[ocr errors][merged small]

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-
dent would come, and, in plain language tell the House
he had a claim against the government, he, for one,
would vote for an examination of it—but he really had
been unable, with all the lights derived from the docu-
ment before the House, to discover what the President
really wants, unless from the expression that he will
never sign a bill in his own favor. This was all that
there was in the message which shewed that he had any
claim at all. He could assure his friend from Kentucky,
(Mr. Taiwale,) that he had himself no wish to be one of
the compurgators of the President. He believed, for
his part, that the whole message had been occasioned
by some remarks which had been dropped in this House
last session—but, as to himself, those remarks passed
over him like an April shower, which leaves no trace or
effect behind it. He did not believe a word of them.
Mr. BARTLETT rose, with a desire to remove from
the mind of the gentleman from Pennsylvania, (Mr. Ing-
ham,) an impression which he had incorrectly taken up,
that his former remarks had a personal allusion—he dis-
claimed every thing like it—he had had not the least re-
ference, either to the distinguished officer who presides
over the House, or to the gentleman from Pennsylvania;
nor did he entertain a shadow of suspicion as to the in:
dependence and integrity of any special cominittee of
this House. What he had said, in relation to favoritism,
respected only such a prepossession in favor of the Jus-
tice of a claim as inclined a person to look with rather
more favor on evidence in its support than on that of an
opposite nature—and he wished to avoid all imputation
of even such a favoritism in the present case, for the pur-
pose of rendering the precedent to be established in this
case, more perfect. -
Mr. Forsyth said that the President was entitled
to justice from the government. As to the manner how
it shall be awarded to him, that was the concern of this
House. As to the present claim, this House, Mr. F.
said, will never pass upon it while he holds his present
exalted station. Mr. F. professed himself in favor of the
appointment of a select committee upon the message,
but was desirous to limit its powers—and with that view,
if the message were to be referred to a select committee,
he should move the following instructions:
“With instructions to receive from the President any
evidences or explanations of his claims which he may
think proper to present, and to file the same in the of
fice of the Clerk of this House, to be acted upon at the
next session of Congress.”
The question was first taken on referring the Message
to the Committee of Claims, and decided in the negative,
by a large majority.
The question then recurring on Mr. INGHAM’s mo-
tion to refer it to a select committee, and the question
being upon agreeing to the instructions moved by Mr.
Mr. LIVINGSTON said, that the purport of the mes-
sage seemed to be misunderstood by many gentlemen
for whom he had the highest respect, and by whose
opinions, on other occasions, he had sometimes formed
his own. By some it had been considered a demand for
an unliquidated pecuniary claim; by others it was treated
as if it were an unjustifiable attempt to use the influence
of high official station, in order to command the atten-
tion of the House, and obtain a favorable settlement of
doubtful accounts; while other gentlemen professed a
total want of ability to discover the object.
There is something, said Mr. L. not only so just, but
so peculiarly delicate and touching, as well in the mat-
ter of this application as in its manner, connected with
the period at which it is made, that it made a lively im-
pression on my feelings, and forces me to express some
astonishment and concern at the manner in which it has

.Accounts of the President of the United States.

[JAN. 11, 1825.

