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pret-sibly painful to produce it. Rather than bring his real defense



before the public, my unfortunate client would suffer anything except
the total loss of his reputation. But he has earned a good name by a
life-time of well-doing. It is the immediate jewel of his soul, and, 1 ike
every gentleman who is properly constituted, he dreads the loss of it
a thousand times more than death. The House took him at a horri-
ble disadvantage. If that Committee on War Expenditures, which
has pursued him with such remorseless activity, had taken him ont
and shot him in the public square it would have been a visitation of
mercy in comparison with what they did do. If they are his mortal
enemies, (which I do not believe they are,) let them rejoice, for the
day of his calamity is come. He has already suffered as much torture
as human nature is able to bear.

Is this a case to be tried before a political body in the midst of a
presidential election f Why, the stump and the newspaper will take
the jurisdiction out of your hands in spite of all you can do. Con-
ventions and caucuses will make their own decrees in the cause and
dem and their affirmance here. The t-empest of passion, which already
frights the nation from its propriety, is rising higher and higher
every day, and the thunders of popular condemnation which break
over us become louder and louder at every burst. The wrath of the
country waxes hotter as it bums, and it threatens not only to consume
the accused but to scorch and blister every one who stands up to give
him aid and comfort in his adversity.

Can you give him the fair, impartial, and unprejudiced trial to
which be is entitled f I answer, yes. It is possible to free yourselves
from all these disturbing influences. You can disregard all political
considerations and trample the passions of the hour under your feet.
You can rise to the loftiest heignt of judicial virtue and look down
with contempt upon the stream of prejudice as it rushes along below
you. You can throw away the chances of yonr friends for that high
office which makes ambition virtue. You can dismiss from your hearts
the natural love which all public men have for the pride, pomp, and
circumstance of political domination over a great country. You can
defy the criticism of your own constituents and all their power. You
can look in the omnipotent face of the whole people, and tell them
that their evil is not good, a hardship upon you to require that you
should. There is no man uere, I think, who does not intend to do all
this and more. Every Senator believes that he, for his own part, will
come up to that heroical standard of judicial virtue. But is there a
man amon^ yon who believes that the others can do it f

Mr. President and Senators, if we had but one party against us, wo
could stand it well enough ; if one were hostile and the other neutral.
This is a case in which all parties, who agree with one another in
nothing else, imite.in a chorus of execration against a single indi-
vidual. The democracy, as soon as the accusation was made, remem-
bering its traditional love of everything that is pure and good in gov-
ernment and acting upon its profound natred for all manner of cor-
ruption, broke out into a loud explosion of anger the moment they
heard the accusation, without stopping t<o consider whether it was
exactly true or not. The general shout which they sent up shook the
whole country from sea to sea, and completely stampeded the party of
the Administration. Everywhere they broke from their corrals,
snapped their halters, and went wild in scattered confusion. Some
rather heavy stock that had never raised a trot before went over the
plains on a furiousgallop. [Laughter.]

The PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Chair will here remind those
occupying the floor as well as those in the galleries that applause is
entirely out of order.

Mr. BLACK. Mr. President and Senators, there is an institution
among us called the Department of Justice. On its seal is the legend,
Qui pro doming justHia aequitur. It is headed just now by a gentleman
renowned for his legal learning and for his love of everything that is
Just and right. It is his special business to hold the executive head
level on subjects of this kind. He heard that his friend, brother, and
colleague was accused by a committee — not proved to be guilty, but
simply accused. Did ho throw the broad segis of the Constitution
and the laws over him to protect him and shield him and save him f
No. He resolved on the instant that he would bum with an indigna-
tion as fierce as the most virtuous of democrats.

Without warrant, without process of any kind, without an oath,
without proof of probable cause, he surrounded him with a body of
armed policemen, filled his house with them, put them at the front door,
at the back door, in hall, parlor, and kitchen. If you had seen him
in that condition you might have supposed him to be the fallen min-
ister of some Turkish despot surrounded by the janizaries of the
Sultiin and waiting quietly for the bowstring.

