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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

His Political Creed

By Gerrit Smith (1797–1874)

[Born in Utica, N. Y., 1797. Died in New York, N. Y., 1874. Letter to his Constituents. 1852.—From the Biography by O. B. Frothingham. 1878.]

MY nomination, as I supposed it would, has resulted in my election,—and that too, by a very large majority. And now, I wish that I could resign the office which your partiality has accorded to me. But I must not—I cannot. To resign it would be a most ungrateful and offensive requital of the rare generosity, which broke through your strong attachments of party, and bestowed your votes on one the peculiarities of whose political creed leave him without a party. Very rare, indeed, is the generosity, which was not to be repelled by a political creed, among the peculiarities of which are:

1. That it acknowledges no law and knows no law for slavery; that not only is slavery not in the federal constitution, but that, by no possibility could it be brought either into the federal or into a State constitution.

2. That the right to the soil is as natural, absolute and equal as the right to the light and air.

3. That political rights are not conventional but natural,—inhering in all persons, the black as well as the white, the female as well as the male.

4. That the doctrine of free trade is the necessary outgrowth of the doctrine of the human brotherhood; and that to impose restrictions on commerce is to build up unnatural and sinful barriers across that brotherhood.

5. That national wars are as brutal, barbarous and unnecessary as are the violence and bloodshed to which misguided and frenzied individuals are prompted; and that our country should, by her own Heaven-trusting and beautiful example, hasten the day when the nations of the earth “shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

6. That the province of government is but to protect—to protect persons and property; and that the building of railroads and canals and the care of schools and churches fall entirely outside of its limits, and exclusively within the range of “the voluntary principle.” Narrow, however, as are those limits, every duty within them is to be promptly, faithfully, fully performed:—as well, for instance, the duty on the part of the federal government to put an end to the dram-shop manufacture of paupers and madmen in the city of Washington, as the duty on the part of the State government to put an end to it in the State.

7. That as far as practicable, every officer, from the highest to the lowest, including especially the President and Postmaster, should be elected directly by the people.

I need not extend any further the enumerations of the features of my peculiar political creed; and I need not enlarge upon the reason which I gave why I must not and cannot resign the office which you have conferred upon me. I will only add that I accept it; that my whole heart is moved to gratitude by your bestowment of it, and that, God helping me, I will so discharge its duties as neither to dishonor myself nor you.