United States. Congress.

Congressional record : proceedings and debates of the ... Congress online

. (page 144 of 172)
Online LibraryUnited States. CongressCongressional record : proceedings and debates of the ... Congress → online text (page 144 of 172)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


somn^. It is sufficiently answered by merely holding up the Con-
stitution and showing that it is not so nominated in the bond.

One of the Senators, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said
the other day that fidelity to existing law was a duty of the highest
obligation, and upon that principle I insist when J ask you to take
the Constitution itself and laws passed in pursuance thereof as the
lamp to your feet and the guide to your path. If the managers wish
you to say that General Bdknap has been guilty of a crime on proof
that he has done an act which is nowhere defined and made punish-
able as a crime, then they desire you to say upon your oaths and af-
firmations that which is whollv untrue. Why do they not take an-
other mode of accomplishing the same end f If the demands of the
public interest require that somebody shall commit perjury, why do
they not summon a witness to testi^ that the accused has actually
committed some prohibited actf Would it not be easier to get a
false witness who would swear to the fact than to persuade a whole
Senate falsely to assert the fact upon their oaths without any evi-
dence f There is an old case whicn may serve them as a precedent.
It happened that Ahab,king of Samaria, was very anxious to become
the owner of a vineyard which belonged to Naboth, but the owner
absolutely refused to let him have it. His wife, Jezebel, was deter-
mined to get it by the law of forfeiture. If she could have Naboth
convicted of a capital offense and executed, the vineyard by opera-
tion of law would become the property of the king. She did not go
to the public authorities or before any judicial tribunal and without
evidence demand an acUudication in ner favor, but she procured two
sons of Belial, brought them before the congregation of the x>eople,
and set them up to swear falsely that Naboth had been guilty of
blasphemy against God and the kins, and upon that he was sentenced
to be stoned to death. Then she told her husband, ''Arise, take pos-
session of the vineyard of the Jezreelite which he refused to give
thee for money, for Naboth is not alive, but dead.'' Why do tney
not follow this example t Because they revolt from the bare thought
of brin^g a peijured witness into the case ; but how much better is
a false judgment than false evidence f

I am weU aware that some of the managers allege that this money
was received not as a mere gift but under circumstances which make
it come within the definition of bribery. But they make that allega-
tion not only without any legal, sufficient, or satisfactory proof of its
truth, but in the face of evidence to the contrary which is irresisti-
ble, overwhelming, and conclusive. And this evidence, be it remem-
beied, comes from the mouth of their own witness, whom they dare
not impeach. He swears that he never had any contract or agree-
ment A any kind with General Belknap upon this subpect-matter ;
that he did not send him the money with any desire or intent to in-
fluence his official conduct ; that he never received from him any
official favor in consideration of money either before or after he sent
it. It was, according to his account of it, purely a gracious gift, which
-he bestowed solely because it gave him pleasure to do it. This is either
true or it is false. If it is true, it puts an end to this case, for it elim-
inates from the transaction everything that is criminal. If it be false,
then the whole accusation is false^ for it is built on Marsh's testimony
alone — ^the man whom they have introduced for the purpose of prov-
ing their case has given testimony which is untrue from beginning
to end. They do not say that ; I do not either. I do not doubt that
he sent to General Belknap, or to some member of his family, certain
sums of money at different times as a mere present. When he said it
was a mere gift, unaccompanied with any corrupt intent or any cor-
rupt contra^ ne told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but
the truth.

Now, I aver that it is not wrong in any criminal sense for an officer
to receive a present. There is no law which forbids it. More than
that, there is no custom or habit or sentiment among the public offi-
cers of this day which condemns it or makes it disreputable. The
state of the public conscience in this country does not call for the
enactment of any law to prohibit it. I was a member of the Penn-
sylvania convention to rerarm the constitution of that State. I tried
my best, and so did others of greater influence and more ability than
mine, to get inserted into the organic law a definition of bribery
which would indude presents of any kind, given under any pretense
whatever, so that no officer could ever, without violating his oath
and exposing himself to the danger of a prosecution which would send



him to the penitentiary, receive money from anybody. But I found
myself shooting at the stars. I was told that I was trying to make
the officers of the Commonwealth righteous overmuch ; that the mere
receipt of money was of itself an innocent thing unless there was a
corrupt contract or a corrupt intent, but when the corrupt intent did
exist, it ought to be proved like any other fact which is necessary to
mtdce out the guilt of the party. By this and other similar arguments
a measure which I thought a very important one was thrown out.
I do not myself believe that presents are proper when taken by a

