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MAY 13, 1834.]

Commutation Pension Bill.

[H. of R.

victorious over its enemies-victorious over itself;" vic-quired under such resolves-in other words, that he shall torious over those feelings which the eloquent incendiary have judgment in his favor. Mr. A. said it was to this strove to excite to an "appeal from the justice to the provision, altering and varying the principles and effect fears of Government." Nor was this love of country of presumptive evidence, that he objected. Presumpconfined to the officer; the lowest sentinel in the army tions, or presumptive evidence, ought to be subjected to felt its influence. Let me refer you to one striking in- consideration; and when they were so strong as to prostance. When the Pennsylvania line, goaded to madness duce conviction, they might be considered as tantamount by grievances unredressed, and especially by the attempt to full proof. It was a matter to be submitted to the to prolong the period of enlistment beyond the terms of sound discretion of the tribunal appointed to weigh the the original contract, broke out into open revolt, though testimony, and to direct according to the influence it they killed and wounded their officers who attempted to would have upon the mind. quell the mutiny, though they pointed their bayonets at One rule prescribed is, that, "it being established that the bosom of their favorite commander, Wayne, and an officer of the continental line was in service as such on compelled even that lion-heart to recoil from their des- the 21st day of October, 1780, and until the new arrangeperation, yet they still clung to their country, ungrateful ments of the army, provided for by the resolutions of that and faithless as they deemed her: they rejected all the date, were effected, he shall be presumed, unless it apsplendid lures of the British general, Sir Henry Clinton, pears he was then retained in service, to have been reand delivered up his emissaries to the justice of Washing-duced by that arrangement, and therefore entitled to the ton. While liberty and independence are cherished in half pay for life, or the commutation in lieu of it." The this favored land, the claims of the continental army will second is, "that a continental officer, proved to have renot be forgotten or slighted: an American Congress mained in service after the arrangements of the army will never avoid the performance of its solemn engage- under the same resolution, shall be presumed to have ments with any one officer or soldier of that army, by served to the end of the war, or to have retired entitled statutes of limitation, or by strict and rigid construction. to half pay for life, unless it appear that he died in the Mr. CRANE having concluded his remarksservice, or resigned, or was dismissed, or voluntarily Mr. POLK said he was in favor of the bill, but, re-abandoned an actual command in the service of the United ferring to the importance and urgency of the appropria-States." The facts of such service are circumstances tion bills, expressed his hope that the present bill would either be postponed or passed upon without delay. After some conversation as to the order of business, Mr. ALLEN, of Vermont, obtained the floor. Mr. A. said he was opposed to the bill; and, lest the motives which had brought him to that conclusion should be misunderstood, he begged leave to trespass upon the patience of the House, whilst he assigned some of the reasons which had influenced him to oppose its passage. He was in favor of a liberal provision for the support of the surviving officers and private soldiers of the Revolution. In their behalf he would go as far as any other member upon this floor. The successive laws that have been passed for their benefit he had been gratified with, and desired to see them still further extended, embracing the widow of the revolutionary patriot, and would most cheerfully support such a provision. He had regretted the provisions of the statute of 1820, restricting the privleges of the law of 1818.

which may well be flung into the case as presumptive evidence, but ought not to be established as testimony, which, unless explained away, must be considered as conclusive. If none were to apply but the survivors themselves, who might be put upon their corporeal oaths, no great danger would be apprehended; but when this bill is understood to embrace the heirs of the deceased officer, his administrator and their assigns, who will constitute nine-tenths of the applicants, it is easy to foresee that great impositions and frauds might be practised upon the treasury. The representative of the officer would establish the fact of service from the 21st day of October, 1780, to the 1st of January following, or prove a service for any period, it matters not how short, subsequent to the 1st of January, 1781, and he would make out his case. The rule is positive. He shall be presumed to have served to the end of the war. It cannot be expected that the Government can hunt up testimony to rebut the presumption of service, after a lapse of fifty years; and it The bill upon your table, said Mr. A., embracing pro- is an admitted fact that the archives of the Government, visions, in their character, of a very different description, from conflagrations and other accidents, do not furnish I feel myself called upon to oppose it. It contains princi- security against frauds and impositions that might be ples which I consider it dangerous to adopt, and cases practised under this lax rule of testimony. Under the which we are not called upon by any resolution or sub-prescribed effect to be given to such testimony, the tribusisting contract to provide for. nal appointed to try the question might be wholly dissat

