper construction to put upon it, almost uniformly excluded from the essence of the impeachment all necessity for the charge of moral guilt, malignity, crime, and malum in se. They rejected the whole idea of the necessity of the commission of indictable offenses, and followed the text of [Joseph] Story, of Wharton, and the proceeding of Peck's case as stated by Buchanan, Wharton, and Curtis, of the earlier case of Chase, in neither of which is there any attempt to prove "crimen and malum in se," all recognizing the doctrine that the great offense was a political one purely, and the object of its punishment the prevention of further injury by the incumbent.
When lately -- I mean by the committee on the Judiciary -- Andrew Johnson was impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, which simply high political offenses, a grand opportunity was presented, for the first time in this country, for great judicial minds to lay down broadly and forever the law of impeachments, so that on the one hand they would not allow political offenders to escape for abusing their high trust, and on the other hand would not allow heated and malignant demagogues to persecute political opponents and rivals so as to carry their punishments to the bloody marge of hatred and vengeance.
If further punishment were found necessary there would be no advantage from political ascendancy, for then the prosecution would proceed according to the impartial principles of the common law, where justice could be administered between man and man. I had hoped that these great principles would have been so elucidated by the learned Judiciary Committee of this House that no future time would produce the risk of judicial persecutions and murders.
Of all prosecutions which I have ever witnessed, either in civil or military affairs, that result was to me the most unsatisfactory. I speak of the first prosecution. I have nothing to say of the last one, and I beg my remarks will be so understood throughout. But having my own views I must utter them in good faith, without regard to the position which the listener may happen to occupy. When that prosecution was first commenced, I believed it then, as I believe it now, to be the deep-seated conviction of nine tenths of the honest men of the party that the respondent was guilty and ought to be convicted.
I admit that after the election of the new President of the Senate there was a cooling off in certain quarters, from motives which I have never been able to fathom, and do not now intend to scan. When Republicans of the House came to scrutinize the acts of the President preparatory to taking evidence I believe that none were of the opinion that the time occupied in taking testimony would extend over a period of more than twenty days.
To their minds the whole question was so patent, so clear, lay so completely upon the surface of events, that to seize it with the clear intention to drag it into daylight was among those things which it was impossible to evade, for the slightest exposure would make everything apparent to the naked eye.
But the Republican party fell into a great error. In a short time it became apparent that this was to be a work of very considerable magnitude, if the course pointed out were to be pursued. Instead of investigating charges of impeachment against the President of the United States on specific allegations, charges extending to every crime and every folly which a wicked, bad man could be guilty of were eagerly sought for and gravely investigated, or the investigation meted upon with a malignity and feeling which could do no credit to so high a tribunal.
To my mind the whole question of the guilt of the respondent, the whole question of malfeasance in office by the President of the United States, the whole question of his official "high crimes and misdemeanors," lay within thirty-six hours of the examination of the testimony in chief if it had been properly confined to that testimony.
But these innumerable eggs were thrown into the nest of this investigation, until it was more than full, and there was great danger of their becoming addled.
They thought to break an elephant's back, broad as it was, by piling upon it straws and chaff bags, out of which was to be extracted the heavy metal of decomposition; and especially, if that would not prove sufficient, to mount upon it two or three buxom damsels seated on pillions; Mrs. Cobb proved too light.
Now, sir, I merely wished to lay before the House and the committee a few reasons why I was so wholly dissatisfied, as I have been and am still.
That a misdemeanor is triable by a common law court in England, and a felony is triable as a high crime before a common jury, no one doubts who has paid the least attention to the common law. But no one can, and so far as I know, no one does pretend that either of those offenses can be tried under the law of Congress at common law, there being no common law in the United States.
Why, then, is it pretended that any common law offense can be brought before a judicial tribunal of the nation? Why is it pretended that any of the offenses charged against Jefferson Davis and his associates can be tried as criminal offenses before the Government on impeachment? Whether they could now be tried for riots and mutiny I give no opinion, having always held that the sovereignty, when once it reconquered its sovereign power, could inflict just such punishment, and through just such tribunals as it saw proper, not by virtue of its old tribunals, but by virtue of its eminent domain, or by virtue of its remnant of municipal power.
