United States. Congress.

Abridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856. From Gales and Seatons' Annals of Congress; from their Register of debates; and from the official reported debates, by John C. Rives online

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Online LibraryUnited States. CongressAbridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856. From Gales and Seatons' Annals of Congress; from their Register of debates; and from the official reported debates, by John C. Rives → online text (page 111 of 194)
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a tribunal, and a hearing. Shall ho be turned
off and told to wait till another Congress shall
consider his case ? I trust not. I trust there
is enough of justice in this Congress, to say
that he has -waited long enough ; that his day
of hearing shall be set, his judges appointed,
and his claim fully and fairly examined. Mr.
W. concluded with an apology for the earnest-
ness he had betrayed, and the time he had
inadvertently occupied, but he should feel that
he had been wanting to the rights of a con-



stituent and of an American citizen, had he re-
mained silent, and suffered the remarks of the
gentleman from Kentucky to pass without
reply.

Mr. Abohee said, that he had been a member
of the Select Committee to whom this claim had
been referred, and he had given it a careful
examination. The gentleman from Kentucky
was mistaken in both the points he had taken.
He supposes the House is not now prepared
to f ass this bill — if not, when would it be pre-
pared ? The bill had been reported at the last
session, and if want of preparation was a good
reason now, why might not the same reason
be repeated forever ? If gentlemen were not
prepared, they ought to be ; ample time had
been allowed, and every opportunity given.

But the gentleman seems to be of opinion
that this Government is not bound to pay this
claim, be it ever so just a one. Sir, I say that
this Government is bound to pay it. And
why ? It has, in two instances, forcibly inter-
fered and obstructed this claimant in obtaining
justice, when he had the near prospect of fully
succeeding.

When our treaty was made with Spain, he
expressly said that he did not ask the Govern-
ment of the United States to be responsible for
the claim ; all he asked of it was to stand
aside ; to leave him to his own chance, and
only to abstain from throwing any obstacles
in the way, or taking any course which would
condemn the claim. And what was the reply
of his own Government? They refused his
request. They determined to interfere ; and
they said to him, your claim shall be compre-
hended in the treaty, and it shall be liable to
the terms of the treaty. This was the first
case in which we forcibly interposed, and wo
here prevented his obtaining his money from
the Government of Spain. Ascertaining that
the proof required by the Commissioners was
such as could only be got from Spain, fifteen
months before the time for examining this
evidence, he again goes to his own Government
and prays them to send to Spain for the neces-
sary vouchers. The Commissioners expressly
said they were satisfied a large amount was
due to him, but they could not allow him even
this amount without having evidence from
Spain. Here, then, the American Government
says to one of its own citizens, who has a
claim already acknowledged by the Govern-
ment of Spain, " you shall look to me, and not
to Spain, for this money ; I will send for your
vouchers, and get them for you within tho
time which I have chosen to limit for the pro-
duction of proof." He accordingly gives his
Government a memorandum of the papers re-
quired. The Government, owing to circum-
stances with which he had nothing to do, does
not apply in time to get these papers ; and tho
period it had arbitrarily fixed for their exam-
ination expires ; its citizen is shut out from tho
tribunal of the Commissioners ; and now, when
he comes to you, and modestly asks that some



448



ABKIDGMENT OP THE



H. OF R.]



Meadi'i Claim under the Florida Treaty.



[Febkuaky, 18^7,



tribunal may be ordered to examine liis vouch-
ers and pass upon the j\]stice of his claim, he
is to be refused ? He does not ask for money ;
he asks only a tribunal and a judge ; and is it
to be refused? It would form a case of
enormous and unparalleled atrocity. Sir, I
have looked at this evidence, and I care not
before what tribunal it is to be presented.
You may send it to the bencli of Slinos and
Eadamanthus ; I care not ; only let it have a
full and fair examination. As one interested
in the resources of the Government, I hope he
may not be able to establish his claim ; but
never, while there is a cent in the treasury,
never will I consent to obstruct any claim by
methods such as these. Suppose we shall pass
this hill, do we thereby declare that this man's
claim is just? By no means. We only say
that his claim, with the evidence in support of
it, shall be examined by our own officers ; and
I believe no gentleman who hears me will
dissent from the position, that, .if it is to go
before Mr. Hagner, it will, at least, be thorough-
ly sifted. But if you reject the bill, you con-
demn and annihilate the claim, without know-
ing whether it be just or not. To do this
would, under all the circumstances, be one of
the most unparalleled and unatoned acts of in-
justice that ever was perpetrated.

