Madison’s Letters: Defense of the American Party (Bumped)

The contents under this caption contain the material portions of eleven or twelve letters, written over the signature of ” Madison,” in vindication of the American party. The editor has examined carefully all the defences of the American organization, and considering this the most able of them all, written, it is said, by the Hon. A. II. 11. Stuart, of Virginia, he yields it a space in his work.

No. 1.

The vital principle of the American party is Americanism—developing itself in a deep rooted attachment to our own country—its Constitution, itsUnion.and its laws—toAmerieuo men, and American measures, and American interests—-or, in other words, a fervent patriotism—which, rejecting the transcendental philanthropy of abolitionists, and that kindred batch of wild enthusiasts, who would seek to embroil us with foreign countries, in righting the wrongs of Ireland, or Hungary, or Cuba—would guard with vestal vigilance American institutions and American interests against the baneful effects of foreign influence.

No. 2.

I closed my first number by stating what I conceived to be the vital principle of the American party—the principle which, like the main spring of a watch, imparts activity to its whole machinery.

Let us now consider what are the measures and policy which these Americans propose to adopt, to give practical efficiency to this great principle.—There is, doubtless, among the members of that party, as among the members of all other parties, much difference of opinion in regard to matters of detail; and mutual forbearance and concession must and will be practised in giving shape to their measures. No one can, therefore, tell with certainty what form they may ultimately assume.

For the present, I will refer to the action of the National Council as the most authentic exposition of the opinions of the party. It» creed, as expressed by that body, is embraced in the following propositions:—

2d. The perpetuation of the Federal Union, as the palladium of our civil and religious liberties, and the only sure bulwark of American independence.

3d. Americans must rule America, and to this end, native-born citizens should be selected for all state, federal, and municipal offices or government employment, in preference to all others; nevertheless,

4th. Persons born of American parents residing temporarily abroad, should be entitled to all the rights of native-born citizens ; but,

5th. No person should be selected for political station (whether of native or foreign birth), who recognises any allegiance or obligation, of any description, to any foreign prince, potentate, or power, or who refuses to recognise the federal and state constitutions (each within its sphere) as paramount to all other laws, as rules of political action.

6th. The unqualified recognition and maintenance of the reserved rights of the several states, and the cultivation of harmony and fraternal good will, between the citizens of the several states, and to this end, non-interference by Congress with questions appertaining solely to the individual states, and non-intervention by each state with the affairs of any other state.

7th.  The recognition of the right of the native-born and naturalized citizens of the United States, permanently residing in any territory thereof, to frame their constitution and laws, and to regulate their domestic and social affairs in their own mode, subject only to the provisions of the Federal Constitution, with the privilege of admission into the Union, whenever they have the requisite population li-r one representative in Congress.—Provided always, that none but those who are citizens of the United States, under the Constitution and laws thereof, and who have a fixed residence in any such territory, ought to participate in the formation of the Constitution, or in the enactment of laws for said territory or state.

8th. An enforcement of the principle that no state or territory ought to admit others than citizens of the United States to the right of suffrage, or of holding political office.

9th. A change in the laws of naturalization, making a continued residence of twenty one years, of all not hereinbefore provided for, an indispensable requisite for citizenship hereafter, and excluding all paupers, and persons convicted of crime, from landing upon our shores; but no interference with the vested rights of foreigners.

10th. Opposition to any union between Church and State ; no interference with religious faith, or worship, and no test oaths for office.

llth. Free and thorough investigation into any and all alleged abuses of public functionaries, and a strict economy in public expenditures.

12th. The maintenance and enforcement of all laws constitutionally enacted, until said laws shall be repealed, or shall be declared null and void by competent judicial authority.

These propositions may be classed, for greater perspicuity, under three heads.

I. Those that relate to reforms in the naturalization laws which require legislation.

II. Those that relate to the appointment and election of officers, which are purely ministerial.

III. Those that refer to the general policy of the party in the management of the government, which appeal both to the legislative and executive departments.

I intend to discuss these subjects in the order in which they are stated.

It is proposed to modify the naturalization laws in four particulars:—

1. To make them prescribe uniform rules of naturalization throughout all the states and territories.

2. To exclude convicts and paupers from the country.

3. To extend the period of residence of the applicant for naturalization, so that he may have time to understand our language and become acquainted with our laws and institutions, before he is intrusted with the right to participate in their administration.

4. To guard against fraudulent abuses of the right of naturalization.

I am aware that there is a very prevailing idea that Congress has no constitutional power to provide by law, that the rules of naturalization shall be the same in all the states; and

I have heard this difficulty suggested as being fatal to the objects of the American party. But the objection is wholly without foundation. The Constitution of the United State* provides in terms ” that Congress shall have power to establish a uniform rule

This provision has repeatedly been the subject of judicial consideration and interpretation, and although the opinion was at one time expressed by the Circuit Court of th« United States for the District of Pennsylvania, that the power was concurrent in th* state and federal governments, that opinion has long been overruled, and it is now held by Judge Iredell, in U. S. r. Fellato. 2 Dallas, 370: Judge Washington v Gordon r. Prince, 3 Wash. C. C. U. 313: by Judge Marshall, in Chirac v. Chirac, 2 Whenton, 2(19: by Judge Story, in Houston c. Moore, 5 Wheaton, 40 ; by Chancellor Kent, 1 Comm. 423 ; and by Judge Taney, in Norris r. Boston and Smith v. Turner Howard, that the exclusive power is in Congress. The remarks of C. J. Taney are so clear, not only in regard to the power, but also as to the policy of exercising it, that I readily adopt his argument, as far more satisfactory than any I could offer. He says:—

” It cannot be necessary to say anything upon the article of the Constitution which gives to Congress the power to establish a uniform rule of naturalization. The motive and object of this provision are too plain to be misunderstood. Under the Constitution of the United States, citizens of each state are entitled to the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states, and no state would be willing that another should determine for it, what foreigner should become one of its citizens, and be entitled to hold lands and vote at its elections. For without this provision, any one state could have given the right of citizenship in every other state ; and as every citizen of a state is also a citizen of the United States, a single state, without thi> provision, might have given to any number of foreigners it pleased, the right to all the privileges of citizenship in commerce, trade, and navigation, although they did not even reside among us.

