Abbildungen der Seite

JANUARY, 1808.

General Wilkinson.

H. OF R.

do. It is not such a court as this that the President is requested to institute. If the President were to find from satisfactory evidence, such as has been given, that General Wilkinson is guilty he will remove him from office; he may go further, and order a prosecution against him in the proper

It had been said by some gentlemen opposed to it, that the evidence ought to be transmitted to the President of the United States; they could see no objection to that. But what could be understood by transmitting it? Why send it to the President of the United States? If it were improper to make the request, why trouble the Ex-district. Whether he should do one or both is ecutive with information on the subject? If it not now necessary to decide. All I understand were proper to transmit the evidence, why scruple the resolution to ask, is, that he will make proper to make the request? inquiry into the conduct of General WilkinionGentlemen had objected to it on Constitutional whether by a particular court, particular officers, grounds; for his own part, he should be one of or particular committee, whether he may see the last to wish to pass any resolution or do any cause to call this officer before him, and give him act contrary to the Constitution; and should also an opportunity to defend himself, it is not necesbe one of the last to do anything which looked sary now to determine or inquire. But in all this like an assumption of powers not delegated to the I cannot see any offence given to the President, House. But in every shape in which he could or any declaration that there is any matter which view the matter, there was not the least cause for he ought to have inquired into, but which he has an apprehension of this kind, and he should en- not. I have not seen any cause for the alarm or deavor to consider the matter as briefly as possible. declamation visible and audible for several days It had been said that the Constitution did not past. The proposition appears to be reasonable, delegate the power to do this thing. This is very and supported by the Constitution, as nothing true, said he; the Constitution does not expressly contained in that instrument forbids it, and to delegate any such power, if we adhere to the let-contemplate no injurious exercise of power against ter of this instrument. But it must be considered the person or property of any individual whatthat there are powers vested in this House which ever. Can any gentleman say how this can inare not expressly given. I would not wish to jure any particular citizen? If he be guilty it extend the powers of this House by implication, will be ascertained, if innocent, his innocence will to do a material injury to the person or property be confirmed his character may be cleared up of any one, to destroy the trial by jury, or to in- and all stains wiped away. For my part I canfringe the province of any branch of the Legisla- not see why all this zeal against an inquiry of ture, or the powers of the Executive. Indeed it this nature, or why the Constitution should be would in my opinion be too absurd to be attempt- held up to discussion, when the simple question is ed in any case. This is not, however, contem- merely whether the President shall be requested plated by the present proposition. If it were a to inquire into this business. There is something proposition to do an injury, my mind would re- in it which I cannot fathom. I have revolved it volt at the idea; but if it be nothing more than in my mind in every possible shape, and cannot what is necessary and proper, where can be the see any ground for the excitement of these feelobjection to it, or where does the Constitution, ings or apprehensions; or that the Constitution deny the exercise of the right? Gentlemen ask, will be destroyed by a simple request by the where does the Constitution give the power? I House of Representatives to the President of the will answer that it grows out of our Constitution, United States to inquire into certain evidence which was founded in the wisdom of our states- which has come within our knowledge. men. This House is the branch of the Legislature considered as more particularly composed of the Representatives of the people; it is our bounden duty to watch over the interests of the United States; when an injury is done to the nation and not checked by the proper authority, it is our duty to inquire and give information. To say, therefore, that because this power is not expressly given we shall not exercise it, does not appear to me to be a very potent argument. Perhaps if this request went to injure an individual, or to deprive him of his rights, there might be some justice in the observation. But after the evidence which has been given to this House for several days past, an inquiry ought to be made by the President; and if General Wilkinson is not a man of integrity, he ought to be removed.

