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Impeachment of William Blount.
YEAs—John Allen, James A. Bayard, David Brooks, year 1797, was received from the Senate, with an Stephen Bullock, John Chapman, Christopher G. amendment proposing to add a clause to it of forChamplin, Joshua Coit, William Craik, Samuel W. ty-five thousand dollars on account of our treaties Dana, James Davenport, John Dennis, George Dent, with the Mediterranean Powers. It was referred Thomas Evans, Abiel Foster, Dwight Foster, Jonathan to the Committee of the Whole to whom was reFreeman, Henry Glen, Chauncey Goodrich, Roger ferred the confidential communication of the PreGriswold, Robert Goodloe Harper, William Hindman, sident with respect to Algerine business. Hezekiah L. Hosmer, James H. Imlay, John Wilkes
Mr. SPRIGG presented a memorial from Major Kittera, Samuel Lyman, William Matthews, Lewis R. Lewis, extra aid-de-camp to General Wayne, for Morris, Harrison G. Otis, Elisha R. Potter, John Reed, pay for his services in that capacity. After some John. Rutledge, jun., James Schureman, Samuel Sewall, opposition it was referred to a select committee to William Shepard, Thomas Sinnickson, Samuel Sitgreaves, Jeremiah Smith, Nathaniel Smith, William report by bill or otherwise; and, before the House Smith, of Charleston, John Swanwick, George That- rose
, a bill was reported, and committed for tocher, Mark Thomson, John E. Van Alen, Peleg Wadsworth, and John Williams.
IMPEACHMENT OF WM. BLOUNT. Nays—Abraham Baldwin, David Bard, Lemuel Ben.
Mr. SitgREaves, from the committee to whom ton, Thomas Blount, Richard Brent, Nathan Bryan, Demsey Burges, Samuel J. Cabell, Thomas Claiborne, was referred the confidential communication of Matthew Clay, John Clopton, Thomas T. Davis, John Monday last, reported the following resolution, viz: Dawson, Lucas Elmendorph. John Fowler, Albert Gal. “ Resolved, That William Blount, a Senator of the latin, James Gillespie, Wm. B. Grove, John A. Hanna, United States, from the State of Tennessee, be impeachJonathan N. Havens, David Holmes, Walter Jones, ed for high crimes and misdemeanors.” Matthew Locke, Matthew Lyon, Nathaniel Macon,
This resolution was twice read and committed Blair McClenachan, Josepit McDowell, John Milledge, for this day. Daniel Morgan, Anthony New, John Nicholas, Tompson J. Skinner, William Smith, of Pinckney District
, ing immediately into a Committee of the whole
A motion was made by Mr. W. Smith, for goRichard Sprigg, jun., Richard Stanford, Thomas Sumter, Abram Trigg, John Trigg, Joseph B. arnum, and
on this business ; but it was withdrawn in order Robert Williams.
to take up the amendments of the Senate to the
bill laying additional licenses on the retailers of TRANSFER OF STOCK. A bill was received from the Senate for contin
FOREIGN WINES AND SPIRITS. uing in force an act to revive and continue in The principal amendments of the Senate were force an act authorizing the transfer of stock stand- to extend the licenses to domestic wines and spiring to the credit of certain States; which was read its, as well as to those of foreign manufacture. the first, second, and third time and passed.
The amendments of the Senate were supported COLLECTION OF INTERNAL REVENUE.
by Messrs. J. Williams, SEWALL, SKINNER, and
Varnum, on the ground of making the duty fall Mr. W. Smith called for the order of the day more equally, as at present, it was asserted, that on the bill regulating the collection of certain in- some States paid far more than others. Mr. Wilternal revenues.
