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MARCH 6, 1834.]

The Public Deposites.

[H. OF R.

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There had been an unusual contraction, on account of it had, and cut off from its usual supplies, it must be a the payment of the public debt, after an unusual expan-wonderful institution indeed, if it now 66 possesses the sion of its discounts; and the consequence was, as it now ability," or can "command" it to extend its accustomed is, but not to the same extent, a great pressure upon the accommodation without "a necessary curtailment." No commercial interest. The report stated that "the bank one expects it, not even the administration itself. has its legitimate banking capital with which to do its Listen to what the President says, or rather what he is regular business, and accommodate the community. As it made to say, in his famous manifesto to the cabinet. collects the public revenue, it is enabled both to avail After stating the country "was never more prosperous, itself of the advantage of employing it to its own benefit, he adds: "The President verily believes the bank has not and to the accommodation of the commercial community, the power to produce the calamities its friends threaten. who principally contribute to its payment, by commenc-The funds of the Government will not be annihilated by ing the discounting of business paper, payable within or being transferred. They will be immediately issued for about the time they know they will be called upon to the benefit of trade; and if the Bank of the United States make the payments on account of the Government; and, curtails its loans, the State banks, strengthened by the as they gradually approach that period, they must also public deposites, will extend theirs. What comes in shorten the period which the business paper has to run, through one bank will go out through others, and the until they arrive at the time of the call of the Govern-equilibrium preserved." That is, if this means any ment, when the business paper will have been paid off; thing, (which I very much doubt,) the public deposites the bank then pays the Government, and the Govern- will make up in dancing what they lose in turning round. ment immediately again circulates it among the commu- Now where are the deposites? If they are not "annihinity. The operation, as thus described, appears to the lated," why do they not relieve the distress of the councommittee too plain and simple to require any further try? If they have come through one bank," why don't illustration; and, if the principle be sound, and has been they "go out through others?" Where is that promised acted upon by the bank, they cannot discover in what equilibrium? If the President is disappointed, and finds manner the operations of commerce could have been dis- the State banks cannot "extend their loans" with the turbed, or the value of pecuniary investments have been deposites, how can he expect the United States Bank to affected by the payment of the public debt." It will now do it without them? Robbed of the deposites, "he be perceived, that, if the then existing pressure could verily believed" the bank had no power to do mischief. have been prevented by a proper management of the Besides, the prime agent himself, in selecting the revenue, in the way of loans to the mercantile commu- deposite banks, declared that the bank would have to nity, a most disastrous convulsion must succeed the sud- curtail, but he believed that the pet banks would extend den withdrawal of that revenue altogether. their discounts upon the strength of the deposites, and What! take away ten millions, and so suddenly, that it thereby counteract the effect of such reduction. In this, may be fairly said to have been snatched from the bank, he and his master have been wofully mistaken, and hereand yet require it to go on as above described, to keep up in lies all the mischief. Persons who have made such operations of commerce, and sustain the value of horrid miscalculations have surely forfeited all claim to pecuniary investments! How unreasonable! This is the further confidence in the management of the public most barefaced and shameless of all the hostilities waged finances; and the sooner we can get them out of their against the bank. To aim at its total destruction, to in- hands, the better for the country. fliet the blow intended to make it reel to the earth, and But, Mr. Speaker, we are told, (and I confess it is the which has actually staggered it, and then cry out, You strangest idea that I have met with in all this matter,) that ought to go on as though nothing had been done! This though it was wrong to remove the deposites-and I beis a draft upon public credulity, which, for the sake of lieve that nine-tenths of the community pronounce that good sound sense, must be dishonored. In the pressure verdict, among whom are some of the best friends of the before referred to, there had been a considerable reduc- President, both in and out of Congress—yet, being removtion of discounts, but nothing compared to that which the ed, they ought to remain where they are, because some bank has lately been compelled to make by reason of the think the bank unconstitutional, others that it is danger. actual withdrawal of ten millions, and the withholding all ous, and many profess to dread that their restoration will the deposites since, which, up to this time, are nearly ten lead to a recharter of the bank. I own I am utterly at millions more. Upon that reduction the same report a loss to comprehend such logic; and as to its morality, it continues: "This reduction by the bank and its branches, is absolutely shocking. What! a wrong can be done, and has probably compelled a similar reduction on the part of no reparation! Wrong is a relative term, and implies inthe State institutions, in proportion to the amount of their jury to some one, and must continue to the end of time loans in each of those places. In this, and this alone, the unless redressed. Who is wronged by this act? There fully persuaded is to be found the true are but two parties to the contract. Is it the Government? secret of the pressure which has existed, and does still The deed was done by her own agent, and, as he supposed, exist, operating upon the commercial community. That for her benefit; and the strong determination to hold on to this pressure will continue for some time to come, the the deposites, shows that the wrong is not to her. It must committee fear; for the expansion has been so great, then be the bank that is wronged; and will any one admit that the contraction which is now in operation cannot, that fact, and then have the hardihood to affirm, in a counin the opinion of the committee, be effectually checked try where the Bible is believed, that one to whom a wrong and controlled, without a necessary curtailment of dis- has been done ought not to be redressed? Can an act be counts. If the bank possessed the ability to sustain itself right in us that is wrong in another? Can the principal without curtailing its discounts, the revenue falling due defend what disgraces the agent? Wrong may admit of the present quarter might be collected, and facilities degrees in its effects, but before the eternal throne of granted during the time, (upon the principle before Heaven it admits of none in principle, and therefore I pointed out,) to the commercial community, and dis- put a case.


