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 162 of 194)
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lation of all law, nor to provide for the exer-
cise of rights, if rights they were, when all law
is silent.

Mr. Hall, in reply, said, I do not know, Mr.
Speater, whether I perfectly understand that
clause in the 5th amendment to the constitu-
tion, which declares that private property shall
not be taken for public use, without just com-
pensation. It appears to me to mean, that,
under certain circumstances, priv.ite property
may be taken for public use. But, if taken,
must be paid for. These are circumstances
which must necessarily sometimes occur. They
did occur in our last war, in every war we
ever had, and in all probability, they will occur
in any future war in which we may be engaged.
If this interpretation of the constitution is cor-
rect, then, as I said before, the country is in a
Bti'ange and anomalous situation. The self-
VoL. IX.— 42

same act is allowed by the constitution, and is
nevertheless punishable by law. The resolu-
tion proposes a mere inquiry, and is introduced
solely with that intention. My past conduct,
(having been so long in this House,) I think,
furnishes a suflBoient pledge, that I have no dis-
position unnecessarily to consume its time. I
hope the resolution wiU be permitted to go to
the committee.

The resolution was then agreed to.

Wednbsdat, January 16.
Militia Courts Martial.

The House resumed the consideration of the
resolution, moved by Mr. Sloans, of Ohio, on
the 11th instant:

Mr. WioKLiFFE said he had risen to propose
an amendment to the gentleman's resolution as
now modified. It is to strike out all that part
of the resolution which calls upon the Secretary
of War for copies of any orders made by the
President, under the discretion given by the
act of 1814, by which the length of service of the
Tennessee militia was extended, and also copies
of the correspondence between Governor Blount
and the Department of War, upon the length
of time which the militia of Tennessee were
bound to serve.

The mover of this resolution avowed his
object to be a desire to obtain all the infor-
mation in the Department of War, connected
with the court martial and the six militiamen.
His resolution, if modified as proposed by
me, will give him all the documents which
belong to that subject. He desires a copy of
" any order or regulation made by the Presi-
dent, under the act of 1814," by which the
term of service of the Tennessee militia was
extended to six months. I am satisfied, and so
must be the gentleman, that no such order
ever was made, either as relates to the militia
of Tennessee or any other State, save to the
requisitions which may have been made from
time to time upon the Executive of the respec-
tive States, by the letters of the Secretary of
"War, calling upon them to detail their quota
of nien. "Why then call for a copy of a paper
which we believe, and which the public have
been assured, does not and never did exist ? If
such an order were on file, would we have the call
for it ? I will not answer the question. If it is
not there, I am to be told the Secretary is
called upon "to state the facts." We ask for
a thing which we know we cannot get; and if
we could get it we would not ask it.

The object avowed, or seemed to be avowed
by the gentleman from Ohio, is to ascertain
the main fact, how long these men, I mean the
six militiamen, were bound to serve. To
obtain this object, can it be necessary to call
upon the Secretary to inform us that Presi-
dent Madison and the Secretary of War failed
to discharge their duty in omitting to enter
upon the records of the Office of War, that the
militia called into service from the State of



H. OF R.]

Mobile Court Martial.

[Jaotabt, 1828.

Tennessee, should serve six- months, three
months, or any other term of time? I rejieat,
the important fact in tliis investigation is to
know whether the detachment of militia, of
■which the six shot for mutiny and desertion
were a part, were called into service for six
months. An answer to this question full and
complete, must be given in responding to the
resolution as proposed to be modified. If the
gentleman's object was a reformation of the
militia law of the last war, which has perform-
ed its functions; if he designed to arraign the
then President of the United States, and his
Secretary of "War, for a dereliction of duty,
perhaps the information sought might be prop-
er as a preliminary step. No such purpose is
intended or expected. I do not understand
this resolution to be a declaration of war
against the distinguished citizen who then filled
the Presidential chair.

Unless gentlemen will close their eyes, it is
impossible not to see its tendency. It is in
vain to disguise it. "Why has this business
slept so long? "Why has it not excited the
patriotic sensibilities of the statesmen who
have filled this hall for the last fifteen years ?