The bill prescribes a mode of proof, which, as varying isfied as to the fact of service to the end of the war, and from settled and salutary principles of evidence, ought yet be compelled to render judgment in favor of the not to be introduced into a public statute law. If there claimant. Applications might be made by some heir, or are cases of the sort intended to be provided for in this his assign, of an officer who had never interposed a claim, bill, demanding relief, which could not be maintained by or suggested a right to half pay or commutation; yet, on the established rules of evidence, they had better be de- the simple fact of service for the least period of time, cided here. Each particular application would depend unaccompanied by any corroborating circumstances, the upon its own merits. Mr. A. said he wholly disapproved Secretary, against his own opinion, would be compelled the enactment of any new principles of evidence fitted to allow the claim.

up for particular cases. Mr. A. said the third rule of presumptions he could as The bill professes to make provision for the payment little subscribe to as those already considered. It was, of those persons who were entitled to the commution that a continental officer, who died during the war, and of five years' full pay in lieu of half pay for life, and of within three months after he is proved to have been with seven years' half pay to the widows and orphans of those his command, shall be presumed to have died in the serofficers who died in the service during the revolutionary vice, unless the contrary appears. This includes the War, and who have not already received their certificates. whole period of the war, and embraces not merely the In aid of this object, it prescribes and gives effect to the claim of the surviving widow for seven years' half pay, but establishment of certain given facts, falling short of proof her heir, representative, and assigns. He considered this of the requirements by the resolutions of Congress, un- also too dangerous a rule of evidence to be embraced in der which the claim is made, by which the applicants a public statute. If once admitted, how can you withhold shall be presumed to have rendered all the services re- your assent to the extending a similar law to other VOL. X.--254

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the best information he could obtain, Mr. A. said he could not come to the conclusion that an officer might now come forward and signify his acceptance of the commuta tion, and demand it, together with an arrear of fifty years' interest. If, in equity, he was entitled to any thing, it would be for the sum simply, with interest only from the time he should establish his claim. Further, he did not desire to apply a strict rule of evidence to applications made by the surviving officers. He was willing to extend a liberal course towards them; but in regard to the heirs and representatives, when so large a sum would be drawn from the treasury, if this bill should pass, with its present provisions, as he believed there would be, he could not support the measure, unless he found himself bound to do it under the contract of the Government.

particular cases? Such are at hand. Under the statute of 332, an applicant to obtain a pension must prove a service of two years: he establishes the fact that he was in the service, but the length of time he does not make out. Why, if you mean to dispense equal justice by your laws to all, will you not prescribe for him a rule of evidence that he shall be presumed to have served the two years? In his case it is as fair and as equitable as in those to be provided for in this bill. Facts like these may be received and duly examined, but should not, of themselves, be imperatively binding. This bill, he contended, made them so. Mr. A. further remarked, that the bill provided for payment of interest from the termination of the war down to the present time, to be computed agreeably to a rule prescribed for the funding of revolutionary claims under the statute of 1790, commonly called the funding act. Have you, sir, examined into the amount of money that He was opposed to that feature of the bill. Interest had would probably be needed? He had looked into a few not usually been allowed on claims against the Govern- of the special acts that had been passed in favor of indi ment, nor were these entitled to any special advantage.vidual applicants for commutation and seven years' half Admitting the fact that those who would be embraced in pay, upon the principles of this bill. He had examired this bill accepted the offer of commutation in lieu of half a few special acts of 18.32, all of the same tenor, garg pay, which was a matter not quite certain, as he should to the proper accounting officer of the Treasury authority attempt to show, they would not be entitled to an arrear to settle, adjust, and pay for five years' full pay, in comma of interest. They should have made their application tation of the half pay for life, together with such interest for their commutation pay: they would then have been thereon as would now be due if a certificate for such com entitled to receive their money or certificates. In neither mutation had been issued and subscribed under the pris case would there have been any allowance of interest ciples of the funding debt; and by an examination of the previous to a demand and proof furnished establishing accounts of expenditures in the Treasury Department, he the right. The applicant would be entitled to payment had found charged, for the payment of twelve of these from the time he had established his claim; and, accord-claims, the sum of ninety-five thousand dollars. It wo ingly, the resolution offering commutation provided that, be impossible to make any correct estimate of the nur if not paid in money, certificates should be issued, bearing an interest making them equal to money. This was all that he found in any of the resolves of the old Congress relating to interest. It was evidently intended by the terms of the resolution of '83, offering the five years' full pay in lieu of half pay for life, that it should be called for within a reasonable period of time; for the same act provided that their election should be signified to Congress through the commander-in-chief, from the lines under his immediate command, within two months, and through the commanding officer of the Southern army, from those under his command, within six months from the date of the resolution. Why should these short periods be given, unless it be for the purpose of affording to Congress the earliest opportunity for closing those demands in the way pointed out by the resolution? The Government was not bound by this resolution, unless certain requisites were complied with on the other side. Their election, if made, was to be notified to Congress, in order to bind them, through the commander-in-chief and commander of the Southern army, within two and six months. Was it so done? In a report to Congress upon the subject of the claims of the officers of the Revolution, made in 1828 by a select committee of the House, it is stated that, "in examining this part of the subject, your committee do not find any signification to Congress of any acceptance, other than a notice on the journals" of a report made by the Secretary of War, on the 31st of October, 1783, and long after the officers had dispersed, that certain lines, from New Hampshire to Virginia, inclusive, had agreed to accept.

