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H. OF R.

General Wilkinson,

JANUARY, 1808.

power which the Constitution does not permit. ment of any officer of the United States, who shall Who, it has been asked, will resist this motion? hereafter receive a pension from the Government of any The moment our exercise of what is called the foreign Power; and of any person holding an office of national will becomes unconstitutional, that mo- profit or trust under the United States, who shall, withment it will be resisted. It is not only in the out the consent of Congress, accept of any present, power but it is the duty of every American citi emolument, office, or any title of any kind whatever, zen to resist our exercise of power upon subjects from any King, Prince, or foreign State, contrary to the over which we have no jurisdiction.

ninth section of the first article of the Constitution of But it is contended, if we have not this power purpose of obtaining information to guide the House

the United States; and that the said committee, for the by those clauses of the Constitution vesting gen- of Representatives in exercising the powers of legiseral powers, or in consequence of our right to ex- lation upon those subjects, be instructed and empowercise the national will, that still we have power ered to inquire whether any officer of the United States to impeach the President of the United States, has heretofore received such a pension, or any present and therefore to inquire whether he has done his or other reward from a foreign Power, contrary to the duty as to this or that particular officer.

said provision of the Constitution, and that the said This doctrine may be more specious and more committee report a statement of facts, with their opinion tenable than any other points which the gentle thereon, to the House. man proposed. We have the power, it is true, to

Mr. Rowan said, he would notice some of the impeach the President of the United States; for observations made by the gentlemen from South what? For the exercise of the discretion reposed Carolina and Vermont in answer to his observain him? No. We have the right and power to tions of yesterday; the observations of the gentleimpeach him for high crimes and misdemeanors. man from North Carolina he should pass over, Well, suppose a mass of evidence offered to the because they did not occupy the level of gentleHouse, which, in the opinion of a majority, de manly discussion; besides there are individuals stroys the character of a great military officer, publicly known to be surrounded by an atmosand that the same evidence offered to the Execu- phere which secures them from the personal police tive did not produce upon his mind the same ef- of a gentleman. fect. We have no power to impeach this officer ; the President has the power to remove him, and that General Wilkinson had at any time been a

It had not been noticed in the course of debate, is most naturally the judge of the weight of evi- civil officer. It was known however that he had dence. But, even admitting the gentleman's construction of the Constitution as a co-ordinate been Governor of Upper Louisiana, and commisbranch of the Government, he has the same right sioner at the delivery and receipt of New Orleans; as this House to form a judgment. Can it be and from the evidence before then it was as probpretended that we can impeach the President able that he had received a pension while a civil

, because he does not weigh evidence in the same

as a military officer; if while a civil, upon the scale as we do? I presume not. We believe ground that an impeachment could be preferred, this officer to be guilty; the President does not be relied upon the grounds taken yesterday, and

an inquiry ought to be made. If while a military, Can we impeach him for his belief? If we can; the reasons drawn from the general terms of the it is in vain to talk about our Constitutional powers and the proper exercise of them. The Constitution to support the position, that an inpresent may be a casus omissus in the Constitu- quiry ought to be made. These provisions of the tion and our laws. We cannot insert this omit- them as delegating a power to provide for the

Constitution must mean something; he considered ted case in the Constitution, though we may pro- common weal. If it were not so, if an inquiry vide against similar occurrences, in future, within could not be made, he should think it a lamentthe sphere of our legal powers. I conclude, therefore, that neither upon the

able thing. He could not bring himself to conground of our general power

, nor upon that that ceive, that the Army of the United States (to be we have the right to set the national will in mo- sure it was small at present, but it might soon be tion, or that when in motion it is irresistible; nor head of that army, and that the Constitution in

enlarged) should be corrupt, or the officer at the upon the ground that we possess the power to stead of affording, precluded a remedy-that when inquiry of this description. Still do I believe that the Commander-in-Chief was said to be alien we possess the power, and that in certain cases from his country, a Spanish pensioner, and to and in a certain manner we can exercise it

