« AnteriorContinuar »
SENATE.] Impeachment of Judge Peck.
—-Post Office Department. [DEc. 13, 14, 15, 1830.
late a Senator of this body from the State of Mississippi, will go into mourning for one month, by wearing crape on the left arm. Mr. KANE, of Illinois, said, that a paper which he had presented on the first day of the session, announced to the Senate the decease of his late colleague, John McLEAN, of Illinois. He died, after a short illness, at his residence, on the 14th day of October last. Though not a native of the State which he represented, he might well be claimed as one of the favorite sons of Illinois. He had removed there at an early age. There he commenced his career in life; a career of usefulness and distinction, which had fallen to the lot of few in that region of country. In private life, he was remarkable for his benevolence, frankness, and independence of character. No one in the circle in which he moved had a larger share of the confidence and affections of his fellow men. He was by profession a lawyer, possessed of a vigorous mind, a rapid but easy clocution. These qualifications, added to an honesty of purpose, universally accorded to him, raised him to the front rank of his profession; and there sustained him. As a statesman, the people of Illinois would long remember him as the author of many of the most valued portions of their statute books, and as the acute and able presiding officer over the deliberations of the most numerous branch of their Legislature. Mr. McLEAN had been twice elected to a seat in the Senate of the United States, and his last election was the result of the unanimous vote of the members of both branches of the General Assembly. In the state of things which then existed, no stronger evidence of the general esteem in which he was held by those who knew him best could well be given. In order to pay a proper respect to the memory of such a man, Mr. KAN E moved the adoption of the following resolution; which was unanimously agreed to: Resolved, unanimously, That the members of the Senate, for the purpose of showing a proper respect to the memory of the Honorable John McLEAN, deceased, late a Senator from the State of Illinois, will go into mourning for one month, by wearing crape on the left arm. On motion of Mr. ELLIS, of Mississippi, it was also Resolved, unanimously, That, as an additional evidence of respect to the memory of the deceased Senators from Mississippi and Illinois, the Senate do now adjourn, to meet on Monday next, at eleven o'clock.
Mon DAY, DEc. 13.
IMPEACHMENT OF JUIDGE PECK.
A message was received from the House of Representatives, announcing the adoption by that House of a replication to the answer and plea of Judge Peck to the article of impeachment exhibited against him by them.
At twelve o’clock, the Court of Impeachment for the trial of Judge Peck, of Missouri, was opened in due form by proclamation from the Marshal of the District of Columbia. The Senators were ranged on two sets of benches, covered with green cloth, to the right and left of the Chair occupied by the President of the Senate.
On motion of Mr. Wood RURy, the ScCretary was ordered to inform the House of Representatives, that the Senate had organized itself into a Court of Impeachment for the trial of James H. Peck, judge of the District Court of the United States for the district of Missouri, and were ready to proceed to the trial; and that seats had been pre
ared for the reception and accommodation of the members of the House of Representatives.
Shortly after the order was passed the respondent, accompanied by Mr. WIRT and Mr. MER ED1th, his counsel, appeared at the bar of the Senate. They were conducted to seats, with a table before them, prepared for their convenience.
peachment, on the part of the House of Representatives, also came in, and took their scats. Mr. BUCHANAN, one of the managers, rose and said, that the managers, on the part of the House of Representatives, were ready to present the replication of that House, to the answer and plea of James H. Peck, judge of the District Court of the United States for the district of Missouri, to the articles of impeachment exhibited against him by that body. He then read the replication, as follows: “The House of Representatives of the United States, having considered the answer and plea of James II. Peck, judge of the District Court of the United States for the district of Missouri, to the article of impeachment against him, by them exhibited, in the name of themselves, and of all the People of the United States, reply, that the said James H. Peck is guilty, in such manner as he stands impeached; and that the House of Representatives will be ready to prove their charges against him, at such convenient time and place as shall be appointed for that purpose.” The Court, after some preliminary business, adjourned to Monday next, and the Senate till to-morrow. [The notices of this trial, which will be found in the following pages, embrace only such reports as were given from day to day, through the columns of the National Intelligencer, for the public information, and to convey a general idea of the merits of the case, and the course and character of the trial. They are mere sketches, and are to be received as such only. A full report of the trial—the testimony and the arguments of the managers and counsel —making a large volume, has been published separately. ]
The Senate took up for consideration the following resolution, which was yesterday submitted by Mr. CLAYTON:
“Resolved, That a committee be appointed to examine and report the present condition of the Post Office Department; in what manner the laws regulating that department are administered; the distribution of labor; the number of clerks, and the duties assigned to each; the number of agents; where and how employed; the compensation of contractors; and, generally, the entire mannagement of the department; and whether further, and what, legal provisions may be necessary to secure the proper administration of its affairs.”
