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ON THE CHARGE OF CORRUPTION.
AT LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY, JULY 12, 1827.
[In June, 1827, Mr. Carter Beverley, of Virginia, published in the United States Telegraph, printed at Washington, a letter from general Jackson, charging Mr. Clay with corrupt motives in having voted for his competitor, Mr. Adams, for president of the United States, in the election by congress, in 1825. Mr. Clay being on a visit to Kentucky during the same summer, attended various meetings of his former constita. ents and friends, who were desirous of testifying their continued regard for him. At a public dinner given him at Lexington, the following toast was given, in the course of his answer to which, Mr. Clay takes the opportunity to refute the charges of general Jackson against him, as will be seen in the subjoined remarks.
• Our distinguished guest, Henry Clay. The furnace of persecution may be heated seven times hotter, and seventy times more he will come out unscathed by the fire of malignity, brighter to all and dearer to his friends; while his enemies shall sink with the dross of their own vile materials.'
Mr. PresidENT, FRIENDS, AND FELLOW-CITIZENS,
I beg permission to offer my hearty thanks, and to make my res. pectful acknowledgments, for the affectionate reception which has been given me during my present visit to my old congressional district, and for this hospitable and honorable testimony of your esteem and confidence. And I thank you especially for the friendly sentiments and feelings expressed in the toast which you have just done me the honor to drink. I always had the happiness of knowing that I enjoyed, in a high degree, the attachment of that portion of my fellow-citizens whom I formerly represented; but I should never have been sensible of the strength and ardor of their affection, except for the extraordinary character of the times. For near two years, and a half I have been assailed with a rancor and bitter: ness which have few examples. I have found myself the particular cbject of concerted and concentrated abuse; and others, thrusting themselves between you and me, have dared tv arraign me for treachery to your interests. But my former constituents, unaffected by the calumnies which have been so perseveringly circulated to my prejudice, have stood by me with a generous confidence and a noble magnanimity. The measure of their regard and confidence has risen with, and even surpassed, that of the malevolence, great as it is, of my personal and political foes. I thank you, gentlemen, who are a large portion of my late constituents. I thank you, and every one of them, with all my heart
, for the manly support which I have uniformly received. It has cheered and consoled me, amidst all my severe trials; and may I not add, that it is honorable to the generous hearts and enlightened heads who have resolved to protect the character of an old friend and faithful servant.
The numerous manifestations of your confidence and attachment will be among the latest and most treasured recollections of my life. They impose upon me obligations which can never be weakened or cancelled. One of these obligations is, that I should embrace every fair opportunity to vindicate that character which you have so generously sustained, and to evince to you and to the world, that you have not yielded to the impulses of a blind and enthusiastic sentiment. I feel that I am, on all fit occasions, especially bound to vindicate myself to my former constituents. It was as their representative, it was in fulfilment of a high trust which they confided to me, that I have been accused of violating the most sacred of duties of treating their wishes with contempt, and their interests with treachery. Nor is this obligation, in iny conception of its import, at all weakened by the dissolution of the relations which heretofore existed between us. I would instantly resign the place I hold in the councils of the nation, and directly appeal to the suffrages of my late constituents, as a candidate for reëlection, if I did not know ihat my foes are of that class whom one rising from the dead cannot convince, whom nothing can silence, and who wage a war of extermination. On the issue of such an appeal they would redouble their abuse of you and of me, for their hatred is common to us both.
They have compelled me so often to be the theme of my addresses to the people, that I should have willingly abstained, on .this festive occasion, from any allusion to this subject, but for a new and imposing form which the calumny against me has recently assumed. I am again put on my defence, not of any'new charge, nor by any new adversary; but of the old charges, clad in a new dress, and exhibited by an open and undisguised enemy. The fictitious names have been stricken from the foot of the indictment, and that of a known and substantial prosecutor has been voluntarily offered. Undaunted by the formidable name of that prosecutor, I will avail myself, with your indulgence, of this fit opportunity of free and unreserved intercourse with you, as a large number of my late constituents, to make some observations on the past and present state of the question. When evidence shall be produced, as I have now a clear right to demand, in support of the accusation, it will be the proper time for me to take such notice of it as its nature shall require.
In February, 1825, it was my duty, as the representative of this district, to vote for some one of the three candidates for the presideney, who were returned to the house of representatives. It has been established, and can be surther proved, that, before I left this state the preceding fall, I communicated to several gentlemen of the highest respectability, my fixed determination not to vote for general Jackson. The friends of Mr. Crawford asserted to the last, that the condition of his health was such as to enable him 10 administer the duties of the office. I thought otherwise, after I reached Washington city, and visited him to satisfy myself; and thought that physical impediment, if there were no other objections, ought to prevent bis election. Although the delegations from four states voted for him, and his pretensions were zealously pressed to the very last moment, it has been of late asserted, and I believe by some of the very persons who then warmly espoused his cause, that his incompetency was so palpable as clearly to limit the choice to two of the three returned candidates. In my view of my duty, there was no alternative but that which I embraced.
That I had some objections to Mr. Adams, I am ready freely to · admit; but these did not weigh a feather in comparison with the
greater and insurmountable objections, long and deliberately entertained against bis competitor. I take this occasion, with great satisfaction, to state, that my objections to Mr. Adams arcse chiefly from apprehensions which have not been realized. I have found him at the head of the government able, enlightened, patient of investigation, and ever ready to receive with respect, and, when approved by his judgment, 10 act upon, the counsels of his official advisers. I add, with unmixed pleasure, that, from the commencement of the government, with the exception of Mr. Jefferson's adıninistration, no chief magistrate has found the members of his cabinet so united on all public measures, and so cordial and friendly in all their intercourse, private and official, as these are of the present president.
