Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising the Leading Debates and Incidents of the Second Session of the Eighteenth Congress Page: 53
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OP DEBATES IN CONGRESS.
Deo. 22, 1824.]
Gratitude to Lafayette.
[H. of R.
for the location of a part of it, to use a term borrowed
from our laws, an ungranted territory, which nenr'y en-
vironed the city of New Orleans. A large part of this
location has since become the heart of the city. In the
midst of it stands the custom house; it is the theatre of
extensive trade, and covered with numerous and splen-
did edifices. The title of General Lafayette to this land,
under our own grant, was indisputable. Some years
after he had appropriated it to his use, the Corporation
of New Orleans petitioned Congress to grant to them the
portion of the public territory within a distance of six hun-
dred yards around their city,and the National Legislature,
unapprized ofthe claims of the prior occupant, conceded
what they asked. Of the superior title of General La-
fayette, to the land covered by this subsequent grant,
there could be no doubt. Why he did not prosecute
and maintain his claim to this estate, so honorably and
justly acquired, has been already fully stated to the
House. This donation had been made him without his
knowledge, in the fullness of our hearts, touched as
they were with a knowledge of his wants, as a token of
our sympathy, esteem, and gratitude ; and he felt that
it did not become him to question the precise extent of
such a grant.
The value of the land which he so magnanimously re-
linquished, has, doubtless, not been over-rated, at four
hundred thousand dollars.
Can there remain a question, then, but that the equi-
table claims of General Lafayette upon the United
States, were he disposed to substantiate them, would ex-
ceed a million of dollars ?
For himself; said Mr. M. lie had hoped that the stock
which the Senate hud proposed to issue—and he greatly
preferred their bill to that which had originated in this
House, instead of being made redeemable among the
last debts of the nation, would have been irredeemable
forever, that it might forever remain a memorial of the
gratitude ofthe American People to their illustrious be-
nefactor. He had hoped that the land presented with the
stock, instead of being limited to a poor township, would
have reached such an extent, as to realize, in its future
appreciation, to the descendants of General Lafayette,
the entire debt of this nation to their generous ancestor.
He did not mean to comprehend our debt to this, our
benefactor, for his services, but for his pecuniary advan-
ces and their accruing interest.
As to his services to our cause—the cause of freedom
in Hurope and in America, their value is immeasurable.
There is not a man wiio now, or may hereafter tread
our soil or breathe our air, with the elastic spirit of liber-
ty, who is not, or will not owe him an inestimable debt
—a debt to be felt, not to be computed. 1 defy the
united powers of Euclid and Archimedes to calculate or
measure tiie height and depth, the length and breadth
of the obligation of America to her benefactor. It is
here, said Mr. M. (laying his hand upon his heart.) It
belongs to the soul, and no gauge can graduate it.
Are gentlemen alarmed at what is called the exam-
ple, the precedent, we are about to offer to our suc-
cessors > I have labored, said Mr. M. with all the pow-
ers of memory, to recall to my mind an example of dis-
interested and heroic benevolence which can form
u parallel to the conduct of Lafayette ; and if the histo-
ry of the past affords none, why need we not trust the
future ? The only spirit of prophecy which is not of di-
vine inspiration, exists in the analogy which infers the
future from the past.
But what is the character of the example from which
this unfounded apprehension arises ? Was it not to our
lathers, is it not to us, and will it not be to our posterity,
invaluable ? Need we go back to the crusades to de-
monstrate the influence, the contagion of chivalrous en-
thusiasm ? No sooner was the consecrated banner of
Peter the Hermit unfurled for the recovery of the Re-
deemer's sepulchre from the infidel Saracen, than one
spark of inspiration electrified all Europe ; one common
soul pervaded all Christendom, and poured her armed
nations on the plains of Asia.
Contrast the heroism of that age with the solitary self-
devotion of Lafayette ! When 1 look back to the early
period of our Independence, and behold our own unre-
cognized ministers in France, with a tenderness which
does them immortal honor, remonstrating with the
young enthusiast on the hazard* and hopelessness of his
projected enterprise in our behalf—when I hear them,
in a tone of generous remonstrance, tell him that our
cause was sinking, and they had not even a vessel to of-
fer him for his perilous voyage, and hear him reply, I
have, then, no time to lose ! 1 cannot, turning from this
scene to that before me, bring myself to believe, that
gentlemen, who differ from the obvious majority of this
House, need to rest three nights upon their pillow, be-
fore they can arrive at unanimity upon this bill. I cannot
but believe, sir, that, when we come to the vote, we
shall do it with one heart, and that we are now as well
prepared as we shall be on Monday next. We have now
met our opponents in the spirit of friend-y explanation ;
we have complied with their wishes —stated, recapitu-
lated ; and, 1 fervently trust, they are ready to act with
us for the honor of our common country.
BIr. STORRS, of New York, then rose, and said, that,
as one of the members of the committee to whom this
subject had been confided by the House, he felt it bis
duty to that committee, and to himself, to say a few words
in vindication of the course which had been pursued in
rt-la ion to this bill. Complaints had been urged by some
members ofthe House, that no statement had been pro-
duced of what seemed to be considered :ts "the ac-
counts" of Gen. Lafayette. The committee had never
insulted that individual by asking', in any quarter, for
such things as his accounts. After the President of the
L'nited States had, in his solemn address to both Houses
of Congress, recommended the services and sacrifices of
General Lafayette as worthy of legislative regard, and
had advised that such a provision should be made for
him as " might correspond with the sentiments of the
American people, and be worthy of the character of this
nation," what had a committee to whom that recom-
mendation was committed by this House, to do with his
accounts? Were they to erect themselves into a Com-
mittee of Claims where no claim was made; and what
was more, where no such thing as a claim would be en-
dured by that House, as violating the feelings of a man
whom it wished to honor ? Ask for his accounts! Sir, I
would not perform such a task. Not even were you to
order me, could I do it without insulting him. No, sir,
we had no such matters as the accounts of General La-
fayette to lay before the House.
Sir, let us remember that the eyes of Europe are this
moment upon us. Her monurchs, her people, are anx-
iously waiting to see how we shall act. The despots of
the old world are anxious to know whether, after invit-
ing Lafayette to our shores—after offering to send a na-
tional ship to bring him over—after welcoming him from
city to city, we are about to send him back and subject
him to the sneers of royally, and, with him, to expose
ourselves and the cause of free government to their re-
proaches. The question we are called to decide is, whe-
ther America, for whom he shed his blood, devoted his
fortune, and dedicated hi3 talents and his virtues, is about
to send back her benefactor in the face of Europe, to be
the object of their scorn, and leave the record of our
proceedings as a monument of the feelings ofthe Ame-
rican people. The question before us is, whether we
will support the principles of our own government in
our conduct towards one who has been considered on
both continents as the great Apostle of Liberty, and
justly so considered; for, next to the great Apostle of tho
Gentiles himself, has this man served the best interests
of mankind. Next in value to those which the one disss-
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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/m1/31/: accessed July 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.