, so far have attempted a dismemberment of the Union, as relates to the subject of a foreign pension; and an inquiry could not be made. as in this late period of the discussion, I wish to

Let it be understood, said Mr. R. that all my compress my observations, as much as possible, I arguments are predicated upon the ground that in will state my conception of the power of the appointing this committee the House will exerHouse, and how it can act, in the form of a reso

cise a Constitutional power; upon that ground I lution which I now offer as a concluding argu contended (and not upon the ground of Parliamenment, and which I shall probably move when ihe tary omnipotence) that the committee could fine whole of the present proposition shall be, as I and imprison one who stood out in contempt; that hope it will be rejected :

they could coerce their attendance, and in short, Resolved, That a Committee be appointed to inquire use every means adapted to the end-an effectual into the expediency of passing a law for the punish-I inquiry.' If the House have not the power to ap

JANUARY, 1808.

General Wilkinson.

H. of R.

point a committee of inquiry on this subject, then objection, the exercise of a power which did not the committee have not the power to finé, im- belong to them, but which they had already asprison, &c. I think the House have the power; sumed, by agreeing that the House should receive

wish' it to be determined; if I am not mistaken, information; if this was wrong, it respected themI must be satisfied with the decision of this House. selves only, and he, for the reasons he had stated, But that the decision might be fairly bad upon was reconciled to it, in the form it had been the power of the House to institute this inqury, moulded into; in that form it did not invade the Mr. R. said, he would ask the Speaker if he had province of any other department of Government, pot a right to withdraw his resolution; if he had, and embracing as it did objects of legislative inveshe would do so, and present it again without the tigation, it could at worst be only an unnecessary amendment by the gentleman from Virginia, and and inexpedient step. But however satisfied he thus avoid the motion of the gentleman from might have been on the Constitutional ground, of North Carolina.

the right of Congress to entertain the question of Mr. R. then withdrew his resolution; and, be- commitment to members of their own body, as it fore it could be offered again,

respected the resolution just withdrawn, he con. Mr. RANDOLPH renewed his motion, in the fol- fessed he was opposed to it as inexpedient, and lowing words:

prepared to vote in favor of the motion to strike Resolved, That the President of the United States out that part of the resolution which contemplated be requested to cause an inquiry to be instituted into the commitment to a special committee; because the conduct of Brigadier General Wilkinson, Com- he was perfectly well satisfied from what he saw, mander-in-Chief of the Armies of the United States, in that the reference would be extremely impolitic, relation to his having, at any time, while in the ser- perhaps of very dangerous consequence. This vice of the United States, corruptly received money conviction had been wrought and confirmed in from the Government of Spain, or its agents.

his mind by the speech of the gentleman from He said he had withdrawn it only to give the Kentucky, in support of his proposition of refergentleman from Kentucky an opportunity of ta- ence. With the powers contended for, and the king the sense of the House on his proposition; to character which has been attributed to the spirit do which, in his opinion, every gentleman had a of such a committee, it would certainly be the right. He perceived that the gentleman from most odious, and perhaps the most really terrific Kentucky was about to be deprived of taking the tribunal ever erected in the world. But to the sense of the House by an evasion of the question, resolution, to which their attention was now reand now renewed his own motion, which he had called, the objections appeared in a two-fold view. only withdrawn with an intention to renew it if It was inexpedient in forming a precedent, which, that of the gentleman from Kentucky should not on some future occasion, might be used to disgrace be adopted. He would here say, that though he the nation, by converting its House of Represendid not agree with all the doctrines of the gentle- tatives into a vehicle of slander, and the Hall of man, that he thought all his arguments which the National Councils into a scene of intrigue, bore upon this case were unanswerable.

and a theatre of faction and cabal; unconstituThe House agreed to consider Mr. RANDOLPA's tional, because it required of another department resolution-51 to 36.

