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DECEMBER, 1816.
Excise on Spirits-Commissioner of Claims.

H. OF R. oral, one thousand one hundred and twenty acres; to anoual report of the Secretary of the Treasury each colonel and lieutenant colonel, nine hundred and should come before the House. When that resixty acres ; to each major, eight hundred acres; to port should arrive, the view which the gentleinan oach captain, six hundred and forty acres ; to each from Keotucky and the House would take of subaltern, four hundred and eighty acres; and to offi. that subject, would be different from that which cers of the medical and other staff, who have no rank, they would now take. By inferences, drawn in proportion to their pay according to the scale afore- from the amount receivable into the Treasury, said.

and not the amount actually accrued ; from an The bill took the usual course of reading and amount from which no deductions were made commitment.

for claims to come in under appropriations of the

last session-he was satisfied an erroneous imTHE EXCISE ON SPIRITS.

pression had been made on the House by the Mr. HARDIN, of Kentucky, rose to propose a Message, both in reference to the disposable resolution to the House. His object in offering surplus in the Treasury, and to the proportion il thus early was, thai Congress might not make between the annual expenses and the appual resuch an impression on the public funds as to ceipts in the Treasury. From the surplus estimake his motion inapplicable. He said he dis-mated, must be deducted the amount of approcovered, from the President's Message, that, after priations for the payment of demands not yet meeting every demand on the Treasury, and rendered but forming claims on that surplus. many of them were of an extraordinary character, on a full examination and due estimate of the arising froin the late war, there would remain in expenses and future receipts into the Treasury, the Treasury, at the close of the year, an excess of Mr. L. said, he was satisfied even the gentleman bine millions of dollars ; aod also that, on making from Kentucky would entertain views of this a fair and accurate calculation of the amount ne subject widely different from those he now excessary to support the civil list, military and pressed. naval establishments, paying the interest, and The motion of Mr. HARDIN lies on the table. gradually redeeming the principal of the public debt, there would remain a surplus of five mil

COMMISSIONER OF CLAIMS. lions of dollars beyond the necessary annual ex- Mr. FLETCHER, of Kentueky, moved to instruct penditure. la that case, the excise could certainly the Committee of Claims to inquire into the ex. be dispensed with. He therefore, meant to make pediency of remunerating Henry Brothers, now & motion to bring into view that object, before of Kentucky, for losses sustained on the Niagara some extraordinary disposition was made of the frootier by the United States Army, and the public money; inasmuch as there was already enemy. on tbe table a bill to establish a National Uni- Mr. FORBYTH, of Georgia, rose to inquire wheversity, the first cost of which was to be $200,000, ther this case was not included in the act of last without taking into view its endowment; another session, for compensating claimants for certain bill for three or four additional Military Acade- lost or destroyed property. mies, which would cost the nation between five Mr. FLETCHER said, he did not consider it to bundred thousand and a million of dollars; another be included within that law; but, though the case for a corps of io valids of 2,000 men, which is to was not embraced by that law, he was satisfied cost a million a year or more; and a proposition Congress would recognise its justice, and direct to commute the bounties of land given to the it to be paid. soldiers into specie, which will cost perhaps ten Mr. FORSYTA said, his chief object was to take millions more. He wished first to see the excise this method of apprizing the House of the fact, taken off, and then, if any surplus remained, they that the execution of that law was not suspended, might talk, if they chose, about Military Acade- but that under it claims were daily decided, of mies and Invalid Corps. After adding that the the same character as that which the gentleman tax in question was a peculiarly oppressive one, from Kentucky considered not to come within and operated with great inequaliiy, Mr. H. offered the act. the following resolution, with a view to call for Mr. YANCEY, of North Carolina, said, it was the consideration of it at a future day:

impossible to say whether the case embraced in "Resolved, That it is expedient to repeal the act, this resolution was, or was not, proper to be proentitled 'An act to repeal the existing duties on licenses vided for, since none of the circumstances had to distillers, and to lay other duties in lieu of those at been stated ; but certain it was, that the act of present imposed on licenses to distillers of spirituous the last session had not authorized the payment liquors,' except such parts thereof as may enable the of any such claim. Government to collect the sums now due under said Mr. JOANSON, of Kentucky, said, he was glad act, or may become due before the repeal of said act to hear the gentleman from Ohio 'had made his takes effect."

