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THE LEGISLATION OF CONGRESS - William Leggett, Democratick Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy 
Democratic Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy, Foreword by Lawrence H. White (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1984).
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THE LEGISLATION OF CONGRESS
March 11, 1835.
Title added by Sedgwick. Text abridged.
Either the present number of representatives in Congress is necessary, or it is not. If the former, then a regular and general attendance is demanded of the members. If the latter, then it is an abuse to saddle the people with the expense of these supernumerary legislators, who spend their time in gallanting the ladies about the city of Washington, or flirting with them in the galleries of the two Houses. If their wisdom is essential to the welfare of the people, then the people who pay them have a right to its exercise: if it is not, it might better be employed on their own account at home.
The close of every session of Congress, whether short or long, invariably exhibits a vast mass of public business either not acted upon, or left unfinished, consisting not unfrequently of questions of great and general importance to the whole Union. This lamentable result may be partly owing to the annual increase of private claims not susceptible of judicial decision, and therefore brought before Congress as the only resort. If so, it would seem to be high time to make such a disposition of these matters as may allow ample time to the proper affairs of the nation; to those general laws which are of universal concern, and the neglect of which is felt in every part of the country.
The cause of this neglect of more important affairs, in the first instance, and this precipitate legislation on them afterwards, will be discovered in the unlimited indulgence of the rage for speech making—the cacoethes loquendi, which is the prevailing epidemic in Congress—added to that propensity to private, partial, and local legislation, which is becoming the curse of this country. Almost every member has his budget of matters of this sort, in which the great mass of the nation has no concern whatever, and which he cannot die in peace without thrusting upon the attention of Congress, and urging with a pertinacity and verbosity precisely in proportion to their insignificance. In this way the people are borne down to the earth with public benefits and harassed with legislation, and there is some reason to fear that it will be discovered ere long that they cannot breathe without a special act of Congress.
“DO NOT GOVERN TOO MUCH,” is a maxim which should be placed in large letters over the speaker’s chair in all legislative bodies. The old proverb, “too much of a good thing is good for nothing,” is most especially applicable to the present time, when it would appear, from the course of our legislation, that common sense, common experience, and the instinct of self-preservation, are utterly insufficient for the ordinary purposes of life; that the people of the United States are not only incapable of self-government, but of taking cognizance of their individual affairs; that industry requires protection, enterprize bounties, and that no man can possibly find his way in broad day light without being tied to the apron-string of a legislative dry-nurse. The present system of our legislation seems founded on the total incapacity of mankind to take care of themselves or to exist without legislative enactment. Individual property must be maintained by invasions of personal rights, and the “general welfare” secured by monopolies and exclusive privileges.
The people of the United States will discover when too late that they may be enslaved by laws as well as by the arbitrary will of a despot; that unnecessary restraints are the essence of tyranny; and that there is no more effectual instrument of depriving them of their liberties, than a legislative body, which is permitted to do anything it pleases under the broad mantle of THE PUBLIC GOOD—a mantle which, like charity, covers a multitude of sins, and like charity is too often practised at the expense of other people.