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Congress had, indeed, he said, frequently legislated under a sense of this obligation. We have in existence a law, by which, if a citizen loses arms in the service— arms which, by law, he is obliged to supply himself with -you consider yourself under an obligation to pay him for his property so lost. So, too, we pay for the loss of horses in service, of accoutrements, and of boats in public employ. These, Mr S. said, were plain principles, to his mind; and, if there be such a class of cases among the claims for losses on the Niagara frontier, Congress was morally bound to provide remuneration for them. He asked of any gentleman to tell him where were the public barracks, during the late war, on the Niagara frontier; or whether he has ever heard of a single public building on that frontier, excepting fort Niagara, during that period. Yet the troops of the United States were comfortably lodged. Where was the arsenal of thunited States on that frontier Where were the stores deposited Where, except in dwelling houses? The kospitals, too, were in the dwelling houses at Buffalo, and the inhabitants of that village were the nurses of the sick soldiers. Are we to be told, said he, that this was not a military occupation ? Is this what is called a casual or temporary occupation ? Either the property of individuals was occupied, or we must come to the conclusion that the troops were not lodged, and that all the ammunition, the hospitals, and military stores, were in the open air. There must, he said, be some class of cases on that frontier, for the loss of which the Government is, by the most perfect obligation bound to provide. If the first section of the bill were stricken out, it would be declared that there was no claim to indemnity on the part of any of the sufferers by destruction of property on the Niagara frontier. Although, therefore, he was opposed to the bill as it now stood, thinking the principle too broad, and that the House ought not to pass a bill to indemnify all losses without discrimination, still he thought the bill might be modified so as to make it just and reasonable; and he was, therefore, opposed to striking out the first section of the bill. The committee then rose, reported progress, and obtained leave to sit again; and The House adjourned to Monday.
IN SENATE, Monday, JANUAay 3, 1825. ENLAND TRADE BETWEEN MISSOURI & MEXICO.
Mr. BENTON rose, and stated to the Senate that he had received a paper which he took the liberty of presenting. It was a statement of facts in relation to the origin, present state, and future prospects, of trade and intercourse between the Valley of the Mississippi and the Internal Provinces of Mexico. Intending, for a year past, to bring this subject before the Senate, and to claim for it a share of the national protection, Mr. B. said, that he had felt the necessity of resting his demand upon a solid foundation of facts. With this view, he had addressed himself, during the last summer, to many in: habitants of Missouri, who had been personally engaged in the trade; among others, to Mr. Augustus Storrs, late of New Hampshire, a gentleman of character and intelligence, every way capable of relating things as he saw them, and incapable of relating them otherwise. This gentleman had been one of a caravan of eighty persons, one hundred and fifty-six horses, and twentythree wagons and carriages, which had made the expedition from Missouri to Santa Fe, (of New Mexico,) in the months of May and June last. His account was full of interest and novelty. It sounded like romance to bear of caravans of men, horses, and wagons, traversing with their merchandise the vast plain which lies be. tween the Mississippi and the Rio del JNorte The story seemed better adapted to Asia than to North America. But, romantic as it might seem, the reality had already
Dec. 30, 1824–Jan. 3 825..] Inland Trade between Missouri and Mearico. [H. of R. & S.
