Page images

But the constitution manifestly contemplates the happening of two vacancies by such a division. All the senators first chosen, were chosen for six years. The constitution declared that the seats of one-third of them should be vacated at the expiration of two years. But what if one of that one-third died before that day? Why, his seat nevertheless was vacated at the expiration of the two years, but in the mean time it was also vacated, and a temporary appointment was made to fill the temporary vacancy until the happening of the regular vacancy at the end of the two years; and so we practice on the same principle now, vacating one-third of the Senate absolutely every two years.

3d. But it is said that if a senator may resign and fix a day in future one month distant, he may fix one five years distant. And it is asked whether the Legislature, being in session when such a resignation is received, can fill the vacancy which is so postponed in effect for five years—to the prejudice of the right of the legislatures assembling afterward and before the day limited? I reply, that is a question which does not arise here. It is enough that the senator has a right to say to his state, I will serve you one, or twoor three, or four years, or five years, and no longer. And the state has a right to say we will accept your services for that time, and dismiss you afterward. If a question shall arise what legislature meeting within the period has the right to fill the vacancy, it can then be met-it has not arisen here.

Thus the legality of Mr. Dixon's title seems to result from the constitution and the precedents; and assuming this view, the case presents the not unfrequent one of an ascertained vacancy occurring at a future day, and anticipated and filled, and an intervening temporary vacancy also temporarily filled and expired. If this view is correct, it is unnecessary to examine the pretensions set up, not by Mr. Merriwether, but in his behalf by senators.

Mr. President, this question has bearings upon the present and the State of Kentucky, and also upon the future and the whole Union. A rejection of Mr. Dixon, who comes with a plenary commission unanimously confirmed by the Legislature and Governor of Kentucky, and an admission, on the contrary, of Mr. Merriwether, who not only presents no such commission, but presents no claim, and does not even appear, will, I think, deeply disturb Kentucky and alarm all the other states. This alarm will be increased by the fact that the proceeding will operate to

strengthen and increase the provisional prerogatives of the governors of the states at the expense of the power conferred by the constitution on the legislatures of the states; for nothing is clearer than that the power conferred on the governors to fill vacancies was designed to be occasional, and exceptional, and subordinate to that devolved on the legislatures, which was designed to be general, complete, and supreme.

You will also excite new and painful apprehensions of another and even more grave kind. The House of Representatives is a legislative assembly, drawn out by representation of the whole Union as one undivided country and people; and the constitution of that House is a great centripetal power acting toward consolidation. But the Senate is composed of an equal delegation of the several states, appointed by the states. Senators are in a manner ambassadors of the states, and the control exercised by the states in their appointment, without interference from the center, constitutes a centrifugal force important to the preservation of the states in their qualified, constitutional independence. Hitherto the Senate of the United States has received whomsoever have been sent by the states, only examining their qualifications when desired, or deciding judicially between contestants. But if now we reject one who is sent with full authority, and whose title is not denied from without this body, and call in one who is not sent with any such authority, we shall shake the confidence which has hitherto been enjoyed by the Senate, and raise alarms for the safety of the states, and thus weaken the bonds of the Union.

NOTE. The following is an extract from the proceedings of Congress, on the day the above speech was made. The question being taken on the resolution, declaring Mr. DIXON duly elected Senator from Kentucky, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Mr. CLAY, and that he be now admitted to his seat, was adopted. Yeas 27-Nays 16-as follows:

AYES-Messrs. Adams, Atchison, Badger, Bell, Brooke, Butler, Chase, Clarke, Cooper, Davis, Dawson, Dodge of Iowa, Fisk, Geyer, Hale, Jones of Tennessee, Miller, Morton, Pearce, Rusk, Seward, Smith, Spruance, Sumner, Underwood, Upham, Wade.

NAYS-Messrs. Bayard, Borland, Bradbury, Bright, Cass, Cathcart, De Saussure, Dodge of Wisconsin, Douglas, Downes, Felch, Gwin, Mason, Morris, Toucey, Weller.

Mr. DIXON was then sworn in, and the Senate adjourned.-ED.





DECEMBER 20, 1849.