Instead of alleging that impeachment can only be instituted where there is an indictable offense, I contend that the great object of impeachment was to punish for malfeasance in office -- where there was no actual crime committed -- no malfeasance against which an indictment would hold, and against which no allegation of evil intention need be made. In other words, the proceedings in impeachment should be had mainly where the true distinction was made between a charge against a party with malice aforethought in it, and a charge against a party with no evil intention, but with great injury to the country, in short, that they could be had mainly for political offenses; and that the grade of high crimes and misdemeanors spoken by the Constitution as subjecting the party to impeachment, did not involve the guilt of malum in se or wickedness of heart, so that the highest official of the land can be impeached, convicted, and punished without having committed a single offense which involved malignity of heart.
If an officer cannot be impeached except for an indictable offense, then you must wait until he has done some injurious act with malice aforethought. It cannot be, sir, that malice is an ingredient that makes the maladministration of an officeholder either more or less injurious to the public, better or worse, as it does not operate directly on the individual, but on the Government. He may believe that a certain course of conduct tends to the good of his administration and the country. He is warned by his advisors and by the legislative branch that he is mistaken and must desist. He reconsiders it and persists, under the conscientious belief that he is right and his advisors wrong.
Here is no indictable offense, here is no ingredient which constitutes an indictable offense -- malice aforethought. And yet if there be large interests at stake intrusted to his care he may be crushing the life of the nation while he believes himself but doing his duty. How can any man pretend that such acts as these, which are destroying the welfare of the whole people, and persevered in after repeated warnings, do not constitute impeachable offenses, although not indictable ones?
But has not this subject been adjudicated time after time, and by tribunal after tribunal? Have not the elementary writers of various States of America, and of he General Government of the United States, clearly and decidedly pronounced the same judgment? I refer to Story, to [William] Rawle, to Madison, Hamilton, May, and Curtis.
Seeing, then, that that there are no obstacles in the way of impeachment, let us go a little further with the facts which are produced in some slight manner to sustain the preliminary action of this tribunal?
We will now partially consider the evidence and arguments applicable to the first additional article. To corrupt the youth of a nation was held by Socrates and Plato to be among the most atrocious of offenses, because it tended to overthrow the solid forms of government, and build up anarchy and despotism in their place. If it were so in an oligarchy how much more would it be so in a government where the laws control, and where the laws should be pure if that government is expected to be conducted with purity, and to survive the temporary shocks of tyrants? If it is proved or know that Andrew Johnson attempted at any time to corrupt the legal voters of the United States, so as to change them from their true opinions to those which he himself had adopted, then, I suppose, there are few who will pretend that he was not guilty of a high misdemeanor. We need hardly call witnesses to prove a fact which everybody knows, and nobody will deny; and yet in legal accuracy it becomes necessary to prove by sworn evidence the facts to which I have referred. Does the sunshine at mid-day? It would hardly be thought necessary to answer that question by proof, and yet there is just as much necessity for it as to prove that Andrew Johnson had changed his whole principles and policy, and entered into the most dangerous and damaging contracts with aspirants for office to induce them to aid him in changing the principles of those who sought office. Did he not so authorize his known agents so to instruct Colonel Selfridge, a gentleman of high character? Show me a more shameless perversion of patronage in any country or in any Government, however corrupt and despotic, and I will admit that Andrew Johnson is pure as the icicles that hang on Diana's temple.
Can you look abroad over this country, even with imperfect vision, without shuddering, and forget the hundreds of instances even within your knowledge of the good and true Republicans ejected from office without any charge of misconduct, but simply for the reason that they had not joined the party of the President?
Now, sir, I admit that when a new Executive comes into office it is not only proper but it is his duty to change his office holders, especially the large bureaus so as to remove from power those who differ, and place those in who agree with him, and in this way to propagate the principles he advocates, and upon which the people of the United States had placed him in power. Not to do that would, I think, be badly treating those who elevated him and expected him to teach their doctrines. But for an Executive who has been elected to office professing and loudly proclaiming one set of principles to change into a diametrically opposite course all those principles through which he was elevated to power, without surrendering that power to those who gave it, and to bribe by patronage, by money, or by the people's offices, the very men who had assumed to so elevate him to adopt other principles, and thus to corrupt and pervert the good morals of the country, so far as his patronage will allow, seems to me to fall little short in atrocity of the most corrupt practices of Europe in the days of the corrupt courts of Charles and Edward, and to put Judas Iscariot to the blush. Would to God that such an Executive had the repentance of the remorseful malefactor, who had been guilty of no indictable offense, but had simply indicated by a kiss the identity of the Master who trusted him.