opposition to this motion, not from any opposition The question beiog stated, on ordering this re- to its merits, but to suit a different proposition of solve to lie on the table

his own, which the House bad more than once Mr. LOWNDES, of South Carolina, said he was refused to consider, and which he hoped would glad of the course the gentleman from Kentucky again be refused whenever he should call it up. had given to his resolution, supposing that he The resolution now before the House was one almeant to permit it to lie on the table until the most, of course, such as would be adopted at the

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request or suggestion of any member of the House pend the operations of a public officer, against -a mode of proceeding arising from the neces. which nothing had been alleged ? For, Mr. McK. sity of the case, documents to support the claim said, he heard no allegation made of incorrect debeing sept on without any accompanying perition. cision in regard to any other class of cases than Jo relation to the proposition the gentleman had those coming under the ninth section of the act, alluded 10, it was noi before the House now, and which the President had already suspended. He could not be debated. Whenever it was, Mr.J. could, therefore, see no necessity or propriety in said, he, too, should take occasion to say what he extending the resolution so widely as to embrace koew of the law relating to the payment for lost cases, on the decision of which even rumor threw property, and of its execution.

no blame. Besides, the subject was under inMr. Forsyta said, it was certain, indeed, that quiry by several committees. Why not let the his proposition bad not been taken up when he commitiees already appointed discharge their asked for it; but it had been only once refused, duty? Why take up the subject, and act thus and he hoped it would not be again. If it were prematurely? For any decision must be premaproper here to enter into the question, he thought iure, made in the absence of that information he could satisfy the House that the course which which the House had taken the usual and regular he had proposed was not improper. There is, mode of obtaining. said he, a law in existence, under which such Mr. GROSVENOR, of New York, rose, he said, claims are seuled. The Commissioner dues set to ask whether any answer bad yet been received tle such claims; be has seliled them, and would, to the call of the House on the President for inI presume, selile this claim. He wished the formation on this subject. [Being answered in House to be apprized of the fact, that, though the negative, Mr. G. proceeded.] He said he there was no law authorizing payment of such I would not vote to suspend the execution of any claims, the Commissioner acied as if there were. law in which the citizens had a righe, without

Mr. Fletcher's motion having been agreed to proper documentary evidence before him. Gennem. con., Mr. Forsyt: called up his motion, in tlemen might make statements, but on wbat the following words;

foundation Public rumor. After the call on Resolved, That the President of the United States the Executive for information, was this a proper be, and he is hereby, requested to order the further ground, or the proposed a proper mode of proexecution of the said act to be suspended, until the ceeding? Before a single document was before subject shall be disposed of by this House.

the House, it would be a most strange thing to

see this House voting to request the suspension Mr. FORSytu said, he thought no man could of the execution of an aci, respecting which so doubt the propriety of doing something on this many persons from various parts of the country subject, if he would properly reflect on it. One were attending in this city. He was clearly in part of the act had been suspended by the Presi- favor of waiting till the House had some ground dent, who suggested in his Message the propriety of proceeding. Without going into the question of revising other parts of the acı; which proposi. at large, it appeared to him, be said, it would be tion, as well as an inquiry into the acts of the a most novel proceeding for this House to underCommissioner, was now before a committee of také to request of the President the suspension of the House. From want of understanding, or from a law, by which course an independent public want of integrity, incorrect decisions had cer- officer would be arrested in the discharge of bis tainly been made by the Commissioner. It was official duties. If it were to be done at all, it a lutle extraordinary, Mr. F. said, after what had ought to be by joint resolution. taken place, thalibe Commissioner should be per- Mr. Yancey, of North Carolina, said, he had mitted to execute the remainder of the acı-10 been opposed to this resolution the other day, bepass judgments to an indefinite amouot; these cause he believed, as the President had advised judgments to be immediately paid at the Treas. The revision of other parts of the act besides the ury, without revision or control. This required nioth section, that the Commissioner would not some interference on the part of this House. We have proceeded, but would of course have stayed can only judge what is to come from what is his proceedings uill Congress had passed on the pasi. We know that erroneous decisions have subject. The Committee of Claims, to whom the been made by the Commissioner; and may pre- President's Message was referred, had taken the suine that others will be. Mr. F. said, there apo subject into serious consideration. This morning peared to bim no reasonable objection to the shape they had had the Commissioner before them, and in which he had brought his motion before the clearly ascertained that he was going on under House, yet he was not wedded to it. If any other every section of the act, except the piuth. I take course should be thought better, to attain the also upon myself, said Mr. Y., the responsibility same object, be should not object to it.

