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 82 of 183)
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by a volhntary relinquishment of a part by several gentle-
men for that purpose. In January, 1T96, the agents came on
from Georgia to give the conveyance, and I was deputed as
agent for many of the proprietors near Connecticnt river ;
to discharge which trust I proceeded to Boston. Before the
business was closed my principals arrived ; a variety of con-
siderations induced me to relinquish the adventure, such as
the difference of climate, the distance of the property, the
warlike habits of tho natives, and the want of capital, and
before the time of which I am about to speak, I relmquished
my right to two friends from Connecticut. Thus my con-
cern with the Georgia lands, as I thought, was closed for
ever. But on the evening of the Sunday next preceding
the second Tuesday of February, 1796, Ashbel Stanley, then
of CJoventry, in Connecticut, applied to Ohver Phelps, Esq^
and myself, and requested us to become surety for him and
Jeremiah Eipley, Eaq.j of said Coventry, (they being part-
ners in trade,) to the Georgia ^ents, for the space of sixty
days, to the amount of $To,000, and assigned for reason that
the agents would not take notes signed in the name of the
firm, and that he only wanted our names till he could have
an opportunity to procure the name of Judge Eipley as an
endorser to his notes. The great esteem I bad for Judge
Eipley, and a knowledge of his ability, induced me to give
Mr. Phelps, as I was about to return to Connecticut, a wi-it-
ten engagement to assume one-third of the risk, in case he
should think it best to make the endorsement. Mr. Phelj>s
made the endorsement for Stanley, and took into his hands,
as security, Stanley's conveyance of seven hundred and
fifty thousand acres of Georgia Mississippi Company's land,
for which the endorsement was given; and, also, an assign-
ment by Stanley of one hundred thousand acres more, which



H. OF R.]

Postmaster- General,

[Febbcakt, 1805.

Government has been Inquired into, at his re-
quest ; that was the case of Mr. Wolcott, the
late Secretary of the Treasury, who, upon his
resignation, addressed a letter to the House, re-
questing an investigation into his conduct. That
letter was couched in decent terms, and the
language was such that no member could take
umbrage at. Had the letter of the Postmaster-
General been written in the same style, I should
have had no objection to the investigation, al-
though I can see no good likely to result from
it. But it is couched in such language as this
House ought not to listen to. "We are told in
it, that charges made by a member of this House
are untrue. Are we to sit here, and suffer
such language to be used? I trust not, sir;
had I known the language of the letter, I should
have opposed its being read. If gentlemen wish
an investigation into their conduct, they ought
to ask it in decent terms ; and I should not op-
pose it, although, as I before observed, I can
see no good likely to result, for I trust that the
Postmaster-General wUl never be dignified with
an impeachment. If the charges against him
are true, the President ought to i-emove him,
and it is to him that he ought to justify himself.
If, however, gentlemen are anxious that an in-
vestigation should take place, let them lay a res-
olution to that effect on the table, and I wiU
give it no opposition ; but I will never agree
that such a letter as the one now on the table
be referred to a committee, and, by that means,
give a sanction to the language contained in it.
Mr. Gkk»& regretted that such business had
been brought before the House, especially at so
late a period of the session. He did not know

Seth Wetmore assigned to Stanley. Stanley failed. Jndge
Ripley denied the authority of Stanley to use his name in a
land contract, and Mr. Phelps and myself, as endorsers, had
to meet the $75,000. On the fourth day of May, one thou-
sand seven hundred and ninety-eight, we satisfied these ob-
ligations, and they were cancelled and delivered up. To
acquire the means of satisfying these endorsements, we were
compelled to dispose of 670,000 acres of his land, besides a
vast deal of other property. When we called for the scrip
on the two thousand acres, conveyed by Wetmore to Stan-
ley, and by Stanley to Phelps, we found that Wetmore had
conveyed the same land to Israel Munson, merchant in Bos-
ton. Here a new difl&culty presented itself which has been
but lately removed. On the 80th of August, 1808, Mr.
Phelps, to enable me to close this dispute, gave me a con-
veyance of these one hundred thousand acres ; and on the
8th of September, in the same year, I effected a final settle-
ment with Mr. Munson, of his claim for the joint benefit of
Phelps and Granger. This 'explains the conveyances from
Mr. Phelps and Mr. Munson to me, and these facts can be

