Letter from Marcellus to Daniel Webster

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Printed pamphlet of an anonymous letter as written to Daniel Webster.

This is a scanned version of the original document in the Abernethy Collection at Middlebury College.

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been devoted to democratic principles, and who thus became the master of the people, who were supposed to be able to govern themselves without a master.

The truth is, many of our leading political men, during and after the revolution, were visionary enthusiasts, who had read history without profit, or due application of historical facts. Their ideas were crude, and utterly at variance with the truth of history, and with all experience. They seem to have supposed, that to obtain liberty, and establish a free government, nothing was necessary but to get rid of kings, nobles, and priests ; never considering that the same principles of human nature, and the same disposition to tyrannize, exist in all other men, and that the people, when they have the power, will abuse it, and be as tyrannical as kings. This mistake has led to deplorable consequences ; one of which is, that people mistake the nature of tyranny or oppression, supposing that the sovereign people may do that which a king cannot do without oppression. One judge has publicly declared, that if a small number of persons are guilty of violating law, they may be indicted ; but if a great multitude outrage law and rights, they cannot be indicted or punished. It is painful to the friends of a republic that such a monstrous doctrine should be uttered by any man whose duty is to carry laws into effect.

We continually hear eulogies on the happy condition of the citizens of the United States ; resulting from the freedom of our government. These eulogies, to a certain extent, are well founded. Our active, industrious, and enterprizing citizens, possessing a vast extent of fertile land, growing and profitable manufactures, and a commerce that reaches every spot on the globe, enjoy blessings be-

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yond those of any other country. But, on the other hand, we are subjected to injustice and tyranny in a thousand ways. For thirty years past, party spirit has produced a constant series of oppression ; the triumphant party using its power to deprive the defeated party of its rights. The proscriptions inflicted on men in office for holding political principles different from the dominant party, are among the most detestable acts of tyranny.

The infringements of the most solemn treaties, the palpable violations of the constitution, and the usurpation of unconstitutional powers by the executive, exhibit most woful departures from the general principles of a free government. And it may be questioned, whether any kingdom in the civilized part of Europe has suffered so many violations of public and private rights, as the people of the United States have suffered within thirty years, without an attempt to punish their oppressors.

And now we read, in our public prints, repeated complaints of misrule, and out-breakings of popular violence ; and the writers seem to be surprised at such events. They do not consider, that these outrages are the natural, not to say necessary, consequences of the doctrines which they themselves, in many cases, have been preaching or eulogizing ever since the constitution was formed. Such men are beginning to learn that men must have something to govern them besides reason.

Most persons seem to think, that the election of a good president will remedy all our evils. This is a vain hope ; a temporary alleviation is all that is to be expected from the best chief magistrate that the United States can

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find. There are defects in our form of government, and errors in popular opinions, that no administration can rectify ; and until such defects are amended, and such errors corrected, we shall continue to be a divided, distracted community ; indcessantly agitated by violent factions ; each in its turn triumphing and oppressing the other.

One thing is certain, that the election of the chief magistrate must be conducted in some way that shall effectually prevent intriguing for the office. If this cannot be effected, the constitution, for securing a just administration and equal rights, is not worth a straw.

Another thing is equally certain, that unless executive and judicial officers can be placed beyond the influence of popular caprice, many of them at least will be time-servers, the laws will be feebly executed, and impartiality will be banished from our tribunals of justice.

Must we, then, despair of the republic? No, sir, not yet. The people of this country are republican in principle ; and will not abandon the hope that a republican government may be sustained. But, sir, that hope must be abandoned, unless the great men of our country will lay aside their party strife, and unite in some vigorous effort to amend the defects of our constitution. The leading men, sir, must cease to expend their breath in speeches about banks and monopolies and metallic currency, and mount up to the source of our public evils. There only can be applied the catholicon which shall be efficacious in restoring to the confederacy health and soundness.

MARCELLUS.

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