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or indictment of a grand jury.” General Jackson, as well as the humblest citizen and the vilest criminal, was entitled to the benefit of these constitutional provisions. If he had violated the Constitution, and suspended the laws, and committed crimes, Judge Hall had no right to punish him by the summary process of the doctrine of contempts, without indictment, or jury, or evidence, or the forms of trial. It is incumbent upon those who defend and applaud the conduct of the judge to point out the specific act done by General Jackson which constituted a contempt of court. The mere declaration of martial law is not of that character. If it was improperly and unnecessarily declared, the general was liable to be tried by a court-martial, according to the rules and articles of war established by Congress for that purpose. It was a matter over which the civil tribunals had no jurisdiction, and with which they had no concern, unless some specific crime had been committed or injury done; and not even then until it was brought before them according to the forms of law. Some specifications have been made in the speeches of gentlemen against General Jackson, which I will notice in their proper order.
The first is the arrest and imprisonment of Louallier on the charge of instigating treason and mutiny in the general's camp. It is immaterial for the purposes of this discussion whether he was actually guilty or not. He stood charged with the commission of gh crimes, the punishment of which was death. He was believed to be guilty, and consequently there was probable cause for his arrest and commitment for trial, according to the doctrine of the courts. If permitted to go at large, he might have matured and executed his plans of mutiny and treason by the aid of the British army, which was then hovering around the city. But, supposing this arrest to have been contrary to law, as gentlemen contend, yet it was no contempt of court. If it was an offense at all, it was a case of false imprisonment, which was indictable before a grand jury and triable by a petit jury. Why did they not proceed against General Jackson according to law, and give him a trial by a jury of his country, and obtain a verdict according to evidence? The answer is obvious: they could not procure a verdict of “Guilty” from an honest and patriotic jury who had fought in defense of the city under the operation of that “terrible martial law," and who had witnessed the necessity for its declaration, and its glorious effects in the salvation of the country:
The next specification which gentlemen make against General Jackson is, that he did not appear before Judge Hall in obedience to a writ of habeas corpus issued by the judge for the liberation of Louallier, who was in confinement on a charge of mutiny and treason. A simple statement of the facts of this case will carry with it the general's justification. The evidence shows that the writ was issued on the fifth of the month, and made returnable on the sixth, before Judge Hall, at eleven o'clock in the morning, and that it was never served on General Jackson, or shown to him, until the evening afterward. Hence it was impossible for him to have complied with the injunctions of that writ, if he had desired to do so. The writ had spent its force, had expired, was functus officio before it reached General Jackson. There was no command of the court remaining that could be obeyed, the time had elapsed. These facts were distinctly set forth by General Jackson, under oath, in his answer to the rule of court requiring him to show cause why he should not be punished for contempt; and they have never been denied. In fact, there is an abundance of corroborative evidence to the same effect. From these facts, it is clear, first, that General Jackson had committed no contempt of court; and, secondly, if he had, he fully purged himself of the alleged offense.
The next specification in the catalogue of crimes which gentlemen charge upon the hero of New Orleans is, that he forcibly seized and retained posses
sion of the writ, and the affidavit on which it was issued. The facts are, that when the writ and affidavit were brought to him for service, after the time for its return had elapsed and it had become a nullity, he discovered that a material alteration had been made, in the handwriting of the judge, not only in the writ, but also in the affidavit, without the consent of the man who had sworn to it. These alterations of themselves rendered the papers void, even if they had been originally valid, and had not expired of their own limitation; but, as they contained the evidence upon their face of the crime of forgery, it was important that General Jackson should retain possession of them, lest they should be destroyed and the evidence lost. With this view, the general did retain the originals and furnish certified copies to the judge. These transactions did not occur in the presence of the judge or his court, nor when his court was in session, and, of course, could not legally be punished by the summary process of contempt. If they were illegal, why not give the benefit of a fair trial by a jury of his country, as guaranteed by the Constitution and laws ? No; this was arbitrarily and unjustly withheld from him, thereby denying him the privilege of proving his innocence.
The next, and the last, of these high crimes and misdemeanors imputed to Jackson at New Orleans is that of arresting Judge Hall and sending him beyond the limits of the city, with instructions not to return until peace was restored. The justification of this act is found in the necessity which required the declaration of martial law, and its continuance and enforcement until the enemy should have left our shores, or the treaty of peace should have been ratified and published. The judge had confederated with Louallier and the rest of that band of conspirators, who were attempting to defeat the efforts of the American general for the defense of the city. Their movements were dangerous, because they were protected by the power of civil law, in the person of Judge Hall, by a perversion of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus. The general was driven to an extremity, in which he was compelled either to abandon the city to whatever fate the conspirators might choose to consign it, or to resolutely maintain his authority by the exertion of his own power. He TOOK THE RESPONSIBILITY, and sent the judge beyond the lines of his camp. The question arises, was this act a contempt of court? The court was not in session, he did not interrupt its proceeding, he did not obstruct its progress, but he did imprison the man who had been exercising the powers of judge. If that imprisonment had been unlawful, the general was liable to be indicted for false imprisonment, and, like any other offender, to be tried and condemned according to the forms of law. But the judge had no right to say vengeance is mine," and I will visit it upon the head of my enemy until the measure of my revenge is full.