But let us now look a little further into the items which the evidence discloses. I will speak now of the acts which have been perpetrated by the President in attempting to corrupt and bribe citizens of the United States, now members of Congress, and here ready to discharge their duty.
Colorado, a virgin golden State, presented herself for admission into the Union of States. She presented a constitution to which no branch of the Government objected, as far as I can recollect, except the Republicans, who insisted upon the allowance of the enfranchisement of the blacks.
But it was objected to by the President upon various grounds, among which was want of population, together with others which I do not find it necessary to recapitulate; one of which, however, I believe was his desire to have all men enfranchised. Congress then so modified it as to agree to accept it, with one or two exceptions, among them that which I before mentioned.
They so directed their members of Congress, the vote of whose Senators was necessary to give the requisite two thirds majority to pass it over the veto. Before this period had arrived the President had set up a kingdom for himself and determined to people it with apostates from honest communities. He informed the Senators from Colorado that he could not sign the bill for the admission of their State unless they agreed to support his policy in the course he had determined to pursue; and he most distinctly said, if there be any truth in those gentlemen, that if they thus supported him he would in turn support them, and become their friend, and give them his signature, which would admit them into the Union. I know that cavils have been had upon this point, but I know, also, that no man of common honesty would enter into the arrangement I have cited unless both parties fully understood it to mean precisely what I have stated. To say that there was no written pledge is but an insult to the high place and what ought to be the high character of the Executive.
Supposing then that this offer was made, is it a crime and misdemeanor, such as entitles the prosecution to a verdict against the respondent and a consequent removal from office? In my judgment if no other proposition were ever made and proved, if the testimony of Mr. Evan and Mr. Chafee is not contradicted, there is no honest tribunal upon the face of this globe which would continue the President in his place and enable him to go on disgracing the high functions which a nation of freemen have placed upon him. There is no jury in any portion of the land who is not too intelligent to be deluded by any of the humbug arguments which would cast such remarks into another quarter, and make them mean anything else.
Here then, sir, I might stop and say to you and this body, which of you is it that is corrupt and fit to be impeached and thrust forth from your high office. You cannot both remain where you are. One of you, or both, speak with a forked tongue, and require that the sons of Almonah, if they never complain, shall be so punished that the indomitable energy of their nature should never again be exhibited in the land of civilization.
Sir, I am almost ashamed to charge the respondent with so small an offense as corrupting the lawful voters of the United States to build up a party for himself, especially when there are so many graver charges, charges which, in any other country, would bring out the block and sharpen the ax. But it may be well to expose to the gaze of the loyal people of the nation the conduct of him who claimed to be pure, and who violated all his claims. It is charged and proved, beyond the possibility of a doubt, that one hundred and ninety-three deserters from the United States Army, who had taken with them their arms and accouterments to the enemy, were pardoned by the President a few days before the election at which they were expected to vote, in order that they might cast their ballots for Mr. Andrews, of Virginia, and Colonel Montgomery, of Pennsylvania, both friends and partisans of the President.
No one doubts, from the evidence of Colonel McEwen, that he urged that pardons upon that ground alone. No one doubts that to procure such pardons he paid my friend Tom Florence $1000, and that, by the way, is the only redeeming part of the transaction; for had he made it $2000 I would have passed it over without comment, so anxious am I that my old friend should flourish at these times.
Does any one doubt that all these cases are fully proved? If they do not, where is there any man sufficiently corrupt to deny their impeachable character in the Executive of the nation? If there be any such, let him speak. But let us pass over the quires of scandalous testimony going to prove the respondent's depraved appetite and licentious habits, as matters to be dealt with to the shame of those who selected him rather than his public accusers, and proceed to graver charges of embezzling or allowing others to embezzle the public property, and of the abuse of the high prerogative of the pardoning power.
