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other cases. It had been the invariable practice of the American Government, he said, where any of its officers incurred responsibility in the honest discharge of what he believed to be his official duty, by violating the priwate rights of the citizens, to indemnify him. In the case of the Niagara sufferers, the Government had acted on this principle; but, instead of first suffering the officers to be harassed, it had interposed and required the citizens who had been wronged, to come at once to the Government, and had promised to settle all damages. There were other acts on the statute book which were bottomed on the same broad principles, viz. that Government will pay for what is lost or suffered in its service. Accordingly, if any of the arms or accoutrements of a militiaman are lost, without his own negligence, the Government will pay him the value of them. The country has a right to his services; but he is not to be taxed for unavoidable losses. The law of 1818 said that, if any personal property was impressed, or was hired by the Government on contract, unless the risk was expressly provided against by the contract, and the property so impressed was afterwards lost or destroyed, whilst in the use of the United States, it should be paid for. This bill says no more—it only applies to real property the rule which the law of 1818 restricted to personal. He had always thought that restriction improper. If any difference were made, it, surely, ought rather to be in favor of real estate. When a man surrenders to the public his personal property, he incurs less inconvenience; but when he gives up his house, his castle, and turns his wife and his children out of doors, the G vernment is more, and not less, bound to counpensate any loss or injury he may sustain. It is a debt of honor as well as of justice, and such an one as he trusted the American Government would never refuse to acknowledge. He concluded o observing that such was the situation of many of the claim ants, that, to deny them now, would be to deny them forever. The question was then taken on the amendment to the bill as amended, and decided in the affirmative. The several amendments agreed to, now presented the bill to the House in the following shape: “Be it enacted, &c. That any person having a claim for a building destroyed by the enemy during the late war, under the ninth section of the act to which this is an amendment, and of the act to amend the same, passed the third of March, one thousand eight hundred and seventeen, which shall have been presented to the Commissioner of Claims appointed under the act first aforesaid, at any time before the tenth of April, one thousand eight hundred and eighteen, and which was not paid under said acts, nor finally ejected by said Commissioner, may, within nine months hereafter, present the same, with the evidence to support it, to the Third Auditor of the Treasury, for examination and adjustment; and if he shall be satisfied the building, or buildings, for which damages are claimed, was, at the time of its destruction, occupied by order of any agent or officer of the United States, as a place of deposite for military or naval stores, or as barracks for the military forces of the United States, he shall proceed to assess the damages, and certify the amount for payment in the way pointed out in the act first above referred to, which shall be immediately paid out of any money in the Treasury, not otherwise appropriated: Provided That, if the Auditor shall be satisfied the evidence before him is insufficient to enable him. correctly to decide between the United States and the claimant, he may, on giving notice to the claimant, cause other evidence to be taken. ..And provided, also, That no payment shall be made under the provisions of this act, where the property destroyed was oc. cupied under a contract with the owner, and at the risk of such owner. Sec. 2...And be it further enacted, That the amount
which shall appear to have been paid to the owners, as
CRIMES AGAINST THE UNITED STATES.