Mr. WHITE had no objection to the proposed inquiry; but he felt generally indisposed to the raising of special committees, where the subject matter of a resolution belonged properly to a standing committee. He, therefore, hoped that the honorable mover of this resolution would so modify it as to refer it to the Committee on the Post
son for sending it to a special committee. Mr. CLAYTON expressed the opinion that this inquiry was not necessarily the business of the Post Office Committee. That committee had arduous and important duties to perform. The session would be short, and they would probably not have time to attend to any other matters than those which ordinarily belonged to them. He thought that the importance of the subject now proposed required its reference to a special committee. He did not, therefore, feel inclined to accede to the suggestion of
the Senator from Tennessee. - * * -: . . -- ****
Office and Post Roads, unless he could assign some rea Dec. 15, 1830.]
Post Office Department.
Mr. WHITF said he would then move that the resolution be so modified as to refer it to the Com:mittee on the Post Office and Post Roads. There was nothing in it which was not proper for reference to the regular committee. ts the whole affairs of the department were to be examined and considered, the investigation would impart to that committee a fund of information, which would prove useful to them hereafter. Mr. HOLMES hoped that the resolution would not be so amended. A great deal of labor would have to be performed by this committee. It would be their duty to examine the department well; to see how the business in it was done, and to present the result to the Senate, that they might act upon it as circumstances might require, and the information obtained might go forth to the public for their consideration. It had been understood that a new bureau for removals and appointments had been established in the Post Office Department; a bureau, which, for brevity, might be called the bureau of proscription. Łt has had a good deal to do: it had done a good deal: its business must be nearly at an end. All had probably been touched by it, whom it could well lay its hands on. it services might now, perhaps, be dispensed with. He also hoped that the time would soon come when the department could pay all the expenditures with the receipts of the year. It appeared that upwards of eighty thousand dollars had been taken out of the surplus fund to defray the expenses. He admitted that this fund had been also heretofore diminished; but he trusted that it might not be hereafter necessary to apply to it. He was in favor of referring this examination to a special committee, whose particular attention should be directed to that object. Mr. GRUNDY said that, a a member of the Post Of. fice Committee, he ought, perhaps, to be sparing in his remarks on the question before the Senate. Gentlemen were, however, mistaken as to the burthen of business which that committee had to perform. They had nothing to do, except what might be specifically imposed upon them by the Senate. He was indifferent about the disposition which might be made of this resolution, but the duty of the Post Office committee was connected with the business of that department. It was a duty especially assigned to them. They were to ascertain what laws were defective, and in what manner they should be amended. He did not object to the proposed scrutiny; and if it were committed to other members, he should cheerfully acqui. esce. He was no fonder of labor than other gentlemen. If the examination were assigned to the Post Office Committee, he, for one, would be willing to engage in it. Mr. HOLMES observed that the practice of referring duties of this kind to special committees was not novel. It was not unusual in the other House. When there, he had been a member of a committee of investigation. The House had given them the power to send for persons and papers. Some of the heads of Departments had been brought before them. The committee had made a tho. rough examination, and had discovered some abuses which required correction. A new administration was now in power, and it might be well for the Senate to take a peep behind the Executive curtain. In the Post Office Department great changes have been made; mistakes, errors, abuses, might have crept in. It was, therefore, proper, in order that the subject might undergo a full and thorough examination, that it should be referred to a special committee, - _ _ _ _ _ –----------Mr. NOBLE said that he did not mean to be tedious, but he should tell the truth. Great complaints had been made against this department. There was Obadiah B. Brown—he did not wish to be rough—and there were the relations of Richard M. Johnson, of Kentucky, who had large contracts with that department for carrying the mail. Worthy and honorable citizens felt aggrieved at the favoritism shown by this department. It was well
