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

. (page 179 of 194)
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 179 of 194)
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upright — but you have brought the country to
that pass, that you can't carry on the Govern-
ment. As gentlemen possessing the least self-
respect, you ought to retire — Cleave it — try an-
other venue — you can't carry on the Govern-
ment without us, any more than we can act,
while every thing in the Executive Govern-
ment is against us. Sir, there are cases in
which suspicion is equivalent to proof — and not
only equal to it, but more than equal to the
most damning proof. There is not a husband
here who will not ratify this declaration — ^there
may be suspicion so agonizing, that it makes
the wretch cry out for certainty as a relief
from the most damning tortm-es. Such suspi-
cions are entertained with respect to these gen-
tlemen — and though they are making a convul-
sive effort to roll back the tide of public opin-
ion, they can't allay tlie feeling — the suspicion
rests upon the facts — and, do what they may,
facts will not bend at their bidding. Admit it
to be suspicion — it is equally fatal, as regards
them and the public service, with the reality.
Mr. E. would not go in pursuit of the alibis
and aliases of the accused — of the tubs, wheth-



726



ABRIDGMENT OF THE



H. OP R]



Hetrenchment.



[Februaby, 1828.



er with false bottoms or double bottoms,
thrown out to amuse the public. The whole
conduct of the accused had displayed nothing
of the dignity of innocence ; but all the rest-
lessness of guilt. Every word of Mr. Cl&y's
late pamphlet might be true, and yet the ac-
cused be guilty, notwithstanding.

The gentleman from Massachusetts warned
us, that, if the individual we seek to elevate
shall succeed, he wUl, in his turn, become the
object of public pursuit, and that the same
pack wUl be unkennelled at his heels, that have
run his rival down. It may be so. I have no
hesitation to say, that, if his conduct shall de-
serve it, and if I live, I shall be one of that
pack ; because, sir, I maintain the interests of
stockholders, against presidents, directors, and
cashiers. And here, sir, I beg leave to notice
an objection urged, as I have heard, against
me, by the gentleman from Ohio, (Mr. Vance.)
He says that I have been opposed to all Ad-
ministrations. Sir, I deny it to be fact. I did
oppose the elder Adams, because he attacked
the liberty of the press and of the subject ;
because his opinions were at war with the ge-
nius of our institutions. He avowed them
openly, and I liked him the better for his
frankness. But, sir, I supported the Adminis-
tration of his successor. I did for it what I
could — little enough, God knows. The first
case in which I differed from that Administra-
tion, was the case of the Yazoo claims, which
I thought a case of flagi-ant corruption. I do
not mean, and I never did believe, that there
was corruption in the President, or his two
Secretaries ; and it did not cause me to sepa-
rate myself from them. I separated from that
Administration three years afterwards, with
pain and sorrow, and not without some anger,
too ; for, sir, I have no idea of that extreme of
candor and meekness which denounces the
measures of a Government, as Bottom says in
the play, " and will roar you as gently as any
sucking dove." It is not my nature to do so,
and it would be criminal and ridiculous in me,
because it would be hypocrisy to affect it. Sir,
when the former restrictive system was first
commenced, I thought I saw what I now know I
did then see — the fatal and ruinous conse-
quences that would then grow out of it. I
told Mr. Jefferson, candidly and frankly, that,
if he expected support in a certain quarter, and
did not find it, he need not blame me. Sir, I
will not repeat what he said on that occasion,
but he deplored the separation. But, permit
me to remind you, sir — for you were then too
young to know much of these matters — that,
previously, but nearly at the same time of my
leaving that Administration, a certain wise
man from the East joined it, who soon after
went off to Canada, under strong suspicion of
felony ; and this was soon followed by a cer-
tain gentleman's giving his adhesion, who had
before been violently opposed to it, and to all
its best measures. Sir, I have not the least
objection to its being said of me, that I sepa-



rated myself from Mr. Jefferson, when Barna-
bas Bidwell and John Quincy Adams joined
him.

