Abbildungen der Seite

quarter of service; and then, and not until then, was he required to pay them; and then did he become a defaulter for them, and not before. There has not been discovered any evidence whatever, that, in regard to this portion of his present indebtedness, Mr. Swartwout's accounts, either at the custom-house or as returned to the Treasury, bear any impress of fraud or deception ; for what was omitted to be charged on one of those accounts was fully charged on another of them.” And was not this evidence of fraud or deception--to charge to one account, that which belonged to another? It is assumed that Mr. Swartwout was no defaulter-that his accounts were not fraudulent or deceptive-because they presented the aggregate sum with which he was chargeable; and that the Executive and Treasury officers have done him injustice in so representing the accounts, which for seven years he continued to transmit to the Treasury. That is to say, the habit of Mr. Swartwout to represent himself as having large sums of cash on hand, when they had been used by himself, was no fraud in his accounts—to return large amounts as retained to meet protested duties when these moneys had been spent for his private purposes was no fraud—to keep his account at bank in accordance with his weekly return to the Treasury Department, by including in the former the receipt of two or three days more than in the latter, was no fraud. Yet in regard to those things, the testimony is clear and uncontradicted, and if these be not evidence of fraudulent accounts -aye, of skilful fraud—it is impossible to conceive what evidence could have been required.

Such is the whole drift and tenor of this report-a crimination of political opponents, not a candid exposition of the truth. Such is the whole course of proceedings adopted by this Committee, from first to last. Trace them from the beginning to the end-the partial call for correspondence; the violent accusations and denunciations in advance ; the formation of their body by secret ballot; the exclusion even of such a minority as the friends of the accused would have desired; the secret delation of discharged officers; the refusal to hear testimony in defence of the accused; the course of examination so adopted, as to prevent any explanation or refutation of charges intended to be made ; the concealment from public offi. cers of the grounds on which they were to be attacked; the introduction of the report at a period of the session too late to permit any refutation or reply; the circulation through the newspapers of a partial abstract of what was asserted to be proved; the withhold. ing of the evidence until long after the report was spread through the country; the whole drift and effort of the report itself to diminish the guilt of the defaulter, and to criminate the Executive and Treasury officers-trace all this, we say, and what true light has the country received from this investigation ; what have Congress

gained from the work of agents who have so misused the trust confided to them; what return have the public received for.the large amount of public money squandered on partizan printers and on the Committee themselves; what reliance can be placed on their attempted exculpations of the guilty ; what credit can be given to the wholesale criminations of the officers of the Treasury; what candid or honorable man would permit himself to believe, on assertions so made, and evidence so brought forward, the reiterated charges of official misconduct, thrown around with an indiscriminating hand upon every public functionary whom it was deemed matter of policy to attack or injure?

Nor is it only for what they have done, and the manner in which they have done it, that the proceedings of this Committee of Investigation should and will receive general and just animadversion, What has been omitted, is not less remarkable than what has been performed. The words of the resolution by which they were constituted, declared it should be “their duty to inquire into all such facts connected with said defalcations as might be deemed material to develop their true character,” and in order that they should discharge that duty, "the said Committee had the power to send for persons and papers" conferred upon them. They were invested with that plenary authority which Congress could alone give. They were not confined in their inquiries by the limitations imposed on the Executive or Treasury officers. They were bound, when they accepted their trust, 10 omit no investigations which should “ develop the true character” of these frauds. The officers of the Treasury Department had pursued their examinations as far as the law authorized them to go; they had examined the books, vouchers, and accounts of Swartwout and Price ; they had obtained such testimony as they could from individuals connected with the revenue at New York; they had ascertained the exact amount of public money which each of them had abstracted; they had discovered the times and manner of its being taken ; they had traced the several funds where the deficits occurred; the state of the accounts, whether as kept at the Custom-house or examined at the Treasury, had been explicitly and fully presented. Yet with all this, the President, aware of the limited powers of the Treasury Department, in pressing such an investigation, had recommended a further inquiry under the extensive powers of Congress. That body itself, with the results before them of what the Treasury officers had done, still thought that there were other “developments material to the true character of defalcations," and that these, their Committee, vested with such ample authority, could, and ought to make. Have they done so? What single material fact tending to develop the true character of these defalcations is now known to the public, that was not before known? Is the


Results attainable by a proper Investigation.


amount of the defalcation changed, or its source, or the mode in which it was perpetrated ? In no instance has this been done. What new facts, at all material to develop the character of these defalcations, is brought to light, in this great volume of seven hun. dred and sixty-eight pages ? Perhaps the important evidence derived from the thirty-five questions pronounced to Mr. John Becker, " the collector of funds for Tammany Hall," or the vast disclosures of Mr. Arent . Depesster and Mr. Abraham B. Vanderpoel, in regard to the expenses incurred at the elections in New York, are deemed to be “material developments" of the character sought by Congress. Such, we venture to say, is the opinion neither of Congress nor of the country. The Committee were bound to have removed the veil of mystery that hangs over the transactions of Swartwout and Price, and which they alone could remove. The Treasury officers had shown that Custom-house bonds to the amount of six hundred and forty-six thousand dollars had been surrendered by Swartwout, and the money not paid into the Treasury; they had shown that six hundred and eleven thousand dollars of these had been so surrendered in one quarter of the year 1837; they had given a list of the persons by whom nearly six hundred thou. sand dollars of these bonds must have been paid, if paid at all. Beyond this the Treasury officers had no power to go. They had no right or authority to examine these persons, or to make further inquiry in regard to those payments, extraordinary and mysterious as the whole matter was. Such power the Committee of Investi. gation had. The transaction was one above all others “material to develop the true character of the defalcation." Yet was it totally and absolutely disregarded ; and the whole of it, after the Committee had passed fourteen days in New York, where the per. sons perfectly able to disclose every thing relating to it residedwas left in the same obscurity as on the day when the Committee were appointed.