known, that in that and other departments of the Government, they who were the most in the habit of dancing attendance, were the most successful in their applications. Rash as this declaration might be considered in him, he had said it, and he should not retract. Let these departments be brought to the bar of justice, and tested by their conduct. If he were one of the majority, he would not withhold an inquiry into the conduct of any officer, even from Andrew Jackson down to the humblest menial. He meant in this remark no allusion to the high minded and honorable public officers who differed from him in politics. He réspected them as much as any gentleman. A star from the West would shortly appear here. He hailed its approach. Mr. Non Le then inquired of the Sccretary, who was the chairman of the Committee on the Post Office and Post Roads? And, upon being informed by the chair that it was Mr. GRUN py, he inquired whether Mr. Binn, of Kentucky, was not also a member of that committee? [The Ch Kim said not.] Mr. No BLE said that he meant no disrespect by the question. Mr. Bi on was the chairman at the last session, and he had thought that he was a member at present. . He declared that a rigid committee was required on the present occasion. The sooner the Augean stable was cleansed the better. It would be better to have a special committee for the purpose. He referred, as a precedent in point, to a similar investigation into the General Post Office affairs some years ago, by a special committee, of which that distinguished reformer, the present Secretary of the Treasury, had been the chairman. He also alluded to that other chief of reformers, whose late message had shut up the great outlet of the West. Mr. BELL said, that many complaints had been made concerning the Post Office Department. They had lately been more general than at any other time. He did not say that they were well founded, but they deserved the attention of the Senate. It had been the general practice to refer particular investigations into the manner in which executive duties of the Government had been performed, to special committees. He did not know why this practice should be departed from on this occasion. ... It was proper that this inquiry should go to gentlemen disposed to make the most thorough investigation. If gentlemen were convinced that the complaints were unfounded, they ought to permit those to make the investigation who were impressed with the opinion that an investigation was necessary, because a report from such a committee in favor of the Department would be satisfactory to every body. It was due, therefore, to those who desired the inquiry, as well as to the Postmaster-General himself, that it should go to a special committee. These reasons induced him to vote against the motion to amend. Mr. KING said, that gentlemen seemed to treat this subject as if any member of the Senate were opposed to the inquiry. Mr. BELL explained. He assured the gentleman from Alabama that it had not been his intention to make any such suggestion. Mr. KlWG considered that the Post Office committee was composed of as honest and as honorable men as any other members of the Senate. As to their having too much to do, it was notorious that they had little or nothing to do, until after the Post Office Committee of the House of Representatives had made their report. Unless some effect different from a fair exposition were intended or expected from this inquiry, he could imagine no reason for taking it out of the hands of the standing committee to which it properly belonged. Was it proposed to refer the subject to a special committee in order to impress a belief in the existence of extraordinary complaints and of abuses? He was no apologist for any department. If any head of a department had done wrong, let him be brought before a committee; let him be censured, or even SENATE.]
