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in the hearts of his countrymen."1 Of our President it will be said willingly, "first in war," but the candid historian will add, "first in nepotism, first in gift-taking and repaying by official patronage, first in Presidential pretensions, and first in quarrel with his countrymen." Anxiously, earnestly, the country asks for reform, and stands tiptoe to greet the coming. But how expect reform from a President who needs it so much himself? Who shall reform the reformer? So also does the country ask for purity. But is it not vain to seek this boon from one whose Presidential pretensions are so demoralizing? Who shall purify the purifier? The country asks for reform in the civil service. But how expect any such change from one who will not allow the Presidential office to be secured against its worst temptation? The country desires an example for the youth of the land, where intelligence shall blend with character, and both be elevated by a constant sense of duty with unselfish devotion to the public weal. But how accord this place to a President who makes his great office a plaything and perquisite, while his highest industry is in quarrelling? Since Sancho Panza at Barataria, no Governor has provided so well for his relations at the expense of his country; and if any other has made Cabinet appointments the return for personal favors, his name has dropped out of history. A man is known by his acts; so also by the company he keeps. And is not our President known by his intimacy with those who are by-words of distrust? But all these by-words look to another term for perpetuation of their power. Therefore, for the sake of reform and purity, which are a long
1 General Henry Lee, Oration before the Two Houses of Congress on the Death of Washington, December 26, 1799: Annals of Congress, 6th Cong., App., col. 1310.
ing of the people, and also that the Chief Magistrate may be an example, we must seek a remedy.
See for one moment how pernicious must be the Presidential example. First in place, his personal influence is far-reaching beyond that of any other citizen. What he does others will do. What he fails to do others will fail to do. His standard of conduct will be accepted at least by his political supporters. His measure of industry and his sense of duty will be the pattern for the country. If he appoints relations to office and repays gifts by official patronage, making his Presidency a great "gift-enterprise," may not every office-holder do likewise, each in his sphere, so that nepotism and gift-taking with official remuneration will be general, and gift-enterprises be multiplied indefinitely in the public service? If he treats his trust as plaything and perquisite, why may not every office-holder do the same? If he disregards Constitution and Law in the pursuit of personal objects, how can we expect a just subordination from others? If he sets up pretensions without number repugnant to republican institutions, must not the good cause suffer? If he is stubborn, obstinate, and perverse, are not stubbornness, obstinacy, and perversity commended for imitation? If he insults and wrongs associates in official trust, who is safe from the malignant influence having its propulsion from the Executive Mansion? If he fraternizes with jobbers and Hessians, where is the limit to the demoralization that must ensue? Necessarily the public service takes its character from its elected chief, and the whole country reflects the President. His example is a law. But a bad example must be corrected as a bad law.
To the Republican Party, devoted to ideas and prin
ciples, I turn now with more than ordinary solicitude. Not willingly can I see it sacrificed. Not without earnest effort against the betrayal can I suffer its ideas and principles to be lost in the personal pretensions of one man. Both the old parties are in a crisis, with this difference between the two: the Democracy is dissolving, the Republican party is being absorbed; the Democracy is falling apart, thus visibly losing its vital unity, the Republican Party is submitting to a personal influence, thus visibly losing its vital character; the Democracy is ceasing to exist, the Republican Party is losing its identity. Let the process be completed, and it will be no longer that Republican Party which I helped to found and have always served, but only a personal party,while instead of those ideas and principles which we have been so proud to uphold will be Presidential pretensions, and instead of Republicanism there will be nothing but Grantism.
Political parties are losing their sway. Higher than party are country and the duty to save it from Cæsar. The Caucus is at last understood as a political engine moved by wire-pullers, and it becomes more insupportable in proportion as directed to personal ends. Nor is its character changed when called a National Convention. Here, too, are wire-pullers; and when the great Office-Holder and the great Office-Seeker are one and the same, it is easy to see how naturally the engine responds to the central touch. A political convention is an agency and convenience, but never a law, least of all a despotism; and when it seeks to impose a candidate whose name is a synonym of pretensions unrepublican in character and hostile to good government, it will be for earnest Republicans to consider well how clearly
party is subordinate to country. Such a nomination can have no just obligation. Therefore with unspeakable interest will the country watch the National Convention at Philadelphia. It may be an assembly (and such is my hope) where ideas and principles are above all personal pretensions, and the unity of the party is symbolized in the candidate; or it may add another to Presidential rings, being an expansion of the military ring at the Executive Mansion, the senatorial ring in this Chamber, and the political ring in the customhouses of New York and New Orleans. A National Convention which is a Presidential ring cannot represent the Republican Party.
Much rather would I see the party to which I am dedicated, under the image of a life-boat not to be sunk by wind or wave. How often have I said this to cheer my comrades! I do not fear the Democratic Party. Nothing from them can harm our life-boat. But I do fear a quarrelsome pilot, unused to the sea, but pretentious in command, who occupies himself in loading aboard his own unserviceable relations and personal patrons, while he drives away the experienced seamen who know the craft and her voyage. Here is a peril which no life-boat can stand.
Meanwhile I wait the determination of the National Convention, where are delegates from my own muchhonored Commonwealth with whom I rejoice to act. Not without anxiety do I wait, but with the earnest hope that the Convention will bring the Republican Party into ancient harmony, saving it especially from the suicidal folly of an issue on the personal pretensions of one man.