Was it not “material to the development of this defalcation” to ascertain in what manner this amount of more than half a million of dollars, apparently collected in three months, had been disposed of? Yet none of the persons or papers are sent for that could disclose this. Was it not material-yes, peculiarly and indispensably material-to know in what manner the whole of Swartwout's appro. priations of public money had been applied; what property he had; where the Government were to look for indemnity or repayment? Yet no ray of light is thrown upon this branch of the subject. The necessarily imperfect inquiries of the Solicitor and Comptroller of the Treasury-made without any “power to send for persons or papers," without any authority to summon witnesses, convey all the information we yet have as to the property of Swartwout, or the chance of recovering any portion of the debt. There is no possible doubt that Congress meant the Committee to examine into the subject; such a body could alone do it; yet has it been totally and absolutely neglected. The officers of the Treasury are left to find out these matters as they may; and we presume they will hereafter be censured, if they fail to discover or pursue all the various investments or speculations that Swartwout may have made.

In regard to the defalcation of Price-still more mysterious in its character-a degree of negligence equally extraordinary is exhibited. Although it is stated in the report of the minority of the Committee, that they were “under the conviction, from the general complexion of the testimony during the whole of the investigation, that Price acted a very important part in these frauds and peculations," yet was any examination into the nature, extent, or character of this connection totally neglected—and this, too, notwithstanding the urgent solicitations of the Democratic members of the Committee. Even the clerks in Mr. Price's office do not appear to have been called before them; the sums of money he has been charged with having collected are not verified by the testimony of the persons stated to have paid them; what property he possessed that may be made available they never sought to know; and the whole light they throw on the defalcations of Price, is that derived from the examinations and report made by the present District Attorney and Collector, to the Solicitor of the Treasury, and under his instructions.

Do we err, then, in saying that what this Committee have omitted, displays even a greater neglect of the trust they assumed and the duty imposed on them, than that which they actually did ? While engaged in scrambling after evidence to criminate the officers of the Treasury, and in so interpreting and mystifying matters previously known as to make them subserve a political end, they have disregarded the will and intention of Congress, and they have left in deeper obscurity that which they could and ought to have explained.

In assigning the causes of the defalcations of Swartwout and Price, it could not be expected-after the course the Committee had pursued, and the evidence which they had either taken or omitted to take--that any others would be found than such as might tend to criminate the officers of the Government or their own political opponents. The defects of existing laws; the skilful means adopted to evade detection; the falsification of accounts; the want of checks and securities recommended to Congress for adoption, over and over again—all these, and every similar cause, are of course discarded by the Committee, and those only are admitted or recognized by them which are supposed to justify the censures they were predetermined to make. “Culpable negligence" is charged upon the present First Auditor of the Treasury, because the register of bonds in his office had been permitted to fall in arrear, though the testimony before the Committee clearly shows that whatever negligence there was, occurred years before he came into office, and that the time necessary to supply the arrears in the register would have made it impossible, even if a clerk had occupied his whole time upon that subject, to have discovered by those means, at an earlier period than was done, the defalcation in the bond account of 1837.

* Culpable negligence" is also charged on the First Comptroller of the Treasury, an officer who had been but a few months appointed, because, in revising the accounts of the Auditor, he did not adopt a system which was not either required by the plain construction of the law designating his duties, or ever adopted, so far as appears, from the commencement of the Government; but which the Committee assume to be sufficient for detecting the fraudulent accounts of Swartwout. Page after page is devoted to an elaborate argument to prove that the weekly returns, made to the Secretary of the Treasury for the purpose of ascertaining the situation of the revenue for financial purposes, should have been used for the detection of defaulters; and the “conclusion ” drawn is, that the negligence of the Secretary is a primary cause of the delinquency of Swartwout having been so long undiscovered. So in regard to the defalcations of Price. Although it is well known that the laws regulating District Attorneys are so loose as to make every check upon them next to impossible; although the testimony before the Committee expressly stated that the principal means by which Price proceeded in his frauds, was receiving money in a manner contrary to the directions of the Solicitor of the Treasury; and although the evidence showed that he had made rapid collections from suits which the law placed under his control, and then suddenly fled from the United States; yet the causes of his defalcation are pronounced to be “continued neglect at the office of the Solicitor of the Treasury.” Nay, more, it must have been known to the Committee, that the District Attorney was among those officers, receiving large amounts of public money, from whom no bonds were required, and no examination of whose accounts was legally provided for; that this was a defect in the law, expressly pointed out by the Solicitor of the Trea. sury, and submitted to Congress by the President, in his very first annual message, with a view to legislative amendment; and that, had this been accorded, the delinquency of Price would not have occurred or, if occurring, would have been attended with no loss.

Such is the extreme injustice, the partizan character by which this report is distinguished from first to last. Instead of a document resulting from the investigations of this Committee, in which are disclosed the defects of existing laws, the manner in which the public treasure has been abstracted, and the changes suggested by experience to counteract the ingenuity of fraud, we have a volumi

« ZurückWeiter »