THE HARPER'S FERRY INVESTIGATION. The following is the letter of
Mr. Thaddeus Hyatt to the Senate Investigating Committee, which has been
referred to by telegraph:
New York, Saturday, Jan. 28, 1860.
To the Hon. J. M. Mason, Chairman of the Select Committee of the Senate
of the United States:
Sir. I am in receipt of the summons of your committee, and shall comply
with your requisitions to the extent of presenting myself before your
honorable body at the appointed hour. But—and I mean no disrespect
to your committee, to the Chair, nor to the honorable Senate by whose act
the committee has an existence—I shall now answer its interro[g]atories.
As a citizen of the Republic, faithful to its traditions, its genius, and its
laws, I protest against the inquisitorial character of a tribunal that,
in the exercise of its merely normal functions, sinks and degrades its
witnesses into "informers." Powers, such as those with which your
Committee have been clothed by the hasty action of the honorable Senate,
are not incident to a Government organized as is ours, with a learned
and competent Judiciary, nor do I find in the Constitution any warrant
for their exercise by your honorable Committee; neither do I see that,
until it shall have been made apparent, the Judiciary branch of our
Government is impotent to reach and punish the specific crimes aimed at
by the Senate.
By the resolution which gave birth to your committee, it will be in
order for any committee to make inquisition with a view to further
legislation against inter-state or other conspiracies against government.
Holding to the Constitution, and to the immunities and privileges of
citizens protected by its safeguards, I feel bound in duty, as well to
the public as to myself, to ignore as usurpations the exercise of
unconstitutional powers in a matter of import so grave and far-reaching
as the present. Unrebuked encroachments of power to-day become the
precedents of tyranny to-morrow. Not, therefore, because of disrespect
to your honorable committee, and not of contempt for the honorable
Senate, but because of loyalty to the Constitution and to the people,
do I here and now and in this wise protest against and refuse to be
obedient to the power of your committee.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,