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Conspiracies, plots, and wild chimeras were always resorted to in justifica. tion of tyrannic measures. The popular pretext of public good was the auxiliary called in to palliate measures pregnant with public evil. And too frequently under the mask of a zeal for the welfare of the com. monwealth, were concealed designs which would eventuate in the destruction of the liberties of the people. But they had been told by the gentleman from Prince George, that the law was made for two characters, to wit, Talleyrand and Volney; and that those characters had, in consequence of the same, sneaked off. Independent of the absurdity of the principle, namely, the making a general law to suit a particular case, the gentleman was most egregiously mistaken in point of fact; for Talleyrand was minister for foreign affairs for France, and in France at the time the law passed. How then the law could pass to operate on Talleyrand, was to him astonishing. For the character of Talleyrand, Mr. Barbour referred to the statement which had been made by the gentleman from Prince William. It was sufficient to say, that so long as he was supposed to be a martyr to the cause of monarchy, so long he was bosomed by Mr. Hamilton and his party. As to Mr. Volney, he said, the cause of truth and virtue required he should speak more at large. He had the pleasure of seeing that meritorious character whilst in America, but he knew him better by history than from personal acquaintance. He from maturity had been influenced by the benevolent desire of ameliorating the condition of mankind by illuminating the mind, and dispelling superstition. It was for this sublime purpose we saw him traversing Asia, and sitting, in medi. tative silence, amidst the ruins of Palmyra, drawing wisdom from experience, and developing the causes which contribute to the dissolution of the elements of society, and the overthrow of empires, and his capacious mind filled with materials of knowledge of the best kind. We saw him returning thence to his native country, to publish to the world his acquirements, as so many beacons by which those who sit at the head of affairs might guide the vessel of state free from those shoals upon which they have so frequently shipwrecked. Unfortunately for this philosopher, for France, and for the world, Robespierre was at this time at the acme of power. Robespierre, the most infamous of mankind, always the enemy to rational and genuine liberty, wherever it was found, confined this friend to the species in the instrument of despotism, a gloomy jail. By the working of events, a revolution takes place in France, by which this sanguinary tyrant met the fate which all usurpers merit. Liberty reared its head, and emancipated one of its votaries, the enlightened Volney. No sooner was he free from incarceration, than he left, once more, his native country in pursuit of wisdom, and steered to Columbia, once happy land. He explored this extensive continent, and returned once more to Europe to analyze his knowledge, and to benefit mankind by disseminating the useful information which he had acquired. This, then, was the character against whom such unfounded calumnies have been uttered. But unless some evidence was exhibited, he should take the liberty to say that they were the offspring of the gentleman's own imagination, begotten by the phantom of delusion.
The gentleman from Prince George observed, that the power of making
a law like the one under discussion should belong to Congress; other. wise, Congress would be dependent upon sixteen states. This doctrine would perhaps do, if the gentleman was in Convention, and was ascer. taining the powers which should be exercised by the Congress; but, the committee were not inquiring what these powers should be, but what they were. This reasoning, he made no doubt, was urged in Convention ; but, the representatives of the large states, which were but thinly inhabited, were opposed to the power being conceded to the General Government; and he had shown, in a former part of his argument, that the power of restraining the migration of such persons as the states should think proper to admit, was expressly inhibited by the Constitution. The same gentleman descanted at large upon the conduct of France towards the European powers. Subterfuges of this kind evidently demonstrated the distress to which the supporters of this law were reduced. For what had the conduct of France to do with an abstract inquiry upon the constitu. tionality of the law under discussion ? Arguments of this kind were calculated only to inflame the passions at the expense of reason. But, since the Committee had been driven into this subject unavoidably, Mr. Barbour said he would examine what had been the conduct of France to the European powers. Why, she had done to those powers what those powers intended to do to her. She had subdued them, and out of the rotten governments, under which those countries groaned, had established four republican governments. The gentleman said, that the French in. trigues succeeded only in republics, whilst in monarchies they had no effect. This was a calumny against republican government, en masse, and required serious attention and refutation.
