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JAMES H. PECK.
APRIL 29, 1830.
MR. BUCHANAN, from the committee to which the subject had been re
ferred, exhibited to the House the following article of impeachment against James H. Peck, Judge of the District Court of the United States for the District of Missouri.
Article exhibited by the House of Representatives of the United States,
in the name of themselves, and of all the people of the United States, against James H. Peck, Judge of the District Court of the United States for the District of Missouri, in maintenance and support of their impeachment against him for high misdemeanors in affice.
ARTICLE. That the said James H. Peck, Judge of the District Court of the United States for the District of Missouri, at a term of the said court, hoiden at St. Louis, in the State of Missouri, on the fourth Monday in December, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-five, did, under and by virtue of the power and authority vested in the said court, by the act of the Congress of the United States, entitled “ An act enabling the claimants to lands within the limits of the State of Missouri and Territory of Arkansas to institute proceedings to try the validity of their claims,” approved on the twentysixth day of May, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-four, render a final decree of the said court in favor of the United States, and against the validity of the claim of the petitioners, in a certain matter or cause depending in the said court, under the said act, and before that time prosecuted in the said court before the said Judge, by Julie Soulard, widow of Antoine Soulard, and James G. Soulard, Henry G. Soulard, Eliza Soulard, and Benjamin A. Soulard, children and heirs at law of the said Antoine Soulard, petitioners against the United States, praying for the confirmation of their claim, under the said act, to certain lands situated in the said State of Missouri; and the said court did thereafter, on the thirtieth day of December, in the said year, adjourn to sit again on the third Monday in April, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-six.
And the said petitioners did, and at the same December term of the said court, holden by and before the said James H. Peck, Judge as aforesaidi, in due form of law, under the said act, appeal against the United States, from the judgment and decree so made and entered in the said matter, to the Supreme Court of the United States; of which appeal so made and taken in the said District Court, the said James H. Peck, Judge of the said court, had then and there full notice. And the said James H. Peck, after the said
matter or cause had so been duly appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States, and on or about the thirtieth day of March, one thousand eighat hundred and twenty-six, did cause to be published in a certain public newspaper, printed at the city of St. Louis, called “ The Missouri Republican," a certain communication prepared by the said James H. Peck, purporting to be the opinion of the said James H. Peck, as Judge of the said court, in the matter or cause aforesaid, and purporting to set forth the rea. sons of the said James H. Peck, as such Judge, for the said decree; and that Luke Edward Lawless, a citizen of the United States, and an attorney and counsellor at law, in the said Distriet Court, and who had been of counsel for the petitioners in the said court in the matter aforesaid, did, thereafter, and on or about the eighth day of April, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-six, cause to be published in a certain other newspaper, printed at the city of St. Louis, called 16 The Missouri Advocate and St. Louis Enquirer," a certain article signed “ A Citizen,” and purporting to contain an exposition of certain errors of doctrine and fact alleged to be contained in the opinion of the said James H. Peck, as before that time so published; which publication by the said Luke Edward Lawless, was to the effect following, viz: 66 To the Editor:
Sir: I have read, with the attention which the subject deserves, the opinion of Judge Peck, on the claim.of the widow and heirs of Antoine Soulard, published in the Republican of the 30th ultimo. I observe that, although the judge has thought proper to decide against the claim, he leaves the grounds of his decree open for further discussion.
Availing myself, therefore, of this permission, and considering the opinion so published, to be a fair subject of examination to every citizen who feels himself interested in, or aggrieved by, its operation, I beg leave to poiat the attention of the public to some of the principal errors which I think that! have discovered in it. In doing so, I shall confine myself to little more than an enumeration of those errors, without entering into any demonstration or developed reasoning on the subject. This would require more space than a newspaper allows, and besides, is not (as regards most of the points) absolutely necessary.
Judge Peck, in this opinion, seems to me to have erred in the following assumptions, as well of fact as of doctrine:
Ist. That, by the ordinance 1754, a sub-delegate was prohibited from making a grant in consideration of services rendered or to be rendered.
2d. That a sub-delegate in Louisiana was not a sub-delegate as contemplated by the above ordinance.
3d. That O'Reily's regulations, made in February, 1770, can be considered as demonstrative of the extent of the granting power of either the Gore ernor General or the sub-delegates under the royal order of August, 1770.
4th. That the royal order of August, 1770, as recited or referred to in the preamble to the regulations of Morales, of July, 1799) related exclusively to the Governor General.
5th. That the word “ mercedes” in the ordinance of 1754, which in the Spanish language means “gifts,” can be narrowed by any thing in that ordinance or in any other law, to the idea of a grant to an Indian, or a reward to an informer, and much less to a mere sale for money.
6th. That O'Reily's regulations were in their terms applicable, or ever were in fact applied to, or published in, Upper Louisiana,
7th. That the regulations of O'Reily have any bearing on the grant to Antoine Soulard, or that such a grant was contemplated by them.
8th. That the limitation to a square league, of grants to new seitlers in pelousas, Attakapas, and Natchitoches, (in 8th article of O'Reily's regulaions) prohibits a larger grant in Upper Louisiana.
