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H. OF R.

JANUARY, 1808.

power which the Constitution does not permit. Who, it has been asked, will resist this motion? The moment our exercise of what is called the national will becomes unconstitutional, that moment it will be resisted. It is not only in the power but it is the duty of every American citizen to resist our exercise of power upon subjects over which we have no jurisdiction.

ment of any officer of the United States, who shall hereafter receive a pension from the Government of any foreign Power; and of any person holding an office of profit or trust under the United States, who shall, without the consent of Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or any title of any kind whatever, ninth section of the first article of the Constitution of from any King, Prince, or foreign State, contrary to the purpose of obtaining information to guide the House the United States; and that the said committee, for the of Representatives in exercising the powers of legis

But it is contended, if we have not this power by those clauses of the Constitution vesting general powers, or in consequence of our right to ex-lation upon those subjects, be instructed and empowercise the national will, that still we have power ered to inquire whether any officer of the United States to impeach the President of the United States, has heretofore received such a pension, or any present and therefore to inquire whether he has done his or other reward from a foreign Power, contrary to the duty as to this or that particular officer. said provision of the Constitution, and that the said committee report a statement of facts, with their opinion thereon, to the House.

civil officer. It was known however that he had

This doctrine may be more specious and more tenable than any other points which the gentleman proposed. We have the power, it is true, to impeach the President of the United States; for what? For the exercise of the discretion reposed in him? No. We have the right and power to impeach him for high crimes and misdemeanors. Well, suppose a mass of evidence offered to the House, which, in the opinion of a majority, destroys the character of a great military officer, and that the same evidence offered to the Executive did not produce upon his mind the same effect. We have no power to impeach this officer; the President has the power to remove him, and is most naturally the judge of the weight of evidence. But, even admitting the gentleman's construction of the Constitution as a co-ordinate branch of the Government, he has the same right as this House to form a judgment. Can it be pretended that we can impeach the President because he does not weigh evidence in the same scale as we do? I presume not. We believe this officer to be guilty; the President does not. Can we impeach him for his belief? If we can, it is in vain to talk about our Constitutional powers and the proper exercise of them. The present may be a casus omissus in the Constitution and our laws. We cannot insert this omitted case in the Constitution, though we may provide against similar occurrences, in future, within the sphere of our legal powers.

It had not been noticed in course of debate, that General Wilkinson had at any time been a been Governor of Upper Louisiana, and commissioner at the delivery and receipt of New Orleans; and from the evidence before them it was as probable that he had received a pension while a civil, as a military officer; if while a civil, upon the ground that an impeachment could be preferred, he relied upon the grounds taken yesterday, and an inquiry ought to be made. If while a military, the reasons drawn from the general terms of the Constitution to support the position, that an inquiry ought to be made. These provisions of the them as delegating a power to provide for the Constitution must mean something; he considered common weal. If it were not so, if an inquiry could not be made, he should think it a lamentable thing. He could not bring himself to conceive, that the Army of the United States (to be enlarged) should be corrupt, or the officer at the sure it was small at present, but it might soon be head of that army, and that the Constitution instead of affording, precluded a remedy-that when

I conclude, therefore, that neither upon the ground of our general power, nor upon that that we have the right to set the national will in motion, or that when in motion it is irresistible; nor upon the ground that we possess the power to impeach, do we possess the power to institute an inquiry of this description. Still do I believe that we possess the power, and that in certain cases and in a certain manner we can exercise it, so far as relates to the subject of a foreign pension; and as in this late period of the discussion, I wish to compress my observations, as much as possible, I will state my conception of the power of the House, and how it can act, in the form of a resolution which I now offer as a concluding argu ment, and which I shall probably move when the whole of the present proposition shall be, as I hope it will be rejected:

from his country, a Spanish pensioner, and to the Commander-in-Chief was said to be alien have attempted a dismemberment of the Union, an inquiry could not be made.