been treated. Considered as a common application to the
justice of the country, it had yet been animadverted up-
on with more strictness than any common application had
before received. Yet it was no common address, whether
the person, the occasion, or the object, were considered.
It came from a man venerable for his years, respected
for his services, now filling, and having long filled, with
honor to his country, the first office in it; it came from
the President of the United States, addressed to the Re-
presentatives of the people he had served. His object
was to obtain an investigation of suggestions which had
been made, not in the public papers, but on the floor of
that House ; and the application was made at a moment
selected by the most scrupulous delicacy, when his re-
tirement from his high station precluded the most dis-
tant idea of official influence. Can it be said that this is
a common application, and should be treated with no
more attention than the claim for the settlement of a dis-
puted account 2 The Presidential office was a co-ordi-
nate branch of the Government, equal in importance, if
not in power, with this House. The official character of
the functionary who filled it, (the individual, as he had
been called in debate,) was a public concern, and he
had a right, and the public had an interest, to have that
character cleared from all shadow of suspicion that might
have been thrown on it. It was just, too, that that in-
vestigation should now be made; before it, would have
been liable to ungenerous suspicions of official influ-
ence : at any future period, it would have the effect of
dragging him from his honorable retirement, and sub-
verting that repose which his services had earned and
his age required.
For my own part, said Mr. L. I consider that my dig-
nity, as a Representative of the People, is not injured by
giving a more respectful attention to such an applica-
tion than I would to that of an ordinary applicant:
both are entitled to justice; but there is a courtesy due
from one branch of the Government to the suggestions
of another, the practice of which will neither interfere
with the duty nor the dignity of the House. After all,
sir, what is proposed? A reference to a select committee,
required by the complex nature of the investigation,
and granted on many such mere questionable occasions
to individual applications. Is this asking too much Is it
much to ask that a few days of the time of a few mem-
bers should be employed in procuring evidence to de-
termine whether the Chief Magistrate of the Union, in
the exercise of his high office, had managed with fide-
lity the pecuniary concerns that were confided to him :
ls it much to ask that, after he has retired from office,
he may be prepared with materials for silencing any as-
persions that may be cast upon his character? So far
from thinking this unreasonable, Mr. L. said, he should
think it a useful practice at the end of every Presidency
to institute a similar inquiry, which might detect misma-
nagement, or silence calumny. He would, therefore,
vote for the reference to a select committee, as the most
respectful, the most efficient, and most prompt mode of
disposing of the message.
Mr. HAMILTON, of South Carolina, expressed a hope
that those gentlemen who were in favor of a select com-
mittee, would also vote for the instructions moved by
the gentleman from Georgia, as they went, in his opin-
ion, to attain precisely the object desired by the Presi-
Mr. LIVERMORE, of New Hampshire, rose and said,
that he was opposed to the instructions. As he under-
stood them, they amounted to this, that the committee
was to hear what the President had to communicate, and
report it to this House, and there was to be an end of
the business. This, he thought, would be far short of
what the President asked He wishes a settlement of
his accounts. What inconvenience could result from
leaving the committee free and unshackled 2 The thing
had been done again and again, as well at this session

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.

[merged small][ocr errors]

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

[ocr errors]

evidence respecting certain accounts which relate to
other matters. If he does not do this while he remains
in office, he must come back from his retirement to attend
to it. I wish, said Mr. F. to save this venerable man from
such a task; but, while he is in office, I will never con-
sent to say that there is a large or a small sum due to
him. I would never vote for an appropriation during
his continuance in office, even if I were satisfied the
sum was due. This House has nothing to do with the
President in money matters, except to appropriate for
his salary. , Sir, it would be a most extraordinary specta-
cle to see this House occupied in settling the President’s
accounts with the Government. If we are to treat him
as we do other claimants, we must send him to the ac-
counting officers; and when his accounts come from
them to us, we must, if we act upon them whilst he is
yet in office, examine them with peculiar severity. I
wish, therefore, to postpone acting on this matter, fur-
ther than receiving the explanation and evidences of the
claim of the President, till we can do it without a viola-
tion of delicacy.
Mr. WARFIELD, of Maryland, said he rose with re-
luctance, being persuaded he could not present any
views on this subject with as much strength as had al-
ready been done by other gentlement; but he must ex-
press his decided opposition to any instructions to the
committee. The President urges no definitive claim;
but asks a liquidation of accounts, and clearly intimates
that a claim will then arise. Why oppose the appoint-
ment of a select committee Was this a novel instance 2
Had not such committees been appointed in other cases?
Mr. W. then referred to the claim of General St. Clair,
which had gone to a select committee; but which, ac-
cording to the doctrine of some gentlemen, ought, it
seems, to have gone to the Committee of Claims. What
was the object of the application in this case ? An ap-
propriation by this Congress? No; and the independ-
ence of gentlemen would not be in the least compro-
mitted. If rewards are to operate on the decisions of
this House, might not their operation have been with
still greater reason urged in the case of the Vice Presi-
dent? He might, by a contingency, become acting Pre-
sident of the Union, and, by election, become the next
President. He did not doubt that, if a select committee
were appointed, it would be composed of men of inte-
grity, and be taken from the most distinguished mem-
bers of the House. In such a committee he felt no fear
in confiding.
Mr. FORSYTH then modified his motion for instruc-
tions, by striking out the clause which directs the com-
mittee to file the evidence they might receive in the of.
fice of the Clerk, and substituting a direction to report
it to the House.
Mr. HAMILTON, conceiving the instructions, thus
modified, as being identically the same as he proposed to
imake them by the amendment he had offered, withdrew
the amendment, that the House might not be asked to
vote upon two identical propositions.
Mr. M'DUFFIE rose to state the ground on which
he was opposed equally to the amendment now before
the House, and to that which had been proposed and
withdrawn by his colleague. He objected to them,
because, to agree to either of them, would be to appoint
a committee to investigate the state of facts in regard
to a certain matter, and refuse to them the power to
make such a report as an investigation of those facts
would authorize them to make. The President, in a
message to this House, desires an investigation into facts
concerning himself: his message is referred to a com-
mittee, whose duty it becomes to consider it, and the
usual and obvious course, is, to leave to that committee
the mode of investigating it, &c. If the Ilouse is so sen-
sitive on this subject, or so under the control of the Ex-
ecutive that it cannot trust a select committee to make
a report of facts in regard to this matter, we may as

