Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[graphic]

just.*

their portion of toil and treasure, for the benefit of the succeeding age, in the gradual increase of the navy."

It appeared by the message of the President, on this occasion, that nearly a million and a half of dollars were required to pay the pensions, previously allowed by Congress, to the survivors of the soldiers of the Revolution : but, in his estimation, the appropriation was alike honorable and

The subjects mentioned by the President in his message, and recommended to the notice of Congress, engaged their early attention ; and were discussed in each branch of the legislature during the session ; but as it was closed the third of March, there was not sufficient time for maturing laws to carry into effect all the measures which he proposed. But few laws, of a very important or general character, were passed at this time, though others were urged with great ability and zeal by several members. There was, at this period, a very strong feeling in Congress, as to the theory and views of the executive; and with many a disposition to scrutinize, more closely than common, the recommendations of the President. Some supposed his objects were visionary or would be needless, and would draw after them great expenses : and he was also

* This very able state paper concluded as follows:—“ I trust that it will not be deemed inappropriate to the occasion and purposes on which you are assembled, to indulge a momentary retrospect, combining in a single glance, the period of our origin, as a national confederation with that of our present existence, at the precise interval of half a century from each other. Since your last meeting at this place, the fiftieth anniversary of the day when our Independence was declared, has been celebrated throughout the land: and on that day, when every heart was bounding with joy, and every voice was tuned to gratulation, amid the blessings of freedom and independence, wbich the sires of a former age had handed down to their children, two of the principal actors in that solemn scene, the hand which penned the ever-memorable declaration, and the voice that sustained it in debate, were, by one summons, at the distance of seven hundred miles from each other, called before the Judge of all, to account for the deeds done upon earth. The departed, were cheered by the benedictions of their country, to which they left the inheritance of their fame and the memory of their bright example. If we turn our thoughts to the condition of their country, in the contrast of the first and last day of that half century, how resplendent and sublime is the transition from gloom to glory! Then glancing through the same lapse of time, in the condition of the individuals, we see the first day marked with the fullness and vigor of youth, in the pledge of their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, to the cause of freedom and of mankind: and on the last, extended on the bed of death, with sense and sensibility left to breathe a last aspiration to Heaven of blessing upon their country: may we not humbly hope that to them, too, it was a pledge of transition from gloom to glory; and that, while their mortal vestments were sinking into the clods of the valley, their emancipated spirits were ascending to the bosom of their God.”

charged with entertaining such views of the Constitution, as that very extensive and internal improvements might justly be made, though there might be large expenditures in the execution. And the majority, at that period, were opposed to expenditures for such objects, except they were most plainly necessary for the public defence and safety.. The political friends and opponents of the administration, were thus very equally divided.

While the national legislature was in session, at this time, intelligence was received from the Envoy at the Court of London, that a Convention had been concluded, in November, between the United States and Great Britain. This Convention did not relate to commercial intercourse between the two countries ;* for it has been seen that the British ministry had declined entering into any negotia

* The following articles, proposed by the President, will show his views of a proper commercial Convention with Great Britain—“Whereas, by the trade as it now exists under the respective laws and regulations of the two nations, between certain ports of the British colonies in America and the West Indies, and the ports of the United States, discriminating duties and charges are reciprocally imposed and levied on the vessels and cargoes of each nation in the ports of the other; and as it is the desire of the parties, for the reciprocal advantage of their citizens and subjects, to abolish all such discriminating duties and charges; it is agreed, that upon the vessels of the United States, admitted by law into all and every one of his Britannic Majesty's colonial ports, and upon any goods, wares, or merchandize lawfully imported therein, in the said vessels, no other or higher duties of tonnage or impost, and no other charges of any kind shall be levied or exacted, than upon British vessels, including all vessels of the colonies themselves, or upon the like goods, wares, or merchandize imported into the said colonial ports from any other port or place whatever, including Great Britain and the colonial ports themselves: and that upon the vessels of Great Britain admitted by law into all and every one of the ports of the United States, and upon any goods, wares, and merchandize lawfully imported therein, in the said vessels, no other or higher duties on tonnage or ímpost, and no other charge of any kind shall be levied or exacted, than upon vessels of each and every one of the said States, or upon the like goods, wares, or merchandize imported into the United States from any other port or place whatever.”

“For the more perfect fulfilment of the intention of the high contracting parties, as expressed in the foregoing article, it is agreed, that the trade to which it has reference, shall continue on the footing on which it now stands by the laws and regulations of the two countries respectively; with the exception of the removal, by Great Britain, of the duties speciñed in an act of Parliament, June, 1922,-and of those specified in an act of Parliament, August, 1822,--and of the removal, by the United States, of all additional duties of tonnage, in the light of foreign tonnage duty, and of all additional duties of impost, in the light of foreign impost, existing against British vessels and merchandize coming to the United States from any of the said colonial ports. And the contracting parties pledge themselves to remove, reciprocally, the duties herein recapitulated, as well as all other discriminating duties and charges of whatever kind they may be, intended by this and the foregoing article, to remove; it being the desire and intention of the parties to place the aforesaid trade upon a footing of perfect equality in all respects.”

[ocr errors]

tions on the subject : but the object of the treaty was to provide for carrying into effect some parts of the treaty of Ghent, of 1815. The chief article was a stipulation to compensate for the capture and detention of slaves belonging to the southern States, during the war of 1812–1814.* This Convention was ratified by the President and Senate soon after it was received : and a law was promptly passed by Congress for giving effect to its provisions.

