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that that distinguished individual stood just as high, this day, in the opinion of his fellow citizens, as if there had |
never a squib been thrown at him at all. If the Presi-
.Accounts of the President of the United States.
[JAN. 11, 1825.
been treated. Considered as a common application to the
JAN. 11, 1825.]
as at every other. He cited the instance of the Beaumarchais claim, that of Vice President Tompkins, and the recent case of Gen. Lafayette. Why should not the same course be pursued in the present case ? He was for hanging no clogs about the committee.
Mr. MERCER, of Virginia, entertained the same sentiments with the honorable member from New Hampshire. He could not think it was proper to embarrass the committee with the instructions proposed by the gentleman from Georgia.
Mr. MANGUM, of North Carolina, then rose, and exressed a hope that every remark which he might feel it his duty to make, would be taken as they were meant, in a spirit of perfect veneration for the distinguished individual from whom this message came, Though he had no design to be deficient in respect, it might happen, from his ignorance of etiquette, that he would appear so. Yet he must say, that, to him, this appeared to be one of the strangest applications that ever was made to Congress. It might be considered as presumption in him to say any thing in relation to its delicacy. The President was certainly the best judge of what was delicate, in his own case. But he should say, consulting his own judgment, that an application like this was indelicate; and he hoped he should not be held deficient in respect, when he said that he could not feel sorry should this claim not be treated in a manner different from common claims. What, asked Mr. M., is the object to be accomplished by the proposed investigation 2 Is it to repel calumny He had been in the habit of considering the character of that individual as too high for the breath of slander to reach it. Mr. M. asked whether it was consistent with the dignity of this House to undertake the defence of a public officer, however indignant they might feel at charges falsely preferred against him? was it consistent with their duty as Legislators, to constitute themselves into what the gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Rey solds) had very properly called a body of Compurgators 2 Was this House to be erected into a tribunal for the trial of questions of honor He hoped not. It was with pleasure he believed that this investigation was utterly unnecessary to repel aspersions, or ward off attacks upon the Chief Magistrate. His long fife, spent in the service of his country, spoke for itself. And though his character, like the sun, might not be without spots, Mr. M. said it was not his office to point them out, unless his duty compelled him. He thought that the appointment of this committee would not merely be descending far beneath the duty of the members of this House, as Legislators, but would be doing so, as a gratuitous act, when circumstances did not call for it. If the President's demand was a mere matter of claim, what sincerity was there in the boast which we heard from Maine to Louisiana, about equal rights, if one question of mere, naked, abstract right, was to be preferred to another In questions of that kind, he said he knew no difference between the President of the United States and the humblest cottager-both had the same claim on the justice of this House, and he would let the claims of both take the same direction. If there was any difference, the claim of the President, from his higher standing, should undergo the stricter scrutiny. For himself, Mr. M. believed that the claims, in the present case, would be investigated with equal justice by one as by another committee. The President, in his message, had said that he would not sign any bill in his own favor. We ore told, said Mr. M. that there is no balance against him. The balance, then, must be the other way, and We are to take inceptive measures, which are to be carfied to maturity at a future session. Mr. M. said he thought it would be more proper that further light should
e given upon this subject, than to call on the House to act upon it in its present state of uncertainty. And, inder, this impression, he moved to lay the message on the table.
