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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 70 of 154)
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district to Congress. These marks of popular
favor were honorable evidence that he had won
and retained the confidence of an intelligent



Decembek, 1848.]

Death of Eon. A. D. Sims,

[30th Cong.

Mr. Sims was born in Brunswick county, in
Virginia, on the 12th of June, 1803. His
highly respectable parents, though in moderate
circumstances, belonged to that class of persons
who placed a high value on the advantages of
a liberal education; and two of their sons
attained eminence and distinction, and by their
success in life, made a worthy requital for the
sacrifices of their parents.

The deceased, of whom I am speaking, if not
a, scholar in the highest import of that term,
was a gentleman of excellent intellect, and of
various and elegant literary attainments. His
brother (late a professor of Alabama Univer-
sity) was an eminent divine and ripe scholar.
My colleague, after passing through his ordi-
nary academic course, became a student in the
North Carolina University, and continued in
that institution until his junior year, when,
perhaps attracted by the high reputation of
Dr. Nott, for whose character he seemed to
have entertained a pious veneration, he joined
one of the higher classes in Union College in
the State of New York, and was graduated in
that institution in 1823, leaving behind him a
high reputation for capacity and attainments,
especially in those branches of learning com-
prehending the tasteful pursuits of literature
and the philosophy of the human mind.

On his return from college he studied law in
the office of his uncle, (the late General Deom-
GOOLE,) and, for one or two years after his ad-
mission to the bar, he practised in the courts
of Virginia. His success not being equal to
his expectation or the aspirations of his ambi-
tion — for he was an ambitious man — he re-
moved, in 1826, to Darlington district, South
Carolina, and took charge of an academy. In
this situation he was eminently useful, and laid
the foundation of many enduring friendships,
to which he may perhaps have been indebted
for his subsequent success in life. Some of
his pupils are now citizens of distinction, and
bear testimony to the excellence of their teach-
er and preceptor, and perhaps the highest and
most honorable movements he has left behind
him, are the intelligent citizens who acknowl-
edge with gratitude the instructions derived
from him.

Mr. Sims was admitted to the bar of South
Cai'olina in the year 1829, and soon acquired a
lucrative practice. As a counsellor, solicitor,
and advocate, I can speak of him with unfeign-
ed pleasure. Ha was engaged in the most im-
portant causes on his circuit, and was always
equal to them. In the Supreme Court, some
of his arguments are marked by research,
learning, and ability.

His ambition aspired rather more to political
distinction than to forensic reputation, and be-
fore he entered upon the responsible duties of
public life, he took an active part in popular
meetings in the exciting politics of the time. In
1840 he was returned a member of the Legisla-
ture of South Carolina. His efforts here en-
hanced his reputation among his constituents

and fellow-citizens, and he was transferred to
the Congress of the United States.

His career in that body is better known to
others present than to myself. Judging from
a notice taken of him in a late book of bio-
graphical sketches, he has acquired something
like a historical reputation. In early life he
was thoroughly schooled in the doctrines of
the Eepublican party, and throughout his po-
litical career he adhered to them with consist-
ency and firmness.

Mr. Sims possessed in a very high degree
what is implied in the term address. He was
a pleasing speaker, a man of frank and concili-
atory manners, and of kind and tolerant dis-

The triumph of his late success, and his sud-
den death, were brought in instructive pi-ox-
imity with each other, and are mournful com-
mentaries on the mutability of human life, and
the nothingness of human ambition.

If he had faults, Mr. President, (and who of
us is without them ? — " the heart knoweth its
own bitterness,") let them sleep with him in
the grave, the common lot and the rebuking
leveler of mankind.

Mr. President, I offer the following resolu-
tions :

Resolved, unanimously, That the Senate has heard
with deep sensibility of the sudden death of the
Hon. Alexander D. Sims, a Representative from
the State of South Carolina.

Resolved, unanimously. That the members of the
Senate, from a sincere desire of showing every
mark of respect to the memory of the deceased,
will wear the usual badge of mourning for thirty

Resolved, unanimously. That, as a further mark
of respect for the memory of the deceased, the
Senate do now adjourn.