Let it be understood, said Mr. R. that all my arguments are predicated upon the ground that in appointing this committee the House will exercise a Constitutional power; upon that ground I contended (and not upon the ground of Parliamentary omnipotence) that the committee could fine and imprison one who stood out in contempt; that they could coerce their attendance, and in short, use every means adapted to the end—an effectual

Resolved, That a Committee be appointed to inquire

into the expediency of passing a law for the punish-inquiry. If the House have not the power to ap

General Wilkinson.

observations made by the gentlemen from South Mr. ROWAN said, he would notice some of the Carolina and Vermont in answer to his observations of yesterday; the observations of the gentleman from North Carolina he should pass over, because they did not occupy the level of gentlemanly discussion; besides there are individuals publicly known to be surrounded by an atmos phere which secures them from the personal notice of a gentleman.

JANUARY, 1808.

point a committee of inquiry on this subject, then
the committee have not the power to fine, im-
&c. I think the House have the
wish it to be determined; if I am not mistaken,
I must be satisfied with the decision of this House.
But that the decision might be fairly had upon
the power of the House to institute this inqury,
Mr. R. said, he would ask the Speaker if he had
not a right to withdraw his resolution; if he had,
he would do so, and present it again without the
amendment by the gentleman from Virginia, and
thus avoid the motion of the gentleman from
North Carolina.

General Wilkinson.

H. OF R.

objection, the exercise of a power which did not belong to them, but which they had already assumed, that the House should receive information; if this was wrong, it respected themselves only, and he, for the reasons he had stated, was reconciled to it, in the form it had been moulded into; in that form it did not invade the province of any other department of Government, and embracing as it did objects of legislative investigation, it could at worst be only an unnecessary and inexpedient step. But however satisfied he might have been on the Constitutional ground, of the right of Congress to entertain the question of commitment to members of their own body, as it respected the resolution just withdrawn, he con. fessed he was opposed to it as inexpedient, and prepared to vote in favor of the motion to strike out that part of the resolution which contemplated the commitment to a special committee; because he was perfectly well satisfied from what he saw, that the reference would be extremely impolitic, perhaps of very dangerous consequence. This conviction had been wrought and confirmed in his mind by the speech of the gentleman from He said he had withdrawn it only to give the Kentucky, in support of his proposition of refergentleman from Kentucky an opportunity of ta- ence. With the powers contended for, and the king the sense of the House on his proposition; to character which has been attributed to the spirit do which, in his opinion, every gentleman had a of such a committee, it would certainly be the right. He perceived that the gentleman from most odious, and perhaps the most really terrific Kentucky was about to be deprived of taking the tribunal ever erected in the world. But to the sense of the House by an evasion of the question, resolution, to which their attention was now reand now renewed his own motion, which he had called, the objections appeared in a two-fold view. only withdrawn with an intention to renew it if It was inexpedient in forming a precedent, which, that of the gentleman from Kentucky should not on some future occasion, might be used to disgrace be adopted. He would here say, that though he the nation, by converting its House of Represendid not agree with all the doctrines of the gentle-tatives into a vehicle of slander, and the Hall of man, that he thought all his arguments which the National Councils into a scene of intrigue, bore upon this case were unanswerable. and a theatre of faction and cabal; unconstitutional, because it required of another department of our Government to do an act on a subject exclusively confided to it, which a law of our own making has already recognised to be delegated solely to it, and thus in direct violation of the principles acknowledged by the ablest civilians who have written on the subject, authorizing the encroachment of one branch of the Government on the proper powers of another. On this subject, Mr. L. said, other gentleman and himself, on a former day, had said enough. He would add but one or two observations. It seemed to him that the provisions of the Constitution could not be mistaken; strong arguments were derived in support of his opinion, even from the expressions of the Federal instrument; it gave in express terms to the House of Representatives, the right of in

The House agreed to consider Mr. RANDOLPH'S resolution-51 to 36.