punished, if punishment was proper. He did not believe that the individual now at the head of the Post Office would shrink from any investigation, if it were intimated to him that it was desired. He had administered that department with integrity, skill, and ability. His predecessor did the same. Mr. KING hoped the inquiry would be referred to the Committee on the Post Office and Post Roads. Mr. CLAYTON expressed a hope, that gentlemen would not suppose that he wished to take this inquiry from the Committee on the Post Office and Post Roads, because of any want of confidence in them. He had no such idea. Because he had confidence in that committee, did it follow that this special and laborious investigation should be referred to them? The same argument would apply with equal force against the reference of any other proposition to a special committee. Were not other standing committees composed also of honorable men? The objection, if it were sound, would apply on all occasions. He had as great confidence as any gentleman in the judgment and ability of the Post Office Committee. Yet, on this occasion, he preferred a committee selected by the Senate itself for this special purpose. In regard to that committee having nothing to do, it was an erroneous idea. Petitions and memorials were presented every day, over and over again, and referred to that committee. They would have to examine and prepare reports on all these. The duty of the proposed special committee would be arduous and laborious. The standing committee would not have time to investigate the whole subject. Gentlemen could vote for the members of that committee as members of the special committee, if they pleased; but nothing was fairer than that the Senate should select a committee for themselves. Mr. KING said, that the Senate was a small body. Was there a member in it who was not on some committee If the honorable Senator had no particular objection to the gentlemen composing the Post Office Committee, and, upon his soul, he did not know who they were—why refer this resolution to other gentlemen having equally or more arduous duties to perform on other committees? Mr. CLAYTON replied, that some of the members of the Post Office Committee had other arduous duties to perform also. The gentleman might, however, in the selection of a committee, judge for himself, as he should, in this respect. Mr. WHITE had not expected, when he had made the motion before the Senate, as much debate as had arisen upon the subject. He had listened to it with attention; but it had not changed his original views. If the subjectmatter of a resolution applied to a standing committee, the general rule was to refer it to that committee. He admitted that there were exceptions to the rule; but every object of inquiry in this resolution belonged to the Committee on the Post Office and Post Roads. There was nothing in it that could take it out of the general rule. Under this impression, he had made the motion now before the Senate. He could not believe that the Post Office Committee were so much pressed as gentlemen supposed. They had as much leisure as any other committee. They were familiar with the business of the department. It would be injustice to them to suppose that they could desire to st ss any investigation. They would no doubt give to the subject the fullest and freest examination. If any abuse existed, let it be brought to the notice of the Senate and the nation. He thought it more proper to refer the resolution to the standing committee, than to a special committee; but he should acquiesce in whatever decision the Senate might come to on the subject. Mr. CHAMBERS concurred with the honorable Scnator in the general principle which he had laid down; but he thought that it had been misapplied on this occasion. When the Committee on the Post Office and Post Roads
was created, did it enter the mind of the President or of the Senate that the duties enjoined by this resolution were to be committed to them? These duties were not of the nature of those which belonged to a standing committee. It results from the character and object of standing committees, that a vast variety of items were referred to them in the ordinary transaction of the business of the Senate. These were, generally, as much as they could attend to. He believed that, if a standing committee had even taken up any subject like that contemplated by the resolution, a knowledge of it had never passed beyond the walls of the room in which they had deliberated. Duties specifically belonging to a standing committee should go to it, as a matter of course; but the proposed inquiry was one which was peculiarly appropriate to a special committee. He did not mean to compliment; all the members on this floor stood on an equal footing. His objection was not to the integrity of the Post Office committee; but they had not been selected with a view to this investigation. This was a question of selection; and he should vote for the resolution as offered by his honorable friend from Delaware. The question on the motion to amend, so as to refer the resolution to the Committee on the Post Office and Post Roads, was taken by yeas and nays, and the vote was 18 Yeas, and 20 Nays, as follows: YEAS–Messrs. Baker, Benton, Brown, Dickerson, Dudley, Ellis, Grundy, Hendricks, Iredell, Kane, King, Poindexter, Sanford, Smith, of Md., Troup, Tyler, White, Woodbury–18. NAYS-Messrs. Barton, Bell, Burnet, Chambers, Chase, Clayton, Foot, Frelinghuysen, Holmes, Johnston, Knight, Marks, Naudain, Noble, Robbins, Ruggles, Seymour, Silsbee, Sprague, Willey—20. The original resolution, as offered by Mr. CLAYTON, was then adopted. Mr. BELL then moved that a committee of five be appointed, by ballot, to take charge of the resolution. Mr. GRUNDY inquired of the Chair what was the rule of the Senate in relation to the appointment of committees? The President read the rule, by which it appeared that the power to appoint committees belonged to the Chair. That power, however, could be exercised by the Senate, by unanimous consent. Mr. GRUNDY said that would not be given. Mr. FOOT asked whether the rule of the Senate could not be altered or amended? Mr. KING replied, that it could, by giving a day’s notice. Here the conversation ended, and the President announced the appointment of Mr. CLAYTON, Mr. GRUNDY, Mr. HOLMES, Mr. WOODBURY, and Mr. HENDRICKS, as the committee.
