Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising the Leading Debates and Incidents of the Second Session of the Eighteenth Congress Page: 179
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GALES BEATON'S REGISTER
H. of R.]
Accounts of the President of the United Slates.
[Jan. 11, 1825.
tbat that distinguished individual stood just as high, this
day, in the opinion of his fellow citizens, as if there had
never a squib been thrown at him at all. If the Presi-
dent would come, and, in plain language tell the House
he had a claim against the government, he, for one,
would vote for an examii^ation of it—but he really had
been unable, with all the lights derived from the docu-
ment before the House, to discover what the President
really wants, unless from the expression that he will
never sign a bill in his own favor. This was all that
there was in the message which shewed that he had any
claim at all He could assure his friend from Kentucky,
(Mr. Thimble,) that he had himself no wish to be one of
the compurgators of the President. He believed, for
his part, that the whole message had been occasioned
by some remarks which had been dropped in this House
last session—but, as to himself, those remarks passed
over him like an April shower, which leaves no trace or
effect behind it. He did not believe a word of them.
Mr. BATtTJLETT rose, with a desire to remove from
the mind of the gentleman from' Pennsylvania, (Mr. Ing-
ham,) an impression whch he had incorrectly taken up,
that his former remarks had a personal allusion—he dis-
claimed every thir.g like it—he had had not the least re-
ference, either to the distinguished officer who presides
over the House, or to the gentleman from Pennsylvania;
nor did he entertain a shadow of suspicion as to the in-
dependence and integrity of any special committee of
this House. What he had said, in relation to favoritism,
respected only such a prepossession in favor of the jus-
tice of a claim as inclined a person to look with rather
more favor on evidence in its support than on that of an
opposite nature—and he wished to.avoid all imputation
of even such a favoritism in the present case, for the pur-
pose of rendering the precedent to be established in this
case, more perfect.
Mr. FORSYTH said that the President was entitled
to justice from the government. As to the manner how
it shall be awarded to him, that was the concern of this
House. As to the present claim, this House, Mr. F.
said, will never pass upon it while he holds his present
exalted station, Mr. V. professed himself in favor of the
appointment of a select committee upon the message,
but was desirous to limit its powers—and with that view,
if the message were to be referred to a select committee,
he should move the following instructions:
" With instructions to receive from the President any
evidences or explanations of his claims which he may
think proper to pre sent, and to fde the same in the of-
fice of the Clerk of this House, to be acted upon at the
next session of Congress."
The question was first taken on referring the Message
to the Committee of Claims, and decided in the negative,
by a large majority.
The question then recurring on Mr. INGHAM'S mo-
tion to refer it to a select committee, and the question
being upon agreeing to the instructions moved by Mr.
Mr. LIVINGSTON said, that the purport of the mes-
sage seemed to be misunderstood by many gentlemen
for whom he had the highest respect, and by whose
opinions, on other occasions, he had sometimes formed
his own. Uy some it had been considered a demand for
an unliquidated pecuniary claim; by others it was treated
as if it were an unjustifiable attempt to use the influence
of high official station, in order to command the atten-
tion of the House, and obtain a favorable settlement of
doubtful accounts; while other gentlemen professed a
total want of ability to discover the object.
There is something, said Mr. L. not only so just, but
so peculiarly delicate and touching, as well in the mat-
ter of this application as in its manner, connected with
the period at which it is made, that it made a lively im-
pression on my feelings, and forces me to express some
astonishment and concern &t the manner in which it has
been treated. Considered as a common application to the
justice of the country, it had yet been animadverted up-
on with more strictness than any common application had
before received. Yet it was no common address, whether
the person, the occasion, or the object, were considered.
It came from a man venerable for his years, respected
for his services, now filling, and having long filled, with
honor to his country, the first office in it; it came from
the President of the United States, addressed to the Re-
presentatives of the people he had served. His object
was to obtain an investigation of suggestions which had
been made, not in the public papers, but on the floor of
that House ; and the application was made at a moment
selected by the most scrupulous delicacy, when his re-
tirement from his high station precluded the most dis-
tant idea of official influence. Can it be said that this is
a common application, and should be treated with no
more attention than the claim for the settlement of a dis-
puted account ? The Presidential office was a co-ordi-
nate branch of the Government, equal in importance, if
not in power, with this House. The official character of
the functionary who filled it, (the individual, as he had
been called in debate,) was a public concern, and he
had a right, and the public had an interest, to have that
character cleared from all shadow of suspicion that might
have been thrown on it. It was just, too, that that in-
vestigation should now be made ; before it, woijld have
been liable to ungenerous suspicions of official influ-
ence : at any future period, it would have the effect of
dragging him from his honorable retirement, and sub.
verting that repose which his services had earned and
his age required.
For my own part, said Mr. L. I consider that my dig-
nity, as a Representative of the People, is not injured by
giving a more respectful attention to such an applica-
tion than I would to that of an ordinary applicant:
both are entitled to justice; but there is a courtesy due
from one branch of the Government to the suggestions
of another, the practice of which will neither interfere
with the duty nor the dignity of the House. After all,
sir, what is proposed? A reference to a select committee,
required by the complex nature of the investigation,
and granted on many such mere questionable occasions
to individual applications. Is this asking too much? Is it
much to ask that a few days of the time of a few mem-
bers should be employed in procuring evidence to de-
termine whether the Chief Magistrate of the Union, in
the exercise of his high office, had managed with fide-
lity the pecuniary concerns that were confided to him ?
Is it much to ask that, after he has retired from office,
he may be prepared with materials for silencing any as-
persions that may be cast upon his character ? So far
from thinking this unreasonable, Mr. L. said, he should
think it a useful practice at the end of every Presidency
to institute a similar inquiry, which might detect misma-
nagement, or silence calumny. He would, therefore,
vote for the reference to a select committee, as the most
respectful, the most efficient, and most prompt mode of
disposing of the message.
Mr. 1 i AMII.i ON, ot South Carolina, expressed a hope
that those gentlemen who were in favor of a select com-
mittee, would also vote for the instructions moved by
the gentleman from Georgia, as they went, in his opin-
ion,, to attain precisely the object desired by the Presi-
Mr. LIVF.RMORB, of New Hampshire, rose and said,
that he was opposed to the instructions. As he under-
stood them, they amounted to this, that the committee
was to hear what the President had to communicate, and.
report it to this House, and there was to be an end of
the business. This, he thought, would he far short of
what the President asked He wishes a settlement of
his accounts. What inconvenience could result from
leaving the committee free and unshackled ? The thing
had been done again and again, as well at this session
Here’s what’s next.
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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/m1/94/: accessed February 25, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.