exceeded the visions of the wildest imagination. The journey to New Mexico, but lately deemed a chimerical project, had become an affair of ordinary occurrence. Santa Fe, but lately the Ultima Thule of American enterprise, was now considered as a stage only in the progress, or rather, a new point of departure to our invincible citizens. Instead of turning back from that point, the caravans broke up there, and the subdivisions branched off in different directions in search of new theatres for their enterprise. Some proceeded down the river to the Passo del JVorte; some to the mines of Chihuahua and Durango, in the province of New Biscay; some to Sonora and Sinatoa, on the Gulf of California; and some, seeking new lines of communication with the 'acific, had undertaken to descend the Western slope of our continent, through the unexplored regions of #: Multnomah and Buenaventura. The fruit of these enterprises, for the present year, amounted to $190,000 in gold and silver bullion and coin, and precious furs; a sum considerable, in itself, in the commerce of an infant State, but chiefly deserving a statesman's notice as an earnest of what might be expected from a regulated and protected trade. The principal article given in exchange, is that of which we have the greatest abundance, and which has the peculiar advantage of making the circuit of the Union before it departs from the territories of the republic–cotton—which grows in the South, is manufactured in the North, and exported from the West. Mr. B. said, that the attention of the Senate had already been drawn to this subject, and the Committee on Indian Affairs stood charged with an inquiry into the expediency of treating with the Indian tribes between Missouri and Mexico, for the right of a safe passage through their countries. The paper presented contained information essential to that committee. It contained precise information upon the route to be pursued, and the tribes to be conciliated. It contained, besides, authentic details upon the extent and value of the trade, and suggestions for its protection. It had been drawn up at his particular request, and in answer to queries proposed by him. He deemed it the fairest, safest, and most satisfactory manner of conveying to the Senate the body of facts on which he should rely when the question of extending protection to this trade shall be called up for decision. He therefore moved, that the statement of Mr. Storrs might be printed for the use of the Senate, and referred to the Committee on Indian Affairs. The motion was agreed to. LAFAYETTE Mr. SMITH, from the Joint Committee appointed to announce to General Lafayette the passage of the act in his favor, and to request his acceptance of the provision made for him, reported to the Senate the following copy of an address of the committee to to the General, and his reply. From the Joint Committee to General Lafayette. Genkital: We are a Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives, charged with the office of informing you of the passage of an act, a copy of which we now present. You will perceive from this act, sir, that the two Houses of Congress, aware of the large pecuniary as well as other sacrifices which your long and arduous devotion to the cause of freedom has cost you, have deemed it their privilege to reimburse a portion of them, as having been incurred in part on account of the United States. The principles that have marked your character will not permit you to oppose any objection to the discharge of so much of the national obligation to you as admits of it. We are directed to express to you the confidence, as well as the request, of the two Houses, that you will, by an acquiescence with their wishes in this respect, add another to the many and signal proofs you have afforded of your esteem for a people, whose es. teem for You can never cease until they have ceased to
prize the liberty they enjoy, and emulate the virtues by
Washington, Jan. 1, 1825. GENERAL LAFArette's Reply. Gentlemen of the Committee of both Houses of Congress :
The immense and unexpected gift, which, in addi: tion to former and considerable bounties, it has pleased Congress to confer upon me, calls for the warmest ac: knowledgments of an old American soldier and adopted son of the United States—two titles dearer to my heart than all the treasures of the world.
However proud I am of every sort of obligation received from the people of the United States and their Representatives in Congress, the large extent of this be: nefaction might have created in my mind feelings of her sitation, not inconsistent, I hope, with those of the most grateful reverence. But the so very kind resolution of both Houses, delivered by you, gentlemen, in terms of equal kindness, precludes all other sentiments but those of the lively and profound gratitude of which, in respectfully accepting the munificeat favor, I have the honor to beg you will be the organ.
Permit me, also, gentlemen, to join a tender of my affectionate personal thanks to the expression of the highest respect, with which I have the honor to be,
Your obedient servant,
Washington, Jan. 1, 1825.
The Senate took up for consideration the bill “for the relief of Thomas L. Ogden and others,”[appropriating 3,710 dollars to indemnify the petitioners for wood taken from their lands contiguous to the village of 9ackett's Harbor, and consumed by the army of the United States, during the late war.]