Thuns pay, DEcEMBER 16. EXPLANATION.
Mr. NOBLE said, he had understood that, in the report of his remarks yesterday on the resolution respect. ing the Post office Department, which had appeared in the Telegraph, he had used language that had been offensive to some of his friends. He had been reported as having represented Colonel Richard M. Johnson as an agent to that Department. He had no recollection that he had made such remark. A different report of his speech had been made in the National Intelligencer. He had made allusion to some of the friends of that gentleman as having contracts with the Department. This he could not disguise. But it would have been wrong and unjust to represcnt Colonel Johnson as an agent of the Post Office, because he was a member of Congress, and was prohibited, by law, from accepting any office of Dec. 17, 20, 1830.]
Trial of Judge Peck.
The Senate resolved itself into a Court of Impeachment, for the trial of Judge Peck, of Missouri. The House of Representatives, preceded by their managers, Mr. BUCHANAN, Mr. McDUFFIE, Judge SPENCER, Mr. STORRS, and Mr. WICKLIFFE, came into the Senate chamber in a body, and having taken the seats prepared for them, Mr. BUCHANAN rose and said, that the managers on the part of the House of Representatives were now prepared to proceed in this trial. Mr. MEREDITH, one of the counsel for the respondent, desired that the witnesses summoned in his behalf might be called. The Marshal accordingly called over their names. Some of them did not answer. Mr. MEREDITH observed, that three of the material witnesses for the respondent were not present. We are, said he, notwithstanding, ready to go to trial, Mr. McDUFFIE then rose, and opened the case for the prosecution in substance as follows: Mr. McDuff IE said, that, in opening this case, he should endeavor to reduce to the narrowest limits the preliminary view, which he proposed to take of the principles upon which he should invoke the judgment of this honorable court on the charge set forth in the article of impeachment against the respondent now upon his trial. It was unnecessary for him to attract the special attention of the court, by any exposition of the importance of the case. Every member of this honorable court must be aware of its great importance to the respondent himself, and to the country at large. He asked that patient attention, in the consideration of the case, which was indispensable to a correct decision upon it. He then proceeded to lay down the principles of the constitution and law upon the subject of contempts, and contended that Judge Peck had violated them, and had, in the summary punishment which he had inflicted upon Mr. Lawless, been guilty of an illegal and tyrannical usurpation of power. Whatever view the court might take of the powers of the judge, he maintained that no contempt had been committed. The common law of England was utterly unknown to the judicial tribunals of the United States. Upon what principle, he demanded, could it be contended that the English common law, as such, had any force in this country Were it not that it had been partly adopted in some of the States by legislative enactments; had we not been educated in its principles; would it occur to any human being in this country that it had any existence here? It was utterly absurd to say that the common law was in force in the courts of the United States. He granted that, as respected many of our laws and acts of Congress, especially those which provided for the organization of our courts, they were expounded according to the principles and rules of the common law. Where our courts were called upon to decide cases, they must have rules of proceeding and action, and he agreed that for these they had wisely and properly resorted to the common law. These were wise rules of action for cases within the express jurisdiction of the courts. But, with regard to crimes and punishments, the principles
of the common law had no force in our tribunals. He was aware it might be said, that it was necessary for the courts to adopt some principle which would authorize them to maintain their jurisdiction by punishing for contempts committed within and against it. But the power of punishin for contempt was a high criminal power; and, although it had been exercised by courts of chancery as well as law, it was, of all others, the most dangerous that could be enforced. He maintained that the power could not legally or constitutionally be exercised so as to disfranchise a citizen, or to deprive him of his liberty and the means of his existence. The correct principle, then, was this: the courts of the United States had no power to punish for contempt, further than their own self-preservation required. It was necessary that they should possess the power to protect themselves in the administration of justice; to prevent and punish direct outrages upon the court; to prevent the judge from being driven from the bench, the jury from being assaulted, and the regular and fair administration of justice from being impeded. This power the courts possessed independently of the laws of the United States, or the common law. The right to punish in such cases was inherent. But how far did it extend? What principle of necessity, the tyrant's plea, would justify the exercise of this power? for nothing but necessity could justify it. It could be enforced only so far as to protect the courts in the administration of justice; to prevent any obstruction in their proceedings. It must be a flagrant outrage in the face of the court to justify a summary punishment for contempt. If, in such cases, our courts had not the power to protect themselves in the discharge of their high functions, it would be in vain for them to attempt to administer justice. Certain powers, however, had been imperceptibly introduced here from the common law courts of England; our judges and lawyers had been thus imbued with certain principles, which were utterly incompatible with liberty. What was the case of the respondent? He was not in court; he was