from HISTORY OF CONGRESS, JANUARY 1817. Annals of Congress.

Scanned and tagged by Mary Halnon, 1/97


The resolution from the Senate to authorize the President of the United States to employ Colonel John Trumbull to compose and execute four paintings of the principal events of the Revolutionary contest, (to be placed in the Capitol,) was taken up, and ordered to be read a third time, without opposition.

The resolution was accordingly read a third time, and, on the questions of its passage, a debate arose, interesting, amusing, and instructive. The general features of the debate must suffice.

The object of the resolution was opposed by Messrs. FORSYTH, ROSS, ROBERTSON, TAYLOR of New York, and HARDIN; and advocated by Messrs. CALHOUN, WRIGHT, HOPKINSON, RANDOLPH, H. NELSON, and GROVESNOR.

The talents of the artist were acknowledged on all hands, and the excellence of those paintings, distributed as the models from which the large paintings were to be taken, was generally admitted.

But, in opposition to the resolution a variety of arguments were urged by different gentlemen, such as, that it was questionable how far it was just or proper for the Government of the United States to become the patron of the fine arts; that, if it were to do so, no such expense ought to be authorized until the faith of the Government was redeemed by the fulfilment of all its pecuniary obligations, nor until every debt was paid arising out of the war of the Revolution, or of the late war; that a nation, like individuals, should be just before it was generous; that the subjects of the paintings not being particularlized, they might not be such as Congress would approve; that to authorize these paintings, for the decoration of the Capitol, before it was known whether they could be properly displayed there, would be, to act like the Vicar of Wakefield’s family, who were grouped in a picture so large, that, when it was brought home, the house would not hold it; that, generally, in the countries where they had been brought to the highest perfection, paintings and statuary, in commemoration of liberty and of great events, had no perceptible effect in preserving the liberty and independence of those nations; and the rights and liberties of this nation depended on no such paltry considerations as these.

In reply to which it was argued, that it was not proposed by this resolve to make the Government a patron of the fine arts, otherwise than it had already been in employing artists to rebuild and embellish the Capitol; that the expense would be small comparatively with expenses incurred in decorations of infinitely less importance; and small indeed compared with the magnitude of the object; that the Government had performed its obligations as far as it could, had paid its debts, had been just, and might therefore be generous, since generosity and justice were not incompatible; that the moral effect of these paintings would be, independent of their intrinsic worth, of great value to the present and future generations, serving to recall to the attention of future legislators, the events and principles of the Revolution, and to impel them to an imitation of the virtues of the men of those days; that the time now was, which once passed away could never be regained, when a living artist of great ability, and a compatriot of the Revolutionary sages and heroes, could transmit accurate likenesses of them to posterity, &c.

MR. TAYLOR, of New York, moved to postpone the consideration of the resolution.--Negatived.

MR. TAYLOR, of New York, then moved to recommit the resolution, with instructions to report a limitation to the expenditure of money for this object. This motion was also negatived.

The question on the passage of the resolution, was, after a long debate, decided in the affirmative, --yeas, 114, nays 50, as follows:

YEAS--Messrs. Adams, Atherton, Baer, Baker, Bassett, Bateman, Baylies, Betts, Birdsall, Birdseye, Boss, Bradbury, Breckenridge, Brown, Bryan, Cady, Calhoun, Carr of Massachusetts, Champion, Chappell, Cilley, Clark of New York, Clarke of North Carolina, Clayton, Condict, Conner, Cooper, Creighton, Crocheron, Culpeper, Darlington, Davenport, Dickens, Edwards, Fletcher, Forney, Gaston, Gold, Goldsborough, Grosvenor, Hale, Hammond, Harrison, Henderson, Herbert, Hopkinson, Huger, Hungerford, Ingham, Irving of New York, Jackson, Johnson of Kentucky, Kent, Kerr of Virginia, King, Langdon, Law, Lewis, Love, Lovett, Lowndes, Marsh, Mason, Middleton, Miller, Mills, Milnor, Moffitt, Moore, Mosely, J. Nelson, Hugh Nelson, T.M. Nelson, Newton, Noyes, Peter, Pickering, Pitkin, Pleasants, Powell, Randolph, Reed, Reynolds, Rice, Root, Ruggles, Savage, Schenck, Sharp, Sheffey, Smith of Pennsylvania, Smith of Maryland, Stearns, Strong, Stuart, Sturges, Taggart, Tallmadge, Tate, Taylor of South Carolina, Telfair, Thomas, Tyler, Vose, Ward of Massachusetts, Wendover, Wheaton, Wilcox, Wilde, Wilkin, Willoughby, T. Wilson, Wright, and Yates.

NAYS--Messrs. Adgate, Alexander, Archer, Avery, Barbour, Bennett, Blount, Brooks, Burwell, Caldwell, Cannon, Clendennin, Comstock, Cook, Crawfod, Desha, Forsyth, Goodwyn, Griffin, Hahn, Hardin, Heister, Hendricks, Hooks, Johnson of Virginia, Little, Lyle, Lyon, W. P. Maclay, W. Maclay, McCoy, McKee, McLean, Murfree, Parris, Piper, Roane, Robertson, Ross, Smith of Virginia, Southard, Taul, Taylor of New York, Wallace, Ward of New Jersey, Whiteside, Williams, W. Wilson, Woodward, and Yancey.

So the resolution was passed.