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The people of the United States are at last favored with the result of the labors of the far-famed Committee of Investigation. After two months consumed in spreading a partizan version through the land, we are permitted to behold the proofs on which they depend to establish the bold charges so widely, and, we may say, so recklessly, disseminated. Their bulky document is at length forthcoming. "Verbosa et grandis epistola venit, E Capreis." From the secret chambers of this new inquisition, (for such its conduct, its acts, its extreme injustice, its unmanly and secret mode of proceeding, so totally at variance with American character and American institutions, prove that it was,) from these six members of Congress-than whom no six ever so wantonly neglected to perform a duty they had assumed, or so unjustly perverted a high trust to malignant and unworthy purposes-we have a volume of seven hundred and eighty-six pages, printed with the public money, and diffused through the country at the public expense. We do not characterize it unjustly. No man, devoid of the heated feelings of a partizan, can look on the proceedings or productions of this Coinmittee without mingled feelings of contempt and pity. We speak thus of this document, after a perusal as careful as its tedious pages would permit. We were anxious to arrive at the truth-to know whether, in spite of the unfair conduct of this Committee, its disclosures might not bring proofs of misconduct against public functionaries. We were prepared to pass the severest judgment against any officer of the people who might be found censurable or corrupt, notwithstanding the partiality of the inquest by which the charges were preferred. There are few who shall commence a similar perusal, that will be found willing to persevere through the same unprofitable task. Probably it was part of the design of the Committee that they should not. Probably it was thought best that their conclusions" should be supported by a bundle of documents so complicated and tedious, that no human patience would essay the labor of proving, by a comparison with the evidence, their falsehood or truth. We pronounce, however, without hesitation, that no candid and honorable man, who shall read this book or report, will hesitate to say that the whole proceeding has been most
* Report of the Committee of Investigation, chosen by ballot, by the House of Representatives, January 17th and 19th, 1839, on the subject of the defalcations of Samuel Swartwout and others, and the correctness of the returns of collectors and receivers of the public money.
partial and unjust; that the Committee have been grossly negligent in the manner and extent of their investigation, wholly omitting to do that which Congress and the country intended and expected would be done; and that the "conclusions" they profess to establish are totally unsupported by the evidence they have themselves adduced.
The proceeding, from the beginning to the end, has been marked by a spirit of partizanship-not by a love of truth. The object of the investigation has been to obtain, if possible, some available grounds of attacking the Administration-not to inquire really and honestly into the adequacy of the existing laws that regulate the Treasury; into the mode by which frauds upon it have been successfully perpetrated; into the delinquencies of those who are really guilty but to gather evidence in secret; to concoct partial statements; to draw unjust but plausible inferences, by which they may heap censure and odium on the Treasury Department. The object has been evidently, from first to last, to criminate public officers for political purposes-not to guard or protect the Treasury. What citizen rises from the perusal of this big book with additional knowledge as to the extent of defalcations, or the means of preventing them? What lights have been thrown upon the subject to guide the future legislation of Congress? The citizen or the legislator finds nothing of this; he has, instead, a train of voluminous sophistry, the sole object of which is to abuse the individual officers of the Treasury Department, and to manufacture materials to be used in electioneering for a future President. The object, we repeat the evident object, the undisguised object of this proceeding from first to last-has been political crimination, not the search for truth.
Let us look back on the commencement of these proceedings. Towards the close of the second session of the late Congress, certain correspondence was called for in regard to the receivers of public moneys; but how was it called for? Why, one-half the correspondence was demanded, while the rest was carefully excluded. The letters written by the Secretary of the Treasury are required; but no call is made for the answers he received. Every instance in which he finds occasion to complain of these officers as wanting in punctuality or correctness is thus brought before Congress; but the reply that might give an explanation or defence is excluded by the terms of the resolution. The document thus garbled, thus partial, presenting but one side, and that, the side most injurious to the officer, is circulated through the country under the supposed sanction of its being a public record, and even the self-defence of the person attacked is carefully suppressed. Is it possible to misunderstand the object of a proceeding like this? Is it possible to doubt the manner in which a scheme thus commenced would
be carried through? "Ex pede Herculem "-the contemplated scheme of monstrous injustice is thus disclosed, in the unfairness by which its incipient movements are distinguished.
