Page images
[blocks in formation]

fated Missouri presented itself for admission, that a desire was expressed for procrastination and delay. He hoped the Senate would not agree to the motion, unless divested of the reason given by the mover in relation to the other House.

Mr. EATON replied that the argument objected to by the gentleman from South Carolina, had been merely thrown out by him from an impression that it was not proper for both Houses to be acting on the subject at one and the same moment. It was strange, however, he thought, that the gentleman should object to the motion solely because in his opinion one bad argument was offered in its favor. It was singular that a proposition admitted to have sufficient good reasons in its support, should be opposed by the gentleman merely because the arguments for it concluded with a bad one. He had stated that he entertained doubts on the question, and he only desired one or two days for reflection, and to make up an opinion. He concluded by varying his motion for postponement to Thursday next.


of courtesy towards the members from the new State, now kept waiting at the bar for admission, and towards the State itself, to decide the question without more delay. A contrary course, he urged, would be a departure from the proceeding in all pre-existing cases; and he could not believe that a mere technical exception could operate on the wisdom of the Senate, of which he entertained the most exalted opinion, to prevent it from eternally burying the brand of discord which had been lighted up at the last session. Mr. B. said, as there was no good reason for the postponement asked for, he must vote against it. He hoped the time would never come when the opinion of this body, solemnly expressed, would not have a great moral effect out of doors as well as in doors. This question was looked at by the nation with much anxiety and some degree of alarm, and he hoped the Senate would not keep the public mind in suspense, but decide it without delay.

Mr. EATON having again varied his motion to its original shape, for Wednesday

his opposition to the postponement, as he was always ready to accord to any gentleman reasonable time for preparation.

Mr. SMITH Concurred with Mr. JOHNSON in this sentiment, and, for the same reason, would not oppose the postponement to Wednesday.

Mr. JOHNSON, of Kentucky, felt no reluctance Mr. JOHNSON, of Kentucky, said, as the gentleto postpone the subject for the gentleman's accom- man had placed his motion on the ground of permodation, but he would not consent to the post-sonal indulgence, he would cheerfully withdraw ponement for the reason that the Senate ought to wait the decision of the other House, because the latter reason might operate to the postponement of the question here altogether, or at least for a considerable period beyond the time now proposed. His only motive for objecting to the motion was on account of the latter argument urged by the gentleman from Tennessee. If the gentleman wanted time merely to mature his opinion, let him move the postponement from day to day, until he had made up his mind on the question. Mr. J. said the question to be decided was one of great importance; it swallowed up, in fact, every other, and until it was settled, they could not well go on with the ordinary business of the session. He was unwilling, therefore, to postpone it on a motion accompanied by a reason that might call for still further delay. He was not willing to wait for the other House, as he deemed it right and proper for the Senate to decide the question as early as possible; sufficient delay had already taken place, and he hoped the gentleman would change his motion to a postponement until to-morrow only. If he should not then be prepared for the question, Mr. J. said he would agree to give him further time.

Mr. EATON added a few words explanatory of his reasons for asking a short delay. His health had not been good, and he had not possessed the opportunity of satisfying his mind on some points involved in the decision of the question. He thought opposition to such a motion was unusual, and that when any gentleman asked further time it was always granted, even when the question was one of inconsiderable importance; but, on a question of such acknowledged magnitude, it was still more extraordinary that the indulgence he asked should have been opposed. He wanted no time to prepare a great harangue, for he should probably pass over the question silently; but it was to see if a measure which he was called to vote on would violate the instrument which he had sworn to observe.

Mr. SMITH rose again, merely to correct the gentleman as to a fact. The gentleman had stated that time was never refused to a member when he asked for it; but Mr. S. recollected, on one occasion, he himself, late in the day, asked the Senate to postpone the question on the bank only to the next day, and was refused; and, so far from indulging him, they took the question over his head, while he was in the midst of a speech on the subject.