I THINK, sir, that men often disagree in regard to the merit of the living, but seldom differ in regard to the merit of the dead. This capitol, its halls, its chambers, and its grounds, are filled with statuary memorials of the illustrious benefactors of mankind, of other nations as well as of our own; and these memorials are looked upon with pleasure and satisfaction by all the living. But there is a painful reflection that occurs to us when we raise these monuments in honor of the dead. They can convey no encouragement to the benefactor in the prosecution of his philanthropic enterprises. They convey to him no sympathy in the sufferings which he endures. The resolution before the Senate presents a very different occasion-an occasion in which we can, without danger of error, recognize a public benefactor-a benefactor of mankind; and in which the homage which is offered is unalloyed by the painful reflection that marble cannot hear and cannot feel. I need no argument to convince me that it is unnecessary to establish any connection between this illustrious benefactor of the human race and our own country, in order to entitle him to the compliment which it is proposed to offer him, because I regard the interests of the American nation as the interests of humanity; and whoever, in any part of the globe, has relieved the condition of any portion of the human race, I look upon as entitled to the approbation and the gratitude of the American nation.

* Remarks on a resolution inviting Father Matthew to a seat on the floor of the Sen ate, which was adopted by a vote of 33 to 18.-Ed.

I have said that there was no danger of error. A nation, a race, interesting from consanguinity-interesting by a thousand ties-finds its virtues increased, and the condition of its people meliorated, by the labors of Theobald Matthew. Where among the living do we find a man whose works of benevolence have so speedily and gloriously followed him?

I should join in this homage-in this act of reverence as an act of reverence to virtue alone, if no other reason was offered; but I must say with all freedom, and I trust that the freedom will be conceded to me as I concede equal freedom to others, that since it is objected that this act of respect shall not be allowed, because of the particular opinions of the person who is the subject of it, in regard to slavery, I must be allowed to say, with all respect, that I hope the American Senate will give evidence, by the unanimity with which they pass this resolution, of this sentimentwhich is almost unanimous, I believe, amongst us—that if slavery be an error, if it be a crime, if it be a sin, we deplore its existence among us, and deny the responsibility of its introduction here; and, therefore, that we shall not withhold from virtue the meed which is its due, because it happens to be combined in the person of one who exhibits a devotion not more to virtue than to the rights of man.


DECEMBER 30, 1849.

I HAVE the honor to present a petition from mercantile and shipping houses in the city of Baltimore, having 237 names appended to it, praying for the abolition of the use of intoxicating liquors in the navy of the United States. I submit also a petition from certain mercantile houses in the city of Baltimore, signed by 250 names, praying for the abolition of flogging in the naval service of the United States. I move the reference, and take this occasion to express my concurrence in the sentiments expressed by the Senator from Massachusetts in relation to this subject, and to say that, in my judgment, whoever is allowed the privilege of adminVOL. 1-19.

istering intoxicating liquors to others daily, and of inflicting upon them corporeal chastisement for offences, has it in his power to exercise over them the control that a master exercises over his slave. I do not believe it necessary that such a relation should be established either in the army or the navy; and since it has been sometimes said that the practice of flogging in the navy must be continued because no substitute has been found for it, I beg leave to say, and your own recollection, Mr. President, will bear witness to the fact, that in the penitentiary system in the state of New York the practice of corporeal punishment has been abolished, and that discipline has been maintained with as much success with regard to labor and moral conduct as when corporeal punishment prevailed.

There was a struggle for twenty years to abolish this punishment in the prisons, which was resisted upon the ground that discipline could not be maintained without it. Five or ten years ago the punishment was prohibited, and it has never been resorted to since. There has nevertheless been, during that time, the same quiet, the same order, that prevailed before. Public sentiment seems to have entirely acquiesced in the reform which has been made, as useful, humane, and benevolent. The first argument that I have ever heard against it was that of the Senator from Florida, who read from the report of one of the wardens of one of the prisons, and drew an inference from that report, that it was the judgment of that officer that it was expedient to return to the old system. I beg leave to say to him, without detaining the Senate, that a more careful perusal of that document would show that the punishment substituted was the use of the shower-bath; and that the evil complained of was, that the mode of applying it has been so unnecessarily harsh as to have resulted in producing, as the keeper supposed, insanity in eight cases; and the keeper went on to say that he had, therefore, in a great degree, discontinued that form of punishment, and had resorted to solitary confinement as a substitute, which had been successful. The argument of the Senator from Florida, therefore, was based merely upon the fact that, having occasion to find some other punishment than flogging, they had not, in the first instance, arrived at that which was the right


« PreviousContinue »