committee are

bursed again by the Government, without any inconveni- If the Secretary, under the belief that the bank was ence being caused by the operation. But such ability, unconstitutional, dangerous, or ought not to be recharterthe committee are well satisfied, the bank does not posed, (the very plea for withholding the deposites,) had resess, nor can it at present command." ported to this House that a magazine was safely concealed under the bank, connected with a well-laid train that led to the foot of the Capitol, and only awaited the orders of

If it could not then, every body sees it cannot now. It has no quarterly revenue coming in; deprived of what

VOL. X.-183

H. OF R.]

The Public Deposites.

[MARCH 6, 1834.

the House to have the match applied to blow it into ten ject them. They who have been so arduously engaged thousand fragments, who is there among us, if he be an in warring against the abuse of power on the part of the honest man, that such a proposition would not send a tre- Legislature, could not, so soon after achieving such a glomor to his very heart? And yet it could be from no other rious victory, turn round and employ their arms in support reason than that the deed was wrong, and wrong to the of an Executive usurpation, transcendently more outragebank. If such a project to get rid of the bank would be ous than any which has ever yet cursed the country! I wrong in the Secretary, who does not see it would be have not so learned the lessons of State rights. equally so in us? Do not let the delusive idea that the Before I conclude, there is one ground of complaint effects would be different, seduce the conscience into a against the bank that, no doubt, constitutes the head and most treacherous quietude. It matters not to the bank front of its offending, which I wish to notice. The Preswhether you rob it of a right by power or by fire; you ident, among other reasons, considers it important to rehave done so, by plainly admitting your act to be wrong; move the deposites "to preserve the purity of the elective and every consideration of justice, good faith, and moral franchise," which, he affirms, has been grossly abused by obligation demands immediate reparation at your hands. that institution. It is not my intention to enter into a deLet it never be forgotten that "righteousness exalteth a fence of the bank. I have another use for this suggestion; nation," and injustice is "a reproach to any people." This and, before I develop my object, I must be permitted to may be considered an extreme case, though it by no means express my astonishment, nay, utter amazement, at the changes the principle; yet I will put another, somewhat intrepidity of mind that could advance such a charge in more probable, that might occur, and has been threatened, face of such constant and similar accusations against one in this season of political gambling, where the proper di- of the executive departments. Can it be possible that visions of power, known to the constitution, form no bar- the President is kept ignorant of the repeated charges rier to the projects of ambition. In this same charter, brought against the Post Office Department for this same where the Government pledges its honor and faith that the sin? They may not be true, but yet they afford this indeposites should remain with the bank, is another equally structive lesson-how cautious we should be in crediting sacred promise, lying side by side with it, that it will re- against others that which we would not wish to be beceive the bills of the bank in payment of its revenue. The lieved against ourselves. If they are true, then they President appoints all the revenue officers, and, conse-ought to be corrected; at least it is not unsafe to follow quently, can remove them. Remember, by virtue of this the precepts of that best of books, which uses this lanpower, and by reason of their connexion with the Treasury guage: "Thou hypocrite, first cast the beam out of thine Department, which he contends belongs to his direction, own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote he can control their will and judgment. Accordingly he out of thy brother's eye." "takes the responsibility," and issues the order to them Ninety-nine hundredths of the American people know not to receive these bills either for lands or customs, under nothing of the extraordinary number of appointments the penalty of forfeiture of office, giving as his reasons made by the President; and if they could see a certain that the Government directors had convinced him by the book, well known by the name of the "Blue Book," most damning facts" that the bank ought to be destroy- they would see that, through the Post Office Department ed (for that was the object) "as being necessary to pre-alone, he has the disposal of thirty thousand offices, and serve the morals of the