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be put in the hands of any one man living. The gentleman tells us that the whole manufacturing interest is in the hands of an aristocracy, who oppress and grind to dust the democracy of the nation. This shows clearly and plainly that he knows nothing about either the aristocracy or democracy of the country. I say that the great agricultural interest north of Mason and Dixon's line, and a solid proportion south of it, are in favor of the protecting policy—the tariff. . If the gentleman wants to find friends and advocates to that policy, let him go into every hamlet and house in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New England, and he will find a vast majority in its favor. Talk of the aristocracy of the country ! It is the real democracy of the United States, who are the friends and advocates of the protecting system. Not British agents—Liverpool merchants. Talk of aristocracy The farmers, the agriculturists, are the men who support the tariff. They are the men. Why? They well know that the manufacturer gives a market for their productions, which no foreign nation allows. They consider the manufacturers as their agents, at home, in their own country. The farming interest knows this. If our farmers did not know that their interests, their salvation, did not almost depend on the manufacturing system, . would be willing to give it up. Sir, the gentleman openly avows that his object in bringing this bill forward is not for diseussion or action this session, and perhaps, not the next. What, then, in the name of heaven, is his intended object ; Sir, I think I know. Indeed, for some time, I have been aware that it has been in contemplation. The object manifestly is, to have the measure hang over our protecting policy in terrorem, like a portentous cloud. It is for the purpose of scattering doubts, and fears, and apprehensions among our manufacturing interests, and to invite foreign nations to press down upon us with all their power, and overwhelm our system of national independence. The gentleman seems to want that foreign nations should believe that this Government is trembling and shivering in its course—wishes to see them interfering in the domestie regulations of this country. , Sir, I cannot, will not, consent to see such a measure, brought forward under such auspices, held up to terrify and alarm our own country, and give hopes and expectations to another. The gentleman says he does not expect that the bill will make the smallest impression on England. Good nation What? Make no impression on England? I supposed the gentleman considered England a perfect model for our imitation; that free trade was her motto, and that she really meant what she had published to the world ! that she was ready to throw her doors wide open to the commerce of all nations. What! England opposed to free trade? Monstrous ! And even the gentleman from New York admits it! Surprising ! . He tells us that the measure is intended to help, the laboring classes of England—the democrats of England. This is a new idea. The democrats of England He says they are crying for bread, and she wants to feed them. His feelings are all engaged for the democrats of England. Sir, I am for sustaining the democrats of the United States. So people will differ. On whom do these democrats of England depend? Why, I suppose of course, on the democratic manufacturers of that country. All democrats, then I Our manufacturers, in this country, are represented as aristocrats, nabobs, monopolists—in England, it seems, they are all democrats. Sir, these English democrats have but little affection for their brother democrats this side of the water. They are hostile to our prosperity. They tremble at the sight of a rising manufactory in the United States. They,
like the gentleman from New York, would like to see the domestic industry of this country palsied, prostrated. The gentleman says the bill will have no operation on France. Why, sir, we all well know that. France minds her own business. She has adopted the protecting policy;
and all the arts and efforts of England cannot diverther from her own independent course. France, sir, minds her own concerns. She is not eternally dabbling in the affairs of other nations. She understands her own true interests, and pursues them without troubling her neighbors. But up the Baltic we can have free trade. Pennsylvania can send corn to Dantzici That is flattering! What a noble thought ! But we can have the trade of Por. tugal. That the gentleman seems to suppose would be every thing to us. It would be a grand affair! So, for these fancied benefits we are to invest the President with the most extraordinary powers. The great interests of this country to be regulated by the caprice or policy of any nation in the world, and the President compelled to execute it. The market of Portugall what does the gentleman really mean? If there is any hidden object, let the gentlemen lift up the veil—let him draw back the eur. tain—tell us, at once, his object. I would not trust the power he proposes, to any man. If the measure should pass, I have the fullest confidence that the present Chief Magistrate would exercise his power and discretion as fairly affa soundly as any man living. The interests of his country would never be sacrificed for the benefit of