H. OF R.

Insolvent Debtors.

JANUARY, 1803.


would say that, if the debter were an honest man, say to the person disposed to leave him anything, he would make good his engagements, whatever vest it in my children, my wife, or friends; and the law might say to the contrary. With regard will not that be as complete a fraud upon the to a want of stimulus to industry, which the gen- creditors as that which gentlemen have described ? tleman from Maryland had assigned as a reason This can be prevented by no law whatever. for retaining the section, he would ask if there was Mr. Nicholson said he would ask wbat would no danger to be apprehended from a law which be the effect upon a man who has a family of put it in the power of any man, by twelve children dependent upon hinı ? Would he exert months' residence here, to elude all claims against himself to acquire property when he did not him? Which most conduced to the public bene- know that he could retain it an hour after the fit, the exertions of an honest and laborious man, acquisition ? He asked if this was in the nature or those you may expect from an insolvent debtor? of man? As far as his observation extended it It is right to respect the miseries of the unfortu- was not. Although there were some lenient cred

But these distresses are, in more instances, itors, there were others that were relentless, and the effects of crime than of misfortune.

who would lay their talons on the first fruits of Mr. Randolph considered the ideas of the gen- his labors. Will not this destroy industry? But tleman from Kentucky as going as far as they gentlemen say this provision will effect a moral should go. They say, you shall not torture the injury to the creditor. True; but what do they person of a debtor; but you shall not absolve him, say to the effects of the contrary provision on the on his simple oath, from his obligations. Can debtor? They will liberate him from jail, that you dispense a man from his just engagement? he may become a vagrant, without any induceThey are about to apply that dispensing power, ment to industry, or to employ with effect the which, in religious cases, has proved so injurious, powers of his mind. He would ask if this last and, like the Pope of old, free individuals from moral injury was not the greater ? For his part engagements as strong as the matrimonial bond, he believed ihis provision would have a great and and other obligations. Have they not the same good effect. It would prevent the injurious exright to do the one as the other? Is it not as cruel tension of credit. It would, in this place, repress to take away the money of the creditor as that of speculation in lots, by reducing properly to its the debtor? Is it not known that creditors, to an real value, which would contribute to the imimmense amount, are starving? Mr. R. believed provement of the city, and enable persons, by obtheir sufferings were greater than those of debtors. (iaining ground on moderate terms, to come here What had become of the millions spunged by the to build. bankrupt system? They had gone, with the wild A similar provision has existed in Maryland systems and projects to which they had given rise. for twenty-six years. The law there extends to As to the debtor, having performed a complete all debtors who do not owe more than two hunrevolution, he stands where he stood before. He dred pounds sterling. In other cases it is usual began with nothing, and with nothing has ended. for the Legislature to pass an annual law on the

Suppose there should be a collision between your petition of debtors. If they pursue a similar act and that of the States, under each of which course, all their time would be occupied to the there shall be an assignment; which is to give neglect of ness of infinitely greater importway? Mr. R. concluded by saying that the least ance. It became, therefore, necessary to pass a important consideration to him, though it might general law on the subject, in doing which no esbe important to others, was that, in case the sec- sential injury could be done the creditor, while tion was agreed to, this place would become the an essential service would be conferred on the resort of debtors of all descriptions. It would be debtor. come the temple of Mecca.

Mr. Goddard was opposed to the section, for Mr. Nicholson said he might be partial to this reasons additional to those offered by the gentleprovision, inasmuch as it had existed in the State men from Virginia and Kentucky. This provishe represented, ever since the year 1774. He did ion appeared to him to extend much further than not koow, notwithstanding, that the State of those of the bankrupt law. By this bill the debtor Maryland had been turned into a temple of Mecca, is to present to the court a list of his creditors, nor were people in the habit of flocking to it. Why who are to choose a trustee to whom all his propthen flock here rather than to Maryland ? The erty is to be assigned, and he is to be liberated, on section requires twelve months residence before a doing this, without their consent. This was not debtor shall be entitled to the benefits of the pro- the principle of the bankrupt act, under which a vision. If that term is insufficient, increase it. bankrupt could not be discharged but by the conSay, that it shall extend to two or three years, or currence of two-thirds of the creditors both in a greater period. To this he might have no ob- value and number. How easy it would be under jection. But he cherished the principle, because this bill for a debtor to render a list of his friends he deemed it valuable.

