Whom or what have they been victorious over? What are the spoils which they have a right to appropriate to themselves? This Government was established upon the principle that the strong should protect the weak, not despoil them, neither claim that they had a right so to do. If this principle is admitted, that the party which shall succeed in getting the control of the administration of the Government may control the other parties, or the people and the resources of the nation, according to their own will and pleasure, what need of constitutions and laws? They would then become a mere mockery, except in so far as being instruments in the hands of such party, by which they might compel the people to support its rule with their substance.
If the revenue of the nation, when collected, may be thus claimed as "spoils," to be distributed exclusively to their partisans, and none but sworn accomplices permitted to participate in the management of our public affairs, where is our individual safety, or the protection of our individual rights? This is a dangerous evil, which has grown strong in our midst, and is paving the way to the eventual surrender of our individual sovereignty. Does it not paralyze the strong arm of the law, where most its strength is needed - in its power to punish all such violations of individual rights?
Far better to abandon the Constitution and laws, and elect arbitrary rulers, acknowledging their will as uncontrolled law, for the time being, than to suffer our office-holders to exercise such power under the semblance of law. In the one case, we could make them individually accountable for their acts; in the other, they shield themselves under the laws which they are appointed to administer. This evil, which should alarm and arouse every reflecting man, is produced by that striving for party rule which is regardless of every principle but party power and personal aggrandizement.
Instead of seeking the best good of the country, by first firmly establishing a uniform principle upon which the Government and laws should be administered, and then selecting sound and true men, who would honestly administer such Government and laws, these mere partisans conjure up some catch-words, by the aid of which they form or strengthen their party, and upon which they base their party platforms, hoping, by such means, to elect their favorite candidates, through whose instrumentality they expect to share in the spoils of office, and then, in all innocency, wonder why their office-holders are not strictly honest, claiming, at the same time, that "to the victors belong the spoils!" Parties and cliques in this country, formed upon this principle, are primary schools, from which the people may be sure that they will be advanced to the higher school of despotism.
These evils which now surround us have not been engendered by any considerable portion of the people; they have been brought about by the few, who have been grasping for power, and influence. Not having been able to get that power and influence, by an honest expression of a majority of the people, they have striven to distract the mind of the community by false issues, thus dividing the people into feuds and factions, so that if possible they might gain notoriety, at least in their particular factions; which factions they bind together by promises of plunder, when they get the power to distribute it; and if successful in getting such power, they must redeem their pledges.
Finding that it takes more offices and more plunder than the legitimate requirements of the government need, schemes of all descriptions are resorted to, in order to graify the cravings of party spirit, which, as now exercised, is the bane of this country. It causes the people to lose sight of their best interests, by narrowing their minds to party, and to its particular leaders; for, from such, designing men expect to reap some personal reward.
This spirit can only be arrested by the majority of the people who do not ask for such personal favors, and are too honest to receive them, if tendered. I believe that there is honesty, integrity, and patriotism enough, in the people of this country, to purify the Government and its institutions from the corruptions that now surround them if they will free themselves from party prejudice and dictation, and make one common cause in defense of the established Government and the common rights of all the people, which rights it was intended by its framers to protect.
What care the masses for the offices, or those who may fill them, only so far as that such offices are administered according to the true spirit of the Government? Let the peopole, therefore, say to such party leaders as I have described, show us your deeds, and if they do not conform to the true spirit of the Government, we will teach you that -
No party lines contract our powers,
For the whole American Government is ours!
In so doing, the people will be enabled to correct one great evil which, to my mind, threatens, more than any other, the stability of the American Government; and that is, the proneness of the masses to look to individuals, rather than to the true spirit and intent of the established Government and laws, for the redress of their wrongs, and the protection of their rights. This growing habit of reliance renders them so infatuated with such individuals, and so blind to their errors, that they will follow them as leaders, whether right or wrong; sustaining such men in an assumption of power which the principle of the Government would not permit them to exercise. If one man is allowed to assume such power and is sustained in so doing, others cannot be prevented from doing the same thing; thus, by elevating men above the established Government, they are made the center of attraction, causing the people to lose sight of the standard by which the words and actions of all men should be tried; the people become their blind partisans, virtually crowning them with regal authority, which designing and aspiring men may use to the subversion of our institutions.
The Congressional Globe, The Official Proceedings of Congress, Published by John C. Rives, Washington, D. C.
Thirty-Sixth Congress, 1st Session,
New Series...No. 32, Thursday, January 19, 1860, pages 508-509.