Page:Henry Adams' History of the United States Vol. 1.djvu/299

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Ch. 11.

his Federalist opponents; and he rarely enjoyed a better opportunity for irritation than on Feb. 18, 1802, when, with a great majority behind him, and with the consciousness of triumph attained, he broke into the dull debate on the Judiciary Bill.

Both sides were weary of the narrow question whether Congress had the power to remove Judges by legislation. Whether such a power existed or not, every one knew that the Republican majority meant to use it, and the Federalists were chiefly anxious to profit by the odium they could attach to its abuse. The Federalists, in a character new to them, posed as the defenders of the Constitution against sacrilegious attacks; while the Republicans, for the first time in their history as a party, made light of constitutional objections, and closed their ears to warnings in which they had themselves hitherto found their chief rhetorical success. With Giles's appearance on the floor the tedious debate started into virulence. He began insinuating motives, as though he were still discussing the Alien and Sedition Laws in the Virginia legislature of 1798: "A great portion of the human mind," he began, "has been at all times directed toward monarchy as the best form of government to enforce obedience and insure the general happiness; whereas another portion of the human mind has given a preference to the republican form as best calculated to produce the same end." On this difference of opinion the two parties had been founded, the one wishing "to