only, and by getting them to appoint an assignee What are the objections urged against it? It according to his wishes, fraudulently to rob his is said that its intention may be evaded. This is creditors! The bill was of such a nature as to true. It may be evaded. But he would ask if it operate not alone in the District of Columbia, could be so changed as to prevent this evil? Sup- but upon creditors dispersed throughout the Union. pose all the property of the debtor shall be answer. The bankrupt law, notwithstanding all its checks, able for his debts. Will not a fraudulent debtor had given rise to many frauds. How much more


JANUARY, 1803.
Insolvent Debtors.

H. OF R. extensive, therefore, would the frauds be under Mr. Macon (Speaker) was in favor of the comthis bill, where all these checks were removed ? mittee rising, as he did not think they were pre

Mr. Nicholson replied to the observations of pared for a decision. Notwithstanding all that Mr. Goddard, by remarking that it was entirely had been said, Congress ought not lighily to violeft to the discretion of the court to give such late contracts between individuals. Most of the notice to the creditors as they saw fit, who might States had insolvent laws; and their various come in at the time, or within two years, and on ideas on this subject might perhaps be taken from showing fraud, deny all the benefit of the act to the systems of the different states in which they the debtor, who might be punished for perjury. lived. As to himself, he believed that no governHe agreed with the gentleman that under the ment ought to let any man keep property that bebankrupt law many frauds had been committed. longed of right to another. Suppose a man, an This was inevitable. He had heen no advocate insolvent debtor, should ride in his carriage, while for that law, nor one of those who passed it. But his creditors should be begging bread in the streets. as most of the States have some provisions on Did not this show the necessity of caution ? All this subject, he thought this district, viewing it as that could be justly asked was to liberate the pera State, ought to have similar provisions extended son of the debtor. There was no great danger of to it.

the rigor of the creditor. It was not the pracMr. Mirchill said he could not agree to the tice of Americans to seize from a man what was amendment, as he did not view the original prin- necessary for his family. ciple of the bill with that abhorrence that had Mr. M. entertained doubts whether Congress been expressed by some gentlemen. He had al- in legislating for this District could affect property ways considered it as a paradox that in countries, that lay in the several States. Suppose, for incomparatively free, the love of property should stance, that a debtor execute a deed for property predominate over that of freedom. Having seen in an extreme State; while in that State the same this principle once resorted to, it afterwards ap- property is sold under execution on a suit institupeared to be acted upon as a matter of course. ted there. Which would be valid? He could not, however, but reflect on the time of This provision appeared to him to place the our Saxon ancestors, considering us as having people of this Territory in a very different situaderived our origin from England, when no depri- tion from the citizens in the several States. In vation of personal liberty was allowed for debt. other cases Congress legislate generally; here, By them it was provided that the freedom of the exclusively. One State cannot pass a law that person should never be infringed but in cases shall affect the property in another State. If which concerned the breaking of the peace or for Congress undertake to pass a law that shall affect offences against the organization of the realm. all property, there may be endless confusion and These rights had been confirmed under Edward clashing of jurisdiction. He concluded by moving the Confessor, and again adopted as part of Mag- that the Committee should rise, and ask leave to na Charta, [the words of which Mr. Mirchill sit again. here quoted.] And yet the Legislature of that Carried without a division; and leave granted. country had acted in direct violation of this stip- Mr. Newton presented a petition from sundry ulation. This, however, was, he believed, easily inhabitants of Norfolk and Portsmouth, praying to be traced to a spirit of commerce; that aure that the bankrupt law may be amended. Resacræ fames, which made them ready, with one ferred to a select committee of seven. accord, to commute money for liberty. Tracing. Mr. VARNUM moved that the same committee the subject from its first stage, the Legislature of should be instructed to inquire into the expediency that country, and we in imitation, had soon pro- of repealing the bankrupt law. ceeded from the process of arresting the person to Mr. Newton considered the committee already the period of ultimate confinement, in a series of raised as competent to the inquiry, without any violations of the great principles of Magna Char- express instruction. ta, until it became necessary for the Legislature Mr. Griswold thought this motion incompatito interfere to remove the evils consequent upon ble with the prayer of the petition from Norfolk their measures, first to emancipate the person of and Portsmouth-the one being in favor of an the debtor from a species of slavery, and secondly amendment, and the other in favor of a repeal of to emancipate him from his debts.