Had I voied for general Jackson, in opposition to the well-known opinions which I entertained of him, one tenih part of the ingenuity and zeal which have been employed to excite prejudices against me, would have beld me up to universal contempt; and what would have been worse, I should have felt that I really deserved it.
Before the election, an attempt was made by an abusive letter, published in the Columbian Observer, at Philadelphia, a paper which, is hits since transpired, was sustained by Mr. senator Eaton, the colleagne, the friend, and the biographer of general Jackson, 10 assail my motives, and to deter me in the exercise of my duty. This letier being avowed by Mr. George Kremer, I instantly demanded from the house of 'representatives an investigation. A committee was accordingly, on the fifth day of February, 1825, appointed in the rare mode of balloting by the house, instead of by selection of the speaker. It was composed of some of the leading members of that body, not one of whom was my political friend in the preceding presidential canvass. Although Mr. Kremer, in addressing the house, had declared bis willingness to bring forward his proofs, and his readiness to abide the issue of the inquiry, his fears, or other counsels than his own, prevailed upon himn to take refuge in a iniserable subterfuge. Of all possible periods, that was the most fitting to substantiate the charge, if it were true. Every circumstance was then fresh; the witnesses all living and present'; the election not yet complete; and therefore the imputed corrupt bargain not fuldlled. All these powerful considerations had no weight with the conspirators and their accessories, and they meanly shrunk from even an attempt to prove their charge, for the best of all possible reasons — because, being false and fabricated, they could adduce no proof which was not false and fabricated.
During two years and a half, which have now intervened, a portion of the press devoted 10 the cause of general Jackson has been teeming with the vilest calumnies against me, and the charge, under every chameleon forin, has been a thousand times repeated. L'p to this time, I have in vain invited investigation, and demanded evidence. None, not a particle, has been adduced.
The extraordinary ground has been taken, that the accusers were not bound to establish by proof the guilt of their designated victim. In a civilized, christian, and free community, the monstrous principle has been assumed, that accusation and conviction are synonymous; and that the persons who deliberately bring forward an atrocious charge are exempted from all obligations to substantiate it! And the pretext is, that the crime, being of a political nature, is shrouded in darkness, and incapable of being substantiated. But is there any real difference, in this respect, between political and other offences? Do not all the perpetrators of criine endeavor to conceal their guilt and to elude detection? If the accuser of a political offence is absolved from the duty of supporting his accusation, every other accuser of offence stands equally absolved. Such a principle, practically carried into society, would subvert all harmony, peace, and tranquillity. None - no age, nor sex, nor profession, nor calling — would be safe against its baleful and overwhelming influence. It would amount to a universal license to universal calumny!
No one has ever contended that the proof should be exclusively that of eye-witnesses, testifying from their senses positively and directly to the fact. Political, like other offences, may be established by circumstantial as well as positive evidence. But I do contend, that some evidence, be it what it may, ought to be exhibited. If there be none, how do the accusers know that an offence has been perpetrated ? I they do know it, let us have the sact on which their conviction is based. I will not even assert, that, in public affairs, a citizen has not a right freely to express his opinions of public men, and to speculate upon the motives of their conduct. But if he chooses 10 promulgate opinions, let them be given as opinions. The public will correctly judge of their value and their grounds. No one has a right to put forth a positive assertion, that a political offence has been committed, unless he stands prepared to sustain, by satisfactory proof of some kind, its actual existence.
If he who exhibits a charge of political crime is, from its very nature, disabled to establish it, how much more difficult is the condition of the accused? How can he exhibit negative proof of his innocence, if no affirmative proof of his guilt is or can be adduced ?
It must have been a conviction that the justice of the public required a definite charge, by a responsible accuser, that has at last extorted from general Jackson his letter of the sixth of June, lately published. I approach that letter with great reluctance, not on my own account, sor on that I do most heartily and sincerely rejoice that it has made its appearance. But it is reluctance, excited by the feelings of respect which I would anxiously have cultivated towards its author.' He has, however, by that letter, created such relations between us, that, in any language which I may employ, in examining its contents, I feel myself bound by no other obligations than those which belong to truth, to public decorum, and to myself.
The first consideration which must, on the perusal of the letter, force itself upon every reflecting mind, is that which arises out of the delicate posture in which general Jackson stands before the American public. He is a candidate for the presidency, avowed and proclaimed. He has no competitor at present, and there is no probability of his having any, but one. The charges which he has allowed himself to be the organ of communicating to the very public who is to decide the question of the presidency, though directly aimed at me, necessarily implicate his only competitor. Mr. Adams and myself are both guilty, or we are both innocent of the imputed arrangement between us. His innocence is absolutely irreconcilable with my guilt. If general Jackson, therefore, can establish my guilt, and, by inference or by insinuation, that of his sole rival, he will have removed a great obstacle to the consummation of the object of his ambition. And if he can, at the same time, make out his own purity of conduct, and impress the American people with the belief, that his purity and integrity alone prevented his success before the house of representatives, his claims will become absolutely irresistible. Were there ever more powerful motives to propagate, was there ever greater interest, at all hazards, to prove the truth of charges ?
I state the case, I hope, fairly; I mean to state it fairly and fearlessly. If the position be one which exposes general Jackson