S roved by these gentlemen, and by Judge Eiploy, Amasa
aokson, Esq., of New York, Joseph Lyman, Esq., of North-
ampton, Massachusetts, Clerk of the Supreme Court. John
Peck, &c. r 1

On record will also be found a conveyance of one hundred
thousand acres, of December 8th, 1803, from John Peck to
me. In this property I have not the least interest It is de-
posited in my hands in lieu of special bail, in two cases, in
favor of Eli Williams, of Hagerstown, against John Peck, of
Boston, now pending before the court in this district John
Thompson Mason, Esq., knows this fact.

Finally, I have never been a dealer in this property, nor ,
otherwise than is herein stated, interested therein ; except-
Ing only that in one instance I have received some scrip of
a gentleman, whose fortune was consumed by his adventur-
ing in the property, for a demand which was subsisting be-
fore the 18th of February, 1796.

Secondly, As to my accepting the agency. On the 17th
day of February, 1808, the Commissioners on the part of the
United States reported to Congress in fevor of a compro-

for what purpose an inquiry was to be made ;
for, supposing the charges to be true, the House
had no power to remove him. The Postmaster-
General was not one of those oflScers who could
be impeached ; and the President was the only
one that could remove him. He was opposed to
the motion, conceiving that too much impor-
tant business remains unfinished, to take up new
matters, which would answer no good purpose

Mr. Olaek was opposed to the reference of
the letter, on account of the language which it
contained. It charged a member of the House
with having uttered falsehood. In his opinion,
such language ought not to receive any sanction
from the House.

Mr. Lyon. — I feel, Mr. Speaker, a sympathy
for the Postmaster-General, who, as well as my-
self, was so egregiously belied yesterday by the
member from Virginia, (Mr Randolph.)

[Here Mr. Nicholson called Mr. Lyon to or-
der, whereupon the latter sat down, when the
Speakbe decided that the words were out of

After this decision was made, Mr. Lyon again
rose to proceed, and was again called to order,
but the Speakbe determining that he was in

Mr. Beyan appealed to the House, and

Mr. Nicholson called for the yeas and nays.

The question was then taken, " Is the deci-
sion of the Chair correct? " And it was deter-
mined in the affirmative — yeas 81, nays 34.

Mr. Lyon, upon this, immediately said, I give
np my right ; and would not proceed.

Mr. Elliot. — However surprising it may ap-

mise of these claims and Congress afterwards, in the same
session, made an appropriation of the 5,000,000 acres of land,
to satisfy such demands as Confess might think best to pro-
vide for. Thus stood the busmess without a single objec-
tion within my knowledge to a compromise, when, in Au-
gust, 1808, one of the directors of the New England Missis-
sipi)i Company, solicited me to accept an agency in the
business. Although I could not see any objection to it, as I
was personally interested, and the duties of my office had
not the least possible relation to the business, still I was not
willing to accept the agency without advice. Accordingly I
stated the ease to the last Attorney-General, who suggested
that he would not be understood to give any opinion on the
subject, but for his part he could not perceive the least ob-
jection to my acceptance. After this the agency was accept-
ed, and I can with the greatest truth aver, that I then had
not the least idea of any objection on the part of Congress.
The only difficulty contemplated was that of bringing the
claimants and the Commissioners to an agreement

Lastly. As to my conduct as agent I acknowledge that
I have, in an open, fair, and plam manner, vindicated the
rights of the company I represent. But I deny my attempt-
ing to make use of any kind of influence.

Hero I appeal to the Commissioners, whether I have ever
attempted to press any thing in relation to the business. I
make the same appeal to you, sir, and to every other mem-
ber of the two Houses of Congress. If I have been guilty of
what IS charged upon me, there must be some one ready to
rise up, and bear testimony against me. I trust I have vir-
tue enough not to attempt Improperly to influence any man.
If not, I hold the members oi' Congress in too high respect
to deem them capable of yielding to any improper influence

a or the truth of this statement, I appeal to the Author of
my existence ; and, in support of it, 1 pledge my character
to you and to my conntry. I cannot close this letter with-
out offering my ardent desire for an investigation of my

I am, sir, with high esteem and respect, your humble
servant, r -> /




Februaey, 1805.]

