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in the Treasury Dot otherwise appropriated, to be expended, in whole or in part, under the direction of the President of the United States, for the military and naval service, including fortifications and ordnance, and increase of the nary: Proeidrd, such expenditures shall he rendered necessary for the defence of the country prior to the next meeting of Congress."
This proposition, sir, was thus unexpectedly and suddenly put to us, at eight o'clock in the evening of the last day of the session. Unusual, unprecedented, extraordinary, as it obviously is, on the face of it, the manner of presenting it was still more extraordinary. The President had asked for no such grant of money; no Department had recommended it; no estimate had suggested it; no reason whatever was given for it. ISo emergency had happened, and nothing new had occurred; every thing known to the Administration, at that hour, respecting our foreign relations, had certainly been known to it for days and weeks.
With what propriety, then, could the Senate be called on to sanction a proceeding so entirely irregular and anomalous? Sir, I recollect the occurrences of the moment very well, and I remember the impression which this vote of the House seemed to make all round the Senate. We had just come out of Executive session; the doors were but just opened; and ] hardly remember whether there was a single s|iectator in the hall or the galleries. I had been at the Clerk's table, and had not reached my seat, when the message was read. All the Senators were in the chamber. I heard the message, certainly with great surprise and astonishment; and I immediately moved the Senate to disagree to this vote of the House. My relation to the subject, in consequence of my connection with the Committee on r inancc, made it my duty to propose some course, and 1 had not a moment's doubt or hesitation what that course ought to be. 1 took upon myself, then, sir, the responsibility of moving that the Senate should disagree to this vote, and I now acknowledge that responsibility. It might be presumptuous to say that I took a leading part, but I certainly took an early part, a decided part, and an earnest part, in rejecting this broad grant of three millions of dollars, without limitation of purpose or specification of object; called for by no recommendation, founded on no estimate, made necessary by no state of things which was made known to us. Certainly, sir, I took a part in its rejection; and I stand here, in my place in the Senate, to-day, ready to defend the part so taken by me; or, rather, sir, I disclaim all defence, and all occasion of defence, and I assert it as meritorious to have been among those who arrested, at the earliest moment, this extraordinary departure from all settled usage, and, as I think, from plain constitutional injunction — this indefinite voting of a vast sum of money, to mere Executive discretion, without limit assigned, without object specified, without reason given, and without the least control under Heaven.
Sir, I am told, that, in opposing this grant, I spoke with warmth, and I suppose I may have done so. If I did, it was a warmth springing from as honest« conviction of duty as ever influenced a public man. It was spontaneous, unaffected, sincere. There had been among us, sir, no consultation, no concert. There could have been none. Between the reading of the message, and my motion to disagree, there was not time enough for any two members of the Senate to exchange five words on the subject. The proposition was sudden and perfectly unexpected. I resisted it, as irregular, as dangerous in itself, and dangerous in its precedent; as wholly unnecessary, and as violating the plain intention, if not the express words of the Constitution. Before the Senate, then, I avowed, and before the country I now avow, my part in this opposition. Whatsoever is to fall on those who sanctioned it, of that let me have my full share.
The Senate, sir, rejected this grant by a vote of Twenty-nine against nineteen. Those twenty-nine names are on the Journal.; and whensoever the Expunging process may commence, or how far soever it may be carried, I pray it, in mercy, not to erase mine from that record. I beseech it, in its sparing goodness, to leave me that proof of attachment to duty and to principle. It may draw around it, over it, or through it, black lines, or red lines, or any lines; it may mark it in any way which either the most prostrate and fantastical spirit of man-ioorship, or the most ingenious and elaborate study of self-degradation, may devise, if only it will leave it so that those who inherit my blood, or who may hereafter care for my reputation, shall be able to behold it where it now stands.
The House, sir, insisted on this amendment. The Senate adhered to its disagreement; the House asked a conference, to which request the Senate immediately acpeded. The committees of conference met, and, in a very short time, came to an agreement. They agreed to recommend to their respective Houses, as a substitute for the vote proposed by the House, the following:
"As an additional appropriation for arming the fortifications of the United States, three hundred thousand dollars."
"As an additional appropriation for the repairs and equipment of ships of war of the United States, five hundred thousand dollars."
I immediately reported this agreement of the committees of conference to the Senate; but, inasmuch as the bill was in the House of Representatives, the Senate could not act further on the matter until the House should first have considered the report of the committee*, derided thereon, and sent us the bill. I did not myself take any note of the partirular bour of this part of the transaction. 1 he honorable member from Virginia (Mr. I*cigh) tays he consulted his watch at the time, and he knows that I had come from the conference, and was in my seat at a quarter past eleven. I have no reason to think that he is under any mistako on this particular. He says it so happened that he had occasion to take notice of the hour, and well remembers it. It could not well have been later than this, as any one will be satisfied who will look at our journals, public and executive, and see what a mass of business was despatched after I came from the committees, and before the adjournment of the Senate. Having made the report, sir, I had no doubt that both Houses would concur in the result of the conference, and looked every moment for the officer of the House bringing the Kill. He did not come, however, and I pretty soon learned that there was doubt whether the committee on the part of the House would report to the House the agreement of the conferees. At first, I did not at all credit this; but was confirmed by one communication after another, until I was obliged to think it true. Seeing that the bill was thus in danger of being lost, and intending at any rate that no blame should justly attach to the Senate, I immediately moved the following resolution:
"Resolved, That a message be sent to the bonorable the House of Representatives respectfully to remind the House of the report of the committee of conference appointed on the disagreeing votes of the two Houses on the amendment of the House to the amendment of the Senate to the bill respecting the fortificating of the United States."
