Page:The American Review Volume 02.djvu/572

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
554
[Dec,
The Whig Party:

tion of Oregon and the re-annexation of Texas, at the earliest practicable period, are great American measures, which the Convention recommend to the cordial support of the democracy of the Union."

In his first message, President Polk adopted verbatim and repeated the first paragraph of this resolution, and for so doing he is vindicated, on the ground that the fact of his election upon the doctrines put forth at Baltimore, is to be taken as conclusive evidence that they expressed the popular will. But if so, why did the message stop short with the first paragraph, and why is not the second as obligatory, according to this logic, as the first? If the people of the United States meant to be understood, in electing Mr. Polk, as declaring that "our title to the whole of the territory of Oregon is clear and unquestionable," they must be considered as in like manner declaring "that no portion of the same ought to be ceded to England." But the message made no such declaration. So far, indeed, is Mr. Polk from entertaining any such view, that he has actually entered into negotiation with Great Britain concerning the very territory, which he could not have done if he considered himself bound in no event "to cede any portion of it to Great Britain."

It is therefore illogical, upon the premises relied on, to contend that the President is only carrying out the popular will as indicated by this resolution.

But were it otherwise, and that it could be made out satisfactorily that in all points the resolutions of a party meeting were suffered by the President of the United States to control his official views and conduct, in respect of great national interests—interests involving the honor, happiness and peace of the whole country, possibly those of the civilized world—would the case be in any wise better for him?

The President, when he takes his seat, makes solemn appeal to Heaven, that he "will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of his ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

It is nowhere said that he shall be the President of a party, and it is nowhere written in the Constitution, which is to be the guide, the measure, and the rule of his conduct, that the President must, or should, or honestly can, shape his course by the lights of conventions unknown to that Constitution. It is therefore a wrong alike to the theory of our institutions, to the sworn fidelity of the President, and to the high and solemn responsibilities of his office, to assume, or to assert, that in shaping the foreign policy of the nation, or in any other great national manifestation, the Executive head of this Republic acknowledges any other obligation, any other allegiance, than to the whole people of the United States, and to the Constitution, which is their common defence and law.

For this government is one of compact and mutual agreement, where all, numerically, at least, have equal rights and an equal interest; and it is not a device whereby a party majority shall have the right to dispose at pleasure of the interest and happiness of others.

Party, indeed, under institutions like ours, will ever mingle, and, within reasonable limits, may without danger mingle, in the contests for the possession of power, and of the fruits of power after it is acquired; but beyond that, it can never rightfully go. More especially in our relations with foreign nations and in the suggestion or adoption of our foreign policy, is it plainly manifest that Party should always be contemned as an unwise and unworthy counselor.

It is the great blot in the career of Mr. Van Buren, that when Secretary of State of the United States, he degraded the country in whose name he spoke, by disavowing the acts of the Administration to which that whereof he formed part succeeded—and sought favor from a foreign government by representing as unfounded pretensions which the then President hastened to recall—the honest assertion by his predecessors, of claims, which were only distasteful to that foreign government, because they were as clear as they were honest.

The overwhelming and disastrous popularity of General Jackson covered up and glossed over this enormity, as it did so many others; but in the future annals of the country, it will be recorded to the lasting discredit of Mr. Van Buren, that he, for the first time in our diplomatic intercourse with another nation, introduced and sought to make party capital out of our domestic differences.

In the actual posture of the Oregon question, therefore, it is, above all things, desirable that party should not be permitted to determine the issue, and that all mere appeals to partisans as such should be discouraged.

There is need of the considerate wis-