any other. This is a subject that belongs to Congress; to the representatives of the people. , Here let it be retained. Never give it up. I hope the day will never arrive, when we will place such power in the hands of any Executive. But [said Mr. M.] the gentleman declares that the bill proposes reciprocity—only reciprocity. Leto England put her duties at thirty per cent. and we will do the same. The scheme looks well. How will it work? The disparity will be as great as now exists. Thirty per cent on the flour of Ohio, Pennsylvania. Now see, sir. Thirty per cent—reciprocal on the face. What will be the expense of sending a barrel of flour from Louisville, in Kentucky, by New Orleans, to Liverpool Why, sir, it would cost more to send a barrel of flour, worth five dollars in the New York market, to Liverpool, than it would cost to bring one thousand—five thousand dollars' worth of foreign manufactures into this country. Equalize duties in this way, and a vast proportion of the agricultural interests of this country is ruined at a single blow. How much does it cost England to send her broadcloths and gimlets to New York How much to send our heavy productions to England Every man of common sense well knows. The difference may be five hundred per cent against us. Thir. ty per cent on lace—thirty per cent, on flour!, Reciprocity with a vengeance 1 The farming interest of the United States will not be deluded by such a show of reciprocity. The gentleman tells us about a tremendous explosion, if the friends of the tariff policy persist. This means, in plain English, rebellion. Are we to be driven from our path of duty—from the true interests of the country—by threats of a tremendous explosion Is a minority on the floor of this House to tell a majority, you shall submit to our will, or the most dreadful consequences will follow 1 For one, I say, plump and plain, I will not be driven from my course by such language. What will be the condition of this country, when a minority overawes a majority by threats and menaces? We have recently heard of the ty. ranny of a majority—a strange kind of a tyranny to be sure. But we are called on to submit to the tyranny of a minority. When a minority can, on any question, by threat and menace, overawe the majority, this country must be reduced to the most extraordinary condition. It is worse than no Government at all. We come here as the representatives of the people of all parts of the Union, for the purpose of mingling our common counsels, and deciding on the course best caleulated to promote the great interests of the nation—our common country. The sound discretion of every member ought to be exercised. We must finally decide. As the representatives of the people of this Union, we are called upon to act. How are we to decide
on any great question, whether it relates to the established policy of the country, or to any new measure presented for deliberation and action ? Is a majority to shrink back, give way, surrender, when a minority demands a right to rule 1 Submit to the tyranny of a minority l—a strange despot under a Government, when its fundamental rule is that a majority should govern. What would such a Government be worth? A minority rule This is the essence of aristocracy. In plain truth, sir, if Representatives cannot come here, and exercise their own independent opinions, without being awed and menaced into submission by those who may happen to differ, the Government is not worth preserving. Its republican character is gone—it is not worth a fig. I always respect the minority. I am in it often. We are all, often, in a minority. When we are, shall we cry out tyranny, oppression, abuse the Government, curse it, and let it go If so, we can tear it in pieces in an hour, any day. If such is the wish of any portion of this country, they may be indulged for all me. What is a Government, a republican Government worth, where a majority is ruled by a minority I should like to be informed. If this is not aristocracy, I do not understand the term. The most perfect tyranny is when the fewest rule—I may be mistaken. I thought I had some republican principles—I may have been mistaken. Whatever may be my errors of opinion, I feel anxious to sustain the interests of my own country— I want to see Liverpool the other side of the Atlantic. Mr. M. concluded } again moving to lay the bill on the table. Mr. WAYNE, of Georgia, a member of the Committee on Commerce, said the gentleman ought to give an opportunity for reply to his misapprehensions. Mr. MALLARY said, he had done no more than reply to the gentleman from New York, but he again withdrew his motion to lay the bill on the table. Mr. BATES, of Massachèsetts, hoped the gentleman from Georgia, when he had finished the remarks which he desired to make on the subject, would allow the friends of the protecting system an opportunity of discussing the subject and defending their views. Mr. WAYNE. That is what the friends of the bill desire. Let it take its ordinary course, and it can then be fully discussed. He hoped, therefore, the opposition to it in this stage would be withdrawn, and the o be committed. He yielded the floor to Mr. GORHAM, of Massachusetts, who was decidedly opposed to the bill, but he wished it not to be laid on the table, as that would preclude discussion; and he thought an opportuuity should be