Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising the Leading Debates and Incidents of the Second Session of the Eighteenth Congress Page: 47
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GALES & SEATON'S REGISTER
Gratitude to Lafayette.
[Dec. 22, 1824.
half pay as the family of General Hamilton were, after
his decease 1.
But was this all ? No, said Mr. L. it is not all. It is
known as n public historical fact, that Lafayette, when
he came to this country, brought also important and
very necessary supplies to a large amount—an immense
amount, considering" that it was the offering of a single
individual. What was the cost of those supplies, is in-
formation which chance alone has thrown in our way.
Every one knew that it was great; but a mere fortui-
tous circumstance led a gentleman, lately at Paris, to
inquire into what had been the pecuniary sacrifices of
Lafayette in the cause of the United States, during the
Revolution ; and he obtained a document which shows
precisely what money Lafayette did expend in onr cause
at that time. [Mr. L. here made a statement corre-
sponding with that yesterday made in the Senate, by
Mr, Haxne, establishing that the expenditure of Lafay-
ette, for the use of the United States, during the War of
the Kevolution, was 700,000 francs, or 140,000 dollars,
besides sums modestly kept out of the account, which
would have increased that sum.] Add this amount to
that which is justly due to him for half pay for life, said
Mr. L. and say whether a fair, honest, and equitable
settlement of the account between him and the United
States, would not leave us ?in debt to him, interest in-
cluded, more than double the amount which the commit-
tee had reported in his favor. Here, then, sir, is an ac-
count of dollars and cents, since gentlemen desire it:
here is something to satisfy the most scrupulous. When
you offer to General Lafayette these two hundred thou-
sand dollars, you do not pay the debt—you do not pay
what you justly owe to him. I am very much afraid, sir,
that, in going through this detail, I may wound the deli-
cacy of the gentleman concerned; for I am persuaded
that no circumstances would have induced him to bring
forward, as a debt, what he gave to us. Half of his
princely estates he freely spent in our service, without
any other recompense than the secret satisfaction of aid-
ing the cause of liberty, to which he from his cradle had
Mr. L. said he would not press upon the House argu-
ments drawn from the feelings of the People of the
United States on this subject. Those feelings, said he,
are well known: and from what I know of the temper
of this House, and of the feelings of the gentlemen who
compose it, there is not one of them who will not regret
that any consideration of what he believes to be his duty
will prevent him from giving his assent to this bill. I
yet trust, however, that the vote on this bill will be una-
nimous. 1 hope it will be seen that the whole House is
moved by one consentaneous feeling, of obedience to
(he wishes of our constituents—one desire of expressing
the sentiment of national gratitude which we owe to the
nature of the government under which we act—one
wish to satisfy our own feelings, I do not believe there
is one gentleman in this House who will not excessively
regret, that any notion of his duty, or regard to the dis-
position of tlie funds of the country, would prevent his
giving a vote for this bill.
One circumstance there was, in relation to General
l.afayette, which, though it did not come strictly into
Account, as forming a demand upon this government,
furnished an argument which could not but strongly ap-
peal to this House, in favor of that distinguished indivi-
dual. [Mr. L. here stated the circumstance of the loca-
tion of part of General Lafayette's land in the vicinity of
New Orleans, and his giving it up to the city, &c. sub-
suuitialjy as stated in the Senate yesterday by Mr.
Hayse. _ Mr. L. had the advantage of personal know-
ledge of tlio facts, and of having been the medium of
communication with Gener.d Lafayette on that subject.]
General JL. declared, on that occasion, he would enter
into no lit igation with any one in regard to a grant which
the United S'ates had thought proper to make to him.
He withdrew the location he had made on a most valua-
ble land, now worth 400,000 dollars, and transferred it
to land hardly worth a dollar an acre. Mr. Livingston
said he knew an idea had been held out, that the re-
mainder of the land granted to the General by Congress
had been sold very well What had been obtained for
it, he did not know; but he could say, for certainty,
that, if any body had given one dollar an acre for it, they
had made a bad bargain. That part of it which he was
acquainted with he would not have for a gift. The lands
which the General yet held were of no value, as the ex-
pense of raising the levee, &c. on the bank of the river,
would be greater than the value of the land after it
should be so improved.
Knowing a good deal of the circumstances connected
with General Lafayette, and having been a member of
the committee who reported this bill, he had thought
proper to state them, and he hoped what he had said
would serve to remove whatever doubts existed on the
minds of gentlemen on this subject.
The SPEAKER here corrected an error into which
he had fallen in supposing that a motion for indefinite
postponement took preference of a motion to postpone
to a day certain. The question being then stated to be
on Mr. SLOANE's motion to recommit with instruc-
Mr. McDUFFIE, of South Carolina, addressed the
chair. He repeated the terms of the (notion, to recom-
mit with instructions to report a statement of facts and
accounts, &c. because it more clearly indicated the
genius of the opposition to this bill, and the principles
on which that opposition was based, than any illustration
could do. The motion involved the principle that Con-
gress was about to render compensation to General La -
fayette under the obligation of a bond. Put it upon
that footing, said Mr. McD. and I shall vote against the
bill. Put it upon that footing, and General Lafayette
would disdain your offer of payment. What were the
services which he rendered to this country, and what the
motives upon which they were rendered ? Did he ren-
der those services, and make those disbursements, upon
any calculation of future retribution ? Did he enter into
a computation of what benefits he was thereafter to de-
rive from them ? Not so, sir :■ they were the magnani-
mous sacrifices of a heart devoted to liberty, reckless of
consequences, succoring a people struggling for liberty.
When we come to consider these services, rendered un -
der such circumstances, shall we enter into a cold calcu-
lation as to what was the actual amount of the sacrifices
of General Lafayette, and hold out to the world that we
are rendering him this tardy tribute, not as a voluntarv
offering of the heart, but as the obligation of a bond"?
I admit, sir, the extent cf the services of this individual;
I am perfectly satisfied, indeed, that, upon, a fair calcula-
tion, the interest alone of the money which he spent in
our service up to this time would more than double the
amount which this bill proposes to appropriate for his
use. The extent of his services might well be a motive
of this grant; but to refer this bill back to a committee,
to make a minute calculation of the money he advanced
for us, would be an act of ingratitude and disrespect to
his higher and more elevated claims upon the country.
Do you expect to obtain vouchers, saul Mr. M'D. for
what was a grant to you, which the generous donor nev-
er wished nor intended to reclaim ?
Mr. McD. did not intend to express any thing disre-
spectful to the supporters of the pending motion, but
he must .be allowed to say there was a degree of indeli-
cacy in it which would shock the sensibility of any hon-
orable mind, and particularly of him whom it was pro-
posed to call upon to be an agent in a case so nearly af-
fecting himself. I very much doubt, whether, if Ue
heard this discussion, he would receive your donation.
I trust we shall put this offer of an expression of our gra-
titude on such grounds, that he will be induced to re-
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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/m1/28/: accessed October 16, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.