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asmuch as the petitioner was, by his commission, to hold his office for four years from the 18th of December, 1838, he claims the salary and fees accruing to the office from that time to the 13th of March, 1839. And there probably being no data by which he could ascertain the actual fees of his office in that interval, (none probably being taken,) he makes an average of several years, and thus fixes his compensation.
The committee are of opinion that an officer has no claim for his salary before he qualifies under his commission, and fees that he never earned are in no case due him from the government, and therefore, upon the case as made by him in the petition, nothing is due.
But the bill from the Senate proposes to pay him seventy-five dollars for alleged services in opening a set of books, and entering thereon certain transactions occurring from December 18, 1838, to March 13, 1839, and is founded upon an expression in the Secretary's letter accompanying the papers.
No evidence has been offered to the committee of the amount of these services; and as the claim, as made by the petitioner, was for the salary and fees during the interval, rather than for extra labor performed after he assumed the office, the inference would seem to be, that that mode of compensation was the most beneficial to the petitioner; and whether the actual labor of opening the books occupied a day, they are entirely without proof, and unable to form an opinion.
It is the duty of the petitioner to prove the services for which he asks compensation, and then to submit to Congress if they be such as of right ought to be paid.
The committee are of opinion that the case must be a very strong one that would justify Congress in paying a public officer extra for services in bringing up the books of the office to which he had been appointed. It is quite common, amid the frequent changes of officers under the government, for offices to remain vacant for a time; and if the principle be admitted, that in all such cases government pays a reasonable compensation for any extra service, however slight, a door would be opened to the admission of almost countless claims.
In the present condition of the country, there appears no necessity of offering even a slight premium for official candidates, and your committee, as at present advised, are unwilling to adopt the principle that, in a case like the present, a public officer should receive any compensation for his mere official duties, beyond that fixed by law. They therefore recommend that the bill do not pass.
MEMPHIS NAVY YARD.
[To accompany bill H. R. No. 711.]
FEBRUARY 1, 1855.
Mr. F. P. STANTON, from the Select Committee, made the following
The Select Committee to whom was referred the President's message of
the 1st January, 1855, in answer to a resolution of the House, on the subject of the Memphis navy yard, having had the same under consideration, submit the following report :
The navy yard at Memphis—the only establishment of that kind in the Mississippi valley—had been in existence for about ten years. During that period great progress had been made towards the accomplishment of the work projected: valuable buildings had been erected, and other improvements completed, at a cost to the government, in round numbers, of one million dollars. In the closing hours of the last session of Congress, without any recommendation to that effect by the Executive, and with apparently little consideration on the part of the Senate and House of Representatives, the navy yard and its appurtenances, with all the costly improvements already mentioned, were suddenly and unceremoniously abandoned, and ceded to the city of Memphis. The city authorities have accepted this unexpected but munificent gift, and the property is now vested absolutely in them. It is believed that the sale of this property to private individuals, for private uses, would place in the city treasury not less than five hundred thousand dollars. This depreciation of value would be only a natural consequence of the change of purpose, yet would still leave a very handsome fund at the command of the public authorities of Memphis.
But the people of Memphis, through their proper representatives, the board of mayor and aldermen, have, in the most solemn manner, declared their conviction that the establishment unexpectedly ceded to them is “a great national work, of equal importance to any similar work in the eastern States, and that justice to the citizens of the great valley of the Mississippi demands its continuance.” They have accordingly offered to retrocede this valuable property to the government, upon condition that the establishment shall be reinstated according to its original design; “not as a ropewalk alone, but as a depot of construction and equipment of government vessels for the navy."
In the report of the Secretary of the Navy which accompanies the President's message on this subject, that officer makes serious objection to the conditions proposed, declaring that he “cannot consider it wise policy in the government to own property involving large expenditures, upon conditions to which, in good faith, it may be bound to adhere, although found by experience to be impolitic.” The committee do not see the force of this objection. The only effect of the condition would be to cause the property to revert to the city of Memphis, whenever Congress might choose to abandon the establishment as a navy yard: it would certainly not impose upon the government any obligation to make unwise or impolitic expenditures. The navy yard at Gosport, in the State of Virginia, is held by the government of the United States upon a similar condition. By a law passed the 25th January, 1800, the State of Virginia authorized the conveyance of the Gosport property to the United States, and the second section of that law is in the following words:
" That in case the government of the United States shall at any time hereafter abandon the design of establishing a navy yard at the place hereby ceded, or after the establishment thereof shall discontinue the same, then, and in that case, the property in the soil, and the jurisdiction over the territory hereby directed to be vested in the United States, shall revert to this commonwealth, and shall be considered as the property and subject to the jurisdiction of the same, in like inanner as if this act had never been made: Provided, That in such case this commonwealth will repay to the government of the United States the sum or sums paid in consideration of the cession hereby directed to be made.”
The consideration paid Virginia for the Gosport property was about $12,000; and, in the event of discontinuing the navy yard, the whole property, with the immense expenditure upon it, would revert to the State of Virginia upon the payment of this inconsiderable sum. The condition proposed by the city of Memphis is not essentially different from that existing in the case at Gosport. The committee do not see how the government could be injured by accepting this condition, if it be considered otherwise proper and politic to maintain a naval establishment upon the site of the Memphis yard. It was with the view of maintaining such a work that the site was originally selected and liberal appropriations made. Nothing but an implied condition, similar to that connected with the Gosport yard, could have induced or justified the donation by Congress of so much valuable property to the city which originally conveyed it to the government. The proposition now is, to make that an express condition, which before was only implied, yet fully acknowledged, when Congress came to abandon the work. If, therefore, the re-establishment of the navy yard be desirable and important to the government, the committee are of opinion that the proposed condition ought not to be an obstacle in the way of accepting a reconveyance of the large establishment, so hastily and inconsiderately abandoned at the last session of Congress.