of our Government to do an act on a subject exMr. Alston said it would be recollected by clusively confided to it, which a law of our own the House, that he had for some time taken do making has already recognised to be delegated kind of notice of what had fallen from the gentle- solely to it, and thus in direct violation of the man from Kentucky (Mr. Rowan,) considering principles acknowledged by the ablest civilians everything which had fallen from him as the echo who have written on the subject, authorizing the of others. He should not now have condescended encroachment of one branch of ihe Government to notice him but for his personal attack upon on the proper powers of another. On this subject, bim last evening, which Mr. A. said he had at- Mr. L. said, other gentleman and himself, on a tempted to repel'in the way it merited. He had former day, had said enough. He would add but no objection to join issue with the gentleman, and one or two observations. It seemed to him that never regard what he might hereafter say. the provisions of the Constitution could not be

Mr. Love.-Being led back to the consideration mistaken; strong arguments were derived in supof the original resolution of the gentleman from port of his opinion, even from the expressions of Virginia, the Constitutional objection to the mea- the Federal instrument; it gave in express terms sure fully recurs. He had yielded, Mr. L. said, to to the House of Representatives, the right of inthe opioion that the modification given to the re- stituting the trial by impeachment of the civil ofsolution of the gentleman from Kentucky (Mr. ficers of Government, without including those of Rowan) had exempted it from the Constitutional a military description. The omission could but objection, by making it possible that the matter have been a purposed one; the framers of the of it might, in some of its parts, lead to subjects Constitution having been certainly led to a conwithin the cognizance of the House. Perhaps he sideration of the whole subject. The tenure by had the more easily given way to this opinion, which military officers held their commissions, from the great anxiety he felt to satisfy the pub- proves the futility of the supposition that this lic mind, by giving the utmost range to inquiry; House could ever have been intended to interfere at least the reference of it to a committee, would with their conduct, and that a responsibility as to be attended with the single and less dangerous them must necessarily rest on another depart

H. of R.

General Wilkinson.

JANUARY, 1808.

ment. The power of the President over military | ed, exercised its power to the annihilation of the officers is as full at least, and much more efficient, others, and the utter destruction of the peace and and prompt in execution, than the power of the safety of the State. To England, too, the framers Legislature over civil officers by the mode of im- of our Constitution might have turned their eyes, peachment. This is a construction too obvious to for many of the examples of the dreadful evils be

gotten over by any acknowledged rules or prin- which arise from the assumption of all the powciples. It was true, said Mr. L., a gentleman from ers of Government, by one branch of it. It was Vermont (Mr. Elliot,) a few days ago, in dis- to avoid these evils, and insure a permanency to cussing this subject, assumed a position of the fol- our institutions which nothing should impair, that lowing description :. “That although the power the distributions of power were made, and it is to act on this subject is not delegated by the with a view to these dreadful examples that we Constitution, yet, if it is not denied to the Gov- are now called on to preserve the sacred spirit of enment or expressly reserved to the Siates, we our institutions, and to discountenance this most ' have it," and in conformity to this doctrine, of direct attack made on the principles which are to which, indeed, much had been said in former times, sustain us. Let not this House be betrayed into the construction by implication, and incidental error, which hereafter may be found irremediable, power, was strongly insisted on. But what was, by the apparent intocence of the simple language indeed, more calculated to excite his surprise, he of request, and by the author of the resolution. afterwards found the author of the resolution him. The power to request, is an assumption of a right self arguing in support of the same positions; an of interference which may at a future time be used, argument which, Mr. L. said, seemed so directly to support a demand; it will form a precedent we contradictory, and in so obvious hostility to that may at a future time wish to get clear off, when so ably and eloquently urged by the gentleman but we have it not in our power. If we have cogni. a few weeks since, in defence of the reserved pow. zance of the subject, and really think we are called ers of the people and the States, that indeed ii had on by our duty to exercise it, why use the humble excited bis astonishment. Such is the state of language of request; why not in the manly tone hostility in which the different positions are ar- of the Representatives of the nation, demand that rayed, that even the superior ingenuity of the gen- a certain thing be done, which is said to be netleman from Virginia, he would defy to reconcile cessary - ? them.