Mr. BARBOUR, of Virginia, was never opposed to allowing gentlemen time to make up their opinions on all matters of deliberation; but in this case he concurred with Messrs. SMITH and JOHNSON, in their opposition to the motion, for the reasons they had assigned. The argument used by Mr. EATON, that it was proper to wait the decision of the other House, amounted almost to an indefinite postponement of the subject here. He was averse to delay on that ground. The question, he thought, had been forever sealed at the last session; so fully was he persuaded of this, that he had supposed accursed would have been the hand that should again open this fountain of bitter waters. Mr. B. then proceeded into a brief argument to show that it The PRESIDENT communicated a report of the was right and proper, under every consideration | Secretary of the Treasury, prepared in obedience

16th CoN. 2d SESS.-2

The question was then taken on postponing the resolution to Wednesday, and was agreed to, nem. con.

TUESDAY, December 5.

[blocks in formation]

to the act, entitled "An act to establish the Treasury Department."

Mr. WILSON Submitted the following motion for consideration:

Resolved, That the Committee on Military Affairs be instructed to inquire into the expediency of allowing to the officers of the army a specific sum monthly in lieu of their present pay, rations, and other emol


Mr. MORRIL, Submitted the following motion for consideration:


Europe, was read the second time, and referred to the Committee on the District of Columbia.

Mr. HORSEY, from the Committee on the District of Columbia, to whom was referred the bill to incorporate the Columbian Society for literary purposes, reported the same with amendments; which were read.

Mr. BARBOUR presented the petition of Joseph Janney, praying compensation for buildings and other property destroyed by the enemy during the late war with Great Britain, in consequence of the occupancy thereof by militia; and the petition was read, and referred to the Committee of Claims.

Resolved, That the President of the United States be requested to cause the agent employed under the act entitled "An act authorizing the purchase of fire Mr. RUGGLES presented two memorials, signed engines and for building houses for the safe keep- by a number of individuals concerned directly or ing of the same," to inform the Senate if said act is indirectly, as purchasers of public lands, prior to carried into complete effect; if not, to what degree, the law "making further provision for the sale of and why not fully; and, also, if a warrant has been the public lands," stating that said law operates issued from the Treasury Department for the sum ap-injuriously on them, and praying that they may propriated, and if so, when issued.

[blocks in formation]

Mr. THOMAS, from the Committee on Public Lands, to whom was referred the bill, entitled "An act to provide for paying to the State of Illinois three per cent. of the net proceeds arising from the sale of the public lands within the same," reported it without amendment.

The bill for the relief of Ebenezer Stevens and Austin L. Sands, legal representatives of Richardson Sands, deceased, and others, was amended by unanimous consent, read the third time, and passed.

The Senate proceeded to consider the motion of yesterday, to extend the time for locating military land warrants in Ohio; and, on motion, it was ordered to lie on the table.

The bill from the House of Representatives, entitled "An act for the relief of Elias Parks," was read the second time, and referred to the Committee of Claims.

The bill from the House of Representatives, entitled "An act to amend the act, entitled 'An act for the relief of the legal representatives of Henry Willis," was read the second time, and referred to the Committee on Public Lands.

be permitted to apply the payments already made to such portions of their entries as such payments will cover, at two dollars per acre, and that the residue may revert to the United States; and the memorials were read, and referred to the Committee on Public Lands.

Mr. PINKNEY presented the petition of John Gooding and James Williams, late owners of the private armed schooner "Midas," praying that they may be paid the bounty allowed by law to the owners of private armed vessels for the capture and delivery of prisoners, on twenty-two slaves that formed part of the crew of the British privateer "Dash," captured in the year 1814, by the "Midas ;" and the petition was read, and referred to the Committee on Naval Affairs.

Mr. RUGGLES presented the petition of Elderkin Potter, praying compensation for a horse lost whilst in the service of the United States; and the petition was read, and referred to the Committee of Claims.