Mr. Forsyth now renewed the motion he
had made in committee to amend the first section
of the bill, and also moved to strike out the
third section, which provides for allowing the
Third Auditor a certain sum, in addition to the
salary now allowed him by law.

He said, that if it should be the pleasure of
the House to pass the bill, he was willing to
trust to the justice of Congress to reward the
auditors for any extra service it might occasion
them, and, therefore, he did not propose to in-
sert any clause fixing their remuneration before-
hand. Mr. F. said he was fully aware of the
shortness of the time which remained of the
session, and the number and amount of private
as well as public. bills, which were waiting the
action of the House ; he would, therefore, en-
deavor to guard himself from digressing into
the merits of the claim, and should confine his
remarks to the right of the applicant to have
its justice examined and decided upon. He
believed himself to bo fully possessed of the
merits; but it was enough for him to know
that here was an American citizen, suffering
great injustice, from no fault of his, but from
that of his own and of a foreign Government,
and that this House alone had the power to
redeem him from it. The circumstances of
this case were most extraordinary. Mr. Meade,
it seems, had a claim against tlie Government
of Spain, which was acknowledged by that
Government. Tlie Board of Commissioners,
appointed under the Florida treaty, having
concluded that this claim was embraced by
that treaty, Mr. Meade submitted to them a
written acknowledgment, given by the com-
missioners of the Government of Spain, that



a certain sum was due by that Government to
him. This acknowledgment was given be-
tween the first signing of the treaty and its
final ratification. His documents were de-
manded by the Spanish Government, and
having been surrendered by Mr. Meade, were
distributed through the ofi^ices to which they
severally belonged. AVhen Mr. Meade submit-
ted his claim to the Commissioners, accom-
panied by the certificate or acknowledgment
before referred to, they replied that this was
not sufiicient evidence, and that they must
have the original documents or certified copies
of them. Mr. Meade remonstrated on the
hardship of being compelled to produce papers
which he had previously been obliged to give
up to the Spanish Government, when, at the
same time, he had produced a certificate
which was the result of their examination, and
showed them to contain conclusive proof of the
justice of the claim. The Commissioners, how-
ever, were stern and inflexible, and continued
to demand the vouchers. Meade, in reply,
pleaded that the treaty, under whose operation
his claim had, against his wishes, been brought,
contained a provision that the Spanish Govern-
ment should furnish to claimants such ofiicial
papers as were applied for to establish their
claims, and prayed that the Commissioners
would take measures to obtain his evidence
from that Government. They did so, and Mr.
Nelson accordingly received instructions to de-
mand them ; but as he was prevented, contrary
to the law of nations, from landing on the
Spanish soil, the papers were not obtained, and
the Commissioners accordingly rejected the
claim. The consequence has been, that this
claimant is made poor, though he has, accord-
ing to the written acknowledgment both of the
Spanish and of the American Commissioners, a
just claim to what would render him independ-
ent. Can such a case be left without redress ?
Shall an American citizen be thus plundered
of his all ? "What has been his fault ? Did he
not use all proper diligence in prosecuting his
claim? "Was he not in a fair way of obtaining
justice when this Government interfered, de-
clared his claim merged by the treaty, and
undertook themselves to be his paymasters?
If his vouchers were in Spain, could he compel
the Spanish Government to surrender them?
And was it his fault that his Government failed
in procuring them? Surely not. And now,
after having had hope thus deferred by our
act, must he be refused even a tribunal to try
his claim? Mr. F. said the committee had
refused to go into the grounds of the Spanish
Commissioners' decision, and had reluctantly
brought in the bill in its present shape. If
Spain was in the wrong, this Government had
a right to demand from her all that it should
pay to Meade — and the object of the bill was
only to give him what he had been deprived
of by the short duration of the commission.
The committee had no choice between doing
this and doing injustice.



DEBATES OF CONGRESS.



449



FEBKUARr, 1827.]



Meade's Claim under the Florida Treaty.



[H. OF R.