of stating that some decisions have been made, Mr. McKee, of Kentucky, was not in favor of respecting which the Commissioner has been intbis molion. I had been alleged that the deci- lerrogated, as much without authority as the cases sions of the Commissioner, uoder one section of which come under the niach section. He, therethe act, had been incorrect; but even the gentle fure, believed it was necessary that the execution man from Georgia bimself bad not alleged that of the act should be suspended until it was redecisions vuder other branches of the law were vised. Uader other sections of the act decisions incorrect. Why, then, would the gentleman sus had been made, which were as groundless as any

DECEMBER, 1816.

Commissioner of Claims.

H. OF R.

which had been made uoder the ninth section. money; and some individuals would receive monAs for the authority of this House to make the ey for claims of a character which Congress, in request of the President, and of the President to revising the law, might not choose to allow 10 suspend the law, Mr. Y. said, he had no que tion. others. Mr. B. was, however, clearly of opinion, The Commissioner was a mere ministerial officer, that the House could not act upon ihe law, but subject to the control of the Executive; he was in conjunction with the Senale; for a suspension expressly made so by the act itself, if he had not is a qualified repeal of a law, and the same power been so otherwise.

only can repeal which enacts it. Mr. HARDIN, of, Kentucky, in referring to the Mr. Taul, of Kentucky, agreed in the view act for the adjustment of the claims, said, it had which his colleague bad taken of the proposition been familiarly called at the last session the Ken before the House, which was certainly one of the tucky Horse bill; its title would, it appeared, bave most extraordinary proceedings ever heard of. been more appropriate, had it been called a bill At the last session, the act referred to had passed for the benefit of the District of Columbia. He by a large majority, and the Commissioner apdoubled, he said, whether an act could be sus- pointed had proceeded to execute it. The Execpeoded without ihe authority of all the branches live, conceiving the Cominissioner to have exof the Goveroment. The section in the act repounded this law erron

oneously, had directed a ferring to the President's control, was designed 10 particular section to be reserved for the decision establish rules of evidence for the guidance of the of Congress. Mr. T. conceived, that, to pass this Commissioner, and not to take away bis inde resolution, under the circumstances, would be to pendence or right of decision. He said he could pass an indirect censure on the Executive. So not agree that Mr. Lee was merely a ministerial far, said Mr. T., as I have any knowledge of the officer; he was a judicial officer, having a right decisions of the Commissioner, he has given rigid to expound the law, and decide on the evidence constructions to the law, operating with much before him. A constable, sheriff, or marshal, were severity on the Western people, and subjecting ministerial officers, because they executed the them to much trouble and inconvenience, which process issued by the courts; bui, he contended, had not been anticipated. Till the House was The President had no more right to remove the explicitly informed that the Commissioner was Commissioner, ihan to remove the Supreme Court giving erroneous decisions at this time, Mr. T. of the nation. The mode and degree of adjudi- hoped the House would not adopt a course which cation was all that the President had a right to would operate so hardly on claimants from ibe prescribe. He wished that the resolution should Western country. If confidence is to be refused lie on the table, until it should come before the to this officer, why is not his conduct arraigoed in House under other circumstances. The commit a proper manner 1 Mr. T. said he had not heard tees appointed on the subject would no doubt re- it intimated that confidence was not to be reposed port in a few days. The House, he inclined 10 in the Commissioner. The only error impuled ibiok, could not properly pass the resolve; and, to him, was in construing the ninth section (proif they did, whai would be the effect? To the viding for payment for houses occupied as miliWest, the sufferers by the war lived at a distance iary depots) to include houses in which troops of seven or eighi huodred miles, and their claims were at the time, or bad been any short time prehad scarcely began to arrive. Suspend this act viously, stationed. Decisions under that confor a month, he said, and probably ihree-fourthsstruction had been suspended, and Mr. T. hoped of those claims would go unmanaged, and the the resoluli 'n would not be agreed 10. losers receive no compensation for their losses, Mr. ROBERTSON, of Louisiana, was also opunless they would employ a couple of lawyers, posed to the resolution. If the Commissioner had able lawyers as the Commissioner had notified acted correcily, it was as the law intended, and the people, to carry through their twenty-five there was no motive for suspending the law; if dollar claims. The people of the West look 10 incorrecily, the proper course would be to renove their Representatives to do this business for them. The officer. Mr. R. doubted, he said, the power By sus pending the law, said be, you prevent this, of the Executive to suspend a law of the land ; to the great injury of the claimants. Mr. H. con. he could see that such a power might be exercluded by sayiog' that he was not quite sure that cised in a manner very dangerous to the liberties Congress could even suspend the law by joint of the country, without referring to any particu. resolution.

