MVB Senate remarks on assault, 18 April 1828
Friday, April 18, 1828.
Mr. VAN BUREN said, that the leading feature of the Message of the President was, that part which relates to the alleged breach of privilege. The other matters suggested in it, were of inferior importance and could be acted upon at any time. In relation to the contempt alleged to have been committed, there was upon one point no diversity of opinion, viz. that the subject required and ought to receive the most solemn examination. That course was due as well to the high source from which the complaint emanated as to its intrinsic character. The only question could be as to the mode. It was known to the Senate that a similar message had been sent to the other House, and a Committee appointed on the part of that body with full powers. He felt the force of the objections taken by the Senator from Virginia, in an early part of the day, to the carrying on a proceeding in its nature criminal against an individual, for a single act by two distinct bodies at the same time. Whatever might be the opinion of gentlemen as to the character of the act complained of, or the assumption that the facts were truly stated, it was nevertheless highly proper that the summary exercise of the high powers to punish for contempt, should be exercised in such a form as not to bear even the appearance of oppression. In that view of the subject, and regarding the point before the Senate, not as involving the question whether we should act upon the matter at all, but whether it was or was not most fit that the Senate should take direct cogniSance of the affair before it had been subjected to the action of the other House, in which proceedings against the accused had been already instituted, he had yielded his assent to laying the message for the present on the table. The communication from Mr. Jarvis had brought the subject again before the Senate. There was great propriety in the motion of the Senator from N.C. to refer the whole subject to a joint Committee. Although a single act, it was, if truly stated, an offence against both Houses, and if there were not serious objections to their joint action, it would for obvious reasons be expedient that they should do so. An objection had, however, been stated in conversation by a venerable Senator near him, (Mr. Macon,) which he thought entitled at least to a more mature consideration than could be given to it at the moment. It was this. Assuming that the act complained of amounted to a contempt of each House, was it competent for the two Houses to act jointly in a proceeding, the object of which was to punish for the alleged offence.— Suppose two Courts were sitting in the Capitol, and an act done which was in contempt of both, could they constitute a joint proceeding against the party guilty of the act? If not was there in this respect a difference between the actual and supposed case which would justify the application of a different principle? He was not prepared to say, and would therefore prefer that the matter should remain until Monday for examination and advisement. He could perceive no possible objection to this course, that the Senate would do in the premises whatever a due regard to the rights and duties of all required, was certain. The precise moment of their doing so, was in its nature of secondary importance. He hoped, therefore, that the matter would be suffered to remain on the table, until Monday.