the bankrupt act. After it shall appear that it is Mr. Mirchill said he had been thus particular not susceptible of amendment, it may be proper in his reference to England, because what had to agitate the question of repeal. been adopted there applied mutatis mutandis to Mr. Varnum thought there was no impropriety

in submitting both propositions to the same Com[He then went into a detailed specification of mittee, who will inquire into the merits of the his reasons for the original principle of the bill, law, and the propriety of continuing it. It apwhich we regret our inability to report from the peared to him that it was not calculated to prooccasional lowness of his voice breaking the chain iect the happiness of the citizens of the United of his ideas as communicated to us, concluding States. It opened the door to the greatest frauds with an expression of the opinion, that one years and inequalities imaginable. He hoped the subresidence was too short, and that if it should be ject would be taken up seriously, and expressed determined to retain the section, he would pro- nis opinion that the law was considered by both pose a longer period.]


political sides as injurious

this country.


H. OF R.
Cession of Louisiana to France.

JANUARY, 1803. Mr. Griswold replied, and insisted that the ar- A petition of Matthew Patterson and others, guments of the gentleman proved the in propriety inhabitants and settlers on French Broad river, of referring both points to the same committee. and within the original chartered boundaries of If the gentleman is against a continuance of the South Carolina, was presented to the House and law, lei it be referred to a Committee of the read, stating certain inconveniences to which the Whole, who will be the most proper organ for petitioners are, and will be, subjected, in conseexpressing the sense of the House on that prin- quence of that portion of territory in which they ciple.

reside, being considered as a part of the State of The question was then taken on Mr. VARNUM's Georgia, and praying that the said portion of termotion; which was carried-ayes 45, noes 25. ritory may be annexed to, and comprehended

within the State of South Carolina, for the rea

sons therein specified. Tuesday, January 4.

Ordered, That the said petition be referred to An engrossed bill for the relief of Charles Hyde Mr. Moore, Mr. Dickson, and Mr. PERKINS, that was read the third time, and passed.

they do examine the matter thereof, and report On motion, it was

the same, with their opinion thereupon, to the Resolved, That a committee be appointed to House. prepare and bring in a bill for erecting a monu- The House resolved itself into a Committee of ment to the memory of General Herkemer, pur- the Whole, Mr. John C. Smith in the Chair, on suant to a resolution of Congress, passed the fourth the bill for the relief of insolvent debtors within day of October, one thousand seven hundred and the District of Columbia. seventy-seven.

