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adverse House, and during the full term of John Quincy Adams, when both branches of Congress were antag. onistic.
These regular changes of public sentiment, or with. drawal of confidence once bestowed, are not always easy of explanation. It is no doubt true that during Presi. dential elections party spirit runs higher and party lines are more closely drawn, and the popular candidate at the head of the ticket, by his personal strength, carries the Congressional candidates with him to success.
Then follows a calmer and more reflective period, when the character and qualifications of the representatives are more carefully weighed, and the verdict of disapproval is more unerringly recorded. It is a fortunate thing for the
. country that there should be this independence in voting, and a consequent transition of parties. It is quite as salutary and effectual as the English system and that of other limited inonarchies: of the resignation of the Cabi. net when any of its measures are defcated in Parliament. In our case, the people must register their judgment every two years. In England, this right can only be enforced every seven years.
Another explanation of the biennial changes may be found in the fact that the parties every four years formulate and promulgate the measures which they respectively propose to carry out. Appeals to the people are made to enlist their support of these principles as represented by the candidates. The principles are accepted as a frank statement of the policy to be pursued. After the election the voters find that they have been deceived, or have misread the platform, or else that those elected to advance its theories have put a different construction upon the tenets, or perchance have proved recreant.
Parties are founded on certain fundamental doctrines, to which they adhere with more or less fixity of purpose. At the same time, when their conventions meet they take cognizance of the existing sentiments of the people, and do not hesitate to make such modifications of previous declarations as may seem to be more in accordance with the popular will, and best calculated to win votes. And as new issues arise in the development of national life, they aim to espouse the side which seems to give assur. ance of the strongest support. Should the temper of the people be not well ascertained or clearly defined, con. ventions have been known to deal in ambiguous phrases, to“ palter in a double sense," and thus arouse the ire and provoke the retribution which ensues. Mr. Lincoln quaintly said :“ You can fool all of the people sometimes, and some of the people all the time; but you can't fool all of the people all the tiine." The proportion of those who vote independently of party may not be large, but it has proved to be sufficient to redress some grievances, and to prevent either party from becoming too self-assured and defiant.
In the early days of the Republic, the country was not disturbed by questions of the tariff or of the currency, which in later years have been quite momentous. But the strong line of demarcation between the Democrats and the Federalists was as to the spirit in which the Constitution should be interpreted and the powers of the general government be applied. The Democrats contended for a strict construction, denying that the United States had any inferential powers, or could exercise any which had not been expressly conferred on it by the organic law, and that all powers not enumerated remained inviolably with the States or the people. The Federal. ists claimed that the Constitution should be liberally construed, and that the Federal Government had complete power except as to matters wherein it was expressly pro. hibited from taking jurisdiction. The position of the Democracy was so frequently and emphatically approved by the people that it ceased to have any open opposition,
Whatever may have been the practice of the Republican party during the stress of civil war, it recognized the Democratic theory on the point under consideration. The convention of 1860 resolved" that the Federal Con. stitution, the rights of the States, and the Union of the States must and shall be preserved," and again " that the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric de. pends." The Democratic and Republican parties being both clearly committed to a recognition of State rights, it may be considered that this is an established doctrine.
The election of Jackson brought to the front a question arising out of the construction of the Constitution. When Alexander Hamilton was Secretary of the Treas. ury, he procured the establishment of a National Bank. A renewal of its charter was desired; Jackson opposed it, contending that Congress had no power to incorporate such an institution. And this became an article in the Democratic creed. It is true that in Madison's adıninis. tration a similar charter was granted, which made the position of the party for the time being inconsistent. But they swung back to their old position, and when this second charter expired, and a bill renewing it was passed, Jackson vetoed it; and from that time forward until the war period, the Democratic National conventions declared every four years that " Congress had no power to charter a National Bank." The Whigs ceased to contend for the establishment of such an institution, and the Democratic theory prevailed. The Sub-Treasury system, established by the Democracy as a substitute for the National Bank, is still maintained as a part of the financial machinery of the United States.
The Whigs were in favor of the distribution amongst
the States of the proceeds of the sale of the public lands. This the Democrats opposed, and insisted that revenues thus arising should be paid into the Federal treasury, and used for general expenses. The Democratic policy on this subject ceased to be resisted. These may be con. sidered dead issues, upon all of which the Democracy were successful.
Before adverting to the unsolved problems, the dis. puted questions, in which the people are still greatly interested, it should be set down to the credit of the Democratic party that under its authority all of the vast area which was added to our national domain prior to the war with Spain - except Alaska — was acquired; that it promulgated the Monroe Doctrine, which, if not inter. national law, is irrevocable American law, and has been approved by both parties; that in the Martin Koszta case it established the principle that a naturalized or half. naturalized citizen of this country has rights equal to the native-born, which rights foreign nations must respect; that it successfully and victoriously carried the country through two wars with foreign powers; that it opened the ports of Japan to our trade; that it crushed the spirit of bigotry and intolerance in the Know-Nothing days; and firmly maintained freedom of conscience and of worship. If its theories upon pending issues shall be condemned, and its usefulness shall cease, it may be per. mitted to boast of having written many brilliant and valuable chapters of American history.
Upon the question of internal improvements, the record of the Democratic party has not been consistent.
By reference to the foregoing chronological history, it will be seen that Democratic administrations and Con. gresses sometimes favored certain specific internal improvements, which involved a comparatively small outlay. But until 1856 it denied that the Federal Government has power under the Constitution to engage in internal
improvements. In the year just named, when the new territorial acquisitions on the Pacific, by reason of the gold-mining operations, had become very populous and demanded quicker and more direct communication with the East, it resolved “ that the Democratic party recog. nizes the great importance, in a political and commercial point of view, of a safe and speedy communication, by military and postal roads through our own territory, be. tween the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the Union, and that it is the duty of the Federal Government to exercise promptly all its constitutional power for the attainment of that object." In 1860, this was followed by an ex. plicit declaration in favor of " such constitutional gov. ernment aid as will insure the construction of a railroad to the Pacific Coast at the earliest practicable period." What was meant by “constitutional aid " developed into aid which was of more than doubtful constitutional. ity-the government guaranteeing the bonds of a private corporation, and granting them extravagant donations of the public lands. The Democrats were not directly responsible for this legislation; but they approved it, and it may be claiined, in part at least, to have been the logi. cal deduction from their expressed willingness to have the government contribute to these enterprises. In 1884 the party threw off the restraints of its former doctrine, and clearly declared that "the Federal Government should care for and improve the Mississippi River, and other great waterways of the Republic, so as to secure for the interior States easy and cheap transportation to tide water."
A similar resolution was passed by each con. vention since. Whether or not this is in accordance with constitutional power is not here discussed; the only pur. pose being to show that, even on fundamental questions, views may be changed by new conditions and the interests of advancing civilization.
Upon the tariff the Democracy have been no more