Agreed to, and the Senate adjourned.


Thubsdat, December 14.

Samuel A. Beidses, from the State of Penn-
sylvania, appeared this day and took his seat.

Death of Son. Alexander Dromgoole Sims.

Mr. "Wallace rose and said :

Mr. Speaker : I rise, sir, to call the atten-
tion of this honorable body to an afilictive dis-
pensation of Divine Providence, which has de-
prived this House of one of its most useful
members, and the State of South Carolina of a
much valued and honored citizen.

On the 16th day of November last, in the
forty-sixth year of his age, my colleague, the
honorable Alexandee Deomgoole Sims, breath-
ed his last, in the village of Kingstree, "Wil-
liamsbm-g district, in the State of South Caro-
lina. He died, surrounded by devoted friends,
in the midst of the people he so ably and faith-
fully represented on this floor.

The approach of death, even when his fatal



2d Sess.]

Railroad across the Isthmus.

[Decesibek, 18i8.

dart is pointed at the aged and infii-m, to the
reflecting mind, is always terrible ; hut it is
calculated to impress our minds with feelings
of far more than ordinary solemnity, when the
blow falls upon the young, or when a brother,
in all the pride of his strength, in the full vigor
of health and manhood, fuU of hope and of
promise, is stricken down before our eyes, and
his connection with the things of this world
forever dissolved.

A few days only has passed since my honor-
able colleague filled that seat (pointing to Mr.
Sms's seat on the floor of the House) with dis-
tinguished honor to himself and his country.
He was in the prime of life, in the fuU enjoy-
ment of health, and apparently with a long and
honorable career of usefulness and distinction
in the path of life before him. But when most
nnlooked for by himself or his friends, " the
silver cord was loosed, the pitcher broken at
the fountain," and he now calmly sleeps, un-
disturbed and unshaken by the rude blasts of
life, "in the narrow house appointed for all

This awful dispensation of Divine Provi-
dence is of consequence not only to the dead,
to the immortal destiny of our departed friend,
but is full of instruction and admonition to the
living also. It most forcibly reminds us of the
frail and uncertain tenure of human life, the van-
ity and nothingness of all human ambition and
human pursuits, and that, of a truth, " in the
midst of life we are in death."

Mr. Sims was a native of Virginia, and was
born in Brunswick county, in that State, in
the year 1803. At the age of twenty-three,
he graduated at Union College, in the State of
New York. After the close of his collegiate
course, he read law with his friend and relative
General Dromgoole, at one time a distinguished
member of this honorable body from the State
of Virginia.

In 1826, he removed to Darlington district,
in the State of South Carolina ; and in 1829,
was admitted to the practice of law in the
courts of that State, where he soon rose to
eminence in his profession, in the practice of
which he continued until the year 1840, when
he was returned a member of the General
Assembly for Darlington, in which service he
continued until elected to Congress, in 1844.
And his constituency, among the most intelli-
gent in the State, have pronounced their ap-
proval of his course as a member of this hon-
orable body, by re-electing him twice to the
same responsible position, his last election hav-
ing transpired but a few days before his

Mr. Sims was a statesman of the State-rights
school, and his public life — at all times distin-
guished by much ability, the strictest integrity,
and a conscientious discharge of every duty —
was in strict conformity to the doctrines of the
true republican faith.

Of our departed friend it may he truly said,
he was a faithful friend and a true patriot —

the honest man and the worthy citizen. But
it has pleased an aU-wise Providence to remove
him hence ; and while we bow with humble
resignation to the will of Him who holds the
destinies of nations as well aa individuals in
his hand, we, at the same time, cannot but feel
that the loss of a citizen of such distinguished
public worth and ability is indeed a public

In order, Mr. Speaker, that suitable and ap-
propriate honors may be paid to the memory
of the distinguished dead, I move, sir, the fol-
lowing resolutions :

Resolved, unanimously. That this House, from a
sincere desire of showing every mark of respect
due to the memory of the Hon. Alexandek D.
Sims, deceased, late a member of this body, ■will go
into mourning by wearing crape on the left arm for
thirty days.