But, said Mr. L., for what purpose is this resBut, said Mr. L., if the expressions and acknow- olution still pressed on us? It cannot be for the ledged principles of construction, which he sup- direct purpose of having the terms of it complied posed to be perfectly settled at this day, were not with, that is already done; there is no man on decisive, let us look back to the experience of the this foor who doubts, or preiends to doubt it. But, world, with respect to all the Governments which indeed, some have said ihat we are not officially have ever existed, and see what must have been informed of it. Can this make a difference, when the intention of the wise framers of the Federal the fact is as well ascertained as if indeed the PreConstitution, in the very special delineation they sident had gone so far out of the line of his duty have made of the different powers of the three as to tell us of his having ordered a court of ingreat branches of our Government. It would not quiry on an officer of the Army at his own request ? be too much to say, that the destruction of every We cannot then expect an official communication. system or plan of Government, which ever had a Would our request or demand give more effect to pretension to the security of the liberty of the the inquiries of such a court ? No, this cannot be people, as one of its ingredients, had been lost, pretended, it sits under a law already in existor its termination hastened by a union of all the ence, and its powers are as clearly marked out as great powers in the hands of one body. It was to those of any other tribunal Congress has erected the retrospect, of this prominent hisiorical illus- for the administration of justice. Had the Pretration, that the framers of our Constitution could sident given us information that this court of innot but have had their attention most forcibly quiry was now sitting, what should we have said ? drawn. They knew well the tumulis and con- He could have had no official information of what tinued scenes of disorder which Rome in her best we are doing, and it certainly would have been days had been subjected to, from the entire want considered as a very improper intrusion into the of anything like an organization of the distinct public councils

, and it would have been at once powers of a State in different and distinct branches. declared that ii was an undue attempt to govern By the undistinguished use of all the great pow- our decisions. ers of the State, at different times, the consular Well, as we know that this court is now sitting, power, the power of the tribunes, the power of if indeed our wishes are to ease the public mind, the Senate, and the other favorite great deposito- wherefore object to the immediate iransmission ries of the strength of the people, exercised each of the papers we have, in order to enable that court in their turn, and sometimes several at the same to pursue its inquiries? There could be no direct period, all the Legislative, Executive and Judicial object left for the resolution; if a sinister one, it functions of Government. They were each, the was certainly not the duty of the House to promote makers, the judges, and the executioners of the it. It was but too obvious there could be but a law; the life of every citizen and every soldier, single object now for pressing the resolution : if was in the hands of each of those bodies, and the it is adopted it will be a means in the hands of the one which happened to be most strongly support enemies of the Administration to prove that the JANUARY, 1808.

General Wilkinson.



Executive had neglected to do a duty until the of those who now administer the Government of interference of the Legislature compelled it. How my country, and of the opponents to the present gratifying this might be to some gentlemen, it was motion, I shall lament a decision which will afnot for him to say; they had already declared it. ford a pretext for invectivemfor attributing to them But is this doing justice to the public? If the motives the most unworthy and detestable. President has neglected a duty, we can act upon What is the proposition before the House ? Is him, we cannot compel him to act on others, we it to punish an innocent man without a trial ? ought not to attempt even to influence him to do Or to hold up unnecessarily and improperly to so—it would be assuming on ourselves the respon- public suspicion the character of an individual, to sibility due from him; if he does wrong impeach gratify private resentments? Or is it to assume him. Let not gentlemen, if they really believe their powers which are withheld from us by the Concountry injured by the conduct of the Executive, stitution of the United States ? No such objects be ashamed or afraid to speak in the language of are contemplated. A gentleman from Virginia the Constitution : to request him to do a thing having received information that the Commander which pertains to him as a part of his duty, is in of your Army had been guilty of treachery to his express terms a charge of having neglected his country in becoming a pensioner of Spain, deemed duty: if such is really the case, let him account it his duty to communicate it to this House, whose for it. But the question is at present a different province it is to raise and support armies and to

