صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

FEB. 27, 1834.]

Washington Potomac Bridge.

[H. of R.

ing which had taken place in this District, would not its And, without derogating from the intelligence or perspiproper reference be to the Committee on the Judiciary? cacity of the Committee on Roads and Canals, it was cerAnd when the question, as at present, had reference to tainly possible that another committee, who had had the one link in the great chain of communication from north subject for years under their care, might chance to throw to south, why should that not go to the Committee on some ray of light upon it which had escaped the view of Roads and Canals? Were it in order to go into the merits that committee. Mr. F. here referred to the seventyof the bill at this time, it could be easily shown that the third rule of the House, and said, from that it appeared measure contained in the bill was a fit and proper one. that the jurisdiction of the other committee extended simMr. CHAMBERS observed that it was manifest, from ply to roads and canals. It was true a bridge might form the report and documents accompanying this bill, that the a part of a road; but to build a bridge and to make a road case was one which called for immediate action. The were distinct things. The subject might come within the House was now in possession of all the necessary informa- spirit of the rule, but certainly not within the letter. tion; and why should further delay be incurred by send- But it was within both the spirit and the letter of the rule ing the bill to the District Committee? For what were defining the duties of the District Committee. Without the standing committees of the House instituted? Was giving any opinion on the merits of the bill, he asked, as it not to collect and arrange facts, and to investigate those an act of justice, that it should be sent to the District details which were inconvenient to the House in its col- Committee for revision; nor would this involve any greater lective capacity? And, after one of the committees of delay than a reference of the subject to the Committee the House had done this, and submitted the result of of the Whole.

their labor, was the question then to be started, whether Mr. FOOT said, if the question now pending was, as another committee would not have been a more appro- he understood it to be, a motion to commit a bill reported priate reference? If the subject were now to be originally by one of the standing committees of the House, either referred, the case would be different. But the Commit- to a Committee of the Whole House, or to another standtee on Roads and Canals had had the subject, examined ing committee, he was surprised at the course of the deit, reported upon it, and brought in a bill. And why bate. The merits of the bill could not be discussed on any further delay in a matter confessed to be urgent? It this motion of reference. The object of rules of proceedhad been but last week that a question, involving the con- ing in deliberative bodies was always supposed to be to struction of the laws of Congress, had been sent to the expedite business, not to retard it. The only object in reCommittee of Ways and Means, and, though some might ferring subjects to committees was, to prepare the business, think this reference not the most appropriate in the and lay it before the House for its action. The Commitworld, yet the House had got a report, and nobody thought tee on Roads and Canals have made a report, accompanied of recommitting the subject. In the present case, the by a bill. The usual course, and, indeed, the necessary House had originally appropriated $200,000 to construct course, was to refer the bill to a Committee of the Whole, a bridge; on the strength of which, one of the depart- as it involved an appropriation of money; but the Comments had entered upon a contract which might incur a mittee of the District of Columbia insists on having this bill debt of two, three, or four millions of dollars. Ought referred to them, because they claim it as belonging more not such a negotiation to be arrested before it was con- appropriately to that committee, and they refer to the summated? The Secretary of the Treasury appeared to rules to show that it originally belonged to them. Supbe under the apprehension, that, in consequence of an pose it be so; is it worth a contest? A bill is prepared; appropriation of $200,000, he had the power to bind a detailed report accompanies it; it is ready for the action Congress to pay ten times-twenty times that sum. It of the House; and of what importance is it from what was time for the House to interfere. The contract spoke committee it comes? The only object of pointing out the of $1,350,000, but the opinion of experienced engineers-duties of the several committees in the rules, is, to indicate [Here the CHAIR reminded the gentleman that it was not at once the proper reference of memorials or other subin order to go into the merits of the subject.] Mr. C. jects, to prevent any confusion. He hoped, without fursaid that he should not do so; he only wished to urge ther debate, the bill would be referred to the Committee these facts as arguments for immediate action. of the Whole. If the Committee on the District, or any member of the House, did not approve of the bill as reported, it would be in their power to move any amendment they pleased to the bill; and the Committee on the District might then propose any other bill as a substitute for this. He wished the question might be taken, and the bill referred to the Committee of the Whole, without consuming any further time in this unprofitable discussion.