Mr. BARBOUR from the committee to whom was referred the petition of Matthew Lyon, submitted the following report; which was read:

The claim of the petitioner to redress rests on the facts, that he was convicted under the law commonly called the sedition act, and suffered in his body by a long and loathsome confinement in jail, and in his estate by the payment of a large fine. He asserts that the law under which he suffered was unconstitutional;

and proceeds to infer that when a citizen has been injured by an unconstitutional stretch of power he is entitled to indemnity.

The bill from the House of Representatives, entitled "An act to incorporate the Managers of the National Vaccine Institution in the District of Columbia," was read the second time, and referred to the Committee on the District of Co-rect decision involves general principles, so highly imlumbia.

The bill from the House of Representatives, entitled "An act for the relief of Perley Keys and Jason Fairbanks," was read the second time, and referred to the Committee on Finance.

Although this be the case of an individual, its cor

portant as to claim a profound consideration.

Under this solemn impression, a majority of the committee, after the severest investigation, have decided that the petitioner is entitled to relief.

They owe it to themselves and to the occasion to present succinctly to the Senate some of the promiThe resolution from the House of Representa-nent reasons which have produced this determination. tives authorizing the President of the United States to cause astronomical observations to be made to ascertain the longitude of the Capitol in the City of Washington, from some known meridian in

The first question that naturally presents itself in the investigation is, Was the law Constitutional? The committee have no hesitation in pronouncing, in their opinion, it was not. They think it is not necessary at


Case of Matthew Lyon.


degree, lessened by the reflection that the decision now to be pronounced, when the angry passions of party have subsided, will be dictated by an exclusive regard to the intrinsic merits of the question, and the interesting consideration it involves.

The committee are aware, that, in opposition to this view of the subject, the decision of some of the judges of the Supreme Court, sustaining the constitutionality of the law, has been frequently referred to, as sovereign and conclusive of the question.

The committee entertain a high respect for the purity and intelligence of the judiciary. But it is a rational respect, limited by a knowledge of the frailty of human nature, and the theory of the Constitution, which declares, not only that judges may err in opinion, but also may commit crimes, and hence has provided a tribunal for the trial of offenders.

this day to enter into an elaborate disquisition to sustain the correctness of this opinion. They will content themselves by referring to the history of the times in which the law originated, when both its constitutionality and expediency underwent the strictest scrutiny. The opponents of the law challenged its advocates to point out the clause of the Constitution which had armed the Government with so formidable a power as the control of, or interference with, the press. A Government, said they, of limited powers, and authorized to execute such only as are expressly given by the Constitution, or such as are properly incident to an express power, and necessary to its execution, has exercised an authority over a most important subject, which, so far from having been delegated, has been expressly withheld. That the patriots contemporary with the adoption of the Constitution, not content with the universally received opinion, that all power In times of violent party excitement, agitating a not granted had been withheld, to obviate all doubt whole nation, to expect that judges will be entirely exon a point of such moment, insisted that an amend-empt from its influence, argues a profound ignorance ment to that effect should be inserted in the Consti- of mankind. Although clothed with the ermine, they tution; and still jealous of that propensity, incident to are still men, and carry into the judgment seat the all Governments, no matter what may be the form of passions and motives common to their kind. Their deits organization, or by whom administered, to enlarge cisions, on party questions, reflect their individual the sphere of its authority, they, by express provis- opinions, which frequently betray them unconsciously ions, guarded from violation some of the cardinal into error. To balance the judgment of a whole peoprinciples of liberty; among these, as most important, ple, by that of two or three men, no matter what may they placed the liberty of conscience and of the press. be their official elevation, is to exalt the creature of the Profoundly versed in the history of human affairs, Constitution above its creator, and to assail the founwhose every page made known that all Governments dation of our political fabric, which is, that the decision had seized on the altar and the press, and prostituted of the people is infallible, from which there is no apthem into the most formidable engines against the peal, but to Heaven. liberty of mankind, they resolved, and most wisely so, as the sequel has evinced, to surround these great, natural, and inalienable rights by impassable barriers; and, to that end, have expressly declared, that Congress should have no power to legislate on them; and, notwithstanding these great obstacles, you have passed this act. The advocates of the law vainly endeavored to defend themselves by a technical discrimination between the liberty and licentiousness of the press. The American people, by overwhelming majorities, approaching, indeed, unanimity, denounced the law as a palpable and an alarming infraction of the Constitution; and, although no official record of that decision can be produced, it is as notorious as a change of their public servants, which took place at that time, and to which this obnoxious measure so essentially contributed.

