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The next meeting was fixed at Tacubaya, a small village in the neighborhood of Mexico, in the month of February, 1827. Mr. Sargeant, as envoy from the United States, left Philadelphia in season to be at this meeting near the time of its commencement. After waiting some time at Mexico, and finding that the proposed congress was not likely to convene soon, if at all, he returned.
Death of commodore Perry-Duel between commodores Decatur and Bar
ron-Its occasion-Previous correspondence-Decatur slain-Proceedings of congress relating to his funeral-Duelling not allowed in the European service-Not noticed or punished in the United States—Second session of the 16th congress-Balloting for a successor to Mr. Clay-Speaker chosenMessage--Constitution of Missouri presented-Exceptionable clause-Not accepted-Proposition to reduce the civil list negatived-Report of the secretary at war on the subject of reducing the army-Plan of retaining supernumerary officers rejected-Army reduced to six thousand-Situation of the public lands-Arrears of debt for lands--Terms of selling land altered -Relief to debtors for lands-Electoral votes counted--Proceedings relating to the votes of Missouri-Result declared-Inauguration and speech of the president.
Death of Commodore Perry. In the year 1820, the citizens of the United States had occasion to lament the death of two of their distinguished naval commanders. Oliver H. Perry died of a fever at Trinidad, where he had been dispatched in the Hornet, as part of a squadron, stationed in the West Indies, for the suppression of piracy. He had been most of the time in active service, since the war, on the Mediterranean, and West India stations, and acquitted himself with honor; though no opportunities had offered for brilliant achievments." His remains were interred on the island with military honors ; but afterwards removed by order of government, to Newport.
Duel between Decatur and Barron. Commodore De. catur was killed in a duel with Commodore Barron, on the 22d of March, 1820, at Bladensburgh, near the city of Washington. Barron received a severe wound, which proved not to be mortal. Congress being in session, a motion was made to take measures for a public funeral, and to wear a badge of mourning, as is usual on occasion of the death of one of their members, but on a suggestion that this could not be done without appearing to give public countenance to duelling, the motion was withdrawn. Both houses adjourned on the day of the interment, without entering on business. On the 24th, his funeral was attended by the president, heads of departments, foreign ministers, members of congress, officers of the army and navy, and a numerous con
course of citizens, testifying their sympathy with the dis. tressed widow and family, and their grief at the national loss. Commodore Decatur stood at the head of his profession; none of his fellow-officers had had equal opportunities of distinguishing themselves in active and hazardous enter. prizes. His eminent services, which had contributed in so great a degree to raise the character of the navy, were fresh in the recollection of his countrymen. His high reputation for courage was established beyond a doubt, and needed not the miserable aid of a duel, often the refuge of cowardice, to give it additional support.
Causes of the duel. The facts which led to this unhappy tragedy, are of a date as early as 1806. The conduct of Commodore Barron in not fighting the Leopard, a ship of vastly superior force, and well prepared for action, with the Chesapeake, when unexpectedly attacked, although the con sequence must have been the immediate destruction of his ship, was universally censured, and public sentiment seemed to require a sacrifice. A court of inquiry was first held, who passed a censure upon his conduct. A court martial was then called, on which Commodore Decatur was detailed as one of the members. Having previously formed and expressed an opinion unfavorable to Barron, he declined sitting. The secretary of the navy would not excuse him, and he took his seat as a member of that court. Their de. cision, after an investigation of two weeks was, that the commodore was not guilty of any cowardice or want of firm. ness on the occasion, but was guilty of neglect of duty, and unofficer-like conduct, in not clearing his ship for action on the probability of an engagement; and sentenced him to be suspended from all command in the navy, and from all pay and emoluments, for the term of five years, from the 8th of February, 1808. This sentence was approved by the president, and carried into effect. Barron imputed the severity of this sentence, in a great measure, to the influence of Decatur. During a part of the period of his suspension, he resorted to the merchant service for support, and afterwards retired to France. The government miti. gated the sentence so far as to grant half pay to his family, during his absence. When the period of his suspension expired, February 8th, 1813, the country being at war with England, he solicited employment in her service. Not being encouraged by the secretary of the navy, he remained in France until the close of the war. On his return to the United States, he again claimed his rank and employment
