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when George the Third, the most obstinate of rulers, accepted Fox, and George the Fourth, as prejudiced as his father was obstinate, accepted Canning, each bringing to the service commanding faculties. It is related that the Duke of Wellington, with military frankness, encountered the personal objections of the King in the latter case, by saying: "Your Majesty is the sovereign of England, with duties to your people far above any to yourself; and these duties render it imperative that you should at this time employ the abilities of Mr. Canning."1 By such instances in a constitutional government is the Cabinet fixed as a constitutional and not a personal body. It is only by some extraordinary hallucination that the President of a Republic dedicated to Constitutional Liberty can imagine himself invested with a transforming prerogative above that of any English sovereign, by which his counsellors are changed from public officers to personal attendants, and a great constitutional body, in which all citizens have a common interest, is made a perquisite of the President.
APPROPRIATION OF THE OFFICES.
MARKED among the spectacles which followed, and kindred in character with the appropriation of the Cabinet as individual property, was the appropriation of the offices of the country, to which I refer in this place even at the expense of repetition. Obscure and undeserving relations, marriage connections, personal retainers, army associates, friends of unknown fame and notable only as personal friends or friends of his relations, evidently absorbed the Presidential mind during those months of
1 Sir H. L. Bulwer, Historic Characters, Vol. II. p. 324.
obdurate reticence when a generous people supposed the Cabinet to be the all-absorbing thought. Judging by the facts, it would seem as if the chief and most spontaneous thought was how to exploit the appointing power to his own personal behoof. At this period the New York Custom-House presented itself to the imagination, and a letter was written consigning a military dependant to the generosity of the Collector. You know the
rest. Dr. Johnson, acting as executor in selling the distillery of Mr. Thrale, said: "We are not here to sell a parcel of boilers and vats, but the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice." If the President did not use the sounding phrase of the great English moralist, it is evident that his military dependant felt in that letter all the "potentiality" advertised in the earlier case, and acted accordingly.
It is not necessary to say that in these things there was departure from the requirements of law, whether in the appointment of his Cabinet or of personal favorites, even in return for personal benefactions, although it was plainly unrepublican, offensive, and indefensible. But this same usurping spirit, born of an untutored egotism, brooking no restraint, showed itself in another class of transactions, to which I have already referred, where Law and Constitution were little regarded.
PRESIDENTIAL ASSAULT ON A SAFEGUARD OF THE TREASURY.
FIRST in time and very indigenous in character was the Presidential attempt against one of the sacred safeguards of the Treasury, the original workmanship of
1 Boswell's Life of Johnson, ed. Croker, April, 1781.
Alexander Hamilton, being nothing less than the "Act to establish the Treasury Department." Here was an important provision, "that no person appointed to any office instituted by this Act shall directly or indirectly be concerned or interested in carrying on the business of trade or commerce"; and any person so offending was declared guilty of a high misdemeanor, and was to forfeit to the United States three thousand dollars, with removal from office, and forever thereafter to be incapable of holding any office under the United States.1 From the beginning this statute had stood unquestioned, until it had acquired the character of fundamental law. And yet the President, by a special message, dated March 6, 1869, being the second day of his first service as a civilian, asked Congress to set it aside, so as to enable Mr. Stewart, of New York, already nominated and confirmed as Secretary of the Treasury, to enter upon the duties of this office.2 This gentleman was unquestionably the largest merchant who had transacted business in our country, and his imports were of such magnitude as to clog the custom-house. If the statute was anything but one of those cobwebs which catch the weak, but yield to the rich, this was the occasion for it, and the President should have yielded to no temptation against it. The indecorum of his effort stands out more painfully when it is considered that the merchant for whom he wished to set aside a time-honored safeguard was one of those from whom he had received gifts.
Such was the accommodating disposition of the Senate, that a bill exempting the Presidential benefactor from the operation of the statute was promptly introduced,
1 Act of September 2, 1789, Section 8: Statutes at Large, Vol. I. p. 67. 2 Congressional Globe, 41st Cong. 1st Sess., p. 22.
and even read twice, until, as it seemed about to pass, I felt it my duty to object to its consideration, saying, according to the Globe, "I think it ought to be most profoundly considered before it is acted on by the Senate." This objection caused its postponement. The country was startled. By telegraph the general anxiety was communicated to Washington. Three days later the President sent a message requesting permission to withdraw the former message.2 But he could not withdraw the impression produced by such open disregard of the law to promote his personal desire.
ILLEGAL MILITARY RING AT THE EXECUTIVE
THE military spirit, which failed in the effort to set aside a fundamental law as if it were a transient order, was more successful at the Executive Mansion, which at once assumed the character of military head-quarters. To the dishonor of the civil service, and in total disregard of precedent, the President surrounded himself with officers of the Army, and substituted military forms for those of civil life, detailing for this service members of his late staff. The earliest public notice of this military occupation appeared in the "Daily Morning Chronicle" of March 8, 1869, understood to be the official organ of the Administration :
"President Grant was not at the White House yesterday, but the following members of his staff were occupying the Secretaries' rooms and acting as such: Generals Babcock, Porter, Badeau, and Dent."
1 Congressional Globe, 41st Cong. 1st Sess., p. 22.
This is to be regarded not only in its strange blazonry of the Presidential pretension, but also as the first apparition of that minor military ring in which the President has lived ever since.
Thus installed, Army officers became secretaries of the President, delivering his messages to both Houses of Congress, and even authenticating Presidential acts as if they were military orders. Here, for instance, is an official communication:
Washington, D. C., March 15, 1869.
ROBERT MARTIN DOUGLAS, Esq. :
SIR, You are hereby appointed Assistant Private Secretary to the President, to date from the 15th March, 1869.
By order of the President,
Brevet Brigadier-General, Secretary.1
Mark the words, "By order of the President," and then the signature, "Horace Porter, Brevet BrigadierGeneral, Secretary."
The Presidential pretension which I exhibit on the simple facts, besides being of doubtful legality, to say the least, was of evil example, demoralizing alike to the military and civil service, and an undoubted reproach to republican institutions in that primary principle, announced by Jefferson in his first Inaugural Address, "the supremacy of the civil over the military authority." It seemed only to remain that the President should sign his Messages, "Commander-in-Chief of the Army of the United States." Evidently a new order of things had arrived.
1 Daily Morning Chronicle, March 16, 1869.