On the 17th of July, 1862, Congress passed a law, and a very comprehensive one, the first four sections of which defined the punishment of treason and misprision of treason. They extended no further than to punishment by death without confiscation. All the other portions of the law, which is a long one, treated the officers, soldiers, aiders, and abettors of the so-called confederate States of America as independent belligerents, and proceeded to denounce against them the punishment which should be inflicted and the penalties which they should endure when conquered. Among these penalties and forfeitures it was expressly provided that the President of the United States should seize all the property of any member of the belligerent army, and proceed to have the same confiscated, not as the property of traitors, or citizens guilty of treason, but as enemies' property, engaged in a national war with the United States, whenever subdued, and that the same should be applied by the President to the Treasury of the United States, to pay the expenses and damages which the enemy had caused to be created on the part of the United States.
Here was a most distinct, emphatic transfer of all property belonging to the independent belligerents, and to all the members, aiders, and abettors of the so-called confederate government, whether as officers or soldiers, and the same was directed to be appropriated to the Government of this nation. By virtue of subsequent laws, which I have not time nor strength to enumerate, all the abandoned property of the independent belligerents who should have left their homes was directed to be seized by the Army and Navy of the United States and to be transferred to the officers of the Freedmen's Bureau, in trust for the freedmen and those who were made destitute by the war. These laws, also, were absolute and unqualified, and admitted of no ambiguity, no doubt of their construction, and under them large amounts of property were seized.
Under the first named law the officers of the Government, as fast as our armies conquered the country, seized lands and goods of the enemy, and instituted proceedings for confiscation. No one, I suppose doubts that had these laws been fully carried out enough revenue would have been produced to pay the whole of our national debt, together with the damage done to loyal men by the enemy, both in southern territory and in the northern States which they invaded, and that, too, without seizing one particle of property whose owners were worth less than twenty thousand dollars. No poor man, guilty or not guilty, would have been disturbed in his possessions, or, if the proceeding be a hard one, would have been unjustly punished for his offense. Fortunately for such a proceeding the South was a land of satraps and nabobs, and their estates were of almost indefinite extent. I once had an estimate by competent men in the Census Bureau, and I found that it would affect less than sixty thousand men out of a population of some six million. Now, it would seem that no one who desired the punishment of crime and a remuneration for wrong done could much object to such a proceeding, unless all his ideas of justice were perverted, and he would turn the punishment of the malefactor on the innocent and the reward on the guilty.
When the President had been commissioned, like the tormentor of Job, to deal with a nation to whatever devilish extent he chose, in order, I suppose, to try their virtue and the endurance of the fire of liberty, and had commenced his acts of torture and injustice, he began by pardoning the most lofty rebels, having first exonerated all of the lower grade, and ordered to be restored to them the land which had been seized as enemies' property by the conquering power.
Of course I cannot now attempt to enumerate the one-tenth part of the property which had been seized, and which, under the vain idea that a pardon restored it, the President ordered to be returned to his friends, the original owners. A few specimens may serve for the whole. General Sherman, in company with the Secretary of War, had seized Charleston and the adjacent mainland, together with the Sea Islands, so famous for cotton, and had set aside these islands and the margin of the water-fronts as homesteads for the liberated freedmen, as some slight recompense for their lives of toil. On those islands more than forty thousand persons were thus provided with comfortable homes -- made, as they thought and all thought, proprietors of the soil and independent landholders. The testimony shows that four hundred and fifty thousand acres of the mainland were laid off in a similar manner for the accommodation of these unhappy freedmen. The testimony also is that more than two thirds of Charleston were taken possession of on behalf of the United States, and for the same purpose.