Resolved, unanimously. That, aa a further mark
of respect to the memory of the Hon. Alexandek
D. Sims, this House do now adjourn.

And the House adjourned until to-morrow at
twelve o'clock.


Monday, December 18.
Railroad across the Isthmus.

Mr. Benton moved that the Senate proceed
to the consideration of the special order, being
the bill to make compensation for the trans-
portation of troops and supplies, for a limited
time, over the Isthmus of Panama; which
motion was agreed to.

Mr. Benton" then said : Mr. President, the
object of that bill has been very fully set forth
by the petition of the memorialists, which was
laid before the Senate several days since, and
which has been printed by order of the Senate
for the use of its members, and reprinted in the
newspapers in this city, and many newspapers
throughout the country.

The object which the petition so fully, and
yet so briefly and clearly points out, needs
nothing at all from me to enhance it in the
estimation of this body or the country. It is
vain, sir, for me to enlarge upon the subject.
This great object, favored by all persons and
circumstances and considerations, needs no com-
mendation from me.

The bill, Mr. President, puts it into the
hands of the Secretary of the Navy to contract
with those petitioners for a limited time, and
for a sum not exceeding a certain amount.

The conclusion of this contract is put into
the hands of the Secretary of the Navy, be-
cause in his hands alone is the great business of
the mail steamers plying between our posses-
sions on the Atlantic and our possessions on
tlie Pacific side of North America. These
mail steamers are designed, to a certain extent,
to become auxiliary and subservient to the
naval operations of the United States, liable to
become a part of its naval force, and on that



DKCEMEEas, 1848.]

JRaUroad across the Isthmus.

[30th Cong.

aocoimt they are not under the control of the
Postmaster-General, to whom their immediate
supervision would seem to helong.

Nor does this bill command the Secretary of
"War — to whom, also, might be referred the
approval of such contracts with propriety — to
conclude it. The Secretary of the Navy is the
person to whom the bill refers the conclusion
of the contract, because he already has in his
hands the great business of controlling the
Steamships which carry mails between the
eastern and western extremes of our posses-
sions, and it only lacks, sir, that a link be com-
pleted which lies between the Atlantic and
Pacific Oceans, to perfect the communication
between the two sides of our continent.

The bill also provides for the transportation
of naval as well as military stores ; therefore,
it very appropriately refers the completion of
the contract to the Secretary of the Navy.

The persons, Mr. President, named in the
biU, and who, if the bill passes, are those with
whom the contract will be made, are persons
who, in my opinion, are entitled to the most
favorable consideration. They are, in the first
place, persons who are acquainted practically
with what they undertake to do. One of the
petitioners, Mr. Stephens, is known throughout
the reading world for his travels in a part of
South America, which lies near the country
over which this road is to run. Besides being
known as a traveller in all this region, he has
visited the isthmus in company with two en-
gineers, to ascertain for himself, not merely the
practicability, but the cost of the work ; and,
though necessarily aided by the surveys which
have been made heretofore under the contracts
of different governments, he has nevertheless
examined every inch of ground himself, accom-
panied by skilful engineers, who have made
their own report of the route. He has knowl-
edge upon the subject, and without knowledge
of the subject, it is in vain for anybody to
undertake it.

The company who apply for this privilege
have another recommendation — that of capi-
tal to accomplish it. They then, sir, have
another recommendation, which is, an interest
in the completion of the work. They are the
contractors for the transportation of the mails
on the other side of the isthmus. They have
already put afloat three steamers of the first
class, which have cost them six hundred thou-
sand dollars. These steamers are now passing
around to commence the business of transpor-
tation on the other side of the isthmus. They
have, then, a great sum already embarked in
this business, and they have a direct interest in
making successful the large amount of money
which they have invested on the other side.
They who undertake to carry "persons and
things " from the other side of the isthmus are
those who, above all others, are the most in-
terested in having the means of accomplishing,
in the shortest possible time, the transit across
the isthmus of the "persons and things "in

the transportation of which their success de-
pends. They have a direct interest in their
money already invested, and they have an in-
terest in the success of their enterprise.

