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H. OF R.

Commissioner of Claims.


evidence. To arraign the law in this manner be- against that suspicion, was to be opposed the high fore the House, was, he said, a disrespect to the character of the Commissioner himself, the deauthority which enacied the law, and who did it claration of a gentleman on this ivor who had from a sincere devotion to the best interests of examined the evidence, and the President's Mes. the country, If the facts were as stated by the sage. If on those grounds the House would (if gentleman from Kentucky in regard to Carroll's they could) suspend this law. they might su pead building; if the military bad broken into the any and every law. This House might, it was building, as they will do in search of quarters, true, in a desperate case, send their Sergeant-atand thus subjected it to destruction, the decision Arms and bring ibis Commissioner in person of the Commissioner was certainly correct. Gud before them, to stay his proceedings; but, he forbid, he said, that he should wantonly hurt the contended, that the probability was, from the tesfeelings or character of any individual appointed limony before the House, that the Commissioner to so high and responsible an office; he hoped this was proceeding correctly, and ibat this was not a business would not be further proceeded in, unless case calling for the interference of the House. to explain the true meaning of Congress in the Mr. Ross was opposed to the amendment prolaw. It appeared strange to hiin, that after a posed by the gentleman from New Hampshire; large majoriiy had united in passing a liberal act, and agreed with him in the proposition he it should be proposed, the moment its fruits were had laid down ibat it was not in the power of felt, 10 suspend the law. The whole of this pro- the House to suspend a law for a day or an hour. ceeding went to implicate the officer. Mr. W. He was in favor of the original proposition of was for leaving this business with the Executive, Mr. FORBYTo, he said, not because he thought who he had no doubt would properly exercise his it in the power of the House of Representatives authority in the case whenever necessary. to suspend the execution of a law, but because

Mr. GROSVENOR, of New York, said that he he apprehended the President did possess the disagreed totally with his friend from Massachu- power of suspending the law, if he pleased, and sells, in the consiruction of the law. The gen-ihat the House of Representatives may Constituileman had admitted, that in ordinary cases the liona!ly request of the President to exercise his President cannoi suspend a law, but said thal this Constiiutional powers. To this proceeding there law differed from other laws, in requiring the co- could be no legal objection. Whether he will operation of the President in its execution. No pay deference to that request, when made, Mr. puwer was given 10 the President, Mr. G. said, R. said, was for the President to decide. The over this law more than to the Commissioner. real question is, does the President possess the The President was to prescribe certain rules, un- Constitutional power of suspending the operder which the Commissioner was to decide. The ation of this law? The genileman from Coo. President might suspend the execution of this necticut had acknowledged that the President law, indeed, because he might refuse to perform had the power of suspending this law, if not in his duties. That would not be a positive act of one way, in another; aad that be might remove suspension, but a neglect on the part of the Pres. the officer, which would be a suspension of the ideni. So night ihe Commissioner also act. law until a successor should be appoioted. There The President, Mr. G. contended, had no more could be po doubt, he concluded, that the Presiright to suspend the execution of this law than dent had the power of suspending it. Duubis the judge, the marshal, or the sheriff to suspend had arisen as to the execution of the law; the the law he is bound to execute. Mr. G. here President himself had suggested them to Conquoted the terms of the law, from which, he said, gress, and he might go further and say to the ii mapifestly appeared, that the duty of the Com- Commissioner, you shall delay further proceedmissioner was to judge; the rules prescribed by ings under the law unul Congress shall decide on the President were to apply to the maoner (not the question I have laid before them. What did to the acı) of judging. Mr. G. said, he should the resolution propose, further than to request vote in favor of the aniendment proposed by Mr. the President to do ibis? Mr. R. was decidedly WEBSTER;, but should then vote against the in favor of passing it without the proposed whole resulve. His reasons were, briefly, that amendment. the House was proceeding without proper infor- Mr. YANCEY restated the circumstance of the mation. A gentleman from North Carolina had appearance of the Commissioner of Claims betold the House that, from the result of his inqui- fore the Committee of Clains this morning, and ries, he was coovinced the law had been improp that an examination of some of his decisions had erly executed. The genueman from Kentucky convinced Mr. Y. that they were not in conforhad told the House exactly the contrary, ibe mity to the law. He would mention the circumCommissioner having to his knowledge rejected stances of one, to enable the House to judge. A claims which he ought to allow. The whole claim, rejected nearly unanimously by ihis House, proceeding at present was particularly wrung, bad, since the passage of this law, been paid for when the nature of the case was justly viewed. under the 5.1 section of the act. The case of There was, he said, no testimony or document Mr. O'Neale was this, said Mr. Y., as it appeared before ihe House, except as to the ninth section before the Comunillee of Claims at a former sesof the act. A statement had been made by a sion: He hired to an officer of the United States gentlemao that he suspected erroneous decisións a vessel in the Chesapeake; it was stipulated had been made under other sections of the act; lihat the vessel should be at the risk of the own.