Now, what those Sea Islands and Charleston were worth I have no means of knowing -- many millions, says the testimony. I should think they were valued very low at a billion. And who were they given to? The testimony shows that they were given to the richest men in the South; Aiken, Trenholm, and Whaley and others of the opulent, who were proved to have made vast amounts of money by blockade-running during the war. The estates of these three are estimated at from five to twenty millions each; taken together, but little short of a billion. The abandoned property in Virginia, Louisiana, and other provinces was proved to be very large, and would most probably carry up the aggregate to $1,500,000,000. But it matters not what the abandoned property was worth. The real estate of the rich belligerents over the value of $20,000 each would more than pay all our national debt and the damages done loyal citizens. To be sure, the expenditures which we have already incurred, probably exceeding $3,000.000.000 can never be regained from the enemy, for these is no trace of their amount. Let us see how the account would stand. The liquidated debt, as reported by the Departments, is returned at about $3,000,000,000, and if the Government is foolish enough to pay, under the pretense set up by bondholders that it ought to be paid in gold instead of money, it will probably reach $4,500,000,000 -- an enormous debt, which no nation ever incurred and survived. But taking it for granted that no Administration ever dared to give away of the people's money more than $1,500,000,000 or $2,000,000,000 that do not belong to the claimants, and taking it for granted that no clamor of bondholders or shavers or hired editors will ever induce an honest Secretary of the Treasury, or an honest Administration to pay the debt in anything but lawful money when it falls due, still I suppose the debt would amount to over $3,000,000,000.
Now, the property already seized as confiscated and abandoned, from the evidence taken before the Committee on Reconstruction and the various reports from the Freedmen's Bureau, could it all have been applied in that direction, would have nearly paid, if not quite, the obligations due by the United States to various holders both in Europe and America, including the certified indebtedness and legal tenders. This property, you remember, is ordered by the act of the 17th of July, 1862, and other acts, to be reduced to money and paid to defray these very claims. And if that course had been pursued by the President, who was expressly commanded to see it executed, the debt which now by the weekly statements looms up to twenty-five hundred million dollars would have been liquidated and paid. Why was this not done? By the law of nations and by the practice of every well-regulated Government, the conqueror compels the vanquished belligerent in an unjust war to pay not only the debt incurred by the victorious party, but all damages caused by the invasion and inroads of the enemy.
It was the duty of the President, and which he had sworn to perform, to convert this property into money and pay off this debt. Had he not been guilty of official perjury the whole of the bonded debt, which is now a lien upon every man's property, would have been paid or be in process of payment out of the confiscated funds of rebels.
But he preferred to grant them pardons, and then order that the property seized, either as belligerent or abandoned property, should be restored to is rebel owners. How much the restoration cost those whose influence was used to gain their pardons and procure their restoration I do not undertake to argue. I should be very sorry if any man's reputation were to depend upon the testimony of the Cobbs, Davises, and Bakers upon such points as these. That they were probably right in their account of his social intercourse with them I think likely; but that would no further implicate him in high crimes and misdemeanors, or be relevant evidence, that as it went to show a looseness of morals which would induce honest and upright men to give but little faith and credit to any of his acts.
If the property to which we have already referred had paid off the national debt and relieved the United States from its burdens, it is clearly proved that a very large amount of surplus remained to the large land-holding belligerents after the war was ended. In all the slaveholding States, farms, instead of occupying two or three hundred acres, were manors of from three to thirty thousand acres. The brothers of Jeff Davis, it is shown, were owners of hundreds of thousands of acres of the richest bottomlands of Mississippi, and too proud to ask for pardon that they might save them. They bade defiance to the conqueror, and their relations had to make the application for them. When one of these high culprits was pardoned, the President invariably ordered a restoration of his property by a clear violation of the Constitution. He has the pardoning power, but that power does not take from the Treasury any property of the United States and bestow it on the convict.
Where an act of Parliament or of the legislative power of a nation declares the forfeiture, and orders its application for the purposes of the Government, it is beyond the pardoning power of the Executive. It is not a case that comes within the law of forfeiture at common law, but it is one that requires precisely the same power to restore it that it did to take it away. I feel no doubt, therefore, that the restoration of this property was all a nullify, and it is the duty, and has been the duty, of the Executive ever since he has seized this property to convert it into money and apply it to the payment of the national debt. If we are right in this, is it not the duty of every member of this body who has any respect for his constituents or any regard for his oath to put the respondent upon his trial and see how far he is guilty? Any other course, it seems to me, savors so much of party corruption and party demoralization that it can be accounted for in no other way than, in looking over this body, to suppose we are beholding not an amphichroic council, but an assembly of cowards. I will not, therefore, believe that any adverse vote will be had until I have heard the responses as the parties are called.