Mr. Nicholson said that, when this section Ordered, That Mr. VAN RENSSELAER, Mr. But- was under consideration yesterday, a number of LER, and Mr. STRATTON, be appointed a commit- gentlemen had declared themselves decidedly tee pursuant to the said resolution.

against the principle of it. He therefore moved The SPEAKER laid before the House a letter to strike out the section, though he should vote from the Secretary of the Treasury, transmitting against it. a statement exhibiting the amount of duties and On this motion the question was immediately drawbacks on goods, wares, and merchandise, im- taken, and carried in the affirmative by a large ported into the United States, and exported there majority-ayes 50. from, during the years one thousand seven hun. When, on motion of Mr. Nicholson, the Comdred and pinety nine, one thousand eight hundred, mittee rose, the House refused their permission to and one thousand eight hundred and one; which sit again, and recommitted the bill to the commitwere read, and ordered to lie on the table.

tee who introduced it. The House resolved itself into a Committee of the whole House on the bill making a partial ap

CESSION OF LOUISIANA. propriation for the naval service, during the year

Mr. Griswold observed, that there was one one thousand eight hundred and three ; and, after subject noticed in the President's Message, on some time spent therein, the bill was reported to which the House had taken no order. It was very the House without amendment.

important that the Legislature should possess all Ordered, That the said bill be engrossed, and the information that it was in the power of the read the third time to-morrow.

Heads of Departments to furnish. He then read The House resolved itself into a Committee of that part of the Message that relates to the cession the whole House on the bill making appropria- of Louisiana to the French; and said that, for the tions for the Military Establishment of the United purpose of obtaining all the information proper at States, in the year one thousand eight hundred that time to be given, he made the following and three; and, after some time spent therein, the motion : bill was reported, with several amendments there

Resolved, That the President of the United States to, which were iwice read, and, on the question be requested to direct the proper officer to lay before severally put thereupon, agreed to by the House.

this House copies of such official documents as have Ordered, That the said bill, with the amend- been received by this Government, announcing the ments, be engrossed, and read the third time to- cession of Louisiana to France, together with a report

explaining the stipulations, circumstances, and condiOn a motion made and seconded, that the House tions, under which that Province is to be delivered up; do come to the following resolutions:

unless such documents and report will, in the opinion Resolved, That provision ought to be made, by law, actions not proper at this time to be communicated.”

of the President, divulge to the House particular transfor the establishment of post roads throughout the United States.

Mr. Griswold considered it respectful to save Resolved, That whatever money shall be received in the President from a request to furnish papers the Treasury of the United States from the Post Office, that may be improper at this time. The subject, shall, after defraying the expenses of that establish- however, was vastly important, and the cession of ment, be appropriated to fixing and improving the post the Province mighi require from the Legislature roads.

some further protection of that frontier. Ordered, That the said motion be referred to Mr. Smilie hoped the resolution would lie on a Committee of the whole House on Monday the table at least till :0-morrow. next.

Mr. S. Smith asked the gentleman from Con



JANUARY, 1803.

Cession of Louisiana to France.

H. OF R.

necticut to explain the difference between his re- Resolved, That the Committee of Commerce and solution, and that offered at the beginning of the Manufactures be authorized to report by bill or bills, or session by the gentleman from Virginia, (Mr. otherwise, on all such matters as shalí, from time to RANDOLPH.)

time, be referred to them by the House. Mr. Griswold replied that, if the gentleman And the question being taken thereupon it from Maryland would give himself the trouble of passed in the negative. reading the resolution offered by the gentleman Ordered, That the said committee have leave from Virginia, he would perceive the difference. to withdraw from the Clerk's table their report That related to the shutting of the port of New and the other papers relative to the claim of Henry Orleans by Spain ; and the other to the cession of Messonier. the Province to France. If the gentleman thought A petition of sundry inhabitants of the city and there were any delicate subjects connected with county of Washington, in the District of Cothe resolution, he had no objection to its resting lumbia, was presented to the House, and read, until to-morrow.

praying that Congress will pass a law authorizing a new road to be opened, at the expense of the

said county, connecting the Northern end of West WEDNESDAY, January 5.