Is there a member on this floor who does
not believe the effect of this resolution is most
anxiously looked to, as appalling to the hopes
of the gentleman whose fame has been assailed
by every art which intrigue and falsehood
could invent? I will not say that such is the
desire of the gentleman from Ohio, or those
here who act with him.

I desire, Mr. Speaker, said Mr. "W., to strip
this subject of all extraneous matter. I wish
to present it naked to the public eye. The
man whose character has been assailed on
account of the execution of six militiamen, seeks
no concealment. His conduct on this, as on all
other occasions when engaged in the service of
his country, will stand the test of human
scrutiny and of time.

Mr. Bell said, it would, perhaps, not be in
order to enter into any general discussion of
the merits of the resolution, nor of the objects
intended to be attained by it, further than
might be necessary to express his views, brief-
ly, of the propriety of adopting the amend-
ment moved by the gentleman from Kentucky,
BO far as it proposed to strike out those words,
which, if adopted as part of the resolution,
would give the Secretary of War any latitude
of remark, upon what may not be found upon
record in his Department. I certainly would
not think of intruding myself for one moment
upon the indulgence of the House, said Mr. B.,
seeing so many abler men around me ready to
take up the subject, if I did not perceive that
the purpose of the resolution may be to arraign,
before the tribunal of the public, the character
of a distinguished citizen who resides in my
own immediate neighborhood. Under this
impression, I feel myself called upon, by a
sense of duty, to notice an attack made on him,
which I conceive to be unmerited and unjust,

for the same reason that I would feel it my
duty to defend the reputation of every other
private citizen of the district I have the honor
to represent, and who could not be heard in his
own defence on this floor. I acknowledge,
however, that I may possibly do injustice to the
intentions of the mover of the resolution, in
supposing that the conduct of the distinguished
individual I have alluded to, is alone to be the
subject of investigation. Judging from what
appears upon the face of the resolution, and the
imperfect avowal of the mover, as to what
may be his motive, it is left doubtful whether
one or all of several gentlemen of distinction,
are intended to be the object of attack. It
may be intended to disturb the repose of a late
President of the United States : for, if it shall
tnrn out to be true, that Mr. Madison did
permit a Secretary of "War to invest the
Governor of a State, during the late war, with
important discretionary powers, without his
authority, and sulfered a large detachment of
militia to be called into service for the purpose
of manning several important posts, situated at
a great distance from the States from whence
they were drawn, without giving any instruc-
tion for retaining them in service for six
months, when it is evident that the shorter
term of three months must have been chiefly
consumed in distributing them among the posts
to which they were ordered, then was he guilty
of a most gross and criminal omission of duty.
If a late Secretary of "War proceeded to exer-
cise such extensive powers without the sanc-
tion of the President, or failed to renew his in-
structions to the Governor of Tennessee, ac-
cording to the requisitions of the law, and the
exigencies of the war, then was he guilty of a
usurpation of authority, or a neglect of an im-
portant duty. I confess I am not ready to
admit that a late Governor of Tennessee could
be charged with any gross impropriety of con-
duct, in proceeding to act under discretiopary
powers, conferred without any other limit as to
the time in which they were to be considered op-
erative, than the termination of the war, even if
the fact be that his instructions were not re-
newed in the Spring of 1814. But how a
charge of improper conduct, or responsibility
for the blunders and omissions of others, if any
such there were, can be fixed upon the mere
instrument and organ appointed for the execu-
tion of the orders and decrees of his superiors
in ofiice ; how such a charge can be fixed upon
the distinguished individual to whom I have
more than once alluded, for retaining in service
the detachment of militia referred to in the
resolution, during a term of six months, and
treating them accordingly, when it is known
that he ordered out that detachment, acting
then as Major General of militia, and that, in
doing so, he obeyed, as he was bound to do, an
order from the Governor of the State of Ten-
nessee, expressly stating, upon the face of it,
that the detachment was to serve six months,
and that the Secretary of "War had authorized



Janoaet, 1828.]

Mobile Court Martial.

