Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

H. or R.]

States, and on stills; which motion being agreed to, the House resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole on the subject, Mr. Kitted A. in the chair. The bill having been read,

Mr. Maoon said, that the report of the Committee of Ways and Means, on the proposition for allowing distillers to take licenses for a week, having been referred to that committee, if it were taken up at all, this was the proper time. He should, therefore, propose an additional section to the bill, to embrace this objection.

Mr. M. accordingly presented a section to allow of weekly licenses.

This motion produced a considerable debate. It was opposed by Messrs. Sew All, Gbiswold, Gallatin, Gordon, and Brooks, on the ground that the duty now paid upon spirits distilled from fruit (which description of distillers the regulation was avowedly intended to accommodate) was not equal to that paid by distillers of grain, as the duty on spirits distilled from fruit was not more than two and a half cents per gallon, whilst that on spirits distilled from grain paid seven cents; and if the amendments were agreed to, this inequality would be increased—for persons who took a license for a week, by preparing their materials beforehand, and working night and day, would finish their business within that time, which otherwise would have required a fortnight; by which means the duty would be reduced from six cents per gallon, on the capacity of their stills, to four; that it would increase the temptation to fraud, as that temptation was strong, or the contrary, in proportion to the length of time for which a license was taken; as a person taking a license for a fortnight, by working his still one day past the time specified in his license would gain half a cent a gallon on the capacity of his still, whilst he who took out a license for six months would only gain half that sum. If licenses for a week were allowed, the temptation would therefore be increased; that such a regulation would greatly augment the duties of excise officers, without rendering any material advantages to individuals—since, if the owner of a still of fifty gallons took out a license for a fortnight, when a week might have served, he would only pay a dollar more than he would have paid for a week; that when this scale of duties was made, reference was had to the situation of persons who would be obliged to take out a license for a fortnight, though they might not have fruit to employ a still more than a few days, and a rate proportionably low adopted; that the same reasons which were urged for allowing licenses for a week might be urged for allowing one for two days; that, though there might be some inconveniences experienced by the distillers of fruit, (as it was not doubted there might be in other parts of the law,) yet, as it was only just got into operation, it would not be right to enter into the proposed regulation, but defer it to the period when it would most probably be necessary to go into a review of the whole law.

[janoakt, 1798.

The motion was supported by Messrs. Maconi Harbison, Harper, J. Parker, Nicholas, Venable, R. Williams, New, Dennis, T. ClaiBorne, and Clay. It was asserted that the law as it now stood excluded four out of five of the owners of orchards, in the Southern States, from distilling their early fruit at all; that their peaches ripened hastily, and as hastily rotted, if not made use of. Persons who had only fruit to employ their stills for three or four days, sooner than take a license for a fortnight, suffered their fruit to rot; and to allow licenses for a week would produce a considerable augmentation of the revenue, since those persons only would take such a license, who, if that privilege were not allowed, would not take out a license at all, or such as had occasion to distil a few days longer after their two weeks' license was expired. It was unjust to require a man, who had only a small orchard, and occasion to use a still but a few days, to pay a much higher duty upon his brandy than his more opulent neighbor. It was not so inconsiderable an object as gentlemen supposed, since it had not reference to one li cense only—farmers in the Southern States having occasion to take out separate licenses for their early, their middle, and their latter fruits; and this regulation would not open a door to fraud, as was supposed. It was an undeserved imputation upon the characters of persons concerned in this business, to suppose they could be tempted to defraud the revenue for the sake of half a cent per gallon upon what they could distil in a day. The penalties consequent upon fraud, if the virtue of the persons concerned could not be relied upon, were sufficient to guard against them; and, if they were not, it could not be expected, as some gentlemen seemed to suppose, that the excise officers should overlook the conduot of every distiller. If they were to be so inspected and scourged, an attempt to defraud the revenue could scarcely be blamed; and, except it were the intention of gentlemen to crush this domestic manufacture, no reasonable objection could be urged against the proposition. The objections which had been urged proved the ignorance of gentlemen in respect to this branch of business; for though the excise officers would have some trouble in issuing licenses, it was believed they would be well satisfied to encounter it, since their profits were in proportion to the quantity of spirits distilled; and though this law had been but a short time in being, the last season, having been a scarce fruit season, had given a good opportunity of trying it. As the application for this amendment was seconded by the whole of the Southern country, it was entitled to respect, and ought not to be branded with being a fraudulent design upon the revenue.