When a lawless outrage like this can be perpetrated by the Depart-
ment of Justice; when the Attorney-General, the special guardian of
the law, can be lifted from his feet and carried away by the tide of
prejudice, have we not reason to distrust the fairness of politicians in
general?

Mr. President, I would make this same appeal for continuance to
any court of justice. This is no unjudicial call upon your discretion.
It does not imply any imputation upon you

If the judges of the ordinary courts would listen to such a proposi-
tion as this, founded as it is upon the facts which have been men-
tioned, how much more necessary is it that a political or legislative
body should be careful how it exercises its power in a case like the
present at a time so unpropitionsf

Judges suppose themselves to live in an atmosphere above the



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TRIAL OF WILLIAM W. BELKNAP.



13



reach of public clamor ; but the door of a legislative hall cannot be
dosed upon those inflnences. Legislators regard it as a yirtae to
represent their constituents truly, and to gratify them as much as
possible. Look at the judicial acts of the English Parliament. The
mstory of impeachments and of bills of pains and penalties, and bills
of attainder, which for a long time came in place of impeachments,
is the history' of the shame and the misfortune of that country.
Three-fourths of the judgments, nearly all of them, given in times
of political excitement, were reversed by the body i&t pronounced
them.

Ton know, as everybody knows, that the truest and best men that
ever lived have fallen under such proceedings as these. Some of
those judgments stand vet to diserace the age in which they were

SronouncM. Take, for instance, the case of Floyd in the reign of
ames I. He was a gentleman, but poor enough to be imprisoned for
debt. He made some flippant expression concerning the Elector-
Palatine. It excited the intense indignation of divers persons who
heard it, and the excitement spread from one to another until at last
he was dri^ged before Parliament. They had no jurisdiction to pun-
ish him. His offense was below the competence of a common court:
it was no offense at all ; it was a mere slighting expression that did
no harm and was not intended to harm any human being ; but in
order to gratify the rage of the populace the two houses of Parliament
agreed between them that he should be punished thus : He should
be compelled to ride on horseback through the principal thorough-
fares oi London on two different days without a saddle, with his
face to the horse's tail luid with the tail in his hand ; that on his re-
turn from each of these journeys he should stand in the pillory for
two hours to be pelted by the mob ; that he should be whipped upon
bis bare back ; that he should be branded in the foreheaa with the
letter K. and finally he should be kept in Newgate prison for the
whole of his natnral life.

That was not done by a set of barbarians. The greatest of that time
among them the wisest men of anytime, were members of the Parlia-
ment that inflicted this outrage upon humanity. Amon|^ others was
Coke, the father of the common law j and he was earned away by
^o passion of the multitude in the wickeduess.

We have had some cases in this country, not cases in which any-
thing like this which I have recited as having been done there was
perpetrated ; but here in 1839, or thereabouts, a Mr. Swartwont was
charged with being a defaulter to the amount of $1,300,000. He was
not ; he had never spent or appropriated to his own use any dollar of
the public money ; but his papers were in a state of utter confusion ;
he was not able to prove his innocence, and so he ran away inconti-
nently. Everybody believed him to be guilty, including both polit-
ical parties. Suppose he had been tried before the great men who
were members of this body in 1840 in the midst of that exciting pres-
idential election, what earthly chance would he have had of escape f
It would have been impossible.

There are other instances which I need not enumerate of strong de-
lusions. Everybody threatens to be excessively angry unless some-
thing be done with the sentleman who is now at this bar, and espe-
cially our friends in the House of Representatives will be very much
excited by any di^sappointment.

Just at this time the United States are nearly in the condition of
one of the Roman cities about the beginning of the second century.
The public authorities had sent off to Africa and at very considerable
expense they had secured and brought home a lion of great strength
and ferocity. Great pleasure, gratification to the people was expected
if they coiud only get a man tor the lion, but it seemed for a while
as if there might be some disappointment about that. On the eve
of the day when the games were to begin somebody caught a man
and dragged him before the magistrates, charged with the crime of
Christianity. He was convicted. But suppose the judges had re-
fused to take jurisdiction, or. having taken jurisdiction, hm acquitted
him upon the ground that ne was a good pagan, what would have
happened to the judges f They themselves would have been thrown
to the lion, and the people would have had their sport anyhow.