Mr. FILLMORE, of New York, adverted to the past reference of this subject to the Committee on the District, and inferred either that the reference had been improper, or that the late jurisdiction of the subject to the Committee on Roads and Canals was so. He quoted the sixty-second rule of the House (which relates to the dues of the District Committee) to show that this subject was appropriate to them. It had, indeed, been argued Mr. STODDERT, of Maryland, was in favor of referthat the locality of a subject did not determine its nature, ring the bill to the District Committee. That commitand the gentleman had instanced the Post Office as an il- tee had memorials before them, a due consideration of lustration. But there was no analogy; for, though the which demanded an extensive survey of the interests of General Post Office was located in the District, its opera- the District, and called for a regular systematic appropri tions extended throughout the Union. But it was not so ation, proportioned to their relative importance. But, with this bridge. It was, indeed, very true that a travel in addressing themselves to the duties before them, the ler who passed over it might have come from the North, committee had found the unsettled question, in reference and gone to the South, and, in that sense, might find the to this bridge, an obstacle in their way. Until that was bridge a link in the chain of his communication; but the settled, no systematic action could be adopted. It had same thing might be said, with equal truth, of Pennsyl- been the intention of the committee to make the same call vania Avenue; yet the improvement of the avenue had on the President which had been made by the chairman been referred to the Committee on the District. There of the Committee on Roads and Canals; and, when that seemed to be some unreasonable apprehension on the call had been made, the committee had waited for the part of the Committee on Roads and Canals, as if they reply, expecting, as a matter of course, that it would be thought that the other committee were likely to be more referred to them. But it was evident, from the face of. profuse of the public money than themselves. Such an ap- the bill now reported, (especially from the second section prehension was wholly unfounded. Why should gentle of the bill,) that the gentleman had directly invaded the men be apprehensive of not getting the fullest information? jurisdiction of the District Committee. That section ap

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Washington Potomac Bridge.

[FEB. 27,


propriated money for the bridge. Now, the District Com- his consent to the appropriation of one million three hunmittee had before them a memorial praying for pecuniary dred and fifty thousand dollars.

relief on the part of the District. The committee might Mr. WARDWELL thought it would be better to inhave thought it proper to report against the construction quire how this subject had come before the Committee of any bridge at this time, but they were now precluded on Roads and Canals. A resolution had been offered, he from doing so. If $1,350,000 was to be spent on this bridge, believed, by the chairman, calling on the President to lay the District Committee ought to have had at least the lo- before Congress information in relation to contracts for cation of it. They had before them a memorial from the building this bridge. The President had responded to city of Alexandria, praying for aid in the construction of the call, and had reported the different propositions their aqueduct. Now, it was possible that twenty or thirty which had been inade. The bid of one million three thousand dollars might be saved by combining the aque-hundred and fifty thousand dollars had been the lowest duct and the bridge; but this was prevented, and the com- of these. When that communication had come into the mittee were arrested in their plan of reporting bills for House, the same gentleman had moved its reference to the benefit of the District. Mr. S. was opposed to this his committee. Gentlemen all knew how these referpiecemeal legislation. This bridge formed one branch of ences were usually made; very much as matters of course, the general system of subjects referred to their action, and attracted little notice. He presumed the chairman and the present interference went to break in upon the of the District Committee had not then been in his place, chain which connected them. He was prepared to say, or had not noticed the occurrence. on behalf of the District Committee, that the subject would suffer no delay in their hands.

Mr. CHINN here explained. He had been fully aware of the reference, but had expressly understood Mr. WILLIAMS, of North Carolina, said he had never from his colleague [Mr. MERCER] that he only wanted known a motion thus to refer a bill, reported by one the communication to get at the sum mentioned in it. committee, to another of co-ordinate jurisdiction. The Mr. MERCER made some reply, which was inaudible committee had acted, considered, reported, and brought to the reporter.

in a bill. Was any objection made to the report? Was Mr. WARDWELL resumed: The committee had, any fault found with the policy of the measure? He had however, taken upon themselves to report a bill. He heard none. If any such objections existed, let them be thought the President's communication ought to have brought forward, and openly discussed in the Committee gone to the District Committee; but as it had not gone of the Whole. He could consider it as none other than there, and as the other committee had reported a bill disrespectful to the Committee on Roads and Canals to which they were not called upon to report, he thought make such a proposition. He charged no such design on the whole subject should still go there. Within the Dis the gentleman, [Mr. CHINN,] but such was undoubtedly trict, Congress had exclusive control; and improvements the effect. The subject was manifestly appropriate to within those limits ought to go to that committee pecuthe Committee on Roads and Canals. If it were proposed liarly charged with the interests and welfare of the peoto make a bridge in Arkansas, or in Michigan, would any ple of the District, and before which they were in the gentleman propose to refer the subject to the Committee habit of appearing, presenting their grievances, and sta on the District of Columbia? Surely not. He was una- ting their wants.

