The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, Seventeenth Congress, Second Session Page: 145
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HISTORY OF CONGRESS.
the court had power to inflict. He was hired out,
or, if you please, sold, for a term of service, to pay
the debts which he had fraudulently, and immor-
ally contracted, and which he would not satisfy.
And it proved a nominal, not real punishment—
some small price was given, and the purchase
never enforced. And yet, after this mild, and al-
most unobjectionable operation of that law was
brought to the notice of the Legislature, it was, in
less, I believe, than forty-eight hours, and by an
unanimous vote, expunged from the statute book.
Does, then, its character or history justify peculiar
rebuke? Beside, it is the principal, if not only
blot upon the code of that State. Few things
can be found in it to call in question her liberality
and love of freedom. I challenge the production
of a system more pure—where the duties of hu-
manity are more sacredly regarded, and the equal
rights of equal citizens more thoroughly protected.
It is a code, sir, fit to govern that race of freemen,
who prepared for themselves, and still enjoy, the
first free written constitution in existence.
But although the censure of the honorable
member was calculated to give some pain, it was
also calculated to give some pleasure; inasmuch
as it seemed to be an ample pledge that it could
not be retorted, and that the State which he rep-
resents had relieved her statute book from everv
censurable feature. I rejoice if it be so—for if I
remember aright, in the last revision of her laws,
published about three years ago, there were some
provisions which seemed objectionable, at least to
those who did not well understand her situation
and internal policy. I allude to those provisions,
by which a freeman convicted of an inferior crime,
by an inferior tribunal, might be sold—by which
a freeman might have his body lacerated in the
public streets, not upon a judicial conviction, be-
fore a jury; not after a fair and impartial trial,
but after a summary proceeding, his guilt being
established by the uncorroborated oath of the in-
jured party—by which a freeman, married or un-
married, who had not visibly a regular and honest
mode of obtaining a livelihood, might be appre-
hended upon warrant, and hired to personal ser-
vice—by which the time and services of a freeman
might be sold to satisfy the taxes due to the Gov-
ernment.* And these may have been repealed—
or if not repealed, can be amply explained and
justified, else, surely, would not the honorable
member have ventured the picture which he pre-
sented of the tyranny and barbarity exercised in
another State. But, sir, whether repealed or jus-
tifiable, is of little moment in the decision of the
question before the Senate, and I submit to its
candor the explanation given of the law of New
Jersey, as well as the amendment to the bill upon
"W hen Mr. S. had concluded—
Mr. Barbour made a few remarks in reply to
* These statutory provisions are not alluded to for
the purpose of fastening peculiar censure on that
State—for the reasons on which they were founded
may not be understood ; and no Statu has been always
humane, just, and equal in its laws.
Mr. S. on one or two incidental points touched by
Mr. Taylor, of Virginia, followed, at some
length, in reply to Mr. Southard, and in support
of his own substitute, which he thought preferable,
in principle and practice, to that offered by Mr. S.
The amendment of Mr. S., he argued, began where
it ought to end; it commenced with bankruptcy,
instead of ending with it—and a debtor, under
such a law, would in the outset be compelled to
choose between bankruptcy and a prison. Mr. T.
took an excursive view of the common law, citing
several of its ancient absurdities and its anoma-
lous principles, to show that it was an unfit guide
in legislating for this country, and the present age.
He also added some remarks in further support of
the justice and expediency of the abolishment of
imprisonment for debt.
After a few explanatory observations, between
Mr. Smith, of South Carolina, and Mr. Taylor,
of Virginia, touching the merits of the common
law, the bill was laid on the table, and the amend-
ment of Mr. Southard ordered to be printed.
Tuesday, January 21.
Mr. Lloyd, of Massachusetts, presented the pe-
tition of Seth Knowles, of Charlestown, in the
State of Massachusetts, praying debentures on a
quantity of rum exported. The petition was read,
and referred to the Committee on Finance.
The President laid before the Senate the peti-
tion of Susan W. Eakin, widow of the late Lieu-
tenant Samuel A. Eakin, of the United States
Navy, deceased, praying some provision by law for
her support. The petition was read, and referred
to the Committee on Naval Affairs.
The President also communicated a memorial
of the General Assembly of the State of Indiana,
praying a different organization of the United
States court for the said State. The memorial
was read, and referred to the Committee on the
Mr. Smith, of South Carolina, presented the
memorial of a number of the Banks of Charles-
ton, South Carolina, and others, representing the
expediency of certain alterations in the charter of
the Bank of the United States. The memorial
was read, and referred to the Committee on Fi-
The bill for the relief of Samuel Hodgdon was
read the second time. .
The bill for the relief of Samuel Buel was read
the second time.
The bill for the relief of Samuel F. Hooker was
read the second time.
Mr. Benton, from the Committee on Public
Lands, to which the subject was referred, reported
a hill to enable the President of the United States
to treat with the Chippewa Indians for the pur-
chase of certain lands on the south side of Lake
Superior, supposed to contain valuable mines of
copper; and the bill was twice read, by unani-
Mr. Benton also laid before the Senate a com-
munication from Governor Cass, detailing certain
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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/m1/71/: accessed January 21, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.