Mr. CHANDLER opposed the bill, on the ground that the public naval and military establishments, formed at Sackett's Harbor, by the Government, had imparted a value to that place, and to the lands in its vicinity, much greater than the alleged damage done to the petitioners; further, that, so far from the use of the timber by the army, now proposed to be paid for, being an injury, it was a real benefit to the claimants—as every one knew who was acquainted with the labor of clearing new land; and that, in fact, the consumption of the wood in ques
said allegations are not well founded, it may make an order, to be entered on record, discharging the said bail or security from his or their suretyship;” being still under consideration. On this motion the debate was resumed and continued some time. Messrs. JOHNSON, of Kentucky, and BARBOUR opposing the amendment, and Messrs. COBB, BRANCH, and BROWN, of Ohio, ...; it. The question on striking out the clauses was finally decided by yeas and nays, as follows: YEAS–Messrs. Bell, Brown, Chandler, Clayton, Cobb, D’Wolf, Dickerson, Edwards, Elliott, Gaillard, King, of New York, Lloyd, of Md. Lloyd, of Mass. M'Ilvaine, Mills, Noble, Palmer, Parrott, Ruggles, Seymour, Thomas—21. NAYS-Messrs. Barbour, Barton, Benton, Bouligny, Branch, Eaton, Findlay, Holmes, of Me. Jackson, Johnson, of Ky. Johnston, of Lou. King, of Alab. Lanman, Lowrie, M'Lean, Macon, Smith, Talbot, Tazewell, Wan Buren, Williams—21. The Senate being equally divided on the question, the motion was, of course, lost. Various other amendments, of inferior importance, were offered to the details of the bill, some of which succeeded, and others were lost—in the proposition or discussion of which Messrs. COBB, MILI.S, WAN BUREN, BROWN of Ohio, and JOHNSON of Ky. took part. Before the bill was gone through, the Senate adjourned.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES-SAME DAY. Mr. LIVINGSTON, of Lou. offered the following: “Resolved, That a committee be appointed to consider and report on the expediency of establishing an Academy for instruction in those sciences necessary for the service of the military marine; with power to report by bill or otherwise.” Mr. WILLIAMS, of N. C. suggested that it would be more proper that this resolution should go to the Com
mittee on Naval Affairs, than to a select committee. Mr. MERCER, of Wa. said, that he had had the honor of submitting a resolution, similar to that now presented by the gentleman from Louisiana, at the last session of Congress; it had been referred to the Committee on Naval Affairs, but, owing, as he presumed, to the pressure of business before that committee, nothing had been done respecting it till the middle of the session, and it proved too late to be acted on. He considered no subect as more important and more worthy of the consideration of the House, than a provision for the instruction of those who are to uphold the naval glory of the country. Mr. FULLFR thanked the gentleman from Virginia
tion, was worth at least ten dollars an acre to the land from which it was removed. Mr. RUGGLEs and Mr. VAN BUREN advocated the justice and equity of the claim. It had twice passed the House, but had not got through both Houses for want
for his suggestion to save the time of the Committee on Naval Affairs, but he could answer him, that he was mistaken if he supposed that the resolution he offered at the last session had been neglected by that committee. It had received mature consideration—and the
9f time. The claim was originally for 7,000 dollars, but measure it proposed had been engrafted in a general had been reduced to the sum now proposed, of $3,110, bill for the reorganization of the Navy Department : to which the petitioners were fairly entitled, in the opin' but that bill had been pressed out by other business, ion of the committee that reported the bill, &c. 'I he and now lay over; he hoped it would receive an early debate continued some time; when, - . . . attention during the present session. Believing that On motion of Mr. KiNC, of Alabama, the bill was laid this would be the case, he moved to lay the resolution on on the table, to give opportunity for a further examina- the table. tion of the facts of the case. | The SPEAKER decided, that, inasmuch as the subThe Senate, according to the order of the day, pro- |ject-matter of the resolution was before the House in
ceeded again to the consideration of the bill abolishing imprisonment for debt—the motion of Mr. COBB to strike out the following clauses from the first section, viz. “But, after the return thereof, the defendant or defendants anay contest the allegation of the said oaths or affirmations, before the court in which the said suit or action is instituted, in such form as the court shall prescribe. And if the court shall be of opinion that the
another form, the resolution was out of order. Mr. LIVINGSTON inquired, whether the bill, in which the gentleman from the Committee on Naval Affairs (Mr. Fuller) had stated this subject as being included, did not contain sundry other matters, and whether, by being thus entangled with matters foreign to itself, and possibly of doubtful practicability or expediency, any measure might not be easily, and forever, de
feated? He felt convinced that such had been the case in the present instance. It was the connexion of his proposition with other features in the naval bill, which had prevented its being taken up by the House. ... He, therefore, submitted whether, under this view of the subject, his motion for a separate inquiry into this subject, was not in order. -
The SPEAKER adhered to his decision, and explained the rule of order, but suggested that other modes of attaining the same object might be resorted to...
The question was then put, and the resolution was laid upon the table. -
Mr. ARCHER, of Va. from the joint committee appointed to communicate to General, Lafayette the act passed for his benefit, asked and obtained leave to report—when he submitted copies of a letter from, the committee to the General, and his reply, (as will be seen in the account of the Senate proceedings) which, on motion of Mr. CONDICT, were entered at large on the Journals of the House.
