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future ages, depending upon his vote, recorded with theirs, merely because the absurd benignity of general maxims may have remitted to him the forfeiture of his life &
“From the volume of printed evidence communicated by the President of the United States to Congress, relating to the trial of Aaron Burr, it appears that a great part of the testimony which was essential to his conviction upon the indictment for treason, was withheld from the jury upon an opinion of the Court, that Aaron Burr, not having been present at the overt act of treason alleged in the indictment, no testimony relative to his conduct or declarations elsewhere, and subsequent to the transactions on Blennerhassett's Island could be admitted. And in consequence of this suppression of evidence, the traverse jury found a verdict, ‘That Aaron Burr was not proved to be guilty, under that indictment, by any evidence submitted to them.’ It was also an opinion of the Court, that none of the transactions, of which evidence was given on the trial of Aaron Burr, did amount to an overt act of levying war, and, of course, that they did not amount to treason. These decisions, forming the basis of the issue upon the trials of Burr, anticipated the event which must have awaited the trials of the bills against Mr. Smith, who, from the circumstances of his case, must have been entitled to the benefit of their application; they were the sole inducements upon which the counsel for the United States abandoned the prosecution against him.
“Your committee are not disposed now to question the correctness of these decisions on a case of treason before a court of criminal jurisdiction. But whether the transactions proved against Aaron Burr did or did not amount, in technical language, to an overt act of levying war, your committee have not a scruple of doubt on their minds, that, but for the vigilance and energy of the Government, and of faithful citizens under its directions, in arresting their progress and in crushing his designs, they would, in a very short lapse of time, have terminated not only in a war, but in a war of the most horrible description, in a war at once foreign and domestic. As little hesitation have your committee in saying, that if the daylight of evidence, combining one vast complicated intention, with overt acts innumerable, be not excluded from the mind by the curtain of artificial rules, the simplest understanding cannot but see what the subtlest understanding cannot disguise, crimes before which ordinary treason whitens into virtue—crimes of which war is the mildest feature. The debauchment of our army, the plunder and devastation of our own and foreign territories, the dissolution of our national Union, and the root of interminable civil war, were but the means of individual aggrandizement, the steps to projected usurpation. If the ingenuity of a demon were tasked to weave, into one composition, all the great moral and political evils which could be inflicted upon the people of these States, it could produce nothing more than a texture of war, dismemberment, and despotism.”
The report concluded with a resolution that Smith be expelled for his “participation in the conspiracy of Aaron Burr against the peace, union, and liberty' of the people of the United States.”
Hillhouse moved that Smith be heard by counsel not ex
1 These words are italicized in the report.
ceeding two. Adams opposed this, and Hillhouse and Bayard replied. The latter, among other things, said:
n “I do not consider the question to be, whether there was a conspiracy of which Burr was the author? That such a conspiracy did exist, I firmly believe ; and I further believe that scarcely a man in the United States doubts it. Nor is it the question, whether the course pursued against Burr has been as discreet as it might have been, or whether certain alleged subtleties ought to have been discarded by the courts of law. The only question is, whether John Smith did participate in this conspiracy 2 If he did, even in the smallest criminal degree, I shall have no hesitation in giving my vote for his expulsion.”
Smith was finally heard by counsel, and testimony, oral and written, was submitted. The final question was not reached until April 9th, when the vote stood for expulsion nineteen, against it ten. Two-thirds not voting in the affirmative, the resolution failed. Smith held his seat during the session, and then resigned. If other Federal senators did not as frankly as Adams and Bayard announce their convictions of Burr's guilt, we think no one avowed an opposite conclusion—or pronounced the President a tyrant for crushing the conspiracy—or intimated that he had consciously sought the conviction of an innocent man. As already remarked, the national feeling had been too seriously and audibly expressed to invite any repetition of the former ambitious demonstrations of sympathy for the accused. The vote on Smith's expulsion does not appear to have been strictly a party division—though most of the Republicans voted for, and most of the Federalists against it. There were those in each party who believed Smith had been wheedled into Burr's enterprise without understanding its character. Among these was Giles, of Virginia, one of the most decided administration members; and he both spoke and voted against the resolution. His vote, given the other way, would have changed the result. Further manifestations of deep feeling in Congress in regard to the manner in which Burr's case had been disposed of, were not wanting. Giles introduced a bill in the Senate, February 11th, for the punishment of treason and other offences, in which several new and stringent clauses were introduced, and the aiding or assisting in doing certain traitorous acts by any one, “though not personally present when any such act was done or committed,” was made treason, punishable with death. After some amendments, this passed the Senate by a vote of eighteen to ten. Randolph reported a milder bill in the other house, but it provided that any “persons combining, confederating, or conspiring,” to do traitorous acts, should “be deemed guilty of a conspiracy to commit treason,” punished by fine and imprisonment, and required to give sureties for good behavior at the discretion of the court. No final action appears to have been had on the bill. Congress were so much occupied with the menacing state of our relations with England, that all other topics were comparatively neglected.' Violations of the Embargo Act, by enrolled coasting vessels carrying cargoes to the West Indies, called for a supplementary enactment during the session. Even this did not meet the fraudulent ingenuity brought into exercise to elude its provisions, and still another law became necessary. The debates on the supplementary acts were conducted with unparalleled asperity. Barent Gardenier, one of the Federal members from New York, in discussing the subject (February 10th), declared that the original embargo law had a different object from what it professed—that “it was a sly, cunning measure,” and he asked:
“Are the nation prepared for this? If you wish to try whether they are, tell them at once what is your object—tell them what you mean—tell them you mean to take part with the Grand Pacificator; or else stop your present course. Do not go on forging chains to fasten us to the car of the Imperial Conqueror.”