ble to see why building a bridge in the District of Colum- Mr. STEWART said, it was not very material to him bia more belonged to this committee than to the other. to which committee the subject went; but, inasmuch as It was building a bridge in both cases, and the reference one committee had already reported, he thought it would would be as proper in one case as in the other. be best to refer the bill to a Committee of the Whole.

Mr. McKENNAN disclaimed any intentional disrespect Then the members of the District Committee could state to the Committee on Roads and Canals, and particularly all their objections, and could propose any amendments to the chairman of that committee. He was induced to they might think desirable. But he had risen principalmake this disclaimer, because he had learned that some ly for the purpose of stating a fact. The House were remarks which had fallen from him when this subject already informed that the President had issued propo was up on a former occasion had been understood as sals for the bridge, and that offers had consequently evincing some such feeling. It had not been his inten- been made. One proposition had been adopted, but had tion to charge that committee with occasioning any wilful subsequently been given up. Then another proposal delay on this subject. [Mr. McK. here quoted the rules, had been made by a Mr. Dibble, and accepted. and argued the question of jurisdiction.] In reply to the This gentleman had called on the Secretary to get the gentleman from North Carolina, [Mr. RENCHER,] who had instrument executed. The Secretary had told him that urged, by way of illustration, that subjects of a judicial he could not sign the contract then, but that Mr. D. nature within the District went not to the District Commit-might go on and make preparations and provide materia tee, but to the Committee on the Judiciary, he would The contractor had accordingly done so, and had the take the liberty of reminding that gentleman, that, in a last evening informed Mr. S. that he had disbursed one very marked case, the practice had been otherwise. The hundred and twenty thousand dollars in the purchase of subject of a code of laws for the District had again and materials, and was still going on. It was, therefore, very again been referred to the District Committee. important that the House should decide without delay, In reply to another gentleman from North Carolina, and either sustain the contract or rescind it. A reference [Mr. WILLIAMS,] he must refer to the seventieth rule of to the District Committee must produce delay. The man, the House; from which it would appear that the Commit- in the mean while, would go on to spend more and more tee on the Territories were excluded from the jurisdic-money, and then the House would be called upon to intion of such subjects as constructing bridges and making demnify him.

roads. This whole subject had originated in the Com- Mr. McDUFFIE said that, if this were a mere point mittee on the District. To them had gone the subject of of jurisdiction, or a point of honor, between two of the Macadamizing the Avenue, and cleaning out the channel committees of the House, he should deem it very immaof the Potomac, without any counter claim from the Com-terial which way it was decided. But it had occurred to mittee on Roads and Canals. The same observation him, from the commencement of this debate, when he obwould apply to the road from Georgetown to the chain served the zeal with which the contest was carried on, bridge. As to the sum proposed to be appropriated, he that there must be more in it than met the eye; and he might not, perhaps, differ very much from those who re- now discovered, to his infinite alarm, that the President ported the bill; certain it was that he should never give of the United States, on the faith of an appropriation by

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that House of two hundred thousand dollars, had gone on and pledged the faith of this nation for one million three hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Now, if the design of gentlemen was to ratify this sporting with the public faith, that House was called upon, by every sacred consideration, to protest against any such purpose; and not to lend it even the momentary sanction that might seem to be implied, in referring the present bill to the Committee on the District.

[H. of R.

The CHAIR here interposed, and pronounced Mr. MERCER not to be in order. This was going into the merits of the subject.

Mr. MERCER contended that it was strictly in order to state these facts, in hopes to make the House sensible of the necessity of prompt action; and this was a fair argument for referring the bill to a Committee of the Whole, without first sending it, as proposed, to the Committee on the District of Columbia.