The House then proceeded to the order of the day, and went again into committee of the whole, Mr. CAMP. BELL, of Öhio, in the chair, on the bill for the relief of the Niagara sufferers.
Mr. GADY, of New York, then rose, and observed, it was but seldom that he obtruded himself upon the attention of this House, but being a citizen of the state of New York, and having had an opportunity of knowing something of the merits of the petitioners in this case, he could not consent to give a silent, vote... I once, said Mr. c. entertained an opinion nearly similar to the one expressed by the honorable gentleman from, North Cao rolina. i once believed that exaggeration had magnified the sufferings and multiplied the losses of these petitioners—but, sir, that day of ignorance has gone by. It was once my duty, in the Legislature, of New York, to examine this subject, and I do assure the honorable gentleman from North Carolina, and this committee, that, as regards the losses of these petitioners, and the miseties they endured, the truth has never been half told: 1 am not now disposed to enter into a disquisition whether this claim is to be classed under the head of a perfect or imperfect obligation; the black letter reading of Coke or of Blackstone, will have but little influence in determining my vote. Nor, sir, shall I consult the musty pages of Grotius or Puffendorf, to know for what losses those gentlemen are pleased to say, Governments are bound to pay. But, sir, I have asked my conscience whether I believe this Government ought to do something for these claimants, and whether we are probibited from doing it. I have also read the Constitution of my country, and in the preamble I am told that it was adopted “to promote the general welfare.” 1 believe our right to do something has not been disputed. Why not then do it? One honorable gentleman seems to suppose that the occupancy by our army of the buildings destroyed, was not the cause of their destruction. what then, supposing it to be true, will you furnish no relief?
are our hands tied down and manacled, so that we dare not touch one cent in the Treasury? This has not always been the case. The moneys heretofore given to alleviate great calamities, the grants heretofore made and appearing on your statute books, speak a different language. The select committee, in their report upon this subject, has called our attention to some other
58,500 to the citizens of Pennsylvania, who suffered losses by the wanton violence of some of her misguided and misinformed inhabitants.
24,000 acres of land to the settlers at Galliopolis, because some speculators had cheated them.
$15,000, to unfortunate emigrants from Hispaniola.
$50,000, to the inhabitants of Venezuela, whose ef. fects were swallowed by an Earthquake,
And, sir, within a few days we have paid a debt of $200,000, as due to Republican principles, and the cause of liberty. But, sir, have gentlemen read the proof accompanying the report of the committee If they have, I fondly hope their doubts, as to the cause of the destruction of the buildings, have been removed. The presumption is so strong, sir, as to amount to what is called a violent presumption. I think honorable gentlemen ought not to entertain any doubts on this subject. The destruction of the buildings, however, is said to have been an act of “retaliation,” and if so, this Government ought not to pay for them. And to prove this, a Royal Proclamation of a Royal Governor of his most Royal Majesty, has been read. But, sir, I intend to spend no time in examining that wonderful production; my honorable colleague and friend has disposed of that, satisfactorily, I trust, to the minds of this committee. I will only say, that it was a “Salvo,” a contemptible ebullition, to satisfy the compunctious visitings of a guilty conscience. Humanity has already passed judgment upon the act, irrevocable as time, lasting as eternity.