not in the actual administration of justice, when the publication of Mr. Lawless was made. He claimed the power of protecting his sacred person, like the King of England, from all scrutiny! The judgment of the court had been rendered six months before the publication. The decree had been entered. There was an end to the judicial functions of the judge as to that case. But some four or five months after judgment rendered, Judge Peck, from some motive, no doubt having reference to the public interest, thought proper to come out and publish an extra-judicial opinion in the newspapers: a labored argument, prepared after his judicial functions had ceased, to make such an impression upon the land claimants in Missouri as should correspond with his own. And it was this extra-judicial opinion which he sought to protect from all scrutiny, by the principles of the common law; upon the principle that the king could do no wrong, and that the judge was, as the representative of the king, administering his justice, equally exempt from responsibility.
Wi. there anything in this case to justify the exercise of such an extraordinary power, as that assumed by the judge, to commit and suspend Mr. Lawless?, Was justice likely to be impeded, because, by an extrajudicial act of the judge himself, his opinion was subjected to public discussion? Suppose the article written by Mr. Lawless to have been, what it was not, an atrocious libel, founded in falsehood, an infamous and defamatory libel, where was the evil? What injury could it have done to the administration of justice? Was it a case of em: roency? No, sir. It would have been an ordinary case of libel, which could just as well have been punished, through the ordinary channel of trial by jury, in two years, as any other libel. Admit the impunity of Judge Peck from scrutiny; suppose him to have been administering the king's justice, and to have been protected from all animadversion; where then
was the necessity for inflicting punishment by a mode of trial which excluded all investigation; without any trial in fact: without investigation; without the interposition of a jury? Would any man of sense contend, on these principles, that the judges of the United States had any power, any right, to punish any libel, however flagitious, on any act of the court, after it had been done as a contempt? Had the people no right to discuss the principles of the judges of the Supreme Court of the United States? Had a South Carolina editor, for example, no right to examine the opinion of that court in the case of Cohen,and to produce it as evidence that the judges were the ministers of despotism? He demanded of this honorable court, whether there was any unmeasured language of reprobation, in which a citizen might not indulge towards a court for pronouncing an opinion, and proclaiming principles dangerous to liberty, and to the free institutions of his country? -Would the Supreme Court send the Marshal to South Carolina or Louisiana to bring such an editor before them for contempt, and to punish him by the summary process of attachment? From his knowledge of that court, and of the Chief Justice, he had no hesitation in saying that they would unanimously, and with one accord, decide that they were a court of limited powers; that they did not possess any authority on the subject of contempts, except the inherent power to protect themselves in the administration of justice, and to prevent its obstruction. To support his argument, Mr. McD. adverted to the sedition law, not for the purpose of exciting any prejudice, or reviving any party feeling, in this honorable court, but as furnishing some analogy for the illustration of the present case. That law was thoroughly understood by every public man in the country. It was settled in the public mind to be an usurpation. Every man of understanding considered it to have been unconstitutional. And yet it was a mitigation of the common law of England. It exploded the monstrous heresy, that the greater the truth the greater would be the libel. But it was deemed unconstitutional. Congress were condemned not for having passed an act which mitigated the principles of the common law of England, but because they had no authority to pass any law restricting the liberty of speech or of the press; because they had conferred on the federal courts a power to punish for contempt any man who might utter or publish what they might deem a libel. , Was not this a grievance? The law had been repealed: it had become universally odious. And now, the President, the Senate, and House of Representatives, together, did not possess the power which Judge Peck, representing the King of England, and administering his justice, claimed, of punishing a citizen for contempt, in daring to question the infallibility of his opinion. Whence did he derive a power which did not belong to the united functionaries of this Government? Under the sedition law, the citizen accused of a libel was entitled to a trial by jury, and to give the truth in evidence. By its repeal, the people of the United States had decided that the President, Senate, and House of Representatives could not subject a citizen even to trial by a jury for the most defamatory libel. But here, in this case, the judge undertakes, not by the interposition of a jury, but of his own will, to punish for a contempt imagined by himself, which nobody else would have noticed or vic w. ed, as a contempt. Without law, this honorable judge claimed a power to punish, much greater than that which was possessed by every other branch of the Government united. He claimed a power to make the law, and punish under it, at the same moment. This was the most infamous and tyrannical of the whole tissue of usurpations. We had analogies in the acts of Congress bearing on this case. Iły the judicial act of 1789, the federal courts have the power to punish for contempts committed during the progress of a trial of any cause depending in court. In carrying this law into effect, they might punish any act
Trial of Judge Peck.