In the course of the debate, Mr. Gallatin called upon gentlemen acquainted with the subject, to say what was the quantity of spirits which could be distilled from peaches in a week by a still of the capacity of thirty, forty

Duties on Distilled Spirits.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

or fifty gallons, with a view to show that this species of spirits paid less at present than spirits dialled from grain. 3fr. Cut answered this inquiry, by saying, tint a still of fifty gallons would distil from five io seven gallons of brandy a day. If the lather was wet, and the peaches rotted quickly, not more than five; but when the weather *ss dry, and the peaches sound, seven gallons writ be produced.

foe question on the amendment was at length pat and carried—45 to 37.

Mr. Dennis said, he wished to try another principle in this bill. The law at present respired so annual entry of stills, whether they «we osed or not, which occasioned persons freqwutly to ride twenty or thirty miles to make the entry, when they had no intention to make sse of their still; and not unfrequently, from not meeting with the officers at home, this jcirney was taken two or three times over. Weed, he believed, more penalties had been ■Marred on account of this regulation than any other, and he looked upon it as a useless regulation. When a still was once entered, he thought it was sufficient, and no future entry oojht to be required, except when a still was *bi>at to be made use of, or when it was transferred into other hands. Mr. D. proposed a sction to this effect; but after some objections to rhe introduction of so important a provision into this bill, (which before it could be decided cpon would require considerable discussion,) by Messrs. Hartley, Gallatin, and Harper, he «reed to withdraw it for the present.

It having been agreed to fill the blank of the ram per gallon to be paid on the capacity of a sill, when a license was taken for a week, with fwrcentt, the committee rose; the House took up the amendments, agreed to them, and the till was ordered to be engrossed for a third fading to-morrow.

Friday, January 5.
Count de Graue.

Mr. Livingston called for the order of the kj on the bill for granting an annuity to the koghters of the late Count de Grasse; which being agreed to, the House resolved itself into »Committee of the Whole on the subject, Mr. tarr in the chair; and, after a number of dest|twy observations, the blanks were filled up, the time for which the annuities should wntinne was fixed at five years, and the sum P«r annum to be allowed at $500 each. The nrS question was determined by a considerable ujority, there being 57 votes in favor of it; latter was carried—46 to 38.

The committee then rose and reported the •wndments. They were all agreed to without •drrision, except the sum to be allowed per an•■». When that question was put,

Sr. J. Williams hoped it would not be agreed J When the subject was before under discus««S the question on $500 and $400 had been

negatived. $500 a year for the four daughters for five years, he said, would be $10,000. He thought this a very serious sum. He again adverted to the situation of many of our own citizens, and called for the yeas and nays upon the question.

Mr. Harper asked whether, if, when the Count de Grasse was solicited to remain with the fleet under his command in the Chesapeake, at his own risk and responsibility, he had asked as a condition that on some future day $10,000 should be granted to his daughters, would it not have been complied with, if it had been ten times that sum? And ought his descendants to be more hardly dealt with because their father had the generosity and magnanimity not to make the demand? He trusted not.*

After some observations in favor of concurring with the Committee of the Whole in their vote, by Messrs. Thatcher, Brooks, LivingSton, and Gordon; and against it by Messrs. Varnum, Modowell, and Macon—the former of whom said that the clergy, in his part of the country, had not more than three hundred and thirty dollars a year; and the latter gentleman produced three cases of our own citizens who had lost their lives in the service of the United States, whose families had been much more hardly dealt with, viz: the family of a Lieutenant Colonel, who had four hnndred and fifty dollars a year granted them; that of a Major, three hundred dollars a year; and that of the Marshal of Georgia, whose family had a grant of two thousand dollars. The yeas and nays were taken—40 to 43.

The question for allowing five hundred dollars a year being negatived, four hundred was proposed and carried—46 to 84.

The question being on the bill being engrossed for a third reading, Mr. Blount called for the yeas and nays upon it. It was carried—65 to 2*5.

Monday, January 15. Lemuel Benton, from the State of Sonth Carolina, appeared, and took his seat.

Expenditure for Naval Service.

Mr. Livingston called up for consideration and decision the resolution which he had laid upon the table a few days ago, for the appointment of a committee of inquiry into the expenditure of money which had been appropriated for the naval service.

