Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On March 25, 1864

On this day in 1864, Lincoln penned an extraordinary letter (demonstrating - in my opinion - almost zero tolerance for excessive power grabs by politicians within his administration.)

The 'explanation' from B. B. French can be found, at length, in the annotation.

Executive Mansion,
March 25, 1864.

Hon. B. B. French Washington,

My dear Sir:

I understand a Bill is before Congress, by your instigation, for taking your office from the control of the Department of the Interior, and considerably enlarging the powers and patronage of your office. The proposed change may be right for aught I know; and it certainly is right for Congress to do as it thinks proper in the case. What I wish to say is that if the change is made, I do not think I can allow you to retain the office; because that would be encouraging officers to be constantly intriguing, to the detriment of the public interest, in order to profit themselves.

Yours truly



[1] ADfS, DLC-RTL. This letter is printed by Hertz (II, 946), without date or addressee. The bill (S.43) did not pass. Commissioner French replied on March 27, 1864:

"Your note of the 25th is recd. and I am greatly surprised at the contents. . . because I have been guilty of no intended impropriety, and of no wrong. I have been cruelly treated by your Secretary of the Interior, and have been forced by him, to defend myself, and, because I have done so, you have been appealed to to crush me. I do not believe you will do so when you know all the facts. . . .

"The Secretary of the Interior, when that excellent man, Caleb B. Smith was Secretary, was charged by Congress, with the supervision and control of the erection of the Capitol Extension and New Dome. He saw fit, of his own accord, to confer upon me the honor and trust of Disbursing Agent. I have bonds in the penalty of $40,000, and entered upon the duty, and performed it, I believe, satisfactorily to Mr. Smith. He resigned, Mr. Usher was appointed. . . removed my Clerk, who was charged with keeping my accounts, and for whose acts, I, alone, was responsible under my bonds, and placed another man in his stead. . . . On the 30th of June, 1863,. . . removing me from the place of disbursing agent,. . . appointed the clerk he had sent. . . with enlarged powers, and a salary of $2500 per annum. At this I felt grieved. . . and addressed to the Secretary, a letter. . . also. . . to you. . . .

"Naturally, I wrote to Senator Foot, informing him of the fact. . . . He replied. . . that as soon as Congress met it was his intention to introduce a bill placing the work on the Extension & Dome under the Commissioner of Public Buildings, where it belonged, & removing the office of Commissioner from any control of the Secy. I drew up a bill which I supposed would carry out what Senator Foot said, and sent it to him, keeping a copy of it. Some time afterwards a friend, to whom I showed the copy, wanted a few copies of it for his own use, and, without the least idea of there being any impropriety in my doing so, having a printing press and type in my office, I printed for him a few copies.

"I had no agency whatever in the introduction of the bill by Senator Foot, as he never mentioned it to me, that I remember, after he came to Washington, before its introduction. I never spoke to a Senator or Representative concerning it, unless spoken to. I had not the least agency in its introduction into the House. . . . After it was. . . referred to the Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds, I was notified by the Chairman. . . to appear before it on a certain day, which I did, and there met the Secretary of the Interior. He was heard fully, and said something to which I was forced to reply, and, at a subsequent meeting, I did reply. This is all my personal action in the matter. . . . I have never spoken to a member of the Senate Committee, except Senator Foot, on the subject of it. He submitted to me, unasked, some papers sent him by the Secy. for my answer, and I gave it. . . . I have done, Mr. President, exactly what you would have done in my case, and nothing more, except, perhaps, in the printing of about a dozen copies of the bill. . . .

"As I did not seek the passage of the bill in question, I cannot. . . seek to stop it; but I beg of you not to sacrifice me without granting me a personal interview.

"I have submitted your letter to Senator Foot who expressed much surprise at its contents. . . evidently written. . . under a false impression as to the facts, and that he would call upon you tomorrow and assure you that, so far as he was concerned, I had no agency whatever in the introduction of the bill, except that I drew it up for him, a thing that is done daily by officials about the Capital, at the request of members." (DLC-RTL).

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