Mr. ALSTON said it would be recollected by the House, that he had for some time taken no kind of notice of what had fallen from the gentleman from Kentucky (Mr. RowAN,) considering everything which had fallen from him as the echo of others. He should not now have condescended to notice him but for his personal attack upon him last evening, which Mr. A. said he had attempted to repel in the way it merited. He had no objection to join issue with the gentleman, and never regard what he might hereafter say.

Mr. Love.-Being led back to the consideration of the original resolution of the gentleman from Virginia, the Constitutional objection to the measure fully recurs. He had yielded, Mr. L. said, to the opinion that the modification given to the re-stituting the trial by impeachment of the civil ofsolution of the gentleman from Kentucky (Mr. ficers of Government, without including those of ROWAN) had exempted it from the Constitutional a military description. The omission could but objection, by making it possible that the matter have been a purposed one; the framers of the of it might, in some of its parts, lead to subjects Constitution having been certainly led to a conwithin the cognizance of the House. Perhaps he sideration of the whole subject. The tenure by had the more easily given way to this opinion, which military officers held their commissions, from the great anxiety he felt to satisfy the pub- proves the futility of the supposition that this lic mind, by giving the utmost range to inquiry; House could ever have been intended to interfere at least the reference of it to a committee, would with their conduct, and that a responsibility as to be attended with the single and less dangerous them must necessarily rest on another depart

Mr. R. then withdrew his resolution; and, before it could be offered again,

Mr. RANDOLPH renewed his motion, in the following words:

Resolved, That the President of the United States be requested to cause an inquiry to be instituted into the conduct of Brigadier General Wilkinson, Commander-in-Chief of the Armies of the United States, in relation to his having, at any time, while in the service of the United States, corruptly received money from the Government of Spain, or its agents.

H. OF R.

General Wilkinson.

JANUARY, 1808.

ed, exercised its power to the annihilation of the others, and the utter destruction of the peace and safety of the State. To England, too, the framers of our Constitution might have turned their eyes, for many of the examples of the dreadful evils which arise from the assumption of all the powers of Government, by one branch of it. It was to avoid these evils, and insure a permanency to our institutions which nothing should impair, that the distributions of power were made, and it is with a view to these dreadful examples that we


ment. The power of the President over military officers is as full at least, and much more efficient, and prompt in execution, than the power of the Legislature over civil officers by the mode of impeachment. This is a construction too obvious to be gotten over by any acknowledged rules or principles. It was true, said Mr. L., a gentleman from Vermont (Mr. ELLIOT,) a few days ago, in discussing this subject, assumed a position of the following description: "That although the power to act on this subject is not delegated by the 'Constitution, yet, if it is not denied to the Gov-are now called on to preserve the sacred spirit of enment or expressly reserved to the States, we our institutions, and to discountenance this most 'have it," and in conformity to this doctrine, of direct attack made on the principles which are to which, indeed, much had been said in former times, sustain us. Let not this House be betrayed into the construction by implication, and incidental error, which hereafter may be found irremediable, power, was strongly insisted on. But what was, by the apparent innocence of the simple language indeed, more calculated to excite his surprise, he of request, and by the author of the resolution. afterwards found the author of the resolution him- The power to request, is an assumption of a right self arguing in support of the same positions; an of interference which may at a future time be used, argument which, Mr. L. said, seemed so directly to support a demand; it will form a precedent we contradictory, and in so obvious hostility to that may at a future time wish to get clear off, when so ably and eloquently urged by the gentleman but we have it not in our power. If we have cognia few weeks since, in defence of the reserved pow-zance of the subject, and really think we are called on by our duty to exercise it, why use the humble language of request; why not in the manly tone of the Representatives of the nation, demand that a certain thing be done, which is said to be necessary ?

ers of the people and the States, that indeed it had excited his astonishment. Such is the state of hostility in which the different positions are arrayed, that even superior ingenuity of the gentleman from Virginia, he would defy to reconcile them.

