HON. SIR: – I am confident you will have the goodness to pass by my imprudence in my attempt to write to one so highly elevated by his country. I aim not at high things; my head is not formed for the cap of honor; but the good of that country which has given me birth, and nourished me more than eighty years, lies near my heart. Next to the salvation of the soul, I have advocated a scheme which would support the energies of government and secure the rights of the people. The given powers of the government in which you are now acting as legislator are few and (refined. The powers granted and rights retained are so plainly stated in the charter, that those who read may understand; but, where honest men are agreed in the fundamental principles, they may widely differ in the agents and secondary measures which would be the most likely to establish those principles.
It seems probable that the admission of Michigan into the Union – the French question – the circulation of the writings of the abolitionists – the disposal of the surplus revenue, epic., will occupy some of your time. The expunging of senatorial foolery will not be hammered in your shop; but, in the Senate chamber, it is likely the furnace will be blown seven times hotter than usual, to kill that which never did any harm; the death of which will never bequeath a pair of shoes for a child, or an ear of corn for a pig. Should the record of the resolution of censure be expunged by a line drawn across it as black as tophet, it would not change the mind of any mans ant more than the passing of the resolution did.
In the time of the revolution in England, it became proverbial, “strip a man of office, and he will talk like a whig; put him into office, and he will be a tory.” It is too true, that when men possess power, they forget right, every man having a pope in his belly; but, true patriotism will rope the pope, and cause the patriot to seek the good of his country (of all the worlds and not his own agrandizement.
According to our political calendar, this present year is leap year; the the thirteenth bissextile of our government. It is therefore probable that there will be some leaping in Washington this session; and pray how could the leisure hours of the members of Congress be spent better than in devising means for the good of their country for the four succeeding years? Whether the committee of ways and means are appointed for the purpose of nominating and recommending a candidate for the next term, and whether the committee are likely to agree and report a bill, I do not know. My ardent desire is that there may be a fair expression of the will of the people in the choice of the eighth president; if so, who. ever he be, I will acknowledge him as my president; whether he is the man of my choice or not; for in this case, and in all other cases like it, vox poplin vow dei is a religious truth.
Representatives are not sent to Congress to think for their constituents, but to act for them, (the right of thinking being inalienable in id nature,) and he who acts contrary to the known will of a majority of his constituents, is a tyrant. When a question must by acted upon, any the representative cannot in conscience vote for that which he knows is the will of his constituents, it becomes him to tender his resignation, and let an. Other fill his place. Mr Adams formerly, and Mr. Rives recently acted wisely on this true republican principle in the Senate; and Col. Johnson did the same in substance in the compensation law, in the House of Representatives.
I learn from the newspapers that you are on the committee of post-office and post-roads. This institution has grown to a giant, and I believe it is as much abused as any establishment in the government. To guarantee to men their liberty by an instrument that defends from licentiousness and to give men power enough to do good, and have it so counterpoised that they cannot abuse it, is what the friends of man have been laboring for some thousands of years; and likely the consummation of all things will find men in the pursuit of it. But the profession is not an attribute of men, yet every march towards it is praiseworthy.
Elder John Leland
Jan. 12, 1836.
The Writings of The Late Elder John Leland
Published originally 1845
Pages 675 – 676