Commissioner of Claims.

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ers; she was continued in service for several strum offered to him. No doubt much wrong had days, after which the officer of the United States been done, which it was not competent to this discharged the vessel out of the service of the House to remedy; and that wrong might be done, United States. The enemy came near where which it might become the duty, the prerogative the vessel lay, some time after that, and the com- of this House to remedy. The question now was, mander thought proper to sink her, to prevent however, whether it comported with the dignity her falling into the hands of the enemy. The of this House to go to the President, and request loss thus incurred had been paid for under the of bim the removal of any petty officer, for of 51h section of the bill, wbich provides that “where that description he considered this officer, being any property has been impressed, or taken by appointed pro hac vice, strictly ministerial, and supublic authority, for the use or subsistence of bordinate io the Executive of the United States. 'ihe Army, during the late war, and the same Mr. R. said he would never compromit himself shall have been destroyed, lost or consumed, che so far in his individual character, much less as a owner of such property shall be paid the value member of this House, as to ask of the Executhereof, deducting therefrom the amount which live the appointment or removal, to or from any has been paid, or may be claimed for the use and office, of any individual. But a much more im

risk of the same, while in the service aforesaid." portant principle was involved in this discussion : Mr. Y. asked gentlemen now, whether they were Shall the House of Representatives be instrusatisfied that there had been erroneous decisions mental in introducing into the American Conunder other sections of the bill than the 9th ? stitution a doctrine which has deluged the EagOther vessels, he said, had been paid for under lish nation with blood, which bas occasioned a the same section. He appealed to the honorable long, violent, and bloody war-a war which fioally gentleman from Kentucky, who was a member wrested from the Stuart family this prerogative? of the committee, if these decisions were vot Mr. R. said he acquitted gentlemen of any such equally as erroneous as the decision as to Mr. intention; he believed their intentions were pure, Carroll's house or Mr. Ringgold's rope walk ? Mr. but he saw at once the danger of this suspending Y. said he did not regret voting for this law at prerogative, for which the Commons of England the last session, he believed the provisions highly contended, he koew not how long, and at length beneficial, if properly construed. If the law had wrested_from their sovereigns, being attributed been misconsirued, it was not the fault of the to our Executive authority, differing so widely law, but of those who had administered it. Il in its construction from that of monarchial Gov. was not, he said, necessary to speak of the integ- ernment. Mr. R. could not consent to it. If, rity of the officer ; that had not been arraigoed. said he, the House were to request the President When it was, it would be time enough for gen- to suspend this act, perchance some future Presitlemen to defend it. It was of abuses of the law, dent will suspend our statutes without our reof erroneous decisions under it, that Mr. Y.spoke? quest, and for ihis reason, if he be competent to He conceived that this House had authority, suspend an act, a mere resolution of this House and that it was their bounden duty to call on the does neither enlarge oor diminish his powers. President to suspend further proceedings under Under this view of the case, if the decisions of the the act. If the provisions of the law required to Commissioner were to take the last dullar from be restricted, it would be reported accordingly to the Treasury, Mr. R. said, he would rather see the House; if they could not get rid of the Com- it drained than see it admitted that the President missioner in any other way, they might decide of the United States had the power to suspend upon the claims embraced by the law being settled laws in any case. at some other office.