On motion of Mr. WEBSTER, the several orders of the day were then postponed, in order to take up the bill for the more effectual prevention of crimes against the United States. Mr. WEBSTER then, as chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, entered into an exposition of the provisions proposed by the various sections of this bill, the object of which, and their relation to existing statutory provisions, and their bearing upon cases which have oc. curred, or may hereafter occur, he explained at some length. He also adverted to deficiencies which he per ceived to exist in the bill as reported, and stated several amendments, which, in the course of the discussion of the bill, he intended to propose. After concluding his exposition, Mr. W. proposed a few amendments to the details of the bill, which were agreed to. After which, The committee rose, reported progress, and had leave to sit again; and the remaining amendments which Mr. W. intended to propose, were ordered to be printed for the use of the House. The following Message was then received from the President of the United States, by Mr. Evealert: To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:
As the term of my service in this high trust will expire at the end of the present session of Čongress, I think it proper to invite your attention to an object, very inte. resting to me, and which, in the movement of our Goyernment, is deemed, on principle, equally interesting to the Public. I have been long in the service of my country, and in its most difficult conjunctures, as weil abroad as at home, in the course of which I have had a control over the public moneys, to a vast amount. If, in the course of my service, it shall appear, on the most severe scrutiny, which I invite, that the public have sustained any loss by any act of mine, or of others, for which Lought to be held responsible, I am willing to bear it. If, on the other hand, it shall appear, on a view of the law, and of precedents in other cases, that Justice has been withheld from me, in any instance, as I have believed it to be in many, and greatly to my injury, it is submitted whether it ought not to be rendered. it is my wish, that all matters of account and claims, between my country and myself, be settled, with that strict regard to Justice, which is observed in settlements between in. dividuals in private life. It would be gratifying to me, and it appears to be just, that the subject should be now examined, in both respects, with a view to a decision hereafter. No bill would, it is presumed, be presented for my signature, which would operate either for or
against me, and I would certainly sanction none in my favor. While here, I can furnish testimony, applicable to any case, in both views, which a full investigation may require; and the committee to whom the subject may be referred, by reporting facts now, with a view to a decision after my retirement, will allow time for further information, and due consideration, of all matters relating thereto. Settlements with a person in this trust, which could not be made with the accounting officers of the Government, should always he made by Congress, and before the public. The cause of the delay, in presenting these claims, will be explained to the committee to whom the subject may be referred. It will, I presume, be made apparent, that it was inevitable; that, from the peculiar circumstances attending each case, Congress alone could decide on it; and that, from considerations of delicacy, it would have been highly improper for me to have sought it from Congress at an earlier period than that which is now proposed, the expiration of my term in this high trust.
Other considerations appear to me to operate with great force, in favor of the measure which I now propose. A citizen, who has long served his country, in its highest trusts, has a right, if he has served with fidelity, to enjoy undisturbed tranquillity and peace, in his retirement. This he cannot expect to do, unless his conduct, in all pecuniary concerns, shall be placed, by severe scrutiny, on a basis not to be shaken. This, therefore, forms a strong motive with me for the inquiry which I now invite. The public may also derive considerable advantage from the precedent, in the future movement of the Government. It being known that such scrutiny was made, in my case, it may form a new and strong barrier against the abuse of the public confidence in future.
JAMES MONIROE. Washington, 5th January, 1825.
The Message was read, and ordered to lie on the table and be printed, Mr. INGHAM for that purpose waiving a motion, which he had made, to refer it to a Select Committee.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES–JANu Any 7, 1825.
Mr. COOK, of Illinois, presented the following resolution :
“Resolved, That the Committee on the Judiciary be instructed to inquire into the expediency of establishing one or more National Penitentiaries for the confinement and punishment of persons convicted of offences against the laws of the United States, to be located at such place or places as shall be most convenient to the different sections of the Union. ”
In support of this resolution, Mr. COOK observed, that a bill was now before the committee of the whole House, which provided for the punishment of crimes against the United States, and which made between thirty and forty different offences punishable by death. He did hope that, in the present advanced state of human society, those principles which had been handed down from a barbarous antiquity, and embodied in so many of the codes of European legislation, were susceptiole, under her Government, of improvement and mitigation—that the severity with which crimes are punish. ed in the old countries, might be diminished consistently with the protection of society against crimes. The bill referred to, besides its long list of capital punishments, assigned to an almost innumerable amount of different offences, the punishment of imprisonment and hard labor. This presented a subject, which would call for the inquiry and reflection of Congress; it opened a wide field, and one which, though often and iong explored by jurists and legislators, had never enjoyed so fair an opportunity to be investigated as under a Govern.
ment like ours, in which so much more of sympathy existed between the governors and governed than was to be found under the systems of the old world. He hoped the resolution would be agreed to ; and that, if the committee should not have time and opportunity to mature a perfect system for the management of convicts sentenced to imprisonment and hard labor, they might at least be able to report some preliminary steps towards the attainment of a wise and salutary system for effecting so interesting a subject. The resolution was adopted.
NIAGARA CLAIMS, &c.