The House having agreed to take up this business—

Mr. Harper said, he believed that the appointment of such a committee was very unusual, without having some ground stated to the House for the proceeding. A vote of this

* Upon the request of General Washington the Count de Qraase remained in the Chesapeake beyond the time which his instructions allowed, risking all the penalties of Insubordination, and by so doing did what was indispensable to the capture of Lord Cornwallls.

H. Of R.]

kind would imply a censure upon the conduct of our public officers, which certainly ought not to be done hastily, or without first having, at least, some ground of suspicion laid before them upon which to act. The House had not yet received the statements which had been called ,for relative to this business; they were directed to be laid before the House in the last week in January, and might, therefore, be soon expected.

[Several gentlemen said it was the first, and not the last week in January, in which the accounts had been ordered to be laid before the House.]

Mr. H. said the delay, he supposed, had been occasioned by the officers having been obliged to remove from the city during the fever. He had, however, been informed that these statements would be ready in a few days. And would it not be extraordinary, he asked, if, before they received these statements, they were to appoint a committee of inquiry? He thought it would. He believed the officers of this department of Government were very desirous of the inquiry taking place; but this was not a sufficient reason for the House to proceed in the business without having first some ground to suppose the money had been misapplied, and this he believed could not be ascertained until the expected statements were before the House. When these were looked into, it was possible the House might be satisfied with respect to the expenditure of the money, and it would, therefore, be improper to appoint a committee to in,uiri into a matter which might so shortly appear satisfactory. If, on the other hand, these accounts should not be satisfactory, he would readily concur in the appointment of a committee of inquiry.

Mr. J. Williams said, the gentleman from South Carolina ought to recollect that the inquiry was produced by a further appropriation being called for. It might be best to defer the inquiry until the accounts which had been called for were laid before the House; and he should have been satisfied with the business taking that course, if a further appropriation had not been called for in the mean time. But when they are called upon to appropriate a further sum of money for any object, it was natural to inquire what was become of that already voted; and the only way of doing this was to appoint a committee who would look into all the different statements which had from time to time been laid before the House, and those which might shortly be communicated, and state their opinion thereon to the House. He thought those gentlemen who were most friendly to the frigates ought not to oppose the appointment of a committee; because, if it should appear that the money had been justly expended, there would be little objection to a further* appropriation.

Mr. Livingston said, from the full discussion of this subject, which, though incidentally produced, had taken place on a former occasion,

[jahoaet, 1798.

he did not think it would either have been becoming or necessary to have again stated the reasons which gave rise to this resolution, especially as he felt an aversion to say any thing which might be unnecessary, or which might tire those who heard him. Mr. L. said, that he had before observed that the patience of the House had been worn out by the repeated applications which bad been made for money for. this object; that the expense had exceeded all belief; that the most extended imagination could not have conceived an amount like that which Congress had from time to tune been blindly led to appropriate. But the proposition was objected to, because it would cast an odium upon our officers. This he was perfectly indifferent about. Whatever might be the private opinion he had of the characters of these officers, however incapable he might believe them of doing wrong, or of acting corruptly, yet, when his duty called upon him to make an inquiry into the expenditure of public money, he was deaf to all considerations of a private nature. But, in this case, he did not see the necessity for this remark. The House had been told (he believed by the gentleman from South Carolina himself) that the extraordinary expense had been occasioned by our inexperience in business of this kind, by the high price of labor, materials, &c. If this were the case, the result of the inquiry would be honorable to those concerned, and highly satisfactory to the House. It was a proceeding which our public officers ought to wish for; nay, gentlemen say they do wish for it.

But, Mr. L. said, it had been alleged, that the statements ordered a year ago to be laid before the House during the first week in this month, should be waited for before any inquiry took place. He would reply, if these ofhcers had not, in the mean time, called upon the House for a fresh supply of money, this inquiry would not have been thought of. Besides, the accounts asked for last year would not give the satisfaction required. The request only extended to all the expenditures previous to the 1st of January, 1797. The House would wish to know what had been expended since, and they had no reason to expect further information than was asked for. Mr. L. said every member who was present at the time must remember that whenever the House had been applied to for further appropriations, they had been told that the frigates would be ready for sea at such and such a time; and that they would then bear our flag triumphantly over the ocean. And yet, though the House had been four or fiv< times deceived by these representations, thej were told there was no ground for inquiry For his part, he should consider himself as neg lecting his duty were he not to caU for this in quiry immediately; for, if the House were fc wait a week for the statements called for, the; might wait another for their being printed they might then be found to be deficient, fres statements might be necessary, and the sessio Jascabt, 1798.]