Mr. BACON said, he believed he had expressed his sentiments on this motion, now before the House, when it was offered for their consideration at a former day; believed, for it would be recollected that the general subject had danced before their eyes in such various forms, that it was impossible to say with certainty whether he had expressed his opinion on this particular point or not, but he believed he had. It was not a little amusing, and, perhaps, worthy of attention, to look back and see the regular gradation in which this business had progressed from its first presentation. How had it gone on? First, said Mr. B., it appeared in the form of a modest and simple request, addressed to the Executive, to the language of which it was thought there could not be any objection, although there certainly was to the substance. Then, after the House had considered it a while, it was moved to go further; that it should be committed to a committee, with power to send for persons and papers. This motion was discussed a day or two, when the sense of the House was taken on it, and it was thrown out by

It was said that an inquiry is instituted. This inquiry does not go to the extent which is contemplated by this resolution. It is a fact that this court has not the power of compelling the attendance of the witnesses or the production of papers from a distance, which another court might

H. OF R.

General Wilkinson.

a large majority of votes. What was the next step? A motion that two gentlemen on the floor might be so far indulged as to permit them to lay their evidence on the table. This presented the subject in a more confined and limited shape. It was not giving a committee power over persons and papers; it was represented as a very circumscribed and harmless thing. Without pretending to a great degree of prescience, I then thought I saw the extent to which we should be drawn, and did lift up my feeble voice against it, even in that shape, and suggested my ideas to the House. But I was found to be in a very small minority. I really thought the next step would have been a decision on the resolution, as first moved by the gentleman from Virginia, or on transmitting the papers, which had been laid on our table, to the Executive; but, from the large majority on that question, courage seemed to have been taken to go further. What was next? A resolution proposed by the gentleman from Kentucky. The first resolution, offered by the gentleman from Virginia, simply requested the President to do a certain act, transcending our own powers, in a modest manner; but the gentleman from Kentucky seems to have thought the House then was in a temper to go further, and therefore moved a resolution I shall not occupy the attention of the House not that we should direct the President to do his with any further remarks. I will only observe, duty, but to take the power ourselves and appoint that there is nothing at the bottom of the opposia committee to inquire into a crime of the high-tion to this resolution, no improper motive for the zeal displayed on the occasion. I profess no great zeal; I am neither the partisan of General Wilkinson, nor his foe; shall not join in the eulogium on his character by the gentleman from New Jersey, nor in the aspersions on it by the gentleman from Kentucky. I equally disclaim any participation in both. The character of this officer may be bandied about as gentlemen please, but I will not, for the purpose of showing my zeal for what may be supposed a popular inquiry, be driven from my Constitutional ground; standing on which, and on which alone, I feel myself safe. I thought, the other day, when the House called for information, that they had better have stopped where they were; I endeavored to show the consequences of it then. I now repeat, that here is the ground to halt. If we have already gone too far, we cannot retrace our steps; but we may say we will go no further. If the House go further, I will not go with them; but I hope they will consider the precedents and principles which will flow from the course which they seem now about to adopt.

est magnitude. I did not regret that the subject was brought in this shape before the House. I thought it would produce a good effect; that the House would see how far the "entering wedge" was finally to be driven. But this resolution, and the doctrines urged in support of it, evidently went too far; the temper of the House did not seem to relish it; many gentlemen, who seemed inclined to adopt the first resolution, could not bring themselves up to this. What then was done? The gentleman from Kentucky withdrew it, and then

Mr. RANDOLPH asked leave to set the gentleman right in what he was about to state. He was certain the gentleman from Massachusetts would wish to state nothing but what was correct. The truth was, that the resolution now before them would not have been the subject of debate at present, had it not been for the circumstance of his having misconceived the gentleman from Kentucky. I understood the gentleman, said Mr. R., as meaning to withdraw his to make way for the resolution which I had the honor to submit; when, in fact, had I heard him distinctly, I should have understood that his intention was to withdraw his own to modify it and present it in a new shape, disencumbered of additions unconnected with it. This is the plain state of the fact; and the change of question now originates solely from my having misunderstood the gentleman from Kentucky, and having got possession of the floor before him.

JANUARY, 1808.

ther, on account of the motion of the gentleman from North Carolina to strike out a portion of it. [The SPEAKER said, such was the case.] Then, said Mr. B., I believe the House was in the same unfortunate situation as the gentleman from Virginia, and could not hear the true state of the case; and, really, if I did misunderstand him, I am not so happy as I imagined I should be, for I did hope I should be right in supposing that the comments made upon the resolution had induced him wholly to withdraw it, and am sorry that this does not appear to be the case.