What do these examples of popular fury, and legislative ferocity in
consequence of the popular fury, teach us f History, says Hume, is
philosophy teaching by examples. What is the lesson taught us by
all the examples we know in the history of this country and of past
times f Why this, that when the people rage and imagine a vain
thing and demand the sacrifice of a victim against which their wrath
is directed, that is the very time that you should not take cognizance
of the charge, that you should wait quietly until the times change.
It teaches that you should waiti, as the prophet El^ah waited when
he came out of the cave, until the earthquake ceased to shake the
mountain, until the mighty wind had blown past, until the great fire
had burned itself out, and then listen as he listened for ^l^e still
small voice'' that speaks of justice, liberty, law, divine and human.

We have a ve^ recent example which shows that legislative bodies
are not infallible, although they are composed of the wisest, vir-
tuousest, discreetest, best men in the world. It is but a few days a^o
that the House of Representatives took up a man, and without juris-
diction, without paying the slightest attention to his defense, and
though he was not guilty, rushed him into prison. That was done,
remember, by a House nearly all of whose members had distinguished
themselves by their devotion to the great principles of human lib-
erty, habeas ooTpun, and the right of trial by jury. One of them, only



two or three weeks afterward, stood up on his feet in the House and
confessed that the accusation and punishment were the result ofpar-
tisan zeal on the one side and partisan timidity on the other. When
that thing can be done by a House of Representatives so illustrious
and filled with so many great and distinguished men, it surely is not
wrong for me to say that possibly the same thing may happen hero
whero distinguished men and great statesmen aro equally plenty.

Now, if you will put this off until the gentlemen who are mana-
gers get through with the trial which they aro conducting against
my client behind his back, and until thero shall be no further politi-
cal occasion for convicting him, when thero shall be nothing but the
ends of iustice to answer, you will pronounce then a judgment in the
cause which will do you honor and save him from groat wrong. In
the mean time I beg my friends at the other table not to let their zeal
run away with them, not to be troubled, not to fret. The thing will
all come right in due time. They shall have their dav and their hear-
ing, and they shall get all they want if they aro entitled to it. In the
mean time it will do them good, I am suro, to sprii^e some cool
drops of patience upon their fiery spirits.

Mr. CARPENTER. Mr. Prosident, what is the daneer to the State,
what is the calamity impending to free institution which this prose-
cution must be hastened to avert f What great end is to be secured
by a final trial on this impeachment at this session that cannot as
well be attained by a trial at the next session of the Senate f What
is the overwhelming ovil this proceeding is to correct f Is any public
officer undermining our liberties or using his power to oppress the
people, and who is theroforo such an enemy to humanity that he must
oe arrested in his wicked career by an almost instantaneous convic-
tion f No; for no public officer is touched by this proceeding. It
contemplates nothing but Ae infliction of political disabilities upon
a private citizen of the State of Iowa.

This Ib unquestionably a groat court, but this can hardly be called
a groat cause. Congress has been constantly engaged for many
years in romoving political disabilities resulting from troason ; not
mero theoretical and constructive treason ; not the preaching of a
sermon containing tenets not fashionable at court, like that for which
a clergyman was once impeached in England ; not merely the writ-
ing ofessays to satisfy the people of the right of rebellion, like that
which sent Algernon Sydney to i^ominious execution ; but treason
defiant and organized ; treason with uplifted crest and outstretched
arm ; treason which drenched the land with blood and darkened our
homes with mourning. You have been engaged for years in removing
political disabilities fiom men guilty of such treason, quickening them
with capacity for political and official life, imtil they have at last
gained possession of the southern wing of this Capitol. And this
proceeding is their firsii signal exeroise of authority ; and they come
to the bar of this court heralded by proclamations and surrounded
with pageantry which fills your galleries when nothing is to be done
but the filiug of a single paper. And all this to fix upon a citizen of
Iowa, a Union officer, the disabilities which the generosity of the
North has romoved from offenders in the South.