Liams in particular asserted, that the State of New Mr. Nicholas wished this bill to be postponed York paid one-fifth of the whole. until next session, as it was not of any immediate
The amendments were opposed by Messrs. Galimportance, and he wished that they should by all latin, HartLEY, KITTERA, Venable, DAYTON, means finish their business in the course of this Dennis, Coit, and Craik, as oppressive to the week.
small farmers of this country, who had just been Mr. Macon moved that the Committee of the taxed by an additional duty on salt, and as tendWhole be discharged from further consideration of ing to destroy all those small distilleries that disthe subject.
tilled for sale from ten to twenty gallons a year. This motion was carried, there being 46 votes After considerable discussion, a motion was in favor of it. Mr. Sirgreaves, from the committee to whom by the casting vote of the Chairman, (Mr. Dent.)
made for the committee to rise, which was carried was referred the Message from the President of the And on leave being asked for the committee to sit United States, of the third instant, made a report, again, it was refused—52 to 31. in part, which he delivered in at the Clerk's table, The further consideration of the subject was where the same was twice read, and agreed to by then postponed until the second Monday in Nothe House, as follows:
vember. " That, in their opinion, it will be proper to print the whole of the said communication, with the documents IMPEACHMENT OF WM. BLOUNT. accompanying it, for the use of the members.”
On motion of Mr. SITGREAVES, the House reResolved, That the injunction of secrecy upon solved itself into a Committee of the Whole on the members of this House, as far as relates to the the resolution reported for impeaching William said Message, be taken off.
Mr. SitgREaves said, if there were no objections
to the proposition, he hoped the committee would THURSDAY, July 6.
rise and report it; or, if any information should be The bill making further appropriations for the wanted on the subject, he should endeaver to give
[H. of R. the committee all that he had it in his power to ture; they were Legislative, Executive, and Judigive.
cial. In consequence of their Executive powers, Mr. Skinner said, he had doubts in his mind they had possession of all the secrets of the Exwhether the House had any right to interfere in ecutive. The officer who was charged in this the business.
case, he said, had particular relation to this part Mr. SITGREAVES observed, that when the com- of the functions of the Senate; for, having this munication was first made to the President of the participation in the secrets of Government, it was United States, it appeared so evident to him that a particular breach of official duty, when a Senathe occasion called for some active steps being tor attempted to seduce an officer of the United taken, that he immediately took the opinions of States from his duty. the Attorney General, Mr. Rawle, and Mr. Lewis, So also when a Senator of the United States to whom he proposed certain questions. A copy shall endeavor to deprive the Government of his of the opinion which they returned to him had country, or its agents, of the confidence of a forbeen transmitted to the committee. It stated that eign pation; when he shall endeavor, by seductthe above gentlemen had considered the letter of ive arts, to lead a foreign nation to commit hosWilliam Blount, and the several questions pro- tilities on his country, it was certainly such a posed thereon, and answered:
violation of his duty as would warrant an im1. That the letter is evidence of a crime. peachment. Mr. S. said, these were the conside
2. That the crime was of the denomination of a rations which had induced the committee to make misdemeanor.
the report they had made; it was for the House 3. That William Blount, being a Senator, is to act upon it as they saw proper. liable to impeachment for the said crime before the Mr. Nicholas had his doubts with respect to Senate.