Fourteenth street, in the city of Washington, with A Message was received from the President the public road leading from Rock Creek -church OF THE UNITED States, as follows:

to Georgetown, for the convenience and benefit of Gentlemen of the House of Representatives :

the petitioners and other inhabitants within the Agreeably to the request of the House of Represent- said District. atives, I now transmit a statement of the militia of those Ordered, That the said petition be referred to States from which any returns have been made to the the Conimittee appointed on the twenty-first ultiWar Office. They are, as you will perceive, but a mo, on a memorial of the first and second branches small proportion of the whole. I send you, also, the of the City Council of Washington. copy of a circular letter, written some time since, for the

CESSION OF LOUISIANA. purpose of obtaining returns from all the States : should any others, in consequence of this, be made during the Mr. Griswold called up his resolution respectsession of Congress, they shall be immediately com- ing Louisiana, laid on the table yesterday, as folmunicated.


lows: JANUARY 5, 1803.

Resolved, That the President of the United States be The said Message was read, and, together with requested to direct the proper officer to lay before this the papers referred to therein, ordered to be re- House copies of such official documents as have been ferred to the committee appointed on the seven- received by this Government, announcing the cession teenth ultimo, to whom was referred “so much of of Louisiana to France, together with a report explainthe President's Message as relates to the militia ing the stipulations, circumstances, and conditions, uninstitution of the United States."

der which that province is to be delivered up; unless An engrossed bill making a partial appropria- such documents and report will, in the opinion of the tion for the Naval service during the year one

President, divulge to the House particular transactions thousand eight hundred and three,' was read the not proper at this time to be communicated. third time, and passed.

The question was put on taking it into considAn engrossed bill making appropriations for the eration, and carried-yeas 35, nays 32. Military Establishment of the United States, in the Mr. RANDOLPH observed that the discussion on year one thousand eight hundred and three, was this motion might embrace points nearly connectread the third time, and passed.

ed with the subject referred to a Committee of the Mr. S. Smith, from the Committee of Com- Whole on the state of the Union, and which had merce and Manufactures, to whom were referred, been discussed with closed doors. He therefore on the fourteenth ultimo, a bill for the relief of thought it would be expedient to commit this moHenry Messonnier, together with the memorial tion also to the Committee of the Whole on the of the said Henry Messonnier, with the vouchers state of the Union, to whom had been committed accompanying the same, presented the third day the Message of the President respecting New Orof February, and a report of the Committee of leans. Commerce and Manufactures thereon, of the 8th Mr. RANDOLPH accordingly made such motion. of March last, made a report; which was read, Mr. Griswold only rose to make a question of

Mr. $. Smith, from the same committee, also order, viz: whether the gentleman could move reported a bill for the relief of Henry Messonnier; the reference of the resolution to a Committee of which was read the first time.

the Whole on a subject whose discussion required A motion was made, that the said bill be now closed doors. read the second time; which being objected to,

Mr. SPEAKER said the motion was to refer the on the ground that the Committee of Commerce resolution to a Committee on the Union generaland Manufactures were not authorized by any ly; there was no special Committee on the state resolution or order of the House, during the present of the Union. session, to report by way of bill or bills, or other · Mr. Griswold said he made no question of orwise: and debate arising thereon, another motion der of that. He had no doubt it was in order. was made and seconded, that the House do come The SPEAKER decided the motion to be in order. to the following resolution:

Mr. GRISWOLD hoped the motion would not

H. of R.

Cession of Louisiana to France.

JANUARY, 1803.

prevail. He did not see what argument could be that the House should go into a Committee of the urged in favor of it. The resolution related to a Whole on the subject, which motion he should public transaction stated on their Journal. He did have then made but for that offered by the gentlenot think that anything which ought to be kept man from Connecticut. secret could be involved in the discussion of it. Mr. Rutledge said that, did he consider that What is its purport? It only requests the Presi- the giving publicity to any information on this dent to furnish documents respecting "the cession subject would in the least interfere with the Conof the Spanish province of Louisiana to France, stitutional functions of the President, he would which took place in the course of the late war," be the last man to support the resolution of his and which the President says “will, if carried friend from Connecticut. But he could not coninto effect, make a change in the aspect of our ceive that this could be its effect. What were foreign relations, which will doubtless have just they about to ask? They were about to ask, in weight in any deliberations of the Legislature respectful terms, the President for information relconnected with this subject."