Eublic officer from a person who may by any possibility in the future
ave an interest in the officer's performance of his duties. I think
so because, in the first place, '* a gift blindeth the eye and perverteth
the judgment of the righteous ;" and also because, in the next place,
these gifts may be used to cover essential bribery. I do not believe
that the institutions of this country are perfectly safe in the hands of
men who habitually receive presents from their friends and constit-
uentsor from anybody. But I say now that there is no law which makes
it a crime or misdemeanor ; and that is not aU, there is no code of
morals known to the public men of this age, or to the men who now
hold office, which condemns it. If our ftSihers could have foreseen
the fatal degeneracy of their sons, perhaps they might have made
some provision to prevent it ; but they inserted nothmg to prohibit
it either in their Constitution or in their statutes, and you cannot in
your judicial capacity supply the oastu amiisus.

" I give you an office and you give me another office," or "I give
you office and you give me money ;" what of thatf If the exchange
was preceded by a contract which made one the consideration of the
other, that is bribery and corruption, but it there was no contract
of that kind the case is otherwise ; and so it has been held in the
case of the greatest and wisest and best men we have ever had in
this country.

There was a time in 1825 when Mr. Clay held in his hand the Pres-
idency of the United States and could ^ve it to whom he pleased.
He handed it over to John Quinoy Adams, against whom there was a
large majority of the States and the people. He did it in opposition
to instructions almost unanimous from his constituents, and in the
face of his own recorded opinion that Mr. Adams was not a proper
person to be Chief Magistrate of the country. The first thing that
Mr. Adams did after he went into office was to appoint Mr. Clay Sec-
retary of State. Did these two men bribe one another f They were
charged with making merchandise of the highest offices under the
Grovemment. The defense which both of them made against the
charge of bribery was precisely the same that we make here, namely,
that no proof could be produced to show the previous existence of a
corrupt contract or imderstanding which could have influenced their
conduct; and the general public acquitted them on that ground
alone.

Remember I do not hold up this transaction as an example of pub-
lic virtue. I admire much more the high-toned behavior of Mr. Bay-
ard twenty-five years earlier. He did not vote for Bir. Jefferson, but
he had it in his power to protract the election in the House of Repre-
sentatives so that Mr. Jefierson and Colonel Burr would both of them
have been defeated. For good and sufficient public reasons he de-
termined that he would not use that power, but would retire from
the contest and allow Mr. Jefferson's niends to elect him. After a
few days Mr. Adams, the then incumbent of the presidential chair,
(^ered him the mission to France. He said : '^ No ; I cannot get to
my post of duty until Mr. Jefferson shall be inaugurated, and then
he will have the power to recall me. I will not hold any office under
him, as I would virtually be holding this office, lest it might be in-
ferred that I have received a reward for my action in the presiden-
tial election."

The most distinguished man perhaps that this country ever pro-
duced—certainly the greatest orator— one who was gifted with the
most exquisitively organized intellect that ever was oestowed upon
any of tne children of men — ^was appointed Secretary of State by
General Taylor. He said that he could not live upon the salary in a
way that would accord with his taste and habits, and he invited his
friends to make presents to him, and they did contribute among them
$100,000, which they invested, and gave him the interest of it for the
remainder of his life. Was that bribery t It was given by merchants
who were pleased with his advocacy of the bank, by manufacturers
whose interests he had promoted by supporting a protective tariff,
perhaps also by lovers oi the Constitution who admired him for the
noble defense he had made of its principles. But there was no evi-
dence and no reason to believe, and nobody ever did believe, that it
was given as a consideration for previous services or in pursuance of
a contract for future services. Therefore, and therefore alone, he was
held to be innocent.