[Dec. 20, 1830. tending to impede the course of justice, any insult to the court or jury, any contempt perpetrated in the face of the court, by fine and imprisonment. The express grant of one power was the negation of another. The power conferred by this act raised a presumption that Congress had not intended to go further; that the federal courts possessed no other or greater authority in relation to contempts. He humbly conceived that the kind of punishment indicatcd by that act, was that by fine and imprisonment alone. If it were, it would be most extraordinary that the courts should claim the power to punish in any other way than by fine and imprisonment. Unquestionably, they did not possess any such authority. , What argument, then, could justify the respondent?. Although Congress had authorized only fine and imprisonment for the higher grades of contempt, the respondent claimed the power to inflict a greater punishment for the milder grades. In any view, whether we regarded the common law, the laws or usages of our own country, or of England, or the principles of the constitution, our courts and judges could not inflict a greater punishment for contempt than fine and imprisonment: they could not inflict disfranchisement: they could not deprive a man of his occupation, his inheritance, or the means of subsisting his family. Such a power was never claimed before by any tribunal in the civilized world. It must be apparent, by this time, that the district court of Missouri had no power to punish a citizen of the United States for contempt, further than to protect the court in the actual administration of justice. Even the principles of the common law conferred no semblance of authority to punish a contempt against the majesty of a court. What was the principle assumed in regard to contempts by the courts of England? In the case of the King against Almon, which was no case at all, a mere extra-judicial opinion of Chief Justice Wilmot, found among his papers after his death, all the principles laid down in it were the principles of unmitigated judicial despotism. This ingenious and artful tissue assumed, that the judges of England, deriving their authority from the King of England, and administering the King’s justice, were an emanation of his power, and that the same principle which protected the character and person of the King, as sacred, protected those of his judges in like manner. This opinion was going the whole. The judges, sitting in the seat of the King, could not be called to account for denying the writ of habeas corpus, or refusing to grant it, without making the King violate his coronation oath! This miserable tistue of sophistry and falsehood was used to justify the punishment of a fair and manly publication on the law of habeas corpus as a contempt! God forbid that any man in this country should say that the opinions of judges were not a fair subject of animadversion, or that the proceedings of this honorable body were not also open for discussion. No man, according to this doctrine, had a right to publish any thing, true or false, concerning any public functionary, disparaging him, his character, or opinions. This principle of the English courts, a district judge of the United States has had the boldness to advance to justify his judicial tyranny. Could this be law? Any publication against a private citizen was prima facie a libel; it was the private individual that ought to be protected from calumny. The same immunity did not belong to the public functionary. What might properly be punished for being said against a private citizen, it would be justifiable to say against a public functionary. There was hardly any thing, true or false, that ought not. with impunity, to be allowed to be published against a public man, rather than run the hazard of restricting the liberty of discussion. By the irreversible decision of the people of the United States upon the sedition law, it had been decided that you cannot punish any thing said against a public officer. A decision so unanimous as that was did not ex