To the Voters of the Counties of Oswego and Madison:
YoU nominated me for a seat in Congress, notwithstanding I besought you not to do so. In vain was my resistance to your persevering and unrelenting purpose.
I had reached old age. I had never held office. Nothing was more foreign to my expectations, and nothing was more foreign to my wishes, than the holding of office. My multiplied and extensive affairs gave me full employment. My habits, all formed in private life, all shrank from public life. My plans of usefulness and happiness could be carried out only in the seclusion, in which my years had been spent.
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 to 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:
1st. 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.
2d. That the right to the soil is as natural, absolute, and equal, as the right to the light and the air.
3d. 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.
4th. 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.
5th. 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.”
6th. 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 these 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 dramshop 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.
7th. 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 enumeration of the features of my peculiar political creed: — and I need not enlarge upon the reason, which I gave, why I must not, and can not, 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.
PETERBORO, November 5th, 1852.
SOURCE: Gerrit Smith, Speeches of Gerrit Smith in Congress, p. 9-11