On motion of Mr. TRACY, the House took up the bill for the relief of the Niagara sufferers. The question being put on engrossing the bill for a third reading, it was decided in the affirmative—Ayes 81, Noes 67; And the bill was ordered to be read a third time on Monday next. Mr. WILLIAMS gave notice that, on the third reading of the bill, he should require the question of its passage to be taken by yeas and nays.
CRIMES AGAINST THE UNIT ED STATES.
On motion of Mr. WEBSTER, of Mass, the House went into committee of the whole, Mr. CONDICT in the choir, on the bill more effectually to provide for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States, and for other purposes. [The following is an abstract of the provisions of this bill, as originally reported: The first section provides, That, if any person or persons within any fort, dock yard, &c. &c. shall, wilfully and maliciously, burn any dwelling house, or mansion house, or any store, barn, or stable, within the curtilege thereof, every person so offending, his or her counsellors, aiders, and abettors, shall be deemed guilty of felony, and shall, on conviction thereof, suffer death. The second section provides, That, if any person or persons, in any of the places aforesaid, shall, wilfully and maliciously, set fire to, or burn, or otherwise destroy, any beacon, or any other building, than is in the first section of this act mentioned, or any timber, &c. &c. every person, so offending, his or her counsellors, aiders, and abet. tors, shall be deemed guilty of felony, and shall. on conviction thereof, be punished by fine, not exceeding five thousand dollars, and by imprisonment and confinement to hard labor, not exceeding ten years, according to the aggravation of the offence. The timird section provides, That, if any offence shall be committed in any of the places aforesaid, the punishment of which offence is not specially provided for by any law of the United States, such offence shall, upon a conviction in any court of the United States, having cognizance thereof, be liable to, and receive the same punishment as the laws of the state, in which such fort, dock yard, navy yard, arsenal, or magazine, or other place, ceded as aforesaid, is situated, provide for the like offence, when committed within the body of any county of such State. The fourth section provides, That, if any person or persons upon the sea, or in any arm of the sea, or in any river, haven, creek, basin, or bay, within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the United States, shall commit the crime of wilful murder or rape, every person so offending, his or her counsellors, aiders or abettors, shall be deemed guilty of felony, and shall, upon conviction thereof, suffer death. The fifth section provides, That, if any person or persons, upon the sea, or in any other of the places aforesaid, within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction aforesaid, shall commit theft by force or violence, &c. or run away with vessels, &c. every person so offending, his or her counsellors, aiders, and abettors, shall be deem
edgwilty of piracy and felony, and shall, on conviction thereof, suffer death. The sixth section provides, That, if any person or persons upon the sea, &c. with intent to kill, rob, steal, commit a rape, or do or perpetrate any other felony, shall break or enter any ship or vessel, boat or raft; or if any person or persons shall wilfully and maliciously cut, spoil, or destroy, any cordage, cable, buoys, &c. every person so offending, shall be punishable by fine, not exceeding one thousand dollars, and by imprisonment and confinement to hard labor, not exceeding five years, The seventh section provides, That, if any person or persons, &c. shal receive stolen money or goods, &c. every person, so offending, shall be punishable by fine, not exceeding one thousand dollars, and imprisonment and confinement to hard labor, not exceeding three years. The eighth section provides, That, if any person or persons shall plunder, steal, take away, or destroy any money, goods, &c. from any vessel, which shall be in dis. tress, or which shall be wrecked, lost, stranded, or cast away, &c. or wilfully obstruct the escape of any person endeavoring to save his or her life from such ship, or vessel, or the wreck thereof; or, if any person or persons shall put out any false light or lights, with intention to bring any ship or vessel into danger, or distress, or shipwreck; every person, so offending, his or her counsellors, aiders, and abettors, shall be punishable, by fine, not exceeding five thousand dollars, and imprisonment and confinement to hard labor, not exceeding ten years. The ninth section provides, That, if any master or commander of any ship or vessel, belonging, in whole, or in part, to any citizen or citizens of the United States, shall, during his being abroad, maliciously, and without justifiable cause, force any officer or mariner, of such ship or vessel, on shore, or leave him behind, in any foreign port, &c. he s all be punishable by fine, not exceeding five hundred dollars, or by imprisonment, not exceeding six months. The tenth section provides, That, if any person or persons, in any case not herein before specially