the Constitutional right of the House on the subIt was in conformity to this opinion, that the ject. He thought the committee had neglected President of the United States, thought himself something which ought to have been done. They bound to communicate the letter to the House of ought to have had some satisfaction with respect Representatives, and leave it for them to act upon to the truth of the charge; they were not to act the occasion. If the opinion of these high law upon mere suspicion. This was his first imprescharacters was correct, there could be no doubt of sion on the subject; but he had yet made little inthe part which they ought to take. For his own quiry on the matter; he thoughi, however, before
; part, he had not been able to see why the members they declared a man in any degree guilty, they of the Senate were not as fair objects of impeach- should have evidence before them. ment as any other officers of Government. He
It did not appear to him that a member of the believed, upon a candid review of the Constitution, Legislature could be termed an officer of Governit would be seen that there was no restriction upon ment; for so far as a Senator had to do with the the right of impeachment. There was a restriction Executive, his character was merely that of an upon the punishment to be inflicted, but not upon adviser, and he doubted therefore, whether he the right. He would not pretend to say the right could, in giving his opinion, be liable to prosecumight not, however, be circumscribed in some re- tion; nor did he think his crime of corrupting an spects. He believed a Senator could not be im- officer was the greater because he was a Senator. peached for any thing he might do as a legislator; Mr. N. declared, however, that he was as ready though this should be understood with limitation; to act upon the business as any person in the for, if corruption could be proved upon him, it House, and gave as much credit io the charge. would be fair ground of impeachment, though, He wished to probe the business to the bottom. acting in the ordinary course of legislation he could He thought they should inquire whether there Dot be called to account for his conduct out of the was not another person equally culpable with House. He believed, that in a Government like William BLOUNT-he meant the British Minours, the right of impeachment was a very valua- ister. ble right. It was a sort of process calculated to He suggested the propriety of deferring the reach State offenders, not otherwise amenable to whole business till next session, as he did not see punishment; and there was no fear that in this any advantage that would be derived from detercountry this power would be abused, as in another mining upon it at present, except it were by country, to serve the purposes of a Minister or a making an example of the offender. party, as both the body which makes the accusa- posed ihere would be no danger of his escaping; tions, and the court which decides upon the charge, and if he were to escape, he did not know that it are the real representatives of the people, the one would make any considerable difference, as the immediately, and the other mediately.
only punishmeni which could be inflicted upon In England, Mr. S. said, this trial by impeach- him would be a disqualification from office. ment had been carried beyond official cases. Mr. Gallatin said this subject was altogether instanced the famous trial of Doctor Sacheverell, new to him. He never had turned his mind to who was impeached for preaching a libellous ser- the Constitutional question with relation to immon. It was well known that this cause divided peachment before this morning. Of course, what the kingdom, and that the first talents were called he should say, would be more in the shape of in to the aid of the Doctor.
queries than of any thing else, as he had not The Senate, Mr. S. said, was peculiarly con- formed any decisive opinion upon it. He was structed. Its powers were of a complicated na-not, therefore, ready to vote upon the subject, but
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(July, 1797. merely wished to submit his doubts to the com- tor. He knew not whether this Carey, an Indian mittee.
interpreter, was an officer nominated by the PreIt had struck him, upon a cursory view of the sident, and approved by the Senate. He knew Constitution, that whatever might have been the nothing of the fact. It was therefore necessary extent to which impeachment was carried in to have some further information on the subject. England, by our Constitution impeachment in With relation to the letter itself, it was of a this country must be limited to the officers of very serious nature; so serious, that though he Government alone. He had derived this idea conceived it scarcely ripe for Legislative inquiry, from the two following clauses in the Constitu- he thought it called for strict Executive inquiry. tion, viz:
He thought they should know something of the “The President, Vice President, and all civil officers fact that the letter was William Blount's. It of the United States, shall be removed from office, on was nothing less than a conspiracy between a impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or number of men, in the United States, and the other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
British Government. He said a number of men, " Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not ex. because the letter mentions a Captain Chesholm, tend further than to a removal from office, and disqual who held correspondence with the British Minisification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or ler at Philadelphia last Winter, so that at least two profit, under the United States. But the party con- officers of Government were acquainted with the victed shall, nevertheless, be liable and subject to in- plan. (He read an extract from the letter.] dictment, trial, judgment, and punishment, according to It appeared, therefore, that a most serious plan law."