9th. That the regulations of the Governor General, Gayoso, dated 9th September, 1797, entitled “ Instructions to be observed for the admission of ew settlers," prohibit, in future, a grant for services, or have the effect of nnulling that to Antoine Soulard, which was made in 1796, and not located r surveyed until Feb. 1804.
10th. That the complete titles made by Gayoso are not to be referred to 3 affording the construction made by Gayoso himself of his own regulaons,
11th. That, although the regulations of Morales were not promulgated as iw in Upper Louisiana, the grantee in the principal case was bound by nem, inasmuch as he had notice, or must be presumed, “ from the official ation which he held,” to have had notice of their terms.
12th. That the regulations of Morales "exclude all belief, that any law sisted under which a confirmation of the title in question could have been laimed.”
13th. That the complete titles, (produced to the court) made by the Goernor General or the Intendant General, though based on incomplete titles ot conformable to the regulations of O'Reily, Gayoso, or Morales, afford o inference in favor of the power of the Lieut. Governor, from whom these icomplete titles emanated, and must be considered as anomalous exercises f power in favor of individual grantees.
14th. That the language of Morales himself, in the complete titles issued y him, on concessions made by the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Louis. ina, anterior to the date of his regulations, ought not to be referred to as urnishing the construction which he, Morales, put on his own regulations.
15th. That the uniform practice of the sub-delegates or Lieutenant-Goveror of Upper Louisiana, from the first establishment of that province, to the Oth March, 1804, is to be disregarded as proof of law, usage, or custom, lerein.
16th. That the historical fact, that nineteen-twentieths of the titles to inds in Upper Louisiana were not only incomplete, but not conformable to ne regulations of O'Reily, Gayoso, or Morales, at the date of the cession to ne United States, affords no inference in favor of the general legality of 2ose titles.
17th. That the fact, that incomplete concessions, whether floating or loated, were, previous to the cession, treated and considered by the governient and population of Louisiana as property, saleable, transferable, and he subject of inheritance and distribution ab intestato, furnishes no in
rence in favor of those titles, or to their claim to the protection of the trear of cession or of the law of nations.
18th. That the laws of Congress heretofore passed in favor of incomplete tles, furnish no argument or protecting principle in favor of those titles of a recisely similar character, which remain unconfirmed.
In addition to the above, a number of other errors, consequential on those adicated, might be stated. The Judge's ductrine as to the forfeiture, which
e contends is inflicted by Morales' regulations, seems to me to be peculiary pregnant with grievous consequences. I shall, however, not tire the eader with any further enumeration, and shall detain him only to observe, by way of conclusion, that thc judge's recollection of the argume counsel for the petitioner, as delivered at the bar, differs materi what I can remember, who also heard it. In justice to thc counsel observe, that all that I have now submitted to the public, has been : by that argument as spoken, and by the printed report of it, whicl now before me.
. A CITIZ And the said James H. Peck, Judge as aforesaid, unmindful of th duties of his station, and that he held the same, by the Constitutio United States, during good behavior only, with intention wrongfi unjustly to oppress, imprison, and otherwise injure the said Luke Lawless, under color of law, did, thereafter, at a term of the said Court of the United States for the District of Missouri, begun and the City of St. Louis, in the State of Missouri, on the third Mo April, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-six, arbitrarily, opp ly, and unjustly, and under the further color and pretence that the sai Edward Lawless was answerable to the said Court for the said publi signed " A Citizen,” as for a contempt thereof, institute, in the said before him, the said James H. Peck, Judge as aforesaid, certain proce against the said Luke Edward Lawless, in a summary way, by attach issued for that purpose by the order of the said James H. Peck, as Judge, against the person of the said Luke Edward Lawless, touchin said pretended contempt, under and by virtue of which said attachmen said Luke Edward Lawless was, on the twenty-first day of April, one sand eight hundred and twenty-six, arrested, imprisoned, and brought the said Court, before the said Judge, in the custody of the Marshal of said State; and the said James H. Peck, Judge as aforesaid, did, afterw on the same day, under the color and pretences aforesaid, and with the tent aforesaid, in the said Court, then and there unjustly, oppressively, arbitrarily, order and adjudge that the said Luke Edward Lawless, for cause aforesaid, should be committed to prison for the period of twer four hours, and that he should be suspended from practising as an attori or counsellor at law in the said District Court for the period of eighteen lendar months from that day; and did then and there further cause the s unjust and oppressive sentence to be carried into execution; and the si Luke Edward Lawless was, under color of the said sentence, and by tbe der of the said James H. Peck, Judge as aforesaid, thereupon suspendi from practising as such attorney or counsellor in the said Court for the p riod aforesaid, and immediately committed to the common prison in the sai city of St. Louis; to the great disparagement of public justice, the abuse a judicial authority, and to the subversion of the liberties of the People of the United States.
And the House of Representatives, by protestation, saving to themselves the liberty of exhibiting, at any time hereafter, any further articles, or other accusation or impeachment, against the said James H. Peck, and also of replying to his answers which he shall make unto the article herein preferred against him, and of offering proof to the same, and every part thereof, and to all and every other articles, accusation, or impeachment, which shall be exhibited by them as the case shall require, da demand that the said James H. Peck may be put to answer the misdemeanors herein charged against him, and that such proceedings, examinations, trials, and judgments, may be thereupon had and given, as may be agreeable to law and justice.