Mr. Everett, of Massachusetts, said that the
amendment removed much of his difficulty.
He had himself been opposed to taking up this
bill at this time, but the House decided other-
wise, and as it had been taken up, he hoped it
would pass as amended. He had carefully ex-
amined the documents in relation to this claim,
and his sole object was, that justice should be
done. "Whether the amount Is 30,000 dollars,
or 300,000, or 3,000,000, was a consideration
that ought to have no place in this matter. If
the Government owed the money, he cared
not what was the amount ; it ought to be paid.
He should augur darkly indeed for our institu-
tions, if the inquiry of this House is to be, not
whether a debt is due, but whether it is small.
He regretted that the gentleman from Georgia
and the gentleman from Virginia had not con-
tented themselves with suffering the claim to
rest on its own merits, but had proceeded to
comment with severity upon the conduct of
the Commissioners in rejecting the claim.
There was not now time to examine their de-
cision, or to inquire into the manner in which
the treaty had been conducted — he would,
therefore, do no more than take leave to deny
the accuracy of some of the statements which
had reference to this part of the subject, par-
ticularly when the terms of the treaty and the
decision of tlie Commissioners under it had been
characterized as acts of unparalleled atrocity,
and unatoned injustice. He thought that sen-
tence of condemnation had better have been
withheld.

Mr. McLajte, of Delaware, said he concurred
with the gentleman from Massachusetts, who
had just taken his seat, in the view he had ex-
pressed in favor of the amendment of the gen-
tleman from Georgia. He thought it would
be a material improvement in the bill. The
amount due the claimant might possibly be
very considerable, but that formed no reason
why the bill should not now be considered, or
why the amount should not be allowed. If the
largeness of the amount was to have any weight
at all, all it had was certainly on the side of
the claimant. But it was not to be expected
that a bill which might involve the payment
of so large an amount, should pass without
mature discussion, both in the committee and
out of the committee. The amount alone was
of itself sufficient to produce opposition to the
bill. But it was impossible that such a body
as this House should examine minutely every
claim that came before it. It must, from ne-
cessity, put great faith in the examinations
made by its Standing Committees. The body
was too unwieldy to go into such minutiaj ; and
the present case did but renew and strength-
en a conviction he had long entertained, and
had more than once expressed, of the pressing
necessity for the adoption of some other ar-
rangement, in relation to the decision of private
claims. As they were now disposed of, there
was not only a great consumption of time,
which ought to be devoted to the public con-
VoL. IX.— 29



cerns of the country, but unavoidable danger
of doing the most flagrant injustice to claim-
ants themselves. The committees, he knew,
and admitted, did the duties assigned them,
with as much diligence and devotion as could
be expected from any men ; but the difficulties
were such, as no diligence could surmount.
It was physically impossible for them to exam-
ine with minuteness one-half the documents
submitted to them. They did what they could ;
bdt the result was, that claims were either
deferred in a manner that amounted practically
to a denial of justice, or decided on such im-
perfect examination, as often put justice at the
greatest hazard. The documents in the present
case were voluminous, and involved the investi-
gation of a great number and variety of ques-
tions of the greatest moment. From what at-
tention he had been able to give them, he was
persuaded that the case of Mr. Meade was one
of great and undeserved hardship.

Mr. McL. then stated, that, during Mr.
Meade's residence in Spain, the Government of
that country became indebted to him for sup-
plies of provisions furnished them during the
Constitutional War of defence against the in-
vasion of the French ; and that, oh the return
of the king, Mr. Meade was imprisoned in one
of the castles of Cadiz for more than two years,
and was finally released by the interference of
the Government of the United States. After
his, Mr. M.'s release, a court was organized in
Spain, which fixed the amount due, and the
faith of the Government was pledged to pay it.
Lands in the Floridas were offered Mr. Meade
in payment, but our Government being then
in treaty for the cession of the Floridas, direct-
ly intimated to Mr. Meade then' unwillingness
to consent to this arrangement, and he gave it
up, with assurances from our Government, that
his debt should be assumed and paid by the
United States. The very demand itself was
liquidated under the auspices of the Minister
from the United States. The Cortes of Spain
considered the demand of Mr. Meade a national
debt ; and the king affirmed it as such. "When
the treaty was about to be ratified by the Sen-
ate, Mr. Meade sent a memorial, to the Presi-
dent, in which the claimant distinctly requested
that, if Government could not give him assur-
ances of being paid in full, that his claim should
not be included, and that he would look to
Spain for his indemnification. The treaty was
ratified, with the entire understanding that this
claim was included. When the Commissioners
under the treaty were appointed, the claim was
presented, but not allowed ; not that they be-
lieved the claim was not good, but got over
this large amount, upon some want of docu-
ments, entirely out of the power of the claim-
ant then to procure. The Minister of the
United States, and every officer of Government
within the scope of whose duties the slightest
consideration of the subject came, were in
favor of the claim. But, after all these exer-
tions which Mr. Meade has made, and aU the



450



ABRIDGMENT OF THE



H. OF R.]



Meade's Claim under the Florida Treaty.