You recollect this resolution, sir, having, as I well remember, taken some part on the occasion.*
This resolution was promptly passed; the Secretary carried it to the House, and delivered it. What was done in the House on the receipt of this message now appears from the printed journal. 1 have no wish to comment pn the proceedings there recorded — all may read them, and each be able to form his own opinion. Suffice it to say that the House of Representatives, having then possession of the bill, chose to retain that possession, and never acted on the report of the committee. The bill, therefore, was lost. It was lost in the House of Representatives. It died there, and there its remains are to be found. INo opportunity was given to the members of the House to decide whether they would agree to the report of the two committees or not. From a quarter past eleven, when the report was agreed to, until two or three o'clock in the morning, the House remained in session. If at any time there was not a quo
* Mr. King, of Alabama, wu in U> rhair.
rum of members present, the attendance of a quoru/n, we are to presume, might have been commanded, as there was undoubtedly a great majority of the members still in the city.
But now, sir, there is one other transaction of the evening, which I feel bound to state, because I think it quite important, on several accounts, that it should be known.
A nomination was pending before the Senate for a Judge of the Supreme Court. In the course of the sitting, that nomination was called up, and, on motion, was indefinitely postponed. In other words, it was rejected; for an indefinite postponement is a rejection. The office, of course, remained vacant, and the nomination of another person to fill it became necessary. The President of the United States was then in the Capitol, as is usual on the evening of the last day of the session, in the chamber assigned to him, and with the heads of Departments around him. When nominations are rejected under these circumstances, it has been usual for the President immediately to transmit a new nomination to the Senate; otherwise the office must remain vacant till the next session, as the vacancy in such case has not happened in the recess of Congress. The vote of the Senate, indefinitely postponing this nomination, was carried to the President's room by the Secretary of the Senate. The President told the Secretary that it was more than an hour past 12 o'clock, and that he could receive no further communications from the Senate, and immediately after, as I have understood, left the Capitol. The Secretary brought back the paper containing the certified copy of the vote of the Senate, and endorsed thereon the substance of the President's answer, and also added that, according to his own watch, it was quarter past one o'clock.
There are two views, sir, in which this occurrence may well deserve to be noticed. One is a connection which it may perhaps have with the loss of the Fortification bill; the other is, its general importance, as introducing a new rule, or a new practice, respecting the intercourse between the President and the House of Congress on the last day of the session.
On the first point, I shall only observe that the fact of the President's having declined to receive this communication from the Senate, and of his having left the Capitol, was immediately known in the House of Representatives ; that it was quite obvious that if he could not receive a communication from the Senate, neither could he receive a bill from the House of Representatives for his signature. It was equally obvious, that if, under these circumstances, the House of Representatives should agree to the report of the committee of conference, so that the bill should pass, it must, nevertheless, fail to become a law, for want of the President's signature; and that, in that case, the blame of losing the bill, on whomsoever else it might fall, could not be laid upon the Senate.
On the more general point, I must say, sir, that this decision of the President, not to hold communication with the Houses of Congress after 12 o'clock, on the 3d of March, is quite new. No such objection has ever been made before, by any President. No one of them has ever declined communicating with either House at any time during the continuance of its session on that day. All Presidents, heretofore, have left it with the Houses themselves to fix their hour of adjournment, and to bring their session, for the day, to a close, whenever they saw fit.
It is notorious, in point of fact, that nothing is more common than for both Houses to sit later than l°.o'clock, for the purpose of completing measures which are in the last stages of their progress. Amendments are proposed and agreed to, bills passed, enrolled bills signed by the presiding officers, and other im|iorUnt legislative acts performed, often at '2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. All this is very well known to gentlemen who have been for any considerable time members ol Congress. And all Presidents have signed bills, and have also made nominations to the Senate, w itliout objection as to time, whenever bills have been presented for signature, or whenever it became necessary to make nominations to the Senate, at any time during the session of the respective Houses on that day.
And all this, sir, 1 suppose to be perfectly right, correct, and legal. There is no clause of the Constitution, nor is there anv law, which declares that the term of office of members of the Houms of Representatives shall expire at twelve o'clock at night on the 3d of March. They arc to hold for two years, but the precipe hour for the commencement of that term oT two years i s no where fixed by constitutional or legal provision. It has been established by usage and by inference, and very properly established, that, since the first Congress commenced its existence, on the fiist Wednesday in March, 1789, which happened to be the 4th day of the month, therefore, the 4th of March is the day of the commencement of each successive term, but no hour a fixed by law or practice. The true rule is, as I think, most undoubtedly, thai the session holden on the last day constitutes the last day, for all legislative and legal purposes. While the session commenced on that day continues, the day itself continues, according to the established practice both of legislative and judicial bodies. This could not well be otherwise. If the precise moment of actual time were to settle such a matter, it would be material to ask, who shall settle the time? Shall it be done by public authority, or shall every man observe the tick of his own watch? If absolute time is to lumish a precise rule, the excess of a minute, it is obvious, would be as fatal as the excess of an hour. Sir, no bodies, judicial or legislative, have ever been so hypercritical, so astute to no purpose, so