Expenditure for Naval Service.

might expire without effecting the wished-for inquiry. He thought all parts of the House ought to favor the inquiry; for, he believed, if i: should appear that frigates could not be built for less than $500,000 a piece, the project of a navy onght to be given up; but if, on the other hind, difficulties and expenses had occurred in the commencement of this business, which would not return, and their frigates may in future be built for half the sum, (which was his opinion,) there would be some encouragement to proceed in the business.

Mr. Bewail was sorry that the gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. Habpeb) had given the occasion, and that the gentleman last up had so eagerly seized it, to thwart a*iiy measures which might be necessary for the general defence, by ridiculing the resources of the country. The present, he said, was a time of danger tn J apprehension, and thus to talk of the refources of the United States added to the apprehension and the danger. The gentleman from South Carolina had said, that to pass this resolution would be to pass an odium upon our public officers. He did not think so. He thought an inquiry of this kind at all times proper where there was any doubt as to the expenditure of money. He agreed with the gentleman from New York, that the inquiry I if it had a favorable issue, which he did not doubt) would forward the design of providing a navy; as it would appear that the extraordinary expenses had been such as it would not be necessary to incur in future. He was, therefore, sorry to hear the gentleman from New York first np (Mr. Williams) say he should be dianclined to vote any further appropriation until he saw how the last had been expended. However improvidently the money already appropriated had been expended, yet, in order to secure what had been voted, and to keep the work in progress, they ought to vote a further ram, as soon as wanted, whether the statements called for were received or not.

Mr. Livingston desired to know wherein he had attempted to ridicule the resources of this country?' The gentleman from Massachusetts must excuse him when he asserted he had never made a more hasty or unfounded charge. If he had either ridiculed the resources, or thwarted any measures for the general defence of the United States, it must have arisen from a weak judgment, and not from any intention of doing ». But he was certain nothing which had fallen from him could be so construed.

Mr. Skwaxl acquitted the gentleman from New York of any intention of lowering the appearances of the resources of this country; but he appealed to the House whether he bad not spoken of this fleet with a degree of ridicule, when he represented it as governing the ocean. It appeared so to him at least.

Mr. Haepeb again insisted upon the impropriety of going into this measure, from reasons amiliar to those which he had already given.

Mr. Gallatin said, that the ground taken by

[H. Of R.

the gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. HaePeb) would prevent any inquiry whatever; for he stated that the House ought not to pass the present resolution, because certain statements had not been received, and because to pass it would be to imply a censure on our officers. So that on this ground no inquiry could be gone into without statements, as the House could not obtain statements without passing a resolution, that resolution would be construed into a censure, and therefore ought not to be passed. This Mr. G. thought a very improper doctrine. It would never be in the power of the House to decide upon the propriety of statements by barely having them laid upon the table.

Mondat, January 15. Naval Expenditure. Mr. Gallatin stated the different estimates which had been made to the House. In 1794, he said, they were told that $688,000 would be sufficient to build six frigates. In 1796, they were informed there had been a mistake in the matter, but that with $80,000 more three would be finished. In January, 1797, the House was again called upon for $172,000; in July, in the same year, for $200,000, and now for $160,000 more. Such calculations, he thought, wholly unaccountable.

Mr. NionoiAS did not understand what the gentleman from Connecticut meant by saying that this was wholly Executive business. He did not believe, because the President had told the House that he was about to hold a treaty, that the money must be granted, and that the House had no choice whether they would appropriate it or not. From what had already been said npon the subject, he doubted not there was a pretty general disposition to grant the money; but it was not proper that the Message should be sent to the Committee of Ways and Means, as if an appropriation was a thing of course; to do this, would be to act at the command of the President Of The United States; whereas the House could only act upon the full exercise of its discretion. He therefore moved that the Message be referred to the Committee of the Whole, which had already this subject under consideration.

Mr. Gallatin believed the gentleman from Connecticut had not considered this subject with his usual correctness. That gentleman had said that the Message before them ought to go to the Committee of Ways and Means, and that an appropriation should follow as a thing of course. It must be known that this was contrary to the practice of that House, or of any former Legislature of the United States. On the contrary, it was usual, first to authorize an expense, and in the next place to appropriate; and in no case had the business been reversed. If the Message were referred to the Committee of Ways and Means, all they could do, would be to bring it back to the House, and ask for an authority for the expense. He believed the genH. Of R.]