Mr. Barbour asked, where was the republican government, the overthrow of which that gentleman so much deplored? Was there a republi. can government in Europe ? No; there were some which had impudently assumed the name; but it was a fact not to be controverted, that in those countries the governments were completely aristocratic; than which, no government could be worse. But perhaps that gentleman had become a disciple of the new philosophy which had sprung up under the influence of the present administration, the head of which had declared, that aristocracy is the dictate of nature, is indispensable to the order of society, and the happiness of mankind, (alluding to Mr. Adams's answer to the address of the people of Harrison County.) If this principle were admitted as orthodox, the world should lament the ruin of aristocracies; but, if it were false, (which he believed the greater part of America would not deny,) so far from mourning their downfall, it should diffuse general joy." Mr. Barbour said he had now pursued the gentleman through all the arguments which he had given into on the score of expediency, and trusted he had demonstrated their fallacy. He would now call the attention of the committee to a contrast he was about to draw between the law and the Constitution. Let it then, for argument's sake, be admitted that Congress had a power to make a law relative to aliens; yet might not Congress violate that right? As for example, Congress have the power of laying a direct tax, yet Congress might violate that right in laying a tax without reference to the inhabitants of the state upon which the tax was to be laid.
The alien-law, Mr. Barbour said, violated the sixth amendment of the Constitution, (the substance of which was, " that no warrant shall issue, but upon probable cause, and that, too, supported by oath or affirmation,") in this, that the President, without probable cause, without an oath, and barely upon suspicion, had a right to apprehend the alien, against whom some mercenary informer may have lodged a complaint. It likewise violated the seventh amendment, in this; that by the alien-law the President was invested with the power of consigning to banishment, without the formality of trial, this unfortunate class of people, of which he supposed we had myriads amongst us, when by that amendment it is declared, “ that no person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment, or indictment of a grand jury.”
By the eighth amendment it is declared, too, that in all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of his vicinage, and be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation ; be confronted with the witnesses against him; have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favour; and have the assistance of counsel for his defence. It was only necessary to read the alien-law, to show the palpable violations of the Constitution. No oath or affirmation' was requisite; no presentment or indictment by a grand jury necessary; no trial by jury; his accusation, conviction and punishment, were all to be announced by the Presidential officer in one breath. It was true, there might be a kind of mock trial before a tribunal filled with characters selected by the President: a tribunal not under the solemnity of oath, not under the least responsibility to public opinion, but from the nature of their institution, are taught to kiss the hand from whom they receive their authority: a tribunal unknown to our Constitution ; and in fact, as far as it went, was an epitome of the star chamber and high commission courts. But, Mr. Barbour said, he lead been told that the aliens were not parties to the compact, and therefore were not entitled to the benefit of the compact. He contended that by the law of nations, but what weighed still more strongly upon his mind, upon principles of reason and humanity, they were entitled to the benefit of the rights secured under the Constitution. The Law of Nations, Vattel, page 171, section 135, declares that the sovereign authority of a state has no right to prevent the migration of persons into its country without a good reason. As for example, China has a right to refuse the admission of aliens, because its country is completely populated, and because the admission of aliens would operate an insuperable injury to its citizens. But what good reason could America assign for refusing admittance to strangers, with a country extensive, fertile beyond exception, and uninhabited. Had not the persecuted alien, then, a claim upon us not to be frittered away by the ingenuity of sophistry? Mr. Barbour said, having shown that strangers had a claim upon us, and that, by the laws of nations, they have a right to come amongst us, he would proceed to prove that when they were in this country, they were entitled to the benefit of the law. For this purpose, he would refer to Vattel's Law of Nations, page 160-1. It is there said, that the law of the land is not only applicable to the particular subjects, or citizens of the sovereign authority, but applies to all orders of
people of every description. It appeared to him a doctrine of the most cruel kind, and which he trusted he should never again hear re-echoed from these walls, to attempt to narrow the operation of an instrument for the purposes of despotism. A benign philosophy would dictate, that the Constitution should receive a liberal construction, when the welfare of thousands required it. But Mr. Barbour said, that aliens were parties to the compact, so far at least as relates to security against oppression. For, by coming to this country, they tacitly agree to be bound by the Consti. tution and laws thereof. If an alien committed an offence, how in ordinary cases was he tried ? As citizens. How was he punished? As citizens. Surely, then, as he was to be punished by the laws, he should be entitled to their protection. And Vattel further mentions, that an injury done a stranger should be punished by the sovereign authority, in as exemplary a manner as if done to a citizen.