But, said Mr. L., for what purpose is this resBut, said Mr. L., if the expressions and acknow- olution still pressed on us? It cannot be for the ledged principles of construction, which he sup-direct purpose of having the terms of it complied posed to be perfectly settled at this day, were not with, that is already done; there is no man on decisive, let us look back to the experience of the this floor who doubts, or pretends to doubt it. But, world, with respect to all the Governments which indeed, some have said that we are not officially have ever existed, and see what must have been informed of it. Can this make a difference, when the intention of the wise framers of the Federal the fact is as well ascertained as if indeed the PreConstitution, in the very special delineation they sident had gone so far out of the line of his duty have made of the different powers of the three as to tell us of his having ordered a court of ingreat branches of our Government. It would not quiry on an officer of the Army at his own request? be too much to say, that the destruction of every We cannot then expect an official communication. system or plan of Government, which ever had a Would our request or demand give more effect to pretension to the security of the liberty of the the inquiries of such a court? No, this cannot be people, as one of its ingredients, had been lost, pretended, it sits under a law already in existor its termination hastened by a union of all the ence, and its powers are as clearly marked out as great powers in the hands of one body. It was to those of any other tribunal Congress has erected the retrospect, of this prominent historical illus- for the administration of justice. Had the Pretration, that the framers of our Constitution could sident given us information that this court of innot but have had their attention most forcibly quiry was now sitting, what should we have said? drawn. They knew well the tumults and con- He could have had no official information of what tinued scenes of disorder which Rome in her best we are doing, and it certainly would have been days had been subjected to, from the entire want considered as a very improper intrusion into the of anything like an organization of the distinct public councils, and it would have been at once powers of a State in different and distinct branches. declared that it was an undue attempt to govern By the undistinguished use of all the great pow- our decisions. ers of the State, at different times, the consular power, the power of the tribunes, the power of the Senate, and the other favorite great depositories of the strength of the people, exercised each in their turn, and sometimes several at the same period, all the Legislative, Executive and Judicial functions of Government. They were each, the makers, the judges, and the executioners of the law; the life of every citizen and every soldier, was in the hands of each of those bodies, and the one which happened to be most strongly support

Well, as we know that this court is now sitting, if indeed our wishes are to ease the public mind, wherefore object to the immediate transmission of the papers we have, in order to enable that court to pursue its inquiries? There could be no direct object left for the resolution; if a sinister one, it was certainly not the duty of the House to promote it. It was but too obvious there could be but a single object now for pressing the resolution: if it is adopted it will be a means in the hands of the enemies of the Administration to prove that the

JANUARY, 1808.

Executive had neglected to do a duty until the interference of the Legislature compelled it. How gratifying this might be to some gentlemen, it was not for him to say; they had already declared it. But is this doing justice to the public? If the President has neglected a duty, we can act upon him, we cannot compel him to act on others, we ought not to attempt even to influence him to do so-it would be assuming on ourselves the responsibility due from him; if he does wrong impeach him. Let not gentlemen, if they really believe their country injured by the conduct of the Executive, be ashamed or afraid to speak in the language of the Constitution: to request him to do a thing which pertains to him as a part of his duty, is in express terms a charge of having neglected his duty if such is really the case, let him account for it. But the question is at present a different one. The course for us to pursue in the discharge of our duty is a clear one, which cannot be mistaken; let us give all the effect in our power to the inquiry, by making an immediate transmission of the papers and information we have to the President, in order that it may be laid before the proper court. This would be the way to satisfy the public mind, and not employ ourselves here in making an empty sound of charges, which we have neither the power to prosecute nor punish. Whether he was of opinion with the gentleman from Kentucky (Mr. RowAN) that the accused is guilty, or whether he was of a contrary opinion, was to the public of but little moment; our opinions are on this subject but the opinions of individuals, they can never be more. His accusation has afforded an opportunity for the display of the powers of a warm fancy; how far it has operated on the judgment, or produced a conviction on the mind, justice to the public and the accused both seem to forbid a declaration. Mr. L. repeated that he only wished such measures should be pursued, as would most effectually promote a proper inquiry and satisfy the public mind; and would therefore, when a proper opportunity offered, move a resolution which he thought would best answer the purpose.

