The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, Seventeenth Congress, Second Session Page: 125
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HISTORY: OF CONGRESS.
of the nation, and in the Assemblies of the States,
to legislate both for the present and for future gen-
erations. We should give an example to the
"world worthy of our character, that may profit
foreign States and distant ages. Posterity will
revise our acts, and pronounce upon them an. im-
partial sentence of reprobation or applause, as their
character shall merit; and I venture the predic-
tion, that the next generation, in reviewing the
transactions of this day, will be astonished to
learn thai this vestige of barbarism was so long
suffered to remain a blot upon the enlightened age j
in which their fathers lived. |
We.read, with deep interest, the annual Execu-1
tivc communications, and exult in the contempla-
tion that there is a general coincidence of senti-
ment and concurrence of action throughout the
nation to increase the happiness of man. Nothing
escapes the vigilance of those who are- the ap-
pointed guardians of public liberty and political
prosperity. Commerce and manufactures, agri-
culture and internal improvement, education and
moral refinement, all occupy the attention of the
first statesmen; and now the denunciation of this
unmerciful practice, imprisonment for debt, finds
its way into executive recommendations and le-
gislative discussions; and as certain as that moral
light is irresistible, so sure is the rapid approach
of that day, when personal liberty, sacred to every
American bosom, shall be held paramount to
every pecuniary obligation, and no longer made
the sport of misfortune and the prey of despotism.
For this love of liberty, a principle inherent in
man, the savage still adheres to his wandering
life, and spurns the proposition for civilization,
because, in his view, prisons mark its bounds. It
is for this liberty that we have fought and bled,
and while the bosom of the patriot swells with ar-
dor for that country in which he is protected from
violence, and secured in the enjoyment of his in-
alienable rights, liberty is the charm which binds
him to its destinies. For the preservation of those
blessings, power is imparted to the Government;
and when we consume the midnight oil, and bring
to view in public counscl the result of our re-
searches, the grand object of all is to secure the
weak from the encroachments of the strong, and
to extend to all the blessings of equal rights and
For what has mankind been, struggling since
the usurpation of Nimrod ? For the restoration
of violated rights; for liberty of speech, liberty of
conscience, and the power of locomotion; to res-
cue innocence from punishment, and to guard the
poor from the oppression of the wealthy. But
these sacred principles are abandoned in the per-
son of the debtor, so long as he is subject to
imprisonment at the arbitrary discretion of his
For these sound principles, the ancient Greeks
fought at Marathon and Thermopylae For these
the celebrated nations of antiquity were in fre-
quent convulsions; but the monuments of their
glory remain only in the pages of history, while
we behold, with melancholy contemplation, the
marks of their oppression'in the walls of Babylon I
and Nineveh, in the ruins of Balbec and Palmyra,
and in the obelisks and pyramids of Egypt.
For these, principles the South Americans are
braving the field of danger—the modern Greeks,
arc emulating, the deeds of their ancestors—the-
Neapolitans have made a fruitless effort to estab-
lish them; and Spain, for their restoration, lias
proclaimed a new constitution. For these princi-
ples alone I contend, conscious that their existence
is peculiarly dear to every American, and in the
confident hope, that the wisdom ami justice of this
nation will establish them upou a basis, permanent:
as the everlasting mountains, and without revolu-.
tion or convulsion.
When Mr. J. had concluded— '
Mr. Holmes, of Maine, offered an amendment
to the details of the bill, and some explanatory re-
Mr. Mills added some remarks to those he be-
fore submitted, principally on the details which it
was proposed to give to the bill.
Mr. Taylor, of Virginia, submitted, pretty .
much at large, his views of the bill—the general
principle of which he decidedly advocated-^-and
concluded by offering a substitute, jvhich would,
provide guards that he deemed necessary; and
which would, he argued, supply all the benefit that
could be provided by bankrupt and insolvent laws,
united, while it would avoid the delay and other
objections to which those laws were liable.
Mr. Eaton admitted the correctness of the prin-
ciple of the bill, in the abstract; but argued to
show that so vital an innovation in the principles;
the structure, and system of the common law;
would produce more mischief than it would
remedy or avert—that it would offer impunity to
Mr. Macon advocated the object of the bill,
which he should support, if it could be so guarded
as to relieve the honest debtors without affording
facilities to the knave, to defraud his creditor. He
maintained that creditors have rights entitled to
protection, as well as debtors, and these he would
not impair further than to exempt from imprison-
ment those who honestly surrendered their prop-
erty to pay their debts.
Mr. Talbot zealously supported the general
principle of the bill; stated his objections to the
amendments which had been submitted by Messrs.
Van Bdren and Taylor, and offered an amend-
ment himself, (embracing several sections.) the
object and effect of which he explained fully.
The bill was then, on motion of Mr. Barbour,)
(who wished an opportunity to offer some remarks
on it.) postponed until to-morrow, and the amend-
ments offered to-day were ordered to be printed.
Thursday, January 1C.
Mr. Smith, of Maryland, submitted the follow-
ing motion for consideration:
Resolved, That the Committee on Military Affairs
tie instructed to inquire into the expediency of making
appropriations for erecting fortifications on St. Afary s
river, within the mouth of Potomac, and on a point
within the mouth of Patuxent.
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Gales and Seaton. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, Seventeenth Congress, Second Session, book, 1855; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc30367/m1/61/: accessed July 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.