people, the freedom of the press, many millions of dollars. These reach from Maine to and the purity of the elective franchise." He meets with Louisiana. Now, sir, every one must instantly perceive few Duanes, but enough of his opposite character, and what a machine this is; and, if rumor does not lie, never the work is done! This is a wrong, and a gross wrong to was one so faithfully applied for corrupting the elective the bank, precisely in principle with the other, and in its franchise as has been this powerful engine. Nay, sir, it effects of no higher injury. Is there any one prepared to is said that it has overstrained itself at the work, and is say that such a usurpation should not be corrected, be- actually falling under exhaustion. cause the bank was unconstitutional, dangerous, or might These are some of the charges which daily meet the be chartered again? Let it not be said that no part of the eye in every paper that issues from the press: That it charter gives the President the right thus to interfere with is bankrupt, being indebted more than a million of moits bills. Will such objector show that part of the charter ney, and, what is worse, a part of this was borrowed from which gives the President a right to intermeddle with the banks at the time the institution reported itself in a flour deposites? But the worst of it is, the mischief being done, ishing condition; and it would so have continued to do, the veto power prevents it from being undone, unless two- but for the fact of its insolvency having been reluctantly thirds of the people's representatives concur in the mea- drawn from it by a resolution of Congress. That it is sure; thereby altering the legislation of the country from in the habit of favoring certain contractors, to the manithe simple exercise of the will of a majority, its accustom-fest prejudice of others, by a concerted arrangement to ed and constitutional practice, to that of the will of two- have their propositions made so low as to insure their thirds; a power in a minority, headed by a popular success; and that it is afterwards made up to them by Chief Magistrate, which all the moral force of society, extra allowance, and that, too, in cases where no extra aided by the combined energies of reason and remon- service is performed. This fact is strengthened by a strance, could not withstand. reference to the "Blue Book," where it will be found These are my views of the subject, in which I do most that the extra allowance exceeds the original contract sincerely believe there has not only been an abuse, but an in many cases by half, by the whole, and by double its actual assumption of power; one infinitely more dangerous amount. That post offices have been established, routes to the liberties of the country than that connected with extended, and contracts made, where they were not the charter of the bank. It is the abuse of the appointing needed, merely for the purpose of making political power to usurp the moneyed power of Congress. The friends, and, by the increase of such unnecessary facili abuse of power would have been enough, for the perver- ties, the department has ruined its finances; and now, to sion and violation of law are one and the same thing; this bring it within its expenditures, facilities in other quarwas the true ground upon which the State rights party of ters of long continuance, and absolutely necessary, are the South so perseveringly attacked the tariff system. In discontinued, to the ruin of contractors; and this operathe call which my colleague made upon the State rights tion is regulated by the political hue of the country party to go with him in sustaining the Executive Depart-through which they pass. That great derangement in ment in the removal of the deposites, he surely could not the mails has resulted from a want of punctuality in have perceived the inconsistency to which he would sub-the department in paying off the contractors, many


MARCH 6, 1834.]

Commutation Pension Bill.

[H. of R.

Some of

them having received nothing for three quarters, while it beyond the power of renewing its mischiefs? favorites have been duly paid. That the newspapers my statements I know to be true; others, like those of the presses friendly to the administration are duly and against the bank, are founded upon report, which I shall regularly conveyed, while those of an opposite character take the liberty to believe, if the department does not are most shamefully misplaced and delayed. That post- ask, and speedily too, an impartial committee to investimasters are turned out of office on account of political gate its affairs; and, while the President is asking for a opinions, without a hearing, and upon secret informa- committee to examine the bank, let both investigations tion; and this, too, for the express purpose of interfering be contemporaneous.