I beg the House now to consider through what stages we have been led in the consideration of this subject. It seems we are now to meet this question in its original form. I will not now again enter into a discussion of it. It will, however, be a useful lesson to me, and, I trust, to the House, to observe through what mazes we have travelled. First, the discussion commenced on a civil request to the Executive that he would do his duty, and exercise his power; but, feeling the ground pretty firm under them, gentlemen thought they might assume more; and the question was at last presented as we yesterday heard it supported by the gentleman from Kentucky.

Mr. RHEA, of Tennessee, said he should vote against this resolution for several reasons; it was inexpedient, unnecessary, and exceeded the power of the House. It was inexpedient and unnecessary at the present time, because the very object of the resolution was already taken into consideration by the President, and a court of inquiry had been ordered in pursuance of it. He should vote against it as inexpedient, because the President of the United States was fully adequate to do every

Mr. BACON said, he did not know how it occurred, and could only see things as they present-thing which he was, by the Constitution or law, ed themselves. He understood the gentleman required to do; and with him alone rested all the from Kentucky to withdraw his motion altoge- power to have this business brought before the

[ocr errors]

JANUARY, 1808.

proper tribunal. There is, said he, a military court to which all these officers are amenable, and by whom they are punishable for any offences which they may commit; nd I am willing to submit to their decision not only this case but every other which may arise, without further interference. I, for my part, shall never descend to the situation of a petitioner to the President of the United States, or to any other department of Government. If, then, the resolution be considered as a petition, the House can do nothing more impolitic than to become petitioners. This Legislature stands precedent to any department of the Government; and if any gentleman thinks fit to come forward as a petitioner, let him do it ; and if he chooses to resign his seat, as he has threatened to do, if we do not agree to "petition," let him do so.

H. OF R.

quest the President; and, being a measure not warranted by the Constitution, I cannot agree to it.

Mr. LYON said, while he should cheerfully have voted for an inquiry by this House, as it was contended that they had not this right to inquire, he should not vote for this, because it requested the President to institute an inquiry, which was already done, and the proceedings of the court were públished. But when, he said, he should vote against the resolution, he felt a sort of repugnance to so voting, from the expression of a belief by many of its opponents, that they had no right to pass it. He contended that they had a right to make inquiry themselves as well as to call upon the President to do it; he was as strongly attached to the Constitution as any one, and could not consent to give up his rights. He should vote against the resolution merely because it called upon the President to do a thing already done. He v was inclined to think some further inquiry was necessary, because of the clamor, and because charges had been made of a disposition to stifle inquiry, which assertions should be met broadly. It ought to be said by every side of the House that they would not hesitate to go into any inquiry. It was a matter of vast importance; and the House should not be influenced by delicacy toward the President, the Commander-in-Chief, or any other man, but boldly take up the case, and show to the world that they were not ashamed to go on with an inquiry, which every part of the nation called for. General Wilkinson's character, after what had been sworn to by Mr. CLARK, did not stand with the nation so that they could have confidence in him; on the contrary, their confidence in that commander must be shaken. The House ought to pursue such a course as would restore confidence to this officer, or he ought to be dismissed from the service. I hope, said Mr. L., that gentlemen who oppose this on Constitutional grounds, do not consider if the inquiry now commenced goes on in such a way as is not completely satisfactory to the whole nation, that the purpose intended will be answered; that if the Commander-in-Chief is exculpated, and that merely because this or that form is wanting, that confidence will be restored, If he is kept in office, and confidence is not restored to him, a great evil will take place, without a remedy, except this House have the power. Gentlemen talk about the time which has been spent. I do not care how much time has been spent, or how much said on this subject; it is better so much time has been spent than that the nation should be kept in suspense. I shall vote against this resolution, though I might vote for the resolution of my colleague, (Mr. ROWAN,) if under consideration now.

The question on Mr. RANDOLPH's resolution, was then taken by yeas and nays-yeas 72, nays 49, as follows:

General Wilkinson.

It has been asked by a gentleman from Connecticut, why should the President be troubled with this evidence, if not with the resolution? This evidence, although upon the table, is unconnected with anything else whatever.