There is but one thing further on this branch of the subject which I deem it necessary or even proper to touch. For if the fact be as I suppose, and its exhibition do not induce this body to vote for impeachment, then all effort were vain, and we should not obey, though one were to raise from the dead to instruct us. After all the governments in the ten or eleven conquered States which had formed the confederate States of America had been subdued, crushed, conquered, by the United States, and were admitted to be subject to their disposal and lying prostrate at their mercy, the question, a grave though not difficult one, arose: in what way shall they be governed? The conqueror had a right to impose just such laws as he chose, within the bounds of humanity. He had a right to give them new forms of government, new constitutions and laws, to obliterate their old boundaries and make new ones. Who did I say had that right? The conqueror, the nation, the Government, that had subdued them, That conqueror, in every nation claiming to be free, consists of the legislative power of the empire. The Commander-in-Chief of its armies, its judiciary, had nothing to do with the permanent governments to be set up, except to obey and execute any laws which the legislative power might deem proper to pass. That was resolved and decreed, not once simply, but more than once, by a two-thirds vote, until every person belonging to either branch of the Government was fully aware of it. And until those governments are established it was just as clear that the conquered provinces had no lot in Israel. And, in order to give them any right, they must petition the conquering power and receive whatever terms it might deem fit to give.
Whatever might have been the doubt of ignorance and ambition immediately after the contest, no one not entirely destitute of the proper knowledge of the law of nations and the decrees passes by this Government can now be in ignorance of the fact that such is the law which this nation is determined to enforce. But the executive officers thought themselves superior to the sovereign power of the nation, and instead of consulting them and obeying their instructions they proceeded to institute government of their own, to dictate the kind of laws and constitutions under which their subjects should act, and how they should demean themselves so as to be represented in the nation. The sovereign legislative power rejected this proceeding, and ordered new governments to be established as provisional until they had time to prescribe better ones. The President, with a dogmatism and determination which well became a tyrant, commanded the old States to revive and be again represented as live bodies in the Government of the nation. If this usurpation be not a high official misdemeanor, then the putting of a crown upon his head would have been an innocent amusement in Andrew Johnson; then the seizure of the property of his subject and making it all subject to his good will, pleasure, and disposition would be no crime. That he did all this requires no other proof than his own official records; and had I been conducting this prosecution on the occasion referred to, when I had shown this usurpation and this abstraction, through pardoned rebel friends, of the billions of the public money, I would have stopped and asked the Congress either to appoint a new trustee for the nation or to become the slaves of a single man and change their whole form of government from republicanism to tyranny.
We will now briefly consider a few more things connected with the additional articles. We have already partially discussed the first additional article. We will add a little more, and refer to the second, under which we intended to insert the evidence in the body of these remarks, but I have concluded to publish it as an appendix lest the same should become too tedious.
It is not necessary again to refer to the cases of General McEwen, Colonel Montgomery, and the pardoned soldiers. These were cases of clear official misdemeanor, which appeared too brightly in the sunshine of truth to blind any but that bird of wisdom that sends forth his beautiful words by night.
Nor need we recapitulate the conclusive evidence of the shameless corruption as given by Colonel Selfridge. If an officer could be corrupt to the core, and abuse all the trusts confided in him, it was the man who made such shameful propositions to the gallant colonel. His own Cabinet minister has testified in seeming ignorance of its enormity of the causes for which he was compelled to remove from office and make appointments.
Hon. Alexander W. Randall, Postmaster General, testifies that up to the period he gave his evidence, a short time after the President's apostasy, there were removed from office, in his Department, the number of sixteen hundred and four, of whom twelve hundred and eighty-three were removed for political reasons alone. He explains what he means by political reasons, that the persons should abandon their honest principles and adopt those they did not approve of, ordered by the President. All of his removals and appointments were conducted upon this system.
If that number of victims were assailed and prepared for corruption in of [if] not the most important Departments of the Government, within so short a period after the apostasy, how many similar cases in other branches of the Government felt the effect of this corrupting policy? The Treasury contains several times more officers than the Post Office Department, and ten times more value. I am afraid, without authentic information, to state the number; they, however, amount to tens of thousands. How many honest men were hurled from appointments? How many poor women and children were reduced to suffering by this political Nero because they would not swallow the wormwood and the gall of moral apostasy? God knows that there were vast numbers who fell because they believed they could not withstand the command without producing suffering upon those dependent upon them. They were to be pitied! Were not these things high misdemeanors? Shame on the caitiff who denies it!