They have another reason, Mr. President,
why they should have this grant from us.
They already have it from the Government
which owns the country — from the Govern-
ment of New Granada — and are at this time in
possession of the privilege of opening this road.

I will read to the Senate the letter of Gene-
ral Herran, Minister from New Granada to this
Government, procured by these three gentle-
men, Messrs. AspinwaU, Stephens, and Ohaun-
oey. It is dated —

Legation op New Granada,

Washington, Sec. 18, 1848.

Gentlemen : I have had various conferences with
Mr. John L. Stephens, as representative of the
association which you have formed, and with powers
sufBcient to solicit the privilege of constructing a
railroad in the Isthmus of Panama, under the con-
ditions which, in the name of my Government, I
have proposed to him. From these conferences
it has resulted that Mr. Stephens has given me suffi-
cient guarantees, bejides those which are expressed
in the privilege conceded to Matthew Klein, under
date of the 8th of June, 1847, to insure the execu-
tion of this work, [this is a very material statement,
sir,] and that your association binds itself to fulfil
the conditions which I have proposed in favor of
New Granada, besides those which are set forth in
the privilege.

In virtue of this agreement, I declare that you
are in possession of the privilege conceded by the
Government of New Granada for the construction
of a railroad over the Isthmus of Panama.

I am, your very obedient servant,
Messrs. W. H. Aspinwall, Jno. Stephens, and
Henry Chauncet.

This letter is in Spanish, sir, and I give it a
literal translation as I go en. The last sentence
is perhaps the most essential of all. "In vir-
tue of this agreement I declare that you are in
possession of the privilege conceded by the
Government of New Granada for the construc-
tion of a railroad over the Isthmus of Pan-

So, that, Mr. President, besides securing to
these applicants this contract heretofore, as
stated by them in their petition, the Minister
of New Granada has now, on this day, given
them an oifioial letter declaring that they are
in possession of it. And it is probable that
the Minister himself may be within the sound
of my voice when I make this declaration, that
he has, on this day, and for the purpose for
which it is now used, declared that these per-
sons are in possession of the privilege granted
by that Government. Let it be known that
this day the parties are in possession.

I deem it fortunate, Mr. President, that, after
the delays which have taken place for more
than three centuries, in executing some easy
and practicable communication between these



2d SKsa.]

Mailroad across the Isthmus,

[December, 1848.

two great oceans, the time has arrived now
when the great work can be accomplished.
Two Governments, both in the New World,
republics, and friendly to each other, have
entered into a treaty for the purpose of secur-
ing the execution of this work. An article has
been inserted in the treaty, unanimously agreed
to on the part of the American Senate, by
which, sir, we acquire an interest, an invalu-
able interest, in the use of that work, provided
we use the right secured to us of opening the
way across the isthmus.

This is done by two Eepublies — ^powers of
the New World — acting together in making
this treaty, and taking into their own hands
as appropriate, the great work which is to
carry into effect the great idea of Columbus,
in proposing to go west in order to arrive at
the east. It is now in our power to accom-
plish it. The petitioners undertake to do it
within three years ; and that undertaking is
made by an actual view, an actual examination
by engineers of the whole work to be accom-
plished. Their contract with the Government
of New Granada gives them eight years in
which to do this work. The privilege of which
they alone are now in possession expires after
eight years, and does not expire for eight
years ; but, actuated by their own interests, as
well as anxious to comply with the universal
desire to facilitate the intercourse between the
two great oceans, these petitioners are ready to
accomplish this work within less than half the

This is as desirable to us, to the Government
of this country, and to all who have yet to
traverse the two oceans, as it is to them. Their
interest requires it, and our convenience, and
the successful carrying on of our own business
requires it also. In the case of this company —
informed as they are — acquainted as they are
with the work which they have to do, and in
possession of the necessary capital to accom-
plish it — already having six hundred thousand
dollars invested in the line, which is on the
other side of the Isthmus, and deeply interested
in the returns which they have themselves to
get from capital already laid out — we have
every possible human guarantee that these
gentlemen will have the work accomplished
within the time which they name. Then, Mr.
President, it is a subject of congratulation, a
subject of rejoicing, that the United States of
America, one of the first powers in the world,
shall be the first to carry out the great idea
of Oolnmbus of going west to obtain the east.
Other plans may follow, sir. There is one con-
templated across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec
by an English company. Let it go on. Let it
succeed. Let there be as many as possible.
But, sir, when that work is accomplished, it is
still a British work. It is none of ours. It is
not guaranteed to us by treaties. We will have
to take our chance along with other nations.