Now, sir, I have disposed of all the specifications of crime, and oppression, and tyranny which have been charged upon General Jackson by his enemies upon this floor, in connection with his defense of New Orleans. I have endeavored to state the facts truly, and fairly apply the principles of law to them. I will thank the most learned and astute lawyer upon this floor to point out which one of those acts was a contempt of court, in the legal sense of that term, so as to authorize a summary infliction of punishment without evidence, trial, or jury? No gentleman has yet specified the act, and explained wherein the contempt consisted; and I presume no one will venture on so difficult a task. It is more prudent to deal in vague generalities and high-sounding declamation, first about the horrors of arbitrary power and lawless violence, then the supremacy of the laws and the glorious privileges of the writ of habeas corpus. These things sound very well, and are right in their proper place. I do not wish to extenuate the one or depreciate the other,
but when I hear gentlemen attempting to justify this unrighteous fine upon General Jackson upon the ground of non-compliance with rules of
court and mere formalities, I must confess that I can not appreciate the force of the argument. In cases of war and desolation, in times of peril and disaster, we should look at the substance and not the shadow of things. I envy not the feelings of the man who can reason coolly and calmly about the force of precedents and the tendency of examples in the fury of the war-cry, when “ booty and beauty” is the watchword. Talk not to me about rules and forms in court when the enemy's cannon are pointed at the door, and the flames encircle the cupola! The man whose stoicism would enable him to philosophize coolly under these circumstances would fiddle while the Capitol was burning, and laugh at the horror and anguish that surrounded him in the midst of the conflagration! I claim not the possession of these remarkable feelings. I concede them all to those who think that the savior of New Orleans ought to be treated like a criminal for not possessing them in a higher degree. Their course in this debate has proved them worthy disciples of the doctrine they profess. Let them receive all the encomiums which such sentiments are calculated to inspire.
But, sir, for the purposes of General Jackson's justification, I care not whether his proceedings were legal or illegal, constitutional or unconstitutional, with or without precedent, if they were necessary for the salvation of that city. And I care as little whether he observed all the rules and forms of court, and technicalities of the law, which some gentlemen seem to consider the perfection of reason and the essence of wisdom. There was but one form necessary on that occasion, and that was to point cannon and destroy the enemy. The gentleman from New York (Mr. Barnard), to whose speech I have had occasion to refer so frequently, has informed us that this bill is unprecedented. I have no doubt this remark is technically true according to the most approved forms. I presume no case can be found on record, or traced by tradition, where a fine, imposed upon a general for saving his country, at the peril of his life and reputation, has ever been refunded. Such a case would furnish a choice page in the history of any country. I grant that it is unprecedented, and for that reason we desire on this day to make a precedent which shall command the admiration of the world, and be transmitted to future generations as an evidence that the people of this age and in this country were not unjust to their benefactor. This bill is unprecedented, because no court ever before imposed a fine under the same circumstances, In this respect Judge Hall himself stands unprecedented.
The gentleman from Louisiana (Mr. Dawson), who addressed the committee the other day, told us that General Wilkinson declared martial law at New Orleans and enforced it at the time of Burr's conspiracy. Where was Judge Hall then that he did not vindicate the supremacy of the laws and the authority of his court? Why did he not then inflict the penalty of the law upon the perpetrator of such a gross infraction of the Constitution which he was sworn to defend and support? Perhaps his admirers here will tell us that he did not advise, and urge, and entreat General Wilkinson to declare martial law. I believe that feature does distinguish the two cases, and gentlemen are entitled to all the merit they can derive from it.
I am informed that in one of those trying cases during the last war, which required great energy and nerve, and self-sacrificing patriotism, General Gaines had the firmness to declare martial law at Sackett's Harbor; and when, after the danger had passed, he submitted himself to the civil authorities, he received the penalty of the law in the shape of a public dinner instead of a vindictive punishment. I doubt not many other cases of a similar nature may be found, if any one will take the trouble of examining the history of our two wars with Great Britain. But if the gentleman from New York intended to assert that it was unprecedented for Congress to remunerate military and naval commanders for fines, judgments, and damages assessed against them
by courts for violating the laws in the honest discharge of their public duties, I must be permitted to inform him that he has not examined the legislation of his country in that respect. If the gentleman will read the speech of the pure, noble, and lamented Linn in the Senate, in May, 1842, he will find there a long list of cases in which laws of this kind have been passed.
He said, “There were precedents innumerable where officers have been found guilty of breaches of law in the discharge of their public duty, and therefore calling for the interference of a just government. Of these it is only necessary to introduce a few where the government did interpose and give relief to the injured officer. These cases commenced as early as August, 1790, and have continued down to the present time. Thus, in April, 1818, Major General Jacob Brown was indemnified for damages sustained under sentence of civil law for having confined an individual found near his camp suspected of traitorous designs.