Postmaster- General,

[H. OF E.

pear to some gentlemen, it is not so to me, tliat
the language of innocence should be warm and
pointed. We have been told that the letter is
couched in diarespectM terms. For my part,
I cannot perceive any thing of the kind in it ;
and I am sm'prised that, as it respects the gen-
tleman who made the ohai-ges against him, that
he is so moderate. Gentlemen have said that
an inquiry would be of no service ; because, if
tjie charges are true, the officer cannot be im-
peached. If gentlemen will advert to the con-
stitution they will find that " all civil officers
are liable to impeachment," and removal from
office. Surely it will not he contended that the
Postmaster-General is not a civil officer. The
gentleman from Maryland (Mr. IsTioholson) dif-
fers very widely from his friend from Virginia
(Mr. Eandolph) as to the Postmaster-General.
The former considers him as holding an office
too insignificant to be dignified with an impeach-
ment, while the latter deems his patronage
and influence sufficient to influence or to bribe
the majority of this House. However insigni-
ficant the gentleman from Maryland may think
the Postmaster-General, still he is a civU officer,
and as such is liable to be impeached, and re-
moved from office. We have been told that a
combination has taken place between some of
those who have avowed themselves republicans
and the federalists, and that the liberties of the
country will be endangered. Sir, we have no
danger to apprehend from monarchists, aris-
tocrats, or federalists.

Our liberty can only be endangered by those
description of persons against whom the gentle-
man from New York (Mr. Eoot) so emphati-
cally exclaimed — I mean political demagogues
and popular leaders ! They have been the curse
and destruction of every Eepublic, and I fear
wiU be our destruction. We are cursed with
them in this country, and even in this House.
But I trust that the majority of th^s House are
opposed to them. The great objection which
gentlemen make to the in.quu-y is, that the let-
ter is couched in too disrespectful terms. Will
they please to bear in mind the charges made
against the officer, and, viewing them, is it not a
matter of astonishment that he is so mild ? As
the letter respects this House, it is remarkably
respectful. Upon what ground, then, can the
investigation be refused ? If the charges made
are tme, the officer ought to be removed ; if
untrue, this House ought in justice to him
•whose charactet has been so assailed to declare
that they are so. The gentleman from Virgi-
nia (Mr. Eastdolph) informed us yesterday that
the Postmaster-General kept in his pay a jackaU,
who went prowling about this desolate city at
midnight, when honest men ought to be asleep,
offering bribes to the members. Sir, the gen-
tleman must have keen optics to discover this
jackall, when he is asleep ; for he informs us
that he only goes about when honest men ought
to be asleep ; and surely the gentleman is one
of that description. Upon every view which I
can take of this subject, I can see no objection

to the inquiry, but the strongest reason in its
favor ; and justice demands that it should be

Mr. Nelson would offer a few remarks to the
House, why he was opposed to the motion. He
would not undertake to give an opinion as to
the character of the ' Postmaster-General, or
whether the charges made against him could be
substantiated. His objection was, that the
House had nothing to do with charges made by
a member against any individual. If the charges
were trae, the Bresident (and not the House)
was the proper person to apply to, to remove
the officer. But it had been said that the House
had the power to impeach all civU officers, and,
therefore, could injpeach the Postmaster-Gen-
eral. But because the House was invested with
that power, he asked whether they were bound
to exercise it? Surely not. And he hoped
they would not, when they could get rid of the
officer by a more summary mode. Late ex-
perience had taught them the trouble and ex-
pense attendant on impeachments, and he trust-
ed that no officer would ever be impeached
that could be removed by the President. It
would be better to let them remain in office, al-
though guilty of misbehavior, than to spend so
much time as they would be obliged to do in
oases of impeachment. Suppose the motion
should be agreed to, and the comrnittee appoint-
ed, he asked what power they would possess ?
Were they to declare whether the charges
were true or false ? A determination either
way .would have no effect upon the House, be-
cause they could not, he trusted, impeach the
officer. He was not disposed to do any thing
to hurt the character of the Postmaster-Gen-
eral, but he would not give his sanction to a
measure which would spend so much of the time
of the House in deciding what he considered
an affair of private honor and private feelings
between two gentlemen. He also considered
that the adoption of the resolution would pass
a censure upon the gentleman who made the
charges, and he asked whether the House were
disposed to censure one of its members for any
warm and unguarded expressions about an officer
of the Government? He trusted not. How
many times had charges been made in the House
against the President of the United States ; but
that officer had never thought it proper to apply
to the House for an inquiry into his conduct ;
nor did the House ever pass a vote of censure
on the members who made them. He looked
upon this as a question of dispute between two
gentlemen, and no tribunal could be erected in
the House to decide on it. He should, there-
fore, vote against the motion of the gentleman
from Massachusetts, (Mr. Vabnum,) and hoped
it would not prevail.