ber of applicants who would come in under the liber presumptive provisions of this bill. It had been stated by some gentlemen that these would not probably exceed two hundred or two hundred and fifty in number. He remembered, in 1818, when the pension law of that year was made, to have read the remarks of some gentle man of that Congress, who was supposed to know much as any other upon the subject, that there were not then living more than about five thousand who had serv ed in the revolutionary army. That law passed, many took the benefit of it, and time passed on with its ravage upon human life until the law of '32; and yet, under t last law, some thirty thousand have established their claim and are enjoying its benefits. Considering the provisi of this bill, that it may include all officers who were service on the 21st of October, 1780, and continued unl January, 1781; all who, for any portion of time, wen found in the army subsequent to that period, and all who at any time during the war, died while with their command or within three months after it, with liberty to supply! parol testimony and deficiency in the rolls or returns the army, will it be an extravagant conjecture to say, that if this bill become a law, it may draw from the treasur some ten or fifteen millions of dollars?

Sir, I have cast my eyes over a statement furnished b Congress in 1826, by the Register of the Treasury, which he has made a calculation upon the operation these commutation claims, and find, by following his rule and bringing the interest down to this time, the comm tation of a major general would be $40,000, a brigadie general $30,000, a colonel $18,000, lieutenant colone more than $14,000, a major nearly $13,000, a capta $9,662, lieutenant $6,441, an ensign $4,831.

One further fact in relation to those special acts I wil

This report itself is not to be found; but certain it is that no signification was made to Congress, either by the commander-in-chief, or the commanding officer of the Southern army, or within the times prescribed in the of-state: that four were granted to the survivors and eigh fer; neither was there any resolve of Congress specifying such assent, declaring their option, whether to pay in money the amount offered, or to give security for the same on interest. And in another part of the report, the committee say that, "on a careful examination of this matter, your committee have been forced to the conclusion that the offer was not so complied with." From

to the representatives of the deceased. Now, Mr. Speak er, I apprehend you will agree with me, that before th treasury should be unlocked for this extensive drain upa it, the contract of the Government should be made on strictly, to be a good, legal, subsisting contract.

Permit me to turn your attention to the several resolu tions of Congress; examine them and determine wha

MAY 13, 1834.]

Commutation Pension Bill.