in State politics, to aid one party against another. This, Mr. Speaker, this is the first fair opportunity that has sir, is not report; I pledge myself to prove this fact be-presented itself to make satisfaction for wrongs which I fore any committee the House may raise to investigate believe I myself have committed-not from malice, for I the department. entertain that passion against no human being; but from There is now going on in the State of Georgia one of an overwrought and incautious zeal. In my opposition the most cruel proscriptions that ever disgraced any to the bank on a former occasion, I have carefully recountry-a despotism more insolent and intolerable than viewed my remarks, and find reflections and insinuations was ever exercised by the Sublime Porte. Though the that are unworthy of me and the cause they were deFederal Government is a representative one, and found-signed to support. They were calculated to wound the ed expressly for the good of the people in each State, feelings of many high-minded and honorable men in and and not for the officers, yet towns and villages cannot out of the bank; and, if such has been the effect, I can procure a postmaster suited to the wishes of a majority of offer no higher reparation than the public expression of their citizens, and men are placed over them by the re- my regret. I retract every thing personal, either in fact commendation of political partisans living hundreds of or tendency, and rejoice that, when I have done a wrong, miles off. The doctrine of the department is, as was my sense of justice inclines me to redress it. Neither a openly expressed to me, that they may make removals and dictate of false pride, nor a dread of even deserved reappointments without giving reasons for them; that the proach, shall ever interpose between the injury, of which granting a hearing to the accused postmaster is a matter I have been the unguarded cause, and the due retribuof perfect discretion; and that they will or will not, as tion necessary to its full atonement. I do not pretend may seem good to them, accord to him this inestimable that this is a sentiment peculiar to myself; it exists in privilege, so dear to liberty, and so sacred to our free every mind to some extent, and sooner or later is apt to institutions. And while they hold this doctrine as being exert its just control. Sir, the day may yet come when necessary to have agents connected with the department the present Chief Magistrate shall feel and own its sway. disposed to support, and not to thwart its views, they dis- When he shall have reached the repose of private life, place them, without giving them an opportunity of showing removed from the tempests of political strifes; when he that they have not even violated their own requirements. shall have ceased to be useful to flatterers and sycoThey further state they will not retain postmasters who phants, and, standing upon that critical confine, where the interfere in elections on either side; and yet postmasters time past of a long life is to be reviewed in the short span are known to meet in conventions and public assemblies of that which is soon to end; if no other wrong, of which for the avowed purpose of promoting the election of in- he has been the author, shall extort its merited confesdividuals whose politics are approved by the depart- sion, that at least of the injured Duane will wring a rement. When was one of these ever turned out of office? pentant sigh. His imagination must wander into the inWill any one point me to the case? Is it reasonable to nocent family of this abused individual, from whose quiet suppose that, among all the postmasters of the United bosom he was reluctantly withdrawn; and, after surveyStates, none but those in the opposition intermeddle with ing the peace which he has disturbed, the feelings he elections? No one believes it. This is a piece of un- has tortured, the friendship with which he has sported, manly deception. The department does not act up to the integrity he has distrusted, the independence he has its own professions, or else eleven postmasters who met despised, and, above all, that spotless reputation his minin a late convention to make a President would be re- ions have attempted to defame-if his heart shall not moved. Let me not be misunderstood; I care nothing obey the dictates of the generous sentiment I have defor their removal; as freemen, let them meet when and scribed, it will be wanting, greatly wanting, in a princi where they please, and, more especially, vote as they ple with which even his fame of battle cannot compare, think proper; but away with this affected profession of and will justly reduce the glory of his military fortunes impartiality. Let the department come out honestly, to an empty pageant. and not attempt to carry their tyrannical and highhanded measures under the hypocritical cant of rigid equality. There is nothing of it. A certain party in The House resumed the consideration of the bill "to Georgia is about to feel the weight of the administration provide for the settlement of certain revolutionary claims." through this torturing machine, instigated to the unholy Mr. BROWN, of New York, said, when the Chair first work by its opponents. A false charge, secretly gotten announced that the bill under consideration was upon its up by the personal or political enemies to the officer, third reading, it was not his intention to submit any reand conveyed through Government retainers, insures his marks upon the subjects embraced within its provisions. removal, and some recommended favorite takes his place. Coming as it did into this House, with the unanimous apBut, thanks to the principles which that party advocates, probation of the Committee on Revolutionary Claimsand the eternal truths it maintains, they will be all-suffi- containing no principles which have not been repeatedly cient to bear it out even against the unfeeling despotism recognised by Congress, and having gone through the of the Post Office establishment. While, however, this Committee of the Whole without a single objection-he work is going on, let them not dare to charge any other did suppose it would encounter no opposition in its furinstitution with corrupting the elective franchise. His- ther progress and final passage. In this expectation, tory has no parallel to the undue influence which this es- however, he was sorry to find himself disappointed; and, tablishment has exerted in elections since this administra- as all the examination and reflection he had been able to tion came into power; and now, having exhausted its bestow upon it had confirmed the opinion he then enterenergies, and literally broken itself down in the foul and tained of its merits, he would avail himself of a moment's dirty service of every thing but the original design of its indulgence to state the grounds upon which he formed creation, will not the people, if they reorganize it, place his conclusions in its favor.