When I was up, a few days ago, I had the honor to mention that the Government consisted of three great departments, and that it was the intention of the framers of the Constitution that these departments should not interfere with each other. I observed, that the Constitution says that the President shall recommend to this House, from time to time, such measures as he shall think proper. Gentlemen had been called upon to show why this House had any right to request him ; it is given up that it is not expressly delegated, and if it is by implication. I should be glad to see it. I have examined the Constitution, and found that every power not delegated to the United States is reserved to the people or the States. I deny that the Constitution ever authorized this House to recommend to the President any measure which it is within his province to do. If any such authority can be shown, it will be some reason why this resolution should be adopted. I must act according to the Constitution, which I have sworn to support, and I do not see that any power is therein given to do such an act as this, and therefore I shall vote against this resolution and all such. If this doctrine be once established, what will be the consequence? It will be in the power of gentlemen to bring forward a resolution to affect any officer of the Army or Navy, and they might send the whole Army before the President on suspicion. I hope this doctrine will never be adopted; I am content to let these officers remain amenable to the department which has power over them by the Constitution. I deem that department fully competent; and when the power was confided to the Executive department, it was expected that he would do his duty as well as this department; if this is not the case, let this House at once assume the duties of the President, and come before the sovereign people in that capacity; one act under that assumption will blast the unconstitutional doctrine."

YEAS-Evan Alexander, Lemuel J. Alston, Burwell Bassett, William W. Bibb, William Blackledge, Thomas Blount, John Boyle, William A. Burwell, William Butler, John Campbell, Epaphroditus Champion, Mar

As well might this Legislature assume the

power to request a jury to do anything as to re-tin Chittenden, Matthew Clay, Howell Cobb, John

H. OF R.

General Wilkinson.

JANUARY, 1808.

Jacob Richards, Samuel Riker, John Rowan, John Rus

sell, Dennis Smelt, Samuel Smith, John Smith, Richard Stanford, William Stedman, Lewis B. Sturges, Peter Swart, Samuel Taggart, Abram Trigg, George M. Troup, Jabez Upham, James I. Van Allen, Nicholas Van Dyke, Killian K. Van Rensselaer, Daniel C. Verplanck, Jesse Wharton, Marmaduke Williams, Alexander Wilson, and Richard Winn.

Davenport, jr., Joseph Desha, James Elliot, William tion under Mr. ADAMS, and additional information Ely, John W. Eppes, Barent Gardenier, Francis Gard-forwarded to him by Mr. Ellicott. If General ner, James M. Garnett, Charles Goldsborough, Edwin Wilkinson was originally concerned in this comGray, John Harris, William Helms, William Hoge, bination, he must have been appointed to office David Holmes, Benjamin Howard, Reuben Humphreys, by the first administration under this GovernRichard M. Johnson, Walter Jones, James Kelly, ment, and continued by the second, with a full Thomas Kenan, Joseph Lewis, jun., Edward St. Loe and complete knowledge of this fact. The presLivermore, Edward Lloyd, Nathaniel Macon, Robert ent Republican party found General Wilkinson Marion, Josiah Masters, Daniel Montgomery, jun., in office, and abundant proof can be produced that Thomas Moore, Jonathan O. Mosely, Gurdon S. Mum- he possessed the confidence of the two preceding ford, Thomas Newton, Timothy Pitkin, jr., Josiah Administrations. If he was originally a member Quincy, John Randolph, John Rea of Pennsylvania, of the old Spanish combination, or has, at any period prior to the year 1801, been guilty of any act calculated to destroy the public confidence, let the responsibility rest on those who appointed and continued him in office. We have seen in one State of the Union a member of this combination removed from the important office of judge, on the ground of being a Spanish pensioner. A charge of the same kind is now made on oath by a member of this House, against an officer of the United States. It is time that all the information possessed by the Government of the United States on the subject of this combination, should be brought fairly before the public. With a view to obtain this information, he offered the following resolution :

NAYS-Willis Alston, jr., Ezekiel Bacon, David Bard, Joseph Barker, Robert Brown, Joseph Calhoun, George W. Campbell, Peter Carlton, John Chandler, Richard Cutts, Josiah Deane, Daniel M. Durell, William Findley, James Fisk, Meshack Franklin, Isaiah L. Green, John Heister, James Holland, Daniel Ilsley, Robert Jenkins, William Kirkpatrick, Nehemiah Knight, John Lambert, John Love, Matthew Lyon, William McCreery, William Milnor, Nicholas R. Moore, Jeremiah Morrow, John Morrow, Roger Nelson, Thomas Newbold, Wilson C. Nicholas, John Porter, John Pugh, John Rhea of Tennessee, Matthias Richards, Ebenezer Seaver, James Sloan, John Smilie, Jedediah K. Smith, Henry Southard, Clement Storer, John Taylor, John Thompson, Archibald Van Horn, Robert Whitehill, Isaac Wilbour, and James