provided for, shall wifully and maliciously set on fire, or burn, or otherwise destroy, &c. any ship or vessel of war of the United States, whether the same be on float or building, or begun to be built, on any dock yard of the United States, every person so offending, shall, on conviction thereof, suffer death. The eleventh section provides, That, if any officer of the United States shall be guilty of extortion, under or by color of his office, he shall be punishable by fine, not exceeding five hundred dollars, or by imprisonment, not exceeding one year. The twelfth section provides, That, if any person in any case, matter, hearing, or other proceeding, when an oath or affirmation shall be required to be taken or administered under or by any laws of the United States, shall commit perjury, he shall be punishable by fine, not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment and confinement to hard labor, not exceeding five years. And if any person shall be convicted of subor. nation of perjury, he shall be punished by fine, not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment and confinement to hard labor, not exceeding five years. The thirteenth section provides, That, if any person, upon his or her arraignment upon any indictment before any court of the United States for any offence, not capital, shall stand mute, or will not answer or plead to such indictment, the court shall, notwithstanding, proceed to the trial of the person so standing mute, &c. And the trial of all offences which shall be committed upon the sea, or elsewhere within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the United States, shall be in the district where the offender is apprehended, or into which he may be first brought.
The fourteenth section provides, That, in every case where any criminal, convicted of any offence against the United States, shall be sentenced to imprisonment and confinement to hard labor, it shall be lawful for the court by which the sentence is passed, to order the same to be executed in any state prison or penitentiary, within the district where such court is holden, the use of which prison or penitentiary shall be allowed or granted by the Legislature of such state for such purposes; and the expenses attendant upon the execution of such sentence shall be paid by the United States. The fifteenth section provides, That the several courts of the United States shall have power and authority, in all cases of conviction before them of any person or persons, for any crime or offence against the United States, in their discretion, to require any person or persons, so convicted, to give security by a recognizance, with surety or sureties, to keep the peace, &c. The sixteenth section provides, That, if any person who shall be employed as a cashier, clerk, or servant, in the Bank of the United States, or any of its offices, shall steal or embezzle the money or other effects of the Bank, &c. he shall be punishable by fine, not exceeding five thousand dollars, and by imprisonment and confinement to hard labor, not exceeding ten years, according to the aggravation of the offence.] The 4th section (which provides for the punishment of murder, rape, and several other crimes, when committed in any arm of the sea, or in any river, haven, creek, basin, or bay, within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the United States,) being under considerationMr. WICKLIFFE moved, as an amendment, to insert the following words: “and not within the jurisdiction of any state or territorial government.” He explained and supported the amendment, as intended to prevent collisions between the authority of the general and state Governments. The admiralty jurisdiction of the United States had been claimed and exercised within the state of Kentucky, and, he believed, from the mouth of the Mississippi to St. Louis. He couceived the state governments to be entirely competent to inquire into and punish crimes committed within their own jurisdictions, and that, as there was no necessity, there would be no advantage, in giving the United States concurrent power to do the same. Mr. webstER replied. He had already stated to the committee that one of the principal objects in fram: ing this bill, had been, to avoid a conflict of territorial jurisdictions between the United States and the several states. But it was the first time he had heard of such an extraordinary thing, as that maritime jurisdiction had been exercised by the courts of the United States from the state of Kentucky; he did not know that any person had dream: ed of the application of such a jurisdiction there : and Mr. W. said, he thought that those who had exercised it must have been dreaming themselves at the time the did se. The class of crimes provided for in this seetion not only might happen, but had actually occurred, without the existence of any law to punish them. Murders had been committed on board our own ships while lying in the harbors of foreign nations, and, for want of such a provision, they had gone unpunished. He knew that the state governments were competent to the punishment of crimes committed, under similar circumstances, in any harbor or river of the United States; but they were usually disinclined to do so, considering the crime as more particularly committed against the United States. There might, besides, occur much difficulty, where the boundaries of different counties surrounded the same bay, in deciding within which of them the fact happened. in bays, &c. which, though part of the sea, were not any part “of the high seas,” the common law Jurisdiction: and the admiralty Jurisdiction, were concurrent; and should the section pass, its only effect would be to pro