Mr. WAYNE said that if the facts were as the gen- The CHAIR said in that view it was admissible. fleman from South Carolina supposed them to be, the Mr. MERCER resumed. His colleague [Mr. CHINN] House might have been indebted to him for his remarks. had said that he understood Mr. M's. only motive in wishing But the gentleman had collected his information from the President's communication referred to the Committee statements made here, which he no doubt believed to be on Roads and Canals to have been that he might learn the correct, but which were not so, in point of fact. At the amount the bridge was to cost. Now, he put it to his collast session, when the appropriation for this work had been league, if, after having discovered the real state of things, made, a communication had been received from the Presi- that committee was not in duty bound to take immediate dent that he had adopted the plan of making the upper measures to put a stop to such a procedure? A gentleman works of the bridge of wood. But before he invited con- from New York [Mr. WARDWELL] had intimated that the tracts for the work, he submitted the plan to Congress for committee had no right to report the bill they had rethe necessary appropriations. It was true that, in the ported. meanwhile, difficulties had occurred, and another plan had been submitted for constructing the whole bridge of stone. This latter had been adopted, but the Secretary of the Treasury had informed them that no change had been made beyond the letter of the law of the last session. With a view to show that the President had not determined that more money should be expended than the law allowed, he would ask the attention of the House to a report made by the Secretary of the Treasury to the President.


Mr. WARDWELL explained. He had only said that, when the subject was referred to the Committee on Roads and Canals, they had not been called upon to report a bill. Mr. MERCER: Very true; but the gentleman ought to know that every standing committee of this House has a right to report on any subject referred to them, "by bill or otherwise." How else than by a bill could the House interfere to limit this expenditure? If the House will go on to sanction this, I am done. I am functus officio, and will gladly return to the station of a private member. [Mr. W. here read from the report.] will be useless to labor in my present station, because this From this, it appeared that the contract had not been one source of expenditure will ingulf all the resources signed, but the plan had been examined and the esti- that ought to be distributed on the various works of inmates approved. He was glad that the whole subject ternal improvement. As to the object of erecting a bridge, had been brought before the House for revision; and, as I am perfectly friendly to it. If the District Committee the whole of the requisite information was now before have any thing to object to the measure as proposed in them, and as it was important that they should act speed- the bill, let their objections be brought forward, heard, ily, he hoped the subject would be permitted to remain and considered. where it was.

Mr. STEWART said he had made no imputation on any body, and had cast no blame in any quarter. Mr. WAYNE replied, that he had not accused the tleman of doing so.

Mr. M. concluded by vindicating himself for having voted for the original appropriation for this bridge. When he had done so, he had no knowledge that the work would gen-cost more than the $200,000 appropriated. The President said he had examined the plan for a bridge of wood and a bridge of iron, and that $60,000 was too little. Mr. M. had thought $200,000 quite sufficient. The present bridge had been built for $99,000, and the bill appropriated $130,000.

Mr. STEWART said that the gentleman from Georgia seemed to doubt the fact that he had stated. The statement he had laid before the House, he had himself received from Mr. Dibble's own mouth but the evening before. Mr. WAYNE said it was all true, but the expenditure had been within the amount of the appropriation. Mr. MERCER said he owed it as an act of justice to the gentleman from Pennsylvania, [Mr. STEWART,] to read to the House what the gentleman from Georgia [Mr. Wirse] had not had time to see, inasmuch as he had just cut the leaves of the document.

Mr. WAYNE: I knew it all ten days ago. Mr. MERCER continued. The House would remember that the present Secretary of the Treasury was not in office when the appropriation had been made. In this document, Secretary Taney reported to the President what he had done, and went on to state as follows:

The CHAIR here again checked Mr. M., as going into the merits.

Mr. CHINN said there was no subject on which he was not prepared to yield to the more extensive knowledge, the longer experience, and the greater economy of his colleague, [Mr. MERCER,] but one, and that was expenditure on any object whatever. One obligation he was not afraid to assume, and that was, that, on any subject submitted in common to them both, his own appropriation would be less than his colleague's. He was no more in favor of delay than the gentleman from Pennsylvania, [Mr. STEWART.] What had the Secretary done? Had he anticipated the action of that House by signing the contract referred to? "The plan proposed by Mr. Dibble was deemed by No such thing. He had refused to sign it, and had expressly you [the President of the United States] preferable to the notified the contractor to go no farther in his expenditures. one before adopted, and the proposed changes approved. If, then, Mr. Dibble went on spending more money, he And, as no doubt was entertained of your right to sanction would do so in his own wrong. Delay would not increase the modification proposed in the original plan, and to ac- the expense one dollar; for the Secretary had done all he cept a bid more favorable to the United States than any could do to prevent it.

before made, you informed Mr. Dibble that his plan would The question was now taken on referring the bill to the be adopted, and his offer accepted, upon his entering into Committee of the Whole on the state of the Union, and the proper covenants, and giving security for their perform carried: Yeas 103, nays not counted. ance to the satisfaction of this Department, and that, in the mean time, he might begin to make his preparations for the commencement of the work."