Mr. GROSVENOR rose to ask of the gentleman Mr. RANDOLPH considered this as a more im- from North Carolina whether he obtained the portant question than it had appeared to have facts which he had stated from the Commissioner been viewed by any gentleman who had spoken himself? If they were as stated, the case must a much more important question than any of be one not only of incorrect but of corrupt decimere profit and loss to the United States, or of sion. If the gentleman had stated the real cir: malleasance in office by any officer of the United cumstances of the case, Mr. G. said he should States, however high or low. He submitted to deem it sufficient ground on which to institute the worthy gentleman from North Carolina, against this officer a proceeding of a criminal na. whether the whole scope of his observations did ture. not go to impugn the conduct of the officer, and Mr. HOPKINSON, of Pennsylvania, said that not touch the law? With the law, said Mr. R., nothing was more important to this House than I had nothing to do; but I do know, that in cases its character and dignity; nothing was more im. of comparatively small importance, in Govern- portant to the nation, and nothing would tend ments like ours, the most baneful precedents creep more to sustain this character than that it should in. He had no doubt, he said, from the represen- refrain from acts which it could not consummate. tation of the gentleman from North Carolina, Suppose the resolution to pass, the request to be that much wrong had been done; but it did not made of the President, and the President to order follow that he would accept the first remedy: the suspension ; suppose that the officer refused The patient was unquestionably sick; but it did to suspend the law; the officer, said Mr. H., in not follow that he should swallow the first pre doing so, stands authorized by the act of the Lescription of the first man he meets—the first nos. I gislature; he not only successfully, but with im.

14th Con. 2d Sess.-10

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Commissioner of Claims.


pupity resists the requests of this House and the depce enough before the House to show, that as direction of the President. The President bas the President had directed the suspension of a by the Constitution no such power as that of sus part of the act, be ought to have gone further, pending a law; and although the gentleman from and suspended the whole. Mr. F. said, he would Peonsylvania had laid down the position that he state in addition some cases of decision, recently had the power to suspend this law, he had not made by the Commissioner, with which he was proved it. Mr. H. held it most clear that the not perfectly acquainted, but sufficiently so to President has not the power, on the request of satisfy him of their demerit. He bad been at the this House, to suspend the execution of any law. Treasury this morning, and examined some of

Mr. HULBERT said he was satisfied that the the awards which had been made. In one case, grounds of the resolution were correct. It was said he, I find the Commissioner has awarded to not proposed to suspend the law, but the execution a man a sum of money for corn and potatoes of the provisions of the law, specially confided trampled uoder foot by the United States' troops; by the act to the Executive. He thought the and to another person the value of fifty-two rods House had the power to ask this of the Presi- of rail fence destroyed; these awards being in dent, and he hoped they would exercise it. favor of men by the name of Moore and Evans.

Mr. Calhoun, of South Carolina, said the de- From the abstracts of the decisions he bad seen, fect alleged appeared not to be in the law, but in | Mr. F. said, he was satisfied such decisions were the execution of the law. If so, it was in the erroneous. To prevent the decision of similar power of the Executive to dismiss the officer, cases, he wished the House to interfere. One without the interposition of this House. Mr. C. word as to the effect of a suspension of a particusaid he felt very little disposition to give his sup- lar class of cases that of lost horses from the port to any proposition which should assume the West. Without their aid, Mr. F. said, this act idea of the power of this

House to suspeod a law. would never have passed this House. HonoraIf the decisions of the Commissioner were such ble gentlemen, in the warmth of their feelings as had been represented, no amendment of the for that particular section of the United States, law could have any effect whatever, because the in gratitude for the services of its brave militia law did not even touch the case which had been and volunteers during the war, had included in stated. The evil appeared to be in the officer the act a variety of cases which ought never to himself. It is in the President's power to remove have been sanctioned by this House. The House that evil. In assuming power in this case, said had been told the evidence in support of these Mr. C., we should act out of the line of our duty. claims was here. Would the suspension of the If the President did not dismiss the officer, there act diminish the weight of that evidence? Would was another remedy by the exercise of a power it impair the force of it, to postpone the decision belonging to this House--that of impeachment and ihe payment of the money for a mooth or