Some allusion has been made to the discord-
ant materials of the present Opposition. Sir,
they are somewhat discordant — at least they
have been so. But are they more so than the
adherents of the present Administration, or the
materials of the Administration itself? Sir, I
well remember almost the first propitiation (the
first was the writ of habeas corpus) which he
who is now the President of the United States
made to Mr. Jefferson and his party. It was
an attempt to run down the present Chief Jus-
tice. The right of John Smith to a seat in the
Senate, was made the peg to hang it on. I
will tell the gentleman the whole reason why I
have opposed the Administration since that
time, and may again, if, according to my judg-
ment, they shall not consult the good of the
country. It is, sir, simply because I am for
the interests of the stockholders — of whom I
am one — as opposed to those of the president,
directors, and cashiers ; and I have the right of
speaking my opinion, and shall exercise it,
though it happen to be against the greatest and
proudest names.

Sir, I am no judge of human motives : that
is the attribute of the Name which I will not
take in vain — the attribute of Him who rules
in heaven, or who becomes incarnate upon
earth — mere man can claim no such exemption.

I do not pretend that my own motives do not
partake of their full share of the infirmity of
our common nature — but of those infirmities,
neither avarice nor ambition form one iota in
the composition of my present motives. Sir,
what can the country do for me ? Poor as I
am — for I am much poorer than I have been —
impoverished by unwise legislation — I stiU
have nearly as much as I know how to use —
more, certainly, than I have at all times made
a good use of — and, as for power, what charms
can it have for one like me ? Sir, if power
had been my object, I must have been less sa-
gacious than my worst enemies have represent-
ed me to be, (unless, indeed, those who would
have kindly shut me up in bedlam,) if I had
not obtained it. I may appeal to all my friends
to say whether " there have not been times
when I stood in such favor in the closet, that
there must have been something very extrava-
gant and unreasonable in my wishes, if they
might not all have been gratified." Was it
office J What, sir, to drudge in your laborato-
ries in the Departments, or to be at the tail of
the corps diplomatique in Europe ? Alas, sir,
in my condition, a cup of cold water would be
more acceptable. Sir, what can the country
give me that I do not possess in the confidence
of such constituents as no man ever had be-
fore ? Sir, I could retire to my own patrimo-
nial trees, where I might see the sun rise and
set in peace. Sir, as I was returning, the other
evening, from the Capitol, I saw— what has
been a rare sight here this winter— the sun



DEBATES OF CONGRESS.



727



Febbdaky, 1828.]



Hetrenchment.



[H. OF R.



dipping his broad disc among the trees behind
those Virginia hills, not allaying his glowing
axle in the steep Atlantic stream — and I asked
myself, if, with this Book of Mature unrolled
before me, I was not the most foolish of men
to be struggling and scuffling here, in this heat-
ed and impure atmosphere, where the play is
not worth the candle; but then the truth
rushed upon my mind, that I was, vainly, per-
haps, but honestly, striving to uphold the lib-
erties of the people who sent me here — yes, sir<
— for can those liberties co-exist with corrup-
tion ? At the very worst, the question recurs,
which will the more effectually destroy them,
collusion, bargain, and corruption here, or a
military despotism ? "When can that be estab-
lished over us ? Never, till the Congress has
become odious and contemptible in the eyes of
the people — sir, I have learned from the high-
est of all authority, that the first step towards
putting on incorruption is the putting off cor-
ruption. That recollection nerves me in the
present contest ; for I know that, if we suc-
ceed, I shall hold over the head of those who
succeed the present incumbent, a rod, which
they will not dare, even if they had the incli-
nation, to disobey. They will tremble at the
punishment of their predecessors. Sir, if we
succeed, we shall restore the constitution — we
shall redress the injury done to the people — we
shall regenerate the country. If the Adminis-
tration which ensues shall be as bad as the
character of the opposing candidate (General
Jackson) is represented by his bitterest foes to
be, still I had rather it were in the seat of
power than the present dynasty, because it will
have been fairly elected. The fountain of its
authority will not have been poisoned at the
source. But, sir, if we perish under the spas-
modic efforts of those now in power to rein-
state themselves on the throne, our fate wiU be
a sacred one — and who would wish to survive
it ? — there wUl be nothing left in the country
worth any man's possession. If, after such an
appeal as has been made to the people, and a
majority has been brought into this and the
other House of Congress, this Administration
shall be able to tiiumph, it will prove that
there is a rottenness in our institutions, which
ought to render them unworthy of any man's
regard — sir, my " churchyard cough " gives me
the solenm warning, that, whatever part I shall
take in the chase, I may fail of being in at the
death — I should think myself the basest and
the meanest of men — I care not what the opin-
ion of the world might be — I should know my-
self to be a scoundrel, and should not care who
else knew it, if I could permit any motive,
connected with the division of the spoil, to
mingle in this matter with my poor, but best
exertions for the welfare of my country. If
gentlemen suppose I am giving pledges, they
are mistaken — I give none — they are entitled
to none — and I give none. Sir, I shall retire
upon my own resources — I will go back to the
bosom of my constituents— to such constitu-