vide that, if the state did not try the offender, the Unitcd States should. As the interest and property more immediately concerned were those of the United States, it was not proper to leave it at the option of any state, whether offences against them should be punished. Mr. wickLIFFE replied. He had stated not his opinion, or his apprehensions, but a fact which actually existed. Admiralty jurisdiction had been claimed, and had been exercised within his native state. The jurisdiction had been exercised in Kentucky by a tribunal composed of Judges, who were not in the habit of dreaming on legal subjects, and the question was now pending before the Supreme Court of the United States. The section provides to punish what the states are themselves competent to punish, and in a manner different from that in which some of the states provide to punish it. Admiralty jurisdiction had also been claimed and exercised, Mr. W said, in the state of Louisiana, and it would be the effect of the section to take the punishment of every boat-man who got into a fray, on board one of the flat-bottomed boats on the Mississippi, into the hands of the United States' Courts, and punish him in a way at variance with the laws of Louisiana. I (said Mr. w.) would give to the states exclusive Jurisdiction within their own territories. Or, if the gentleman intends to punish only crimes committed on board vessels of the United States, and would so modify his amendment as to accomplish that object alone, he would agree to it. But the section, as it stands, said Mr. W. is gen. eral and indiscriminate. Mr. W. further objected to it as being without warrant from the Constitution. That instrument gives to the General Government no power to prescribe the punishment of crimes, under an admiralty jurisdiction, except such as are committed on the high seas, or are offences against the laws of nations. The crimes here referred to, are not committed on the high seas, nor are they offences against the law of nations. Mr. WEBSTER inquired, whether he was to understand the gentleman from Kentucky as affirming that the Constitution gave to the General Government no other power to E. crimes, except that contained in the clause he had just quoted 2 In answer to Mr. WEBSTER’s questionMr. WICKLIFFE said, he did not see, in the Constitution, any delegated power to define and punish the offences designated in the section under consideration, when committed within the territorial limits of a state, nor did he think it resulted as necessary to carry into ef. fect the powers delegated to the General Government. After some further consideration, the question was put on Mr. WICKLIFFE'S amendment, and it was negatived, ayes 46, noes 108. Mr. ELLIS then moved to amend the section by striking out the words [“ or rape.”] This crime, he said, was, by the penal codes of most of the states of the Union, punished in a manner different from murder; and, however infamous the former crime might be, he thought there ought to be a gradation in its punishment below that of the latter. There had been in many states of the Union an endeavor at the reformation of the criminal code—in several states this had been effected to a considerable extent, and he believed without the least detriment to public morals or to public security. He regretted to perceive that the legislation of the states was crossed in so many instances by the proposed bill, and that the old exploded system of punishments was so far adopted and revived by it. The bill, he had understood, professed to be an amelioration of the existing laws—but, if it created, as has been said by the getleman from Kentucky, (Mr. WickLiver,) sixteen new capital offences, it was, instead of an amelioration, rather an aggravation of their severity. It was easy for a legislator to say, that those who broke through the salutary restraints which tend to preserve society, are worthy of death—but, where it was found, on experi
ment, that penalties of a milder form were equally effectual in the prevention or diminution of crimes, it would not do to insist on such doctrine. A milder system had been tried, and no increase of crimes had occurred be: yond the proportion in which population had multiplied —and, while that was the case, he should feel bound in duty to oppose the bill in its present form, at least by his vote, and to protest against all needless multiplication of capital punishments, Mr GAZLAY supported the amendment of the gentleman from Pennsylvana, chiefly on this ground, that, if “rape” were placed on an equal footing with murder, where the one was committed the other would generally be committed also, to prevent prosecution. Mr. WEBSTER replied, that the Committee on the Judiciary did not consider