[H. OF E.

that latitude of the call, is to me most incom-
prehensible. But if it be against him that this
resolution is intended to operate, then I would
remind gentlemen that they begin their attacks
at the wrong end, and that there is but little
magnanimity in striking at the tail, instead of
the head, of the offending series of public

Mr. CmPEPEB said, that he did not know the
motives of other gentlemen, and he thought
that the House had nothing to do with the mo*
tives of any of its members. Their conduct
alone was the proper subject of animadversion.
■What I want, said Mr. 0., in this case, is the
truth, and nothing but the truth, and I intend
to move to lay the resolution and amendment
on the table, that gentlemen on both sides may
consult together and agree upon the proper
form of this call, without further dispute on
this floor. I want, I repeat it, nothing but the
truth. I have no wish to get rid of the sub-
ject, but a very strong wish to get clear of this
very disagreeable debate.

Mr. Polk said: The ostensible object of the
resolution seemed to be, to obtain information
from the Department of War in relation to the
detachment of militia, of which the " six
militiamen," executed at Mobile, under sen-
tence of a court martial, for the crime of muti-
ny and desertion, in 1814, were a part ; and
yet the gentleman from Ohio proposes, by the
resolution, to call for the whole correspondence
between the Secretary of War and the Gov-
ernor of Tennessee, not only in relation to this
particular detachment of militia, but from the
commencement of the war, in 1812, until its
termination. The gentleman was not content
to have the correspondence in relation to this
particular detachment, which was already em-
braced in another part of his resolution, but
desired all the correspondence which ever took
place between the Secretary of War and the
Governor of Tennessee, during the whole war,
in delation to other detachments called into the
public service from Tennessee, at different pe-
riods. He could not perceive the purpose to
be effected by calling for a lengthy correspond-
ence, which had no connection with the main
object of the inquiry, unless it was to obscure
and cover up the material facts of the case, by
a mass of documents which had no relation to
it. Why had not the gentleman likewise called
for all the correspondence with the Governors
of other States, whose militia were in the pub-
lic service during the war ? It would have just
as much to do with the " six militiamen," as
that part of the correspondence with the Gov-
ernor of Tennessee which does not relate to
the service of the " six militiamen," or the de-
tachment to which they belonged. He wished
the information called for, when received, to
stand naked before the public, and to be
stripped of all extraneous matter.

Mr. Randolph said, that no possible modifi-
cation could, in anywise, affect the course he
had chalked out to himself, and for reasons

which he would now briefly state. I will
promise, said Mr. E., if I throw no light upon
the subject, that, at least, I will not (to borrow
a word used by the honorable gentleman from
Maine) " obfuscate " it.

I concur most heartily with the gentleman
from North Carolina, (Mr. CulpePeh,) in his
view of this matter. Before he made his mo-
tion, I had expressed a similar opinion to the
gentleman from Louisiana, (Mr. Livingston.)
I am sorry he withdrew it. I think the House
ought not to act in this matter at all. And
why ? Because, sir, disguise it as much as we
will — as much as we can — it is a matter (as
was said in another body, on a very different
occasion) as notorious as the sun at noon-day,
that the state of public feeling throughout this
country, (and what are we but the pulse, the
artery, which shows the action, the sanity, or
the unsoundness of the heart ?) is such, that, if
this game is once commenced, there will be no
end to it. Sir, I have nothing to do with gen-
tlemen's motives. I am bound, not only by the
Rules and Orders of this House, and by a sense
of decorum, which ought to be a still stronger
restraint on every gentleman, but I am bound
by evidence before my senses — to believe, that
the motives of the gentleman from Ohio can-
not be such as have been imputed to him.
And why ? It is notorious, that you affect a
balance as much, by taking out of ong scale, as
by putting into the other ; and after what I have
seen in the public prints, under his name, he
can never surely mean, by taking out of the
scale A, to give preponderance to the scale B.
I wonder, sir, that it did not appear to the
very acute and astute perception of the gentle-
man from Maine, (Mr. Speaghk,) that there
was another occasion for this information, be-
sides the bill from the Senate on the subject of
the militia laws. This House, in the last re-
sort, may, by the constitution, be called upon
to decide that question on which the public
mind is in a state of so great and so justifiable
infiammation. Now, as we may be called upon
the next session, to decide that question, and
good managers, all people of forecast, like to
be beforehand with their business, it is no
doubt highly proper that we should proceed
now to get aU the information we may need in
the performance of that duty. But, sir, it is
time to diraiss this style of treating the subject
— it demands a graver tone. A bill from the
Senate, affecting the militia laws of the United
States — well, sir — a buU shall I call it, or an
anathema got up by some of those, under
whose order certain militiamen were shot at
Norfolk, is thrown in contemporaneously — not
with the bill from the Senate — no, sir — -that is
a different affair, but with this motion; an
anathema, sir, has been issued from the labora-
tory of the modern Vatican, and comes to us
via Richmond — yes, sir, via Richmond — and a
nuncio has been despatched — (I believe I must
drop the metaphor, or it will drop me) — well,
sir, an agent, then, has been despatched, and