ents as man never had before, and never will
have again — and I shall receive from them the
only reward that I ever looked for, but the
highest that man can receive — the universal
expression of their approbation — of their thanks.
I shall read it in their beaming faces — ^I shall
feel it in their gratulating hands. The very
children will climb around my knees to wel-
come me. And shall I give up them, ^d this?
And for what ? For the heartless amusements,
and vapid pleasures, and tarnished honors, of
this abode of splendid misery, and of shabby
splendor ? For a clerkship in the War Office,
or a Foreign Mission, to dance attendance
abroad, instead of at home— or even for a De-
partment itself? Sir, thirty years make sad
changes in a man. When I first was honored
with their confidence, I was a very young
man, and my constituents stood in almost pa-
rental relation to me, and I received from them
the indulgence of a beloved son. But the old
patriarchs of that day have been gathered to
their fathers — some adults remain, whom I look
upon as my brethren ; but the far greater part
were chUdren — little children — or have come
into the world since my public life began. I
know among them grandfathers, and men mus-
ter-free, who were boys at school, when I first
took my seat in Congress. Time, the mighty
reformer and innovator, has silently and slow-
ly, but surely, changed the relation between
us ; and I now stand to them, in loco parentis,
in the place of a father, and receive from them
a truly filial reverence and regard. Yes, sir,
they are my children — who resent, with the
quick love of children, all my wrongs, real or
supposed. To them I shall return, if we are
defeated, for all of consolation that awaits me
on this side of the grave. I feel that I hang to
existence but by a single hair — that the sword
of Damocles is suspended over me.

If we succeed, w^e shall have given a new
lease to the life of the constitution. But,
should we fail, I warn gentlemen not to pour
out their regrets on General Jackson. He wUl
be the first to disdain them. The object of our
cause has been, not to raise Andrew Jackson to
the Presidency — be his merits what they may
— its object has been the signal and condign
punishment of those pubhc servants, on whom,
if they be not guilty, the very strongest suspi-
cion of guilt must ever justly rest.



Satubdat, February 2.
JRetrenchment.

The House then resumed the consideration
of the resolutions of Mr. Chilton, with the
amendment proposed thereto by Mr. Blake, as
modified.

Mr. Sbegeant said he should be sorry to
have it known how much difficulty he had had
to overcome the repugnance he felt to make any
demand upon the time and attention of the
House in this debate. If known to others, to
the extent he had felt it himself, he was afraid



728



ABRIDGMENT OF THE



H. OF R]



Retrenchment.



[Februaby, 1828,



it would be deemed an absolute weakness. lie
had been, for some time, lie said, out of the
House. Great changes had taken place in its
composition during that period. There were
many members to whom he was a stranger. It
seemed to hira also, that there was a change in
the kind of demand they made on each other.
Nothing appeared to him likely to engage the
attenticm of the House — judging from what he
had witnessed — unless it was piquant, highly
seasoned, and pointed with individual and per-
sonal allusion. For this, he was neither pre-
pared nor qualified. He would take up as little
time as possible, and, as far as he could, would
avoid all topics that were likely to irritate and
inflame. He would not here treat of the great
question which agitates the people of this na-
tion, and upon which, as one of the people, he
had a decided opinion. If touched at all, it
would be incidentally, as the natural conse-
quence of remarks upon the subject before the
House, and of the facts he should have to state,
and not as a principal point.

