Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising the Leading Debates and Incidents of the Second Session of the Eighteenth Congress Page: 45
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OF DEBATES-IN CONGRESS.
Deo. 22, 1824.]
Gratitude to Lafayette.
[H. of R.
GRA TITUDE TO LAFAYETTE,
On motion of Mr. LITTLE, of Maryland, the House
resumed the consideration of the bill yesterday report-
ed by a committee of the House, " concerning General
Mr. SLOANE, of Ohio, moved that the bill be post-
poned until Monday next, and that a committee be ap-
pointed "to report a statement of the facts and accounts
on which it is founded."
Mr. TUCKER, of Virginia, said he was willing to post-
pone the bill, if any gentleman desired it for his accom-
modation, but, for his part, he wanted no further'inform-
ation on this subject; neither, he presumed, did any gen-
tleman of this House. I-Ie, therefore, moved to strike
out the part of Mr. Sloane's motion which proposed the
appointment of a committee.
Mr. SLOANE thought the nature and importance of
the question now depending, called for such information
as he asked to obtain. Indeed, Mr. S. said he had no
wish for a postponement of the bill if he was to get no
additional information by it. The question, whether one
hundred thousand or two hundred thousand dollars, or
whether any thing, should be voted to General Lafay-
ette, would depend upon the state of the accounts be-
tween him and the United States.
The motion of Mr. TUCKER was negatived.
Mr. COOK, of Illinois, said that the Senate, it appear-
ed, had passed a bill on this subject, from the features of
which it seemed that they entertained a different view
from that presented by the committee of this House, as
to the mode of awarding this money to General Lafay-
ette : and what the Senate would do with this bill, if sent
to that body, he could not say. To give time to con-
sider of the proper mode of linally arranging this mat-
ter, Mr. C. proposed to recommit the bill to a commit-
tee of the whole, so as to endeavor, at least, to act in
harmony and concert on it. This was what was expect-
ed from Congress by the People, and he hoped they
would not be disappointed. It the bill was recommit-
ted, it could be called up and acted upon with some-
thing like unanimity whenever the House was prepared
to act definitively upon it.
The motion to recommit the bill was declared oy the
Speaker not to be in order whilst amotion for postpone-
ment was pending.
Mr. HERRICK, of Maine, after inquiring whether
such motion would be in order, moved to postpone the
Mr. LIVINGSTON, of Louisiana, rose, as one of the
members of the committee who reported the bill, to
speak to the merits of it. The delay in doing so, which
had taken place on the part of the committee, would
nut have occurred if it had been thought necessary to
"tier to the House any explanation on the subject. The
committee, however, thought it would have been onlv
necessary to echo the voice which is heard from one end
of the country to the other. They thought the import-
ance and value of the services of General Lafayette had
■>een so gensrally known, that it was unnecessary to re-
port the facts, in regard to the services of General La-
.ayette, on which they thought it expedient to recom-
mend the passage of the bill now before the House.
Iftey hoped tlut the proceedings of this House, when,
;>y an unanimous vote, at the last session, they acknow-
ledged the value of those services, would have made
sucli a report unnecessary. By that vote, Congress sub-
J.« ft , ftCCMWtry to an expense, nearly, if not quite,
ejudi to the amount of the proposed appropriation, by
aareeinir in ^n/l nnt «•, r.w.^ i. _ >• . 1 1 ^
agreeing to send out-a ship of the line to convey G(
<f (<\ -s C011ntl'-V- l 'le committee did not
r -f'' ft "1R llone so> aml his declining to put
,, ^e^States to that charge, there would have been
er of the House had been directed bj an equally unani-
mous vote, to present the acknowledgments not'.only of
the nation, but of this House, of the important services
rendered to the country by General Lafayette, the com-
mittee would not have supposed themselves deficient in
their duty if they failed to report facts or a statement of
accounts in regard to that distinguished man. Speaking
for myself, said Mr. L. I considered the proposed appro-
priation not as an affair of account—not as the payment
of a debt to General Layfayette, but as the expression
of a national sentiment, which would do honor not only
to this House, but to this People—as an act which would,
as far as it goes, serve to take away from us the reproach
that Republics are ungrateful. 1 thought it would not be
doing justice to our constituents, if we made this award a
matter of valuation—an affair of ^dollars and cents: I
thought a diff erent mode of treating it most respectful to
the House—most befitting the dignity of this government.
Other gen tlemen, it appears, entertain different views:
perhaps they are more correct views. I do not stand here
to set up my sentiments against those who think the mat-
ter ought to have been treated in a differe nt way. Some
think, and I have no doubt they very honestly and sin-
cerely think, that they have no power to express the na-
tional gratitude in the manner proposed, or to vote away-
public money in any case to which a claim to it could
not be substantiated on such evidence as would esta-
blish it in a court of justice. It was not for the want of
such evidence, that the committee did not report it. The
evidence in their possession was such as would, if duly-
weighed, satisfy the most scrupulous, of the justice of
giving not only the amount proposed by the committtee.
but even double that amount.
The services of General Lafayette during the war of
the Revolution, Mr. L. said, were known to, and must
be acknowledged by, every one. He came to this coun-
try at the commencement of the Revolution. He con-
tinued his personal services until very shortly before the
termination ofthat war by the treaty of peace. He ceas-
ed those personal exertions here only to render them in
,the same cause where, at the time, they were more use-
ful. He was, indeed, very instrumental in bringing about
that peace so important to us At that time, yet in pro-
sperity, he would have refused any compensation for hi:i
services and sacrifices, had they even been greater than
they were. When oppressed by adversity, after the
confiscation of the remainder of his princely estates, he
accepted from the United States, what he would never
before receive, the pay of a Major General, the rank
which he. heid during the war. Hut, besides that, h?.
was entitled, upon every principle of strict justice, to
the half pay of a Major General for life. Owing to the
civil mission, which had already been referred to, Gene-
ral Lafayette was not in service at the close of the war,
and had not a legal title to this half pay, but his right to
it. on every principle of equity, could not be questioned.
To the representatives of another distinguished offi-
cer, (General Hamilton.) similarly situated, Congress
granted the amount of half pay which would have been
due to him, and that without commutation. The two
cases were nearly parallel. -The officers had, generally,
the option, and almost, if not quite all, availed them-
selves of it, of receiving a commutation in lieu of halt"
pay. General Layfayette had not this option, however,
from the circumstance already mentioned, ofbisabsence
in Europe at the conclusion of the treaty of peace. What
would be the amount of half pay for the more than forty
years that have since elapsed, and the long life, which,
Mr. I,, said, he trusted this venerable man would stili
live to enjoy ? Twenty added to the forty years already
expired, would not be" deemed an extravagant estimate :
these sixty years of half pay, without calculating inter-
est, would alone amount to something like eighty thou-
sand dollars. Would any gentleman in this hall sa-%
that General Lafavetie was not as well entitled to his
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Gales, Joseph, 1761-1841. Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising the Leading Debates and Incidents of the Second Session of the Eighteenth Congress, book, 1825; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc30752/m1/27/: accessed March 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.