had been laid, in which Captain Chesholm was a It appeared from these clauses, that wherever an partner, and made the instrument to confer with officer of Government committed an offence upon the British Minister; that a man of some consewhich a judgment of impeachment should be had, quence was gone to England, and that the design he was also liable to indictment according to law, was an attack upon the Spaniards in America; as the extent of the punishment from an im- so that the plan, il carried into effect, must involve peachment was a removal from office, and a dis- us in a war with that nation. This plan, Mr. G. qualification to hold in future any office of honor, said, had been suspected by the Spanish Minister trust, or profit, in the United States. He did not at Philadelphia, who had addressed our Executive think the case of Dr. Sacheverell in point. It was more than once upon the subject; and also by the his opinion, that, by the Constitution, officers of Ministers of France and Spain at Charleston, the Government only were intended to be im- who, in order to meet the attack, had purchased peached, and not members of the Legislature. all the arms and ammunition they could meet
His colleague had given it as his opinion, that with, and sent them to Augustine. How far the a member of that House might be impeached for Legislature should go into the business, or whether his vote, if bribery could be proved, though the it should be left to the Executive, he did not know. Constitution expressly declares, that no member At first, he thought the subject wholly of an shall be questioned out of the House for any thing Executive nature. he may do in his character as a legislator. He Mr. G. observed that what he had delivered supposed this clause was meant to prevent any were mere cursory thoughts. He wished to hear interference of the Executive; but if a man were the subject discussed, as he should attend more to to be called in question for a vote, though not for the arguments of gentlemen in that House than a speech, the privilege which he had always un to the opinions of legal authority. As to the lederstood that ihey enjoyed, would be greatly nar- gality of the question, they were certainly better rowed. It appeared to him that the appropriate judges than himself; but as the power of impunishment for offences committed within those peachment was committed to thai House, they walls was expulsion; and that impeachment could certainly ought to judge for themselves. He not apply to them.
mentioned this because he thought the answer of An argument had been adduced in favor of im- these legal gentlemen very curious, viz: "tbat peachment of a Senator, from that body having the letter was evidence of a crime; that this crime free access to the Executive records. This asser- was a misdemeanor; and that it is liable to imtion was not correct; as he recollected a case in peachment.” When the President asked advice which the Senate applied to the President for cer- what he should do, the answer seemed to be a ditain papers, which, if they had had free access to rection to that House what they should do; and his record, they would not have had occasion to this was advice unasked. Perhaps, however, the have requested. He also recollected that the re- answer given to them was only partial. He wishquest was only granted in part. He believed ed, if it could be done with propriety, that the indeed that some Senators, as well as some business might be postponed till the next session. members of the House, might, by special favor of He understood that the gentleman was supposed the Secretary of State, have access to this record; to have taken his seat in the Senate to-day. As but he believed it might be refused to the mem- to expelling him from his seat, that might be done bers of either House.
now, and when that was done it would prevent It was said this offence was the seduction of an him from doing any further harm. The disqualiofficer of the Government. He knew nothing of fication might take place at the next session as the offence; but he saw no reason why the offence well as at the present. should be greater because committed by a Sena- Mr. Dana said, the first impressions upon his July, 1797.]
Impeachment of William Blount.
mind were, that a Senator was not impeachable, know that impeachments have always been foundbut, upon further inquiry, he had sound reason to ed on official documents, or upon circumstances doubt his opinion.
of notoriely, and not upon facts found as before a He asked whether a power could be impeached grand jury. In this instance they had received for any offence which was not a violation of offi- ihe letter of Mr. Blount sufficiently authenticacial duty. He thought this was clear by the Con- ted in the communication of the President. stitution. A judge was certainly a civil officer, He was sorry that the measures which the Exyet, if he were guilty of treason against the Uni-ecutive had taken in this business should have ted States " by levying war against them, or ad been censured, even by insinuation. Mr. S. said hering to their enemies, giving them aid and com- he had read the opinion of high law authority fort," though this would be no breach of official which had been obtained by the Executive. When duty, be might certainly be impeached for the he did this he thought he was giving proof of the offence.
honorable motives of the Executive. InformaAnother inquiry was, whether members of the tion had been given to the Executive which, on Legislature were officers in the sense of the Con- the first blush, showed designs against the peace stitution. This was an inquiry of great im- of the United States. It was the duty of the portance.