afforded for exposing the impolicy of the measure. Mr. WAYNE then rose to proceed with his remarks on the bill; but The SPEAKER interrupted him, by stating that the Clerk had informed him that the bill had received its second reading by its title, which fact the chair had overlooked; and the question being now simply on the commit. ment, it precluded a discussion of the merits of the bill. Mr. WAYNE bowed to the decision of the Chair; and, after some under conversation between other members, Mr. GORHAM, for the purpose of opening the bill to discussion, moved its indefinite postponement. Mr. CAMBRELENG regretted that he had not on this occasion, the powerful aid of the gentleman from Massachusetts. He remembered, nine years ago, when that gentleman was a captain among the advocates of free trade. The House was electrified by that gentleman for near three hours; and without intending any disparagement to a distinguished gentleman who now occupies another body, he must say, that he heard on that day what he thought then, and still thought, the most able, eloquent, and convincing argument he ever listened to, in favor of the broad princiles of free trade. He hoped that the gentleman from assachusetts would vary his motion so as to postpone the
was not without hope that the gentleman from Massachusetts might change his opinions, again become an advocate of free trade—at all events, give the friends of this measure a fair opportunity to defend its merits. Mr. WAYNE again rose, but said he had no desire to go into the merits of the bill at this time, if it should take such a direction as would bring it up regularly for discussion hereafter. Mr. GORHAM said, the gentleman from New York must think him very sincere, if, after the extravagant but altogether unmerited compliments of the gentleman, he still persisted in his opposition to this bill, as a measure of the most extraordinary character ever proposed in this House. Sir, [said Mr. G.] this bill contains provisions which in their operation will derange our whole revenue system, and change all our commercial relations at home and abroad, introducing at the same time an endless series of frauds and perjuries. It transfers, too, to the President almost the whole control over the commerce and revenue of the country. If practicable, which I doubt, it will introduce a principle into commercial policy, mischievous in the highest degree. This discussion [said Mr. G.] had arisen so suddenly, and the hour was so nearly expired when the debate must terminate for to-day, that he should be able hardly more than to mention a few of the most striking objections to the principles, and provisions of the bill. But, [said Mr. G.] before I do this, I think it proper to say a word or two touching the proceedings of the Committee on Commerce upon this bill. Atour last meeting upon public matters, three or four weeks ago, and not more than fifteen or twenty minutes before we were to separate to take our seats in the House, the honorable chairman of our committee [Mr. CAMBRELENG) handed me the draught of this bill, (though I think with a different title.) asking if I agreed that such a bill should be reported. After looking through it, I replied, that it was a sort of consolidated repeal of the tariff laws, that it was introducing principles altogether new into our revenue o and our commercial relations at home and abroad, &c. &c.; and it would be in vain to report such a bill to the House, which had rejected much less objectionable propositions. The rest of the committee having looked into the bill, the chairman called for our opinions, and, by a vote of four to three, the committee being full, it was ordered to be reported to the House. I had reason to be surprised that a measure which was to work a complete revolution in our commerce and revenue, should be thus hastily adopted. But, sir, I will hasten to state a few of the many objections to this extraordinary scheme. In the first place, it reduces at once all duties to thirty per cent, ad valorem, and to the extent of that reduction is a repeal of the tariff laws, not, indeed, as it may suit the interest and convenience of our own Government, or our own citizens, but when the will or interest of any foreign nation may require it. The mere reduction of duties I do not regard as the worst aspects of this part of the bill. Sir, it is, that foreign nations are to judge for us, and not we for ourselves; that all specific duties are, with regard to some nations, to be charged in ad valorem duties and reduced, while, with regard to others, they are to remain specific, and at their old rate; and that the duties on articles of the same kind, from dif. ferent countries, are not only of different rates, but differently estimated. And then, too, what numberless frauds will be practised in fixing this thirty per cent. ad valorem, by appraisements without end, not only in our own ports, but in those of the nations which may come into this strange and novel scheme of reeiprocity? Time does not permit me now to say any thing upon the extraordinary principle of transferring to the Executive Department, as this bill would substantially do, almost the whole control over our foreign and domestic commercial relations. Nor can I now enumerate half the mischiefs
question till the first Monday in January next, wheu he Vol. VI.-109.