Mr. R. doubted also the propriety of Mr. P. P. BARBOUR, of Virginia, rose to make acting on this subject from the motives suggested the suggestion to the House that they should act by the genilemaš from Georgia. The suspenon the subject now, if at all. The House had síon (temporary repeal) of a law should be as debeen informed by the President that erroneous liberate as the passage of the act. Let us pot purdecisions had been made by the Commissioner sue a course, in respect to which our powers are voder other sections of the law than the ninth ; very doubtful. He lived in a distant part of the and the Commissioner, going on in the same spirit couotry, in regard to which, though many claims of consiruction, might commit error in many other have been decided nearer ihe Seat of Guvern. cases. If the law was suspended at all, there ment, the law is as yet a dead letter, as it is to all fore, it was important it should be done now, for parts of the country at the same distance. Ia the reason that when the Commissioner bas de regard to the State of Louisiana, not a single claim cided, his decisivo is a sufficient warrant for the bad yet come before the Commissioner; and Mr. R.

lar case.

H. OF R.

Commissioner of Claims.

DECEMBER, 1816.

was not, therefore, disposed to arrest the proceed-(Carroll's building,) Mr. J. said he found, on exings of the Commissioner at the moment the dis- amination of the evidence, that it had been proved tant claims might be expected to present them by the acting Secretary of War, by citizens, and selves, in regard to the Commissioner, Mr. R. by persons who had belonged to the British army, said, his being retained in office by the President thai the building had been occupied by infantry was presumptive evidence in his favor. He con- and cavalry, above and below stairs, and tha cluded his remarks by expressing his doubt of the marks of the occupation, arms, harness, &c., were propriety of suspending the operation of a law, found through the whole premises; in consequence and particularly the propriety of this House aci- of wbich General Ross had directed it to be set ing on it.

on fire by rockets. In cases of this kind, Mr. J. Mr. Johnson, of Kentucky, said, the discussion said he would act with delicacy, and would not which had already taken place on this subject take a course calculated to destroy the confidence would save him and the House the pain of many of the people in any man who had passed before remarks he would otherwise have made. He the Senate, and who was passing judicially on presumed a little more information in his posses- cases highly important to individuals interested. sion, and known to some others, would enable the It was expected there would be difficuliy under House to decide correctly on this question. I the law, and when the House came to discriminate venture to say, continued Mr. J., and 'I believe it in legislating anew on the subject, they must do is not in opposition to anything suggested by any it nicely, and will do it with difficulty. In regard other gentleman, that since the siting of Con- to the suspension of proceedings under a part of gress there has not been any decision of the Com-lhe law, the President supposed he had the power, missioner which any member on this floor bas, and he had exercised it. Mr. J. took this occaexamined, and will say that is contravenes the sion to observe that the character of the President statutes. "I have made it my duty to make proper had beeo mistaken and undervalued before his iuquiry, and do say there has nol been a decision Administration commenced. He was a man dethat any member of this House or the Presideal cisive in his sentiments; and, when he saw his of the Voited States would not approve; that way, fearless of consequences, took

