Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising the Leading Debates and Incidents of the Second Session of the Eighteenth Congress Page: 65
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OF DEBATES IN CONGRESS.
I)eg. 2T, 28, 1824.] Niagara Sufferers.—Internal Improvement.
| tion ? Sir, any British officer will tell us that his govern-
| ment is not to blame—is never in the wrong. We can
| appreciate, very highly, the delicacy of these gentle-
; men, especially after the scenes at Hampton, in which
! ^tliey made so chaste and honorable a figure j and,, no
fe doubt, if charged with those very transactions, they
I would not only say they were clear of the perpetration
| of these enormities, but, as I believe, would swear to it.
If I will believe none of them. 1 have lontr been, in the,
s habit of supposing that actions spoke louder than words,
i I ask not, 1 care not, how a man preaches, unless 1 know
i how he acts also; and I do know that the actions of
St these men were cruel, dastardly, vindictive, and every
; On these grounds, Mr. Speaker, I am decidedly of
| opinion that this bill ought not to pass. Ifit does.it
will not only make a destruction of your Treasury, but
' it will be an act without a parallel in the history of le-
gislation. 1 will venture to assert that such a law is not
j; to be found within the lids of any code among civilized
nations. The gentleman, indeed, says the Emperor of
; llnssia has made a similar allowance to his citizens—
f subjects I would say—he has no citizensj but the case
. is widely different from that before us. The damage
i. for which Alexander made allowance was made by his
r, <Mvn authority—the burning was his own act. But that
; for which we are called to empty the Treasury is the
;; act of an enemy. If, indeed, these losses had been oc-
casioned by the act of an American force, acting under
legitimate authority, t should say, under my present im-
pressions, pay the demand. But the case is widely dif-
ferent. ( was always opposed to the act of 1816—but
wben it had passed and became a law, the Committee
: of Claims, so far from impeding its operation, honestly
endeavored to carry it into effect, not viewing the claim
of the sufferers as a right which the government had
; been forced to allow, but as a claim of suffering fellow-
. men to whom relief bad been extended as an act of com-
passion and charity.
I am sensible, sir, that I have detained the House too
long; but t thought it was due to the House, to the
,s .committee over which I preside, to the gentleman who
: advocates the bill, and to myself, to state with frankness
my reasons for opposing it.
Mr. CAMBKEl.ENG, of New York, said, that, how-
ever widely the gentleman from North Carolina differed
from him, as to the justice of these claims, he was glad
to find there was no difference of opinion as to the atro-
! cious character of the enemy's conduct during the late
war. It was impossible to forget the horrors of Hamp-
ton and Havre de Grace—the Vandalism here; or the
massacre of our countrymen on the llaisin. These were
acknowledged to be contrary to the usages of civilized
: war; and retribution for these losses was due from the
enemy, and not from our own government. But the
case now before the committee was of another charac-
ter—one, as he thought, strictly within the rule laid down
hy the gentleman from North Carolina; that wherever,
by military occupation, the property had acquired a mi-
litary character, it was rendered liable to destruction by
the enemy; such he considered to be peculiarly the
ease on the Niagara frontier. But, on this subject he
would quote an authority which could not be objected
to [Mr. C. then read the evidence of General Porter to
establish the military character of the frontier generally
throughout the war; the houses upon it being almost
without exception occupied for public stores, arsenals,
barracks,-quarters, &c.] There were other depositions,
Mr. C. said, all in accordance with this, which it was un-
necessary to detain the House by referring to. If ever
there was a case of military occupation, this appeared to
be completely so. If a government was, in any case,
bound to indemnity its citizens for losses, this certainly
was one. Mr. C said he should not contend that go-
vernment was bound to Indemnify its citizens forth? va-
lue of all the towns and villages falling within the tra;k
of an invading army, nor for all the losses incidental to
war; but he should contend that, as far as the ability of
the nation extends, it ought to indemnify its citizens for
losses occasioned by military occupation; and he did
not doubt the ability of this nation to pay all such losses.
With regard to the question of retaliation, he differed
with the gentleman from North Carolina. He had never
before heard that the burning of Newark was on our
part a measure of retaliation. He had always thought
that, as the villages on each side of the frontier w-re
occupied by the troops of both nations—and as they
could not remain on this frontier during the winter
without the. use of these villages—they were through-
out the war at all times liable to destruction on botli
sides, as they were absolutely necessary, both to us and,
to the enemy. It was, he presumed, for that reason
these villages were destroyed. The enemy had no such
justification for other atrocities. It was doing injustice
to our country to attribute the burning of Newark to a,
motive of retaliation.
Whatever might be the usagt-s of European nations,
as to making indemnity for losses, he co ild not think
these rules applicable to our condition—they were bet-
ter designed for nations surrounded by warlike and pow-
erful neighbors, liable to continual invasions, rendering
indemnity almost out of the question, if not impractica-
ble. Our condition was different. In looking forward
to future wars, he had no apprehensions of invasion, if
the Government persisted in the policy it was now pur-
suing. Indeed, if the same policy had been pursued at
an earlier period, our country never would have been in-
vaded. He could not think that any alarming principle
would be established by the bill. Our future wars—the
theatre of our future wars, would be carried far beyond
our boundaries—they must be upon the ocean. Our
country will never be again invaded. Tile-spirit of in-
vasion, and the record of our disgrace, perished together
in the flame of Orleans.
Mr. C. hoped the House would now accord to the
sufferers by the late war, that relief which had been so
long deferred. For seven years hese claimants had ap-
plied in vain for retribution. In 1817, when a question
was debated whether a commission should be establish- '
ed to liquidate these claims, or whether the claimants
should be compelled to come by petition befotv this
House, a distinguished member remarked, that the right
of petition (in relation to those claims at least,) had be-
come a privilege of having the pe'ition rejected. This
opinion was very much objected to by many members,
but seven years of vain application to this House must
satisfy every one of the justice of his remark. The
House had been told there were advantages enjoyed by
those residing in the neighborhood of war. Mr. C.
said he had yet to learn what advantages could counter-
balance the oppressions and pollutions incident to war?
What advantage could indemnify the inhabitants of the
Niagara frontier, for suffering throughout the war the
apprehensions of invasion by Christian and Savage—who
were at last abandoned to their fate, and subjected, in
mid-winter, to all the horrors of war? I hope, said Mr.
C. we shall now administer relief. We have the ability
to do so—and the claims are unquestionably just. If
the details of the bill go beyond the rule of justice, let -
it be amended. Mr. C. then moved that the committee
rise, report progress, and ask leave to sit again.
The Committee accordingly rose, reported progress,
and obtained leave to sit again.
HOUSE OP REPRESENTATIVES—Dec. 28, 1824.
Mr. STEWART, of Pennsylvania, said, that, at the
last session, he had submitted a proposition, which had
for its object the creation of a permanent fund for the
purposes of internal Improvement s but, owing to the
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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/m1/37/: accessed July 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.