of a different character, which would result from the adop
tion of this most pernicious project. A single instance will serve to illustrate its effects in a hundred other cases; and I will ask the attention of the House to only one branch of commerce—the sugar trade. The sugar of Louisiana is now protected by a duty of three cents per pound upon the imported article, which is more than a duty of fifty per cent ad valorem. The prosperity of that State depends, in a great measure, upon sugar planting. Now, we bring sugar from Cuba and other of the West India islands, from South America, particularly from Brazil, and from the East Indies, places wholly o of each other. Should this bill po into a law, some one of these countries, Brazil, probably, (and I believe Brazil alone.) would accept our offer .# reciprocating duties; and what would be the consequence The sugar of Brazil, which costs but four or five cents per pound would come here charged only with a duty o thirty per cent. ad valorem, equal to a duty varying from a cent to a cent and a half, less than half the present duty. There can be no doubt, then, that in a very short time the importer of that article would drive the Louisiana planter from his own market. The ruinous effects to that State are obvious; her prosperity is destroyed at a blow. Nor is this all: Brazil will robably agree to this scheme, but Cuba and Porto Rico, eing dependencies of Spain, could not. The places in the East Indies from which we bring sugar, from the peculiarity of their political condition, could not, or would not, adopt it. And thus the high duty of three cents on sugar from those places is virtually a prohibition of trading with them; and our trade at present with Cuba, as every one knows, and particularly in sugar, is one of the most flourishing and important branches of our commerce. Frauds, too, of a different character from those I have mentioned, would be resorted to. England and France would not, indeed, cannot, reciprocate this rule. But they would be very desirous that we should adopt it with other nations; because they could, through those nations, derive every advantage from it, without yielding us any equivalent in return. There is little doubt that Ham: burg, Bremen, and all the Hanseatic towns, Sweden and Denmark, and, perhaps, Holland—some, if not all of these, would agree with us. The course of things would then be, that British and French goods would shipped to those places; and either there, or at home, so marked and packed, that they might be imported into the United States as Dutch, Swedish, or Danish goods, at the reduced duty. And thus France and England, holding firmly to their restrictive system towards us, would enjoy, through other nations, all the advantages of a total relaxation of our system towards them. But sir, [said Mr. G.] I must close. Many other evils might be pointed out, and will be readily perceived by any one at all acquainted with commerce; and, indeed, there must be many more than perhaps the most experienced merchant can foresee. The measure, if adopted, is a radical change in our revenue system, and all our commercial relations, and cannot but be followed by the most pernicious consequences. The bill is strangely entitled a “bill to amend the navigation laws of the United States,” yet makes no reference to any one of those laws, and eontains not one word about either ships, vessels, or navigation. It should be entitled “a bill to encourage frauds * and perjuries, disturb the revenue, and embarrass and restrict the commerce of the United States.” Mr. G. concluded o saying that he had been surprised into this de"bate, and he threw out these few remarks, the suggestions of the moment, to show the impolicy and ruinous tendency of the measure. Mr. WAYNE said he had two things to complain of one of them in common with the gentleman from Massachusetts. First, he had been surprised into the debate, and then he had been surprised out of it. He would now pro ceed to submit a few considerations on the bill.
[Here the hour expired, and the debate was arrested for the day.]
On motion of Mr. BUCHANAN,
Ordered, That the article of impeachment against James H. Peck, judge of the district court of the United States, for the district of Missouri, be committed to the Commit. tee of the Whole House on the state of the Union.
LAND CLAIMS IN FLORIDA.
The House proceeded to the consideration of the bill entitled “An act for the final settlement of land claims in Florida;" and the question recurred on the passage of the said bill; when A motion was made by Mr. WICKLIFFE, that the said bill be recommitted to the Committee on the Publie Lands, with instructions to amend the same, so as to exclude from the provisions of the bill all such claims as have been confirmed by the register and receiver, upon the evidence of the confirmation of the governors of Florida, after the 24th of January, 1818; and, after a long debate, in which Messrs. WHITE and WILDE zealously opposed the motion, and Mr. WICKLIFFE supported it, the motion was negatived by a large majority; and then the bill was passed, and sent to the Senate for concurrence. [The following are the remarks of Mr. WHITE:1 Mr. WHITE, of Florida, said, he was too sensible of the value of the time of the House, at this late period of the session, to ask its attention longer than was absolutely necessary to reply to some of the most prominent objec. tions that had, in the various stages of its progress, been offered against the passage of the bill now under consi. deration. I did hope [said Mr. W.] that, after the discus. sion in Committee of the Whole, and the decisive indica. tion given of the sense of the House at that time, this bill would not have been embarrassed by a motion to recommit, which, if successful, puts an end to all prospect of its becoming a law at this session of Congress. If I can be able to command the attention of the House for a short time, I trust I shall satisfy them that this bill proposes no new principle in legislation; and that the ap. prehension of any bad consequences, resulting from the first section, in its present shape, is entirely fallacious. The object of Congress in organizing special tribunals for the adjudication of these claims, is to free ourselves from the trouble or necessity of going into an examination of the voluminous documents, and evidence exhibited by the claimants, and the various intricate questions of S usage and law that must arise in the decision of these questions. Such a body as this, organized to consult and legislate upon the various and complicated affairs of s reat empire, has neither the time nor the means of going to a minute or satisfactory investigation of such ques. tions. It has higher duties to perform; and in conse. quence of the utter impracticability, as well as impolicy, of an attempt to decide upon every small land claim, derived from a foreign Government, in the territories acquired by treaty, it has been the established practice to organize a board of eommissioners, to sit in the country where the grants were made, where the archives are deposited, and where the land lies. These officers hold their commis. sions, and receive their compensation, from the Govert. ment, one of the parties directly interested in the decision of every claim presented. If there is any leaning on either side, it is always on that from which the power is derived With the most honest intentions, and a constant effort to ae: without prejudice, there is a constant attraction between all federal officers and the Government and its interests.