Mr. YANCEY again briefly stated the case of six weeks ? Mr. F. put it to gentlemen whethe decision in favor of Mr. O'Neale. He had ther that consideration was sufficient to justify not, he added, seen the evidence before the Com- an opposition to the resolution now before the missioner, and did not know what it was-he House. But even under that section of the bill, took it to be the same, or the same in principle, he had received it the most correct authorias that which was formerly before the Commit- ty, the Commissioner was about to give, if he tee of Claims in the same case, and from which had not already given, a construction which do Mr. Y's impression had been derived. Such man in this House would justify; he was about was the case which had been favorably adjudged to extend the provisions of the act to officers of under the 5th section of the act.

Some such cases, it was bis Mr. Forsyth said, that much of the debate impression, had been decided before the proper had arisen from the introduction into the debate authority had an opportunity of interfering. He of a question not before the House. Various ob- hoped the House would reject the amendment, jections had been made--one of them of a novel and agree to the resolution. character, that it would be updignified in this Mr. RANDOLPA put it to the gentleman last up, House to request the President to suspend the whether his whole argument did not go to the execution of the law. Mr. F. said, he presumed officer, and not to the law; for, at the end of the it was always consistent with the dignity of the suspension of the law for six weeks, we should House to perform the duties which the Constitu- have that or some other officer to execute the tion and their constituents had assigned to them. same law. Mr. R. wished to be understood not The first great duty of this House was to take to mean to inculpate that officer; he knew nothcare of the public money, and guard it from ing of bis decisions; but he wanted to know wasteful disbursement. Mr. F. said, gentlemen whether, in these six weeks spoken of, the officer seemed to imagine, that this resolution was in question would become more competent to founded on the presumption that the power ex- the discharge of his duties than he is now. The ercised by the President, under this particular whole argument of the gentleman wept to the act, had been properly exercised. Mr. F. said, question of requesting the President to suspend he would have left this subject wholly to the or remove the officer. As to the propriety of discretion of the President, if he had been satisfied addressing the President to request him to rethat that discretion would be properly exercised. move any particular officer, Mr. R. said, he would But he believed it would not. There was evi- I not enter into that question now. As to the deDECEMBER, 1816.

the regular army.

Commissioner of Claims.

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cisions of the officer, Mr. R. submitted whether, decisions; would it not be the bounden duty of the conduct of the officer being under examina: this House to inform the President, that he might tion before a special committee, a sense of justice suspend wholly the execution of that law which to the party in question did not require gentle he had partially suspended? Was it not their men to suspend their opinions in regard to the bounden duty to guard the Treasury against this execution of the law, till they had a report from individual ? Gentlemen appeared 'not to recol. their committee. He asked geotlemen, suppose lect the peculiar nature of this act; every judgthey could briog into court a case of extreme ment the Commissioner made, however erronefatuity in the execution of his duties by a judge neous, or however corrupt, was instantly paid at of the United States--would they request the the Treasury of the United States, and the money President to suspend the law under which he beyond the control of this House. If there had was appointed ? The more the gentleman from been a controlling power; if there had been an Georgia insisted on the misconduct of the officer, appellate jurisdiction by which the acts of this the more be convinced Mr. R. that he was wrong Commissioner were to be revised and examined, in the course he had taken. I canoot conseni, he should never, he said, have thought of introsaid Mr. R., that whenever gentlemen come on ducing the resolution. But it was directly the this floor, and bring cases, however flagrant, of contrary. He trusted the House was satisfied misconduct of public officers, that a suspension of that something should be done. He declared, he the law under which they are appointed is to be said, that he was a little surprised at the extrathe remedy. But one gentleman says, it is pro- ordinary indisposition to exercise a power of this posed to suspend not the law, but the execution sort. We have no objection, said he, to take up of the law. Mr. R. said, he would leave it to the this subject, provided somebody stands between ingenuity of the geotleman from Massachusetts us and responsibility ; but we wait for the Presito explain the difference between two things, dent's direction before we will move in the case. which were to his mind precisely of the same I wish to do more, said Mr. F.,-I wish to give import.