We may also, sir, in time, perhaps before
long, accomplish the great idea of Mr. Jefferson

in sending Lewis and Clarke to the Pacific
Ocean,_the great object of which was to ex-
amine into the practicability of opening a com-
munication between the two sides of the conti-
nent. We may Ixave an American road yet to
the Pacific Ocean : but that must be a work
of time. The work across the Isthmus of
Tehuantepec may be called a foreign work, as
it concerns us. This across the Isthmus of
Darien may be considered an American work,
and that will be completed immediately. I
hope, then, that the Senators may see that
every interest and every feeling that belongs to
the Americans — for I appropriate that term by
way of distinction to the first power in the
New World — should make us anxious to ac-
complish this work, and to do it at once.
Great will be the pride of all America to be
the first to accomplish this work, and to accom-
plish it under circumstances which will give it
a national character with respect to ourselves.

Mr. Bebese. Mr. President, I do not rise at
this time for the purpose of discussing the
merits of this important enterprise. I shall
leave that for some other and more auspicious
time. But I rise to express my hope that the
honorable Senator from Missouri will not
attempt to precipitate action upon this bill,
nor attempt to get a vote of the Senate upon
it to-day, nor this week, but that he will give
us ample time and abundant opportunity to
consider it fully in aU its details, and in its
whole scope. I rise, sir, merely to state to the
Senate that I have received information, upon
which I can implicitly rely, that a far more
beneficial proposition than this presented by
the Committee- on Military Affairs, wiU very
soon be offered for the consideration of the

Sir, this is a vast matter, and a vast under-
taking which these individuals, the memorialists
to this Government, are about to attempt, and
for which they are to receive the sanction,
patronage, and funds of the Government. If
I undergtand any thing about it, this road will
be about fifty miles in length, which, at a cost
of fifty thousand dollars per mile, would
amount to a little more than two millions of
doUars. And now, sir, by this bill the Govern-
ment proposes to pay to them, for twenty
years, six millions of dollars for transportation
of all kinds, leaving a profit of four millions,
without counting the tolls levied on that por-
tion of the commerce of the world that may
pass over the route.

The Senator says we have obtained the right
to pass across the isthmus by treaty with New
Granada, and that that riglit will be gone un-
less we exercise it. What is that right desig-
nated by the 35th article of the treaty ? It is
nothing more than a right of way guaranteed
to us, and we are not subjected to the condi-
tion of constructing a road in order to secure
the privileges guaranteed by this right of way.

I hope the attention of the Senate will be
called to this matter, and to the vast sum of



January, 1849.]

Purchase of Gviba,

[30th Cong.

money proposed to be paid to these gentle-
men ; and that Senators wiU bear in mind that
a proposition much more favorable will be
presented to them. The Senate, therefore,
should not act hastUy upon this subject, but
give us all time to look into it, and to make up
our minds fully in regard to it.

Wednesdat, December 20.
Territorial Government.
Mr. Smith, of Indiana, from the Committee
on the Territories, reported a bill to establish
the Territorial Government of Upper Califor-
nia, which was read and committed.


Friday, January 5, 1849.
Purchase of Cuba.
The following resolution, offered by Mr.
MiLLBE, December 18, was taken up for con-
sideration :

Mesohed, That the President of the TJnited
States be requested to inform the Senate whether
any, and what negotiations or correspondence have
taken place between this GoTernment and the Gov-
ernment of Spain, or between any persons acting
under the direction or authority of either Govern-
ment, in relation to the purchase of Cuba by the
United States ; and that he communicate to the

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 70 of 154)