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was intended to be granted-what the extent of them. Iance of such disability, the one-half of his monthly pay. am aware that it is considered by the learned commit-The language of this resolution is as strong, the reasons tee who reported this bill, for whose opinions I will pay greater, and the promise as direct, in this case, as in those the greatest respect, that the right of the heir is indis-under the resolutions of '78, and '80; and yet it has, I putable; yet as I entertain some doubts upon this point, believe, never been contended that the invalid transmitwith great diffidence I hazard the question whether, if ted any legal claim to his heir, if he made none himself. the half pay or commutation is not claimed by the officer Both I consider as personal favors, optional with the indiduring his life, it shall make a part of his estate and de-vidual, to be claimed by him, or not, according to his scend to the heir? If the half pay was intended to be for pleasure. The Government have so treated it in subsethe personal support and comfort of the individual, and quent statutes. In that of '28, each surviving officer, en to be considered as abandoned if not claimed by him, titled to half pay, is authorized to receive his full pay dushould the commutation be considered as standing upon ring life, beginning in 1826. Does this statute create a debt a different basis? Further: Was there such a compliance which may be claimed by the heir, provided the ancestor with the terms of the resolve of '83, on the part of the make no application for it? This is not contended for. officers, as to entitle them to the benefit of it? Was any The highly benevolent purpose of giving to the widow, election signified to Congress, agreeably to the tenor of under the resolution of 1780, seven years' annual half pay the resolution? The report of the committee in 1828, of her husband, commencing at his death, and to be conwhich I have alluded to, shows that none of those requi- tinued only during her widowhood, strikes me so forcisites were complied with. That committee say that, on bly to be a donation for her personal support, that I am 1 careful examination of this matter, they have been not prepared to admit that, whilst she was satisfied to forced to the conclusion that the offer was not so com- abandon it, the heir might, after the lapse of half a cenplied with. It would seem that no vested right was cre- tury, claim it as a debt against the Government, with fifty ated against the Government by that resolve; and although years' interest. The spirit of the resolution is against it. the Government, by acts of 1785, '87, and '92, opened Its object is, to my mind, clearly indicated, and I am com. the door for them to come in, and receive, individually, pelled to oppose this feature of the bill. their certificates, yet this created no obligation beyond the condition of those acts.

Mr. A. said he had now passed through with such suggestions as he felt called upon to make before the vote But it is alleged that the resolves of the 15th of Au- should be taken. He would repeat, that it was not to gust, 1778, and 24th of August and 21st of October, 1780, the claims of the survivors that he made objections, but create such an estate as would pass to the heir, although to the application of those who, on account of their own never claimed by the ancestor. Let me turn your atten- services, were no more entitled to draw from the treasfion to those resolutions, for the purpose of getting at ury their splendid fortunes than were the descendants their definition and extent. The first is, that all mili- of any other portion of the worthy patriots of those days. tary officers, commissioned by Congress, who now are, All exerted themselves during that eventful struggle, as or hereafter may be, in the service of the United States, well he who remained at home as the officer and private and shall continue therein during the war, shall, after soldier who underwent the hardships of a campaign. the conclusion of the war, be entitled to receive annually, None obtained fortunes, in a pecuniary point of view; for the term of seven years, if they so long live, one-half the present pay of such officers."

The second extends the provisions of the first to the widows of those officers who have died, or shall hereafter die, in the service, to commence from the time of Rich officers' death, and continue for the term of seven years; or, if there be no widow, or in case of her death or intermarriage, the said half pay to be given to the orphan children of the officer dying as aforesaid, if he shall have left any. The third resolution extends the half pay for seven years, in the first resolution, to half pay for life.

but, by their united exertions, aided by a kind Providence, procured for themselves and their posterity that which was of infinitely more importance, the blessings of the most free and liberal form of government upon earth.

Mr. TURRILL then rose and said: Mr. Speaker, if I had succeeded, as I had hoped to do, in obtaining the floor at an earlier day, it was my purpose to have examined somewhat minutely the several resolutions and statutes which have been passed by Congress, in relation to the commutation of pay by the officers of our revolutionary army, together with the reasons which led to their passage, and from such examination to have demonstrated I ask the question, do these resolutions create a debt that these meritorious men possess both legal and equigainst the Government in behalf of the heir, provided table claims against the United States, and that rigid justhe ancestor interpose no demand? They fix the com- tice requires that these claims should be referred to some mencement and termination of the claim, and the several competent office for settlement. But, Mr. Speaker, this periods of time when it should be paid. It is not, in the whole subject has been so fully and so ably discussed by character of wages, stipulated to be paid for services pre- the honorable gentleman from Ohio, [Mr. CRANE,] who vious to entering into the employment of the Government; has to-day addressed the House in favor of the bill, that I nor does it stipulate for the payment of a given sum for know I should be trespassing too far upon the patience of A corresponding amount of service. Although the service the House, were I to occupy the time by entering upon of two might be alike, one might receive one year's an examination of this subject; I do not, therefore, wages, and the other forty, and, if not claimed by the an-rise now for the purpose of entering into a full discestors, the heirs would be paid in the same proportion. cussion of the merits of this bill, or with a view of anWould it not with greater propriety be said that it was a swering the various objections which have been, or which gratuity, a pension, allowed in addition to their stipulated may yet be, urged against it, but merely to state, in as compensation, to continue during life on condition they brief a manner as possible, some of the most prominent shall demand it? In order further to test the probable in- reasons which induced me to agree to the bill in the comtention of the Legislature in passing these resolutions, mittee, and which will now govern my vote on the queslet us compare their phraseology with that of '76, in relation before the House; in doing which I will detain the tion to the half pay granted to invalids, upon the construc- House for but a very short time. It is matter of history, tion of which I apprehend there is no difference of opin- sir, that, during the war of the Revolution, this country ion. This enacts that every officer or soldier who should was suffering under great pecuniary embarrassment. The lose a limb in any engagement, or be so disabled in the Government could not procure the necessary means to service as to render him incapable afterwards of getting clothe and feed the army, much less to pay the officers a livelihood, shall receive during his life, or the continuand soldiers. As the war proceeded, the difficulties in