[Febrcaet, 1827.



assurances wliich have been given him, he has
been, year after year, memorializing Congress
to hear him on tho subject, or to appoint a tri-
bunal for that purpose ; but he has sued in
vain. Every obstacle has been tlirown in his
■way ; no investigation, beyond a hearing before
the committee, has been afforded. An investi-
gation is all he now asks ; shall this be denied
him ? Is it for the honor of our country to
keep one of its valuable citizens so long in
suspense ? Shall we waste his means, his time,
his patience, in following Congress from session
to session, and get no remedy ? The good faith
of the nation is involved in the question ; and
he, Mr. MoL., trusted that the bill would pass.
If the sum was due Mr. Meade, as he believed
it was, he ought to have it. The amount of
the claim should make no difference in the
readiness to examine it, nor the willingness to
pay it.

Mr. KiTTEEA said, that it w^as a lamentable
truth, which the experience of every year con-
firmed, that the claims of public creditors were
so long delayed, and were attended with ex-
penses so' enormous, that often, when a favor-
able judgment was pronounced, it came too
late to do them service. That Mr. Meade, who
was one of his most valued constituents, had
been attending in the hall for .six or seven suc-
cessive sessions, and, at the happy moment
when his hearing is at hand, he is threatened
with longer delays, because, it is said, his claim
has not been examined with suflBcient attention
by the members of the House. Rely upon it,
such an answer will as little justify us, as it
will console our fellow-citizen, who has so long
and so earnestly claimed a hearing. He did
not mean to enter into a detail of all the cir-
cumstances; but there were a few prominent
facts known to every gentleman. The Govern-
ment of Spain was indebted to Mr. Meade in a
very large sum of money, found by the tribunals
of the nation to be due, and sanctioned by a
royal decree. After this, we formed a treaty
with Spain, by which the Floridas were ceded
to the United States for five millions of dollars.
By the llj;h article of that treaty, we discharge
the Spanish Government from the claims of
our citizens, and among the rest, from that of
Mr. Meade. A tribunal is established to dis-
tribute this fund among the claimants against
Spain, who are to receive only so far as the
fund extended. Mr. K. said he would not
inquire into the fairness of placing Mr. Meade's
claim upon no better footing than the ordinary
claims for spoliations — that tribunal is limited
in point of duration. That Mr. Meade's claim
is embraced in the treaty, no one could doubt.
He presents himself before the Commissioners
with the Spanish decree as the evidence of the
debt. He is told that will not do; that ho
must give to the Commissioners the same evi-
dence he had before the Spanish tribunal. Mr.
K. said he would not say a word as regarded
the propriety of this decision. It however
required of the applicant that which, as the



result proved, it w.as impossible for him to do.
Efforts, national and individual, were made to
procure from the Spanish Government these
documents, which were in their possession, but
in vain. Tho limitation of the commission is
about expiring, and the Commissioners finally
distribute tho fund to tho exclusion of Mr.
Meade. That his claim was good for some
amount, and that it was rejected because the
documents were not within his control, but
at the pleasure of the Spanish Government,
there can be no doubt. Is it, under such cir-
cumstances, fair and equitable that Mr. Meade
should lose his debt ? We have discharged, by
an act of sovereign authority, his original
debtor. Ought we not to pay ? If, by with-
liolding documents, Spain has violated the
treaty, let the United States look to Spain to
repair the injury we sustain ; but not put for-
ward a citizen upon his private responsibility
to coerce tho payment of money upon such a
ground. By the passage of this bill, we ad-
mit no particular amount due. We only estab-
lish a tribunal to examine and decide, and that,
too, upon principles of the strictest character,
upon matters which, it must be allowed, we
cannot. This is not a claim for spohatious,
but, as he believed, a fair and honest debt,
ascertained in character and amount, for which
the Spanish Government was liable, till we
transferred that liability to ourselves, and
which he thought this Government could
not refuse to discharge without disregarding
her high sense of justice and national faith.