I have been instructed by the Legislature of New York, of which I am a citizen, to advocate these claims. I do it most cheerfully, regretting only my feeble powers. She asks you to alleviate, in some degree, the losses of a portion of her citizens. She has long since extended her charitable hand—she asks you to do equal and exact justice—she has seen you pay for losses in the West and in the South—she has seen your western dragoons remounted, and the negroes of the southern planter restored. Will you now listen to her application Are there any more “constitutional objections” in the way I well remember the time when she applied for your assistance, in the formation and completion of a work which history has already recorded as the proudest monument of the age. But, sir, I do not wish to digress; rest assured, that, in the state of New York, from Erie to Long Island, there is an universal prayer that we shall do something for these Niagara sufferers. If gentlemen suppose the bill to be too broad, let us amend it in the spirit of charity—let us say, “come let us reason together,” but do not let us any more, with a cold tombstone charity, say to those suffering petitioners, “be ye fed and be clothed.” The honorable gentleman from Ohio has, in a warm, vivid, and glowing manner, peculiar to himself, described some of the sufferings of these petitioners. About two hundred inhabited dwellings were entirely consumed; they contained, probably, upon an average, from six to eight souls. From 12 to 1600 human beings, with the aged father, the helpless mother,
the infant in the cradle, were involved in one promiscu
ous labyrinth of woe. At that most inclement season, when the cold northern blasts of winter chill to the very soul, were these claimants bereft of a home, without a shelter but the broad canopy of Heaven, the cold earth their bed. Their sufferings may be imagined—they cannot be described. Many, to be sure, have gone to their long home, but many still remain looking up to us, and fervently imploring us to alleviate, in part, their distresses. Let us do it; we need not fear the consequences. No nation ever suffered by doing great, humane, and generous acts. They tend to engage the affection, and rivet the attachments of the people. Let us, then, sir, do something worthy of this nation, and rest assured that the American people will not only hail you as upright and able statesmen, but also as noble, generous, and charitable. Mr. SHARPE, of New York, expressed a wish that the gentleman from Virginia, (Mr. P. P. Bauhoun,) would withdraw his motion to strike out the enacting clause of the bill, as the time spent in discussing it would prove, in a great measure, time lost, if the House re
fused to agree to the motion, since the bill would then have to undergo amendments, and all the discussion would have to be gone over again. Whereas, if the motion to strike out the enacting clause were suspended, until its friends had had a fair opportunity to render the bill as perfect as they could, it might then be put, and the sense of the House as well, and better, taken upon it, than in the present stage of the bill.
Mr. P. P. BARBOUR observed, in reply, that he had made the motion to strike out the enacting clause on a principle which he had invariably followed, viz. to save the time of the House in discussing the forms of a measure, when he believed that the measure itself, from its
principle, would be rejected. He did not agree, with
the gentleman from New York, that the time which was occupied in discussing such a motion was time lost. The amendments might as well be engrafted after the gene: ral principle of the bill had been discussed as before, and that discussion might itself suggest amendments; but, as the genueman from New York requested him to withdraw the motion, and considerable discussion had already been had upon it, he would not refuse. Mr. B. accordingly withdrew the motion to strike out the enacting clause of the bill.
Mr. STORRS then rose, and said that he was opposed to the amendment of the gentleman from Ohio, (Mr. Waight,) inasmuch as all the difficulty which had hi. therto occurred to retard the settlement of these claims, has sprung out of a phrase in the bill of 1816, almost word for word the same as that now proposed by the present amendment. And whoever had attended to the reports of committees of this House, on the yarious individual claims which had been submitted, for injuries by the enemy, would perceive that the rejection of those claims had al ost invariably turned on this same idea, viz. that it did not appear that the occupation by the United States was the cause of the destruction: a point which former acts ol. to be proved affirmatively, which the present bill did not require to be proved; but which it was the effect of the amend: ment again to bring in question. Mr. S. maintained that this was not a proper point to be inquired into ; the only point material in the claim, was, whether a citizen, by surrendering his property to the use and occupation of his Government, had divested it of its private character, and whether, under such circumstances, it had been destroyed. If these two facts were shown, the Government was bound to make up the loss; but the moment you go a step beyond this, you meet an artificial difficulty of your own creating. Where private property, indeed, retaining its private character, becomes the subject of depredation by the enemy, as when the vessel of a merchant is unlawfully captured, or his goods wasted and destroyed, the case, though a hard one, gives no claim upon the Government for indemnity; it comes under the general case of losses in war, and must be borne as it may. But as soon as he, by his voluntary act, gives up his property to public use, it becomes as much an instrument of war as a cannon is. It is part of the materiel of the war, and the enemy may inflict upon it what injuries he will, lawful or unlawful; he may even destroy it in sport. It does not touch the question of indemnification; the fact of the destruction is a plain one, susceptible of ample proof; but the moment you leave this to inquire into the motives of the enemy, you enter on a field of speculation and uncertainty. If the House shall reject the amendment now proposed, this will be avoided. Mr. SroRns then moved to amend the bill by striking out that clause which grants indemnity, provided the property “ had been at any time during the war” in the occupation of the United States, and substituting the proviso, that it was in such occu. pation “at the time of its destruction, or immediately before,”