The question being taken on this motion, it was lost, 41 members only rising in its favor. Mr. ELLIS, of Pa.. called for a second reading of the instructions proposed by Mr. FORSYTH, and they were read accordingly. Mr. ELLIS then observed that he must dissent, and felt bound to oppose instructing the committee in this manner. He thought it would be confining the duties of the committee to too narrow limits. Their duty would be little more than a clerkship—a new agency to receive testimony. The President was already amply able to communicate to this House, through the Speaker, any papers he wished to lay before it; and, if the committee was appointed with the instructions proposed it would come to little more, Mr. E. said he felt a real pleasure in meeting the President in the most respectful manner he could, and he would submit his claims, whatever they might be, to a select committee. He could confide in the integrity, ability, and general knowledge of business, of the members of this House, and he hoped that no instructions would be given to the committee. Let us meet the President, said he, with an expression of warm and kind feelings. Mr. HAMILTON then moved an amendment to the instructions, to the following effect: “That the committee report the explanation and evidence submitted by the President to the House during the session.” Mr. H. said he thought that such instructions would be perfectly conformable with the wishes of the Executive. He agreed with the gentleman from Georgia in the opinion that no investigation should take place which might, by the remotest possibility, be supposed to be conducted under Presidential influence; yet he did not think it would be respectful, either to the President or this House, that the committee should file the evidence he might lay before them in the Clerk's office. Such a direction was like the instructions given to a Master in Chancery to take evidence. Let the committee present the case submitted to them in the form of a report to this House. Mr. FORSYTH hoped that the amcndment of the gentleman from South Carolina would not be adopted. It would, in effect, be the same as giving no instructions at all, and would leave the matter just where it was. It was obvious that the President felt the delicacy which applied to the case. He feels, said Mr. F. that this House will never pass a bill, either on an old or a new account, so long as he remains President of the United States. Whence does this feeling arise From his relative situation to this House and its members. He is the source of patronage and power. He cannot indeed punish members of this House if they refuse to pass a bill; but he can reward them if they do pass it. He feels the delicacy of his relation to this House, and shall we not feel it too 2 No, sir; he is not a mere common claimant; and while I would give him every facility to lay the evidence of his claims before this House, I would do nothing more. We are as liable to the imputation of being under his influence in presenting a favorable report of the facts of his case, as we would be in granting money to satisfy his claim. Gentlemen only want an explanation of his claim, and the evidence to support it. Then why seek such a form of investigation as may bring an imputation on our own purity? The President feels this, and we ought to feel it. He asks, first, that the purity of his own conduct, while in office, respecting the disbursement of moneys, may be publicly ascertained. This referred merely to the receipt of his own salary, and to the disbursement of a very small fund placed under his control for contingent expenses, &c. There was no indelicacy in such an investigation; he has a perfect right to demand it; and it is an investigation which may not be refused in the face of this nation. But, in the second place, the President asks that, while he remains here, he may have an opportunity to show and to explain the
evidence respecting certain accounts which relate to
.Accounts of the President of the United States.
[JAN. 11, 1825.
well, said Mr. M’Duffie, throw up our commissions, and
Jax. 11, 12, 1825..] Meccounts of the President.—Territorial Land Taxes.
a seat on this floor, I will not consent to act in any capacity which might subject me to an imputation, remote or near, strong or weak, against the purity of my Representative character, Mr. LINCOLN entertained no doubt but that the most rigid scrutiny into the transactions, referred to by the President, would redound to the honor of that elevated officer. But the question was as to the propriety of accompanying the commitment of the message to a select committee with instructions. Were it referred to a standing committee, the House would know what course it -night expect such committee to take, in relation to the subject. The House had every confidence in the discretion of its standing committees, and were acquainted with the forms and customary modes of proceed. ing in those committees. But, said Mr. L. should we commit the subject to a committee without instructions, we do not know, with the same clearness, the views which will actuate and guide that committee. Mr. L. knew it was the opinion of many members in this House, and of many persons out of it, that when a citizen had served his country long and faithfully, in important trusts, it was just that he should not retire without receiving some distinguished and signal mark of the pubfic gratitude. He presumed no such purpose was entertained now; if it was, it should be presented distinctly. Mr. L. did not view this as a question of particular delicacy. It was an affair of business, which might, without any impropriety, go to a standing committee. But, if not—if it was thought more proper, or respectful, to refer it to a select committee, let the sense or wishes of the House go with it, in the shape of instructions. I, said Mr. L. feel no distrust of any committee, or of any member of this House. We are all, I hope, honorable men. But governments were established on the presumption of the imperfection of human discretion, and human honesty. If men were perfect, why any laws; why juries; why any tribunals for exacting justice Why not say to all, Do what is right—we fear not injustice nor indiscretion. For my part, said Mr. L. though feeling every proper confidence in the members of this body, I do not think an election to this House an indubitable certificate of honesty and discretion, or a proof that a member's views must necessarily be correct. Why should the House, composed of so many, give up its judgment, and the power of deciding, to so small a portion of it, as a committee of five or six * Why not the whole House judge for itself? and then say to the committee to which it delegates the investigation, We think you should be limited to a certain extent, in the fulfillment of the will of the whole. Mr. L. thought the limitations, or instructions, proposed by the gentleman from Georgia, were, in fact, conformable with the intentions of the President himself; and he really could see nothing exceptionable in them, whatever. In another view of this subject, said Mr. L. though it presents no question of delicacy in regard to the President—being a mere affair of business—yet it does present a question of delicacy in regard to ourselves. It was well known that the people had always apprehended danger to the purity of this House, from a subserviency to Presidential influence. This arose from the great patronage of the President, and from so many of the Representatives always looking to him for office, for themselves or their friends. We know that members of this House have often heretofore been applicants to the President for office: we know that some of them now are. Such applications were viewed by the people with jealous eyes; and we should be cautious, said Mr. L. to give no color to the suspicion of improper influence, in the present case, by the manner in which we act on this subject There is danger of corruption should we go far beyond what justice claims, and confer by favor
on a President what could not be claimed as a right.