The course for us to pursue in the discharge provide for the common defence and general welof our duty is a elear one, which cannot be mis- fare of the nation. Having done so, he has offered taken ; let us give all the effect in our power to a resolution, couched in respectful language, rethe inquiry, by making an immediate transmission questing the President to institute an inquiry for of the papers and information we have to the Pre- the purpose of ascertaining the innocence or guilt sident, in order that it may be laid before the pro- of the accused. Is there anything unfair or unjust per court. This would be the way to satisfy the in this proceeding? Surely not. It is in my public mind, and not employ ourselves here in opinion ihe very course which our duty as guarmaking an empty sound of charges, which we dians of the national security and justice to Genhave neither the power to prosecute nor punish. eral Wilkinson, commands us to pursue. If the Whether he was of opioion with the gentleman gentleman from Virginia, after communicating from Kentucky (Mr. Rowan) that the accused is the information, had evinced an inclination to guilty, or whether he was of a contrary opinion, stop further investigation, he might with some was to the public of but little moment; our opin- propriety have been charged with cruel injustice; ions are on this subject but the opinions of indi- but under the existing circumstances I cannot perviduals, they can never be more. His accusation ceive the grounds for such a charge. has afforded an opportunity for the display of the The very course is pointed out which innocence powers of a warm fancy; how far it has operated would desire and by which guilt may be exposed. on the judgment, or produced a conviction on the Now, reject the motion, and what impression will mind, justice to ihe public and the accused both be made upon the public mind? Will it be faseem to forbid a declaration. Mr. L. repeated vorable to the accused, honorable to this House, that he only wished such measures should be pur- or satisfactory to the nation? I fear it will not. sued, as would most effectually promote a proper

We are told that if the resolution is adopted we inquiry and satisfy the public mind; and would determine the guilt of General Wilkinson. How therefore, when a proper opportunity offered, move such an inference can be drawn it is difficult to a resolution which he thought would best answer perceive. Every gentleman who has spoken upon the purpose.

ihe subject, admitted that there were grounds for Mr. Bibb.- After the very tedious discussion suspicion, and that further inquiry was indispenyou have heard, I should be unmindful of the feel- sable. What does the motion propose ? Simply ings of the House were I to detain them long. to petition the proper authority to inquire; and But, having listened patiently to the arguments cannot possibly imply a conviction of guilt. It of others, I feel my right to claim their attention is objected, however, that this House does not posfor a few moments while I express the reasons sesss the Constitutional power which they are which will induce me to give an affirmative vote, called upon to exercise. and shall endeavor to remove the Constitutional I understand the resolution to be nothing more objections which have been urged against the re-than a petition to the Executive. I ask, then, solution. I regret extremely that the opposition whether by the Constitution of the United States, should bave come from the quarter it has, because every citizen is not invested with the right to it will have a tendency to confirm the suspicions petition any department of this Government? entertained against General Wilkioson, and to Sir, every man in the nation, however mean his countenance the insinuation that the Administra- rank, or abject his condition, and every lawful tion are disposed to prevent a fair and impartial assemblage of men, hold this Constitutional privinvestigation, fearful his guilt might be exposed. ilege, of which they cannot be deprived. And If I were so uncharitable as to suspect the purity are we, the Representatives of the people, to be exof the motives of the who differ in opinion with cluded from those important rights with which, me upon this occasion, I should rejoice at the de- as citizens and freemen, we are invested by the cision it is feared they are about io make. But Constitution of our country? No. If holding a confiding as I do in the integrity and patriotism seat in this House divests me of the most valua