The manM;er from Massachusetts [Mr. Hoar] said, speaking of the
Union Pacific Railroad, that every foot of that road had been founded
in corruption and built with the wages of iniquity. That is true ;
and it is equally well known that the managers of that corrupt con-
cern gave large amounts of their stock and bonds to the wife of a
Senator who was afterward elected Vice-President. The wife re-
ceived it with the full consent of the husband. Though he had voted
for the charter of the corporation and afterward voted to extend its
privileges and always vindicated it by his speeches on this floor,
there was no proof that the speeches and votes were the considera-
tion given for the bonds and the stock. The absence of that proof



Digitized by



Google



318



TRIAL OF WILLIAM W. BELKNAP.



left bim in the fall possession of the character which he had earned
by his previons life, his popularity moulted no feather, he lived re-
spected and honored, and died in the odor of sanctity.

The members of the Honse of Representatives who received the
same stock and bonds from the acents of the same company consid-
ered themselves as fully acquitted when the committee failed to find
that there had been any corrupt contract, and such was the view of
the Honse when for that reason it refused to pass a vote of censure.

If Mr. Lincoln had been impeached and evidence had been intro-
duced against him, like the trash you have here, to show that his wife
with or without his knowledge took a present from some contractor
or some officer, who would have listened to it with patience t Mr.
Lincoln could not have come into this court with'a higher character
than General Belknap. Judge Davis would have sworn for him that
he was all his life-time scrupulously honest. The governor of his
State, and any number of ex-governors, lind the Senators in Congress
would have testified to the same fact ; but he could not have had a
character one whit better than that which is made out by General
Belknap, and by the force of that character the accusation would
have been swept awav like chaff upon the summer thrashing-floor.
Nobody would have thought of a conviction.

That the present Chief Magistrate has taken laige gifts from his
friends is a fact as well known as any other in the history of the
country. He did it openly Without an attempt at concealment or
denial. He not only received money and lands and houses and goods
amounting in the aggregate to an enoimous sum, but he conformed
the policy of bis administration to the interests and wishes of the
donors. Nay, he did more than that ; he appointed the men who
brought him these gifts to the highest offices which he could bestow
in return. Does anybody assert that General Grant was guilty of an
impeachable crime in taking these presents even though the receipt
of them was followed by official favors extended to the givers t Do
we not all regard him still as one of the greatest heroes and sages the
world has produced t Instead of being impeached and ignominionsly
removed from office he was flattered and re-elected. This all hap-
l>en8 justly upon the legal principle which commands you to presume
every thiug in favor of innocence. General Grant's wealthy friends
in New York gave him money not with any evil design upon his in-
tegrity, but because it was a pleasure to themselves; and the Presi-
deut appointed them to office afterward not because they had bought
his favor, but because he thought the public good required it. This
is the just and legal conclusion in every case where there is no proof
of a bargain and no distinct evidence of an intent to influence and
be inflnence<l corruptly. Is the law a respecter of persons t Does
not a presumption which applies to the President in tne plenitude of
his power apply with equal force and even with stronger reasons to
his fallen minister f

If the House of Representatives considered this subject coolly and
came to the deliberate conclusion that the reception of a gift by a
public officer was either in itself a punishable crime or evidence of a
crime it was a sin and a shame to drag the Secretary of War before
this tribunal after he became a private citizen, while they allowed
the President to finish his career of wickedness without interruption.
Were those gallant gentlemen afraid to take the Chief Magistrate by
the throat, or did they suppose that4;he Senate would use one measure
of justice for Grant and another for Belknap f No, they did no such
injustice either to you or to themselves. They thought they could
produce satisfactory evidence to show that the gift to Belknap was
something more than a gift, that it was a bribe paid in pursuance of
a contract or in consideration of official favors bestowed or promised.
That is what they allege in the articles. Bnt having utterly failed
to prove it they ought in honor and conscience to give up the case.

