Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising the Leading Debates and Incidents of the Second Session of the Eighteenth Congress Page: 143
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GALES & SEA.TON'8 REGISTER
H. of R. & Sen,]
[Jan. 5, 6, 1825.
the sole motive to that devastation. Mr. B. here quoted
the language of the proclamation, reciting the so wanton
and barbarous cruelty committed on the unoffending
subjects of his Britannic Majesty, by the United States,
as being the ground of the retaliatory measure. This
document, Mr. B. said, would be transmitted to poste-
rity, and on the pages of history it would be considered
as a document giving character to the transactions of
those days. Posterity would not be benefitted by the
observations of gentlemen on this floor, who treated
the question as one of mere diplomacy. The fact of the
destruction of that frontier, as a measure of retaliation
for supposed injuries and violations of the rules of civil-
ized war, by the United States, would be established,
and well sustained, by the records of the times. Mr B.
replied to some other observations which had fallen from
gentlemen in the debate; in the course of which he said
that there never was a man placed in a more critical si-
tuation than Sir-George Prevost, during the late war;
adding, that the ingenuity and ability of that man had
enabled him, during the war, with very limited means,
to foil all the exertions of the American Government,
with the exception of the closing scene at Plattsburg,
which had redounded so much to the honor of the Ame-
rican arms. Mr. IS. said, however, in conclusion, that
he had o!ily risen to show that the devastation of the
Niagara frontier was an act of retaliation, and was in-
flicted on no other principle whatever : and, Mr. B. said,
so far as this question was to be affected by the amend-
ment b> the House, he was disposed to vote against it.
Mr. ROSS, of Ohio, rose to notice an allusion to a re-
mark of his, by Mr. B.—which allusion, upon explana-
tion by Mr. Buck, it appeared Mr. Hoss had misunder-
stood. Mr. K. then went on to observe, that all he had
meant to say on the sub ject of the proclamation of Sir
George Prevost, was, that we must believe, either that
Captain Swazy had told the truth, or that Sir George
had told the truth, and of course that some one of
theni had not told the trutli; for their contradictory de-
clarations could not be reconciled. Those persons were
equally officers of the British Government, and, though
of unequal rank, were to be considered as equally credi-
ble witnesses. What motive had Capt. Swazy for
lying on the subject? When Sir George Provost justi-
fies the devastation of that frontier, on the principle of
retalation, does he tell the truth or not ? Conversing
with Captain Swazy, Sir George Provost rejects the
advice to retaliate for the burning of Newark, and,
eleven days after the ever damnable scenes of cruelty,
in the devastation of the Niagara frontier, he issues a
proclamation, justifying that atrocity on the plea of re-
taliation! Innocent women and children were turned
out of doors in a most inclement season by the devour-
ing flames which consumed their dwellings—and, when
these sufferers came here for some indemnity for their
losses, the House was told of the virtues, and honor, and
magnanimity of Sir George Prevost. Not far from the
blood-stained plains of liaisin, said Mr. K. are to be
found, at this day, wandering, barefoot, and almost
naked, some of the persons who were driven from their
homes that fatal night, and whom the ingratitude of the
country has since kept houseless; and now, when ten
or twelve years have elapsed, and a proposition is pre-
sented for their relief, the cold calculations of statesmen,
and ingenious disquisitions on abstract principles, are
brought to bear against it.. In 1814 or 1815, said Mr.
B. you did not act upon this principle. The public sen-
timent Would not have suffered you to do it. We acted
then, said he, on just and generous principles. He
meant not to—God forbid that he should—impute to
any man who was opposed to the bill any unfair motive.
He had but appealed to facts, some of them within his
own knowledge, to show the strong claim upon the
House of those to whom this bill proposed to render tar-
Mr. TRACY rose merely to state the fact, as establish-
ed by the testimony, that Sir George Prevost was at
Quebec at the time of the devastating excursion of the
enemy on the Niagara frontier, and that therefore it was
not made under his immediate direction.
Mr. COOK, of Illinois, said, whether it was true or
not that the destruction of property on our frontier was
founded on previous acts of this Government—whether
it was a violation of the law of nations or not—whether
Sir George had stated the fact or not—could not be urg-
ed in bar of the claim of those who present themselves
for remuneration for the loss of property destroyed
whilst in the possession of the United States. It seemed
to be admitted on all hands, that indemnity ought to be
provided for all cases of property destroyed under that
circumstance. It was wholly immaterial what was the
motive for the destruction of it; for, if property actually
occupied was to be paid for when destroyed by the
enemy, surely other claimants ought not to be debarred
indemnity for property destroyed, though their property
was not occupied by the United States, if its destruction
had been caused by fire communicated from buildings
thai were destroyed in consequence of being occupied.
Admitting the statements of the proclamation to be
true, and that they wsre to affect any description of the
claimants, it yet ought not to bear upon any other pro-
perty than that which had not been in possession of the
United States. If the bill were rejected on the ground
taken by the gentleman from Vermont, it would be do-
ing violence to a principle which gentlemen on all sides
of the House admitted to be a correct one. The motive
of the enemy, Mr. C. argued, ought not to be brought
forward as an argument against those who have fair
claims on the Government independent of his motive.
As to the amendment immediately under considera-
tion, he was in favor of releasing the party from the ne-
cessity of producing any other evidence of the cause of
the destruction of bis property, than the facls which ex-
isted at the time of its destruction. He would not seek
for Sir George Prevost's opinion on the subject. It was
sufficient to establish that, in the ordinary vicissitudes of
war, the property was destroyed, or might have been
destroyed, because of its being in the occupation of the
Government. The facts already in possession of this
House were sufficient to satisfy all reasonable scruples
in a government disposed to be just, and to fulfil its du-
ties to its citizens. We are acting too rigidly—in too
cold hearted a feeling to our suffering citizens, said Mr.
C. when we adopt the discrimination which is advocat-
ed by some gentlemen, &c.
Mr. STORKS modified his motion so s.s to withdraw
the proviso ; and, instead of it, to move to strike out from
the substitute which had been agreed to, the words—
" and that such destruction was in consequence of such
When, on motion, the House adjourned.
IN SENATE—Tiiohsbat, Jaxuahy 6, 1825.
On motion of Mr. LLOYD, of Maryland, the Senate
resumed, as in committee of the whole, the bill, "for
the relief of Gregory Ennis and William li. Maddox."
[The bill provides for paying the petitioners for cer-
tain work done on the street contiguous to the Capitol
The memorial and documents accompanying it were
Mr. LLOYD, of Maryland, then observed, that, as the
Senate were in possession of the facts, it was unneces-
sary to say any thing more on the subject. The work
had been done conformable to the contract entered into
between the Commissioner of the Public Buildings and
the petitioners, and the contract was authorized by law.
It had been said that the funds specifically appropriated
for that object were not sufficient—that inconsequence
of the pressure of the times, the public lots h id not
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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/m1/76/: accessed April 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.