VOL. X-177


The House proceeded to the consideration of the fol

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Revolutionary Claims.

[FEB. 27, 1834,

lowing bill, reported on the 30th January, by the Com-gentlemen to pause before they proceeded to provide, by mittee on Revolutionary Claims: presumption, for satisfying claims of any character, from

A BILL to provide for the settlement of certain revolutionary any quarter.


Mr. P. said he was not insensible of the advantages with Be it enacted, &c. That it shall be lawful for all persons having which the bill now under consideration came before the claims to the commutation of five years' full pay, in lieu of half-House. It came, as he understood, with the unanimous pay for life, promised to certain officers of the revolutionary army, or to the seven years' half-pay promised to the widows and chil approbation of a committee entitled to the most entire dren of continental officers dying in the service during the revo- respect; and it related to services, the very mention of lutionary war, to present their claims aforesaid, with the evidence which moved our pride and our gratitude. They were thereof, at any time before the first day of July, eighteen hundred services beyond all praise, and above all price. He spoke and thirty-nine, to the Secretary of the Treasury, who is hereby of the revolutionary services generally. But while warm authorized and required to receive and examine said claims, and, and glowing with the glorious recollections which a recur upon the proofs furnished by the claimants, and such other rence to that period never fails to awaken; while we cher evidences relating to the subject as the public records may exhibit,ish with affection and reverence the memory of the brave to allow or reject them.

Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That the said claims shall be adjudged and determined upon principles of equity and justice; that the Secretary of the Treasury may prescribe the form of authenticating the evidence to be adduced in their support; and that, in deciding upon them, the following shall be regarded as fixed principles:


1st. It being established that an officer of the continental line was in service as such on the twenty-first of October, seventeen hundred and eighty, and until the new arrangement of the provided for by the resolution of that date was effected, he shall be presumed, unless it appear that he was then retained in service, to have been reduced by that arrangement, and therefore entitled to half-pay for life, or the commutation in lieu of it.

2d. A continental officer proved to have remained in service after the arrangement of the army under said resolution of October, seventeen hundred and eighty, shall be presumed to have served to the end of the war, or to have retired entitled to half-pay for life, unless it appear that he died in the service, or resigned, or was dismissed, or voluntarily abandoned an actual command in the

service of the United States.

3d. A continental officer who died during the war, and within three months after he is proved to have been with his command, shall be presumed to have died in the service, unless the contrary


men of that day, now no more; while we would grant, most
cheerfully grant, to their heirs all that is justly due; and while
we do extend to those who still survive our grateful thanks,
and our treasure also, he trusted we should not, in the full
impulse of generous feeling, disregard what was due from
of such men.
the gentlemen composing this House as the descendants

What, then, sir, (said Mr. P.,) are the objects to be answered by the bill, and what are its provisions? The general object is plainly and briefly stated in the introduc tion of the committee's report. They say:


Finding many petitions before them asking the com mutation of five years' full pay, promised by the resolution of Congress of the 22d of March, 1783, to certain officers of the revolutionary army, they have been induced, by several considerations, to present to the House a bill; the object of which is, to remove these and some other similar claims from the action of the committee and of Con gress, and have them settled at the Treasury Department."

Mr. P. would not be disposed at any time, much less was he disposed now, when so much was said as to the ith. An officer of the line shall not be considered as forfeiting tendency of power, and of patronage, and of responsibility or resigning the half-pay or commutation belonging to his rank to the Executive, to cast from us any duties which have from the fact of being transferred to the staff or commissary de-been performed, or any responsibilities which have hith


5th. Any omission in the rolls or returns of the revolutionary army may be supplied by satisfactory proof.

Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, That in every case where commutation or seven years' half-pay shall be allowed, such interest shall also be allowed thereon as would have accrued and heen payable if certificates had regularly issued and been subscribed under the act of August, seventeen hundred and ninety; that all sums allowed under this act shall be certified by the signature of the Secretary of the Treasury, and shall be paid out of any money in the treasury not otherwise appropriated by law.

erto rested here, unless the reasons for such transfer shall appear obvious and conclusive.

It was more than fifty years since the passage of the resolution referred to by the committee as the foundation of commutation claims. The subject of making suitable provision for the officers of the army of the Revolution, was one of the deepest and most intense interest, not only to the officers themselves, but to the country generally, from 1778 down to the passage of the commutation resolve of 1783. Mr. P. apprehended that individuals, having subMr. PIERCE, of New Hampshire, thanked the House stantial claims against the Government, did not often for having kindly deferred, on the suggestion of his indis- remain long in ignorance of the fact; and he was curious position, the consideration of the bill which had just been to know how it happened that these claims had slumbered read; and he felt under particular obligations for the gene- during the whole of this period. Considering the fre rous courtesy manifested on that occasion by the gentle-quency and earnestness with which the subject was urged man from Virginia, a friend of the bill, [Mr. MASON,] upon upon Congress by the Father of his Country, and the a his right. He had expressed, the other day, when moving iety with which it was regarded by the officers themselves the postponement of the bill, his conviction that it had it was not to be presumed that any were so listless as t been passed to a third reading without having received all remain in the dark with regard to their own rights. I the consideration due to its importance. That conviction | his judgment, it was reasonable to suppose that the num had been strengthened by further examination and subse-ber of legal and just claims would, by this time, have bee quent reflection. Nothing, however, but a sense of what so far diminished, as to leave little for the action of Con he conceived to be his duty as an humble member of that body, could have induced him to arrest its progress then, or now to ask, for a few moments, the indulgence of the House. He should be brief in his remarks, having nothing to say for political effect, or for home consumption; but, with the opinions he entertained of the bill, he should do injustice to himself did he permit it to pass sub silentio, feeble and unavailing as his voice might prove. He had hoped that its importance, and the new order of things to be had under it, would have called up some gentlemen whose experience and whose reputation might have insured general attention. He had waited to the last moment, and waited in vain; and now, upon its passage, he called upon

gress or of any department.

Since, however, that which might naturally have bee expected to occur seemed not to have obtained in th particular instance, he knew not that he should hav raised any particular objections to sending the claims the Treasury Department, provided they were to go ther relying upon their merits, and depending for their alloy ance upon evidence ordinarily required of revolutional services, and not upon presumptions. If the bill did n embrace the rules that are to be regarded as fixed pri ciples, and to which he trusted he should be able to satis the House there were strong, if not insurmountable o jections, it would still be exceptionable. He understo

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FEB. 27, 1834.]

Revolutionary Claims.

[H. OF R.

that it was not formerly the practice of Congress to allow presumption, and not evidence, was to be the ground on interest upon these claims, even where they were brought which claims are to be allowed, in any instance, would it by satisfactory evidence within the provisions of the reso- not be more wise to retain them here, where a spirit lation of 1783; and it struck him that a different practice of liberality, and yet a sound discretion, may be exercised never should have obtained, except in cases where the in each particular case, according to its circumstances, claimant furnished sufficient reason for his delay, showing than to give them a direction any where else, accompanied that it was attributable to no fault or negligence on his by instructions which it was admitted might lead, and part. If correct in this view, it would be clearly wrong which, in his humble judgment, would inevitably lead, to to sanction the principle, generally, as is provided by the the acknowledgment of many unjust claims? third section of the bill. Again, the committee say:

In speaking of what he considered to be the most ob- "If there is any apprehension that the principles here jectionable features of the bill, Mr. P. said he should con- declared are too liberal, it must be recollected that the fine himself chiefly to its operation upon those who were tendency of legislation for individual claims is constantly entitled to half-pay for life, under the resolve of 1780, at to enlarge the basis of right; while the effect of transferthe second important change in the arrangement of the ring them to another tribunal, more judicial in its characarmy after its establishment; and to some portion of the ter, will probably be to retain that basis essentially within history of the subsequent action of Congress upon the the limits fixed at the moment of transfer. If, therefore, subject, it might be proper for him to call the attention of it should be supposed, or even admitted, that the princithe House. By the resolution just referred to, those who ples asserted in the bill are more liberal than the present were reduced by the arrangement which then took place, practice of Congress, it may be considered certain that, as well as those who served to the close of the war, were in its continued action, they would soon be surpassed in entitled to half-pay for life. That this provision was made liberality."