H. OF R.]

Mobile Court Martial.

[Janhakt, 1828.

has touched at this port, on his way to Rich-
mond, for instructions— yes, sir, in mercantile
phrase, cleared out for Cowes and a market —
to Oowes, and wait for instructions from Lon-
don. Sir, the gentleman from South Carolina
deserves our thanks for having torn the mask
off this thing yesterday. It is the curse of this
age — the opprobrium of this country, in its
legislation, that, in grave concerns, requiring
the deliberation of statesmen, and the decision
of common sense, a system is pursued of artifi-
cial reasoning, and of special pleading, drawn
from the forensic school, (where it may be very
right and proper,) and, while we are debating
about the danger of having our heads chopped
off by the myrmidons of a usurper, we are
ourselves chopping logic. [By the way, sir, I
was extremely sorry that the gentleman from
New York, (Mr. Stoees,) who spoke to us, the
other day, about Cicero, did not favor the
House, at the same time, with a dissertation on
the subject of the Roman coaches, out of one
of which, he told us, with great good breeding,
that Cicero stretched his neck, that it might be
struck off.* Sir, I should greatly like to see a
model of one of those coaches — I would send
it to Longacre, by way of specimen — yes, sir,
not as a model, but as a curiosity.] Great
public mischief is produced by bringing into
this House the system of word-catching, and
watohina and quibbling, and quirking, from
the Court below — it will hardly do even there.
Sir, this practice is as notorious as another,
confessed to prevail in the House of Commons,
on a subject of the most vital interest to the
liberties of Englishmen — it is as " notorious as
the sun at noon-day." "We, sir, are country
gentlemen, plain planters, or farmers, some-
times styled clodhoppers — we have not a fair
chance under such a system ; and, what is
worse, our constituents have not. Sir, it is
time we had done with this practice, of look-
ing one way and rowing another. I entirely
concur with the view presented to us in the
speech of the gentleman from North Carolina,
(Mr. Culpbpee) — I hope I may say, without
oifence, the Reverend gentleman from Korth
Carolina. Sir, I applaud him for preaching
peace — not peace, sir, with the enemy, in time
of war— "Blessed are the peacemakers!" —
but I am not one of those who preach the love
of enemies in time of war. Let me ask of this
House, if they can imagine a case in which, by
bringing forward a motion in this House, every
part and any part of the public conduct, (for
we shall hardly invade the sanctuary of domes-
tic life,) but the public conduct of either or any
one of the parties now most prominent before
the nation, may not be attacked ? Sir, cannot
we, too, bring motion after motion, to bear on
one of them ? We can : and I will tell the
gentleman from Maine how — he does not need
to be told — but I speak for the information of

* By a lapsua lingua, Mr. Stona had said
etead of Utter.