It was one thing, he said, to oflfer a resolu-
tion like that under consideration, and another
to vote upon it after it had been offered. The
gentleman from Kentucky, he hoped, would
consider him as speaking with entire respect
for his motives and views. But, for himself,
he must say, that he (Mr. S.) would not have
oflfered the resolution ; yet, being brought for-
ward, he would not vote to lay it upon the
table, nor to make any other disposition of it,
that would prevent the proposed inquiry from
having a fiiU discussion and free course. The
reasons for both these conclusions appeared to
him to be perfectly satisfactory.

He would not, he said, have proposed such a
resolution, because he thought it must be un-
availing. It was too extensive for any practi-
cal purpose — ^it aimed at too much. It em-
braced the whole business of Congress. It
was our duty, he said, to take care that the
public affairs were carried on, in the most
profitable manner for the people, and with the
least public burthen. And this was not pe-
culiarly the duty of Congress at any one time,
but at all times. It was the great end and ob-
ject of our labors and our care, and ought to
be of daily application by all of us. He thought
it too much, to devolve upon a single commit-
tee the whole of that which was the common
concern and care of Congress.

He thought it unnecessary. Every inquiry
proposed by this resolution, was already pro-
vided for, in accordance with the duty of the
House, by the appointment of committees, to
give effect to the great guards of the constitu-
tion, within their respective spheres. No mon-
ey can be drawn from the Treasury, but in pur-
suance of appropriations made by law. No
officer can be appointed, but under the author-
ity of the constitution or the laws. No salary
can be affixed to an office but by the same war-
rant. The Committee of Ways and Means — a



standing committee of the House — acts upon
estimates furnished by every department of the
Government. When called upon to report ap-
propriations, they compare these estimates with
existing laws and existing exigencies, and re-
port only such as are justified by law. When
they report the appropriation bills, each item
of them is subject to the revision of every
member of this House. The annual appropria-
tion bill brings every thing under review. The
House itself is to examine in detail, and see that
all is in conformity with the law. Have we
not, too, committees on the expenditures of
each Department ? And a Committee on the
Public Expenditures, to make a biennial exam-
ination, and see that the moneys have been
faithfully applied, according to the appropria-
tions, and fully accounted for ? lie would not
speak at present of the manner in which Con-
gress makes appropriations, nor how they are
to be accounted for, particularly the contingent
fund of this House, or of any of the Depart-
ments. But he would say this — if there be any
appointment not authorized by law, or any sal-
ary paid, which the law does not authorize, let
the specific abuse be pointed out, and traced to
its source, so that the offence and the offender
may be known. He knew of none such.

There was still another reason why he should
not have brought forward such a resolution —
he spoke sincerely, and, after listening to this
debate, as well as making some examination
for himself — there was no basis laid for the
resolution, as there ought to be, by showing
that there was abuse or extravagant expendi-
ture, or such a state of things as rendered a
general inquiry necessary, either for the pur-
pose of immediate correction, or, as had been
intimated, to procure materials for a more pro-
pitious moment. The structure of this Gov-
ernment was not the work of a day. He did
not speak of the constitution, but of the fabric
which had been constructed under the consti-
tution, for effectuating its great purposes. It
had not been built up at one time, but by suc-
cessive and continued exertions of successive
Legislatures. It was not the work of one party
but of all the parties which had existed in the
United States. Begun by one, extended and
enlarged by another ; at one time, perhaps,
carried too far, and then somewhat reduced, so
as to adapt it to the state of the country. But
in such reduction, always following the only
course that can lead to any practical result —
that of examining it item by item, and piece by
piece. It was not now the possession of one
set of men, nor of one party, but of the whole
people of the United States, by whose imme-
diate Representatives it had thus been con-
structed. _ The Legislature was created by the
constitution — its pay and expenses are regu-
lated by itself. The Executive too, was estab-
lished by the constitution. The subordinate
officers have been created by Congress, and in-
creased according to the growing wants of this



DEBATES OF CONGRESS.



729



February, 1828.]



Setrenchment.