Mr. Beecheb asked if there was any other
evidence in support of the claim but that
which was received from the Commissioners?

Mr. FoESTTH replied, that the bill did not
propose to the House an investigation of this
case. It only appointed a tryer.

Mr. Beecher rejoined : the treaty had done
this before — it appointed a Board of Tryers
more competent than the Auditors could be
supposed to be — they had rejected the claim
because it was not supported by evidence. If
there was now no more evidence than there
had been before, there could be no need of ap-
pointing new tryers.

The question was then taken on Mr. Foe-
stth's amendment, appointing three Auditors
of the Treasury to examine the evidence, and
carried — ayes 72, nays 40.

Mr. FoESYTH observed, that he held in his
hand a list of six claims, all which were simi-
larly situated to this of Meade's, all resting on
evidence to be furnished by Spain. The ques-
tion, therefore, involved in the amendment of
the gentleman from Ohio, was, whether this one
claim ought to be separated from all the rest,
and paid, while the rest were neglected ?

Mr. Livingston said, that this exemplified, in
the strongest manner, the utter unfitness and in-
ability of Congress to become judges in private
claims. If the motion now made should pre-
vail, the evidence furnished will be in the
Spanish language, and he for one, would like to



DEBATES OF CONGRESS.



451



February, 1827.]



British Colonial Trade.



[H. OF R.



be present when the claim came to be decided.
He should like to see the Spanish papers sub-
mitted, for instance, to the honorable gentleman
from Tennessee. He presumed the first thing
to be done would be to swear an interpreter.
The next step must be to send for witnesses to
prove that the evidence was taken according to
the Spanish law. These records, according to
the Spanish style, were all voluminous ; he pre-
sumed there was not one of the examinations
that would not occupy several quires of paper.
Now, without going further, he would ask the
gentleman whether the claim of an individual,
in which his all was involved, was to be de-
cided before such a tribunal as this House, on
such evidence? He entered now, and would
forever enter, his protest against the perform-
ance of Judicial duties by such a body. He
prayed gentlemen not to throw new difficulties
in the way of this claimant ; he thought the
bill already interposed difficulties enough.

The question being then taken, the amend-
ment proposed by Mr. Cocke was rejected.

On the question of ordering the bill to be en-
grossed for a third reading, Mr. Wickliffe re-
quired the yeas and nays, but a sufficient num-
ber did not rise to authorize them.

The bill was then ordered to be engrossed
for a third reading without a division.



"Wednesday, February 28.
British Colonial Trade.

The House again took up the Colonial Trade
Bill ; and the question being on agreeing to the
amendment offered by Mr. Webstee in Com-
mittee of the "Whole —

Mr. Bassett moved to lay the bill and amend-
ment on the table. The motion was negatived
— ayes 65, noes 81 ; and the House then con-
curred in adopting the amendment of Mr. "Wbb-

filEK.

Mr. Peaece now moved a reconsideration of
the vote by which the House yesterday rejected
the amendment proposed by Mr. Mallaet,
which was to insert the words " by sea."

On this question, Mr. Bareijtgee called for
the yeas and nays, and they were ordered by
the House.

Mr. Fop.sTTn remarked, that the vote by
which the amendment had been rejected was
very large ; that a distinct proposition to defer
that vote to this morning had been made and
refused. He wished to know what new light
had arisen to-day, on account of which the
House was asked to reconsider a deliberate
vote, on a proposition fully understood. He
slionld be glad to hear some of the reasons
stated which induced gentlemen to ask a re-
consideration.

Mr. IxoEESOLL said he should vote for the
motion to reconsider; and if that prevailed,
would also vote for the amendment proposed
by the gentleman from Vermont, so as to con-
fine the operations of the bill, as was done by
the act of 1820, to the navigation " by sea,"



without interfering with the navigation on the
lakes. But he should vote for the bill whether
amended or not. He felt willing to accede to



Online LibraryUnited States. CongressAbridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856. From Gales and Seatons' Annals of Congress; from their Register of debates; and from the official reported debates, by John C. Rives → online text (page 111 of 194)