President to preserve the peace of the United The right of impeachment seemed to be a right States. It was natural and right for him, thereclearly political; it was a right in Government fore, to take the opinion of those persons who to protect itself by displacing from its councils were best qualified to direct him what course men who were faithless and unworthy. Taken would be best to be pursued. These gentlemen in this view, the reason of the thing seemed had given it as their opinion that the proper way strongly to apply to the members of the Legis- of proceeding would be by impeachment, and, in lature.
effect, that the President had no more to do with With respect to a legislator being a civil offi- it, but that it should be turned over to the proper cer, he would ask whether, if a man was displac- branch of the Government. In consequence, the ed from a civil office, he would be eligible to be President communicated more to the House than elected as a member of the Legislature? This he had done to the Senate, as the original letter would be an absurd conclusion, unless it should of William Blount was sent to them as evidence be said that to be elected to such a situation was upon which they were to found their charge. to be in a place of neither honor, trust, or profit. The President did not direct them to impeach,
Another clause of the Constitution said, "that but he had laid before them the facts, with the no title of nobility shall be granted, and no per- opinion of the law officers. son holding any office of profit or trust shall ac- Mr. S. conceived that the conduct of the Presicept of any present, emolument, office, or title of dent had been strictly proper. He would pass on any kind whatever from any King, Prince, or for to the Constitutional doubts which had been exeign State.” And it was not meant to be said pressed. It was acknowledged that there was no that, though our officers were not to be allowed restriction upon the right of impeachment; but to receive emoluments, &c., the members of the his colleague thought that something like a reLegislature were not forbidden to do it. This striction might be gathered from the fourth clause would be strange doctrine.
of the second article of the Constitution, which He would submit to the committee what he he bad quoted. It was to be observed that this conceived to be their duty. He thought the article was found in that part of the Constitution House should be fully satisfied of the fact; but if which related only to the Executive Department there was any doubi as to the flagrancy of the of the Government. This, he took it, was a good offence, or the liability of the person to be thus reason why this rule should not be taken as a rule tried, these doubts should be left to the decision in the present case; but there was another clause of the Senate, as the proper constituted authority. which spoke of disqualifying persons from ever As to the inquiry relative to facts, the committee filling any office in future, which was a greater did not conceive that that inquiry ought to ex- power than that under the Executive Departtend to a foreign Minister. They had nothing to ment. If the construction which his colleague do with him. He did not come within their cog- had put upon the Constitution with respect to imnizance.
peachment was the true one, an officer of the Mr. D. thought there could be no doubt as to Government could not be brought to trial after the fact of the letter being really Mr. Blount's, as he had resigned, as he could not ihen be removed several persons in the House could prove his hand- from office. writing. It was necessary first to enter into this His colleague had produced another article of general resolution. Afterwards specific articles the Constitution which limited the punishment of impeachment could be prepared.
under an impeachment. This, Mr. S. said, was Mr. SirGREAVES said, it was observable that no meant to guard against any disgraceful excess of gentleman had ventured to do any more than ex- Governmental vengeance or party venom, bepress his doubts, both as to the fact and the law cause it went on to say that if the offence was on this occasion. With respect to the fact he did within ordinary crimes it might be prosecuted and not expect any doubt: He believed that any gen- punished in the same way as if an impeachment tleman at all conversant with that branch of law had not taken place. learning which relates to impeachment, must Impeachment was then to be considered as for
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(July, 1797. the purposes of the State, distinguished from the Mr. Rutledge had no doubt in his mind on the general purposes of society. If it had been in- ! subject; but he thought it necessary that the tended that the power of impeachment should be handwriting of Mr. Blount should be proved. limited in the manner supposed by his colleague He had himself attended the trial of an impeachand the gentleman from Virginia, it would have ment which had excited the attention of the been so expressed, as in the constitution of Penn- world, (he alluded to the trial of Mr. Hastings,) sylvania ; they had spoken on this subject in a and the order of proceeding was as had been statway not to be mistaken, as they expressly said ed. He moved that evidence be taken of the who were liable to impeachment, and what offen- handwriting. ces should be impeachable. And if it had been The Chairman suggested the propriety of havthe intention of the Constitution of the United ing the business done in the House. States that officers of the Government only should Mr. Brooks said, he should not have spoken on be impeached, it would doubtless have been so the occasion, if he had not heard gentlemen exexpressed. But was not the present case that of press wishes to have the present subject postponan officer charged with an offence directly con- ed. For his part, he could not tell how gentlenected with his office, and with the official confi- men would be able to acquit themselves to their dence entrusted to him? When it was particu- own consciences and to their constituents, it' they larly his duty to appoint to office, it was surely a should refuse to stay a day or two to do this busipeculiarly aggravated offence to seduce an officer ness. or to turn friends into enemies. What was a Sen- Mr. Venable said, that as this was a new case, ator if he was not an officer of the Government ? and would be referred to as a precedent, they The President, who was himself a branch of the should attend to the form of their proceedings. Government, was allowed to be an officer of the He thought the first step should be io prove the Government, and surely a member of one of the letter. If the committee could not do it, he should branches must also be an officer.
