Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising the Leading Debates and Incidents of the Second Session of the Eighteenth Congress Page: 149
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OF DEBATES IN CONGRESS.
Jan. 6, 1825.] Niagara Sufferers.—Crimes against the United States:. [H. of !i.
other cases. It had been the invariable practice of the
American Government, lie said, where any of its officers
incurred responsibility in the honest discharge of what
he believed to be his official duty, by violating' the pri-
vate rights, of the citizens, to indemnify him. In the case
of the Niagara sufferers, the Government had acted on
this principle; but, instead of first suffering the officers
to be harassed, it had interposed and required the citi-
zens who had been wronged, to come at once to the Go-
vernment, and had promised to settle all damages.
There were other acts on the statute book which
were bottomed on the same broad principles, viz. that
Government will pay for what is lost or suffered in its
Service. Accordingly, if any of the arms or accoutre-
ments of a militiaman are lost, without his own negli-
gence, the Government will pay him the value of .them.
The country has aright to his services; but he is not to
be taxed for unavoidable losses. The law of 1818 said
that, if any personal property was impressed, or was
hired by the Government on contract, unless the risk
was expressly provided against by the contract, and the
property so impressed was afterwards lost or destroyed,
whilst in the use of the United States, it should be paid
for. This bill says no more—it only applies to real pro-
perty the rule which the law of 1818 restricted to per-
sonal. He had always thought that restriction improper.
If any difference \v ere made, it, surely, ought rather to
be in favor of real estate.
When a man surrenders to the public his personal pro-
perty, he incurs less inconvenience; but when he gives
up his house, his castle, and turns his wife and his chil-
dren out of doors, the Government is more, and not less,
bound to compensate any loss or injury he inay sustain.
It is a debt of honor as well as of justice, and such an
one as he trusted the American Government would ne-
ver refuse to acknowledge. He concluded by observ-
ing that such was the situation of many of the claim
ants, that, to deny them now, would be to deny them
The question was then taken on the amendment to
the bill as amended, and decided in the affirmative. The
several amendments agreed to, now presented the bill
to the House in the following shape :
".He it enacted, &c. That any person having a claim for
a building destroyed by the enemy during the. late war,
under the ninth section of the act to which this is an
amendment, and of the act to amend the same, passed
the third of March, one thousand eight hundred and se-
venteen, which shall have been presented to the Com-
missioner of Claims appointed under the act first afore-
said, at any time before the tenth of April, one thousand
eight hundred and eighteen, and which was not paid
under said acts, nor finally ejected by said Commission-
er, may, within nine months hereafter, present the same,
with the evidence to support it, to the Third Auditor of
the Treasury, for examination and adjustment; and if he
shall be satisfied the building, or buildings, for which
damages are claimed, was, at the time of its destruction,
occupied by order of any agent or officer of the United
States, as a place of deposite for military or naval
stores, or as barracks for the military forces of the Cnit-
ed States, he shall proceed to assess the damages, and
certify the amount for payment in the way pointed out
in the act first above referred to, which shall be imme-
diately paid out of any money in the Treasury, not other-
wise appropriated: Provided That, if the Auditor shall
be satisfied the evidence before him is insufficient to en-
able hirr. correctly to decide between the United States
and the claimant, he may, on giving notice to the claim-
ant, cause other evidence to be taken. And provided,
also, That no payment shall be made under the provi-
sions of this act, where the property destroyed was oc-
cupied under a contract with the owner, and at the risk
of such owner.
Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That the amount
which shall appear to have been paid to the owners, as
rent, for the use or occupation of their property, shall
be deducted from the amount directed to be paid to
them under this act.
Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, That, in case the
whole amount of claims presented and allowed under
this act, shall exceed the sum of 250,000 dollars, then,
and in that case, the claimants shall respectively receive
only their rateable proportion of the sum of 250,00; dol-
lars, to be liquidated by the said Auditor in the adjust-
ment of the amount to be received by such claimants re-
The question being on ordering the bill to be engross-
ed for a third reading —
Mr. MERCER rose, and observed that, as sufficient
time had not been allowed to receive from the Depart-
ments of the Treasury and of War, communications for
which the House had called on those Departments, and
which had an immediate bearing on the bill, he felt him-
self bound to move to lay it on the table.
This motion prevailed—ayes 82, noes 78.
So the bill was laid on the table.
CRIMES AGAINST THE UNITED STATES.
On motion of Mr. WEBSTER, the several orders of
the day were then postponed, in order to take up the
bill for the more effectual prevention of crimes against
the United States.
Mr. WEBSTER then, as chairman of the Committee
on the Judiciary, entered into an exposition of the pro-
visions proposed by the various sections or' this hi,!, the
object of which, and their relation to existing statutory
provisions, and their bearing upon cases which have oc-
curred, or may hereafter occur, he explained at some
length. He also adverted to deficiencies which he per-
ceived to exist in the bill as reported, and stated several
amendments, which, in the course of the discussion of
the bill, he intended to propose.
After concluding his exposition, Mr. W, proposed a
few amendments to the details of the bill, which were
agreed to. After which,
The committee rose, reported progress, and had leave
to sit again ; and the remaining amendments which Mr.
W. intended to propose, were ordered to be printed
for the use of the House.
The following Message was tiien received from the
President of the United States, by Mr. Evebett:
To the Senate and House
of Representatives of the United States:
As the term of my service in this high trust will expire
at the end of the present session of Congress, 1 think it
proper to invite your attention to an object, very inte-
resting to me, and which, in the movement of our Go-
vernment, is deemed, on principle, equally interesting
to the Public. I have been long in the service of my
Country, and in its most difficult conjunctures, as well
abroad as at home, in the course of which I have had a
control over the public moneys, to a vast amount. If;
in the course of my service, it shall appear, on the most
severs scrutiny, which I invite, that the public have sus-
tained any loss by any act of mine, or of others, for which
1 ought to be held responsible, I am willing to bear it.
If, on the other hand, it shall appear, on a view of the
law, and of precedents in other cases, that justice has
been withheld from me, in any instance, as I have be-
lieved it to be in many, and greatly to my injury, it is
submitted whether it ought not to be rendered. It is
my wish, that all matters of account and claims, between
my country and myself, be settled, with that strict regard
to justice, which is observed in settlements between in-
dividuals in private life. It would be gratifying to me,
and it appears to be just, that the subject should be now
examined, in both respects, with a view to a decision
hereafter. No bill would, it is presumed, be presented
for my signature, which would operate either for or
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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/m1/79/: accessed April 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.