.Accounts of the President of the United States.

[JAN. 11, 1825.

well, said Mr. M’Duffie, throw up our commissions, and
retire from this Hall. I hope no measure will be adopt-
ed which will cast such a reflection on this House.
Mr. FORSYTH said, he certainly meant no reflection
upon the House, or upon the committee to whom the
subject might be referred. But, he said, the Constitu-
tion of the United States believes the members of this
House to be liable to corruption, and not only them, but
every officer of the Government, from the highest to the
lowest. It believes that the President of the United
States might be capable of bribery of the lowest species
—that he might be capable of such offences, that, upon
conviction of them, by the tribunal to which he is ame-
nable, he might be hung by the neck like a sheep-steal-
ing dog. We, the Representatives of the People, said
he, are called upon to act between the President of the
United States and the People. I, for one, will not place
myself in a situation in which imputations of corrupt mo-
tives may be thrown on my character. Even in the case
of the President of the United States, however high his
station, however sacled his person in the eyes of some
of the community, I will not do it. I will not do it for
any living man. As to the suggestions of delicacy to the
President, said Mr. F.—something is due to ourselves.
He has consulted his delicacy for seven years, at least :
let us consult ours for a few weeks. By referring this
message, even with the proposed instructions, you do for
the President what you would not do for any other indi-
vidual. If we were to treat his case as we do those of
other individuals, what should we say ? We should say,
—where are the evidences in support of your claims ? Let
them be presented, and they shall be referred to the Com-
mittee of Claims, and severely scrutinized. The Presi-
dent, however, wants ho such thing as this. He knows
better the delicacy of his situation. He tells you, that you
cannot with propriety award him money. The same
objection applies with equal force to an assertion of facts
as to a vote of money, by the louse. In either case, a
judgment is to be formed of them by the members of the
committee which has the subject under consideration.
The judgment of an individual, in such a case, may be
operated upon by corruption, direct or indirect, &c. Far
be it from me, said he, to insinuate that such a thing is
probable, or even possible, in reference to the members
of any committee of this House. But the Constitution
of the United States supposes such a thing to be possi-
ble, if not probable: and, Mr. F. said, so far as he was
concerned, he was determined that no such imputation
should apply to him.
Mr. INGHAM said, he had understood the gentleman
from Georgia, as saying, that he meant not to impute to
the members of this House the possibility of the opera-
tion of any corrupt or improper motive in regard to the
investigation of the subject now before the House : and
yet the whole course of his observatisms went to shew the
possibility, if not probability, of such an influence. Mr.
I. said he should be glad to understand what the gentle-
man really intended by his observations.
Mr. FORSYTH said he did not know that he could
say anything, of any description of men, which would
more completely convey his meaning than the terms
which he had used. For the satisfaction of the gentle-
man, however, he would state, that he cast no imputa-
tion on the com.aittee which might be selected to take
this case into consideration, but that he would not con-
sent to vote money to pay the claim of any President, old
or new, nor for the affirmation of facts in regard to it, so
long as that President continued in office : the reason
why he would not, was to be found in the relation of the
members of this House to the President of the United
States as the source of patronage and power. He did
not suppose the present President to be disposed to
avail himself of the means of corruption : but he could
do so if he pleased—the constitution supposed him to
be capable of doing it—and, said Mr. F. whilst I have

Jax. 11, 12, 1825..] Meccounts of the President.—Territorial Land Taxes.

[ocr errors]

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.



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

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

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.


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

« ForrigeFortsett »