From the N. Y. Journal of Commerce
Monday, March 5.
In the Senate, the apportionment bill was taken up with Mr Webster's amendment, and it was discussed till the Senate adjourned.
In the House of Representatives, Mr Adams presented a memorial of certain citizens of the City of New York in favor of the Cherokee Indians and the missionaries recently imprisoned for disobedience of the laws of the State of Georgia, which he moved to refer to a Select Committee.
Mr. Speight moved that it be referred to the Committee on Indian Affairs.
Mr. Bell, Chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, observed that petitions on the subject referred to in this memorial had been heretofore referred generally to a Committee of the Whole on the State of the Union; and it might perhaps be proper to give this the same direction.
Mr. Adams said that the House would dispose of the memorial in such a manner as it should think fit,-for himself he could hardly say which course would be the most proper--personally he should prefer that it should to the Committee on Indian Affairs, or to a Committee on the state of the Union, rather than to a Select Committee. The subject was one on which but for the accidental circumstance of his having charge of this memorial, it had not been his intention to trouble the House during the session; very unexpectedly, however, he had a few days before received a letter informing him that a memorial very numerously signed would be sent to the House, and that it was the wish of some of the memorialist that it should be presented by him. Business had prevented his answering the letter immediately, as he had intended to do, declining the honor conferred on him, and the memorial consequently came on, directed to his care. Under these circumstances, he felt it his duty to present the memorial to the House, and he had also considered it his duty to move its reference to a select committee. For this, he had two reasons. He was well aware that subjects of a similar kind had gone to the Committee on Indian Affairs, and his first idea had been that that would be the appropriate, but in addition to the precedents cited by the Chairman of the Indian Committee, (Mr. Bell) another had occurred of a more recent date. When the resolution offered by the gentleman from Georgia, (Mr. Clayton) in reference to the United States Bank, had been presented to the House, it had been proposed to refer it to a select committee, although a full and complete reference of that whole subject had been previously made to the Committee of Ways and Means, which committee had reported a bill, re-chartering the Bank. Notwithstanding that reference the gentleman from Georgia wished a select committee, and that for a resolution which went to inculpate The Bank of the United States, and proposed to make the conduct of that institution, in some sort, the subject of a criminal inquiry. There was something in the present memorial, of an analogous character. It preferred a complaint against one of the States- and that very State from which had proceeded the memorial against the Bank. An incident which had recently taken place in another part of the Capitol, (the Supreme Court Room) presented to that House and to the People of the United States the subject of this memorial with a solemnity which had never before belonged to it. Possessing all confidence in the committee on Indian Affairs, it had still appeared to him more appropriate under these circumstances, to move for a select committee. He had no more to say.
Mr. Wayne, of Georgia, stated for the very reasons given by the gentleman from Massachusetts, in favor of referring the memorial to a select committee, such reference appeared to him inexpedient, especially that reason which had respect to a recent decision of the Supreme Court. The memorial went indirectly t reproach the State of Georgia with the course she had pursued respecting the Indians within her limits, and also with the operation of her laws upon particular individuals. If a decision had been given by which those laws of Georgia were declared to be unconstitutional with what propriety could the House now act on the memorial before it, before the subsequent course of Georgia should be known? He understood that a mandate had gone to the court below to correct its errors; the reasons on which it was founded would soon be laid before the public; and though Mr. W. did not believe that it was the wish or design of the gentleman from Massachusetts to throw into the scale of public sentiment a decision of the House of Representatives, by the adoption of an elaborate report from a select committee; yet such it was manifest would be the consequence of the motion he had made. As one of the Representatives from the State of Georgia, he was opposed to the appointment of a select committee.
