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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 inihi 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 bost 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 transaction.
The conduct of the Committee, from the commencement to the close, was in accordance with the manner and motives of its crea
tion. It was soon made evident that the object of its investigation was not an inquiry about defaulters; but an extended range of inquisitorial research, secretly conducted, and implicating both officers of the Government and private citizens. The Democratic members in vain raised their voice at the outset against such a course of proceeding. In vain did they represent that the Committee, though a select, was not a secret one; that the House, when it constituted it, never intended its proceedings to be kept secret; that justice required prompt and early notice to be given to all persons accused; that the charges ought to be made in a public manner, the accused being confronted with the accuser; and that secret inquiries were unknown to the Constitution, and alien to the practice and feelings of the American people. Their resolutions expressing these sentiments, and asserting that all persons, whether officers of the Government or private citizens, who in the course of the investigation might be implicated or charged with official misconduct, should have immediate and prompt notice of the charge, so that, if innocent, they might repel it; and that, whatever might be its nature, it was reasonable and just that the same should be publicly brought forward and publicly answered; were promptly laid upon the table, and witnesses or persons were permitted to be present or excluded, according to the objects, views, or caprice of the ruling majority. Perceiving from this that an investigation into the designated defalcations was not in reality the object, but that a field of discovery was to be opened and entered upon, a last attempt was made to recal the majority to the object of their appointment. It was equally fruitless with that which had sought for fairness and justice in the proceedings. A resolution that “the Committee would proceed with all possible despatch to investigate the case of Swartwout, and, when that was complete and ended, take up the case of Price, and give that a thorough investigation," was laid upon the table; the misconduct of these principal defaulters, and the extent and manner of their depredations, were left without the least light being thrown upon them, in addition to that already obtained by the officers of the Government; and a roviog inquiry for political purposes was instituted and persisted in for several weeks, varying in its extensive range from the leading Federal and Conservative politicians of New York to the committees of Tammany Hall, and mainly intended to drag into the net whatever could be so perverted as to criminate the present collector of New York, the Secretary and subordinate officers of the Treasury Department, or any other person whose political sentiments happened to differ from those of the majority of the Committee.
As if impatient of the delay which the performance of their assigned duties would occasion, and while the investigation relative to Swartwout was still unclosed, Mr. Hoyt, the present collector
VOL. V. NO. XVII.-MAY, 1839.
was peremptorily called on for numerous papers and documents in relation to his own official conduct, the correctness of which was totally unimpeached. In his reply, he ventured to ask the Committee whether he was himself regarded as a defaulter, and embraced in the resolution that prescribed their duties? This simple inquiry, this plain right of every citizen, was treated as an evasion by the majority of the Committee—as a desire to withhold the evidences of his official conduct. To ask such a question was
haracterized as a sensitiveness incompatible with conscious integrity; and a response to it was promptly and peremptorily refused. Mr. Hoyt complied with the resolution and furnished ihe papers; but he demanded of the Committee, as a matter of right, that, having gone thus far, they would at least do him the justice of entering into a thorough investigation of his official conduct before they left New York. This reasonable request was treated with absolute contempt ; butas if, while his desire to vindicate himself was spurned as an indig. nity towards his self-constituted judges, their wish to arraign him was proportionably angmented--they listened with complacency to the assertions secretly made against him by an officer of the customs, whom he had himself found it necessary to dismiss, The Democratic members of the Committee, considering the plainest principles of justice violated by allowing the character and reputation of an important officer of the Government to be attacked, as it were, in the dark, without his knowledge, or having the means to know the charges made against him, moved a resolution that he should be furnished, by the clerk, with copies of all the interrogatories and answers of David S. Lyon, the witness referred to, as far as he had made answers to them, relating to the conduct of Mr. Hoyt. This, however, seeming to be too great an indulgence towards one who had ventured to ask of the nature of the charges against him, was speedily amended, by the majority, who would only assent that he might be “summoned as a witness, and that before he was examined, the interrogatories submitted to Lyon, and his answers thereto, might be read to him, if desired, or he be allowed to read them himself; and that he might have liberty to attend the Committee during the examination of any witness called upon to testify concerning his official conduct."
Well do the Democratic members characterize this proceeding in Their report! Justly do they “call the attention of the House and the country to this amendment--to this boon given to Mr. Hoyt, in his position of collector, surrounded as he was by open and secret enemies, in the shape of officers discharged by him, under an imperious sense of duty to the public and himself, from their places in the custom-house; and of foreign importing merchants, who fancied they had been injured by him in the discharge of his duty as collector." Most properly do they “beg the House and the country to look
at it in its two-fold aspect as a subpoena, and as an indulgence given to an American citizen, who had his reputation, dearer to an honor. able man than life itself, at stake; and to say, “if these things can pass us like summer clouds, and not attract our special wonder." “Mr. Hoyt,” they observe, “ was summoned to appear forthwith, not as an ordinary witness, but in the double character of a witness and party accused. For rapidity of movement and quickness of execution, it was more like a warrant than a subpena. It was no sooner served than Mr. Hoyt was in the Committee room. Lyon's testimony, as far as it had gone, was read to him, and he was instantly placed in the crucible of one of the members of the Committee, who examined himn for many consecutive hours. We know not how others felt at the scene passing around them; but for ourselves, it was a subject of deep humiliation, and has left an impression on the memory not easily erased.”
The closing scenes at New York, in regard to Mr. Hoyt, were worthy of those that preceded them. Frequent intimations had been thrown out that the time had nearly arrived for the return of the Committee to Washington. These intimations were, as the Democratic members of the Committee well knew, warnings not to be neglected. The evidence against Mr. Hoyt was in manuscript, though not printed; it would, as a matter of course, appear on the journal. All that he had to oppose to it was his own testimony, and that of one or two other witnesses. Justice demanded that he should have a full and fair opportunity to introduce rebutting evidence. Propriety and the peculiarity of his position required that this opportunity should be afforded him in the city of New York. An attempt was, therefore, made to obtain the passage of a resolution that the Committee would not adjourn their sittings from New York, at least, until Mr. Hoyt had time to prepare his defence. He sent, himself, a written communication making the same demand. The resolution was laid upon the table; the communication of the accused collector was neither read nor received. On the same day a peremptory order of adjournment was passed, and the determination was carried into effect while one of the Democratic members of the Committee was in the act of cross-examining Lyon, the discharged deputy, who had been attacking the collector; and while another of the same members was in the act of submitting a proposition for summoning the witnesses whose examination Mr. Hoyt requested, in order to rebut the insinuations made upon him by that individual. In vain did these members protest that the examination of the matter specially confided to them the defalcations of Swartwout and Price-remained incomplete, and that few facts of any importance on those subjects had been elicited which were not previously known. In vain did they urge that it was due to the fair administration of justice to allow Mr. Hoyt a full opportunity to rebut the charges made against