himself the decisions of the Commissioner have been re- a responsibility at which most men would stand stricted to cases without doubt, and that it is his appalled. This, at the close of his Administration, solemn determination, not out of respect to the all would now acknowledge. That man, then, Legislature merely, but out of respect to himself, who never failed in his duty, had taken hold of but on account of the difficulties in which he mighi one section of the act. The inconveniences of the otherwise be involved, to suspend all cases in re- suspension of the whole law would be very great, spect to which a doubt could be raised. He is compelling the claimants to go to expenses, &c., passing only on cases in which there can be no and the construction was now sufficiently rigid. question. Under this declaration from me, said From every mounted man whose horse was lost, Mr.J., and knowing that Mr. Lee has rejected, from the Commissioner deducted forty cents per day scrupulous motives, cases which he ought to have allowed for the use of the horse) from the amount passed, I hope the House will not agree to a mea- at which his lost horse is valued; and other cases sure wbich will arrest the decision of a numerous Mr. J. had presented, which he thought within class of cases of horses lost for want of forage, the spirit of ihe law, but which the Commissioner horses killed in batile, &c. One word as to alarm had rejected. Would ihe House, then, come forin regard to the decisions of the Commissioner. ward and by resolution of one branch of the LeOf that gentleman, Mr. J. said, he knew but liule; gislature suspeod a law, especially when he bebut as much as he did know, he was a man of lieved that the opposition to the law arose, with integrity, and beyond the reach of any imputation some allowance for honest difference of opinion of corruption; and, if he had erred, as the mem- as to the decisions, from the original opposition bers of this House inight and did differ about the to the law ? Mr. J. hoped that the Chairman of construction of a law, was it to be expected, Mr.J. the Committee of Claims, a man of business and asked, that under such a law there would be no a discreet man, would, duriog the session, report diversity of sentiment? Nothing had happened a bill so to define the duties of the Commissioner in regard to the law, which I did not expect; the as to put them in a situation beyond doubt or 9th section particularly involved questions of cavil. much difficulty, under ihe laws of nations, and Mr. WEBSTER, of New Hampshire, said that it the whole act gave a latitude of discretion to the appeared, from the course of debate, that the obCommissioner, respecting any exercise of which jections to the resolution before the House were there must be different opinions-embracing cases of a twofold character: the first relating to the respecting which it was as difficuli to decide, as lo necessity of interference; the second to the form separate the colors of the raiobow. No case of which the proposed interference, if made, ought wanton destruction by the enemy had been passed to take. li was not, perhaps, easy to ascertain upon by the Commissioner; and any gentleman whether it was the judgmeut of the House, that who took the trouble to examine the evideoce, there was an error in the law or in the adminiswould see that the cases were so strongly made tration of the law, or, it may be, in both. So far ouI, that no man in this House would have decided as regarded error in the law, there was no remediffereotly from the Commissioner. la regard to dy but to repeal or amend it.' If in the execution the property in our sight, that had been paid for, ' of the law error was appareat, he concluded that

upon

DECEMBER, 1816.
Commissioner of Claims.