Mr. Clayton, of Georgia, now said, that it was not his intention to offer any disrespect to the gentleman who introduced this memorial, as he believed there was no one who cherished towards him a higher degree of veneration; yet he felt himself at liberty to say what he was well convinced the people of his State would say, were they personally present. And that was that the gentlemen who had drawn up and presented the memorial were doing what they had no right to do-were meddling with what did not concern them, and were acting impertinently in the presentation of such a paper. He was almost afraid to trust himself with such a subject, representing as he did half a million of the free people of the United States, and knowing the great dignity which they had lately received in the pronouncing of a decision which he had hoped and believed would be resisted with the promptitude and spirit which became Georgians, and which he was very sure never would be executed till Georgia was made a holing wilderness. As to the memorial, Georgia would treat it as it deserved; with sovereign contempt, for himself he did not care where it went, though he should suppose the most proper reference would be to the Committee on Foreign Relations, since it seemed now to be settled that the Cherokees constituted an independent foreign kingdom. The gentleman had referred to his resolution with respect to the Bank, but there was a clear difference between this and the questions,- it was expressly declared in the charter of the United States Bank that when its affairs were examined by the House, that task should be performed by a select committee. This was the reason why he had moved that this resolution should be referred to such a committee, although the gentleman from Massachusetts had said that the two cases were similar, yet he should say, God forbid that Georgia should ever put herself on a footing with the Bank of the United States, and when ever she was so treated, he should always repel the attack. Georgia stood upon a coequal footing with the other States; and far very far above the speculating of the Bank of the United States.
Mr. C. said that he had risen for the express purpose of showing his contempt for the memorial; and he would therefore,move an amendment to the motion of the gentleman from Massachusetts which was, that this memorial should be referred to a select committee, provided the State of New York should first consent that a Committee of this House should be appointed to investigate the manner in which that state has treated the Indians within her limits. He would ask the Representatives from that State what they would think of an inquiry into the conduct of the State of New York in sending off her Indians to Green Bay to freeze to death after first taking away their dominion from them? How would New York like it, should Georgia present a memorial such as had now been read? But he did injustice to that great patriotic State. This memorial, he was confident, was not the act of that State, but it would turn out, on investigation, to be the work of a few of her citizens who were dressed in black gowns--who professed to minister in holy things, and made man's fanatical pretensions to superior benevolence,humanity, piety, love to the Indians, and all that--who thought that Georgia had not piety enough-that she had not sufficient regard to the principles of humanity, and who therefore were graciously willing to take the State of Georgia into her holy keeping. The memorial preceded from a few pragmatical individuals, who were disposed to be busy bodies in other men's matters. If the House had any respect for a sister State, a sovereign State, they would repel such memorialist as these- they would throw such a memorial under the table and not aggravate to a yet higher degree the feelings of a State already wrought up to a higher pitch than she could bear, and who only wanted the application of a match to blow the Union into ten thousand fragments; when there was not a state south of the Potomac, which was not at this moment, under the highest degree of excitement, whose people were not rising against oppression and by town meetings and every from of expressing public opinion, were endeavoring to bring the United States to a sense of justice. Would that House consent to make itself the instrument of adding excitement to excitement, till they should rend the Union to pieces?
A few steps more, and they would bring those States to a condition like that, in which the colonies were immediately before the rupture with Great Britain. He warned,-he cautioned gentlemen; he would not stoop to entreat them. Memorials like these could be got up at any time by a set of deluded fanatics.--Congress should look to the condition of the old states, and not by a reckless and unfeeling course provoke them yet farther. He prayed gentlemen to consider. He warned the House to proceed with prudence and consideration, and though he would not implore them, yet he earnestly warned them to disregard such a memorial.
Mr. Pendleton, of New York, said, that the gentleman from Georgia had great reason to distrust himself in reference to the important question before the House. He believed the House had seldom witnessed greater emotion on a more inadequate occasion. The gentleman seemed to imagine that the petition which had been presented came from the State of New York. [Here Mr. Clayton speaking across said he had corrected himself.] But it was not such a thing. It was from citizens of the United States, who possessed by the Constitution, a right-which no gentleman there was competent to question, to present their wishes, hopes, and opinions to the House of Representatives. What was the question? The memorial presented a statement of what had been a law from the earliest period of our national history until the present time. A law which was publicly known in the nation and which was sustained by the treaties of the United States, and by the Constitution. Against which course of law, Georgia had assumed jurisdiction which did not belong to her, and under the exercise of which, two American citizens had been committed to prison.
Mr. P. asked whether there was the least portion or ingredient of novelty in the statements which the petition presented. Was this a new attempt to resist the encroachments of Georgia? Far from it. The petitioners stood up for a law, which while this country possessed anything that could be called antiquity, might claim-that antiquity, having been coeval with the existence of the Government.
Such memorials were not to be charged with rashness, or with an attempt at usurpation, if they presented their views to the House in a respectful manner. The petition was consistent with the uniform law of the country.
After Mr. Pendleton had concluded his remarks, Mr. Thompson of Georgia, moved that the memorial be laid on the table.