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Commutation Pension Bill.

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creased, the country became more and more embarrassed, who were entitled, richly entitled, to half pay for life, and so great and so threatening were our dangers that the voluntarily submitted the whole subject to the wisdom of stoutest hearts began to tremble for the result; the friends Congress. They had entered the service of their coun of liberty were engaged in a glorious, but a most unequal try to conduct her to freedom, to independence; and struggle. The pecuniary means which were indispensa- they could not consent to receive any thing for their ble to a successful prosecution of their great undertaking "services, sacrifices, and sufferings," which was not freecould not be obtained. At this crisis, Congress resorted ly granted by their fellow-citizens. Mr. Speaker, shall to the only expedient in its power to maintain the cause we perform this contract? Shall we pay what we have of the country, and keep its army in the field. Full com- thus solemnly promised to pay? Shall we discharge a pensation was promised to those who should stand by their debt the creation of which secured to us our free insti country to the end of that eventful contest, and provision tutions? Or, will this rich, this powerful nation shield itwas also made for the widows of those who should die in self behind the statute of limitations? Why were not the service. The resolution passed in May, 1778, se- these demands paid when they became due, and when cures to "all military officers commissioned by Congress," many of the meritorious officers were suffering for want who continued in the service of the United States "du- of the money? The reason is obvious. At the close of ring the war," seven years' half pay. In August, 1780, the war this nation was not in a situation to pay a single Congress declared "that the resolution of May 15th, 1778, dollar; and I am not aware that it has at any time since granting half pay for seven years to the officers of the that period offered to pay these demands. army who should continue in the service to the end of the And will it be seriously urged by gentlemen on this war, be extended to the widows of those officers who floor, that we ought not to perform this contract, made have died, or shall hereafter die, in the service. In Oc- in the hour of our necessity, because those entitled to tober, 1780, Congress declared, by resolution, "that the commutation have been kept out of the use of their mo officers who shall continue in the service to the end of ney until the amount has become large? I trust not, sir. the war shall also be entitled to half pay during life, to I am aware, sir, that certificates were tendered to the commence from the time of the reduction." Here, then, officers. But did those certificates, in the slightest de Mr. Speaker, was an express agreement, on the part of gree, increase the liability of Government? No, sir. the United States, to give to those officers who should They were only additional evidences of prior indebted serve to the end of the war, half pay for life. And this ness. Many of the officers did not think it an object to solemn national pledge was given at the urgent request be at the trouble and expense of obtaining them. It was of General Washington, whose powerful and patriotic natural they should entertain such feelings, for at that mind was deeply impressed with the necessity as well as time the credit of the Government was at such a low justice of the measure. It was soon discovered, how-ebb as to preclude all rational hope of obtaining money ever, that this arrangement, though manifestly just and for them. In the language of my honorable colleague, expedient, awoke associations and prejudices among the [Mr. VANDERPOEL,] who addressed the House in oppopeople, which rendered it very unpopular in many of the sition to the bill, "these certificates were scarcely worth States, insomuch that the officers of the Revolution, al- the rags from which the paper was made." Those "who though they had faithfully performed their part of the con- obtained them were compelled to sell them for a mere tract, and were justly entitled to half pay for life, (for the song."