in the navy; and on the Columbus, 74, being put in commission, he considered himself entitled, from his standing in the service, to her command. Commodore Decatur, having an unfavorable opinion of his talents, opposed the designation, and as Barron supposed, was the principal cause of his exclusion. Some officious intermeddler fabri. cated, and reported to Barron a story, that Decatur had somewhere said, “ that he could insult Barron with impunity.” The latter, listening with too great readiness to this tale-bearer, commenced an angry correspondence on the subject of this report ; which ended in Decatur's disavowing the use of any such expressions, at the same time justifying the course he had taken in his official capacity, in relation to Barron. The subject rested in this situation from June to October, 1819, and was supposed to be at an end; when Barron, still listening to idle reports, commenced a second correspondence, accusing Decatur of having exhibited their former letters, for purposes unfriendly to his character; and of having said that he would cheerfullymeet Barron in the field, and hoped he would act like a man. These stories Barron, taking them for true without evidence or examination, affected to consider as amounting to a challenge, and called upon Decatur to make the arrangement, of time, place, and weapons. This produced a reply. from Decatur, stating at length his objections to Barron as a naval officer, justifying the course which he had taken towards him, and denying that he had the remotest ground, from any rumors to which he had been listening, to apprehend that he was challenged. A correspondence of considerable length ensued, remarkable for nothing but its asperity, and want of decorum. At the close of his last letter, Decatur remarks, "that your jeopardizing your life depends on yourself and not on me, and is done with a view of fighting your character-up; I shall pay no further attention to any communication you make to me, other than a direct call to the field.” This was answered by the challenge direct from Barron, followed by the appointment of seconds, and the usual preliminaries of a duel, and the fatal result of the 22d of March.
This atrocious act, which deprived the country of one of its ablest naval commanders, was committed under the eye of the executive, who by virtue of his office is commander in chief of the navy, by one of his officers, without animadversion. The fact exhibited the melancholy spectacle of the supreme naval commander's suffering one of his principal officers to be murdered, for acts done in his official capacity,
by another, with impunity. The prevalence of this savage manner of settling disputes in the United States, is a subject of astonishment and regret. That it should have found its way, to so great an extent, in the
unprecedented. In this particular, the United States, in civilization, are far behind the European governments. In modern times the practice is wholly excluded from their service. The officer who has accepted a commission under the government to fight its battles, has pledged himself; his person is no longer at his own disposal, and he cannot hazard his life in & personal quarrel, without robbing his master. It is, there. fore, with the highest reason that the monarchs of Europe have entirely eradicated dueling from their military system. On most national questions relating to principles, manners, and customs, the American citizen feels proud of a comparison between his own country and Europe ; but on this he must acknowledge a lamentable inferiority.
This act was committed in the immediate vicinity of the supreme national legislature, during their session, and on ground over which, for the sake of the better preservation of the public peace, they exercise peculiar and exclusive legislation. The duelist, who slays his fellow, is guilty of murder in the first degree, and of the most aggravated nature, and all concerned, are guil y as accessories. Yet of the hundreds of murders of this description in the United States, there never has been a conviction, and execution of the murderer. In the present instance, this atrocious homicide was suffered to pass unnoticed, as well by the supreme executive, as by the civil authorities of the district.
Second session of the 16th congress. Agreeable to a law of the last session, the 16th congress commenced its second term on the 13th of November, 1820. Mr. Clay, being unable to attend at the opening of the session, addressed a letter to the house, resigning the chair. A balloting to supply the vacancy immediately commenced, which continued three days; and on the 22d ballot, Mr. Taylor, of New York, was chosen. The opposing candidates were Mr. Lowndes, of South Carolina, and General Smith, of Maryland. The president's message, which was communicated immediately on the organization of the house, was, as usual, a plain business-like state paper, giving congress such information in relation to the foreign and domestic concerns of the United States, and the situation of the treasury, as was necessary to guide their deliberations. Being a true, it contained a very pleasing picture of the affairs of the nation. During