Слике страница
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

In the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern District of New York.


THE title-page discloses the sources from which this abridgment is made, and shows them all to be authentic, and reliable,―well known to the public, and sanctioned by resolves of Congress. Of the latter of these authorities -"Gales and Seaton's Register of Debates," "The Congressional Globe and Appendix, by Blair and Rives," and the same afterwards by "John C. Rives"-it is not necessary to speak, further than to remind the reader, that they are original reports, made either by the publishers or their special reporters, and revised by the speakers, and accepted as authority by Congress ; and therefore needing no historical elucidation to show their correctness. But of the first "The Annals of Congress by Gales and Seaton "--being a compilation, a special, but brief notice is necessary to show the credit to which they are entitled. And first, of the qualifications of the compilers for their work. To education and talent, and a particular turn for political disquisition and history, they added, at the time, more than forty years' personal connection with the Debates of Congress, as reporters and publishers of the speeches and proceedings in that body. Both of these gentlemen reported, on extraordinary occasions; and both with great aptitude and capacity for the business, and Mr. Gales especially, (under whose particular care the compilation of the Annals was made,)—of whom Mr. Randolph, a most competent judge, was accustomed to say, that he was the most perfect reporter he had ever known—a perfection which resulted not merely from manual facil

ity in noting down what was said, but from quickness and clearness of apprehension, and a full knowledge of the subject spoken upon.* To this capacity for the work, these gentlemen added peculiar advantages for knowing and reaching the sources of information. The father of one of them, and the father-in-law of the other,-(Mr. Joseph Gales, Senior,)—had been an early reporter of the Debates of Congress;-in the time of Washington and the first Mr. Adams, and, of course, a collector and preserver of all contemporary reports. These came into their hands, with ample knowledge of all the sources from which further collections could be made. To these capabilities and advantages, were added the pride of character which exults in producing a perfect work ;-and they spared neither pains nor cost to produce such a work—and succeeded. The following extracts from a letter of the late Mr. Justice Story, of the Supreme Court of the United States, dated January 14th, 1837—and from one from Mr. Justice McLean, still of that high court, dated 24th of February, 1843-sufficiently attest the value of the Compilation, and the excellence of its execution. Mr. Justice Story says:

"I have examined these volumes with great attention, and I am entirely satisfied with the plan and execution of them. I have, for many years, deemed the publication of the Debates in Congress, interwoven as they should be, and as they are in your plan, with the proceedings explanatory of them, one of the most important and valuable enterprises for public patronage. In an historical view, it will reflect the strongest and best lights upon the nature and operations of the Government itself, its powers, its duties, and its policy. As a means of expounding and interpreting the Constitution itself, it can scarcely be over-estimated. When I was employed in the task of preparing my Commentaries on the Constitution I constantly had recourse to this source of information in all cases within my reach. I had occasion then deeply to regret, however, that many of my researches terminated in disappointment from there not being any complete collection of the debates in print, or at least none in any one repository, or without large chasms, which

* Of this talent, Mr. Gales has lately given a most remarkable instance, in drawing out from notes which had remained as lost for near forty years, a most important speech of Mr. Randolph, delivered shortly before the late war with Great Britain, and in relation to the then condition of public affairs, both with Great Britain and the Emperor Napoleon the First. Mr. Gales had taken down the speech: the notes of it got into the bottom of a trunk, and lay there till a year ago, when Mr. Gales, searching high and low for matter for the Annals, chanced to find them; and immediately drew out the full speech with the freshness and vigor of a morning report of a previous day's debate.

it was difficult if not impossible to supply. If any such collection had existed, I am satisfied that it would have enabled me to make my own work far more accurate, full, and satisfactory than it now is. The Parliamentary Debates of England have been long since published, and constitute, in a political and historical view, some of the most authentic and useful documents for statesmen and jurists which have ever issued from the press. They are an indispensable part of the library of every real British statesman. A similar publication of all the Debates in Congress would be, if possible, of more permanent and extensive value to us, since questions of constitutional law and general public policy are more frequent topics of public debate here than in England. Indeed, I do not well see how American statesmen, seeking a profound knowledge of the nature and operations of our Government, can well do without them. At all events, if published, they would and ought to be found in the library of every American statesman, lawyer, and judge, who should aspire to an exact or thorough knowledge of our Constitution, laws, or national policy."

Mr. Justice McLean says:

"I have read with much interest your proposal to publish the Debates in Congress from the adoption of the Constitution. This is an undertaking of great magnitude, and will require large expenditures: but the work will embody a mass of information in regard to the history and policy of the Government, which can be found nowhere else. There is no subject within the action of the Government, which will not be found discussed in these volumes. They will contain materials rich in facts and talent for the writer of history, and will reward the researches of all who may wish to acquire a thorough knowledge of our system of government. This work when completed will become, I think, more interesting and valuable to this country, than are the Parliamentary Debates in England. The questions considered, (from the nature of our Government, and especially in regard to our domestic relations,) are more diversified than the Debates in Parliament; and I have no doubt, that the general ability displayed in the American Congress, will not suffer in comparison with that of the British Parliament. Our statesmen and jurists will find in these Debates much to guide them in the performance of their public duties; for it is from the history of that time that knowledge is acquired for an enlightened public action. If our Government

is to be handed down to those who come after us, these volumes will increase in value with the progress of time, and will be one of the richest memorials of our early enterprise and patriotism, and the best evidence of our national advancement."

And to these opinions of these two eminent jurists of the value of these Annals, and the qualifications of the publishers for their task, and the merits of their work, is to be added the encouraging opinion of Mr. Madison, given at the commencement of the enterprise, in the year 1818,-near forty years ago, when, in a letter to Messrs. Gales and Seaton, he said:

"The work to which you have turned your thoughts, is one which justly claims for it my favorable wishes. A legislative history of our country is of too much interest not to be at some day undertaken; and the longer it is postponed, the more difficult and deficient the execution becomes. In the event of your engaging in it, I shall cheerfully contribute any suggestions in my power as to the sources from which materials may be drawn; but I am not aware, at present, of any not likely to occur to yourselves."

Such is the value which these eminent men place upon these annals of our earlier Congresses, and these annals embrace the whole period during which our Government was presided over by those who helped to make it— the whole period from Washington to Monroe inclusive-a period of thirtyfive years, and covering more than half the time that our Government has existed. The two Justices of the Supreme Court who gave their opinion of the work, and who were then (as one of them still is) in the actual discharge of great public duties, have declared the personal benefit which they derived from the compilation-one of them (Mr. Justice Story) going so far as to say that his own work-the Commentaries upon the Constitution-(deemed faultless by others) would have been "more accurate, full and satisfactory," if the Annals had been published before them. With such opinions in favor of the Annals, no more need be said to show their value to the rising generations; and in abridging them, the author feels that he is only making accessible to the community what is now inaccessible to it, on account of quantity and price; and useless (nearly), if accessible, on account of the obsolete or irrelevant matter which overlays and buries the useful. As late as the year 1840, the publishers of the Annals say, in a Memorial to Congress, that they had sold to individuals but twenty sets of their work; and the present

« ПретходнаНастави »