The succeeding session of Congress was scarcely commenced, when the next steps were taken in the same partial, unjust, and factious spirit. No preliminary inquiry was made into the truth of facts-no defence, if needed, was allowed-no explanation was asked for; but days and days were consumed in long speeches, filled with the most abusive language against public officers, and especially the Secretary of the Treasury. He was charged in advance with offences for which, if they were true, it was the duty of those who charged him to present articles of impeachment. He demanded that proceeding through his friends, but it was uniformly refused. Not merely was such a trial refused, but the very demand for it was made the ground for increased detraction. To have specified official delinquency, and to venture to sustain it before the American people, and in the face of day, by unperverted evidence and facts, was a task the accusers were not hardy enough to assume. To have substituted an open and honest development of truth, for vagueness of factious declamation and appeals to the passions and interest of party, would have checked the progress of the contemplated scheme. No one can read the speeches that were made on this subject, during the first month of the late session of Congress, without pronouncing them to be unparalleled in the history of American legislation. In language they are coarse, in spirit they are uncandid and unfair, to a degree of which no previous example can be adduced. What could be the object of this? What sufficient motive for it is to be found? None can be assigned except that of prejudging the accused, of perverting the truth, of assuming in advance what was deemed expedient and useful for the purposes of party, but which would not be established by the results of an impartial and legitimate examination. We challenge the production of a parallel case, in the most heated days of political rivalry and excitement, of an instance where a high constitutional officer has been declared guilty in advance of impeachable acts, in speeches on the floor of Congress, without notice or an opportunity of defence, without a previous offer of inquiry, and in language so personal, and offensive. The conduct of the Senate towards President Jackson in 1834, odious and revolting as it was, did not venture to assume or pervert the facts on which it relied-these at least were stated, notwithstanding the rank injustice of the judgment pretended to be deduced from them. What then, we repeat, was the object of the course pursued last winter, with a spirit, and in a manner so vindictive and unjust? Was it not crimination for party purposes, instead of development of truth for the benefit of the country?
If any doubt of this remained, the subsequent proceedings would remove it. The administration courted inquiry; the President had expressly recommended it in his message; the friends of the Secretary of the Treasury had avowed his readiness to meet an impeachment if his accusers would present it; the Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means, a leading member of the administration party in the House, had moved for a select committee to investigate these defalcations; an examination could have been promptly made, which would have developed before Congress and the nation the causes of the defalcations, not only of Swartwout, but of the various officers having charge of the public revenue-which would have shown equally the delinquencies of the officers, and the defects of the laws, and brought the whole subject before the legislature of the Union, in a manner to produce just censure and punishment of the real offender, and judicious amendments of existing statutes. Why was not this permitted to be done? Simply because no such object was sought to be attained. How would this have furthered the schemes of those who had been deluging the country with onesided documents, and shaking the roofs of Congress with violent assertion? What had they to do with the exposition of truth, or the suggestion of amendments in the laws? "Quid mihi cum caballo," as Master Erasmus Holliday says. What was an investigation to them, if it was not made the means of casting odium on political foes, or screening the delinquencies of political friends?
From the proposal made by Mr. Cambreleng of a Committee of Investigation, it was too late to shrink after what had been said. All that remained was so to frame it as to promote the scheme that had been thus far most recklessly, if not successfully, persisted in. The rules of the House, sanctioned by the usage of nearly fifty years, directed that such a committee should be appointed by the Speaker. That officer had himself not only been chosen by a majority of the House, but he had already presided over it during three previous sessions. In addition to this, he had received its thanks, by a deliberate vote, for the faithful discharge of the duties imposed on him by his station, of which the proper selection of committees was far from the least in importance or responsibility. He had evinced in this delicate trust a marked attention to the claims of the minority-of the party to which he was politically opposed. He had given them, on many of the standing committees, a decided majority. In those where established usage, and the necessity of confidential intercourse with the Executive Department, made it matter of evident convenience and propriety, as well as of just deference towards the opinions of a majority of the House, that a majority of the committee should be of the same general political sentiments, he had yet carefully placed on such committees leading members of the opposition, and individuals whom they would
in all probability have themselves selected for such a position. The previous course, therefore, not less than his own pride of consistency, his sense of duty and honor, and the high and conspicuous nature of the trust, gave evidence that from the hands of the Speaker a just, impartial, and competent committee would have come. A committee would have come so selected as to embrace the talents of the House best suited to such an inquiry, and one on which the most able and honorable members of the opposition would have been united with those of the Democratic party. But this would not have answered the political ends it was desirable to attain. A wanton attack was made on the character and conduct of the Speaker-as if it would have been practicable for him, had he desired it, in direct contradiction of all his previous course, so to constitute a committee as to thwart that investigation for which every member expressed an anxious desire. He was charged with gross impartiality and injustice, in defiance at once of the most conclusive evidence, and the recorded testimony of the House itself. To remove every pretext of further debate and delay, the Democratic members yielded to the demand, that the committee should be chosen by the House. This was still insufficient. As if everything was to be opposed that precluded the hidden arrangements of faction, or gave to the proceeding the appearance of fairness or the chance of disclosing unwished-for truth, the stand was deliberately taken, that the Committee should be selected by secret ballot. The responsible choice of the Speaker, and the open vote of the members, exposed to the scrutiny and judgment of their constituents, were equally dreaded. By the secret ballot, the power was attained, not merely of selecting from their own ranks the individuals best suited to their purposes-not merely of putting into the Committee such a majority of their own partizans as they chose― but also of excluding, from the small number they left of those friendly to the administration, all but such as were previously fixed by concert among themselves. Three members only, out of the nine, were chosen from those who were of the same political sentiments with the officers of the Government, whom it was intended to attack. In vain was it demanded, equally as a matter of justice as of right, that the wishes of their political friends might be consulted in the selection of these three. The claim, so unquestionably fair, was rejected without hesitation; and in the final constitution of the Committee, the partizan object of the whole proceeding the total disregard of any desire to attain, and to exhibit to the public, the truth without perversion or disguise-was developed as unequivocally as in every previous step of this unprecedented
The conduct of the Committee, from the commencement to the close, was in accordance with the manner and motives of its crea