” The nature of our institutions under the federal government, made it a matter of absolute necessity that this power should be confided to the government of the Union, where all the states were represented, and where all had a voice; a necessity so obvious, that statesman could have overlooked it. The article has nothing to do with the admission or rejection of aliens, nor with immigration, but with the rights of citizenship. Its sole object was to prevent one state from forcing upon all the others, and upon the general government, persons as citizens, whom they were unwilling to admit as such.”

Another subject of kindred character, if nut indeed falling under the same head, will also doubtless engage the attention of the party. with a view to see if the Constitution does not supply the means of redressing an evil which is of the most flagrant character. I allude to the want of uniformity in the state constitutions in regard to the right of suffrage by foreigners. By the constitution of Virginia, none but citizens of the United States can vote, and as no one can legally become a citizen of the United States unless he has been a resident of the country for five years, it follows that no one can be a voter m Virginia, who has not been a resident of the United States for five years. But by the constitution of Illinois’, it is provided (Art. 2, s. 27), “that in all elections, all white male inhabitants above the age of 21 years, having resided in the state six months next preceding the election, shall enjoy the right of an elector.”

Now as the vote of every man cast in Illinois for members of the legislature which elects U. S. Senators, for members of Congress, and for Presidential electors, has a direct bearing on the interests of Virginia, it is well worthy of inquiry whether Virginia is, under the Constitution, to be governed by the votes of aliens. It is a new and a grave question. There is certainly a difference in form between the question of elective franchise and the question of naturalization. But is not this system of allowing aliens to vote before they are naturalized an abuse, if not an evasion of the Constitution ? A sensible writer on the subject has well remarked, ” if individual states can admit to the elective franchise those who are not citizens, thereby neutralizing the votes of citizens, not only the federal power over naturalization becomes a nullity, but a minority of actual citizens, by the aid of aliens, may control the government of the states, and, through the states, that of the Union.”

Who will deny that this is a crying abuse, and that all the constitutional powers of the government ought to be brought into requisition to correct it ?

2. It is proposed to exclude by state and federal authority, convicts and paupers from landing on our shores, to corrupt the morals of citizens, to plunder our property, to fill our penitentiaries and alms-houses, and to burden •our people with taxation for their support. This is no new policy, and it will at once commend itself to the favorable regard of all reflecting men. It is an evil which attracted the attention of the founders of the republic at an early day, and has from time to time been pressed upon the attention of the government, but thus far no adequate measures of prevention have been adopted.

On the 10th of September, 1788, the Continental Congress, then about to close its labors, adopted the following resolution : ” Resolved, that it be, and it hereby is recommended to the several states to pass proper laws to prevent the transportation of convicted malefactors from foreign countries into the U. S.”— Journal, page 867.

On the 13th November, 1788. Virginia did

pass such a law imposing a penalty of $50 on masters of vessels who should land convicts in this state.

In 1836, the matter was brought to the attention of Congress by Mr. Davis of Massachusetts, who made a Jong and able speech to the Senate, on presenting certain resolutions of the legislature of Massachusetts on the subject.

In 1838, Mr. Van Buren, in reply to a call of the House, sent a message to Congress, accompanied by many documents. A bill was reported to correct the evil, but amidst the press of business it was overslaughed.—See Congressional Globe 1837-’38, page 489, and 1838-’39, page 168.

In 1845, Mr. Berrien made an elaborate report on the subject, accompanied by a great mass of testimony establishing in the most conclusive manner the certainty and magnitude of the evil.—See Sen. Doc. 173, 28th Cong. No final action, however, was taken.

In 1847, Mr. Buchanan, as Secretary of State, adopted measures to obtain information on the subject, and a report was made by Mr. A. D. Mann, on the 13th September, 1847.

On 1st January, 1855, Mayor Wood, of New York, addressed a strong letter to President Pierce, invoking his aid. He says: ” It has long been the practice of many governments on the continent of Europe to get rid of paupers and convicts by sending them to this country, and most generally to this port, (N. Y.) 1*116 increase of crime here can be traced to this cause, rather than to defect in criminal laws or their administration. An examination of the criminal and pauper records, shows conclusively that it is but a small proportion of these unfortunates who are natives of this country. One of the very heaviest burdens that we bear, is the support of these people, even when considering the direct cost, but when estimating the evil influence on society, and the contaminating effect upon all who come within the range of their depraved minds, it becomes a matter exceedingly serious and demanding immediate and complete eradication.”* Mayor Wood, being a Democrat and in no way attached to the American party, I presume he will be regarded as good authority, and I will here rest this branch of the subject, and I hope I may console myself with the reflection, that as far as we have progressed in the examination of the propositions of the American party, nothing has yet hern discovered in conflict with ” the cause of civil and religious freedom.”

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