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At the August election in 1825, he was chosen a mem- 2'
ber of Congress, by a most flattering vote. That he discharged his duties to the entire satisfaction of those whom he represented, is evidenced by the fact, that he was repeatedly returned by the same constituency, for
fourteen years in succession, from 1825 to 1839. In the
latter year he voluntarily withdrew from another contest, in which his success was not even questionable, in order to become a candidate for the office of governor of his adopted State. Mr. Polk first took his seat in the House of Representatives, as a member of the 19th Congress, in December, 1825; being, with one or two exceptions, the youngest member of that body. The same habits of laborious ap-l plication which had previously characterized him, were now displayed on the floor of the House and in the committee-room. He was punctual and prompt in the performance of every duty, and firm and zealous in the maintenance and advocacy of his opinions. He spoke frequently, but was invariably listened to with deference and respect. He was always courteous in debate; his speeches had nothing declamatory about them,-they were always to the point, always clear and forcible. So faithful and exemplary was he in his attendance upon the sessions of Congress, that it is said he never missed a division while occupying a seat on the floor of the House, and was not absent from the daily sittings for a single day, except on one occasion, on account of indisposition. Such punctuality is rarely witnessed in a legislator, and it deserves to be remembered. John Quincy Adams had scarcely seated himself in the
chair of state, when he discovered that his position was environed with difficulties and embarrassments. As a member of Mr. Monroe's cabinet, he had advocated a liberal policy in regard to internal improvements, and a high protective tariff. In his inaugural address, he took bolder and more decided ground than he had hitherto done, and advanced views and doctrines utterly at variance with those cherished by the old republican party, and trenching closely on the federal platform of 1800. The friends of General Jackson, Mr. Crawford, Mr. Calhoun, and a portion of those who had supported Mr. Clay, immediately manifested a disposition vigorously to oppose the new administration, the tendency of which, as they maintained, was toward federalism and consolidation. This feeling was strengthened, when they discovered in the appointments to office, and in the manner in which all the important committees of the 19th Congress were constituted by the Speaker, a friend of Mr. Adams, the certain indications of an intention to build up a party with the President at its head, and to proscribe those who were supposed to be unfriendly to his reëlection. The measures of policy, too, which he recommended, were not approved by the great majority of the republican friends of Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe. Immediately after the organization of the two houses of Congress, in December, 1825, the peculiar circumstances attending the election of Mr. Adams, through the influence and aid of Mr. Clay, were brought up in review. Amendments to the constitution were proposed in the Senate by Mr. Benton, of Missouri, providing for a direct vote by the people, in districts, for president, and dispensing with the electoral colleges; and by Mr. McDuffie, of South Carolina, in the House, authorizing the electors to be chosen by districts, and containing provisions which would prevent the choice of president, in future, from devolving on the House of Representatives. Mr. Polk made his debut as a speaker on this question, and advocated the amendment of the constitution, in such
a manner as to give the choice of president and vice-pres
ident directly to the people. As one of the friends of
General Jackson, he entered warmly into the subject, and
his speech was characterized by what was with him an unusual degree of animation in addressing a deliberative body. It was also distinguished for its clearness and force, its copiousness of research, and the cogency of its arguments. Henceforth the way was clear for him. Among his associates were many of the ablest men in the nation, but an honorable position among them was cheerfully assigned to him. Among the prominent recommendations of Mr. Adams, which Mr. Polk, with the other opponents of the administration, zealously resisted, were the Panamá Mission, and that class of measures, the chief features of which were an extensive system of internal improvements and a high protective tariff, usually comprehended under the general designation of “the American System.” The debate in the House of Representatives on the Panamá Mission, as the reader will not need to be reminded, arose upon the bill making the required appropriation for the purposes of the mission. Mr. Adams had appointed commissioners to attend a congress proposed to be held at Panamá, by delegates appointed by
the Spanish American states, who had in fact achieved their independence, though still nominally at war with the mother country. The object of this meeting was to form an alliance, defensive if not offensive, between the North and South American republics. Mr. Van Buren, Mr. Benton, and other leading republicans, in the Senate, opposed the confirmation of the appointments with great ability, but they were unsuccessful. They endorsed, to the fullest extent, the declaration of Mr. Monroe, “that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers;” and they approved the authoritative announcement made by Mr. Rush to Mr. Canning, in 1823, that the United States would view any attempt on the part of France and the Continental Alliance to resubjugate the Spanish American states, “as a transcendent act of national injustice, and indicative of progressive and alarming ambition.”f But, it was contended, this proposition to appoint commissioners, and the conclusion of any league or alliance as anticipated, would be a departure from the established policy of the government; it would have the inevitable tendency to involve the United States in war with Spain, and eventually with other European powers having possessions in America that might be disposed to revolt; and they should content themselves with protesting against any future colonization. In these views Mr. Polk concurred; and he subsequently had occasion officially to endorse the declaration made by Mr. Monroe.* The whole question was freely discussed in the House, but a new point was here raised. It was insisted by the friends of the administration, as was contended by the federal party during the discussions on Jay's treaty, that the treaty-making power, and the management of the foreign relations of the government, belonged exclusively to the President and Senate; and that the House of Representatives had no constitutional right to deliberate upon, much less to withhold the appropriations necessary to carry a treaty into effect, or what might be required for a special mission of this character. This startling doctrine was denounced in unmeasured terms by Mr. Polk and those members who concurred with him in sentiment. He was quite prominent in the debates, and offered a series of resolutions on the subject, one of which was a reproduction of the doctrines of the republican party of 1798 in regard to the power of the House to refuse appropriations, and the other condemning the appointment of commissioners to attend the Congress at Panamá. These resolutions are here inserted :—
* Annual Message of Mr. Monroe, December 2, 1823. t Rush's Residence at the Court of London, p. 430.
“Resolved, That it is the constitutional right and duty of the House of Representatives, when called upon for appropriations to defray the expenses of foreign missions, to deliberate on the expediency or inexpediency of such missions, and to determine and act thereon, as in their judgment may seem most conducive to the public good.
“Resolved, That it is the sense of this House, that the
* Annual Message, December 2, 1845,