Mr. Whittlesey demanded the yeas and nays.
They were accordingly taken as follows: Yeas 91, Noes 92. Among the yeas were the three representatives from New York city. So the House refused to lay the memorial on the table.
The debate was then resumed-Mr. Beardsley of New York, gave due credit to the members and respectability of the memorialist,but argued that there was nothing in their petition which required the action of the House.
Mr. Willsworth of Connecticut, replied to Mr. Beardsley, and advocated sending the memorial to a Select Committee. He was followed by Mr. Reed of Massachusetts on the same side.
Mr. Foster, of Georgia, thought the first enquiry should be. Who are the parties before the House? Every member of this House was wiling to redress an actual grievance. Who is to be redressed in this case? Do these memorialist appear here as attorneys in fact for the missionaries who are imprisoned? These men are imprisoned for offence against law: can this House afford them aid? Can we pass an ex post facta law, which will reach their case? All this difficulty arises from not considering that this memorial was framed some weeks ago, when the recent decision had not taken place. The case has now been adjudged. Shall a committee of this House bring in a grave report on this subject, after the prisoners have been enlarged under a mandate of the Supreme Court? But, suppose they are not enlarged? What can this House do? Shall we issue a Habeas Corpus to bring these missionaries before us? This house can clothe the mandate of the Supreme Court with no additional power. If it is necessary to send this memorial in any Committee, it should go to the Committee on Indian Affairs, the appropriate Committee, by the rules of the House.
Mr. Dickinson of New York, thought some action might be necessary upon this memorial. The argument of the gentleman from Georgia, (Mr. Foster) went to prove that no action of the House was necessary. Whence has this memorial emanated? From some thousand petitioners in the State of New York. It came from a respectable source, and is entitled to respectable consideration. What does it refer to? To two free white citizens of the United States who are incarcerated in a dungeon in Georgia, by the laws of that State, which are at war with the laws of the United States. The parties are these two citizens and the State of Georgia. No wrong done to the Indians is set forth--nothing belonging to the Committee on Indian Affairs--but a question of general policy that has for years agitated the nation. By another branch a solemn decision had been lately made on the subject of the laws of Georgia, by which the prisoners were entitled to their liberty. In answer to the question what must we do, it is proper to regard passing events. After writ of error was issued, the subject was brought before the Legislature of Georgia. The last act passed by that body, was a declaration directing that no attention be paid to the order of the Court; Is it not proper to aid the Executive of the Union in the execution of the laws in such circumstances? If the decisions of the Supreme Court are to be disregarded by the States, the Union is a rope of sand, and our boasted liberties are gone. Whether any measures will be necessary, he would not say, until it was known whether the power of the General Government would be defied. What ought to be done, was a proper subject of inquiry. As Indians are not drawn in question, the Committee on Indian Affairs is not the appropriate Committee. It should rather go to a Select Committee.
Mr. Drayton of South Carolina, said, he regretted very much that this memorial had been brought before the House, because, to speak of the subject involved in it in the mildest and most favorable terms, the discussion of them, at this time, was at least unnecessary. So far as regards the legislation of Congress, we want no addition to it, for the memorialist points out the existence of laws, which renders new legislation supererogatory. They complain not of the insufficiency, but of the violation of existing laws, the observance of which would protect Indians and those within their territory from injury and injustice. But, as we cannot carry these laws into execution, we cannot afford the redress which is required, without invading the province of another and a distinct branch of the Government. Then, as to the effect of our proceedings on the action of the Executive, are we to direct the President to do that which by the Constitution he has sworn to perform-to enforce obedience to the laws of the United States? Have we, I ask, any more right to dictate to us the duties which ought to be discharged by us as legislators. Are we not both equally sworn to observe the Constitution and laws of the United States?
If the declaration of our opinion can be productive of no beneficial result, it may be powerful to produce one of an opposite tendency.- Will it not be likely to increase the agitation which now pervades so large a portion of the community-to exasperate to madness the citizens of Georgia, already convulsed by the strongest excitement to influence the public mind--an excitement, which without the illegitimate and inflammatory interposition of this House, may impel them to act, which might involve us in the horrors of intestine war, and shake the pillars of the Constitution to its center? Does any member of this House desire this? Are we convinced here to dissolve the bonds which connect these United States? Are not here for the purpose of strengthening, consolidating the Federal Union? And if, by expressing an opinion, we do aught to impair its integrity, or to undermine its performance are we not traitors to the Constitution, and to the laws, and to the sacred obligations which are imposed upon us?