If the giving or receiving of presents is necessarily and in its own
natnre always criminal, and if the power to impeach for it survives
the term of office, why have they overlooked the offense of Jndge
Hoar who gave the President a library of costly literature and law f
They miffht prove that the giver of that present was afterward com-
missioned by the receiver as Attorney-General and nominated for
Jndge of the Supreme Court ; and they might argue with some show
of reason that these appointments heingpost hoc were also propter hoc.
But the inference wonld have been false ; for Judge Hoar in making
the ^ft acted merely npon the impulses of a generous heart, and the
President promoted him because he was the best man for the offices
he put him in. Such being the natural and the legal presumption in
that case, why should it not also be made in this case 7

Another distinguished gentleman held the office of Attorney-Gen-
eral and was afterward by a kind of translation sent to the court of
St. James, where he now resides as the American plenipotentiary.
Before he got these highplaces he not only admitted but proclaimed
that he hod subscribed |20,000 to a fund for the benefit of the Presi-
dent. Who can prove that these acts were corrupt f Or who will
dare to assert it without proof f

There is another class of cases, more extensive and more numerous
than these, in which the law and pnblio opinion indulges officers in
giving and in receiving money for their personal purposes. A high-
placed gentleman wants to be continued in power and to that end a
certain number of popular votes is required. He demands from his
subordinates money enough to get the votes and he enforces the order
by a distinct notification that whosoever refuses to contribute will be



dismissed from his place. These very i)ost-traders were forced to
make enormous contributions in that way and the aggregate sum thus
raised for an important election amounts to many millions of dollars.
Is this criminal 7 Certainly it is, if you adopt the principle of the
managers that every voluntary payment by an officer to an officer is
ipso facto a crime. Is it corrupt f I do not say so. But if you say
tnat Belknap could not receive money from Marsh without being cor-
rupt, then you condemn to utter infamy the system to which I refer.
It pervades the whole executive administration, If it be corrupt,
then all the officers of the Government are thriving by corruption
alone. They can keep their places if they pay for them in this way ;
if not, not. By that dishonest means alone can they hope to gain
promotion. A public man, to use the figure of Curran applied to a
similar condition of things in another country, is like a dead body in
a mill-pond; he lies quietly and obscurely at the bottom as long as
there is any soundness in him ; bnt his bulk expands with the gases
which corruption evolves j '*he becomes buoyant by putrefaction and
rises as he rots.'' Surely it is not proper to say that this system is
corrupt seeing that all tne great and good men now in the Executive
Departments constantly practice it. Whether it is an evil that ou^ht
to DC abolished or a virtue to be encouraged, is certainly a question
on which there is some difference of opinion. What I assert is that
there is no law which forbids it, nor no rule of morality among pub-
lic officers which condemns it. That being the case, is it not horrible
to convict this party who has certainly done nothing worse 7

I bring no railing accusation against any of the persons I have men-
tioned. I declare that all these officers who have received and given
money ore innocent of any offense known to the law, and therefore
not impeachable. I have mentioned their cases merely for the pur-
pose of illustration and to show that General Belknap has not acted
criminally any more than the rest of them. I do not ask yon to ac-
quit him if he is guilty on the ground that others are equally guilty,
but I show his fr^om from criminality by proving that others who
have done similar things are not only free from gimt but in univer-
sal estimation honored and respected.

According to our view of the evidence (and it is impossible that we
can be mistaken) he is fairly entitled to an acquittal, because —

1. The evidence excites no more than a bare suspicion that he knew
what the money was sent to him for.

2. The utmost extent to which the evidence goes can establish
nothing against him except that he received certain money from
Marsh as a gracious gift which Marsh sent him solely because it
gave him pleasure to & so. The allegation that this was given in
pursuance of a corrupt contract for a corrupt consideration or with
a corrupt intent is not only unsupported by proof but completely
and thoroughly disproved.

3. A naked present like this is not criminal in him that gives or in
him that receives it.

4. The receipt of such a present not being prohibited or made pun-
ishable by law is not a crime or misdemeanor, and thereforo not im-
I)eachable.

If, therofore, you decide this case according to the law and the evi-
dence you must necessarily acquit him.

You will no doubt be glad to hear me say that I am done.

Mr. SHERMAN. Mr. President, I should like to have a short ex-
ecutive session. I move that the Senate sitting as a court ac\joum.

The motion was agreed to ; and the Senate sitting for the trial of
the impeachment adjourned.



Tuesday, July 25, 1876.