The testimony of the Senators from Colorado goes to show with what facility the President would lead men to perjury for his own vile purposes. How, in this corrupt and corrupting world, are men with human hearts to stand and not to fall?
Everything, whether mind or matter, however large or small, should stand on a square and firm foundation. Place it upon its apex, and it will topple down. Its frequent vibrations and jarrings will so loosen its hold on gravitation as to make it liable to be more easily overthrown in violent convulsion. Human virtue is believed to be so firm in most minds as not to be easily assailed. Human virtue is believed to be the great foundation of human excellence and human glory. Monuments of art are raised to celebrate the glory of virtue and truth, as if material monuments were to endure sufficiently long to be worth seeking. And yet scarcely a generation shall have passed away till you hear the vanity of their shortness deplored. The most costly and solid monuments of brass or marble, erected to the achievements of heroes and statesmen, in a few short years become the subject of the search of antiquaries, and their mutilated legs and arms and extracted eyes are scattered curiosities to enrich the museums of the world. This serves to illustrate not the worthlessness of virtue, but the folly of attempting to perpetuate its memory by mere material memorials. How many fragments of monuments strew the grounds of Palmyra without their indicating their original purpose? Enter the ever glowing tombs of Egypt, cut from solid rock, and painted with colors that never fade, and you will ask yourself in vain whose exploits and virtue do they commemorate? It is, therefore, but little wonder that men in the present and other generations should set such little value on the passing judgment of the age, or should endeavor to enjoy the benefits of their acts in present riches, however obtained, while they are yet in the way with them. Nor is it wonderful that men of the meanest intellect and meanest aspirations are no more easily open to the influence of corruption than the man of the loftiest position and most cultivated intellect. Hence, many men have come to the conclusion that no republican government is above the influence of corruption, if the means that command it in patronage, honor or gold, shall be sufficiently large, nor, with the exception of this great and pure Republic, without seeing any fact to justify it, but from pure theory and reflection I have been driven to the same conclusion.
I do not know that it is wise to ask for a vote upon this resolution; for, after mature reflection and thorough examination of ancient and modern history, I have come to the fixed conclusion that neither in Europe or America will the Chief Executive of a nation be again removed by peaceful means. If he retains the money and the patronage of the Government it will be found, as it has been found, stronger than the law and impenetrable to the spear of justice. If tyranny becomes intolerable, the only resource will be found in the dagger of Brutus. God grant that it may never be used. Look at Themistocles and Alcibiades, who, after having rendered illustrious service to their country, touched the riches of Persia and the gold of the Great King. Even he who so sternly wept by unconquered Salamis was not proof against the temptations of gold.
This may seem to be the argument of spleen, emitted by disappointment at recent events; but I disclaim any reference to those events, nor do I intend that they shall be made to apply to any fact or individual connected with recent transactions. True, I cannot deny that certain modern events have attracted my attention and made me more deeply reflect upon the possibilities of the human heart, from which reasoning I have been led to conclude that the loftiest intellect, the most cultivated mind, and the most aspiring ambition is just as liable to be purchased with gold as the most moderate intellect and the most limited personal ambition, when the corrupting influence tendered to each shall be in proportion to their high intellectual qualities. The man of mean ambition and low aspirations may be more easily seduced into error by lower motives and probably by smaller amounts than the man whose ambition grasps hemispheres and would induce him to desire the luxury of millions.
But let the latter be tempted by the auri sacra fames which would measure his capacity to with the lighter side of his neighbor, and why would he not yield? Has he ever resisted from the time of the progeny of the Ptoloemies -- to the mean traitor who sold American liberty for a paltry sum, though fortunately for the world he failed to make delivery. Indeed, I am not sure that the less cultivated mind, who sails lower in his sphere of hopes and desires, may not be harder to mislead from the path of virtue, so far as corrupt argument is concerned, than the ripe scholar who has spent his time perusing the works of philosophers. The latter have learned to measure glory and worldly good by the splendor of its earthly light, and they will not be as likely to be shocked by the mere upbraidings of conscience as those who have learned their principles by implicit reliance on the teachings of the Scriptures and are not more likely to be startled by a proposed departure from them. Nor, supposing the temptation to be increased in proportion, do I believe that any of the finer qualifications of the human heart are a protection against such corruption unless it has been touched by the coal of regeneration from the burning alter of the living God. We have seen Lord [Francis] Bacon, who, in everything but virtue, stood next to the angels, behold with cold indifference the corrupt and corrupting suitor fastening bags of gold to his horse's crupper. Beyond this human audacity could not soar; lower than his human depravity could not sink. The most austere appearances, the most sedate and virtuous demeanor, even the most repulsive austerity, is no sure indication of the intellectual man.
