Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising the Leading Debates and Incidents of the Second Session of the Eighteenth Congress Page: 73
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OF DEBATES IBT CONGHESS.
DF.fi. 28, 29,1824.]
£H. of R. and Sen
fered by unlawful aggressions of the enemy. ^ If you
allow (his as giving a right to indemnification, yuu must
go through ; there is no stopping places all who have
suffered may claim ; and all they have lost must be made
up to them. Permit me, said Mr. B. to quote, on tMs
subject, a writer who indulges in a very considerable
liberality in treating the case. [Here he quoted a writer
on national law, who, after allowing that it is a case of
great difficulty, concludes the whole matter with deter-
mining that Government must take a view of all the cir-
cumstances, and act as it finds most expedient.] Sup-
pose, for farther illustration, that we had no treaty
stipulation on the subject of the negroes of the South,
which were carried off during the war—(and I wish,
after all the discussions on that matter, it may not turn
<iut to be a treaty stipulation more in form than in effect)
—is this committee prepared to say that Government
would be bound to indemnify the losers for every negro—
(I had almost said stolen)—during the war ? Sir, the loss
would be immense. Every gentleman knows that if a
few circumstances, during that war, had happened
otherwise than they did—and had not the negroes been
penetrated with a horror of the refuge which was open-
ed to them by the enemy, they might have carried off
thousands and millions of slaves. Indemnity for these
would sweep aw <y a whole year's revenue—(I hear a gen-
tleman near me say two or three years.) Sir, 1 have pur-
posely referred to this subject of the negroes, lest it
should be said that I was obdurate and insensible to one
class of sufferers and one species of losses, bttt all alive
to another nearer home, and for the express purpose
that I might thus publicly declare that, were a claim,
like that provided for in this bill, set up by the losers of
negro slaves, I should be just as much opposed to it
as I am to this, and for the self-same reasons.
The question of policy I need not agitate it has been
frequently and powerfully pressed upon the committee.
My object has been to show that the fundamental prin-
ciple of the bill is wrong; that this is not one of those
appeals to sheer and abstract justice, in which the max-
im applies, "fiat justitia, ruat ccelum"—but that it is a
case which, if it has any claims, applies itseif exclusively
to the principle of sympathy. In that point of view it
is certainly not for me to dictate to this House. If, on
the whole case, they shall choose to award any thing in
Way of mitigation for these losses, it is very well, but
that is not this bill. The bill, I do maintain, goes fur-
ther than any Government ever went before, or ever can
go, without danger of ruin: it runs out into conse-
quences which are beyond our utmost sight. Consider
what may not be Said to be either the direct, or indirect
consequences of war. The scholar is driven by it from
his books, and flies to arms—the husbandman leaves his
plough in the furrow —all classes of the community are
thrown into a state of greater or less derangement—all
these are the effects of war; Mid the act of Government
is its immediate cause. An embargo, for instance, is
laid—the merchant's obligations come upon him while
his capital lies unemployed, and his ships are ratting at
the wharves. The farmer loses his foreign market, and
his crops are rotting in his barn the Injury is every
where you can never indemnify all who sutfer—and
why must one small class be preferred before all their
brethren in calamity ? No, sir, unless the suffering has
been directly occasioned by the act of Government, in
using private property for military purposes—there is
no claim, but a claim on our compassion. The bill re-
Cognizes a demand upon our justice ; and as such 1 am
fundamentally opposed to it. I move to strike out the
Mi*. BRADLEY, of Vermont, said he did not rise for
the purpose of extending the debate, nor should he have
risen atall, had the principles by which he should be
governed on this occasion been enunciated with suffi-
cient distinctness. He cordially agreed with the learn-
ed gentleman from Virginia, on most points, but thought
he had not fully explained the reason of the distinction
he had made. Mr. B. said he was not aw-Mve of any in-
stance in which a Government was bound to indemnify
for a belligerant act, considered simply as such, and
most of the difficulty which had occurred arose from
cases where property wias destroyed by the enemy, when
in possession of the Government* But Mr. B. begged the
committee to remember that no difference existed ill
these cases, whether the property was destroyed by;the
enemy or the Government itself. And the reason was
this: every well regulated Government, when it takes
the property of the citizen, is bound to pay for it; and if
it is taken lor a temporary use. to return it in a state as
good as it received it. When, therefore, it is destroyed
by the enemy, the Government is deprived of the power
of performing the moral obligation under which it la-
bors, and can only make compensation in money, which
it is bound to do- Nor can it take advantage of the
same defence, as an individual, for the non-performance
of its contract. For the private lessee defends on the
ground of inevitable necessity—a necessity against
which he could not by possibility defend—but the Go-
vernment being entrusted with the whole power of the
nation for its defence, is not permitted to avail itself of
this excuse. For this reason, Mr. B. said, his vote would
be entirely regulated by the proof how tar the property
in question was in the aotual possession of the Govern-
ment ; and, if it was not in such poss«ssion, he conceiv-
ed the petitioners had no greater claim than every indi-
vidual subjected to the vicissitudes of war.
Mr. TKACY, of New York, then took the floor, in
support of the bill, and had been addressing the House
for some time, when,
On motion of Mr. W RIGHT, of Ohio, the Committee
rose ; and, having obtained leave to sit again,
The House adjourned.
IN SENATE.—Wkdnesday, DECEMBEH 29,1824.
Hie Senate, according to the order of the day, pro-
ceeded to the consideration of the bill "to abolish im-
prisonment for debt."
Mr. JOHNSON, of Kentucky, remarked that this bill
had been very maturely digested by the committee, and
greatly modified from the bill of last session, with the
view of obviating objections made to it at that time.
He did not know that any opposition would be made to
it now, on general principles; but if any were intended,
he should propose to take it up at a future day for gen-
eral discussion; at present he hoped the investigation
would be contined to its details, for which purpose he
moved that it be taken up by sections.
This was done, and some verbal amendments made.
The bill having been gone through,
Mr. COBB moved to strike out the following senten-
ces from the fourth section, viz :
" But, after the return thereof, the defendant or de-
fendants may contest the allegation of the said oaths or
affirmations, before the court in which the said suit or
action is instituted, in such form as the court shall pre-
scribe. And if the court shall be of opinion that the
said allegations are not well founded, it may make an or-
der, to be entered on record, discharging the said bail
or security from his or their suretyship."
This motion gave rise to a debate of near two hours'
duration, embracing occasional remarks on general prin-
ciples, but chiefly involving questions of practice and
proceeding in the courts of the different states, &c. &e.
The motion was supported by the mover and by Mr.
MlIiLS, at considerable length ; and was opposed with
much earnestness by Messrs. JOHNSON, of Ky. BAR-
BOUR, and VAN BUREN. Mr. BRANCH made also
some remarks on the question of modification; and then
The bill was postponed to to-morrow.
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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/m1/41/: accessed July 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.