Principle, I ask any gentleman to read this report, and
instead of striking from this bill one-half of the cases |s
"onfirmed, I do not hesitate to say that he would be more inclined to say that the number of confirmations ought to be doubled. I do not say that injustice has been done; but I will, say, that, if any has been, it is to the claimants. isay that the rigor with which these claims have been examin. ed, will operate more unjustly to them than the United States, I believe that this is the first instance in the history of our legislation since the Louisiana treaty in 1803, in which an attempt has ever been made to reverse the decisions of our commissioners, and, strike out half of the claims confirmed by them. Numerous instances can be found at every session of Congress, for twenty years, in which the rigor of the commissioners has been mitigated by the clemency of Congress, in giving to every equitable claim the most liberal and favorable interpretation. If this motion succeeds, we shall reverse the order of things, and introduce a new system, as impolitic and unwise in the Government, as it will be oppressive upon a people transferred to us, with a guaranty, on our part, to to what Spain would have done. I have had occasion to look into the history of all that has been done by this Government on this subject, and I do not hesitate to declare that the principle in this bill has been sanctioned at every successive session of Congress for twenty years. What is the object of this motion To recommit the bill, with instructions to strike, from it every claim which the Governor of East Florida had confirmed subsequently to the 24th of January, 1818, the time limited in the treaty, prior to which all grants should have emanated, to be recognise and confirmed by this Government, By the eighth article of our treaty with Spain, the United States agreed to confirm and ratify all grants (“todas las concessiones") and concessions made by the Spanish authorities prior to the 24th January, 1818, to the same extent that they would have been valid, if the territories had remained under the dominion of His Catholic Majesty. This article contemplated the recognition of complete grants, and the completion of imperfect ones, as Spain would have completed them. The quo modo of doing this was left to the justice of this, Government, under a full conviction that the United States would be just, if not libe. ral, to their newly acquired citizens. The act of 1828 conferred the power of doing this upon the register and receiver, who were to act as er officio commissioners to carry this article into effect. These officers sat in the province in, which the land lies, having before them the ar. chives of the Spanish Government. They have presented this report, from which it appears that they have confirmed seventy-one small claims, and rejected one hundred and
thirty-five. The proposition now is, to recommit this bill,
to strike from it thirty cases, Sir, if this motion succeeds, these people will have occasion to regret the day that they were ever transferred to the United States. The act which, according to our ideas, made them free, will, according to their conceptions, make them beggars. I fear some of them will not love liberty so much, as to be entirely contented with your disfranchisement of their property. I say their property, because, if Spain had retained the territories, she would have completed every imperfect title in East Florida, whenever a petition had been presented to the Governor. It was a part of the policy of France, England, and Spain, to grant lands gratuitously to all the inhabitants who would receive them. The most informal and incomplete of these titles were the most honest, and best entitled to our confirmation, when the policy of that Government is considered. The lowest order of these titles, a “permit of settlement,” was declared by the commissioners of West Florida the most honest, as well as the most certain title. To complete it, and obtain a title in the name of the King, called sometimes "title in form,” or
“titulo de propriedad,” or “royal title,” it was only neces. . to summon witnesses to appear before the Governor, and to prove a settlement upon the land, and a continuance a certain length of time. This proof entitled the occupant to a grant in the name of the King. It was a favor to the crown, and not to the subject, to settle and strengthen their distant provinces and colonies. In the interpretation of this treaty, we should remember their policy, and not ours, which holds up the land at a price so high, that it is difficult for a poor man to purchase even the smallest legal division of the surveys. Looking to this policy, can any man doubt what Spain would have done? I cannot doubt but that she would have confirmed every one of those one hundred and thirty-five cases rejected. If any man was not satisfied with his land, he had only to petition the Governor, and a transfer of the location was granted, as a matter of course. The motion now made to recommit this bill with instructions, is placed by the honorable mover on two grounds: the one of which is founded upon the idea that there are grants made subsequent to the time at which Spain was interdicted from making them by the treaty. If gentlemen will take the trouble to look into this report, they will find that every claim dated after that period has been rejected. The commissioners have not, in any instance, confirmed a single claim posterior to the 24th of January, 1818. They have, in about thirty cases, considered the royal title given by the Governor subsequent to that day, and before the delivery of the province to the United States, as evidence of the performance of the condition,
