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Dear Sir, - The address of the ward committees of Philadelphia city the subject of removals from office was received at Washington on the 17th inst. I cannot answer it, because I have given no answer to the many others I have received from other quarters. You are sensible what use an unfriendly party would make of such answers, by putting all their expressions to the torture ; and although no person wishes more than I do to learn the opinions of respected individuals, because they enable me to examine and often to correct my own, yet I am not satisfied that I ought to admit the addresses even of those bodies of men which are organized by the Constitution (the Houses of Legislature, for instance) to influence the appointment to office, for which the Constitution has chosen to rely on the independence and integrity of the Executive controlled by the Senate, chosen both of them by the whole Union, still less of those bodies whose organization is unknown to the Constitution. As revolutionary instruments (when nothing but revolution will cure the evils of the state) they are necessary and indispensable, and the right to use them is inalienable by the people ; but to admit them as ordinary and habitual instruments, as a part of the machinery of the Constitution, would be to change that machinery, by introducing moving powers foreign to it and to an extent depending solely on local views, and therefore incalculable. The opinions offered by individuals are of right, and on a different ground : they are sanctioned by the Constitution; which has also prescribed, when they choose to act in bodies, the organization, objects, and rights of those bodies. Although this view of the subject forbids me, in my own judgment, to give answers to addresses of this kind, yet the one now under consideration is couched in terms so friendly and respectful, and from persons many of whom I know to have been firm patriots, some of them in Revolutionary times, and others in those of terror, and doubt not that all are of the same valuable character, that I cannot restrain the desire that tliey should individually understand the reasons why no formal answer is given ; that they should see it proceedĀ» from my point of view of the Constitution and the judgment I form of my duties to it, and not from a want of respect and esteem for them or their opinions, which given individually will ever be valued by me. I beg leave, therefore, to avail myself of my acquaintance with you and of your friendly dispositions to communicate them individually the considerations expressed in this letter, which is merely private and to yourself, and which I ask you not to put out of your own hands, lest, directly or by cojjy, it should get into those of the common adversary, and become matter for those malignant perversions which no sentiments however just, no expressions however correct, can escape. It may perhaps at first view be thought that my answer to the New Haven letter was not within my own rule; but that letter was expressed to be from the vriters individually, and not as an organized body chosen to represent and express the public opinion. The occasion, too, which it furnished had for some time been wished for, of explaining to the Republican part of the nation my sense of their just right to participation of office, and the proceedings adopted for attaining it after due inquiry into the general sentiments of the several States. The purpose there explained was to remove some of the least deserving officers, but generally to prefer the milder measure of waiting till accidental vacancies should furnish opportunity of giving to Republicans their due popoiiion of office. To this we have steadily adhered. Many vacancies have been made by death and resignation, many by removal for malversation in office, and for open, active, and virulent abuse of official influence in opposition to the order of things established by the will of the nation. Such removals continue to be made on sufficient proof; the places have been steadily filled with Republican characters, until of 316 offices in all the United States subject to appointment and removal by me, 130 only are held by Federalists. I do not include in this estimate the judiciary and military, because not removable but by established process, nor the officers of the internal revenue, because discontinued by law, nor postmasters or any others not named by me. And this has been effected in little more than two years, by means so moderate and just as cannot fail to be approved in future. "Whether a participation of office in proportion to numbers should be effected in each State separately, or in the whole States taken together, is difficult to decide, and has not yet been settled in my own mind. It is a question of vast complications. But suppose we were to apply the rule to Pennsylvania, distinctly from the Union. In the State of Pennsylvania eight offices only are subject to my nomination and informal removal. Of these, five are in the hands of Republicans, three of Federalists; to wit, Republican :
The Attorney, Dallas. Federals.
Marshal, Smith. Naval Officer.
Collector, Muhlenburg. Surveyor.
Purveyor, Coxe. Commissioner of Loans.
Superintendent Military Stores, Irving.
In the hands of the former is the appointment of every subordinate officer, not a single one (but their clerks) being appointable by the latter. Taking a view of this subject in the only year I can now come at, the clerk hire of the naval officer and surveyor is only $2196 ; that of the commissioner of loans $2500,=$4696; the compensation of the naval officer and surveyor were $7651 in that year. The residue of custom-house expenses were $46,268, constituting the compensation and patronage of the collector, except about $1500 to the officers of the revenue cutter, who are Republican. The emoluments and patronage of the five other Republican officers I have no materials for estimating; but they are not small. Considering numbers, therefore, as the ratio of participation, it stands at 5 to 3 ; but, taking emolument and patronage as the measure, our actual share is much greater. I cannot, therefore, suppose that our friends had sufficiently examined the fact when they alleged that " in Philadelphia public employment under the general government in all its grades, with scarcely an exception, is confined not to Federalists merely, but to apostates, persecutors, and enemies of representative government."
I give full credit to the wisdom of the measures pursued by the Governor of Pennsylvania in removals from office. I have no doubt he followed the wish of the State, and he had no other to consult; but in the general government each State is to be administered, not on its local principles, but on the principles of all the States formed into a general result. That I should administer the affairs of Massachusetts and Connecticut, for example, on Federal principles could not be approved. I dare say, too, that the extensive removals from office in Pennsylvania may have contributed to the great conversion which has been manifested among its citizens, but I respect them too much to believe it has been the exclusive or even the principal motive. I presume the sound measures of their government and of the general one have weighed more in their estimation and conversion than the consideration of the particular agents employed.
I read with extreme gratification the approbation expressed of the general measures of the present Administration. I verily believe our friends have not differed with us on a single measure of importance. It is only as to the distribution of office that some difference of opinion has appeared, but that difference will, I think, be lessened when facts and principles are more accurately scanned, and its impression still more so when justice is done to motives and to the duty of pursuing that which, on mature consideration, is deemed to be right.
I hope you will pardon the trouble which this communication proposes to give you, when you attend to the considerations urging it, and that you will accept my respectful salutations and assurances of great esteem.
- The writings of Albert Gallatin, Vol I, Henry Adams