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of those who now administer the Government of my country, and of the opponents to the present motion, I shall lament a decision which will afford a pretext for invective-for attributing to them motives the most unworthy and detestable.

What is the proposition before the House? Is it to punish an innocent man without a trial? Or to hold up unnecessarily and improperly to public suspicion the character of an individual, to gratify private resentments? Or is it to assume powers which are withheld from us by the Constitution of the United States? No such objects are contemplated. A gentleman from Virginia having received information that the Commander of your Army had been guilty of treachery to his country in becoming a pensioner of Spain, deemed it his duty to communicate it to this House, whose province it is to raise and support armies and to provide for the common defence and general welfare of the nation. Having done so, he has offered a resolution, couched in respectful language, requesting the President to institute an inquiry for the purpose of ascertaining the innocence or guilt of the accused. Is there anything unfair or unjust in this proceeding? Surely not. It is in my opinion the very course which our duty as guardians of the national security and justice to General Wilkinson, commands us to pursue. If the gentleman from Virginia, after communicating the information, had evinced an inclination to stop further investigation, he might with some propriety have been charged with cruel injustice; but under the existing circumstances I cannot perceive the grounds for such a charge.

The very course is pointed out which innocence would desire and by which guilt may be exposed. Now, reject the motion, and what impression will be made upon the public mind? Will it be favorable to the accused, honorable to this House, or satisfactory to the nation? I fear it will not.

We are told that if the resolution is adopted we determine the guilt of General Wilkinson. How such an inference can be drawn it is difficult to perceive. Every gentleman who has spoken upon the subject, admitted that there were grounds for suspicion, and that further inquiry was indispensable. What does the motion propose? Simply to petition the proper authority to inquire; and cannot possibly imply a conviction of guilt. It is objected, however, that this House does not possesss the Constitutional power which they are called upon to exercise.

I understand the resolution to be nothing more than a petition to the Executive. I ask, then, whether by the Constitution of the United States, every citizen is not invested with the right to petition any department of this Government? Sir, every man in the nation, however mean his rank, or abject his condition, and every lawful assemblage of men, hold this Constitutional privilege, of which they cannot be deprived. And are we, the Representatives of the people, to be excluded from those important rights with which, as citizens and freemen, we are invested by the Constitution of our country? No. If holding a seat in this House divests me of the most valua

General Wilkinson.

Mr. BIBB. After the very tedious discussion you have heard, I should be unmindful of the feelings of the House were I to detain them long. But, having listened patiently to the arguments of others, I feel my right to claim their attention for a few moments while I express the reasons which will induce me to give an affirmative vote, and shall endeavor to remove the Constitutional objections which have been urged against the resolution. I regret extremely that the opposition should have come from the quarter it has, because it will have a tendency to confirm the suspicions entertained against General Wilkinson, and to countenance the insinuation that the Administration are disposed to prevent a fair and impartial investigation, fearful his guilt might be exposed. If I were so uncharitable as to suspect the purity of the motives of those who differ in opinion with me upon this occasion, I should rejoice at the decision it is feared they are about to make. But confiding as I do in the integrity and patriotism