Resolved, That the President of the United States be requested to lay before the House of Representatives all the information which may at any time from the establishment of the present Federal Government to the present time, have been forwarded to any department of the Government, touching a combination between the agents of any foreign Government and citizens of the United States, for dismembering the Union, or going to show that any officer of the United States has at any time corruptly received money from any foreign Government or its agents; distinguishing as far as possible the period at which such information has been forwarded, and by whom.


Mr. EPPES said he had stated on a former day, in his place, that no information had at any time been received by the present Administration which went to charge Brigadier General Wilkinson with being a Spanish pensioner. This statement was made in reply to a gentleman from Kentucky, who thought it unnecessary to forward to the Executive the evidence exhibited against General Wilkinson, on the ground that this evidence was already in possession of the Executive department. A fact so important to the public ought not to rest on the assertion of any individual. If corruption has at any period of our political existence fixed its fangs on this Government, if men Evan Alexander, Lemuel J. Alston, Willis Alston, known to be Spanish pensioners have at any junior, Ezekiel Bacon, David Bard, Joseph Barker, period been honored with confidence by any ad- Burwell Bassett, William W. Bibb, William Blackministration, it is proper the people should un-ledge, Thomas Blount, John Boyle, Robert Brown, derstand at what period this confidence com- William A. Burwell, William Butler, Joseph Calhoun, menced, and by whom it was reposed. So far George W. Campbell, John Campbell, Peter Carlton, back as the year 1789 or 1790, information was Epaphroditus Champion, John Chandler, Martin Chitforwarded to the Executive department of this tenden, Matthew Clay, Howell Cobb, Richard Cutts, Government, that a combination between citizens John Dawson, Daniel M. Durell, James Elliot, Wilof the United States and the Spanish Government liam Ely, John W. Eppes, William Findley, James had been formed, for the purpose of dismembering Gardner, James M. Garnett, Charles Goldsborough, Fisk, Meshack Franklin, Barent Gardenier, Francis the United States. The information (together Edwin Gray, Isaiah L. Green, John Harris, John with the names of most of the persons concerned Heister, William Helms, William Hoge, James Holin the combination) was forwarded to the first land, David Holmes, Benjamin Howard, Reuben HumAdministration formed under this Government, phreys, Daniel Ilsley, Robert Jenkins, Richard M. Johnat the head of which General WASHINGTON Was son, Walter Jones, James Kelly, Thomas Kenan, Wilplaced. It was known to the second Administra-liam Kirkpatrick, Nehemiah Knight, John Lambert,

Mr. RANDOLPH seconded this motion. After a few objections to this resolution from Mr. QUINCY, on account of its being too comprehensive, not giving the President power to withhold confidential correspondence, the question was, on motion of Mr. RHEA, taken by yeas and nays, and carried unanimously, every member present, to the number of one hundred and twenty, voting in the affirmative-as follows:

JANUARY, 1808.

General Wilkinson.

Joseph Lewis, jun., Edward St. Loe Livermore, Edward Lloyd, John Love, Matthew Lyon, Nathaniel Macon, Robert Marion, Josiah Masters, William McCreery, William Milnor, Daniel Montgomery, jr., Nicholas R. Moore, Thomas Moore, Jeremiah Morrow, John Morrow, Jonathan O. Mosely, Gurdon S. Mumford, Roger Nelson, Thomas Newbold, Thomas Newton, Wilson The House proceeded to consider the amendC. Nicholas, Timothy Pitkin, jr., John Porter, John ments proposed by the Senate to the bill supplePugh, Josiah Quincy, John Randolph, John Rea of mental to an act entitled "An act regulating the Pennsylvania, John Rhea of Tennessee, Jacob Rich-grants of land, and providing for the disposal of ards, Matthias Richards, Samuel Riker, John Rowan, the lands of the United States south of the State John Russell, Ebenezer Seaver, James Sloan, Dennis of Tennessee:" Whereupon, Smelt, John Smilie, Jedediah K. Smith, Samuel Smith, John Smith, Henry Southard, Richard Stanford, William Stedman, Clement Storer, Lewis B. Sturges, Peter Swart, Samuel Taggart, John Taylor, John Thompson, Abram Trigg, George M. Troup, Jabez Upham, James I. Van Allen, Nicholas Van Dyke, Archibald Van Horne, Killian K. Van Rensselaer, Daniel C. Verplanck, Jesse Wharton, Robert Whitehill, Isaac Wilbour, Marmaduke Williams, Alexander Wilson, Rich