themselves as instructed to re-modify the penal policy of the United States. They had no authority to do so. Should the time come when the Government should see fit to abolish capital punishments entirely, it was competent to do so—but the present bill would be sound, upon the whole, to be a mitigation of the laws as they previously stood. He did not know that he should object to the present amendment, inasmuch as it was not probable that the crime referred to would often occur in the circumstances provided for; but, as to the crime itself, he never would consent that it should be punished with anything less than death. The amendment was lost. Mr. WEBSTER then moved to insert a section in the bill, which provides, that, if any offence shall be committed on board of any ship or vessel belonging to any citizen of the United States, while lying in a port or place within the jurisdiction of any foreign state or sovereign, it shall be cognizable by the United States' Court, is the same manner as if committed on the high seas; with a proviso that, if tried abroad, the offender shall not again be tried at home. To this, Mr FORSYTH objected, as unnecessary and somewhat dangerous; unnecessary, because the crimes were punishable by foreign Governments; dangerous, because it contained no safeguard against a citizen who had been tried and acquitted by our own courts being afterwards tried and condemned by a foreign jurisdiction. Mr. A. STEVENSON, of Va. objected to the amendment on constitutional grounds. He denied the power of this Government to carry its territorial jurisdiction within the jurisdiction of another sovereign. The received doctrine of the law of nations was, that the jurisdiction of any sovereignty was commensurate with the boundaries of the country in which it existed, except when, by a fiction, it was supposed to accompany its ambassadors when abroad, its armies when on a march, and its ships of war; but this section applied to private as well as public ships, and he denied that a private vessel could carry the United States' jurisdiction with her wherever she went. Mr. WEBSTER explained, and again referred to cases where crimes had been committed on board our own vessels, but had gone without punishment, because the vessel was within a foreign jurisdiction. It was a case that might happen cvery day. Our commerce had spread over all seas; it extended into all the bays and ascended all the rivers of the world. But, as the law now stood, the moment a vessel left the high seas and entered into any creek, haven, or bay, the persons on board were left without law; the crew might rise and murder the master, or commit any other outrage, and there was no law whetever to punish them. As much as two hundred years ago, the necessity of some such provision as that now proposed, had been seen by the Government of England, and, in the reign of Henry 8th, a statute was enacted to punish at home crimes committed on board English ships in foreign harbors
Numerous convictions had taken place under that
statute, one of the most celebrated of which was the case of Governor Wall, who was tried and hanged in England for a murder he committed at Goree. It is obected, said he, that we shall usurp jurisdiction where it does not belong to us—but the object of this section is to protect our own property, and punish offences committed against this Government by its own citizens. Suppose an act of treason against the United States were planned or committed without the limits of our own territory, would the United States have no power to punish it? The power to enact the provisions of this section rests on the power granted by the Constitution to protect commerce—it rests on the same ground as the laws punishing certain crimes against the Post Office; many of which are punished by death. Either the entire class of crimes he had mentioned are absolutely dispunishable, or they must be punished by the laws of the United States. As to the danger of a second trial abroad, after the accused has once been tried at home, he thought it to be very small—it was possible—the man might go back to the place where he had committed the offence, and he might be apprehended and tried by a foreign tribunal—but there is generally little inclination to meddle in such matters, the foreign Government usually considering it as being not their affair. But, if the House saw any danger in the provision, they would, of course, refuse to adopt it. Mr. FORSYTH insisted on his objections to this provision, and suggested that a provision might be made to try the offender if the foreign Government shall refuse to do it—and to prescribe a course of proceeding where no Government existed, as on the coast of Africa, the Marquesas, &c. Mr. WEBSTER suggested much inconvenience in applying to know whether the foreign Government did refuse. The seat of Government might be 500 or 5,000 miles from where the ship lay—and before application could be made, and an answer obtained, she might be detained there for years, &c. Mr. LIVINGs roN had no doubt of the power of the Government over its own citizens, in all parts of the world, but he objected to the section, because it made no distinction respecting by whom or upon whom the crimes