under very peculiar circumstances, was matter of history; That is, if we are acting upon too liberal principles— and it was well known to all within the reach of his voice too much upon presumption-we had better at once send that it was regarded with jealousy and dissatisfaction, both out these presumptions to be the guide of others than by the soldiers, who had behaved with equal valor, and longer to trust ourselves. Why? Because "the tendency endured equal hardships, and by the citizens generally. of legislation for individual claims is constantly to enThey regarded it as anti-republican; they thought it set-large the basis of right;" and we are in danger of being ting up, in the then young republic, invidious distinctions, further from those principles which should govern pruand establishing, for that generation at least, a privileged dent legislators, watchful of the interest of those whom and pensioned class, inconsistent with the equal rights for they represent as they would be of their own, than we which they had been contending, and at variance with the now are. Mr. P. said, however just this might be in genius and spirit of such a Government as they hoped to point of fact, he was not yet prepared to admit it as prinsee established and maintained. ciple of action; and, while no one would lend his support more readily to any claim that might come here sustained by proper evidence, he trusted the correctness of such a proposition might never find support in any vote of his. Speaking of the operation of the limitation acts, the

In March, 1783, a change was made; and what was the moving cause of that change? A memorial from the officers themselves. The preamble of the resolution recites that, "whereas the officers of the several lines, under the immediate command of his excellency General Wash-committee say further: ington, did, by their late memorial transmitted by their "Driven from the ordinary means of redress, individcommittee, represent to Congress that the half-pay grant- ual claimants, from time to time, resorted to Congress for ed by sundry resolutions was regarded in an unfavorable relief. At first, it may have been a matter of consideralight by the citizens of some of these States, who would tion and of serious question whether relief should be afprefer a compensation for a limited term of years, or by forded after the limitation had expired, and the party was a sum in gross, to an establishment for life," &c. To sat-at least held to account for his delay; but in process isfy the memorialists and the country, five years' full pay of time it became, as it now is, a matter of course to grant was granted in lieu of half-pay for life; and it is for this relief in every case in which the claimant brings himself, commutation that petitions are now pouring in upon you, by proof, within the terms of the resolutions on which the and claims arising under the resolution just referred to, claim is founded, and has not been already paid." and those, the adjustment of which the bill proposes to Mr. P. trusted that wrong practice and precedent transfer to the Treasury Department, with rules of evi- founded in error were not to be regarded as guides dence which might possibly facilitate, as the committee here. He solemnly believed that, if precedent and pracsuppose, the allowance of some just claims; but which tice were to be relied upon, gentlemen might readily will, at the same time, open a wide door for imposition, find justification for going almost any length in any diand for the assertion of rights which have no legal or equi-rection.

table foundation, and which may still be honestly urged In the case before the House, it was so exceedingly by the heirs of deceased officers. Sir, (said Mr. P.,) is it probable that all claims founded in right were adjusted, not admitted by the report that this will be the operation, and so fallible and uncertain was human testimony, after to some extent? Speaking of these rules, the committee a lapse of fifty years, that he had no hesitation in declaring it as his firm conviction that the former course was


"It is possible that their universal application may lead the proper one; and that applicants, who came in after to the allowance of some claims which do not come strictly the extension act of 1792, should always have been held within the original terms. But this will be no new evil; to account for their delay. It was not, of course, intended and it is certain that, if they are not applied, many just to give commutation to those, or the heirs of those, who claims must be rejected for the want of technical proof." received certificates in 1784, or who have, at any time To the correctness of this last clause, he must be excused since, under any circumstances, received commutation. for withholding his assent. Before examining more particularly the presumptions If evil has heretofore arisen, or is liable to arise, from which this bill directs the Secretary to assume, let us conapplication of the said rules of evidence, is that now to be sider, for a moment, what are the natural presumptions in used as an argument in favor of transferring duties from the case. The commutation provided for by the resoluthe House to one of the departments, and transferring tion of 1783 was originally directed to be adjusted by them with instructions binding the Secretary, and making commissioners, or other accounting officers, appointed by certain the continuance of the evil? He trusted not. If Congress; and it was supposed that certificates were al

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