An appropriation of thirty thousand dollars was made for repairs on the Cumberland road: lands were reserved for seminaries of learning in Louisiana, in Florida, and in Arkansas; and a grant of public land was made to the asylum of the deaf and dumb, in Kentucky.-In several instances also, the President was authorized to cause surveys to be made for roads, and to lay them out, in the new territories—thus recognizing the propriety of expending the funds and property of the nation for internal improvements, and for the purposes of education : and affording proof that the majority in Congress at that time, were in favor of promoting some objects of a general nature, at the expense of the federal government.

A question on the President's authority to appoint diplomatic agents in the recess of the Senate, or rather as to the extent of his constitutional power in the allowances made to them, arose in Congress, at this time; and it was attempted to fasten a charge on the executive of having made a greater allowance in one instance than was proper or usual. The charge was, that the President had authorized an outfit, as well as an additional amount of salary to a son of Mr. King, who was left as Charge d'Affaires, at the British Court, on the return of the father, who had been Envoy Extraordinary to that government: but whose feeble health obliged him to retire from all public business. The propriety of having such a diplomatic agent at the British Court was very generally admitted; it was also admitted, that in the recess of the Senate, the President might justly make such appointment; and it was further considered, that the minister had properly designated his son, the Secretary of that legislation, to act in behalf of the United States after his retirement, so that their interest might not suffer. The principal charge then

* The treaty stipulated for the payment, by Great Britain, of the sum of $1,240,000 for compensation on account of the slaves carried away at that time.

[graphic]

preferred was, that the President had not only added to the stipend, but allowed a sum as an outfit equal to a year's salary, though the person thus employed was then in England.

The question was proposed by a member of the House from Tennessee, (Mr. Blair,) who was in the ranks of the opposition to Mr. Adams; and who with many others, had yielded to a prevailing opinion, that the President was extravagant in the expenses of government. Mr. Forsyth of Georgia, vindicated the conduct both of the President, and the minister, Mr. King, in appointing one as Charge d'Affaires near the British government; and in an additional compensation to that fixed by law for a Secretary of Legation. But, if the President had allowed an outfit in this case, he expressed the opinion that it was improper. The majority or a full moiety of Congress, at that period, were disposed to scrutinize the conduct of the executive, in all instances ; in the belief, or with the pretence, that the President did not strictly conform to the provisions of law, and was inclined to exercise too much discretion. The charge would lie, with far greater propriety, against the conduct of his successor, who often chose to assume responsibility, or to construe the constitution and the laws in accordance with his own views, and differently from the meaning given to them by former Presidents. And his political friends never failed to justify or excuse him; although they had, before his presidency, strenuously contended that the executive should have little discretion, and should do nothing but by authority of express law.

A bill was introduced in the Senate, by one of the members of that body, Mr. Dickerson, from New Jersey, for distributing a certain part of the public revenue among the several States. But the proposition was not received with much favor; and after a short discussion the bill was denied a second reading. The plan proposed was, instead of expending large sums of the public money for internal improvements by the federal government, as was then and the year before strongly urged, and in some cases voted, that a portion of the national revenue, particularly from sale of lands, should be distributed among the States for such purposes; leaving it with the individual States to apply it to the particular improvements which each respectively might prefer. The plan originated in a wish to maintain State power and rights, and to prevent great expenditures by the national government, which would nat

urally increase the influence and patronage of the government. It was contended also, that equal justice required such a measure.

Great efforts were made again at this session of Congress for the passage of a law establishing a uniform system of bankruptcy. Mr. Ilayne, of the Senate, from South Carolina, urged the adoption of a law for such a system with great ability and zeal; as Mr. Webster of Massachusetts, and others had before done in the House of Representatives; but the bill was opposed, on the pretence that it would operate particularly for the relief of merchants, and would be of no benefit to the other classes of citizens. The system could not have been injurious to the farmer or mechanic; and the objection that it was exclusively for the advantage of merchants, was therefore unreasonable. It was the suggestion of prejudice, or of narrow views; for it is the merchant and trader only who need such relief.

The subject of commercial intercourse with the colonies of Great Britain was also discussed at great length, during this session of the national legislature. It was one of peculiar interest and importance; for the trade with the British ports in the West Indies was so restricted by acts of Parliament, that it could be pursued with but little profit by the citizens of the United States. Each branch of the federal legislature had a bill prepared on the subject; and each was several times debated. They did not differ materially; but it was said in the House of Representatives, that the bill before the Senate did not fully protect the interests of the United States merchants trading to those ports; and no law was enacted as was proposed and expected. The difference might have been adjusted by a committee of conference of both Houses, as is usual in cases of disagreement; but this was not done in season, and the close of the session prevented it. And on the 17th of March, by virtue of a saw passed three years before, the President declared, by proclamation, that the trade with those ports was prohibited; as the discriminating duties of the British government had not been removed. The proclamation of the executive, on this subject, referred to an act of Congress of March, 1823, which permitted the trade between the United States and the British ports in the West Indies to be free and unembarrassed, so long as the latter should be open to American vessels, without additional duties, but, on an interdiction by the British government, of their colonial ports to vessels of the United States, authorizing the President to make such public proclamation; and an order of his Britannic

« ZurückWeiter »