H. OF R.]

Commutation Pension Bill.

[MARCH 6, 1834

It appears upon the journals of Congress, (what, in- predecessors, he did not hesitate to affirm that, after the deed, has long since been inscribed upon the page of his- liability of the Government was settled and fixed, and af tory,) that, as early as the 15th of May, 1778, seven ter the debts had accrued by the performance of the ser years' half pay was, by a resolution of that body, promised vices mentioned in the resolutions, no exercise of legisla to those officers who should serve to the end of the war; tive power upon earth could exonerate the Government and the same provision was, by another resolution, bear- from its obligations, without the consent of all the parties ing date the 24th of August, 1780, extended to the widows to the contract. In this opinion he was strengthened and and orphans of such officers as should die in the public confirmed by the subsequent action of Congress itself; service. On the 21st October, 1780, by another resolu- for the validity of these claims has been repeatedly recog tion of Congress, half pay for life was promised to those nised since 1794, and acts have been repeatedly passed officers who should serve to the end of the war; and in for the settlement and satisfaction of individual cases. the new organization and arrangement of the army which The bill under consideration provides "that it shall be took place subsequent to that period, the same half pay lawful for all persons having claims to the commutation of for life was also promised to such as should be reduced five years' full pay in lieu of half pay for life, or to the seven and put out of service by such new arrangement. Let it years' half pay promised to the widows and children of con not be forgotten, Mr. Speaker, in a discussion which af-tinental officers dying in the service," to present the same fects the rights of these heroic men and their representa- to the Secretary of the Treasury, who is authorized to set. tives, that with the same generous devotion to the public tle the same upon principles of equity and justice, and to welfare which marked every act of their public lives, and prescribe the form of authenticating the evidence to be ad with a magnanimous deference and respect to the appre- duced in their support, upon the following principles: 1st. hensions of their countrymen, (who saw, or supposed they Any officer of the continental line, who was in service as saw, something dangerous to public liberty in the exist- such on the 21st of October, 1780, and until the new ar ence of so many privileged individuals,) they freely relin-rangement of the army, provided for by resolution of that quished a vested and unquestionable right to this compen- date, was effected, shall be presumed to have been reduced sation, and, under the resolution of March 22, 1783, by that arrangement, unless it appear he was retained in agreed to accept, in lieu thereof, five years' full pay, in service. 2d. A continental officer, proved to have remoney or securities, at six per cent. interest. And here, mained in service after such arrangement of the army, said Mr. B., permit me to stop and inquire what was the shall be presumed to have served to the end of the war, nature of this undertaking, upon the part of the Govern- or to have retired entitled to half pay, unless it appear ment? Was the half pay for life, or the full pay, secured that he died in service, or resigned, or was dismissed, on by the resolutions of Congress, a gratuity? a voluntary voluntarily abandoned an actual command. 3d. A con donation, made without an equivalent or a consideration? tinental officer, who died during the war, and within By no means, sir. It was the price of many a privation, three months after he is proved to have been with his the hard-earned wages of many a toil, and the reward of command, shall be presumed to have died in service, years of painful and perilous suffering. Claims, there- unless the contrary appear.

fore, under the resolutions, are not applications for favor It will be perceived that the operation of the bill will or bounty, or for the exercise of liberality and public mu- be twofold. It will relieve one of the standing committees nificence; but they are debts, valid outstanding debts, of this House, and also of the other branch of the Legis resting upon the highest and best of all possible consid-lature, of many long and laborious investigations, and reerations. And when his honorable colleague [Mr. VAN-lieve the two Houses themselves of much business which DERPOEL] denominates the bill "not a pension, but a com- can be examined and settled with far more safety to the pensation bill," and urges, as an argument against its public interest at the Treasury. Legislative bodies are illy passage, the amount of money it will take out of the pub- adapted to the investigation of claims requiring the exlic treasury, he must have forgotten that it creates no new liability, and imposes no new obligation, but simply provides for the settlement and satisfaction of an indebtedness already in existence.

