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right guaranteed to them by the Constitution. They had chosen their Representatives; they had the undoubted right to do so, the unconditional right, limited only by the forms of law; and these having been complied with, the thing was done, the selection made. And we might here take our stand and boldly deny that any authority exists, either in the Executive, the Legislature, or the Judicial departments of the government of New Jersey, to reverse the decision already made the moment the ballot-boxes throughout the State are closed. There is the voice of the people, all that remains is to give it utterance. There is the decision of the sovereigns of the soil—the supreme authority of the land-all that remains for the creatures of that power is to announce its decision.
We are now prepared to proceed to the next unquestioned fact in this case. It is this; the votes of the people, as they were deposited in the ballot-boxes, were as follows: For Philemon Dickerson
28,383 Daniel B. Ryall 28,441 Wni. Halstead
28,336 Williain R. Cooper
28,321 Manning Force 28,314 Joseph T. Randolph
28,427 Mr. Dickerson's majority over Mr. Aycrigg was Mr. Vroom's
Mr. Force We repeat that the election had been held in strict accordance with the forms of law; all the requisitions of the statute book had been complied with; and when the people had exercised their right of suffrage, and the ballot-boxes throughout the State were closed, this was the state of the poll. Messrs. Dickerson, Vroom, Ryall, Cooper, and Kille, five of the Democratic candidates, had each received a majority of votes.
We repeat that at no period, then or since, has this fact ever been denied, doubted, or questioned, by friend or foe, by Democrat or Whig. The official returns show it.
The second section of the Constitution of the United States provides that "the House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several States."
The Laws of New Jersey declare, that “the six persons who have the greatest number of votes from the whole State shall be the Representatives in the Congress of the United States from this State."
Now, our first proposition is, that the persons “chosen by the people of the State” are the constitutional Representatives of that State in the Congress of the United States.
159 109 105
60 106 113
And our second proposition is, that “the persons who have the greatest number of votes from the whole State" are the persons so chosen by the people.
Can any thing be plainer? Can words, can arguments possibly elucidate, or simplify, or enforce, or render these propositions, more palpable, more clear, more unquestionable? Can hardihood deny-can ingenuity perplex-can sophistry raise doubts about so plain a matter? And yet this is the question, and the whole question, involved in the Jersey case. Let it be borne in mind, we repeat, that the pretence of illegal votes having been given makes no part of the present controversy. That, we say again, is an aster-thought. That inquiry' was never before the Governor and his Privy Council, who undertook to reverse the decision of the people. That ques. tion was never raised by the Clerks who suppressed the returns from the township of Millville and South Amboy. That subterfuge was never thought of in the discussions of the occasion, and the answer to the allegation will be given in its proper place, and will be shown to be of a piece with the wretched humbuggery of this whole miserable farce.
It is here our business to deal only with the law and the facts of the case up to the moment when the people, having acted-having, in the mode pointed out by the Constitution and the law, “ chosen their Representatives, it only remained to announce what that action was-what they had done--whom they had so chosen.
Here is the law, on the one hand, declaring that the six persons who have the greatest number of votes from the whole State are elected. Here are the ballot-boxes, on the other hand, containing the votes of the people of the whole State, of which the greatest number have been given for Messrs. Dickerson, Vroom, Ryall, Cooper, Kille and Randolph, and we put the question to the plain common sense of every honest man in the community, we care not to what party or sect he belongs, we care not what his opinions may be upon points of national or State policy, or what his preferences for particular men or measures--we ask, are not these men chosen by the electors of New Jersey? Are they not the lawful Representatives of the people? Had they not a right to their certificates ? And are they not entitled to their seats?
Yet the Governor of New Jersey, and his Privy Council, in the teeth of the law in the face of these facts, all spread before them, all unquestioned, all undenied, not only refused to commission the gentlemen so elected, but solemnly declared under their official oaths, that Messrs. Aycrigg, Maxwell, Halstead, Stratton, Yorke and Randolph were chosen as the people's Representatives in the next Congress, and gave them commissions accordingly,
The annunciation of the fact, had it been made to a wakesul, watchful, jealous people, in calm and thoughtful and reflecting times, would have startled and astounded like a thunderbolt from a cloudless sky. But it came when the political atmosphere was surcharged with the heat of party passion--when the clouds of angry disappointment hung dense and dark over a defeated clan of ambi. tious leaders, and they were ready to worship the bolt that revenged them of their adversaries, though it had riven the tree of liberty to its roots, and blighted the last hope of the patriot on earth.
Such is man-so speak the records of the past-the history of human error is but the sad story of the results of unmastered passions and headlong ambition. The experience of ages is rise with the lesson, that in the fever of the blood we forget alike the duties of sound judgment, the voice of reason and the far-reaching influences of interest itself.
That we may rightly understand the history of this extraordinary case, it becomes necessary to pause for a moment, at this point in the narrative, and take a brief survey of the circumstances which surrounded the principal actors on the stage.