We are called on by every obligation which bind us, as lovers of our country and Constitution, as citizens of this Republic, not to discuss a question which can lead to no good, but which may be pregnant with incalculable evil. We may tell Georgia what course she ought to pursue, we may threaten her with our vengeance if she does not conform to our will; but by so doing, we shall only add fuel to the flame and perhaps provoke her proud and chivalrous citizens who might be inclined to conform to the mandate of the court, from resentment and indignation to refuse their obedience to it.
Mr. Drayton concluded by moving that the consideration of the memorial be postponed until that day one fortnight; but withdrew his motion at the request of Mr. Davis, of Massachusetts, in order to make way for a motion by that gentleman that the memorial be referred to a Committee of the Whole on the state of the Union.
On introducing his motion, Mr. Davis recapitulated the circumstances of the case,-the trial, sentence, and imprisonment of the Missionaries--their appeal to the Supreme Court and its decision pronouncing the judgment against them to be illegal and void. He then asked, are we called on to interfere in the enforcement of the law? Whatever suggestions of resistance may be made, it becomes this House to act with intelligence. Why act at all? Do we desire to anticipate resistance? He would anticipate no such thing. It was not the first instance of reversal of judgment under a State law. Such results had been repeatedly acquiesced in. It was the proud character of the people of every State of the Union to respect the laws. The beauty and harmony of our government depends on the affection of our citizens to the laws and not on their adherence to men. Whenever the power of the laws shall cease, and men shall rule, our boasted liberties will be prostrate. He would resume no such probability. Everything was now calm. When the storm rises, it will be ample time to provide for it.
Mr. Clayton said, the claim enlightened course of the gentleman from Massachusetts, (Mr. Davis) would he hoped, restore equanimity of temper to every person in the House. For himself, he came into the House after the memorial was read, and had been so placed as to hear very little that had fallen from the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Adams) who presented it; but he was informed that it was a memorial from the Senate of New York, on a subject deeply affecting the State had had the honor, in part, to represent. He had been led to believe that it contained allusions of an indecorous character toward that State. He felt it to be his duty not to suffer such allusions to pass without comment. The State of Georgia was decided on this subject.
Mr. Clay of Alabama, said the memorial was on its face directed against the State of Georgia. Yet it was due to the House, and to candor, to state, that the State of Alabama was as much involved in this matter as Georgia-as was also the State of Mississippi.
Mr. Burgess, of Rhode Island, spoke at some length in favor of Mr. Davis' motion.
Mr. Stewart of Pennsylvania, here moved the previous question; but withdrew it at the request of
Mr. Adams, who wished to express his regret that it was not in his power to accede to the notion of his colleague (Mr. Davis). He had not sought the presentation of the memorial. Why it had not been sent to one of the three gentlemen who represented the City of New York on this floor, was probably, not from any disrespect to them, but on the other hand to relieve them from a task which was thought to be unpleasant to their feelings. It was not an agreeable one to himself. But being called on without previous communication of his views-for though a letter had been addressed to him, he had not found time to answer it--he felt it his duty to give the memorial a direction which he thought most agreeable to the signers, by moving its reference to a Select Committee. He thought the circumstances stated in the memorial required action on the part of the House. The gentlemen from Georgia, (Mr. Clayton) had referred to the Roman tyrant whose enormities had called forth the splendid efforts of the Roman orator. The exclamation of the sufferer, in the case stated by Cicero, was, 'I am a Roman citizen.' Are not these persons who are incarcerated by Georgia equally entitled to say, 'We are citizens of the United States.' Are not the House the guardians of the freedom of the citizens of the Union? He could not assent to the motion because it was substantially the same as laying it upon the table.
After a few remarks by Mr. Wardwell, the previous question was put and carried: Ayes 90 Noes 64.
Mr. Wickliffe then demanded a division of the question.
It was divided accordingly, and the question was first put, whether the memorial be committed at all?
On this question, Mr. Adams demanded the yeas and nays, and they stood- yeas 96, nays 93.
The question was then put on referring the memorial to a Committee on the Whole on the state of the Union-which was agreed to without a count. It can be called up when ever a majority of the House shall be in favor of so doing.