Mr. WRIGHT, of Ohio, then said, that, as he was advised that the gentleman from New York, who had just taken his seat, as well as other gentlemen, had prepared amendments to the bill, in order to give them an opportunity of submitting them, he would withdraw that now under consideration, stating, at the same time, that he had himself also prepared another amendment, which he should present at the proper time. Mr. WRIGHT’S motion for amendment having been withdrawn, and the question being on that offered by Mr. Storins, Mr. FORSYTH, of Georgia, observed, that he did not think he correctly understood the object of the amendment. He went into a recapitulation of what had previously been done on this subject—the act of 1816– the powers of the commissioner—his decisions—the interposition of the President, and the subsequent act of 1817. By this act, it was required to be proved that the property was occupied by order of an officer of the United States; and, as he understood, all the claims which had been brought under the provisions of this act had been paid. The object of the claimants now seemed to be to undo the restrictions of the law of 1817. and restore them and their claims to the same state as they were under the act of 1816. Now, the act of 1816 had been extended by the commissioner to all property occupied with or without an order of any United States.” officer; and, if such was, in any way, the object of the present bill, or of the amendment, he should be opposed to it in toto, knowing, as he did, the abuses to which the extraordinary decision of the commissioner would have led. Mr. MARVIN, of New York, rose, in reply, and said that it was not the object of the present bill, or of the amendment, to establish any new principle. He thought the gentleman from Georgia had not stated the case quite fairly. . It was true that the commissioner’s proceedings had been arrested, and that a new law was passed, establishing a different rule of adjudication, and empowering him only to examine and report. Under this law, a new commission issued to two members of this House, and another gentleman of great talents, to whom was added an agent of the United States. These gentlemen repaired to Niagara, and, in their examinations and report, were governed by the law of 1817. They took ample testimony—they made a detailed report—they did both by the authority of this House; but there their powers stopped, and there this House stopped also fr, after receiving that report, nothing had been done—not a. dollar was granted for settling the claims. Last session, a committee, indeed, had been appointed to inquire what it was proper to do in the matter, and the report of that committee is before the House, and they propose the present bill, not to set up any new principle, but merely to carry the former acts into effect. Why did the House order them to report, if it was not intended to follow up their report with some corresponding measure ? Not one of these claims had been paid since 1817, and they were so numerous that it was utterly impracticable for Congress to deliberate upon them singly. Some general act was requisite to carry the rule the House had laid down into some practicable effect. Such was the simple object of the present bill. Its friends, indeed, did wish to get rid of an objectionable phrase in one of the former acts on this subject, which provides that the occupancy of the property must have been the cause of its destruction. Under that law, if a claimant comes and proves both the occupancy of his dwelling by United States' troops or magazines, and its destruction by the enemy, he is answered “Ay, but you have not shown that the one was the cause of the o her.” . If he attempts to prove this by inference, it is objected that the destruction was on a principle of retaliation for the burning of Newark. Jax. 3, 1825.] Niagara
Sufferers. [H. of R.
If he attempts to show that whole villages were burnt, he is again told that neither the occupancy by United states' troops, nor the burning of Newark was the cause, but only the premtory character that marked British warfare in former wars as well as the present. The claimant is sent to examine the mind, and to probe the con science of the enemy, and tell what his true motives were: it was from such a requirement that the present bill sought to free these unhappy sufferers, many of whom had endured a second desolation in consequence of the legislation of this Hall...The acts of 1816 and 1817 led them to expect indemnification; and the expectation was a just one; it was founded in their confidence in this House, and the execution of its laws. In consequence; they had begun to rebuild their burnt buildings, and had incurred responsibilities by doing so. The execution of those acts was suspended; the time of payment for their repairs came round. The same, citizen who had once been stripped by the enemy, had to see his property a second time swept away by judgment and execution. - He did not mean to enter into the discussion of the general principles of the bill; but surely the Government had fully settled it by its own act respecting the destruction of Newark. He knew that act had been disavowed by the Government: he should not express any opinion on the question, whether the act was or was not a'justifiable one'; but he would call the attention of the House to the letter of the Secretary of War. [Here he quoted the letter.] Now I do not say, observed Mr. Silavis, that the act of burning was in obedience to this letter. The letter says that it might become necessary. 