It now becomes the duty of the committee to consider how far it is expedient to maintain a naval establishment on the banks of the Mississippi river; for it is believed that the question for the whole valley
of the Mississippi is involved in the fate of the Memphis navy yard. In the judgment of the committee, no spot can be found, from the mouth of that great river to its source, more suitable, in all respects, than Memphis, for the location of a great naval depot. The objection arising from the want of water in the river, at some seasons, is more apparent than real. There is always sufficient water at Memphis to float any ship, and during the greater part of the year vessels of the largest class can be safely carried to the sea. During the dry season, it is true, such vessels could not reach the gulf without artificial appliances. But, for the purpose of a building-yard, it is sufficient that, for at least one-half the year, the navigation will be open to the gulf for any ship that can pass the bar at the mouth of the river. In the case of emergency, an immense fleet might be constructed for operations in the Gulf of Mexico, when the Mississippi valley might be our only resource for the defence of that important outlet of our commerce. Upon this aspect of the subject the committee believe they can present nothing more convincing and conclusive than the facts and arguments to be found in the report of the Naval Committee of the Senate, made to that body on the 6th of May, 1852, (Senate Reports, 1st session 32d Congress, vol. 2,) the whole of which is hereto appended for the convenience of the House. A few additional considerations occur to the committee as strengthening the positions of that report, and they will proceed to state them as briefly as practicable.
An effort has already been made to establish a navy yard at New Orleans ; and the effort will doubtless be renewed, with greater prospect of success, upon the final and complete downfall of the establishment at Memphis. This effort serves to show the strong conviction prevailing of the necessity of such an establishment somewhere in the Mississippi valley; but it cannot sustain the propriety of throwing away a million of dollars at Memphis, in order to spend an equal amount at New Orleans. The committee do not propose to contrast the advantages of the two places in reference to the location of a Davy yard. They ought not to be rivals in this important matter. The interest of both demands that they should unite their strength in order to develop the vast and illimitable naval resources of the mighty valley which they represent. Ten years ago the important question of location was decided. The government has acted upon that decision, and has pledged a million of dollars for its wisdom.
One of the objections to the location at Memphis, has been the alleged impossibility of obtaining foundations for building large ships. The formation of the ground at the Memphis yard is like that at New Orleans. The whole of the latter city is founded upon precisely such an alluvial deposite; and the very existence of that city, with her large and magnificent structures, vastly exceeding the weight of any ship-of-war, is of itself a practical proof of the extreme folly of such an objection at either place.
The Secretary of the Navy expresses the opinion that we already have quite a sufficient number of navy yards, without the one at Memphis. The committee would find no difficulty in concurring with this opinion, if these several establishments had been located at such points as to command the true resources of the country, and to afford
means of defence to the most important outlets of its commerce. The Atlantic coast is, indeed, most liberally provided with every facility for the construction, equipment, and repair of vessels. And, but for the isolated character of the Gulf of Mexico, and the necessity of relying upon its own resources for the defence of its commerce in time of war, the Atlantic yards might afford abundant means of maintaining our supremacy in that sea. The considerations bearing upon this point are so fully and strongly stated in the Senate report already quoted, that the committee forbear to repeat them here, or to attempt any additional argument. They deem it altogether sufficient to suggest that the necessity of a navy yard at some point on the Mississippi river is rendered imperative by the well known condition of things at Pensacola. That establishment has been in progress for thirty years, and yet no ship has ever been built there, nor has that expensive work ever yet rendered any very important service to the navy. The reason assigned for the want of activity at that yard, is the difficulty of getting mechanics even at high wages, and the greater expense of doing work in such a climate. It was, therefore, a wise determination that, while Pensacola would undoubtedly be a valuable station for rendezvous and repair to our navy in the gulf, the building and manufacturing yard should be located in a more salubrious clime, in the midst of all the materials of construction, where mechanics are abundant, where private enterprise has already shown the practicability of advantageous building, and where no enemy can ever reach the accumulated stores requisite to maintain a powerful navy. The developments of the great war now waging in Europe, present an example well calculated to teach us wisdom in the present investigation. The fleets and armies of the allied powers have blockaded and besieged the important naval station of the Russian Emperor in the Black sea. Sebastopol may fall, and the vast and costly docks of that establishment be destroyed. But Sebastopol is not the building yard for the Black sea; it is only the place of rendezvous and repair. The building station is in the interior, at Nicolaev, on the river Bogg. Nicolaev is to Sebastopol what Memphis ought to be to Pensacola. And it cannot be doubted, that if the Emperor Nicholas had the resources of the Mississippi yalley at his command, instead of the limited means to be found in the valleys of the Bogg and the Dneiper, he would be able this spring to send out a force which would at once give him command of the Black sea.
It is highly probable, that in the event of war with any great naval power, one of the first attempts would be to place Pensacola in the present position of Sebastopol. Resistance would be impossible; the Gulf of Mexico would be in possession of the enemy; the commerce of the Mississippi would be dammed up; and there would be no safeguard against such a disaster, except in the existence of an extensive naval establishment somewhere in the great valley, beyond the reach of the enemy, and capable of activity under all circumstances. Our policy has been, and in all probability will continue to be, rather that of providing ample means to build, than that of always maintaining a large and powerful navy. In future wars, as in our former experience, we shall depend upon our ability speedily to put afloat &