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Wirt remarks, that “it is unnecessary to express an opinion upon the correctness of this position, because, if it be correct, the act of remission by the President being wholly inoperative as to that portion of the fine claimed by the collector, his legal right to recover it remained in full force, notwithstanding the remission; and it is his own fault, if he has not enforced his right at law.” (Opinions of the Attorneys-General, Vol. I. p. 479.)
A general pardon cannot conclude the question so as to divest any existing rights. It can do no wrong. Why should the President hesitate to exercise it?
II. By a limited pardon the President may discharge Drayton and Sayres simply and exclusively from their imprisonment, without touching their pecuniary liability, but leaving them still exposed to proceedings for all fines and costs, to be satisfied out of any property they may hereafter acquire.
If the imprisonment were a specific part of the sentence,--as, if they had been sentenced to one year's imprisonment and a fine of one hundred dollars, -- beyond all question they might be discharged, by pardon, from this imprisonment. But where the imprisonment, as in the present case, is not a specific part of the sentence, but simply an alternative in the nature of a remedy, to secure the payment of the fine, the power of the President cannot be less than in the former case.
So far as all private parties are concerned, the imprisonment is a mere matter of remedy, which can be discharged without divesting the beneficiaries of any rights; and since imprisonment for debt has been abolished, it is reasonable, under the circumstances, that this peculiar remedy should be discharged.
III. By another form of limited pardon, the President may discharge Drayton and Sayres from their imprisonment, also from all fines and costs in which the United States have an interest, without touching the rights of other parties.
This would set them at liberty, but would leave them exposed to private proceedings at the instigation of the owners of the "transported” slaves, if any should be so disposed.
IV. By still another form of pardon, reference may be made to the Maryland statute of 1782, under which the Governor is authorized "to remit the whole or any part of any fine," without any exception therefrom; and this power, now vested in the President, may be made the express ground for the remission of all fines and costs due from Drayton and Sayres. By this form of pardon the case may be limited, as a precedent hereafter, to a very narrow circle of cases. It would not in any way affect cases arising under the general laws of the Union.
In either of these alternatives the great object of this application would be gained, — the discharge of these men from prison.
CHARLES SUMNER. May 14, 1852.
PRESENTATION OF A MEMORIAL AGAINST THE
FUGITIVE SLAVE BILL,
REMARKS IN THE SENATE, May 26, 1852.
IN THE SENATE, Wednesday, 26th May, 1852, on the presentation of a Memorial against the Fugitive Slave Bill, the following passage occurred, which illustrates the sensitiveness of the Senate with regard to Slavery and the impediments to its discussion. Mr. Sumner said :
R. PRESIDENT, — I hold in my hand, and desire
to present, a memorial from the representatives of the Society of Friends in New England, formally adopted at a public meeting, and authenticated by their clerk, in which they ask for the repeal of the Fugitive Slave Bill. After setting forth their sentiments on the general subject of Slavery, the memorialists proceed as follows.
“We, therefore, respectfully, but earnestly and sincerely, entreat you to repeal the law of the last Congress respecting fugitive slaves : first and principally, because of its injustice towards a long sorely oppressed and deeply injured people ; and, secondly, in order that we, together with other conscientious sufferers, may be exempted from the penalties which it imposes on all who, in faithfulness to their Divine Master, and in discharge of their obligations to their distressed fellow-men, feel bound to regulate their conduct, even under the heaviest penalties which man can inflict for so doing, by the divine injunction, ‘All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, and by the other commandment, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself.'”
Mr. President, — This memorial is commended by the character of the religious association from which it proceeds, — men who mingle rarely in public affairs, but with austere virtue seek to carry the Christian rule into life.
THE PRESIDENT [Mr. KING, of Alabama). The Chair will have to interpose. The Senator is not privileged to enter into a discussion of the subject now. The contents of the memorial, simply, are to be stated, and then it becomes a question whether it is to be received, if any objection is made to its reception. Silence gives consent. After it is received, he can make a motion with regard to its reference, and then make any remarks he thinks proper.
Mr. SUMNER. I have but few words to add, and then I propose to move the reference of the memorial to the Committee on the Judiciary. THE PRESIDENT.
The memorial has first to be received, before any motion as to its reference can be entertained. The Senator presenting a memorial states distinctly its objects and contents; then it is sent to the Chair, if a reference of it is desired. But it is not in order to enter into a discussion of the merits of the memorial until it has been received. 1
MR. SUMNER. I do not propose to enter into any such discussion. I have already read one part of the memorial, and it was my design merely to refer to the character of the memorialists, – a usage which I have observed on this floor . constantly,
and to state the course I should pursue, concluding with a motion for a reference.
1 On any subject but Slavery there was no check upon Senators at any timne.
TJE PRESIDENT. The Chair will hear the Senator, if such is the pleasure of the Senate, if he does not go into an elaborate discussion. MR. SUMNER.
I have no such purpose.
MR. SUMNER. I observed that this memorial was commended by the character of the religious association from which it proceeds. It is commended also by its earnest and persuasive tone, and by the prayer which it presents. Offering it now, Sir, I desire simply to say, that I shall deem it my duty, on some proper occasion hereafter, to express myself at length on the matter to which it relates. Thus far, during this session, I have forborne. With the exception of an able speech from my colleague [Mr. Davis], the discussion of this allabsorbing question has been mainly left with Senators from another quarter of the country, by whose mutual differences it is complicated, and between whom I do not care to interfere. But there is a time for all things. Justice also requires that both sides should be heard ; and I trust not to expect too much, when, at some fit moment, I bespeak the clear and candid attention of the Senate, while I undertake to set forth, frankly and fully, and with entire respect for this body, convictions deeply cherished in my own State, though disregarded here, to which I am bound by every sentiment of the heart, by every fibre of my being, by all my devotion to country, by my love of God and man. Upon these I do not enter now. Suffice it, for the present, to say, that, when I undertake that service, I believe I shall utter nothing which, in any just sense, can be called sectional, unless the Constitution is sectional, and unless