1 admit that it was not unavoidable; for at the same time we burnt the village, we evacuated Fort George. An i insist on is, that, in that letter, the principle was recognized, that the burning of a village might become necessary in the lawful prosecution of a military enterprize. Did the Secretary apprehend any danger that the buildings and houses of Newark should arrange themselves into battalions, and march against our army? No, but he knew that they protected the British forces. shortly after our troops evacuated the British territory; they entered ours, and took Fort Niagara, Now, aid Mr. Manvis, suppose that the taking of that fort had been followed by a letter of precisely the same import as that of our Secretary of War, where would be the difference of the cases? (Experience had shown that the villages on both sides were a covering to the troops; and the British order might have expressly referred to the fact that, in 1812, the whole frontier was converted into one great cantonment.) Sir, the act was done : and 1 contend it was done on the self same principle as our own act in burning Newark. He was happy to find that the gentleman from Geor gia was disposed to acquiesce in the principles of the acts of 1816 and 1817; and when that gentleman discovers that he was mistaken in supposing that the claims under those acts had been paid, he will allow that a law which provides for their payment is every way just and necessary. Mr. FORSYTH said he did not know whether any of the persons, whose case came fairly within the provisions of the acts of 1816 and 1817, had been paid. He was perfectly certain that those who came within them were entitled to be paid, and he considered it to be the duty of the House, when the cases were fairly made out, to pay them. But, he asked, what is now the question? Not to pay those who, under those laws, are fairly entitled to be paid, but to alter the law, and embrace in a new enactment cases expressly excluded by those two acts. After taking a jo of the history of the act of 1816, and the adjudications under it, Mr. F. said that gentlemen had mistaken their remedy altogether, if, as the gentleman suggested, these cases were em.
braced within the principle of existing laws. The effect of the present bill would be to embrace cases which the Commissioner of Claims was about to allow, and would have allowed, but for the interference of Congress, and some of which, indeed, were allowed, without, in his opinion, any color of authority by law. The bill now before the House embraced, in fact, a new principle, recognizing a vast number of the claims, covering he knew not what amount of money. Mr. MERCER, of Virginia, said this appeared to be a proper moment for correcting an error which had been fallen into by several of the gentlemen who had spoken, and lastly by the gentleman from Georgia, relative to the course of the Commissioner of Claims under the act of 1816. Mr. M. said he was authorized by the document which he held in his hands to aver, that the Commissioner had put no construction upon that act but what had received the sanction of the President of the United States. As soon as he took possession of the office to which he was appointed, the Commissioner addressed four queries respecting the construction of that act, to the Attorney General of the United States, who returned for answer that he did not think himself bound, in the discharge of his official duty, to answer those queries. What did the Commissioner then He addressed a letter to the acting Secretary of War, who did furnish him with an exposition of the views of the Executive on this question. What was the exposition ? It was precisily that which the member from New York had now put upon the law. Mr. M. here quoted the documents to sustain this statement of the facts. He read also part of another document, being a letter addressed by the Commissioner to the Secretary of War on the 1st of November, 1816, in which he says he feels it to be his duty to conform his decisions to any construction of the law, which the President should think the proper one, and that he would make no other decisions under it, until he should receive further instructions on that head. How could it be said, under these circumstances, that decisions had been made by the Commissioner, under that act, without any color of authority Mr. M. here reviewed the history of the decisions, the great number of them, and the considerable amount which they involved, which reduced Congress to the alternative of revoking the law, so as to shut out the cases not yet allowed, or that of laying by the cases for further consideration. The latter course was preferred, and, by causing testimony to be taken in regard to the destruction of property at Buffalo, &c. a hope was held out to the claimants that the same measure would be dealt out to them as to others similarly situated, whose claims had been allowed before the execution of the original law was suspended. Upon the question whether the laws of civilized war Justified the destruction of the Niagara frontier, Mr. M. expressed the decided opinion that the usage of civilized nations did not justify it. He defied any one to put his finger on any passage in any esteemed writer on National Law, or on any page of history, in which such a transaction was reconciled to the principles of lawful warfare. So far from a belligerant being entitled to destroy private dwellings because of their being or having been occupied by its enemy, Mr. M. maintained the reverse to be the law. The most fertile and populous countries of Europe, he remarked, had been most frequently the theatres of war—Flanders and Lombardy, for example, the cock pits of Europe, in which France and Germany had so often contended for empire. Of the ravages which would have been made of these beautiful countries, if the principle now suggested had been acted upon, he drew a vivid outline, concluding by saying that, by the conduct of her commanders on the shores and frontiers of this country during the late war, the arms of Great Britain had been stained with a dis