Thero aro some incidents of this proceeding, apparontly ordered by
Providence, to suggest a pause. These articles of impeachment wero
served upon Oeneral Belloiap at ^y^ o'clock and forty minutes in the
afternoon of the 6th day of April, 1876. On the 6th day of April,
1862, at about the same hour, General Belknap was in the foro-front
of the line of Union troops who made their last stand and rolled
back the confederate forces on the bloody field of Shiloh. The
former good character and distinguished services of the respondent
may not avail him on the final question of innocence or guilt, but
may properly be considered in disposing of this motion, which is
addressed to the sound discrotion, in some sense the grace and favor,
of this honorable court.

Thero is no necessity for a speedy trial. The public safety is in no
way in peril. No officer is to be romoved. for no officer is touched by
these proceedings. The prospect is not brilliant for his nomination
by the President for any ofiuce pending these proceedings, and if he wero
nominated the Senate would probably not confirm him. Theroforo no
great public interest demands an immediate triaL In the case of
Blount's impeachment the trial was had at a session subsequent to
that at which the articles wero presented. Judge Peck's trial was
postponed to a subsequent session on the motion of Mr. Webster. And
m this case, whether political disabilities shall or shall not be laid
upon Oeneral Belknap is not a question of such pressing importance that
its determination cannot be postponed to a calmer hour. Not only
has General Belknap maintained a good character, but he has renderod
important and eminent services to the Republic^ and he stands to-day
with honorable place in history, with roputation unquestioned save
in rogard to the transaction now under consideration, testified to only
by a single witness, and that witness the feeble tool of one woman
bent on uie destruction of another.

Every Senator who hears me knows that I am especially estopped
to utter one disrespectful word to this body. I have experienced its
ffenerous kindness so often that I can never entertain aucht but the
nighest respect for the Senate and the warmest affection ror its mem-
bers ; and no one will do me the injustice to suppose that my advocacy
of this motion is inspirod by any want of confidence in the ability or
integrity of this court. But I romember a proceeding in this body
some years ago, in which a Senator was on trial, and I happen to know
that at that time another Senator, who had been a member of the



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14



TRIAL OF WILLIAM W. BELKNAr.



committee which reported the case to the Senate and had what wae,
snbetantially, a judicial duty to perform in the premises, was in the
daily receipt of nnmerons letters from his warmest friends and lead-
ing politicians of his own party at home, assuring him that if he did
not do ever3rthinff in his power to expel the accused he never could
be re-elected. The Senator thus warned pnrsued the course which
his convictions dictated, but the predicted consequence was realized.
Of course, I do not know that yon, Senators, are daily receiving
such letters in regard to this trial. But I should not be astonished to
learn that some person, unacquainted with the proprieties of this pro-
ceeding, had written a similar letter to some Senators.

The coming presidential campaign is already dawning upon ns, and
will increase m warmth and interestday by day. It is impossible for this
court to sit, amid the excitement of a political canvass, entirely unaf-
fected by political influences ; and no harm can come to the public, while
the respondent's chances of impartial justice at your hands would be
greatly increased by postponement of this trial until the coming po-
fitical contest shall l^ settled.

