The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster: With An Essay on Daniel Webster as a Master of English Style

By Edwin P. Whipple; Daniel Webster | Go to book overview

EXECUTIVE PATRONAGE AND REMOVALS
FROM OFFICE.

FROM A SPEECH DELIVERED AT THE NATIONAL REPUBLICAN CONVENTION
HELD AT WORCESTER (MASS.), ON THE 12TH OF OCTOBER, 1832.

I BEGIN, Sir, with the subject of remorals from office for opinion's sake, one of the most signal instances, as I think, of the attempt to extend executive power. This has been a leading measure, a cardinal point, in the course of the administration. It has proceeded, from the first, on a settled proscription for political opinions; and this system it has carried into operation to the full extent of its ability. The President has not only filled all vacancies with his own friends, generally those most distinguished as personal partisans, but he has turned out political opponents, and thus created vacancies, in order that he might fill them with his own friends. I think the number of removals and appointments is said to be two thousaad. While the administration and its friends have been attempting to circumscribe and to decry the powers belonging to other branches, it has thus seized into its own hands a patronage most pernicious and corrupting, an authority over men's means of living most tyrannical and odious, and a power to punish free men for political opinions altogether intolerable.

You will remember, Sir, that the Constitution says not one word about the President's power of removal from office. It is a power raised entirely by construction. It is a constructive power, introduced at first to meet cases of extreme public necessity. It has now become coextensive with the executive will, calling for no necessity, requiring no exigency for its exercise; to be employed at all times, without control, without question, without responsibility. When the question of the President's power of removal was debated in the first Congress, those who argued for it limited it to extreme cases. Cases, they said, might arise, in which it would be absolutely necessary to remove an officer before the Senate could be assembled. An officer might become insane; he might abscond; and from these and other supposable cases, it was said, the public service might materially suffer if the President could not remove the incumbent. And it was further said, that there was little or no danger of the abuse of the power for party or personal objects. No President, it was thought, would ever commit such an outrage on public opinion. Mr. Madison, who thought the power ought to exist, and to be exercised in cases of high necessity, declared, nevertheless, that if a President should resort to the power when not required by any public exigency, and merely for personal objects, he would deserve to be impeached. By a very small majority,--I think, in the Senate, by the casting vote of the Vice-President, --Congress decided in favor of the existence of the power of removal, upon the grounds which I have mentioned; granting the power in a case of clear and absolute necessity, and denying its existence everywhere else.

-347-

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