« AnteriorContinuar »
(though my own impression had been that it should have been referred rather to the Counmittee on Finance,) I assented, in the hope that they would confine what they should propose, to the single object of getting rid of the order. But for that order, I presume that few would have been willing to touch the subject at all. The majority of the Senate were content that matters should have remained as they were under the joint resolution of 1816. But as the order interfered with the provisions of that resolution, it was deemed necessary that something should be done. I regret that this bill is not such a one as was called for by the exigency, and confined to the exigency. It goes beyond wbat was needed, in important respects, and, though I most cordially wish for the abolition of the Treasury order, there are some things in this bill which do not accord at all with my own view of what the public interest requires. I feel, therefore, somewhat at a loss to know what is the true line of my duty on this occasion. I will state my difficulties. In the first place, I see nothing in the bill that is fixed and stable, defined and determinate; nothing peremptory and decisive, as matter of law. I asked the honorable chairman who reported the bill, whether he understood it to be peremptory in its character, and would be so in its practical effect, or not? And his answer was, that he did not doubt that its operation would be to produce a great reform in the state of the currency. Now, what I want to know is, whether this bill will furnish the country with a legal statute rule as to the payment of debts; or whether the whole matter will not be left very much in the discretion of the Secretary of the Treasury. I think it leaves too much in that discretion. It provides that he may issue orders as he may deem necessary, in order to secure the collection of the revenue in specie and bills of specie-paying banks. Now, supposing the Secretary should not think that any further order of any kind is necessary. Then matters will remain precisely as they are now. Suppose he should believe one kind of order necessary for one part of the country, and another for another part. The bill would allow all this. It secures no uniform or certain rule.
Again: the particular provisions of the bill appear to me (with great deference) to have been not well considered. If its enactments amount to a positive statute, (and not a mere permission or recommendation, then neither land scrip nor revolutionary scrip can be received for the public lands; or, if they can be received for the public lands, they can equally be received for the customs. This, I presume, was not intended. The bill is imperfect; it imposes no duty on the Secretary, it enacts no law to supersede a Treasury order; the whole subject is left within the discretion of the Secretary.
While, on the one hand, it does not directly relieve the country from the existing illegal and unconstitutional Treasury order, on the other, it does not provide a circulating medium which shall be uniform and legal in its character. Could we say, in so many words, that all the debts of this government shall be collected in such mode as the Secretary of the Treasury shall think best? Or that such funds shall be received as the Secretary shall think most expedient, with a view to increase a specie circulation ? thus presenting a mere indication of the object he is to have in view, and leaving all the rest to him. Would that be law? would that be constitutional ? What sort of a tender might a debtor of the United States make, under this law, in discharge of his debt ? Suppose he tenders Virginia land scrip, and the answer given him is, “The Secretary of the Treasury has not issued any order that land scrip shall be receivable at the custom-house," would that not be a good answer ? As this bill repeals all other enactments in pari materie, does it not refer the whole to the Secretary? May he not issue one order to-day, and another to-morrow? one order in the North-west, and another in the South-west? It is surely most important that, on such a sub
ject, there should be a plain, settled, statutory provision, declaring what is receivable in discharge of debts due the Government, so that men may know what are their rights. To me it appears that, by this bill, in its present form, the whole subject is left in greater doubt than before. If we do any thing with a view to rescinding the objectionable order, let us have a bill that shall apply to the exigency, to that single object, and give the country some uniform and stable rule. If we reject the Treasury order, let us reënact the resolution of 1816; that will get rid of any thing like rebuke or reproach in regard to the order, and will give us at least a law to guide us. As the bill stands, it leaves every thing in the will of the Secretary of the Treasury.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, ON THE PROTEST
AGAINST EXPUNGING. MONDAY, JANUARY 16, 1837.
The Senate having under consideration the Resolutions, moved by Mr. BerTon, for expunging from the Journal of Proceedings of the Senate, for March, 1834, a Resolution declaring the opinion of the Senate concerning the illegality of the removal of the public money from its lawful place of deposit, the Bank of the United States; and the Debate thereon having come to a close, and the question being about to be taken on agreeing to the said Resolutions, Mr. WEBSTER rose and addressed the Senate as follows:
MR. PRESIDENT: Upon the truth and justice of the original resolution of the Senate, and upon the authority of the Senate to pass that resolution, I had an opportunity to express my opinions at a subsequent period, when the President's protest was before us. Those opinions remain altogether unchanged.
And now, had the Constitution secured the privilege of entering a Protest on the journal, I should not say one word on this occasion ; although, if what is now proposed shall be accomplished, I know not what would have been the value of such a proposition, however formally or carefully it might have been inserted in the body of that instrument.
But, as there is no such constitutional privilege, I can only effect my purpose by thus addressing the Senate; and I rise, therefore, to make that PROTEST in this manner, in the face of the Senate, and in the face of the country, which I cannot present in any other form.