[H. OF R.



expanding nation. Their pay and emoluments
have heen fixed by Congress. Even the num-
ber of clerks in each Department, and the pay
of every clerk, is regulated and ascertained by
law. It had, indeed, been remarked by the
gentleman from Virginia, (Mr. Randolph,) that
the contingent expenses of this House had in-
creased in a much greater ratio than its num-
bers; that, in twenty years, the numbers of
the members had only doubled, and the ex-
penses were nearly quadrupled. This matter'
is entirely under the regulation of the House.
If the expense be too great, let it be checked
and controlled, by limiting, if it be possible,
those branches of service which occasion the
expense. But he did not believe the numerical
argument precisely correct, or that, in this
case, 2 and 2 would necessarily only make four.
"When it was considered that this confederation
now embraced twenty four States, and three
Territories ; when we considered the extent of
the country, and the space through which in-
formation was to be diffused; he thought it
would be a great error to suppose the expenses
would increase only according to the increase
of the number of Eepresentatives. He rather
thought, that, like the price of plate, glass, or
diamonds, they would increase in somewhat of
a geometrical ratio. The greater part of the
expense, however, it was obvious was incurred
for the purpose of giving information, and this
was an object of too much importance to be
sacrificed for the purpose of saving expense.

The establishments of the country had been
formed in the same way — the Army, the Navy,
the foreign intercourse. On what basis do
they stand ? Each on the footing upon which
it has been deliberately placed by Congress,
after carefully considering what the public ser-
vice required, and what they were respectively
worth. There may have been error — nothing
human is exempt from liability to error. Some-
times, however, it is imputed with unjust se-
verity. But, if there be error, let it be pointed
out, examined, and corrected. There let the
wisdom of Congress apply the remedy, at the
point where the evil exists.

There was an additional reason why he
would not have ofiered such a resolution, and
especially at the present moment. He would
state it freely. At the same time, he thought
it proper to say, that he had no doubt the reso-
lution was fairly and honestly meant, and for
the direct purpose for which the mover himself
had stated. He (the mover) thought, and some
of his constituents thought, that there were
points in which reform was necessary, and that
they might be embraced by a general inquiry.
But his (Mr. S.'s) objection to himself bringing
forward such a resolution was this : a general
allegation of extravagance and abuse, such as
the resolution seems to apply, cannot be ac-
curately and satisfactorily met. It is impossi-
ble, whatever may be the fact, to give it a de-
monstrative refutation, because it presents no



specific subject for discussion. It may do harm :
it is calculated to spread abroad an opinion that
abuse and extravagance exist, and are allowed
here, at the seat of Government, under the very
eye of Congress. It was calculated to weaken
the attachment of the people to the Govern-
ment — not to the Administration — he did not
mean that — not to this set of men in power, or
to that set of men — but to the Government it-
self ; and to give point to an inquiry he had
seen in a newspaper with great regret—of what
advantage or use is this Government to the
people 1 — This is especially the case where the
allegation includes ourselves.

There was one part of the resolution to which
he had the strongest repugnance as a subject of
discussion. He never had discussed it, and he
did not think he ever would. He referred to
the inquiry about our own pay. The amount
of the pay of members of Congress has never
been altered but once since the adoption of the
constitution. (Mr. Eandolpii — Twice.) Twice
altered the mode of compensation, the amount
but once. The per diem now allowed was in-
tended to be about equal in substance (he had
no exact calculation) to the per annum allowed
by the compensation law. Two dollars a day
and no more had been added to the pay fixed
at the organization of the Government. This
could not be deemed an extravagant or exor-
bitant addition. He looked back, he said, to
the period of that law (compensation law) with
great regret. Not that he thought the per an-
num compensation injurious in principle, or
wrong in amount, but he regretted extremely
that the public mind should have been agitated
as it was by such a question. He would rather
have foregone any advantage to himself. No :
the advantage was not worth estimating — he
would rather have foregone the whole pay for
the time, than have been instrumental in fur-
nishing such a cause for regret.

Matters of revenue and expenditure, neces-
sarily sounded in figures. He would not con-
tradict those who seemed to think that even
figures might deceive ; but he would say that
he did not know how such a subject could be
understood without resorting to them. It was



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 179 of 194)