"At the same session Captain Austin and Lieutenant Wells were indemnified against nine judgments, amounting to upward of $6000, for having confined nine individuals suspected of treachery to the country. In this case it was justly remarked by the secretary of war (John C. Calhoun), that 'if it should be determined that no law authorized' the act, “yet I would respectfully suggest that there may be cases in the exigencies of the war in which, if the commander should transcend his legal power, Congress ought to protect him, and those who acted under him, from consequential damages.'
“In the case of General Robert Swartwout in 1823, the committee by whom it was reported stated that “it is considered one of those extreme cases of necessity in which an overstepping of the established legal rules of society stands fully justified.'
I will not occupy the time of the committee with further quotations, but will refer those who may wish to examine the subject to the speech itself, and the cases there cited.
These cases fully sustain the position I have taken, and prove that the government has repeatedly recognized and sanctioned the doctrine that in cases of “extreme necessity the commander is fully justified” in superseding the civil laws, and that Congress will always make remuneration when they are satisfied he acted with the sole view of promoting the public interests confided to his command.” The principle deducible from all the cases is, that when the necessity is extreme and unavoidable, the commander is fully justified, provided he acted in good faith; and, in either event, Congress will always make remuneration. Then, sir, I trust I have shown to the satisfaction of all candid men that, instead of this bill being unprecedented, the opposition—the fierce, bitter, vindictive opposition to its passage is unprecedented in the annals of American legislation. Are gentlemen desirous of making General Jackson an exception to those principles of justice which have prevailed in all other cases ? They mistake the character of the American people if they suppose they sever the cords which bind them to their great benefactor by continued acts of wanton injustice and base ingratitude.
Why this persevering resistance to the will of the people, which has been expressed in a manner too imperative and authoritative to be successfully resisted? The people demand this measure, and they will never be quieted until their wishes shall have been respected and their will obeyed. They will ask, they will demand the reason why General Jackson has been selected as the victim, and his case made an ignominious exception to the principles which have been adopted in all other cases, from the foundation of the government until the present moment. Was there any thing in his conduct at New Orleans to justify this wide departure from the uniform practice of the government, and single him out as an outlaw who had forfeited all claim
to the justice and protection of his country? Does the man live who will have the hardihood to question his patriotism, his honesty, the purity of his motives in every act he performed, and every power he exercised on that trying occasion? While none dare impeach his motives, they tell us he assumed almost unlimited power.
I commend him for it; the exigency required it. I admire that elevation of soul which rises above all personal considerations, and, regardless of consequences, stakes life, and honor, and glory upon the issue, when the salvation of the country depends upon the result. I also admire that calmness, moderation, and submission to rightful authority, which should always prevail in times of peace and security. The conduct of General Jackson furnished the most brilliant specimens of each the world ever witnessed. I know not which to applaud most, his acts of high responsibility and deeds of noble daring in the midst of peril and danger, or his mildness, and moderation, and lamb-like submission to the laws and civil authorities when peace was restored to his country.
Can gentlemen see nothing to admire, nothing to commend, in the closing scenes, when, fresh from the battle-field, the victorious general—the idol of his army and the acknowledged savior of his countrymen-stood before Judge Hall, and quelled the tumult and indignant murmurs of the multitude by telling him that “the same arm which had defended the city from the ravages of a foreign enemy should protect him in the discharge of his duty ?” Is this the conduct of a lawless desperado, who delights in trampling upon Constitution, and law, and right? Is there no reverence for the supremacy of the laws and the civil institutions of the country displayed on this occasion ? If such acts of heroism and moderation, of chivalry and submission, have no charms to excite the admiration or soften the animosities of gentlemen in the Opposition, I have no desire to see them vote for this bill. The character of the hero of New Orleans requires no endorsement from such a source. They wish to fix a mark, a stigma of reproach, upon his character, and send him to his grave branded as a criminal. His stern, inflexible adherence to Democratic principles, his unwavering devotion to his country, and his intrepid opposition to her enemies, have so long thwarted their unhallowed schemes of ambition and power, that they fear the potency of his name on earth, even after his spirit shall have ascended to heaven.
The bill passed the House, and subsequently passed the Senate.
After the adjournment of Congress, Messrs. Polk and Clay having been nominated for the Presidency by their respective parties, a monster convention was held at Nashville, Tennessee, to which delegations and distinguished men from all the Western States were invited. A large delegation from Illinois, including Mr. Douglas, went to Nashville. The attendance was immense. A letter now before us from one who was present states: “It was a monster gathering; forty acres were scarcely able to afford standing-room for the vast assemblage of men and women there collected from nearly every state in the Union. Some of the most brilliant orators in the country were there; the masses hung upon their lips day after day with increased interest, but at last the hour came for the adjournment.