What Is A Freeman
George McDuffie of South Carolina
United States House of Representatives, 1828

Sir, if the union of these States shall ever be severed, and their liberties subverted, the historian who records these disasters will have to ascribe them to measures of this description. I do sincerely believe that neither this government nor any free government, can exist for a quarter of a century, under such a system of legislation. Its inevitable tendency is to corrupt not only the public functionaries, but all those portions of the Union and classes of society who have an interest, real or imaginary, in the bounties it provides, by taxing other sections and other classes. What, sir, is the essential characteristic of a freeman? It is that independence which results from an habitual reliance upon his own resources and his own labor for his support. He is not in fact a freeman, who habitually looks to the government for pecuniary bounties. And I confess that nothing in the conduct of those who are the prominent advocates of this system, has excited more apprehension and alarm in my mind, than the constant efforts made by all of them, from the Secretary of the Treasury down to the humblest coadjutor, to impress upon the public mind, the idea that national prosperity and individual wealth are to be derived, not from individual industry and economy, but from government bounties. An idea more fatal to liberty could not be inculcated.

I said on another occasion, that the days of Roman liberty were numbered when the people consented to receive bread from the public granaries. From that moment it was not the patriot who had shown the greatest capacity and made the greatest sacrifices to serve the republic but the demagogue who would promise to distribute most profusely the spoils of the plundered provinces, that was elevated to office by a degenerate and mercenary populace. Every thing became venal, even in the country of Fabricius, until finally the empire itself was sold at public auction! And what, sir, is the nature and tendency of the system we are discussing? It bears an analogy, but too lamentably striking, to that which corrupted the republican purity of the Roman people. God forbid that it should consummate its triumph over the public liberty, by a similar catastrophe, though even that is an event by no means improbable, if we continue to legislate periodcially in this way, and to connect the election of our Chief Magistrate with the question of dividing out the spoils of certain States - degraded into Roman provinces - among the influential capitalists of the other States of this Union!

Sir, when I consider that, by a single act like the present, from five to ten millions of dollars may be transferred annually from one part of this community to another; when I consider the disguise of disinterested patriotism under which the basest and most profligate ambition may perpetrate such an act of injustice and political prostitution. I cannot hesitate, for a moment, to pronounce this very system of indirect bounties, the most stupendous instrument of corruption ever placed in the hands of public functionaries. It brings ambition and avarice and wealth into a combination, which it is fearful to contemplate, because it is almost impossible to resist. Do we not perceive, at this very moment, the extraordinary and melancholy spectacle of less than one hundred thosand capitalists, by means of this unhallowed combination, exercising an absolute and despotic control over the opinions of eight millions of free citizens, and the fortunes and destinies of ten millions?


Thirty Years' View by Thomas Hart Benton
D. Appleton and Company, New York, 1889, pages 100-101.