« ПретходнаНастави »
fect of testimony. But this reasonable practice, which is a necessary safeguard against abuse, has been disregarded in the present case. No evidence of any kind
not a shred or particle-was produced. The majority of the Committee undertook to act at once, on loose and general report, gathered from the public press at a moment of excitement. In this report they have obviously proceeded with more haste than discretion. Such a course cannot be in conformity with approved precedents. In itself it will be a bad precedent for the future.
But this proceeding seems more obnoxious to comment, when it is known that it appears, from the very sources on which the Committee relied, that the facts in question are all at this moment the subject of judicial inquiry, still pending, in the courts at Boston. Several citizens have been indicted for participation in the transaction to which reference is made, and in which Batchelder is said to have been killed. Their trials have not yet taken place, but are near at hand. Under these peculiar circumstances, the indiscreet haste of the Committee, thus acting in advance of authentic evidence, and lite pendente, is enhanced by possible detriment to the grave interests of justice, which all will admit should not be exposed to partisan influence from abroad. The report accompanying the bill, without any aid from human testimony, undertakes to pronounce dogmatically on facts which will be in issue on these trials. Anticipating the court, and literally without a hearing, it gives judgment on absent persons, as well as on dis
On grounds irrespective of the merits of the case, the undersigned object to any action upon it on the pres
ent evidence, and in the existing state of things. They object for two reasons: first, that such action would become a bad precedent, opening the way to a disregard of evidence in the distribution of pensions and bounties; and, secondly, that it would be an interference offensive, though indirect with the administration of justice, in matters still pending, and involving the fortunes of several citizens. These reasons are ample.
But on other grounds, of a different character, and vital to the merits of the case, the undersigned must dissent from the majority of the Committee.
Regarding the Act of Congress usually known as the Fugitive Slave Act as unconstitutional, while it is justly condemned by the moral sense of the communities where it is sought to be enforced, the undersigned are not disposed to recognize any services rendered in its enforcement as meritorious in character. Especially are they unwilling to depart beyond the clear line of precedent, in voting bounties on account of such services. This of itself is sufficient reason for opposition to the proposed bill.
But admitting for the moment the asserted constitutionality of the Fugitive Slave Act, and its conformity with just principles of duty, and admitting further, that efforts for its enforcement are to be placed in the same scale with efforts to enforce other Acts of Congress, of acknowledged constitutionality, and clear conformity with just principles of duty, then the undersigned beg leave to submit, that, according to the practice of our country, such efforts have not been considered as entitled to the ordinary reward of pensions or kindred bounties.
The pensions and kindred bounties of our country have been founded exclusively on military and naval services. In England, civil services, whether on the bench, in diplomacy, or in the departments of State, are subjects of pension; but it is otherwise here. With us there are no general laws to this end; nor are there special laws of such clear meaning and character as to become precedents, sanctioning pensions or bounties for civil service. A report of this Committee, made by its Chairman at this very session of Congress, states the rule and practice of Congress. Here is the whole report.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES.
"Mr. JONES, of Iowa, made the following report. "The Committee on Pensions, to whom was referred the petition of Rebecca Bright, beg leave to report :—
"That the petitioner is the widow of Jacob Bright, an armorer, who was killed at the navy-yard in this city by the bursting of a shell. He being an employee of the Government, and in no sense to be regarded as in its military or naval service,' the Committee can find no reason, founded in law or justice, for pensioning his widow. Her case is precisely that of the widow of a laborer or mechanic employed by the day or month upon any public work. They therefore recommend that the prayer of the petitioner be rejected."
And yet, in the very teeth of this recommendation, made by themselves at this very session, the Committee now propose to bestow a bounty upon such services. If the Committee were right in their former report, they cannot be right now.
1 Reports of the Committees of the Senate, 33d Cong. 1st Sess., No. 199.
The report accompanying the bill shows that three of the Committee have felt that their recommendation needed the support of precedents, and they have ransacked the records for them. Two only are produced.
The first is an Act of Congress, bearing date June 7, 1794, which provides "that the sum of two thousand dollars be allowed to the widow of Robert Forsyth, late marshal of the district of Georgia, for the use of herself and the children of the said Robert Forsyth." On search in the office of the Secretary of the Senate, where this bill originated, and also at the Treasury, where the money was paid, no papers have been found showing the occasion of this grant; nor has anybody undertaken to state any. This precedent, then, can bet of little value in establishing an important rule in the dispensation of national bounties.
The only other precedent adduced by the Committee is an Act bearing date May 8, 1820, providing "that the Postmaster-General be, and he hereby is, authorized and directed to pay to the widow of John Heaps, late of the city of Baltimore, who, while employed as a carrier of the mail of the United States, and having the said mail in his custody, was beset by ruffians and murdered, out of the money belonging to the United States, arising from the postage of letters and packets, five hundred dollars in ten equal semiannual payments." On this precedent Congress will surely hesitate to establish a rule which will open a new drain upon the country.
The general laws do not award pensions or bounties for services in enforcing the revenue laws of the country; and it is not known that any special acts have ever been passed rewarding such services,
though they have often been rendered at imminent. danger to life, as well from shipwreck as from the violence of smugglers. The proposed bill will be an apt precedent for bounty in this large class of cases; and it may properly be opposed by all who are not ready for a new batch of claimants.
The undersigned venture to make a single comment further on the report accompanying the bill. This report, not content with assigning reasons for its proposed bounty, proceeds to take cognizance of the conduct of the people of Massachusetts, the citizens, the soldiers, the marshal and his deputies, the mayor and police of Boston, in the recent transaction, and assumes to hold the scales of judgment. In this respect it evinces an indiscreet haste, similar to that already displayed in acting on the present proposition, without authentic evidence, and during the pendency of judicial investigations. It appears from the public journals, out of which all our information on this matter is derived, that the conduct of several public functionaries, on this occasion, in Massachusetts, has been seriously drawn in question. The marshal of the district is openly charged with making the arrest of the alleged fugitive under the fraudulent pretence that he was a criminal, a scandalous device, which no honest man can regard without reprobation. The mayor of Boston is also openly charged with violation of the primal principles of free institutions and of the law of the land, in surrendering the city for the time being into the possession of a military force, and thus establishing there that supremacy of arms under which all law is silent. But on these things the undersigned express no opinion. They desire only to withhold all assent from the blindfold ratification which the