Mr. Htjger knew not what was the opinion
of any gentleman as to the merits of the question,
but he was satisfied that a calm decision of it
could not take place at that time. They were
about to establish a precedent, which might be
of importance, and it ought to be done after the



H. OF K.]

Georgia Claims.

[FEBKnAEY, 1805.

utmost deliberation. He called upon gentlemen
to say, whether it was possible that a calm and
impartial decision could be given after so much
irritation had been displayed in the debate ? In
order to afford an opportunity to gentlemen to
give the subject a cool and dispassionate inves-
tigation, he moved to postpone the further con-
sideration thereof until Monday.

The question was taken thereon, and deter-
mined in the afiBrmative — ^yeas 98.

The resolution (Mr. Varnum's motion to refer
Mr. Granger's letter to a select committee) was
never after called up.

Georgia Glmmt.

The unfinished business of yesterday on the
Yazoo claims was resumed — the amendment
offered by Mr. Olaek, under consideration.

Mr. Holmes observed that as he was a mem-
ber of the Committee of Claims, from whom
the report under consideration emanated, he
thought it his duty to state to the House the
part he acted on that occasion. I was, said
Mr. H., in all our deliberations upon this subject,
decidedly opposed to the adoption of the report,
and in every stage of its progression used all fair
means in my power to produce a different re-
sult ; in this, however, I was unsuccessful. My
conduct was governed by a firm conviction that
the present claimants had no right in law or
equity to the lands in question, and that policy
did not demand the interference of the National
Legislature. Most of the arguments that ope-
rated upon my mind then, and will influence
my vote now, have been adduced by gentlemen
who preceded me. It is not my intention to
detain the House with a repetition of them ; one
or two, however, have occurred to me as worthy
of consideration, that have not been urged.
This must be my apology for addressing you
after the able and lengthy discussion the subject
has received. I am of the opinion, Mr. Speaker,
that the Legislature of Georgia, of 1795, were
not authorized to dispose of the lands in ques-
tion, even if they had been honestly inclined to
do so.

Mr. Matthew Lton. — ^From the drift of the
speeches delivered by the member from Vir-
ginia, from his call for the Postmaster-General's
report of a list of his contracts, and from the
invitation he- has given to an examination of
that report, I am led to consider it a duty I
owe to myself, in this House, and in the face of
the world, to take up that report, and explain
the nature of the contracts which there appear
in my name. I find my name seven times men-
tioned in that report : the first is in the 12th
page, for a contract for carrying the mail from
Cincinnati to Detroit ; the second in the same
page, and is from Marietta to Cincinnati ; these
two contracts I never solicited or bid for, but
the Postmaster-General having advertised for
proposals, and having received none that he
thought reasonable, they being new routes and
to be let for one year only, he wrote to me offer-
ing the price they stand there at, and I under-

took to get the business done. For the pen-
formance of the latter contract I gave every
cent I received, and without saving one penny
for a great deal of trouble, risk, and perplexity,
I had taken upon myself to get it effected.
From the other I saved a few dollars toward
paying me for the care, trouble, and responsi-
bility I had sustained on the occasion. Long
before these contracts were out, I informed the
Postmaster-General that I should take neither
of them again, and the contra<!t from Cincin-
nati to Detroit was let to another person at
$105 60 more than was given to me ; this
may be seen in the 22d line of page 20 of the
same report.