d|I beg the attention of the House to the fact, that these
confirmations are made upon concessions, the largest part of which eventuated from the legitimate authorities of Spain twenty years before the treaty was ever thought of. A concession is a grant, upon condition of settlement. One
of the concessions is given as early as the year 1794. In 1819, the concessionary or claimant came before the Governor, who was a judicial as well as executive officer, and offered his testimony. The witnesses were examined, the proof recorded, and deposited among the pub: lic archives on the protocol called “delligencias." The royal title, as it is called, begins with a recitation, “Par quanto.” &c.; or “whereas." "It recites that a concession issued on such a day upon condition, and that certain witnesses were called and sworn, who proved the performance. These archives are before the commissioners. The testimony is recorded, the witnesses known to the commissioners, or, if dead, or removed to Cuba, their charac: ters are known from their neighbors. The commissioners say we receive this evidence of the performance of the condition. It would be a nugatory and useless act to eall the witnesses over again, when their testimony is recorded, and recited in the royal title given by the Governor. Instead of looking to every act of a Spanish tribunal as a scheme to defraud the United States, I would rather put this more liberal and charitable construction upon it, and consider the act as an evidence of what Spain would have done if the territories had remained under the dominion of His Catholic Majesty. I do not believe that the Governors of East or West Florida were informed of the provisions of the treaty until it was published here after its final ratification in 1821. Until that period they were acting under a sense of their responsibility to their royal master, and their acts ought to be received in the same manner as if there had been no limitation in the treaty. So long as the Governor, had a right to exercise jurisdiction, he had the unquestionable power to, examine witnesses, record testimony, either with a view to its perpetuity, or to be used in foreign, courts. This would seem to be a power so naturally inherent in every tribunal, that it hardly needs a reference for its support to that well known and universally acknowledged principle, in all civilized nations, to receive with respect the acts of all tribunals of other na•-d
tions, and to presume that they acted within the sphere of their jurisdiction and duty. It is nothing more than a principle of comity and courtesy—one which our courts of iii; are in the practice of acting upon, and which has been repeatedly recognised by the Supreme Court of the United States. The King of Spain, and his officers, have as much right to disregard the acts of our tribunals, as we have those of Spain, on the principles of national law; and if these claims are denied on such grounds as are now urged, they will have more reason to question the justice of our decisions, than we have ever yet had to condemn theirs. I am neither the defender nor the apologist of the Spanish authorities. The special court appointed by this Govermnent, having the archives before them, have received this evidence, and confirmed these claims, not on the authority to grant subsequent to the limitation in the treaty, but upon a concession made ten or twenty years before. The performance of the condition only has been proved in due form after the time. The honorable gentleman should recollect that the authorities of Spain were not interdicted by the treaty from the exercise of any jurisdiction, or the execution of any of their functions, until the delivery of the country to the United States. The provision is, that all grants made posterior to that date on be void. In this report, all grants of that description are declared void. The class proposed to be stricken out were made prior, but witnesses were sworn, and proved a settlement according to the terms of the concession subsequently. The commissioners of West Florida, in every case of is kind, confirmed the claim. In the abstracts of the confirmations of that board, in the Executive Documents of 1824–5, which I now hold in my hand, it will be seen that where concessions and royal titles were both made, the one prior and the other subsequent to the 24th of January, 1818, we confirmed the title upon the concession. This was done by the commissioners of East Florida, and by the register and receiver in their report of 1828—all of which have been Po and confirmed by acts of Congress. The principle here is precisely the same, and it is for this House to say whether they were bound to summon witnesses to prove that which had been already proved before a Spanish tribunal, the evidence of which was before them. It would have been an act of supererogation, a useless consumption of time. The next