enumerated, were committed. A theft might, for example, be committed in the midst of the harbor of Liverpool, by some one of the inhabitants, on board an American ship, and, according to the section, the thief must be brought off to the United States to be tried and punished. Its provisions, too, embraced every offence, without distinction—crimes against the local police, &c. which the United States might find great difficulty in deciding upon. He feared some difficulty might arise with foreign Governments, under the operation of such a provision. For, if the United States' Courts have power to punish, they have also power to bring the of. fender before them, and a man who stole a trifling article, must be brought off from London or Paris to be tried in this country. Mr WEBSTER then proposed to restrict the section to murder and manslaughter, and to confine it to offences committed “by or upon any person belonging to the ship's crew, or any passenger on board the vessel.” After considerable discussion, the latter alteration was agreed to, but the words “murder and manslaughter” were stricken out, and the words “any offence’ were restored. The 6th section provides to punish running away with the ship or her cargo, by death. Mr. WEBSTER expressed a willingness to change this punishment, (hitherto always assigned by law to this offence,) for fine and imprisonment, if the committee should judge the latter penalty sufficient. Mr. BUCHANAN, of Pennsylvania, said he highly approved of the general features of this bill. It was a disgrace to our system of laws, that no provision had
ever been made for the punishment of the crimes which it embraced, when committed in places within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States. He thought, however, that the penalty of death was too severe to be annexed to the description of crimes contained in the section under consideration. The power of punishment vested in Government, said Mr. B. results from the right of self-defence. Wengeance belongs not to man. We should, therefore, be careful not to inflict punishments of a nature more sewere than the safety of society requires. In all cases where the character of the crime does not involve such a degree of moral depravity in the criminal as to preclude a reasonable hope of his reformation, it would be both unjust and cruel, in the extreme, to deprive him of life. These principles need not be either illustrated or enforced before this committee. What, then, said Mr. B. is the nature of the crimes embraced by this section One clause of it declares that the passenger on board of any vessel who steals and carries away from it goods of the value of 1000 dollars, shall suffer death. Is not this punishment out of all proportion with the crime Is it necessary for the safety of society that death should be the F. in such a case ? Is it possible that a provision of this nature can, in the present improved state of society, be incorporated in our penal code He believed not. The other crimes enumerated in the section, although more aggravated than the one just mentioned, are chiefly offences against the right of property; and a distinction has generally been made between such crimes and those which are malum in se, or highly criminal by the laws of nature. What, said Mr. B. is the consequence of annexing cruel punishment to crimes * The people of the Unit. ed States are humane and compassionate, and when the feelings of society are in oposition to the laws, you cannot carry them into execution. The humanity of juries is interposed between the criminal and punishment. The highest crimes thus often pass unpunished ; and the chance of escape is in proportion to the enormity of the offence. Even after conviction and judgment, we know by experience how difficult it is to get the sentence of the law executed. It is the interest of society, therefore, that, in the degree of punishment, justice should be tempered with mercy. Mr. B. observed, he had been a member of the committee which reported the bill. He might have moved this amendment in the committee, but had neglected to do so. He trusted that the honorable Chairman, (Mr. WEastEn,) to whom we were so much indebted for the bill, would not object to it. Mr. B. then moved to strike out, at the end of the section now under consideration, the words—“be deemed guilty of piracy and felony, and shall, on conviction thereof, suffer death;” and insert, in lieu thereof, the words, “be punishable by fine, not exceeding $5,000, and by imprisonment not exceeding ten years.” The question on this motion being taken, without debate, was decided in the affirmative. Before the committee proceeded to the next section of the bill, Mr. P. P. BARBOUR expressed a desire for further time to reflect upon its various and important provisions, and, with the view to obtain it, moved that the committee rise, which motion prevailed. The committee rose accordingly, and obtained leave to sit again.
IN SENATE.-Mox Day, JAN. 10, 1825.
Mr. BARBOUR, from the Committee on Foreign Relations, to whom the several petitions on the subject of Piracies were referred, made the following Report; which was ordered to be printed:
“ that our commerce, for years, has been harasset',