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ble privileges, I am ready to resign it, and will again occupy the honorable station of a citizen. But an additional right to pass the resolution is given us by another provision of the Constitution. It is made the duty of the President to communicate to Congress from time to time such information on the state of the Union as may be deemed necessary and proper. Why was this duty assigned to the President? Certainly that Congress might know where to resort for information to direct their Legislative proceedings, and because from the nature of his other duties he must be better informed generally upon the affairs of the nation than they could be. At the commencement of every session the President, in compliance with his duty, communicates such information as he thinks necessary; but it cannot be expected that he can foresee the various subjects which may occupy the attention of the Legislature, and upon which they may want information: and shall it not be asked for when it is wanted? If it be his duty to communicate it from time to time, we must have the right to ask for it, whenever we cannot act without it. Such is our present situation; we are called upon to add to our Military Establishment, for which purpose a bill is already introduced. I should probably vote for it, if I were certain that the suspicions entertained against a portion of the Army were groundless. But this is a matter of doubt and uncertainty. It is now proposed to request the President to institute an inquiry, that we may be informed whether an addition to the Army can be safely made or not. Until such inquiry is made, and such information is received, I cannot act in a way satisfactory to myself.

JANUARY, 1808.

the Executive. From the present state of my feelings, I shall give my vote so far, but not one tittle farther.

General Wilkinson.

Thus I derive the authority to adopt the resolution before you, from the undoubted right to petition, and from the indispensable power of this House to ask for information with a view to the direction of their Legislative conduct.

In times of danger and alarm like the present, it cannot be expected that the Representatives of the people will consent to commit the interests and safety of their country to those, in whose fidelity and patriotism they have not the most perfect confidence. And until my doubts are removed I shall withhold my assent from adding a single man to our Army. However critical our situation, whatever dangers may surround us, I will trust the defence of the nation to the militia alone.

Mr. HOLLAND.-The gentleman last up but one, has told us that good grounds are pointed out, on which the guilt or innocence of General Wilkinson could be established, and from this has deduced an argument that we ought to instruct the President in his duty. Immediately after, he adduced the right of petition in favor of adopting the resolution. Is this House reduced to the humble situation of being mere petitioners to the Executive to do his duty or grant us our right? That consideration alone would induce me to oppose the measure. This House has rights and should demand, not petition for them; the Constitution never contemplated that this body should petition. I feel myself placed in a dignified situation, and never will consent to such an abasement.

We have, however, arrived at the point when it is acknowledged that this principle is not recognised by the Constitution of the country. This proposition is the same in effect, though not in the same plain language as that offered by the gentleman from Kentucky, and which has been withdrawn to make way for this, in return for which the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. RANDOLPH) has declared the arguments of the gentleman from Kentucky (Mr. RowAN) to be unanswerable. This resolution is the same in substance, asking the President to do a thing which we have not a right to demand. This is the substance of the argument just delivered in favor of it. I am informed that the Senate is trying one of its members: suppose we enter into a resolution to inquire into the conduct of the same person. Would it not in us be an act of supererogation? We are informed from good authority that this work is going on, that General Wilkin-son is on his trial, that the proper department is going on with this business. How, then, can we take it up?

This proposition means something that cannot be acknowledged, that will not bear the light of day: and, therefore, I am opposed to this resolution and all such.

Mr. LIVERMORE said the resolution in its present form was considerably varied from what it was yesterday; he should briefly make a few observations on the subject.

Mr. SLOAN.-So much time has been spent on this subject, that I should not now have risen had it not been to notice the ingenious turn my friend from Georgia has given to this, on the ground of its being a petition to the President of the United States. I shall just observe that I do not remember that upon any subject there had been so many attempts to give such different turns and dress to the matter under consideration; for what purpose

There had been information given to the House of something which looked like a conspiracy against the Government; and also of something which looked like bribery. Without entering into an investigation or analysis of the evidence, it was such as to induce the House to say that any person guilty of the crimes alleged by it to have been committed, was unfit for an officer of the United States. The proposition now under consideration was simply to inquire, or, in other words, that the President of the United States be request

I do not say. All I do say, is, that I hope no in-ed to inquire, into the conduct of this officer. genuity, or change of dress, will induce a large This at first view did not strike his mind as being majority of the House to swerve from their duty; worthy of so much consideration whether or not I hope we shall do nothing further than transmit it should be adopted; he could not have conceived the papers without other weight or observation to it possible that there should be any discussion on it.

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