Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising the Leading Debates and Incidents of the Second Session of the Eighteenth Congress Page: 125
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OP DEBATES IN CONGRESS.
Jan. 3, 4,. 1825.]
Aiagara\Sufferers.—Imprisonment for debt.
[H. of R. & Sen.
tiiis bill. It was a general bill for the benefit of suffer
ers in every part of the Union, and involved a question
not of generosity, but of absolute right.
Mr. COOK, of Illinois, moved to amend the amend-
ment of Mr. Storks, by adding h,e words "and was
abandoned by the United States in consequence of the
Mr. TAYLOR, of New York, said he should support
the original bill, not because it embraced any new princi-
ple, but was to carry into effect one already established,
and he should oppose the amendment proposed by the
gentleman from Illinois, because to adopt them would
be to introduce a principle upon which Congress has a t
yet legislated. It would be difilcul., he said, unless the
principle of his colleague was the true one, to find any
principle on which the Niagara claims should be paid.
The construction which had been given, by some of the
committees of this House, to the 9th section of the act
of 1816, was, that the proviso to it should be so constru-
ed as to defeat che object of that section—an interpre-
tation contrary to every rule of construction. What case
can occur said he, in which it may not be said, that de-
struction of property by an enemy was wanton, and could
have occurred whether the property had been occupied
for the use of the Government or not ? The allowance
of this objection would destroy, at once, the whole effect
of the 9th section of the act of 1816, and it never could
have entered into the minds of the framers of that act,
that it could be so construed. 1 was here, said Mr. T.at
the passage of the act of 1816, and the object of it, if I
understood any thing in regard to it, was to pay for all
losses of private property occupied tor military purpo-
ses, and destrojed according to the rules of civilized
warfare. Property so occupied, had become public, and
the loss of it ought to tall on the public, to whose use it
had been converted.
The report of the Committee of Claims, in 1818, prov-
ed, conclusively, that the committee themselves believ-
ed there were many cases of property destroyed on the
Niagara frontier, which, upon the principles of the acts
of 1816 and 1817", Congress were bound to provide for.
Mr. T. quoted the report to show this admission, and to
show, also, the reasoning of tlv committee that, because
some of the claims were not of this description, they
would therefore pay for none of them. This report was
concluded by a recommendation of the allowance of fif-
ty per cent, of the amount of loss proved upon build-
ings, and thirty per cent, on the amount of other proper-
ty destroyed, without discrimination—and why ? For
this reason: that the loss by wanton destruction of pro-
perty was as severe as the other, and grew out ofthe de-
struction of property that was occupied by the military,
&c. If it were true that these were cases of destruction
of buildings, because of their military occupation, wasit
for Congress to say to the claimants, in those cases: we
will not pay you, because others have had their proper-
s ty destroyed under the influence of other considerations ?
The principle ofthe amendment, now under considera-
tion, was, that, as it is the duty of the Government to
protect the property of individuals, it must, in all cases,
pay or losses of it. Now, Mr. T. said, he admitted it to
be the duty of a Government to grant protection to
its citizens, but it was a duty qualified by the extent of
the ability ot the Government, and ot course not exceed-
ing it. Was it a fact that private property, occupied
during the late war by the Government, had been de-
stroyed to such an extent, that the Treasury was unable
to pay for it ? When such a case exists, let it be pre-
sented and considered of: but such was not the case
now. The total amount of private property lost in that
way, throughout the United States, could scarcely, if at
all, exceed a million of dollars. Is it proper, said lie, to
withhold payment in cases where your own act has been
the occasion ofthe loss?
f rose, said Mr. T. merely to say, that I am in favor of
an extension of the principle of the act of 1816, and of
giving to the 9th section the only construction which,
upon legal principles, it appears to me possible to give
to it. VVe are led astray, in debating this subject, by-
going into a consideration of motives on he part of the
enemy. We lose sight ofthe facts of the occupation of
the property by the enemy, and we go to the motive of
the destruction on the part of the enemy. In doing so,
you ask for what you cannot obtain. There may have
been a variety of motives, and in that case you must go
into a metaphysical inquiry, to ascertain which of them
was.the predominating motive. This, Mr. T. said, was
the cause of the error into which some gentlemen had
fallen, which they would have avoided by confining
their attention to facts, See.
On motion of Mr. KOSS, of Ohio, the committee then
rose, reported progress, and obtained leave to sit again.
IN SENATE—Tuesday, Jasoart 4, 1825.
The Senate having resumed the consideration of the
bill " to abolish imprisonment for debt,"
The first part of the first section of the bill being as fol-
lows :—" That no bail or security for the appearance of
any defendant or defendants shall hereafter be required
upon the service of the original, or mesne process, issu-
ing out ofthe Courts ofthe Dnited States, in any action
or suit whatever, founded on contract, express or im-
plied, which shall be made or entered into after the 4th
o: July next, unless the plaintiff, or some other person,
shall make oath or affirmation, before the clerk or officec
attesting the said process, who is hereby empowered to
administer the same, or before some other person autho-
rized b) law to administer oaths, that the defendant or
defendants named in the process, are justly indebted to
the plaintiff or plaintiffs in t e sum claimed by him or
them, and shall further make oath or affirmation, that he
or they have reason to believe that the said defendant or de-
fendants intend to remove from the state or territoriji or in-
tend to leave the United States.-"
Mr. TAZE W EI.L moved, for reasons which he assign-
ed in some detail, to strike out the clause printed above
Mr. JOHNSON, of Kentucky,deeming this proposition
to eff ect, in a considerable degree, the principle of the
bili, opposed it with much earnestness. Mr. VAN BU-
ItEN also opposed the amendment at some length.
Mr. TAZEWELL and Mr. MILLS severally support-
ed the amendment at considerable length, as expedient
and necessary, without any intention to impair the prin-
ciple of the bili, or limit its scope more than the rights
of creditors, as well as debtors, required.
Mr. JOHNSTON, of Louisiana, delivered at large his
sentiments in support of the bill and against the amend-
The question being taken on the amendment propos-
ed by Mr. TAZEWELL, it was decided as follows, by
yeas and nays.
YEAS.—Messrs. Barton, Bell, Brown, Chandler, Clay,
ton, Cobb, U'Wolf, Dickerson, Edwards, Elliott, Gail,
lard, Hayne, King, of N. Y. I.loy;', of Md. Mcllvaine,
Mills, Noble, Palmer, Parrott, Ruggles, Seymour, and
NAYS—Messrs. Bentont Bouligny, Branch, Eaton,
Findlay, Holmes, of Me. Holmes, of Miss. Jackson, John-
son, of Ken. Johnston, of Lou. Kelly,"King, of Ala. Lan-
man, Lloyd, of Mass. Lowrie, McLean, Macon, Smith,
Talbot, Thomas, Van Buren, and Williams.— 22.
The Senate being equally divided on the question,
the motion to amend was of course lost.
The question was then taken on ordering the bill to
be engrossed and read a third time, and was agreed to,
without a division.
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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/m1/67/: accessed July 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.