Such a course would lead to the danger hereafter of mutual corruption between the President and this House. Mr. L. in this point of view, deemed the question of vital importance, as it involved the purity of the representative character. His own opinion was, that the matter ought not to be acted on here at all; that it had better go to the Supreme Court, to a Comptroller, to an Auditor—to any other tribunal for investigation; but as it was before the House, he wished it to be disposed of in a manner compatible with duty, with justice, and with the character of the House. These were his opinions; and, averse as he always was to obtruding his views on the House, he could not do less on this occasion, than submit the brief remarks he had made on the subject. The question was then taken on agreeing to the instructions proposed by Mr. FORSYTH, by way of amendment to Mr. INGHAM’s motion to refer the Message to a select commmittee, and decided in the affirmative. For the instructions 90, Against them 70. The question on Mr. INGHAM’s motion, as thus amended, was then decided in the affirmative, without a division, and a committee of seven members ordered to be appointed accordingly.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES-JAN, 12, 1825.
TERRITORIAL LAND TAXES.
Mr. TAYLOR, of N. Y., offered the following:
* Resolved, That the Committee on the Public Lands be instructed to inquire into the expediency of providing by law that sales for non-payment of taxes laid by authority of the territorial Governments, shall not take place in a shorter period than one year after the same shall become payable ; that one year shall be allowed for redemption upon payment of a penalty not exceeding 50 per cent. on the amount of tax. That the Commissioner of the General Land Office, or other proper officer of the Government, residing at the city of Washington, be authorized to receive the tax and penalty from non-resident owners, which he shall deposite in Bank to the credit of the proper territorial officer, and make to him quarterly returns of the sums thus deposited, and that a limitation be fixed upon the amount of tax to be annually assessed upon each quarter section of land in the territories.”
In support of this resolution, Mr. TAYLOR observed, that, since the resolution had been offered by the gentleman from Kentucky, (Mr. Wickliffe,) some days ago, he had turned his attention more particularly to the subject, and was, on reflection, convinced that it would not do to take from the territorial Governments the power of taxing the public lands. But, that the subject required, in some shape, the interposition of Congress, was very certain. None could doubt it, when he stated that, on a recent occasion, at a single sale of land for the non-payment of taxes, three thousand quarter sections had been sold, amounting to half a million of acres, and that the taxes for which they were sold amounted to about seven thousand dollars. He proposed to refer the subject to the Committee on Public Lands, because he was well assured that the great difficulty which now operates on the minds of capitalists to prevent their imvesting more money in the public lands, was the amount of taxes, and the difficulty in the mode of paying them. As to the amount to which the taxes should be allowed to go, he was not in favor of restricting it too far. He would leave to the territorial Governments a liberal discretion, but some limit ought to be set. Another subject of the resolution was the place where payment was to be made. In one of the territories, a redemption was provided for on condition of paying the tax, and one hundred percent. upon
the amount of it. But this was to be paid, not into the Treasury of the United States, but to the purchaser of the lands; and, before a man could redeem his land, he must hunt up the purchaser through all the States of the Union. Mr. T. saw no objection to an arrangement, by which an officer, residing at the seat of Government, should receive moneys accruing in the territories, make quarterly returns, deposite the money in bank, and, from time to time, pay it over to the draft of the officer residing in the territory. A draft on the Bank of the United States would always sell at a premium in the territories. Such a plan would afford great facilities to the purchasers of the public lands, would impose but a small burden on the officer here, and would promote the public advantage, by improving the price of the lands. He was persuaded they would sell much more readily if the buyer knew the limit beyond which the taxes could not go. In reply to an inquiry of Mr. RANKIN, Mr. TAYLOR explained the difference between the present resolution and that formerly offered by Mr. WICKLIFFE. Mr. WEBSTER also farther explained what was the purport of the former resolution, (which had been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.) Mr. CONWAY moved to strike out so much of the resolution as proposed to restrict the amount to which the territorial Governments might tax the public lands within their limits. In support of this amendment, Mr. CoNWAY observed, that he thought it entirely unnecessary for Congress to adopt any restrictive measure for the control of the Legislature of Arkansas in its power to levy taxes. The tax imposed upon lands by the laws of that territory was not more than sufficient to meet the demands upon its treasury, and to support the Government. There was no distinction made by the laws of Arkansas between a citizen and non-resident owner of lands. The tax was equal, and he was sure it would not be increased, but would be reduced, as soon as circumstances would justify a reduction, to a more