We aU know what the next campaign is to be. The democrats,
who have been so long out of office, rely upon the watchword ** anti-
corruption " to win the people to their support. This the republi-
cans must meet by exhibiting greater detestation of corruption than
the democrats profess. The democrats can only exhibit their virtue
by finding corruption in the republican party to be rebuked, and re-
publicans can exhibit their virtue only by out-Herodiug Herod in
Snnishment of whatever corruption democrats may pretend to find,
loth parties are therefore interested in making the most of the al-
leged misconduct of the respondent. The democrats have found
nothing, in all their investigations, against any other officer, and
nothing against the respondent except the particular matter set out
in these articles of impeachment, and that alleged by only one wit-
ness, and he durst not remain in the country twenty-four hours after
he had testified. The campaign, therefore, must turn upon the guilt
or innocence of Belknap, both parties being interested to establish
his guilt. He will therefore be made the object of attack from every
stump, in every newspaper^ and in every hamlet in the land. And
the question is, whether this is a favorable time for him to receive a
perfectly calm and dispassionate triaL

Consider what has already transpired. A report was made by a
committee to the House of Representatives about three o'clock in the
aftt^rnooQ of April 2, 1876. The committee had no authority to make
the investigation or the report; but thet«norof the report was so grate-
ful to the House that, without printing the testimony, and under the
stress of the previous question, amid a scene of excitement and con-
fusion which the Speaker characterized as ** disgraceful disorder," the
impeachment was carried by a unanimous vote. It is worthy of re-
mark, as evincing the excitement of the honr, that one of the firmest
and ablest lawyers of the House, one of the honorable managers now
present, after aeclaring that the House had no authority to impeach
Mr. Belknap, then out of office, was so carried away as to vote in favor
of Impeachment.

After this remarkable proceeding on the part of the House, the
Attorney-General, a mild-mannered gentleman, with a kind heart and
high sense of propriety, was so excited by the fear that a democratic
House was getting ahead of a republican administration that in open
defiance of the Constitution, which declares that *^ the right of the
people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and efiects against
unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no war-
rant shall issue but upon probable cause supported by oath or affirma-
tion, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the per-
son or things to be seized," without oath or affirmation establishing
probability of guilt and without warrant issued for arrest, issued his
leitre de cachet to the chief of a band of detectives belonging to the
Treasury Department to exercise the strictest aurveUInnoe oYer the re-
spondent. And in pursuance of this despotic and void order Belknap's
house was surrounded with armed policemen and filled from cellar to

? arret with these detectives. The Attorney-General had no more an-
hority to seize Belknap*8 house and imprison him therein than Bel-
knap bad to imprison the Attomey-Qeneral, and no more authority
than had any private citizen to thus imprison them both. And, apart
from the motive which inspired it, this proceeding of the Attorney-
General is as much more deserving of impeachment than the trans-
action set out in these articles as the violation of a plain provision
of the Constitution in favor of the people's rights is more dan^erons
to liberty than the violation of a particular penal statute. This pro-
ceeding of the Attorney-General, however, is only mentioned to show
how political exoit-ement could overcome the prudence of a high ex-
ecutive officer and transform the head of the Department of Justice
into a minister of injustice.

Let this trial ^ over until the political contest shall be ended.
The respondent will not attempt to escape ; will not, like his accusers,
flee into Canada ; but will be present whenever this court requires
his presence.

My colleague has referred to the case of Swartwout, and it is full
of instruction for the present hour. He was accused of unparalleled
dishonesty in office. And his supposed dishonesty has g^ven a new
word to our language. ** Swartwouting" is equivalent to embezzle-
ment and official peculation. He was set upon by pamphlets and
speeches, political vituperation and popular denunciation ; the press I So the motion was not agreed to.



opened upon him like the Russian artillery upon the fated six hun-
dred, and " volleyed and thundered " until Swartwout, in utter con-
sternation, sought safety beyond the seas. There he remained until
the presidential campaign was closed, the public mind had resumed
its normal state, the storm had subsided, and the uproar ceased.
Then he returned, and upon a deliberate and honest settlement of
his accounts it was ascertained that, so far from his having been a
defaulter, the Government was indebted in a small sum to him.

This lesson ou^ht not to be lost upon the lovers of justice when,
in the hour of high political need, a victim is singled out to be pur-
sued to the death — when a citizen is required as a scapegoat for a
party.

When we come to consider the final issues in this case, if we ever
reach them, then the considerations which we now urge may be un-



Online LibraryUnited States. CongressCongressional record : proceedings and debates of the ... Congress → online text (page 7 of 172)