' coacli" in-

those out of this House — a resolution cto be
introduced, bringing a charge against the Min-
ister — another motion can be brought against
the conduct of some of our diplomatic agents—
and then we shall discuss it here pro and con
— such-a-one versus such-a-one — and then we
must have another " blow-out " — and then
again the same thing may be done on the ap-
propriation of money. Sir, it is endless ; and,
therefore, I think we ought to remember the
old doctrine — a doctrine 1 have long preached
in this House, and which I ever shall preach,
oista principiu. Occasion enough can be
given for every man to show, on the floor of
this House, how much he is or is not a parti-
san. And where will it end ? "With the ex-
ception of, perhaps, the necessary appropriation
bills, scarce any thing else will be done this
session. For, do gentlemen believe, if this
thing is done on one side, it will not be done
on the other ? Do old and practised statesmen
suppose that, if they trump, their adversaries
will not trump too ? "Why, sir, I thought that
Hoyle had taught them better. Yes, sir, that
Hoyle had taught them better. Sir, we shall
have our tables flooded with such resolutions.
No, sir, let us do what all men cannot at all
times do, and some at no time — let us do right,
sir, fearless of the consequences. I know very
well, what a bugbear — what a ghost will be
conjured up, if the motion to lay on the table
shall prevail. Yes, sir, it will be said, we are
about to "put out the light, and then" — and
then, sir, to smother the constitution ; to cnt
the throat — not of Cicero, sir, no, sir — but of
poor half-sufifbcated Desdemona — of the consti-
tution. Sir, this is a responsibOity I am will-
ing to meet ; if I was not, I would not show
my face here. "When inquired of, I should say
to my constituents, " A motion was made in
this House, calling for information about the
six militiamen — the public papers and the Rich-
mond manifesto are full of the subject. It has
been worn threadbare. "We were called ujjon
to second the Anti-Jackson meeting at Rich-
mond. It must have led to recrimination. "We
should have had the same game played over
and over again, itenim iteriimgiie. It would
only have led to ill blood and calling names,
and, therefore, I endeavored to put an end to it
at its commencement." Sir, if the militia laws
want mending, they will not get it, take my
word for it, this session. Our militia laws, sir,
are like some reprobates — always about to re-
form, or to be reformed. "We do not want this
information to act on the bill from the Senate,
and as for the other object, most of us, I be-
lieve, are pretty well prepared to act on what
we have.

I promised, when I rose, that, if I shed no
light upon the subject, I would at least en-
deavor not to make it more obscure. I cannot
promise e fumo dare lucem, but I will not lend
my aid to raise a smoke to obscure the judg-
ment and to inflame the mind's eye of this
House. "Without wishing in the least to fore-



Jamuart, 1828.]

Mobile Court Martial.

[H. OP R.

stall debate, or put it out of the power of any
gentleman to reply to me, I shall, before I take
my seat, renew the motion of the gentleman
from North Carolina, (Mr. Oulpepee.) I shall
move that the resolution and the amendment
be laid, to lie upon the table. But I shall
withdraw the motion if any friend, or if any
adversary — for I trust I have no enemy here —
shall request it. It is a case in which I would
yield more readily to the request of an adver^
sary than of a friend.

Mr. Kandolph so moved accordingly : when

Mr. Wbems said, I request the gentleman to
withdraw the motion.

Mr. Eandolph retaining his seat,

Mr. Weems said, I call upon the gentleman
to comply with the promise he has just given.

Mr. Eandolph still keeping his seat,

Mr. Weems said, I call upon the gentleman
to fulfil his promise.

Mr. Eastdolpe now rose, and said : Mr.
Speaker, I I'ise to comply with it. I promised
that if any friend, or, much more, any adver-
sary, should make the request, I would with-
draw my motion. I have never, thank God,
refused to keep my word, nor shall I now break
my promise. But, as that honorable gentleman
stands to me in the relation, neither of a friend
nor of an adversary, I shall not withdraw my

The question being on Mr. Eandolph's

Mr. Sloa^t: requested that it be taken by
yeas and nays. It was so ordered by the
House, and were — yeas 42, nays 150.

Mr. Weems said he felt very much gratified
to find, by the vote just taken, that so large a
majority of the House thought with him, that
a subject of such importance ought not to be
smothered or nipped in the bud (if he might be
allowed to use the expression) at the instant
suggestion of any member, and more especially
so, when the vote seemed almost to justify
what he was about to offer as advice to the
honorable gentleman from Virginia, who had
thought proper to quote the same authority as
it regards peacemakers : " Blessed are the
peacemakers," &c., was his remark. " Let
that man who esteemeth that he knoweth all
things, remember that he knoweth nothing yet
as he ought to know." I have no idea, sir,
said Mr. W., of any one individual member of
this House undertaking to suppose, when he
has made a speech, that every one is to be
hushed by his shutting the door upon them,
because, forsooth, he may suppose that they
cannot or dare not introduce a word in reply
to him. I had hoped, sir, after the member
from Virginia had voluntarily promised 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 162 of 194)