Front Page Titles (by Subject) GALLATIN TO WALTER LOWRIE. - The Writings of Albert Gallatin, vol. 2
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GALLATIN TO WALTER LOWRIE. - Albert Gallatin, The Writings of Albert Gallatin, vol. 2 
The Writings of Albert Gallatin, ed. Henry Adams (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1879). 3 vols.
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GALLATIN TO WALTER LOWRIE.
New Geneva, Pennsylvania, May 22, 1824.
Your and Mr. Ruggles’s letters of 1st instant were detained one day at the post-office, and reached me at the moment of my departure from Baltimore. As I had previously written to you that I would abide by the decision of our friends in Congress and stand as a candidate for Vice-President, if they ultimately concluded that it was most advantageous for the public cause that I should be retained on the nomination, I had not believed it necessary to make a formal answer to Mr. Ruggles’s notification. Indeed, I think that the great solemnity given at the last elections to the Congressional nominations of President and Vice-President, and the making it a part of the proceedings to publish the answers of the persons nominated, has been injurious to the Republican interest. It is that which has furnished a pretence to attach to the whole the odium of being an attempt to dictate to the people. Formerly those meetings were as efficient; and yet there was no publication, with the formalities of chairman, secretary, answers of candidates, &c.; they were matters of public notoriety, with only the appearance of an understanding between the members to support the persons agreed on. I allude particularly to the two very important elections which wrested the power from the Federalists, that in 1799 of Governor McKean, and in 1800 of Mr. Jefferson, in the preparatory meetings for both of which I was an efficient member. I am sure that no answer of Mr. Jefferson, and I believe that none of Mr. Madison, was ever published. A different course originated either with Senator Bradley or General Smith as chairman of the Congressional meeting,—a useless and, I think, injurious parade. As it is, however, thought necessary, I have written an answer to Mr. Ruggles, and have said so much only to account for its delay.
I had no doubt that Edwards’s charges would recoil on himself whenever the subject was investigated. The mischief consists in his short recapitulation of half a dozen broad charges, which has been reprinted in almost every newspaper of the Union, and read by everybody, whilst few only will peruse, and not all of these be able to appreciate, the conclusive answer of Mr. Crawford. I hope that the report of the committee of investigation will contain some short and pointed denial of the charges which may also be read by all.
We will have a hard, perhaps unsuccessful, struggle in Pennsylvania. As yet this part of the country seems to be divided between Jackson and Clay, with [a] few old Republicans in favor of Mr. Crawford, who is less known and is not a Western man. The opposition in this State should, I think, be directed against General Jackson as the most formidable opponent here, though not elsewhere; and I think that the correspondence, the publication of which you have forced, affords sufficient proof that, whatever gratitude we owe him for his eminent military services, he is not fitted for the office of first magistrate of a free people and to administer a government of laws. His doctrine of paying no regard to party in the selection of the great officers of government is not only in direct opposition to the principles of the Republican party and to his own opinions in 1801, whilst he was one of them, but it is tantamount to a declaration that political principles and opinions are of no importance in the administration of government. If this is true, if talents and virtue are the only considerations to be attended to in the choice of heads of Departments and of those high offices generally (where there is necessarily much discretion, and which have a marked influence on all the external and internal operations of government), the people of the United States, Republicans and Federalists, have been in the wrong from the establishment of our Constitution to this day. The Republicans had certainly no right, if that doctrine be true, to oppose General Hamilton or to object to Mr. Adams’s election. But the doctrine is altogether untrue. General Jackson has confounded the excesses to which party spirit may lead, which no one denies, but of which no party was ever less guilty than that of the Republicans of the United States, with the essence and foundation of that party, which is nothing but adherence to a set of principles and to a system of measures essential, in our opinion, to the maintenance of our free institutions, to a wise administration of our government, to the prosperity of the country, to the happiness of the people. It is for the support and advancement of all these that we deem it important to select men for the offices in question whose political opinions are not discordant with those principles and that system. Disregard that distinction, and you immediately lose sight of the principles and substitute men to measures, faction to party, and ultimately and unavoidably favoritism to a selection founded on correct political opinions and merit. I could say much more on that subject, too comprehensive for the limits of a letter. But, without dwelling on the trite though not less true observation that parties constituted as ours were watch one another and are one of the best safeguards against illegal or oppressive measures, I will add a single remark. It is not my solitary opinion, but that also of our wisest and most enlightened statesmen, that the greatest danger to our free institutions, and particularly to the permanence of the Union, will be found less in any great and real difference of interest amongst its several sections than in the disordinate ambition of individuals, especially of disappointed individuals. These are and will be more effectually kept in check and controlled by the force of party and by the bond resulting therefrom than by any other means whatever. I am sure that this on reflection will appear obvious to you, and I come to a more tangible topic.
In avowing that he would have punished, through the medium of a court-martial, men presumed to be guilty of political offences in their civil character and who did not belong to the army, General Jackson has expressed a greater and a bolder disregard of the first principles of liberty than I have ever known to be entertained by any American, or, indeed, by any person professing himself to be either a Republican or only a friend to a government of laws. This avowal accords, indeed, with his general conduct. He entertains, I believe, very sincere but very erroneous and most dangerous opinions on the subject of military and Executive power. Whenever he has been intrusted with the first, he has usurped more than belonged to him; and when he thought it useful to the public, he has not hesitated to transcend the law and the legal authority vested in him. Hence his collisions with the judiciary at New Orleans and Pensacola, and hence his assumption of the power of making war against a foreign nation, evinced in his second capture of Pensacola and in his deliberate orders to take St. Augustine under a certain contingency; measures which he believes himself to have been perfectly correct, although they were not authorized by the Executive, and although they could not, according to our Constitution, have been thus authorized without a special previous Act of Congress. It is because he entertains and avows such opinions, it is on that ground that, without any personal disrespect or want of gratitude for his great services, it is to me incomprehensible that he can be supported by Republicans and real friends of liberty. I believe it impossible that he can be elected; but it is to me at least a deep matter of regret that he should be seriously supported in any quarter of the Union, above all in Democratic Pennsylvania. Is it possible that the people should lend arms to the enemies of their rights, to the scoffers of free government? that they should add one more proof to those with which the history of mankind abounds, and which the face of the globe and even of Europe exhibits, that, dazzled by military glory, they, the people, are naturally disposed to sacrifice their rights and liberties to the shrine of that glory, and to substitute the worship of a chieftain to the exercise of those rights and to the maintenance of that liberty? The French, indeed, have given a late sad example in the oversetting of the republic and submission to a first-rate man. An apology might be found in inveterate habits not yet corrected. But I still hope that our fellow-citizens will dispel the delusion and prove themselves true to their former and inborn principles. They are the last hope of liberty and of man, and have the highest duties to perform. No effort should be spared to recall forcibly those truths to their minds.
I remain very respectfully, dear sir, your most obedient servant.