« AnteriorContinuar »
fiery on this occasion, and yet so cold, and even stoical, on all others? I fear the gentleman has grown jealous of the venerble gentleman who sits near him, [Mr. Adams,] and is determined hereafter to outrival even him in turbulence and violence. Why, too, was the gentleman so nearly presumptuous, if not arrogant, in the language which he was pleased to employ on this occasion? Addressing himself to the known majority on this floor, some of them of his own party, he proclaimed we should not pass this bill ignorantly, or in our ignorance, or some such courteous language as that. Sir, have seventeen or eighteen States of this Union instructed this bill to be passed in ignorance? Are the people of this country, nine-tenths of whom are in favor of it, are they too, in ignorance? Is that overwhelming majority of this House, which the gentleman himself said he knew could and would pass the bill, were they about to do it in ignorance? I submit it to him whether there is not danger that those who do not know him personally-his great modesty-may be ungenerous enough to consider such language as presumptuous and even arrogant.
But whilst adverting to the gentleman's manner and language, let me give you another specimen of that high courtesy in debate, which distinguishes an American statesman. Addressing himself again to the known majority here, some of them his own party friends, he was pleased to say, “You cannot lick this bill into any shape that will make it acceptable to the other branch of Congress.” How chaste and elegant, and even classical, is such language!“ You cannot lick this bill into any shape!" But I pass from all this, to the matter and substance of that gentleman's speech.
With great earnestness, he demanded to know why this fine was not remitted during the administration of General Jackson or of Mr. Van Buren. Let me answer him by putting to him another question: Would he and his party have voted for it at any time?
Would the old Federal party have ever voted for it? Would those who refused to cross a State line, to meet and give battle to the enemy; would those who, at midnight on the high cliffs of the ocean, hung out blue lights to guide the ference with John Henry, the British spy, would they have voted for this bill at any time, or under any circumstances? No, sir, never. The glorious victory of New Orleans not only drove the British army from our coast, but, it drove a British spy from the bosom of our country. It not only suppressed the spirit of muntiny and revolt in a small portion of the people of Louisiana, but it routed and dispersed the more guilty traitors at Hartford. All these would have opposed the remission of this fine at any and all times. They will oppose it now. They will resort to every device to defeat it. We cannot mould it, or, in the more elegant language of the gentleman from New York, we cannot lick it into any form which will induce them to do justice to the greatest captain and noblest patriot of the age.
Well, Mr. Chairman, after all, what is the great constitutional argument of the gentleman against the passage of this bill? It is, that General Jackson had no right, under the Constitution, to declare martial law; that, consequently, he had no right to arrest Louallier ; and, having no right to arrest him, he was bound to obey the writ of habeas corpus, commanding him to bring the said Louallier before the court; and for not so obeying, he was guilty of a contempt of court.
Now, all this I deny, and maintain that, to the extent General Jackson did declare and enforce martial law, he had a right to do it, under, or consistently with, the Constitution. Not that the Constitution commands martial law to be declared in any case, but that it permits, or allows it to be done, in precisely such cases as occurred at New Orleans. That city and its environs were within the military encampment of General Jackson. His outposts and sentinels were planted around it. Within the bounds of every encampment, military, and not civil, law must prevail. In time of repose and safety, military law in its mildest, and lowest grade, but in time of war and invasion of the place so occupied, military law in its most rigorous form ;- high and rigorous in exact proportion as the peril was great and the danger imminent. This is the principle ; let me give you an illustration : A nation is
about to be invaded ; you post your army at some mountain defile where you can more successfully repel his ad
Within its lines are a few shepherds' huts. Can these go in and out as they please? Can they pass the sentinels of your army without permission, and so carry, if they please, secret intelligence to the enemy? Cannot the Commanding General guard against such danger, by suspending, for the time being, their constitutional right of locomotion? I do not say that he can by the command of the Constitution, but I maintain that he may by its permission. So if his encampment include a village, or town, or great city, as was New Orleans. Let me now submit another case to illustrate my opinions : Suppose, during the siege, the owners of all the cotton bales, anticipating from his orders that he contemplated their use in the formation of breastworks, had applied to Judge Hall, or some State Judg for an injunction to removal from the ware-houses, alleging that they were private property of such great value that the Commanding General's private fortune would be totally inadequate to the payment of their probable damage or destruction; suppose General Jackson to have refused obedience, as he assuredly would, and an attachment for contempt had been issued, returnable on the memorable 23d of December, the time of the first battle. On that day and within that encampment what law was to govern? The civil law which commanded him to be present in court, or the military law, which commanded him to be present on the lines, cheering and directing his army to triumph and to victory? Sir, in that case, or in any similar one, if the civil law was to govern, your Commanding General might have been pining in a dungeon for a contempt of court, whilst the enemy was thundering with its artillery against the city.
But, sir, it matters not to pursue this question of constitutional right any further; for the gentleman expressly admitted that the right to declare martial law might be sustained in some cases under the great law of necessity. But I contend that in no case does the law of necessity abrogate the Constitution. It only rises above it, but yet stands consistent with it. However this may be, still the admission of the gentleman goes
the whole length of the vindication of General Jackson. It is under
ON REMITTING THE FINE ON GEN. JACKSON.
this law of necessity we may do many things not affirma-
“ The question you propose, whether circumstances do not sometimes oc-
It is incumbent
, however, only on those who accept great charges, to risk themselves on great occasions, when the safety of the nation, or some of its very highest interests, are at stake. An officer is bound to obey orders ; yet he would be a bad one who should do it in cases for which they were not intended, and which involved the most important consequences. The line of
to draw it at his own peril, and to throw himself on the justice of his country and the rectitude of his motives."
These, sir, are the opinions of Mr. Jefferson, expressed in 1810, and they go the whole extent of the principles on which we vindicate the conduct of General Jackson in declaring martial law. How does the gentleman from New York escape from the force and power of such authority ? Simply by saying, that although the great law of necessity may, in some cases, authorize the exercise of such authority, yet in this case there was no sufficient or adequate necessity. No adequate necessity, sir? When did General Jackson overrate any danger impending over him, or the brave army he commanded ? What could have induced him to overestimate the dangers at New Orleans? Was he not on the ground? Could he not hear every discharge of the enemy's artillery? Could he not see every signal of his rockets, and every advance of his columns? What, then, could have led him to an exaggerated estimate of the danger? Not the fears of General Jackson, I am sure; for he had been born and had lived insensible to fear. There had never been a day nor an hour in his life when he might not have exclaimed, but for its excessive egotism,
-Danger knows full well,
And I the elder and more terrible.” The gentleman knows but little of the personal or military history of that great man if he supposes him capable of having been influenced by so ignoble a passion.
This extraordinary position is attempted to be sustained, however, on another ground: that New Orleans and its environs never were actually invaded—that the enemy, in other words, never did enter within its chartered boundaries. And why did he not? It was because General Jackson and his brave comrades met him on the lines, drove back his legions, routed and dispersed them, with a courage and a triumph that filled America with joy, and the world with admiration! New Orleans and its environs were never actually invaded! Well,