information to the President ihat it is in the Mr. HOLBERT said a few words in explanation. opinion of this House that he has not done suffiHis idea was, that to suspend certain proceed- cient. The rules prescribed for the Commissioner ings under a law, was by no means to suspend the were found insufficient; they were evaded the law itself.

whole operation of the law has been more than Mr. HARRISON, of Ohio, said he wished the once suspended to prevent further violation, and gentleman from Georgia to point out what part the evidence in the cases has changed its shape to of the Constitution or laws of the United States suit the new regulations. Mr. F. hoped the redeprived a regular military officer of the same solve would be passed. right which appertained to all other persons in Mr. Johnson, of Kentucky, claimed the attenthe United States. If the law in question actu- tion of the House for one moment, on a matter of ally did not embrace the cases of regular officers fact. The Chairman of the Committee of Claims, who had lost property in the same way as militia (Mr. Yancey,) in explanation to the House of officers, he could only say, in his opinion, its pro his view of the question, did not pretend to state, visions were extremely partial and unjust. If that he had himself examined one individual case the provisions of the act were general as to all of the Commissioner's decisions. The honorable officers of the United States, why were not the gentleman who introduced this resolution had officers of the regular army as much entitled to said, in his appeal to the House, that of his own its benefits as other citizens? He should like to knowledge he could not condemn the decisions; know.

that no case had been examined by him, which Mr. FORSYTH said he had referred only to attached blame to the Commissioner, either of the case of regular officers, because there was error or corruption. The facts then were para special provision, by other acts, for their case; rowed to this; that no gentleman in favor of the whilst there was none such, except in the act of resolution had any personal knowledge of them. last session, for militia officers. With respect to I will only state one more fact, said Mr. J., and the question of the gentleman from Virginia, said sit down. On my first arrival here, it was stated Mr. F., I will answer it. I would not propose to to me that the House in our view caught fire from remove a judicial officer, because the President the Capitol: I heard it often-I took the trouble has not the power; but if an officer over whom to examine the evidence in this and another case, he has power, were to act with evident incorrect the only two I ever heard complained of before ness, I would ask the President to remove that this day-and other gentlemen might, if they officer. I do not presume to say that the decisions chose, have done the same, particularly members of the Commissioner are erroneous or corrupt: 1 who introduce into this House solemn resolutions only state what I believe them to be. It may be for suspending laws. I did look over the papers, that after the production of evidence and its ex. and the fact was established by the testimony of amination, it may appear that the judgments of the the actiog Secretary of War, and by other inconCommissioner are correct. My impression is to testable evidence, that the building had been octhe contrary; that the more they are examined, cupied by a military force, and that the rockets the more erroneous they will appear. Suppose of the enemy were, therefore, applied to it. For it should be found, Mr. É. said, that the Commis- the honor of the House, for the reputation of the sioner had been and yet was making erroneous man, Mr. J. asked, would they, without examina

H. of R.

Internal Improvements


tion, press forward resolutions deciding questions. House-that of laying the subject on the tableof the merits of which they were wholly ignorant? The debate ceased.

Mr. FORSYTA said, the gentleman misunder- The question on laying the resolve on the table stood bim if he supposed he had offered and pressed was decided in the affirmative as follows: For this resolution without just grounds. He had, he laying it on the table 68, against it 64. said, to be sure, no personal knowledge of facts, but his resolution was bottomed on information received from the Heads of Department and in

Monday, December 16. formation received in this way was much more

Mr. YANCEY, from the Committee of Claims, entitled to credit than information received from to whom was referred the report of the Secretary the Commissioner bimself. The case of Mr. O'. of State on the memorial of William Hasleti, Neale was received from the chairman of one of made a report thereon, which was read: When the committees, who received it from the Head of Mr. Yancey, reported a bill for the relief of Wilthe Navy Department--that case had been deci- liam Haslett, which was read twice and commitded, and paid, without application to the Navy ted to a Committee of the Whole. Office for evidence. He had no personal knowl.