moderate rate. He was not opposed to the general tenor of the resolution; on the contrary, he thought it mi. ht be productive of good, both to the territory and non-resident owners of lands, in securing a portion of revenue to the one, which might otherwise be lost, and in affording |. to the property of the other. It was only to that part of the resolution which he proposed to strike out, that he objected. He objected to it, because it would, if the proposition was carried into effect, be an indirect repeal of a law of the territory; and he doubted whether Congress could with propriety repeal an act passed by the Legislature under the organic law. It was certainly in the power of Congress to repeal the organic law, and reorganize or abolish the Government, which would destroy the whole system; but circumstances did not require this, and he thought it wrong to adopt any measure which would have that effect. He, therefore, proposed to amend the resolution as stated. Mr. COOK, of Illinois, thought that the object of both the gentlemen would be accomplished by engrafting on the resolution a principle recognized in every act for the admission of new states, in relation to the lands of non-resident proprietors. If the clause now proposed to be stricken out, were replaced by one which should prohibit the taxing of the lands of non-residents, more than those of resident land holders, he thought the object sought, would be fully attained. But if the powers of the Territorial Government should be crippled, by limiting the amount of taxes on the lands of non-residents (which formed by far the greater part of the whole) the necessary expenses of the territory would oblige them to tax the land of the resident proprietors out of all due proportion. And he saw no good reason why resident citizens should pay more than non-residents, whose land they defended. Mr. CONWAY had no objections to this, though he
was perfectly confident the Territorial Legislatures, (at least that of his own Territory) would never lay more burdens on non-residents than on their own citizens. Mr. TAYLOR observed, in reply, that he could assure the delegate from Arkansas, that he had offered the resolution in no spirit of unkindness towards that territory, in whose advancement he felt a lively interest. He did not know that the Committee on the Public Lands would be able to fix a maximum at all; but he felt persuaded that, if they can, it will have a powerful operation on the sale of the lands. The resolution only proposed an inquiry, And, if its object was found impracticable, the committee would say so in their report. He had not proposed the limitation from any suspicion of the Territorial Legislatures; but it must be manifest that, as nine-tenths of the lands in our territories was held by non-residents, and, of course only one dollar in ten of the taxes laid were to be paid by the resident citizens, there was a strong temptation to lay very heavy taxes. He did not, however, wish to restrain them so far as to interfere with the support of all necessary institutions, and the general improvement of the territories. Far from it. He did not see any necessity for the amendment proposed by the gentleman from Illinois. No instance had occurred where it had been attempted to tax non-residents more than those who resided within the territories, and, indeed, the contrary had grown to be a settled principle of the policy pursued by the new states. Mr. COOK replied and explained. His object in proposing the limitation was only to secure equal rights. He considered the restriction he had proposed as a sufficient guarantee against the acts of the Territorial Legislatures—as the members were elected by the resident proprietors, and who would thus have to pay their full share of all taxes, and would operate as a check on any abuse. The gentleman from New York was certainly in an error when he supposed that it had never been
|attempted to tax the lands of non-residents beyond
others. It had been done to his knowledge, in some of the territories, as well as in our new states. In Kentucky, the principle was openly avowed—and he believed that security was required that the land should be settled within a given time—and a similar regulation may be adoped in the Territorial Governments. Arkansas might be free from the charge, but this was no security for the future. Mr. CONWAY had another objection to the restriction proposed by the gentleman from New York. It was an indirect repeal of the organic law of the territory
which he represented—and which was practically the
constitution of the territory. This consideration surely ought to have some weight. The power of the Territorial Government to tax lands in the territory is now unlimited. This goes to limit it, and takes away a power vested by the organic law. The question was taken on the amendment of Mr. CONWAY, and negatived. The resolution of Mr. TAYLOR was then adopted.
UNITED STATES” PENAL CODE.
The House then proceeded to the unfinished business of yesterday, which was the bill farther to provide for the punishment of crimes against the United States—(and which was gone through in committee of the whole on Monday last, and reported without amendments.) Mr. WEBSTER stated, that, as he understood that several other amendments were to be offered, and in particular some by a member from Louisiana, (Mr. LIVINGSTON,) which that gentleman desired should be printed, he should move the postponement of the bill till Monday next, as soon as those amendments were presented.
Mr. LIVINGSTON then moved a series of amendments, of considerab:e length, and embracing many new provisions. The mover having said a few words in ex