wish the committee to rise, that it might be done As to the form of proceeding necessary to be in the House. He did not think their determitaken on this occasion, he would state what the nation should be postponed; but that if an imopinion of the committee was as to this matter. peachment was to be entered upon, that it should They supposed it would be first proper for that now be done. He had no doubt of the truth of House to determine that the gentleman in ques- the letter; but he wished it to be duly proved, as tion should be impeached. This being done, that hereafter a case might occur in which such a leta member of thai House should go to the bar of ter might be a forgery. the Senate and impeach the person, in the name Mr. Nicholas said, that some gentlemen had of the House and of the people of the United spoken upon this question as if there were persons States, and state that the House of Representa- upon the committee who wished to exculpate the tives will proceed to draw out specific articles of person charged. [Mr. SITGREAVES declared, if he charge against him. According to the case, they was alluded to, he had no such intention.) Mr. require that he shall be sequestered from his seat, N. thought he intimated something of the kind, be committed, or be held to bail. When this is when he said, gentlemen ventured to say, &c. done, a committee will be appointed to draw ar. No member of that committee, he trusted, would ticles of impeachment.
wish to screen the offender, and he believed no The reason, Mr. S. said, why some steps should person less than he who was most nearly connectbe taken at present was, that means should be ed with him, (meaning his brother, Mr. THOMAS taken to secure the person of the offender, either Blount.) Mr. N. thought it was not sufficient by confinement or by bail, since it was the opin- that the President had sent them a letter, which he ion of the law officers of Government thai he believed to be in the handwriting of WILLIAM could not be arrested by ordinary process. He Blount. If they were to take this for granted, could not be arrested by the Senate; they could they gave their power of judging over to the Presend for him (as he understood they had done) sident. by the Sergeant-at-Arms, to take his seat in the Mr. N. said, he had merely inquired what would House ; but when the House adjourned, they had be the consequences of a postponement to the next no further power over him, until an impeachment session. He did not think it could produce any was made against him.
bad effect, as, if the offender were to escape, the Gentlemen said there was no danger of escape. final punishment did not require the presence of If it were not improper to state what had taken the man. Mr. N. again expressed his doubt about place out of doors, it might be said that there had the constitutionality of the proceeding; already been an attempt at an escape. Besides, Mr. Dayron (the Speaker) said he held in his if no investigation were now to take place, how hand a letter which he had received from the Prewere they to come to a knowledge of the plot sident of the United States, inscribed as an oriwhich gentlemen seemed so desirous to come to ginal letter of William Blount, to be preserved a knowledge of? When they had determined to with care. If any member of the committee will make the impeachment, and an oral declaration say that he believes the writing to be the writing was made of it to the Senate, when they were of William Blount, it might save the trouble of ready to go home, they might go, and exhibit the the committee's rising for the purpose of having charges at the next session, when they should the fact ascertained in the House. have leisure fully to consider the subject.
Mr. Harper thought the committee were as