Mr. REYNOLDS, from the committee to whom edge of facts, indeed, but he had enough to author- was referred the letter, from the acting Secretary ize him and the House to proceed as proposed.

of War, transmitting the report of the commisMr. HARDIN now rose to make the motion he sioners appointed to survey and mark a road, from had before contemplated, to lay this resolve on

Tennessee, through the Chickasaw nation, rethe table. He was pretty well satisfied with ported a bill, making an appropriation for openwhat had been said, and he presumed the House ing, and cutting out a road iherein described, was satisfied, he said, of the incompetency of the which was read twice, and committed to a Comofficer, whom it was probable the President would mittee of the Whole. see fit to remove.

The bill for the relief of Luther Bingham, Mr. Grosvenor said, he hoped he understood passed through the Committee of the whole, and

was ordered nem. con. to be engrossed for a third the gentleman from Georgia correctly ; that the

reading. resolution was founded on the suggestion of the Heads of Departments. If so, it appeared strange nage duty, reported the other day, by the Com

The bill respecting a modification of the tonindeed, he said, that the President should intro- mittee of Ways and Means, passed through the duce this subject to the notice of Congress in one Committee of the Whole, without debate, and way, and his counsellors, indirectly, in another was ordered, nem. con. to be engrossed for a ihird way.

reading. Mr. Forsyth explained. He hoped the gentleman would not misunderstand him purposely. struct the Committee of Ways and Means to in

Mr. Smity, of Maryland, made a motion to inHe did not say that he had introduced the motion quire into the expediency of repealing the act at the suggestion of any Head of a Department. laying a duty on notes of banks, bankers, and cerIt was on information from them; the suggestion tain companies, &c. Mr. S. briefly expressed was his own.

bis reasons to be, the injustice of the operation of Mr. GROSVENOR thanked the gentleman for his this duty to enterprising men of business, from information. The President had come forward which capitalists aod those best able to bear it and given the House his views of this subject. were wholly exempt. The motion was agreed to. His Constitutional advisers, instead of giving bim

INTERNAL IMPROVEMENT. information, come in this way and lay information before the House! [Mr. FORSYTH said, that

Mr. Calhoun, of South Carolina, referring to the information he had received, was sought by

a proposition of the same sort made at the last bim.] The gentleman, Mr. G. said, had come session, but then opposed by him as being useaforward to the House with rumors of misconduct sonably introduced, said that, since that time, the in a public officer; which rumors, it appeared, back law had passed, the subscription bad been originated with Executive officers with the filled under auspicious circumstances, and the very authority to which it was now proposed to baok was about to go into operation. -Now he go for the purpose of correcting the alleged evil. said, was a proper moment for the House to conThis information comes from the advisers of the sider whether the course of internal improvement President of the United States, and yet it is impos

was a proper direction for the United States to sible to presume they had laid it before the Pres- give to their share of the profits of that instituident, or he would not have confined his comumuni- tion. He therefore moved, cations to the House to those which he had made. “ That a committee be appointed to inquire into the It was therefore proposed to this

House to jog the expediency of setting apart the bonus, and the net anPresident, because the Heads of Departments had pual proceeds of the National Bank, as a permanent not chosen to do it. As it appeared that the fund for internal impruvement.” President, his counsellors at least, had already Mr. C. said, it was not his object at this period full information on this subject, it was surely un

to discuss the importance of national improvenecessary for the House to pass this resolve. ment. It was sufficient to say, that it was of such

The SPEAKER having requested gentlemen to importance as to have been annually recommended confine their remarks to the question before the to ibe attention of Congress by the Executive.

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