The committee cannot withhold an expression of regret, that, upon the restoration of sound principles, the Congress of the times should have omitted to leave some memorial on their records, of their disapprobation of this unjustifiable assumption of power; and none would have been more satisfactory than an ample indemnity to those who had suffered by its operation. In the fluctuating conflicts between power and liberty, which exist everywhere, in a greater or lesser degree, where any portion of liberty is to be found, it is believed, by the committee, to be a most solemn duty imposed on the defenders of the latter, in every triumph it may acquire over the encroachments of the former, to make certain every doubtful point, to which resort had been had as a pretext for such encroachment; to repair every breach made in the Constitution; and, if practicable, to surround liberty with new ramparts. That having been omitted by our predecessors, in the instance of the sedition act, the task devolves on us. And although it has been long delayed, the regret arising therefrom is, in some

Taking it, therefore, as granted, that the law was unconstitutional, we are led to the next question, growing out of the inquiry, is the petitioner entitled to relief? This question, as a general one, is not susceptible of that precise answer, which might establish a uniform rule, applying equally to all times, and to all occasions. On the contrary, it must be decided by the peculiar circumstances of every case to which its application is attempted.

The committee, for instance, would themselves decide that relief was impracticable, where, from a long course of tyranny, attended with a rapacity far and wide, society had become so impoverished that the attempt to relieve might blight every prospect of future prosperity. Nor could they advocate relief, where the authority exercised admitted of a rational doubt as to its constitutionality, upon powers not expressly inhibited, nor in cases, perhaps, where the amount of the injuries complained of could not be ascertained with a reasonable precision. None of these difficulties, however, present themselves in this case. The law under which the petitioner suffered, as has been previously asserted, and attempted to be shown, was palpably unconstitutional, as being directly in opposition to an express clause of the Constitution. The amount of the injury sustained, in so far as relates to the fine paid by the petitioner, is fixed and certain, and the sum equal to a reimbursement is insignificant to the nation. In this case, therefore, the committee think the Goverument is under a moral obligation to indemnify the petitioner. An indemnity as consistent with policy as with justice, inculcating an instructive lesson to the oppressor and the oppressed. Successful usurpation yields, indeed, to but few checks; among the few is the justice to posterity, who take cognizance equally of the crimes of the usurper, and of the sufferings and the virtue of his victim-condemning the former, and administering relief to the latter. And what more

[blocks in formation]

consolatory to the suffering patriot, what better calculated to inspire constancy and courage, than a conviction, founded on fact, that his wrongs, on the restoration of sound principles, will attract the regard of the successful asserters of freedom, and who will cheerfully indemnify him for the injuries he has sustained? Such examples are not wanting in Governments less beneficent than ours--that of England is replete with instances of this kind. Acts of Parliament, passed in times of heat and excitement, are frequently reversed, and the individuals on whom they had operated are restored to the rights of which they had been deprived. Succeeding Parliaments do not hesitate to indemnify the victims of oppression, because they had suffered under the forms of law. Acts of their Legislature, whose power is omnipotent, form no obstacle with those to whom their injustice is made manifest, in granting relief. An American Congress will not suffer itself to be exceeded by any Government in acts of justice or beneficence.

The committee have only further to remark, that the Executive interposed its authority in various cases, and granted a full pardon to those convicted under the act in question, by which their fines were either remitted, or restored; relief, therefore, to the petitioner, would be only a common measure of justice. According to information received from the Department of State, no money has ever been paid into the Treasury by the officer who received the fines imposed under the sedition

act. It is submitted to the discretion of the Senate, whether provision shall be made by law to indemnify the petitioner, by directing the amount of his fine to be paid out of the Treasury, or to reclaim it from the delinquent officer or officers; and, in the latter event, to be at liberty to use the name of the United States in any prosecution to which resort may be had, with a view to that end.

