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Crawford, Secretary of the Treasury, was touched with Presidential ambition. Most of the minor officials being then in his department, he conceived the plan of pushing through a bill to make them removable every four years. It seemed harmless.
harmless. The apparent object was to get rid of untrustworthy revenue officers. It was enacted with so little discussion that Benton's Abridgment of Debates does not mention its passage. It was signed by the President “unwarily,” as John Quincy Adams tells us, on May 15, 1820; and instantly, as the same authority asserts, all the Treasury officials became “ardent Crawfordites.” Jefferson and Madison utterly disapproved of the new system; so did Adams, so did Calhoun, so did Webster; but it remained unchanged until the passage of the Civil Service Act in 1883.
It so happens that this law has not usually been identified with the period of Monroe; it was enacted so quietly that its birthday was forgotten. Not So with another measure, which was not indeed a law, but merely the laying down of a principle, ever since known as the “Monroe doctrine"; this being simply a demand of non-interference by foreign nations with the affairs of the two American continents. There has been a good deal of dispute as to the real authorship of this announcement, Charles Francis Adams claiming it for his father, and Charles Sumner for the English statesman Canning. Dr. Daniel C. Gilman, however, in his memoir of President Monroe, has shown with exhaustive research that this doctrine had grown up gradually into a national tradition before Monroe's time, and that he merely formulated it and made it a matter of distinct record. The whole statement is contained in a few detached passages of his message of December 2, 1823. In this he announces that “the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are not to be considered as subjects for colonization by European powers.” Further on he points out that the people of the United States have kept aloof from European dissensions, and ask only in return that North and South America should be equally let alone. “We should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety”; and while no objection is made to any existing colony or dependency of theirs, yet any further intrusion or interference would be regarded as “the manifestation of an unfriendly spirit towards the United States." This, in brief, is the “Monroe doctrine" as originally stated; and it will always remain a singular fact that this President—the least original or commanding of those who early held that office should yet be the only one whose name is identified with the most distinctive doctrine regarding American foreign relations.
Apart from this, Monroe's messages, which fill as many pages as those of any two of his predecessors, are conspicuously hard reading; and the only portions to which a student of the present day can turn with any fresh interest are those which measure the steady progress of the nation. “Twenty-five years ago," he could justly say-looking back upon his own first diplomatic achievement—“the river Mississippi was shut up, and our western brethren had no outlet for their commerce. What has been the progress since that time? The river has not only become the property of the United States from its source to the ocean, with all its tributary streams (with the exception of the upper part of the Red River only), but Louisiana, with a fair and liberal boundary on the western side and the Floridas on the eastern, have been ceded to us. The United States now enjoy the complete and uninterrupted sovereignty over the whole territory from St. Croix to the Sabine." This was written March 4, 1821. Nevertheless, the President could not, even then, give his sanction to any national efforts for the improvement of this vast domain; and he vetoed, during the following year, the“ Cumberland Road" bill, which would have led the way, he thought, to a wholly unconstitutional system of internal improvements. With this exception his administration came into no very marked antagonism to public sentiment, and even in dealing with this he went to no extremes, but expressed willingness that the national road should be repaired, not extended.
And while he looked upon the past progress of the nation with wonder, its destiny was to him a sealed book. Turning from all this record of past surprises, he could find no better plan for the future development of the post-office department, for instance, than to suggest that all the mails of the nation might profitably be carried thenceforward on horseback. As a crowning instance of how little a tolerably enlightened man may see into the future, it would be a pity not to quote the passage from his veto message of May 4, 1822:
“ Unconnected with passengers and other objects, it cannot be doubted that the mail itself may be carried in every part of our Union, with nearly as much economy and greater despatch, on horseback, than in a stage; and in many parts with much greater. In every part of the Union in which stages can be preferred the roads are sufficiently good, provided those which serve for every other purpose will accommodate them. In every other part, where horses alone are used, if other people pass them on horseback, surely the mail-carrier can. For an object so simple and so easy in the execution it would doubtless excite surprise if it should be thought proper to appoint commissioners to lay off the country on a great scheme of improvement, with the power to shorten distances, reduce heights, level mountains, and pave surfaces."
Those who have traversed on horseback, even within a generation, those miry Virginia roads and those treacherous fords with which President Monroe was so familiar, will best appreciate this project for the post-office accommodations of a continent-a plan “so simple and easy in the execution.” Since then the country has indeed been laid off “in a great scheme of improvement,” distances have been shortened, heights reduced, and surfaces paved, even as he suggested, but under circumstances which no President in 1822 could possibly have conjectured. Indeed, it was not till the following administration, that of John Quincy Adams, that the first large impulse of expansion was really given and the great western march began.
THE GREAT WESTERN MARCH
'HE four years' administration of John Quincy
Adams is commonly spoken of as a very uninteresting period, but it was in one respect more important than the twenty years that went before it or the ten years that followed. For the first time the inhabitants of the United States began to learn in how very large a country they lived. From occupying a mere strip of land on the Atlantic they had spread already through New York and Ohio; but it was by detached emigrations, of which the nation was hardly conscious, by great single waves of population sweeping here and there. After 1825, this development became a self-conscious and deliberate thing, recognized and legislated for, though never systematically organized by the nation. When, between 1820 and 1830, Michigan Territory increased 260 per cent., Illinois 180 per cent., Arkansas Territory 142 per cent., and Indiana 133 per cent., it indicated not a mere impulse but a steady progress, not a wave but a tide. Now that we are accustomed to the vast statistics of to-day, it may not seem exciting to know that the population of the whole nation rose from nearly ten millions (9,633,822) in 1820 to nearly thirteen (12,866,020) in 1830; but this gain of one-third was at the time the most astounding