H. OF R. the Executive would exercise bis Constitutional Mr. HOLBERT, of Massachusetts, said, that he authority in the case. The subject was already had voted in favor of this law at the last session. referred to two committees in this House, and, if He regretted that he had done so, because he bethe House were to act further on the subject, the lieved it had not been executed as it ought to proper course would be to amend the resolucion, have been. It had been said that the House had so as to make it declare that it was expedient to no information sufficiently authoritative to desuspend the law, &c., and thereon found a bill in clare, that the Commissioner, in bis decisions, regular form for that purpose. Mr. W. was had proceeded improperly. But, he said, had not wholly opposed to the interference of this House, the man in the bighest office in the Union, singly and separately, on this occasion. If they charged with the supervision of the law, given acted on it at all, it ought to be by law. He did the House information that, in his opinion, the not know that, by passing the resolution as it law was so wrongly construed, that be thought stood, they would violate their duty, but they it necessary to suspend the execution of it? If would act nugatorily. If the President had the there was not conclusive evidence of error by power 10 suspend the law, the interposition of the Commissioner, there was sufficient to satisfy ibis House was not necessary; if he had not the the House that wrong had been done. It had power, this resolution would not give it to him. been said that the President cannot suspend the The other branch of the Legislature must be execution of the law. In that, Mr. H. said, he consulted to give efficacy to the resolution. Mr. agreed; but if gentlemen looked at the law, they W. then moved to amend the resolution to read: would find it not of an ordinary kind. It was

" That it is expedient to suspend all further pro- considered too great a power to give to any man ceedings under the act, entitled an act to authorize the 10 make these decisions, unless under the control payment for property lost, captured, or destroyed by of the Executive of the Union-ibe power of the enemy, while in the military service of the United deciding away millions of millions of moneyStates, and for other purposes ; and that the Committee and the power was there subjected to such rules of Claims be instructed to bring in a bill for that and regulations as shall be prescribed by the object.”

President. As the President has the power to Mr. FORSYTH objected to this amendment as make new rules whenever he believes the rules tending 10 produce delay. The subject was in- first established to be ioeffectual, has he not of deed as fully before the Committee of Claims course authority to say to the Cominissioner at now, as it could be by any resolution referring it any time: stop your decisions; I wish to make a to them. The object of his motion was only to new rule of decision, since I find those which I suspend the act promptly, until the committee first established are not sufficient to keep you in should have time io aci on it.

a straight course? Nothing certainly could be Mr. Webster rejoined, that the amendment more plain than the authority of the President would make the resolution imperative on the to do inis. It was certain that erroneous deciscommittee, who could immediately introduce a ions had been made, and that millions of the pub. bill in conformity to it.

lic money might be throwo away if the proceedMr. Prekin, of Connecticut, said he had been ing was not corrected. originally opposed to the law in question, aod Mr. WRIGUT, of Maryland, referring to the had voted agaiost it. But in the propositioú now President's Message on this subject, and quoting before the House, an important principle was its contents, said, ihat be was in favor of a latiinvolved, whether it was in the power of the tude of construction of the law, and of remunerHouse to suspend a law, or request the Presi.ation for losses. If every individual in the Unideot to suspend it. Neither this House nor the red States were paid for losses duriog the war, it President has ihe power to suspend the opera. would be a perfeculy just principle, which would tions of a law passed by all the branches of the prevent one or two sections of ihe country from Goveroment. It requires the same power to sus exclusively having their property sacrificed on pend as to make a law. Mr. P. said he did not the altar of the public good. The President, he know that a joint resolution would not operate said, had a Constitutional right to see that the as an acı; but he denied that this House alone, laws were faithfully executed, and no doubt he the President alone, the Senate alone, or any two would exercise it when necessary in other cases, of them, had the power lo suspend the operation as he had already done in one. The establish: of a law. He was opposed, he repeated, to the meat of the office of Commissioner of Claims appointment of a Commissioner to decide these was intended to obviate the expense and vexa. claims, believing they ought to be managed by tion of examining every little case separately bethe Heads of Departments, who were a little fore this numerous tribunal. Os the correciness more responsible for their conduct than a Com- of the decisions which had been made, Mr. W. missioner. But, said Mr. P., shall we break said he was not prepared to decide, until he heard through the Constitution, and say we will suspend the evidence; but sure he was that the Presideat a law, because it would require time to go through had the right to suspend those decisions, which the forms which the Constitution requires ? He he had exercised with delicacy, and had spoken presumed not. If the Commissioner had acted of its exercise with deference to the opinions so improperly as to require the suspension of his of the Commissioner. Nuw, instead of entering functions, the President has power already to into a discussion of the true construction of the suspend or remove the officer.

law, it would certainly be proper to await the

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