H. of R.
General Wilkinson.

JANUARY, 1808.
ble privileges, I am ready to resign it, and will the Executive. From the present state of my
again occupy the honorable station of a citizen. feelings, I shall give my voie so far, but not one
But an additional right to pass the resolution is titile farther.
given us by another provision of the Constitution. Mr. HOLLAND.-The gentleman last up but one,
It is made the duty of the President to communi- has told us that good grounds are pointed out, on
cate to Congress from time to time such informa- which the guilt or innocence of General Wilkin-
tion on the state of the Union as may be deemed son could be established, and from this has de-
necessary and proper. Why was this duty assign- duced an argument that we ought to instruct the
ed to the President? Certainly that Congress President in his duty. Immediately after, he ad-
might know where to resort for information to duced the right of petition in favor of adopting
direct their Legislative proceedings, and because the resolution. Is this House reduced to the
from the nature of his other duties he must be humble situation of being mere petitioners to the
better informed generally upon the affairs of the Executive to do his duty or grant us our right?
nation than they could be. At the commence That consideration alone would induce me to op-
ment of every session the President, in compliance pose the measure. This House has rights and
with his ty, communicates such information as should demand, not petition for them; the Con-
he thinks necessary; but it cannot be expected stitution never contemplated that this body should
that he can foresee the various subjects which may petition. I feel myself placed in a dignified situa-
occupy the attention of the Legislature, and upon iion, and never will consent to such an abasement.
which they may want information: and shall it We have, however, arrived at the point when
not be asked for when it is wanted? If it be bis it is acknowledged that this principle is not recog-
duty to communicate it from time to time, we nised by the Constitution of the country. This
must have the right to ask for it, whenever we proposition is the same in effect, though not in
cannot act without it. Such is our present situa- ihe same plain language as that offered by the
tion ; we are called upon to add to our Military gentleman from Kentucky, and which has been
Establishment, for which purpose a bill is already withdrawn to make way for this, in return for
introduced. I should probably vote for it, if I which the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Ran-
were certain that the suspicions entertained against DOLPH) bas declared the arguments of the gentle-
a portion of the Army were groundless. But this man from Kentucky (Mr. Rowan) to be unan-
is a matter of doubt and uncertainty. It is now swerable. This resolution is the same in sub-
proposed to request the President to institute an stance, asking the President to do a thing which
inquiry, that we may be informed whether an we have not a right to demand. This is the
addition to the Army can be safely made or not. substance of the argument just delivered in favor
Until such inquiry is made, and such information of it. Iam informed that the Senate is trying one
is received, I cannot act in a way satisfactory to of its members: suppose we enter into a reso-

lution to inquire into the conduct of the same Thus I derive the authority to adopt the reso- person. Would it not in us be an act of superelution before you, from the undoubted right to rogation? We are informed from good authority petition, and from the indispensable power of this that this work is going on, that General Wilkin-House to ask for information with a view to the son is on his trial, that the proper department is direction of their Legislative conduct.

going on with this business. How, then, can we In times of danger and alarm like the present, iake it up? it cannot be expected that the Representatives of This proposition means something that cannot the people will consent to commit the interests be acknowledged, that will not bear the light of and safety of their country to those, in whose day: and, therefore, I am opposed to this resolufidelity and patriotism they have not the most tion and all such. perfect confidence. And until my doubts are re- Mr. Livermore said the resolution in its presmoved I shall withhold my assent from adding ent form was considerably varied from what it a single man to our Army. However critical was yesterday; he should briefly make a few obour situation, whatever dangers may surround us, servations on the subject. I will trust the defence of the nation to the militia There had been information given to the House alone.

of something which looked like a conspiracy Mr. Sloan.-So much time has been spent on against the Government; and also of something this subject, that I should not now bave risen had which looked like bribery. Without entering into it not been to notice the ingenious turn my friend an investigation or analysis of the evidence," it from Georgia has given to this, on the ground of was such as to induce the House to say that any its being a petition to the President of the United person guilty of the crimes alleged by it to have States. I shall just observe that I do not remem- been committed, was unfit for an officer of the ber that upon any subject there had been so many United States. The proposition now under conattempts to give such different turns and dress to sideration was simply to inquire, or, in other words, the matter under consideration ; for what purpose that the President of the United States be requestI do not say. All I do say, is, that I hope no in- ed to inquire, into the conduct of this officer. genuity, or change of dress, will induce a large This at first view did not strike his mind as being majority of the House to swerve from their duty; worthy of so much consideration whether or not I hope we shall do nothing further than transmit it should be adopted; he could not have conceived the papers without other weight or observation to it possible that there should be any discussion on it.

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