ative to what he states as a fact; so much inforAre not, said Mr. G., ihese papers important to mation as he may think it expedient to give. the House ? Does not the President refer to them Surely there would be no impropriety in this. as important to enlighten us? He speaks of the The cession of Louisiana had been stated in all a fact. He took it for granted the Pres- the public prints of Europe and this country, and ident would not make the declaration unless he on the floor of the British Parliament. This ceshad official information of its truth. Ought not sion had been made a year ago, and, notwiththe House to be possessed of all the important in- standing the elapse of this time, we have received formation in the power of the Executive to give? no official information on this subject. Is it not It certainly ought. Every gentleman would agree natural for the people to ask why Congress do not that the House ought to have all the information. call for this information ? Will they not say the If the information is confidential, it will be re- President has done his duty in stating the fact ? ceived with closed doors. But the question, whe- Upon this subject, so very important, are they to ther the House shall obtain this information is a be kept in the dark ? Mr. R. could not conceive public question ; and there was not a man within any turn of the debate on this resolution that those walls

, or in the United States, who would could produce a discussion of the merits of the not say that the Legislature ought to possess every Message referred to the Committee of the Whole. information on a subject so deeply interesting. If the President shall say the information he gives Why, then, refer this resolution calling for infor- us ought not to be made public, he would answer mation to a committee ? Why postpone it? They for himself, and he believed he could answer for had but a short time to sit. More than half the his friends, that they would not seek a public dissession was already elapsed. Is it not time to gain cussion. And if ihe information is imparted information ? Mr. G. said, he would venture to without confidence, the House, if it see fit, can declare that no subject so important could be itself control a public discussion. Mr. R. conbrought before the Legislature this session. Ought cluded with saying that, in the present. case, he we not, therefore, on such a subject, to take im- was for deciding on the resolution with open doors. mediate means to gain information ? He hoped Mr. S. SMITH thought this point ought in a the House would not agree to the reference, which great measure to be determined by the custom of could have no effect but to put the resolution ihe House in similar cases. He did not assert it asleep, and deprive the Legislature of information as a fact, but, from recollection, he believed it was they ought to possess.

so, that when a call was made for papers in the Mr. RANDOLPH said, as he had expressed his case of the British Treaty, the question was redisinclination to discuss a proposition with open ferred to a Committee of the Whole, and there doors which would trench on the decision of the fully discussed. According to his recollection, House to discuss a subject to which it intimately one side of the House called for papers on the related with closed doors, it could scarcely be ex- principle that, after negotiations were terminated, pected that he should indulge the gentleman in the House had a right to information before they entering into arguments calculated to carry him made a grant of money under a treaty, but acfrom his purpose. But he denied that the adop- knowledging that a call for such information tion of his motion would be a refusal to give in- might be improper during a pending negotiation. formation. He well knew that there was nothing He was one of those who thought it proper, on that easier than to declare the subject vastly import- occasion, that the House should have the papers ; ant, and to make an eloquent harangue upon it, but he also thought it improper, and had then so and to infer that those who did not immediately declared, to call for papers during a pending neagree to the resolution were averse to giving in- gotiation. Whether in the present instance a neformation, and to going into a discussion of the gotiation was pending or was not, he did not merits of the main subject. It would, however, know. He was, therefore, for postponing the resonot be expected that he should enter upon these lution till this was known to the House. on a preliminary resolution. But he would assure Mr. Dana said that he did not know, nor had he the gentleman who had submitted this resolution, heard from any quarter, that there was any negothat, so far from indulging any disposition to be tiation depending respecting the cession of Louisdilatory in his attention to this important subject, iana. The President has informed us of the fact. he came yesterday prepared to make a motion. All that the resolution asks are official documents

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