Naval Expenditure.

tlemnn from Connecticut hnd been led into this mistake by considering the Message announcing the intention of the President to hold a treaty as a treaty made; and had that been the case, according to that gentleman's known opinion, he would consider the House as bound to make the necessary appropriation; but he desired him to recollect that no treaty was yet made; and, therefore, that that doctrine could not apply in the present case.

Mr. Rutledge did not believe it was necessary or proper for that House to authorize the President to hold a treaty; but if it were necessary for him to hold a treaty, the concurrence of that House was necessary to enable him to do it, as it could not be done without money. It was requisite, therefore, to pass a bill, not to authorize the President to hold a treaty, but to enable him to do it. It was best, therefore, for the communication first to go to the Committee of the Whole, and afterwards to the Committee of Ways and Means, in order for them to say where the money could be got. There was something in this case which pointed out this mode as peculiarly proper, as there seemed to be a disposition in the House, if the treaty should not succeed agreeably to the wishes of the President, to afford temporary relief to the persons now suffering from being driven from their land. The gentleman from Connecticut had said, that the Committee of Ways and Means could report an estimate of the probable expense which would be incurred in holding the treaty; but if he attended to the Message of the President, he would find that this estimate was to be laid before the House by the proper department, so that there was no necessity of a reference to any committee for that purpose.

The motion for a reference to the Committee of the Whole was carried, without a division.

William Alexander. On motion of Mr. Gregg, the House went into a Committee of the Whole on the report of the Committee of Claims on the petition of William Alexander, surveyor of Army lands. After reading a number of papers relative to the subject, the report, which went to authorize the Treasury to settle the accounts of the petitioner, was agreed to, the committee rose, the House concurred, and a bill was directed to be brought in accordingly.

General Kosciusko. Mr. Pinokney, from the committee appointed to confer with the Senate on the disagreement between the two Houses on the bill for the payment of interest to General Kosciusko, reported, that finding the business could be settled in a manner equally advantageous to the General, by agreeing to the amendment of the Senate, as by the mode originally proposed, the committee recommend it to the House to recede from their disagreement to the Senate's amendment.

[jakcabt, 1798

The recommendation was concurred in by the House.

Civil Appropriation for 1798. On motion of Mr. Harper, the House resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole on the report of the Committee of Ways and Meai>» for providing for the expenses of the civil department for the year 1798, and the blanks being filled (except in a few cases, in which they were left in blank) according to the estimate which had been laid before the House, the committee rose, the House concurred, and the bill was ordered to be reported accordingly.

Thursday, January 18. The Speaker laid before the House a communication from the Secretary of War, enclosing an estimate of the appropriations necessary for holding a treaty with the Cherokee Indians, which was in substance as follows: For three commissioners, ninety days, at

eight dollars per day - - - $8,160

Incidental expenses of do. - - 800 Secretary, at four dollars per day - 800 Rations of two thousand Indians -15,000 Presents to the Indians ... 6,000 Stores for the commissioners - - 2,000 Incidental expenses ... 1,200

25,880

This statement was referred to the Conunittee of the Whole to whom was referred the former Message of the President on this subject

Person* Imprisoned for Debt. The following Message, with the papers to which they refer, was received from the PresiDent Of The United States:

Gentlemen of the Senate, and

Gentlemen of the Borne of Representatives: A representation has been made to me, by the Judge of tke Pennsylvania district of the United States, of certain inconveniences and disagreeable circumstances, which have occurred hi the execution of the law passed on the 28th day of May, 1786, entitled "An act for the relief of persons imprisoned for debt," as well as of certain doubts which have been raised concerning its construction; this representation, together with a report of the Attorney General on the same subject, I now transmit to Congress, for their consideration, that if any amendments or explanations of that law may be thought advisable, they may be adopted.

JOHN ADAMS. United States, January 18, 1798.

This Message, with the papers accompanying it, was referred to the same Committee of the Whole to whom was referred the report on the petition of William Bell.

Diplomatic Intercourse BiU. Mr. Nicholas inquired with what stuns the blanks in the bill were to be filled.

Foreign Intercourse.

« PreviousContinue »