Inasmuch, however, as the relief proposed to be given in this case is on general principles, the committee are of opinion it should be afforded also to every sufferer under the law.

They, therefore, beg leave to submit the following resolutions:


Mr. EATON presented the petition of Thomas Hardiman, of Missouri, praying to be confirmed in his title to a tract of land in Missouri; and the petition was read, and referred to the Committee on Public Lands.

Mr. HOLMES, of Mississippi, from the Committee on Indian Affairs, to whom the subject was referred, reported a bill to continue in force, for a further time, the act entitled "An act for establishing trading-houses with the Indian tribes;" and the bill was read, and passed to a second reading.

Mr. TRIMBLE gave notice, that, to-morrow, he would ask leave to bring in a bill to authorize the appointment of commissioners to lay out a canal in the State of Ohio.

The Senate proceeded to consider the motion of yesterday, requesting information of the President of the United States respecting the execution of the act "authorizing the purchase of fire engines and for building houses for the safe-keeping of the same;" and agreed thereto.

The Senate proceeded to consider the motion of yesterday, instructing the Committee on Military Affairs to inquire into the expediency of allowing to officers a specific sum monthly in lieu of their present pay, rations, and other emoluments; and agreed thereto.

The Senate proceeded to consider the motion of yesterday, instructing the Committee on Public Lands to inquire into the expediency of establishing an additional land office in Indiana; and agreed thereto.

The Senate proceeded to consider the report of the select committee on the petition of Matthew Lyon; and the further consideration thereof was postponed to and made the order of the day for Wednesday next.

The Senate proceeded to consider, as in Committee of the Whole, the bill entitled "An act to provide for paying to the State of Illinois three Resolved, That so much of the act, entitled "An act per cent. of the net proceeds arising from the sale for the punishment of certain crimes against the Uni-of the public lands within the same;" and the ted States," approved the 14th of July, 1798, as pre- consideration thereof was postponed until to-mortends to prescribe and punish libels, is unconstitutional.

Resolved, That the fines collected under that act ought to be restored to those from whom they were exacted; and that these resolutions be recommitted to the committee who brought them in, with instructions to report a bill to that effect.

WEDNESDAY, December 6.

Mr. TRIMBLE presented three memorials, signed by a number of individuals concerned directly or indirectly, as purchasers of public lands, prior to the law "making further provision for the sale of the public lands," stating that said law operates injuriously on them, and praying that they may be permitted to apply the payments already made to such portions of their entries as such payments will cover, at two dollars per acre, and that the residue may revert to the United States; and the memorials were read, and severally referred to the Committee on Public Lands.


instant, requesting an inquiry into the expediency The Senate took up the motion of the fourth of extending the time for locating military land warrants in Ohio; which was amended and agreed to, as follows:

Resolved, That the Committee on Public Lands be requested to inquire into the expediency of extending the time for locating military land warrants in the State of Ohio.


The Senate resumed the consideration of the bill to incorporate" the Columbian Society for Literary purposes."

Mr. JOHNSON, of Kentucky, submitted a general view of the character of the association and its objects, to establish its laudable and unobjectionable nature; and, by comparing it with other incorporations created by Congress, argued to show that it was entirely unexceptionable, being merely the incorporation of the managers of a college

[blocks in formation]

erected purely for the promotion of those branches of education which were taught in other institutions of learning. The same bill, Mr. J. remarked, had been defeated at the last session, merely because the title, which had been inadvertently and without reflection given to it, had been construed by gentlemen into an indication that the bill was for the incorporation of an exclusive religious society for religious objects alone. Mr. J. concluded by moving to postpone the bill to Friday next, that it might not now interfere with business of more importance, and to give time for considering it.