war was then virtually at an end,) with characteristic dis- To the claims of a portion of the Virginia troops, lapse interestedness drew up a memorial, and sent it to Con- of time cannot be an objection with any one. That State gress, requesting them to remove all objections, by grant-resisted the claims of those officers-suits were instituted, ing a compensation for a limited period, or a compensa- and a decision was had against the claimants. That decision tion in gross. In consequence of this memorial, Congress operated as an effectual bar to all the class of cases until passed the resolution of 1783, "granting to the officers 1830, when, upon full argument, that decision was over of the army five years' full pay, instead of the half pay ruled, and the halls of justice were again thrown open. promised for life." The preamble to the resolution, Mr. Sir, for the last twenty years, Congress has been giving Speaker, contains, in a succinct form, the views of the offi- commutation under these resolutions; and it is too late now, cers, as well as of Congress, 'upon that application; and as it I apprehend, to interpose the statute of limitations against is short, I beg the indulgence of the House while I read it. righteous claims unrighteously denied. The act of 1828 "Whereas the officers of the several lines under the does not, as has already been clearly shown by the hon immediate command of his excellency General Washing- orable gentleman from Pennsylvania, [Mr. MUHLISBERE, ton did, by their late memorial, transmitted by their in any way affect the claims for commutation; it leaves committee, represent to Congress that the half pay grant- those claims precisely as they were. They still exist in ed by sundry resolutions was regarded in an unfavorable all their justice, and in all their sacred obligation. light by the citizens of some of these States, who would If, then, sir, these claims are to be paid, to what triprefer a compensation for a limited term of years, or by a bunal, I ask, shall they be referred for settlement? Shail sum in gross, to an establishment for life, and did on that we send them to a responsible officer, every way comaccount solicit a commutation of their half pay for an petent, from long experience in investigations of a sim equivalent in one of the two modes above mentioned, inilar character-an officer who will have in his possession order to remove all subjects of dissatisfaction from the all the documentary evidence extant, to show who were minds of their fellow-citizens: in the service, how long each officer continued in the

"And whereas Congress is desirous as well of gratify-service, and what officers have been paid, either by the ing the reasonable expectations of the officers of the army State of Virginia or by the United States? Or shall we as of removing all objections which may exist in any part continue to legislate in detail upon each individual case! of the United States to the principle of the half-pay estab- This is the main question presented to the House by the lishment for which the faith of the United States hath been bill on your table. Let it be remembered that the propledged; persuaded that those objections can only arise ceedings in these cases are, in their nature, strictly judi from the nature of the compensation, not from any indis- cial. There is no legislative discretion whatever to be position to compensate those whose services, sacrifices, exercised. Every thing depends upon the proof. I and sufferings have so just a title to the approbation and that be sufficient to bring a claim within the resolutions, rewards of their country: it must be allowed, as a matter of course. It cannot be resisted or denied without partiality and oppression; nor Thus, Mr. Speaker, these brave, these generous men, is there any place for the exercise of discretion as to the

"Therefore, Resolved," &c.

