"INTIMIDATION AND VIOLENCE HAVE USUALLY FOLLOWED IN THE TRAIN OF CORRUPTION, AND OVERTHROWN THE LIBERTIES OF THE PEOPLE": VERY SCARCE FIRST EDITION OF SPEECH OF MR. DICKSON… IN THE CASE OF SAMUEL HOUSTON, TRIED FOR A BREACH OF PRIVILEGES OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, DELIVERED MAY 11TH, 1832
(CONSTITUTION) DICKSON, John. Speech of Mr. Dickson, of New-York, In the Case of Samuel Houston, Tried for a Breach of the Privileges of the House of Representatives in the United States. Delivered, May 11th, 1832. Washington: Printed at the Office of Jonathan Elliott, 1832. Slim octavo, disbound; pp. (1), 2-16. $1800.
First edition of Congressman Dickson's powerful speech in the 1832 trial of Sam Houston for caning Congressman Stanberry in "perhaps the most violent, colorful and historical challenge of congressional immunity… the first 'congressional trial' of a private citizen for taking action against a member of Congress."
Article 1, Section 6 of the U.S. Constitution contains a parliamentary rule that "gave congressmen the right to 'not be questioned in any other place' for words spoken during debate." To many historians, its guarantee of immunity has merit, "though that right had soon been violated" by the 1830s—often with violence between congressmen—and became "fundamentally bound up with the right of free speech" in battles over slavery (Freeman, Field of Blood, 93, 233). "Perhaps the most violent, colorful and historical challenge of congressional immunity occurred in 1832 when former congressman Samuel Houston of Tennessee attacked Rep. Stanberry of Ohio for a remark made during debate. The attack let to the first 'congressional trial' of a private citizen for taking action against a member of Congress" (Busfield, Hermitage Walking Stick, 122).
In 1830 Houston "applied for a federal contract to supply rations" to the Indigenous nations forced west of the Mississippi. Jackson gave Houston the contract although he was not the lowest bidder, prompting a firestorm, and ultimately Jackson cut the ration plan. In 1832 Houston was in Washington when Congressman Stanberry stood in the House of Representatives to issue "a blistering attack on Jackson and insinuated fraud in the failed rationing attempt." At news of Stanberry's accusation, Houston rushed to Congress but was deterred before entering the chamber. He instead wrote a note to Stanberry, where he asked, in established protocol, "whether my name was used by you in debate." On reading it Stanberry refused to "recognize the right of Mr. Houston" to question him. Convinced Houston planned to assault him, Stanberry "promptly armed himself with two pistols." Days later, when Houston saw Stanberry on Pennsylvania Avenue, he challenged him and attacked with his hickory cane. As they fought, Stanberry was able to draw "one of his pistols, cock it, and shove it against Houston's chest." When it failed to fire, "Houston tore the weapon from Stanberry's hand" and caned him repeatedly until he "broke down and whimpered" (Busfield, 123-25). At that, the House passed a resolution to put Houston on trial beginning April 1.
In the speech herein, delivered during the trial by Congressman John Dickson from New York, he specifically addresses the constitutional guarantee of immunity as he traces its related history in English law. Dickson asks: "did the framers of the Constitution intend to secure the persons of members from arrest and imprisonment, and yet leave them subject to individual lawless violence?… The history of republics teaches us, that intimidation and violence have usually followed in the train of corruption, and overthrown the liberties of the people." When Houston was found guilty, he was sentenced to be reprimanded, which incensed Stanberry, who then pressed the District of Columbia to indict him for assault and battery. After being found guilty there and fined, President Jackson "set aside the sentence and remitted the fine… 14 years later Houston returned to congress as a U.S. Senator from Texas" (Busfield, 130). First edition: some pages in uneven length without loss of text.
Text fresh with trace of foxing, two tiny ink spots to title page. A excellent about-fine copy.