The common accusation of the Federalists at this period, was that the Embargo was designed to favor France in her war with England—that this was the main object of the Government in proposing that measure. On Gardenier's uttering the above
- 1 Much stronger public manifestations of feeling in regard to Burr's trial, took place out of Congress, and in a few instances they assumed official forms. The Legislature of Pennsylvania, for example, passed resolutions requesting the members of Congress from that State to use their endeavors to have an amendment of the Constitution submitted to the State legislatures, making Judges of the Supreme Court removable by the President on a joint address of both houses of Congress. These resolutions were presented by Maclay in the Senate, and by Whitehill in the House of Representatives. Towards the close of December, Randolph moved that the President be requested to institute an inquiry into General Wilkinson's conduct, on the charge that he had received. money, in 1796, from the Baron Carondelet, for acting as an agent of the Spanish Govern ment. The resolution finally passed. The President had already, at Wilkinson's request, ordered a Court of Inquiry. Randolph's invective, as usual, had not been restrained within any limits of moderation. Wilkinson sent him a challenge. In his answer, Randolph took the good ground that he was not to be called to an account for words spoken, in debate, and the very poor one that he could not descend to the level of a disgraced man. Wilkinson posted him as a coward, and there, we believe, the matter dropped.
remarks, he was called to order by Smilie, Campbell, Montgomery, and several others. The speaker “hoped the gentlemen would keep within the rules of propriety.” Mr. Gardenier “hoped the speaker would keep order in the House.” As soon as the confusion ceased, he continued :
“If the gentlemen have composed themselves, and are in a condition to hear, I will proceed. I wish first, however, to put them at ease on one point. They are not of sufficient importance to have been the objects at whom I would level anything. I assure the gentlemen I did not mean them.”
In the course of his remarks, he said:
“Yes, sir. I do fear that there is an unseen hand which is guiding us to the most dreadful destinies—unseen, because it cannot endure the light. Darkness and mystery overshadow this House and the whole nation. We know nothing—we are permitted to know nothing. We sit here as mere automata; we legislate without knowing, nay, sir, without wishing to know, why or wherefore. We are told what we are to do, and the Council of Five Hundred do it. We move, but why or wherefore no man knows; we are put in motion, but how, I for one cannot tell.”
Proceeding in this strain, and remarking, “this course will do in this country no longer,” the speaker called him to order, Mr. Alston “wished the gentleman might be permitted to proceed.” Mr. Gardenier said, “I do not desire permission of that gentleman ; I shall permit myself to proceed,” etc.
The next day, Richard M. Johnson, of Kentucky, very severely criticised Gardenier's remarks, and he declared if they were applied to him, that he should consider them “a base, unprincipled calumny.” He said if he was called “a tool to others, he pronounced it a slander,” and he intimated that he held himself responsible out of the House for his language. G. W. Campbell, of Tennessee, was one of the individuals so discourteously alluded to by Gardenier as beneath his notice. He was one of the most prominent members, a man of grave and pacific demeanor, and, says one of his colleagues, of a “rather Quaker look.” Replying to Gardenier on the 22d, he said that when “charges of the most serious nature were made on that floor against a majority of the House—charges that they were acting under and governed by French influence (for this was in substance the allegation)—charges which he believed to be unfounded with respect to every member of the House, of the
* Three gentlemen were still standing.
majority, and which, so far as regarded himself, he knew to be, and now so declared them, infamous, groundless falsehoods—it might be proper,” etc. Gardenier challenged Campbell. The parties met at Bladensburg, and the challenger fell apparently mortally wounded, the ball entering just back of the armpit, and coming out near the back-bone.' He recovered, however, in about six weeks, and, as if to prove the futility of this kind of arbitrament, returned to his duties neither a sadder, wiser, nor, after a short interval, a more courteous man. This is not a greatly exaggerated sample of the debates on , the Embargo, and of the habitual charges of a considerable number of Federal members of Congress, and of the Federal newspapers, in regard to the objects of that measure. A bill to raise seven regiments of regulars passed by a vote of ninety-eight to sixteen. Some of the other military measures adopted during the session were as follows: The sum of $852,500 was appropriated to enable the President to construct or purchase one hundred and eighty-eight gunboats. The sum of $1,000,000 was placed at his disposal for fortifications for the defence of our ports and harbors. The sum of $300,000 was appropriated to purchase arms, and $150,000 to purchase saltpetre. The President was authorized to call upon the State Executives to organize, equip, and “hold in readiness to march at a moment's warning,” one hundred thousand militia, and to call them into actual service at his discretion. The annual sum of $200,000 was appropriated for providing arms and military equipments for the whole body of the militia of the United States, to be distributed by the States, and the President was authorized to construct arsenals and manufactories of arms at his discretion. The sum of $986,363 was appropriated to defray the first year's expense of the seven regiments of regulars which the President was authorized to enroll. We will not close our account of the proceedings of this session without recording that the intelligence of the death of the celebrated John Dickinson was received by it with the same manifestations of official respect that had been paid to the memories of Samuel Adams and Edmund Pendleton. Jacob Crowninshield, the distinguished member of the House of Repre
* Some particulars of this duel are given in an unpublished letter of Vice-President Clinton, lying before us.