Mr. HORSEY avowed himself willing to vote for the incorporation of this society, under certain limitations and restrictions, in which the bill was now defective. He would confine the society, by express provisions, to objects strictly collegiate and literary. The bill was defective in not defining the mode of electing its principal, its trustees, professors, &c., and he would provide especially that no person should be excluded from an office in the college, or from its benefits, on account of his religious opinions. These were objects he wished to provide for in the bill, and therefore would wish it to be recommitted to the Committee on the District of Columbia.

Mr. JOHNSON, of Kentucky, concurred entirely in the views of Mr. HORSEY, and acquiesced in its recommitment; and the bill was recommitted accordingly.


the Constitution of the United States, and some might not be willing to adopt the unconditional terms of the resolution which declared the new constitution to be republican, and in conformity to the Constitution of the United States. It was to obviate difficulty on this point, by avoiding a declaration one way or the other on the questionable clause, that he offered the amendment.

Mr. KING, of New York, confessed himself at some loss how to decide on this amendment. If he voted in the affirmative, it might seem as if the Senate could pass a resolution contrary to the Constitution; if in the negative, it would declare that a clause should have no effect which could have none, and must be nugatory. He thought a day, at least, should be given to consider the matter. For himself, he had asked no delay of the resolution; he was ready to vote on it; and he took this occasion to say he had not desired the subject to be reopened in the Senate; he believed it would do no good, but, on the contrary, that the public tranquillity would be promoted by deciding it quietly; the subject, he conceived, had been exhausted, and his opinion had undergone no change. He regretted that these sentiments had not been felt elsewhere, and where he thought they ought to have been felt. As to the amendment, he thought a moment's delay should be allowed to examine it, and he moved its postponement until to-morrow.

Mr. BURRILL was in favor of a longer postpone

The other intervening subjects on the orders of ment, but hoped until to-morrow at least would be the day being, on motion of Mr. BARBOUR, post-permitted. He, too, expressed his regret that the poned for that purposequestion had been reopened, and added a few remarks on the propriety of giving some time to consider this amendment, which was certainly of an important character.

The Senate resumed the consideration of the resolution declaring the admission into the Union of the


Mr. BARBOUR, of Virginia, rose merely to suggest, as there was no doubt the mind of every gentleman was fully made up on the subject, that the question should be decided without consuming the time of the Senate in further debate.

Mr. EATON, of Tennessee, said, before the question was taken, he would ask leave to offer the following proviso to the resolution:

Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be so construed as to give the assent of Congress to any provision in the constitution of Missouri, if any such there be, which contravenes that clause in the Constitution of the United States, which declares that "the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States."

Mr. KING, of New York, thought this amendment of too much importance to be decided without a moment's reflection. Some little time, he thought, ought to be allowed to see its bearing; to see whether it meant any thing or nothing, and, if any thing, what that was. He hoped the question would be postponed at least until to-morrow.

Mr. EATON observed, that there was a feature in the constitution of Missouri which presented a difficulty to the minds of some gentlemen, and to his among the number. Doubts were entertained whether that constitution was not repugnant to

Mr. MORRIL moved a postponement of the question to Monday, and spoke a few words in favor of that course.

Messrs. SMITH and BARBOUR opposed so long a postponement as to Monday, but were willing to allow until to-morrow.

The motion to postpone the subject to Monday was lost; and the resolution and amendment were postponed until to-morrow.

[ocr errors]

THURSDAY, December 7.

The PRESIDENT communicated a report of the Secretary of the Treasury, made in pursuance of the resolution of the Senate of the third of April last, directing that the Secretary of the Treasury cause to be prepared and laid before the Senate, at the commencement of the next session of Congress, a statement of the money expended in each year, since the Declaration of Independence, in holding conferences and making treaties with the Indian tribes; specifying grants and presents, whether in money or goods; annuities paid, and now payable to the Indian tribes; the money annually appropriated and paid for the Indian trade, including the sums allowed for salaries, and allowances to superintendents, clerks, factors, commissioners, agents, interpreters, and all other persons employed under the authority of the United States, in nego

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »