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CONTEST IN THE HOUSE.
on the state of the Union," usually regarded as the receptacle of dead projects in legislation. The bill was referred, by a vote of 110 to 96. This was a great triumph of the antiNebraska men. But the friends of the bill were determined to get at it, in some way, and so on the 8th of May, the skirmishing commenced, which was the prelude to the great battle that came off three days later. Richardson moved to go into committee, for the purpose of taking up the bill, and after a long struggle, the motion was carried, and all other bills were laid aside until the Nebraska bill was reached. On the next day, it was debated. On the day after, Richardson moved a resolution to close debate, and resolutely proposed to put on the screws of the previous question, and gag the measure through. Flushed with their recent success, strong in numbers, in talent, and above all, in the righteousness of their cause, the anti-Nebraska members were ready and even eager for the contest. Then commenced one of the longest and most extraordinary sittings ever known in Congressional annals.
The Nebraska men had secured a clear majority, and evinced a determination to fight their bill through, without further discussion or consideration. On the other hand, its opponents were equally determined that they should not do it. Then began what is called in Congressional phrase, "fillibustering" by all the dilatory motions known to parliamentary law motions to adjourn, to adjourn over, to lay on the table, to reconsider, to excuse members from voting, for a call of the House, and other motions; upon all of which, piled up, one after another, the ayes and noes were ordered, preventing any action upon the question. A call of the House is ordered, the doors of the House are closed, and no member can get in or out without the leave of the House. The sergeant-at-arms is sent to arrest the absent members, who are brought in and arraigned to give their excuses to the House like truant school boys. Motions to excuse are made, followed by motions to dispense with further proceedings under the call, to adjourn, etc., etc., interposed between brief speeches interjected out of order, and amid cries of "order," "order," "order." Time wears on; the day passes and the
night passes, and the next day comes, and still the House is at a dead lock. The Nebraskaites determined still to force their measure through before an adjournment, while the other side is equally determined, that no vote shall be taken. The members are tired, sleepy, haggard, ill-natured, and they lounge and gape during the incessant calls of the roll. On the second day, the anti-Nebraska men got fairly organized for their work, and, being on the defensive, were enabled to let some of their men go out for refreshment and sleep, while others stood guard, intrenched behind the defences of their scores of motions, piled one upon the other. But the other side being, as it were, the attacking party, could not spare a man. Under this arrangement, Mr. Benton left the House, and another call being ordered, he was arrested, brought in and called up before the Speaker for an excuse. He said, "It was neither on account of age nor infirmity that I was absent, for I never felt better. * * * I went away animus revertendi, intending to return, refreshed and invigorated, and take my share and sit it out; to tell the exact truth, to husband some strength for a pinch, when it should come, for I did not think we had yet got to the tightest place." Though a democrat, Mr. Benton was indignant at the attempt to violate compacts; his sagacious mind saw the dangers which would follow the passage of the bill, and he resisted, with all the ability and pluck of his best days. The second night comes, and Congress has been in session thirty hours. As an illustration of the endurance of members, Hon. E. B. Washburne states, that during all this time, he was never out of the House but once, and took but one meal, and slept one hour.
The chandeliers flashed their brilliant lights again over the hall. The clerks were hoarse with the continued roll call, but it still went on, each party resolved not to yield. Worn out with hunger, fatigue and watching, the members became more and more impatient and restless. At length Richardson realizes the full strength and determination of the anti-Nebraska men, and proposes terms of compromise. The universal answer was, "No, you are too late, we are determined you shall not force a vote on
CONTEST IN THE House.
your bill, and we will make no terms." Many of the slaveholders, who had been out to stimulate their decaying energies, now came into the House, filled with indignation at having, for the first time in their lives, been so long baulked in their object. There was renewed tumult and excitement. Then Alex. H. Stephens, (late rebel Vice-President,) the ablest man on that side of the House, and the most skilful parliamentarian and tactician they had, sees the dilemma of Richardson. The enemies of the bill, realizing their advantage, became jubilant and defiant. Campbell, of Ohio, small in person, but full of pluck and spirit, saw the advantage and was not disposed to yield it. As a sort of general colloquy was going on, Mr. Campbell sought to make an inquiry, and was interrupted by Mr. Seward, of Georgia, saying, "I call the gentleman to order." (Cries of "order," from all parts of the House.)
Mr. Campbell, amid much confusion, said, "I shall resist this measure to the bitter end; I say so, never minding the gentleman who calls me to order." (Cries of order.) Mr. Seward: "There are other places, instead of this, where personal difficulties may be settled." (Members here crowded around Mr. Campbell-many even on the tops of the desks.)
Thus far the report of the Congressional Globe. Mr. Campbell was in one of the aisles.
After throwing defiance at Campbell, the fire-eaters from all parts of the House began to rush towards him. It was a fearful scene! Edmonson, of Virginia, a man of powerful build and violent temper, now inflamed by liquor, was among the foremost coming up, having his hand upon a bowie knife concealed under his vest. Bocock, late Speaker of the rebel House, an old member of Congress, and opposed to violence, interposed between his drunken and infuriated colleague and Mr. Campbell. At this time, Washburne, of Illinois, was on the top of the desk, determined, at any rate, to see what was going on, and ready to take a hand in, when a blow should be struck. The surging crowd, having been brought to a momentary stand, the undaunted little Campbell again got the floor.
Mr. CAMPBELL "I tell you, gentlemen, I shall resist this measure to the bitter end with all my power."
SPEAKER-"The House will come to order. The sergeantat-arms will preserve order." (Members still crowding around Mr. Campbell.) "The chair calls on lovers of order to preserve order in the hall."
The sergeant-at-arms, with the Mace of the House, proceeded to compel members to to resume their seats and preserve order.
SPEAKER-"Those who are disorderly and acting in contempt of the House"-(cries of "down from the desks.") Order was now partially restored.
This scene finally wound up by Mr. Richardson's moving to adjourn, which motion was carried amid great applause from the anti-Nebraska side. And at twenty-seven minutes to 12 o'clock Friday evening, May 12th, the House adjourned, having been in continuous session thirty-five hours and thirty-five minutes. It is to be hoped that such a session and such scenes will never again be witnessed. This was the first square stand up fight in the Halls of Congress, between the slave power and dough-faces on one side, and the independent representatives of a free people on the other, in which the latter triumphed.
Yet the struggle did not end here, but was destined still to go on with great bitterness.
Mr. Richardson, having failed to put his bill through under the previous question, came into the House on the following Monday, with a modified proposition, looking to closing debate after four days' discussion. That was finally adopted after a parliamentary struggle of six hours. This was a most turbulent session, and was characterized by many violent scenes.
Under the rules of the House, after general debate on a bill has been closed in committee, it is open to amendment and to what is called the "five minutes debate." Any member can offer an amendment, and speak five minutes in support of it, and then any other member, who can get the floor, can speak five minutes in reply; and it is specially provided that no bill can be reported to the House as
CONTEST IN THE HOUSE- STEPHENS.
long as any member may wish to offer an amendment. It was immediately seen by the friends of the bill, that under this rule, the discussion might be continued indefinitely and never brought to a vote. Then the keen intellect and shrewd parliamentary tactics of Stephens were again brought into requsition. He dug up an old rule of the House, and gave it a new and plausible construction; it was to strike out the enacting clause of the bill in committee, and report it to the House, which would disagree to the action of the committee; that is, the committee would cut the head off the bill, then send it into the House, when the head would be voted on again. The only resource was, not to vote in committee, and thus prevent the bill getting out of the committee into the House by the want of a quorum. But the Nebraska men were equal to the occasion. They had for chairman of the Committee of the Whole, the notorious Dr. Olds, of Ohio, one of the most unscrupulous men in the House, ever ready to do the bidding of the slaveholders. The motion was for the committee to rise and report the bill to the House; and on that motion only 103 members voted, it taking 119 for a quorum. The vote, therefore, amounted to nothing. But what was the astonishment to hear Olds declare the motion carried, and see him stalk hastily down from the Speaker's chair amid loud and vociferous cries of "no quorum! no quorum!" But that did not deter him from making a false report to the Speaker. And when the question of order was raised before the Speaker, that no quorum had voted in committee to report the bill to the House, he coolly replied "that the Speaker could not take cognizance of what was done in committee."
And then commenced the long and desperate struggle over the final passage of the bill. The friends of the measure had comforted themselves with a resolute and unswerving majority; but yet, under the rules of the House, formed, not only to protect the majority, but the minority as well, action could be indefinitely delayed. To secure the passage of the bill, at this time, the rules of the House were trampled under foot, parliamentary law was disregarded, and the rights of the minority were contemned. Still they resisted and