Attended the Supreme Court this morning and heard Mr. Emmett in continuation, but he was so much in the law that I could not go
on with him. The case in it’s simple form is this, that a man in the state of New York having invented or highly improved a method of propelling boats by steam, and it being very expensive, he got a company formed, which applied to the New York legislature for an exclusive right to navigate the river and waters in [and]
about the State, which was granted to them. By virtue of this they seized a steam boat coming in from New Jersey and refused all intercourse with other states which refused them in their turn. The question now is whether the state of New York have a right to make an exclusive grant to an individual or a set of individuals, of the waters which may well be styled common highways. Although this is the subject, Mr. Emmett was very extravagant in his language and talked so high about some future separation of the States that he drove my father out of the room. He had been sitting here as the commissioners of the sinking fund met today.
Having remained here a sufficient time, I went into the House where I heard Alexander Smyth prosing away to empty walls. He appeared to be arguing upon this old Internal improvement bill, and consequently I left him to prove the case very much by himself.1
From here I went to the Senate, where they were discussing the subject of increase of the navy, Mr. Lloyd having brought a bill for the appropriation of a sum of 480,000 dollars, to build ten sloops of war. Governor Barbour of Virginia was speaking in his magnanimous way when I first went in but I heard only his close.2
Colonel Hayne of South Carolina then made a short speech in favour of the bill with which I was much pleased. He answered the objections of the gentlemen who had been speaking before.3
He first made a brief objection to the argument used by some radical I presume, who speaking of the superfluous money in the treasury which this is intended to expend, said that it would be much better to pay off the national debt.4
He said that the debt was not yet made due and it was not worthwhile to anticipate as there was no expectation of a deficit. He then retorted to the argument of a navy’s (in peace) being useless. He went on in a clear and logical and at the same time in a handsome strain. I am compelled by my limits to be more brief than was my intention. He is not a handsome man; his voice is quite poor, I think, and his manner is nothing very uncommon. It is too much the habit with the Charleston people to puff their great men to such a height that it is hardly possible to avoid being disappointed with them. It has been the case to me, in Hamilton, M’Duffie and this Hayne. This man however I think much more of than of the
others. His speech was short and animated and as General S. Smith began to drawl I went away and came home.
Miss Cranch went away today and has left Abby alone to stand the shock of the other party. The two girls have not been on the best terms with each other this winter. Madame was very unwell all day, in her room. Her health is quite delicate. Miss McKnight was quite agreable and we spent the evening very pleasantly in the drawing room, and retired early. Mrs. Mc Lane5
had a party but we did not go.
1. Finishing an argument begun on the previous day, Smyth again argued the lack of constitutional authority for federal sponsorship of internal improvements (
Annals of Congress
, 18 Cong., 1 sess., p. 1399–1414).
2. Actually the bill which James Lloyd (1769–1831) sponsored for the Committee on Naval Affairs called for two annual appropriations of $425,000 each (same, p. 139, 149, 210, 229–230). Barbour supported the bill as a measure necessary to protect the nation (same, p. 210–214, and 214–216).
3. Robert Young Hayne (1791–1839) answered the argument made by Walter Lowrie (1784–1868), of Pennsylvania, that the country’s finances did not permit the construction of so many ships (same, p. 214).
4. The “radical” Hayne answered was Samuel Smith (1752–1839), of Maryland. For Hayne’s full speech, see same, p. 216–224.
5. Presumably Mrs. Louis McLane, the former Catherine Mary Mulligan (
, under her husband’s name).