Resolved, That this House doth agree to the said amendments.

The House proceeded to consider the amendments proposed by the Senate to the bill, entititled "An act continuing in force, for a further time, the first section of an act, entitled 'An act further to protect the commerce and seamen of the United States against the Barbary Powers:" Whereupon,

ard Winn, and James Witherell.

Resolved, That this House doth agree to the said amendments.

Mr. POINDEXTER, from the committee to whom was referred, on the sixth instant, a petition of Alexander Bailie, late Collector of the Customs for the District of Natchez, in the Mississippi Territory, presented a bill for the relief of Alexander Bailie; which was read twice and committed to a Committee of the Whole on Wednesday next.

Mr. ROWAN said that although a decision on his resolution had been eluded, out of respect for the opinions of gentlemen who objected to particular parts of it, he had modified it, and offered

it as follows:

Resolved, That a special committee be appointed to inquire into the conduct of Brigadier General Wilkinson, in relation to his having at any time whilst in the service of the United States, either as a civil or military officer, been a pensioner of the Government of Spain, or corruptly received money from that Government, or its agents; and that the said committee have power to send for such persons and papers as may be necessary to assist their inquiries; and that they report the result to this House, to enable this House the better to legislate on subjects of the common weal, and our foreign relations, and particularly our relation with Spain, as well as on the subject of the increase of the Army of the United States and its regulations.

A motion to consider this resolution was negatived-60 to 46.

H. of R.

habitants of the city of Washington, in the District of Columbia, reported a bill for incorporating a company for opening the canal in the City of Washington; which was read twice and referred to a Committee of the Whole on Monday next.

Mr. HOLLAND moved that a committee be appointed to wait upon the President with the resolutions this day adopted.

Mr. Love moved that the evidence or information laid before the House relative to the conduct of General Wilkinson be transmitted to the ecutive

Mr. RANDOLPH moved an adjournment.-negatived-ayes 47, nays 57.

The House agreeing to consider Mr. Love's motion, ayes 67.

On motion of Mr. RowAN, seconded by Mr. RANDOLPH, the words "copies of" papers, &c. were inserted; and the resolution for transmitting copies of the papers was agreed to without a division.

The motion for appointing a committee to wait on the President with these resolutions and copies, was agreed to without a division. Messrs. RANDOLPH and EPPES were appointed the committee.

THURSDAY, January 14.

Mr. VAN HORN, to whom was referred, on the tenth of November last, a petition of sundry in

A message from the Senate informed the House that the Senate have passed the bill, sent from this House, entitled "An act to continue in force, for a limited time, an act, entitled 'An act continuing, for a limited time, the salaries of the officers of Government therein mentioned," with an amendment; to which they desire the concur rence of this House.

The House resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole on the bill making appropriations for the support of Government, during the year one thousand eight hundred and eight. The bill was reported with several amendments thereto; which were severally twice read, and agreed to by the House.

Ordered, That the said bill, with the amendEx-ments, be engrossed, and read the third time on Monday next.

On motion of Mr. STANFORD,

Resolved, That the Committee of Ways and Means be instructed to prepare and report a bill to this House fixing and allowing to each clerk in the several Departments, and in the General Post Office, adequate and suitable salaries, according to their services respectively.

On motion of Mr. DAWSON,

"That the House do now resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole on the report, in part, made the second ultimo, by the committee appointed on so much of the Message of the President of the United States, of the twenty-seventh of October last, as relates to the Military and Naval Establishments:"

And the question being taken thereupon, it passed in the negative.

Mr. MORROW said he had been instructed by

« ZurückWeiter »