ground of objection is, that we shall establish a dangerous precedent for the courts, which will be injurious to the public interests; and this is seriously urged upon Congress as a reason why this bill should be recommitted. Sir, it is the first time I ever knew that a legislative act was to be received as a precedent for the admissibility of evidence in courts of justice. . Congress may declare that every man may make affidavit to the genuineness of his own grant. Will that justify a court in allowing a man to be a witness in his own case ? The distinction between a legislative body and a judicial tribunal, the one governed by considerations of policy, and the other by fixed laws, seems not to have occurred to the gentle. man. Who ever heard of the decisions of our committees on the evidence offered to them being quoted before judges as a precedent for their decisions? What Congress, in its legislative discretion, chooses to do, has never yet been, and never will be, a precedent for the courts. The courts might as well attempt to pass an appropriation act, as to say * will confirm claims because Congress, confirmed them. need not pursue this part of the subject further, because the question can never be made in the courts. All the cases which are or can be presented to them are now printed by order of this House, and now . my table, to which access can be had by every member. There is not among that number a single case in which a royal title is given after 24th of January, 1818; and if the courts were to look to legislative acts as precedents for them, the case will never occur in which
such a reference can be made. All the apprehensions from this quarter may be quieted by the examination of the cases referred to the courts for deeision. The limita. tion in the treaty, it is well known, was introduced expressly with a view to exclude the grants to the Duke of Alagon, De Vargas, and Count Punon Rostro, and no other. It was so declared at the time of making the treaty, by those who negotiated it. The idea of excluding any other was indignantly repelled by the Spanish minister, and never insisted on by our Government. The President of the United States (Mr. Monroe) informed Congress, in an executive message, that such was the object of that provision. Although such was the view of those who ne: gotiated the treaty, that clause has been so rigidly enforced, as to exclude from confirmation every claim derived from the Spanish Government when they possessed the sove. reignty of the provinces, between the 24th of January, 1818, and July, 1821, when the provinees were delivered All these claims were intended to be, and ought to be confirmed; but by the use of general words, to get rid of the large ones, these, too, have been rejected. Not too tent with this advantage, thus secured against a population that Spain was about to transfer, and about whose rights the King and his ministers were somewhat indifferent, ren: dered more so from a conviction that the inhabitants of the ceded territories desired the change, we are now about to strike out one-half of what has found favor under the rigid construction of the commissioners, because n Spanish governor had the witnesses sworn and the testimony re. |corded. I cannot persuade myself that this House is pre: pared to sanction a principle so unjust and odious. The whole amount of land in these thirty small claims does not exceed fourteen thousand aeres, which is not worth the expenses of this House during the time of this debate. If these claims are stricken out, what is proposed to be done? Is a new board to be organized, after a delay of nine years in the adjustment of these titles? If a new board is to be created, their expenses will be greater than the value of the land. The public surveys will be stopped. the private property eannot be separated from the public. the population of the territory will be retarded, and the most mischievous consequenees result from the delay. Those who are here from the new States well know the difficulties and embarrassments arising from unsettled titles to the country itself; and those who have never seen it, can form but a very imperfeet eoneeption of the misery of pur. suing, for ten years, an uneertain title in the tribunals of a country, the language and forms of which the petitioner cannot comprehend. The cry of fraud at this period of the session, the denunciation of all that is of Spanish origin, is enough to overturn the most beneficial measures; but I trust that this House, from the confidence re in its own tribunal, from the long delay and injustice already done to these claimants, and from a regard for the territory itself, will not recommit this bill, and produce confusion in the country, and certain ruin among its inhabitants.
SATURDAY, MAY 1.
The House resumed the consideration of the bill to amend the navigation laws of the United States, reported by Mr. CAMBRELENG, from the Committee on Commerce, yesterday.
The question recurred on the motion made by Mr. G08. HAM, that the further consideration of the said bill be postponed indefinitely.
Mr. WAYNE, of Georgia, rose and addressed the House until the expiration of the hour, in support of the policy [. by the bill. He had not concluded when the our expired.
JUDGE PECK. Mr. BUCHANAN moved to postpone the orders of th