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NO FINAL ADJOURNMENT OF CONGRESS WITHOUT
SPEECH IN THE SENATE, ON THE RESOLUTION OF FINAL ADJOURN
MENT, JULY 2, 1864.
July 20, late in the evening, this day being Saturday, it was proposed that the session of Congress should finally close on Monday, July 4th, at noon. Mr. Sumner earnestly opposed this adjournment.
R. PRESIDENT,— In determining when to ad
journ we may be guided by the experience of the past. If earlier Congresses, having less to do, infinitely less, than the present Congress, have found it necessary to continue their sessions through the summer, it is not improper to ask if we should be less industrious and less persevering.
I have in my hand a memorandum of the adjournments of Congress at the long session during the last twenty years. It is most suggestive, at least, even if not cominanding to us.
The first session of the Twenty-Ninth Congress closed August 10, 1846. The war with Mexico had just begun. The first session of the Thirtieth Congress ended August 14, 1848. The main discussion of this year was on the Wilmot Proviso. The first session of the Thirty-First Congress lasted till September 30, 1850. This was the session of Compromise. The Fugitive
Slave Act bears date September 18th of this year. The first session of the Thirty-Second Congress did not close till August 31, 1852. During this period the Compromise measures were much discussed, also the Presidential question, and the platforms of the two great parties. It was as late as August 26th that I had the honor of moving the repeal of the Fugitive Slave Act, being one of the Slavery compromises adopted by the previous Congress. The first session of the Thirty-Third Congress adjourned August 7, 1854. This was early for those times. The first session of the Thirty-Fourth Congress adjourned August 30, 1856, Kansas being the constant order of the day. Down to this period there was no adjournment before August, and one Congress sat as late as September 30th. But a change took place.
In 1856 the old per diem of eight dollars, as compensation of Senators and Representatives, was transmuted into the present system of compensation by an annual salary of three thousand dollars, be the session long or short. See now what ensued. The first session of the Thirty-Fifth Congress, immediately after the change of pay, closed June 14, 1858; and yet the questions of Kansas and the Lecompton Constitution were uppermost. The first session of the Thirty-Sixth Congress closed June 28, 1860, on the eve of the Presidential election, having been much occupied by the crisis of that historic conflict. Then came the long session of the Thirty-Seventh Congress, which did not adjourn till July 17, 1862, being a remarkable session, which has stored the statute-book with monuments of its industry and patriotism. Such is the record of the past; and now it is proposed to adjourn on the 4th of July.
There are two suggestions with regard to this record, which you will pardon me for making. First, so long as Congress was paid at the rate of eight dollars a day, and salary depended upon the duration of the session, Congress sat late in the season. It is humiliating to think that a consideration apparently so trivial could have had such influence; but such are the facts. The other suggestion is of a different character. appears, that, while the pretensions of Slavery were to be upheld, Congress was willing to give up the whole summer, even into autumn, to the odious theme. For the sake of an execrable Fugitive Slave Act, and other kindred measures, it bore all these heats, now so insupportable.
Sir, long ago I began the cry that we of the Free States must be as earnest and positive for Freedom as our opponents had always been for Slavery. Why not imitate their example ? Business did not draw them away, heat did not drive them away, when Slavery was in question. But Freedom in every form is now in question. There is your army: it must be sustained. There are your finances : must they not be sustained also ? There, too, are the great ideas of Freedom involved in this war. Much as has been done to uphold these, more remains to be done.
The question of finances assumes a practical form, and, as I am informed, it is now under discussion in the other House. While they debate an increased taxation, we are here, close upon midnight, considering how to end the session. That subject which of all others is the most difficult and delicate, which touches all the great interests of the country, which cannot be treated in any hasty or perfunctory style, which should
be handled always with supremest caution, and which at the present moment is almost a question of life and death, is still to be considered by the Senate; and yet Senators are willing, by fixing the hour of adjournment, to see this most important debate “cabined, cribbed, confined” to the limits of a few hours, I might almost! say minutes. Why, Sir, it has not yet been finally acted on in the other House, and we know not when it can reach us.
But we know well, that, whenever it does reach the Senate, the whole vast subject of taxation will be open again. It is understood that the pending proposition is for an increased income tax. In other times, when Senators had not such uncontrollable longings for home, such a measure would have been approached with becoming care. But this is not the only question involved. It is proposed to tax tobacco in the leaf, and thus add millions to the revenue. And then we have again the perpetually recurring question of taxing whiskey on hand, destined to bring into our exchequer yet other millions.
MR. TRUMBULL. Have we not considered that ?
MR. SUMNER. I understand that at this moment it is under consideration in the other House.
MR. TRUMBULL. Has it not been under consideration for months ?
MR. SUMNER. Of course it has; but it is under consideration still. The two Houses, as the Senator knows well, have differed. The other House favors taxing whiskey on hand. The Senate has steadfastly resisted the tax. But it is not too late for the Senate to yield, especially when the necessity for more money is apparent, and the late distinguished head of the Treasury has in a formal communication recommended this very tax. There is no way in
which so much money can be had so easily and so justly. Let Congress stay together until the tax is laid. At all events, do not leave without considering it again in the new light. This is my answer to the Senator from Illinois.
But if you are unwilling to tax whiskey on hand, or tobacco, then find something else to tax. But tax you must. Tax, because of the necessity of the case. Tax, because the people ask to be taxed. For the first time in history the phenomenon occurs that the people rise up and demand to be taxed. Unless I err, this is the cry from every quarter. I know it is the cry from my part of the country. It is a patriotic cry, because the people believe further taxation essential to the national credit and the safety of the country. All honor to the people for this invitation to Congress!
And now Congress is about to leave, to flee away, without performing this essential duty. A tax bill has been passed, which already, before going into operation, is pronounced inadequate in an official communication by Mr. Chase. And yet, in despite of this judgment, Senators are willing to go home. It is said we need some hundred million dollars more; and yet, in the face of this asserted necessity, and in the face of that generous demand from every part of the country, which Congress should make haste to gratify, it is now urged that we should abdicate.
MR. Davis. Mr. President,
MR. SUMNER. Let me finish. I will give the Senator from Kentucky a fair opportunity in one moment.
Mr. Davis. I merely wish to ask a question.
MR. Davis. The question I ask the honorable Senator is, whether he is not mistaken as to the subject of this great