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amount. It is not a gratuity, it is a claim, and the with an allowance of 6 per cent. until the same shall be amount is fixed and certain. For myself, Mr. Speaker, paid. The principle had then been recognised, and the I am convinced, from the little experience I have had obligations acknowledged. And Mr. Y. maintained, and upon this floor, that this is not the proper place for the quoted many instances in support of this position, that settlement of such demands. Your committees, to which the same rule extended to the compensation of the widthese applications are referred, are not in possession of ows and orphans of those who had fallen in the glorious the documentary evidence necessary to their decision. contest which had established our independence. He They have not the records and vouchers to show what afterwards adverted to the particular provisions of the bill, officers have been paid; and unless your committees are which, in respect to the notice of the proof required, he extremely vigilant and industrious, nay, more, sir, unless contended bore with peculiar hardness and injustice on they take it upon themselves to send off and hunt up tes- the claimants; as also, in his opinion, did the statute of timony in each case submitted to them, bills will often limitation. be reported in favor of those who have already received Mr. Y., in continuation, argued that the time allowed their commutation; and, when once reported, being ac- for the settlement of these claims had not been sufficient companied by the necessary proof of service, there will to justify the application of the principles of limitation. be nothing to impede their passage through the House. Further, that it was to be presumed that many of these Sir, the argument of the honorable gentleman from Ver- officers had been prevented, by sickness or infirmity, mont, [Mr. ALLEN,] in which he endeavored to show the from presenting their claims within the prescribed time. facility with which bills granting commutation pass He referred to the case of Colonel Logan, whose widow through the House, is, to my mind, one of the strongest and orphans had never received a cent, although General reasons that can be urged in favor of referring these Washington had complimented that individual as one who, claims for settlement to a different tribunal. If a claim for bravery and talents, would do honor to any nation; is rejected by one committee, those interested renew the also to various other individual cases which bore upon application year after year, until, in some way or other, the question, and his argument upon it. After adverting they succeed in obtaining a favorable report. I believe to various points in which the present system was defecit to be much easier, Mr. Speaker, to get an unfounded tive, Mr. Y. then illustrated the case by that of an insolclaim allowed here than it would be to obtain for it the vent individual, who, having paid certain claims, at last sanction of a judicial decision by a competent officer. shuts down his gate, and says he will pay no man unless Congress is more liable to be imposed upon. Here all he comply with certain conditions. Such was the case the testimony is ex parte; it is furnished by the applicants with this Government. The statute of limitation ought to themselves, and the rules of evidence are not as rigidly be opened once more. The present act only opened it applied here as in a judicial tribunal. The proof is not for four years, and he was unwilling to accede to this limas thoroughly examined, or as accurately weighed. itation. He further contended against the principle Mr. Speaker, as a matter of economy, I would refer that those who had not served to the end of the war these claims as proposed by the bill. Instead of increas- should be cut off from the benefit of the act for that term ing, I have no doubt but that it would diminish the of service, even though the loss of a limb or other disdraught upon your treasury. If we undertake to legis- ability in the war might have been the cause of their not late upon each individual case, all that have merits will serving the full term. He (Mr. Y.) was of opinion that be allowed, as a matter of course; and we shall, in that the present bill did not extend the benefits originally incase, be compelled to pay many which have no merits, tended by Congress. Another class to which objection and which, were they submitted to the ordeal of a had been made the officers of a higher grade, could be judicial investigation, would never be allowed. Sir, but few; to restrict the action of Congress on this class It appears to me that there can be no well-founded would be unworthy of a prosperous and high-minded objection either to the payment of these claims or to nation. It was further to be taken into consideration, the proposition to refer them for settlement to a com- that a considerable sum had accrued to the country of unpetent officer. Gentlemen may differ as to the rules claimed dividends of persons whose claims had been made of evidence by which that officer shall be governed in out, but who had not been able to take the benefit of making his investigations; that is a matter for the con- those claims. Mr. Y. concluded by a further statement sideration and decision of the House. It is not my pur- of the injustice of the statutes of limitations, and by expose, sir, now to enter into a defence of the rules con- pressing a hope that Congress would not take advantage tained in the bill. The reasons for introducing them have of that principle. already been submitted to the House by other members of the committee. I will simply remark, however, that they are the same rules which have regulated the proceedings of your committee and this House for years; and, if we continue to legislate upon this subject, the same rules of evidence will, I have no doubt, continue to regulate our proceedings, except, perhaps, they may gradually become more and more relaxed. Mr. Speaker, I will not detain the House longer. If these demands are referred for settlement in the manner proposed by the bill upon your table, Congress will be relieved from a large portion of business; justice will not much longer be delayed; the old soldier who is entitled to commutation, will then obtain a speedy hearing, and your treasury, sir, will be more effectually barred against all unfounded claims.

Mr. YOUNG followed. He referred to the former uniform practice of the House in these cases, and expressed his surprise at the argument advanced by the gentleman from Vermont. He quoted the resolutions under the laws of 1781, 1782, 1783, and 1784, on the commutation to be allowed; and contended that pay was thereby to be granted to all those then in the service,

Mr. GILMER said he was convinced that if the House passed this bill it would be because they had declined to give it that examination which it merited. It was true, as had been said, as long as these cases came before the committee as individual cases, it would be utterly impos sible, constituted as that House was, for the members to examine and weigh the facts and documents brought forward as evidence of claims. Many of them would take up twelve months; and how then could that House examine the facts of particular cases? It became, therefore, necessary for the House to examine the principles on which these claims might be determined. He was willing to make ample and liberal compensation where it was merited, and if the widow or children of any one of these officers were alive, he would be in favor of granting the commutation to them; but he was unwilling to approve of the passage of a bill which would give rise to a mass of claims to an extent of which they could form no calculation, and from persons who had no sort of title to any pay whatever. Mr. G. referred to the former commutation bill, passed by men, some of whose names were to be found appended to the declaration of independence, and who

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