amination of evidence; it is theirs to establish principles, and prescribe the rules of action, and not to apply the rule itself; and notwithstanding the ability with which a different opinion has been urged by the opponents of the After the peace of 1783, Congress passed certain acts, bill, he believed, with the honorable gentleman from commonly called the limitation acts, barring the payment Pennsylvania, [Mr. MUHLENBERG,] that imposition, fraud, of claims for half pay, and the commutation for half pay, or false swearing, (should there be any,) will be far more after a certain period. And it has been said, in the readily detected by the officers of the Treasury, who will course of this discussion, that the passage and publication have all the papers before them, and are accustomed to of these acts were so many invitations to those having such investigations, than it would be by the committees claims to come forward and have them adjusted. This or members of this House. It will also enable claimants is undoubtedly true, up to the time when the limitations having demands upon the Government to obtain their were to take effect; but as they did not contain the usual speedy adjustment, and avoid that tedious delay, that exexception in favor of infants, married women, and of per-pensive and painful procrastination, that hope delayed," sons beyond the seas, and of unsound mind, it is also true which constantly awaits the action of deliberative bodies that, after the year 1794, when the latest limitation be- upon private claims. Who is there upon this floor, said came effectual, they must have been regarded as so many Mr. B., who can look at the accumulation of claims, declarations that all hope of obtaining satisfaction in any which year after year brings back upon the observation case was forever extinguished. Legislative acts, limiting of Congress, until they become as familiar as the marble the time for the prosecution of suits and the recovery of columns which decorate these Halls, (many of them un claims, are the offspring of a superior power, which is just, it is true, but many of them founded upon the most the common agent and common representative of the meritorious services rendered to the country,) and not parties to be affected by such limitations. Upon Con- feel that Governments are justly obnoxious to the charge gress rested the liability in question. Congress was the of delay, and slow to render that to individuals which it debtor, one of the contracting parties; and, as such, it is their peculiar prerogative to compel individuals to ren may well be doubted whether any act of its own could der to one another.

either extinguish or limit its liability, without the express If he was not mistaken in what he supposed fell from consent of the other contracting party. Notwithstanding his honorable colleague, [Mr. VANDERPOEL,] and his his veneration for the legislators of that day, and the re- honorable friend from New Hampshire, [Mr. PIERCE, spect which they were bound to pay to the acts of their is urged as an objection to the passage of the bill, that all

MARCH 6, 1834.]

Commutation Pension Bill.

[H. or R.

just claims under the resolutions in question must long secondary proof will be admitted. It appeared to him, ere this have been settled. A moment's reflection would therefore, that the committee, in adopting the presumpsatisfy the House that this objection is founded in mis- tions in the bill, have done nothing more than extend the apprehension. There were many very peculiar reasons, same wise and salutary rule to the class of claims embraced which existed at the close of the revolutionary war, to within its provisions. And when an officer is proved to prevent their presentation for settlement. The poverty have been in service on the 21st October, 1780, and conof the Government, its inability for a long period after tinued in the army until its reduction under the resolution the peace to meet its engagements, the great and honora- of that date, and another is proved to have been in serble reluctance which many officers doubtless felt to add vice within three months of the time of his death, he could to the embarrassments of the country, by making drafts not, in the absence of all adverse proof, give his assent to upon its exhausted treasury, the decease of many of those the opinion that it was a violent and unreasonable preentitled to claim, and the operation of the acts of limita- sumption to say that the first officer was reduced by the tion-all contributed to postpone the settlement of these arrangement of the army, and that the second died in the demands. And when, in addition, we recollect, said Mr. public service. B., the acts which Congress have already passed in simi- It was due to himself to say that he was not prepared lar cases, and advert to the applications now before the to adopt the principle that officers proved to have remained House, upon proofs which the chairman of the Commit-in service after the arrangement of the army under the tee on Revolutionary Claims declares to be sufficient, resolution of October, 1780, should be presumed to have there could not be a doubt that the objection was entirely served to the end of the war, or to have retired entitled without foundation.