But it had been said, that the sending off of aliens was no punishment: it was a kind of preventive justice. Language like this, was the offspring of a cold heart and muddy understanding. What! Was it no punish: ment to banish a fellow-man from a country where he has invested his all ? Where he has formed the strongest imaginable ties? And in which he expected to find an asylum from the fangs of despotism? And perhaps to consign him back to the country, from the persecuting tyranny of which he might have fled? Let those who advocate this doctrine, bring the case home to themselves, and inquire if they would not conceive it a punishment to be banished from a country which contained their all. Mr. Barbour observed, that the alien-law had violated the Constitution in a very obvious manner, by destroying the main pillar upon which all free governments stand, namely, a separation in the three great elements of government. By it, the President was invested with legislative, executive, and judicial powers, which Montesquieu defines to be the essence of despotism. He first gave his assent to the law as President. He then legislated in esta. blishing a rule by which the alien is to be tried, and every rule was a law. The law itself has established no rule; bas pointed out nothing which the alien shall avoid ; nor yet prescribed anything which he shall do. The President, in the gloomy, dark and inaccessible recesses of his mind, was then to prescribe the rule, and make it known only when he intended to punish under the rule ; there, then, he legislated. He then was to judge whether the alien had violated his own rule, and if he should conceive or suspect that he had, he was then to carry his own sentence into effect. If he had been called on to delineate a picture of frightful despotism, Mr. Barbour said, he should think he had discharged the task by copying the alien-law. The President of the United States was invested with the pleasing and humane power of pardoning. What kind of a figure would the President exhibit, when he had accused and condemned the poor unfortunate alien, to be applied to for a pardon? Was it ever yet known in a country which had participated freedom, and had progressed in jurisprudence, that the same man or set of men had the power of condemning and pardoning at the same time? The enlightened Montesquieu has observed that it would create a confusion of ideas, and the world would be at a loss to know whether the culprit had been acquitted, or condemned
and pardoned. In consequence of the measures which had been pursued, the executive branch of the government had acquired an undue preponderance of power, which had derogated from the other branches; the result of which was, that instead of their moving in the dignified sphere of planets, they had dwindled into the pitiful character of satellites, which played around the executive with servile complaisance. And the liberties of the American people, which revolve around the Constitution as the centre of their system, should that be destroyed, would be precipitated into ruin likewise. America was destined, he said, to increase the already extended catalogue of despotic nations, and we should be compelled to admit the melancholy truth, that man is not susceptible of self-government, but is doomed to be governed (he trembled whilst he related it) by arbitrary, accursed arbitrary sway. But notwithstanding all this, we were told, Hail Columbia, happy land! That the people of America were the happiest in the world! What then, were the people to wait till the pressure of the evil principle was felt? No. As an elegant author expressed it, they augur misgovernment at a distance, and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze. The political horizon of America, which some years ago shone with undiminished lustre, and which attracted the admiration of all the world, was now darkened with clouds of domestic usurpation, which waited but for some incentive, to burst in dreadful violence upon our heads. What an august melancholy scene was here! That at the conclusion of the eighteenth century, a time which twenty years ago, by the sanguine admirers of the rights of mankind, would have been anticipated as the birthday of a general jubilee of emancipation, when distant nations would have heard and have quickened into public life by the sound, the Virginia Legislature was brought to decide whether, even in America itself, the birthplace and cradle of liberty, liberty shall be preserved, or whether, bound hand and foot as it was, it shall be offered up as a sacrifice upon the altar of vice and ambition. Mr. Barbour then expressed himself in the following strong and animated manner: Legislators of Virginia! The voice of the people speaks to you; the eyes of the friends of liberty throughout the continent, are upon you; and the friends of mankind throughout the world are waiting in anxious solicitude the result of your deliberation. The road to immortal honour is open before you; the temple of fame is within your reach, and the welfare of your country calls eminently upon you. By the adoption of the resolutions you raise a rampart against the inroads of usurpation, and your names will be wasted down on the stream of time, crowned with laurels, and as they pass, will be hailed by a grateful posterity with plausive acclamations. But if you reject, you give additional weight to the already overgrown power of the general government, by which the liberties of the people will be subverted; and in some after time, when our country shall consider us, the people pointing you out shall say, there go the authors of our mis
He then concluded by thanking the committee for the attention they had given him.
On motion, the committee then rose, the chairman reported progress, asked and obtained leave for the committee to sit again.