The PRESIDENT ^o tempore having announced the arrival of the
hour fixed, legislative and executive business was suspended and the
Senate proceeded to the consideration of the articles of impeachment
exhibited by the House of Representatives against William W. Bel-
knap, late Secretary of War.

The usual proclamation was made by the Sergeant-at-Arms.

The PRESIDENT pro tempore. The usual notice will be trans-
mitted to the House of Representatives.

Mr. Lord and Mr. McMahon, of the managers on the part of the
Honse of Representatives, appeared.

The res]K>ndent appeared with his counsel, Messrs. Blair, Black,
and Carpenter.

The Secretary proceeded to road the journal of the proceedings of
the Senate sitting yesterday for the trial of impeaohment, when, on
the motion of Mr. Sherman, and by nnanimous consent, the further
reading was dispensed with.

The PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senate is now ready to pro-
ceed with the trial. Senators will please give their attention.

Mr. CARPENTER. Mr. President and Senators

Mr. LOGAN. Before the counsel proceeds, I will state that I have
heard some complaints made about the position that the counsel and
managers have to occupy in the presence of the Senate. I thereforo
suggest that the counsel be allowed to occupy any position he desires
from which to address the Senate.

Mr. EDMUNDS. We can see the counsel better when they stand
in front of the chair than anywhere else.



Digitized by



Google



TRIAL OF WILLIAM W. BELKNAP.



319



Mr. LOGAN. I have beard complaiDts made of diffionlty in liear-
inff them.

Mr. CONKLING. Where wonld the cooDsel rather stand f

Mr. CARPENTER. If there is no objection to it and no impropri-
ety in it, if I conld be permitted to stand in the outer tier of seats^ I
could be heard better tnere than anywhere else.

Mr. CONKLING. I will give the counsel my seat ; and there is his
old seat.

The PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Chair hears no objection and
the counsel will select his seat.

Mr. Carpenter proceeded to Mr. Spencer's place, that formerly oc-
cupied by nimseli when Senator, in the outer tier.

The PRESIDENT pro tempore. Senators will give their atten-
tion.

Mr. CARPENTER proceeded to address the Senate on behalf of the
respondent.

Mr. SECERMAN, (at two o'clock and fifteen minutes p. m.) Would
counsel like a recess now or would he prefer to go on longer f

Mr. CARPENTER. I am willing to yield for a recess now.

Mr. SHERMAN. I moTC that the Senate take the usual recess of
fifteen minutes.

The motion was agreed to ; and the Senate sitting for the trial of
the impeachment took a recess for fifteen minutes, at the expiration
of which time the Senate sitting for the trial resumed its session.

Mr. KERNAN. I move that the Sergeant-at-Arms be directed to
request the attendance of absentees.

Mr. CONKLING. I suggest to my colleague he had better have a
call of the Senate. There is no way of ascertaining who the absent-
ees are without a call.

Mr. KERNAN. Very well ; I accept that suggestion.

The PRESIDENT jwo tempore. The Secretary will call the roll.

Thirtv-oue Senators answered to their names.

Mr. KERNAN. I move that the absentees be requested to attend.

The PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from New York moves
that the Sergeant-at-Arms oe directed to request the attendance of
absentees.

The motion was agreed to.

The PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Sergeant-at-Arms will execute
the order of the Senate.

At two o'clock and forty-six minutes a quorum appeared.

The PRESIDENT pro tempore. A quorum has appeared ; and the
counsel will proceed.

Mr. CARPENTER resumed and continued his argument.

Having spoken till four o'clock,

Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. President, counsel says that it will
be agreeable to him if the court should adjourn at this point in his
argument. 1 therefore move that the Senate sitting as a court for
the trial of the impeachment a4joum.

Mr. EDMUNDS. No, we ought to finish it to-night.

The PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from New Jersey moves
that the Senate sitting in trial adjourn.

Mr. SHERMAN. I should like to ask counsel whether it would be
convenient for him to close his argument this evening f

The PRESIDENT i>ro tempore. The motion is not debatable.

The motion was not agreed to. «

Mr. CARPENTER. I come now, Mr. President, to discuss the ques-



Online LibraryUnited States. CongressCongressional record : proceedings and debates of the ... Congress → online text (page 144 of 172)