The third time my name is mentioned is in
the same 12th page, and is from Hartford to
Fort Massac, a distance of about 180 or 190
miles, for which $654 75 is paid ; out of this
$66 is to be paid for ferriage. For some parts
of this route I am obliged to give much mor©
than a proportionate share of what I receive ;
some other parts I give a trifle less ; sometimes
my own horses carry the maU. I cannot with
precision tell what is lost or gained in it, but it
cannot be $50 either way. The fourth contract
is also in the same page, it is from Rnsselsville
to Eddygrove, or, rather, Eddyville ; it is 80
miles, for which $240 is paid ; this is as low if
not lower than the price given any where south
or west of this place, and I give to the person
who performs it the whole amount of what I
receive. The fifth and sixth time my name is
mentioned in that report is in the 28th page—
those are merely a renewal of the two last-
mentioned contracts, which had expired in
1803 ; all of those contracts were made before I
was elected to my present seat in this House,
before I had the pleasure of a personal acquaint-
ance with the present Postmaster-General, and
before I ever spoke with him.

The seventh contract is noticed in the last
page of the Postmaster-General's report, which
is from Massac to New Madrid, from Kaskaskias
to Girardeau, from Oahoka to St. Louis, a dis-
tance of more than 200 miles, for $515, out of
which more than $150 must be paid for fer-
riage, at the rate ferriages stood at the time of
the contract.

This is the true history of the contracts by
which it is insinuated that the Postmaster-Gen-
eral has bribed me. I never was bribed, sir ;
it is not all the lands and, negroes my accuser
owns that could tempt me to do a thing which
honor or conscience dictated to me to avoid.
I could, sir, if it was pertinent, show how the
over-vigilance of the present Postmaster-Gen-
eral has deprived me of the benefit of the only
profitable contract I ever made with the Gov-
ernment — a contract made with his predecessor
vrhioh he very improperly, in my opinion, con-
sidered void on account of some words in it not
being exactly consonant with the intention of
the contracting parties ; believing, however,
that the Postmaster-General designed to do
what he thought right, he has not lost my es-



February, 1805.]

Georgia Claims.

[H. OF R.

teem, nor do I think Ms character can be injur-
ed by the braying of a jackall or the fuhnina-
tions of a madman.*

Mr. J. Olat. — ^It was not my intention to have
troubled the House with any observations on
the subject, but I think a view may be taken
different from any exhibited by the gentlemen
who have preceded me. Some of the gentle-
men who have advocated the appropriation of
the land to satisfy the New England Mississippi
Land Company, have been content to rest the
claim upon the ground of policy. They hftve
said that if some mode should not be taien to
satisfy the Yazoo speculators, they would be
incessantly troubling Congress. If these men
have any title, it must be by right of pre-emp-
tion ; and yet that title it was not practicable
for them to acquire, as the State of Georgia
could not extinguish the Indian title. Not-
withstanding, however, their imbecility, the
Legislature of Georgia, of 1796, undertook to
grant an estate in fee simple. It wiU require
more time to examine this question, and per-
haps more abilities than I possess ; but I cannot
conceive how Georgia had a pre-emption title
to the land, while the Indian title still existed.
The Congress of the United States possessed
the sole power of extinguishing the Indian title
to lands within their territories ; no individual
State has either the right or the power of ex-
tinguishing the Indian title to any lands they
may claim. Of course, Georgia had no right
to grant a title in fee simple.

We are told of the policy of compromising
with these speculators, and that they are inno-
cent purchasers. How are they so ? Are they
not the very men who purchased a fraudulent
claim, and does not their deed carry on the
face of it a proof that they knew it to be fraud-
ulent? There is also a strange coincidence:
These people's deeds are dated February 13th,
1796, the very day that the rescinding act was
passed, but these instruments were not all execu-
ted until May following. [Here Mr. J. Clay read
several passages from the pamphlet published
by the agents of the New England Yazoo Com-
pany, and compared them with the resolution of
Congress passed on that subject, from which
he inferred an acknowledgment of the present
claimants, that they purchased a disputed title.]
He went on to state that Governor Strong, who
was at that time a Senator of the United States,
was made acquainted with the whole transac-
tion ; and it could not but be presumed that he
and the Massachusetts delegation communicated
to their constituents the circumstance.

The general notoriety of the fraud, said Mr.
Olat, is such as to convince any man that the
present claimants are not innocent purchasers.
The very conditions under which they pur-

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 82 of 183)