to half pay, unless it should otherwise appear, until he Another objection is the act of 1828, which his colleague learned that it was the same which had prevailed in the [Mr. VANDERPOEL] Supposed was passed, or ought to be deliberations of Congress for some time past. And such regarded as passed, in satisfaction of claims under the half was the solicitude which he yet felt with regard to the ef pay resolutions. An examination of the act itself, and the fect of this provision, that if any gentleman could propose very able report of the honorable gentleman from Rhode a less objectionable mode of proceeding, without defeating Island, [Mr. BURGES,] which accompanied the bill, will the object of the bill altogether, he would willingly go show that it was passed for no such purpose, and should re- with him upon any motion calculated to effect that object. ceive no such construction. If such had been its intended In the event of no such proposition being made, he would operation, it would have provided for such officers, and vote for the bill, from a conviction that the right to apply the representatives of such officers, only as were entitled to, the presumptive proof could be confided with greater but had not received, their half pay, or commutation for half safety to the Treasury Department than it could be exerpay, under the resolutions of 1780 and 1783. Now, it makes cised by the legislative branch of the Government. Rea certain yearly provision (not to exceed the pay of a cap-ductions more or less extensive were effected in the army tain) for all the surviving officers, without distinction; and during the years 1780-'81-'82, by which no inconsiderable makes no provision whatever for the heirs and represen- number of officers lost their commands, and were permittatives of deceased officers who have not received the ted to retire to their homes, subject to be recalled by the half pay, or the commutation promised by the resolu- orders of the commander-in-chief. The army itself was tions. All its provisions show that it has nothing what-disbanded in November, 1783; and from causes with which ever to do with the claims under consideration, and could honorable gentlemen must be quite conversant, many offihave no such construction as seemed to be contemplated cers were absent upon furlough at the memorable and by his colleague. eventful period of its dissolution. Congress will be careHe would now consider the presumptive proof which ful not to avail itself in any manner of this temporary abwas to guide the action of the Secretary of the Treasury. sence to say that an officer abandoned the service, unless Neither the constitution nor the laws have provided any he prove that he lost his command, or was absent on furmeans by which an action may be brought to enforce the lough. To adopt such a rule would be tantamount to a recovery and collection of a debt due by the Government; rejection of the claims altogether. Where, at this late and it is universally admitted that it concerns the honor day, shall a claimant look for this negative evidence of his and character of the nation to see that its contracts are fidelity? If he appeals to the muster-rolls of the army, faithfully performed. If the committee proposed to ap- or the records of the War Department, he will discover ply the presumptive proofs to the transactions of later that most of them have been lost or destroyed; and if he years, he would admit it to be most difficult to meet and appeals to his companions in arms, he will find that time encounter the argument made by his friend [Mr. PIERCE] has removed most of those gallant men from the stage of from New Hampshire; but when the application of such action, and age and infirmity has dimmed the recollection proofs is made to the transactions of the revolution, it and impaired the faculties of the few survivors. Where, will be no very wide departure from the ordinary rules then, shall he hope for relief, if Congress shall apply the of evidence. These rules are not arbitrary, nor are they same severe and rigorous rules of evidence to the transcapricious in their nature; they are made to elicit and de-actions of the revolution which the courts would apply to velop the truth, not to stifle and extinguish it altogether; the transactions of yesterday? For his own part, he and it is therefore that the best evidence which the nature would, to the extent of his feeble ability, preserve the of the case will admit is the rule which prevails in the juris-public faith inviolate, and leave no public obligation unprudence of all enlightened nations. A court of justice performed; and rather than leave demands for revolutionsitting to determine upon the proof required to make out ary services to the fate which too often await individual the due execution of a deed, or other written instrument, applications to Congress, he was willing, with the comwill be guided and governed in some measure by the time mittee, to adopt the bill under consideration, with all its imwhen it professes to have been executed. If it purports perfections, if such they could be termed. If we should to be a paper of recent origin, a rigorous mode of proof err, let our error be on the side of justice and the nawill be applied and enforced; but if it be an ancient instru- tional honor, in favor of those who laid the foundations of ment, a more lenient and liberal rule will be suffered to this great fabric of free Government, the steady and perprevail, or the idea of proving it at all would, in any nine severing defenders of human liberty; and while looking cases out of ten, be abandoned as utterly hopeless. In a back through the long dim lapse of years, which lie beword, where the nature of the transaction is such, from tween our own times and the time of the dissolution of the its great antiquity, or the impossibility of procuring living revolutionary army, if we should discover among that band witnesses, that primary evidence cannot be produced, of heroic men one who has not shared the compensation

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