I speak in my own behalf, and in behalf of my colleague; we both speak as Senators from the State of Massachusetts, and, as such, we solemnly Protest against this whole proceeding.
We deny that Senators from other States have any power or authority to expunge any vote or votes which we have given here, and which we have recorded, agreeably to the express provision of the Constitution.
We have a high personal interest, and the State whose representatives we are, has also a high interest in the entire preservation of every part and parcel of the record of our conduct, as members of the Senate.
This record the Constitution solemnly declares shall be kept ; but the resolution before the Senate declares that this record shall be expunged.
Whether subterfuge and evasion, and, as it appears to us, the degrading mockery of drawing black lines upon the journal, shall or shall not leave our names and our votes legible, when this violation of the record shall have been completed, still the terms “to expunge ” and the terms “to keep,” when applied to a record, import ideas exactly contradictory; as much so as the terms “to preserve” and the terms “ to destroy."
A record which is expunged, is not a record which is kept, any more than a record which is destroyed can be a record which is preserved. The part expunged is no longer part of the record; it has no longer a legal existence. It cannot be certified as a part of the proceeding of the Senate for any purpose of proof or evidence.
The object of the provision in the Constitution, as we think, most obviously is, that the proceedings of the Senate shall be preserved, in writing, not for the present only, not until published only, because a copy of the printed journal is not regular legal evidence; but preserved indefinitely; preserved, as other records are preserved, till destroyed by time or accident. · Every one must see that matters of the highest importance depend on the permanent preservation of the journals of the two Houses. What but the journals show that bills have been regularly passed into laws, through the several stages; what but the journal shows who are members, or who is President, or Speaker, or Secretary, or Clerk of the body? What but the journal contains the proof, necessary for the justification of those who act under our authority, and who, without the power of producing such proof, must stand as trespassers? What but the journals show who is appointed, and who rejected, by us, on the President's nomination; or who is acquitted, or who convicted, in trials on impeachment? In short, is there, at any time, any other regular and legal proof of any act done by the Senate than the journal itself?
The idea, therefore, that the Senate is bound to preserve its journal only until it is published, and then may alter, mutilate, or destroy it at pleasure, appears to us one of the most extraordinary sentiments ever advanced.
We are deeply grateful to those friends who have shown, with so much clearness, that all the precedents relied on to justify or to excuse this proceeding, are either not to the purpose, or, from the times and circumstances at and under which they happened, are no way entitled to respect in a free Government, existing under a written Constitution. But, for ourselves, we stand on the plain words of that Constitution itself. A thousand precedents elsewhere made, whether ancient or modem, can neither rescind, nor control, nor explain away these words.
The words are, that "each House shall KEEP a journal of its proceedings.” No gloss, no ingenuity, no specious interpretation, and much less can any fair or just reasoning reconcile the process of expunging with the plain meaning of these words, to the satisfaction of the common sense and honest understanding of mankind.
If the Senate may now expunge one part of the journal of a former session, it may, with equal authority, expunge another part, or the whole. It may expunge the entire record of any one session, or of all sessions.
It seems to us inconceivable how any men can regard such a power, and its exercise at pleasure, as consistent with the injunction of the Constitution. It can make no difference what is the completeness or incompleteness of the act of expunging, or by what means done; whether by erasure, obliteration, or defacement; if by defacement, as here proposed, whether one word or many words are written on the face of the record; whether little ink or much ink is shed on the paper; or whether some part, or the whole, of the original written journal may yet by possibility be traced. If the act done be an act to expunge, to blot out, to obliterate, to erase the record, then the record is expunged, blotted out, obliterated, and erased. And mutilation and alteration violate the record as much as obliteration or erasure. A record, subsequently altered, is not the original record. It no longer gives a just account of the proceedings of the Senate. It is no longer true. It is, in short, no journal of the real and actual proceedings of the Senate, such as the Constitution says each House shall keep.
The Constitution, therefore, is, in our deliberate judgment, violated by this proceeding, in the most plain and open manner.
The Constitution, moreover, provides that the yeas and nays, on any question, shall, at the request of one fifth of the members present, be entered on the journal. This provision, most manifestly, gives a personal right to those members who may demand it, to the entry and preservation of their votes on the record of the proceedings of the body, not for one day or one year only, but for all time. There the yeas and nays are to stand, forever, as permanent and lasting proof of the manner in which members have voted on great and important questions before them.
But it is now insisted that the votes of members taken by yeas and nays, and thus entered on the journal, as matter of right, may still be expunged; so that that, which it requires more than four fifths of the Senators to prevent from being put on the journal, may, nevertheless, be struck off, and erased, the next moment, or at any period afterwards, by the will of a mere majority; or, if this be VOL. III.