The panic year of 1837 had re-inspirited the broken and scattered ranks of the Federal party. The suspension of specie payments by the banks--the consequent embarrassment, enhanced by the wild speculations which had preceded, and the derangement of the currency which attended it--afforded a plausible pretence for charging the Administration with mismanagement, which was industriously used by the designing of that party, and had its effect on thousands of our own, who, either from want of information or reflection became dissatisfied or doubtful, and voted against us, or declined voting at all. In the fall of that year, the State consequently fell into the hands of the Federalists; yet, by a meagre vote--and one that warned them of the exceeding slightness of their tenure. They spent the legislative season, therefore, almost exclusively in efforts to entrench themselves in power in spite of shifting majorities, by creating a new central county, so carved out as to insure a Federal ascendency within it, and by breaking down the equality of representation among the counties, adding to the Federal what they deducted from those that were Democratic.
But notwithstanding this, and the wind fall they received in New York in the course of 1838, the returning tides of prosperity throughout the country-the resumption of specie payments--the instantaneous correction of the disorders in the currency, and the slow but sure effects of “the sober second-thought of the people," began, before October, to awaken and alarm their fears--fears which the result of the election confirmed. The old Democratic counties came on in all their original strength--three counties which they had carried the year before were wrested from them. They carried several of their own counties by diminished majorities, the loss of any one of which would have overthrown them; and added to all this the Congressional returns exhibited a majority from the whole State against them. The hand-writing on the wall was visible, and it needed no Daniel to interpret it.
The Governor, in New Jersey, is the creature of the Legislature, depending on it annually for his election; he reached his chair by the removal of a political opponent the fall before, and on the same hair by which his party were suspended, hung his official honors and emoluments. The members of his Privy Council were the creatures of the majorities of their respective counties. They floated, therefore, to the place of power in October, from the meleè of the conflict, and from amid disaster and defeat, with a single, solitary plank, a majority of one county, upon which to rest their fortunes for the present, and their hopes for the future.
With this crisis came, too, the Pennsylvania election. The de. feat of Ritner and the overthrow of the Federal party by a majority of thousands. Star after star was disappearing from their political firmament-cloud after cloud was rising upon the vision of the future, and the shadows of coming events were already gathering in their path.
It was amid these circumstances of disaster and defeat-disappointment and mortification, that an extraordinary political document was issued at Harrisburgh. It was a circular prepared under the direction and by the authority of the Federal State Committee at the seat of government of Pennsylvania, dated on the thirteenth of October, and signed by the Chairman, who was no less a personage than the Secretary of the Commonwealth, and it announced boldly and distinctly the purpose of that party “to treat the election in their State as if they had not been defeated.” In other words, to nullify the views of the people, to reverse their decision, and to treat their authority with disregard and contempt. It was a plain, unequivocal avowal of the determination of the federal authorities in that state, to hold on to power, peaceably if they could, forcibly if they must.
This circular was sent far and wide. The leaders in New Jersey were early in possession of it. What effect it had upon their subsequent course is left to inference. The only facts we have are, that they defended it in principle, and carried it out in practice--as we shall see.
We now resume the narrative of events as they occurred.
The election, as we have already remarked, was held on the ninth and tenth days of October last. The Saturday next succeeding the election, being the day on which the clerks of the several counties were to “receive the returns from the townships before five o'clock in the afternoon," was the thirteenth. The seven days thereafter within which the county clerks were to send the “ general lists of all the candidates voted for in their respective counties, together with the number of votes received for each of them," to the Governor, expires on the twentieth.
The result at every poll is known to the public the moment the otes are counted, and by the fifteenth, five days after the election, it was known throughout the State, that five of the Democratic candidates for Congress were elected by an average majority of more than one hundred votes. The clerks of the counties in whose hands the returns were, had, therefore, five days after the result was known, for consultation and advisement, before sending their general lists to the Governor. Noting these facts, we pass by, for the present, the returns from all the counties, except those of Cumberland and Middlesex, merely observing that they were received at the executive office within the time prescribed.
The Cumberland return it appears was not made up by the Clerk of that county, until the seventeenth, at least two days after he had learned the general result in the State and after they had been for four days in his hands.*
Now it is only necessary to examine this paper to perceive that in the mind of this Clerk, at least a plan for reversing the election
* It is a singular document, and we give it, verbalim et literalim, as follows:
“A general list of all the candidates voted for, together with the number of votes received for each candidate to represent the State of New Jersey in the House of Representatives in Congress of the United States, during the twenty-sixth Congress :
At an election held in the county of Cumberland, in the said State, began on the ninth day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and thirty eight, and ended on the following day, as appears by the list of the several townships in said county, certified by the judges and inspectors thereof, duly transmitted and affiled of record of the Clerk's office oi said county, viz:
FOR MEMBERS OF THE TWENTY-SIXTH CONGRESS.
Philamon Dickerson, seven hundred and forty-three,
FOR MEMBERS OF THE Thirty-Sixth CongRESS ON THE PART OF NEW JERSEY.
177 In testimony whereof, I, Josiah Fithian, Clerk of the said county of Cumberland (SEAL.] have hereunto affixed my seal of office, and subscribed my name this seventeenth
day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and thirtyeight, A. D. 1838.
JOSIAH FITHIAN, Clerk.”
911 912 913 741 743
744 743 743
275 271 276 273
177 176 176