I can recollect but two men whom I deem absolutely impenetrable to temptation, he of Athens and He of Bethlehem. The counselor who gives the chief suggestions to our acquitted President did not deem the latter above corruption. He took him to the top of the highest mountain and offered him all the kingdoms of the earth to bow down and worship him. Here was enough "landed estates" to have tempted the land loving "high court of impeachment of the House of Lords."
To what a pitch of fame would our Republic have been raised if could have been heard issuing from the lips of the most astute, eloquent, highly cultivated, and austere of our court of impeachment, in concert with the great tempted Divine, the rebuke, "Get thee behind me, Satan! But, no; the sun of our glory is wading through watery clouds and the murky atmosphere of doubt and distrust.
I had spoken before of the different kind of persons open to seduction; I would not do injustice to the inambitious. Indeed, I am not sure that the man of modest pretensions and moderate acquirements is not less liable to yield to corruption, especially when conscience is relied upon as a monitor, than the man of highly cultivated, intellectual, and lofty aspirations. The one places faith in the solemn teachings of the Scriptures, while the other relies on his own strong reason and his cultivated intellect.
The one is startled with a violation of the teaching of his sacred Master, while the other views them with more reasoning equality, while gold is of more value to the philosopher than to the more moderate plebeian, and it takes more to satisfy his wants, and more to satisfy his doubts as to the flames of future torments than it does those of the implicit believer. Besides, how much more desirable it is to win the man of celebrity, so that he will cover the acts of others and give character to the transaction. Hence, I have come to the conclusion that the well furnished mind, the cultivated intellect, may be the nest of malignity, corruption, and depravity, as well as less cultivated minds.
I trust that no corruption will ever so infect our public men, and especially our public tribunals, as to taint the holy principles upon which our Government rests. If it should, the grief of the people, the grief of the friends of liberty throughout the world, will be more deeply moved than when the vail of the temple was rent in twain, and will be more intensely sad than was mourning Athens when they beheld the approach of the fatal vessel from Delos which was to seal the fate of their inspired teacher.
If this Government should learn to punish her delinquent rulers, and never to depart from the principles of the Declaration of Independence, especially from the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and its necessary concomitant -- universal suffrage -- she never can take a step backward, but will sail forward on a sea of glory into the very marge of that awful gulf that divides time from eternity.
Mr. Speaker, Providence has placed us here in a political Eden. All we have to do is to avoid the forbidden fruit, for we have not yet reached the perfection of justice. While nature has given us every advantage of soil, climate, and geographical position, man is still vile. But such large steps have lately been taken in the true direction, that the patriot has a right to take courage.
My sands are nearly run, and I can only see with the eye of faith. I am fast descending the downhill of life, at the foot of which stands an open grave. But you, sir, are promised length of days and a brilliant career. If you and your compeers can fling away ambition and realize that every human being, however lowly born or degraded, by fortune is your equal, that every inalienable right which belongs to you belongs also to him, truth and righteousness will spread over the land, and you will look down from the top of the Rocky mountains upon an empire of one hundred millions of happy people.
Still we must remember not to place our trust in princes, for we have seen that in the richest heart, the most highly cultivated mind, adorned with every literary grace, keen in arguments as the Stagerite, and fortified with an outward shield of bronzed austerity which seemed to forbid the approach of levity or corruption; this richest composition of human mold may be the abode of malignity, avarice, corroding lust, and uncontrollable ambition, as the owl, the prairie dog, and rattlesnake nestle together in loving harmony in the richest soil of the prairie.
I desire that the resolutions shall be postponed until next Monday, as certain gentlemen wish to look at them.