The Causes of Our National Demoralization
San Francisco Daily Alta California, July 14, 1860
The disruption of the Baltimore Convention gives rise to the most direful forebodings among many, who profess to see in it the preliminary step toward actual secession from the Union on the part of many of the states. They who suffer their faith in the perpetuity of this Union to be shaken by such a movement, but poorly understand the workings of the federal compact, or the real causes which have produced this defection in the Democratic party, and these loud threatenings about a dissolution of the Union. The troubles in the Democratic party which seem to have brought to that party so much disaster, owe their origin in the main to the President. They are the children of his loins, and Kansas is their illegitimate maternal progenitor. They are the heirs that will inherit whatever of name or fame James Buchanan may have acquired, when he shall have closed his political record and his existence. But the assaults, which have been, and are still being made upon the Constitution and the Union, must be traced in the main to a separate cause, however much the policy of the President may have contributed to their advancement.
The popular branch of Congress in which the storm of dissension has raged with the greatest fury, is no longer what it used to be. The element of patriotic statesmanship forms but a very small proportion of its composition, mere ranting, unprincipled, political demagogues largely predominating, and these being too often men without even the ordinary educational accomplishments. The House of Representatives of the United States, in point of intellectual ability and in the aggregate amount of moral honesty which is to be found in it, will probably compare but poorly with the popular branch of the Legislature of either state of the Union. In fact, if the reports which are furnished us form any criteria on by which an opinion may be formed, in point of oratorical and argumentative ability, many third-rate school debating societies are its superior. The rule is that he who can lay his wires most cunningly, so as to secure the nomination from a political convention, without regard to his moral fitness or his intellectual ability, is the man who must "go to Congress." And when he gets there, his whole official career is but a record of political tricks, too often without one single act of statesmanship or display of true-hearted patriotism to light up the black history of his term of representation. To rise in his place and hurl fire-brands into the arena of debate; to lend himself to every villainous scheme that promises to promote his own political or pecuniary aggrandizement, at the expense of the public peace and harmony between the people of both sections of the Union, is the highest object of his ambition, and the motive power which governs his action. Men of this stamp have pushed themselves forward, and literally usurped those positions which the founders of this Union never intended should be filled by any other than citizens of enlarged and patriotic views upon all questions of public policy, men to whom the good of the country is the first object sought to be attained, and their own individual advancement only a secondary consideration.
Under such circumstances as these, it is no matter of surprise that Congress has degenerated into a "bear garden," and become the theater of constant turmoil, and disgraceful personal quarrels. It is no wonder that this herd of dastardly demagogues have carried on such a crusade against the perpetuity of this Union; it is no wonder that timid men quake and fear for the future, and indulge in such direful forebodings.
But we regard the present political crisis, which the country seems to have reached, as full of hopeful promise; as pregnant with a remedy for this great evil. The masses, north and south, are sick and tired of being led by the nose like a ringed bullock, by this class of demagogues, and are preparing to reassume the authority which has been so shamelessly abused by their representatives. They are preparing, if we mistake not, to select an entirely different class of men to represent them at Washington, as the only sure remedy for this monstrous curse which has been fixed upon them.
The people of California should be alive to the necessity of a similar line of action. Up to this time, California has scarcely furnished an exception to the rule which has prevailed in many other States, in the selection of her Congressman. The majority of our representatives have been men without ability—men who are wholly lacking in moral or intellectual qualifications. Our present delegation, it is said, are the aiders and abettors of every movement calculated to keep up sectional discord, and are guided by no sentiment of patriotism in any of their official acts. California is, therefore—through her representatives, who are so recreant to the high trust which has been reposed in them—particeps criminis in this onslaught upon the Union, and it quite time to conside the propriety of a change of policy in making Congressional nominations.