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Special Message

January 17, 1837

To the House of Representatives of the United States:

I hereby submit to the House of Representatives certain communications from the Secretary of the Treasury and the attorney of the United States for the District of Columbia. They relate to the difficulties which have been interposed under the existing laws in bringing to conviction and punishment the supposed incendiaries of the Treasury buildings in the year 1833.

The peculiar circumstances of this case, so long concealed, and of the flagrant frauds by persons disconnected with the Government, which were still longer concealed, and to screen some of which forever was probably a principal inducement to the burning of the buildings, lead me earnestly to recommend a revision of the laws on this subject. I do this with a wish not only to render the punishment hereafter more severe for the wanton destruction of the public property, but to repeal entirely the statute of limitation in all criminal cases, except small misdemeanors, and in no event to allow a party to avail himself of its benefits during the period the commission of the crime was kept concealed or the persons on trial were not suspected of having perpetrated the offense.

It must be manifest to Congress that the exposed state of the public records here, without fireproof buildings, imperatively requires the most ample remedies for their protection, and the greatest vigilance and fidelity in all officers, whether executive or judicial, in bringing to condign punishment the real offenders.

Without these the public property is in that deplorable situation which depends quite as much on accident and good fortune as the laws, for safety.


(The same message was sent to the Senate.)

Andrew Jackson, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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