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the Senate, intended to correct abuses, to restrain useless expenditure, to curtail the discretionary authority of public officers, and to control government patronage. The Post-Office Bill, the CustomHouse Bill, and the Bill respecting the tenure of office, were all of this class. None of them, however, received the favorable consideration of the other House. I believe, that in all these respects, a reform, a real, honest reform, is decidedly necessary to the security of the Constitution ; and while I continue in public life, I shall not halt in my endeavors to produce it. It is time to bring back the government to its true character of an agency for the people. It is time to declare that offices, created for the people, are public trusts, not private spoils. It is time to bring each and every Department within its true original limits. It is time to assent, on one hand, to the just powers of Congress, in their full extent, and to resist, on the other, the progress and rapid growth of Executive authority.
These, Gentlemen, are my opinions. I have spoken them frankly, and without reserve. Under present circumstances, I should wish to avoid any concealment, and to state my political opinions, in their full length and breadth. I desire not to stand before the country as a man of no opinions, or of such a mixture of opposite opinions, that the result has no character at all. On the contrary, I am desirous of standing as one who is bound to his own consistency by the frankest avowal of his sentiments, on all important and interesting occasions. I am not partly for the Constitution, and partly against it; I am wholly for it, for it altogether, for it as it is, and for the exercise, when occasion requires, of all its just powers, as they have heretofore been exercised by Washington, and the great men who have followed him in its administration.
I disdain, altogether, the character of an uncommitted man. I am committed, fully committed; committed to the full extent of all that I am, and all that I hope, to the Constitution of the country, to its love and reverence, to its defence and maintenance, to its warm commendation to every American heart, and to its vindication and just praise, before all mankind. And I am committed against every thing, which, in my judgment, may weaken, endanger, or destroy it. I am committed against the encouragement of local parties and local feelings; I am committed against all fostering of anti-national spirit; I am committed against the slightest infringement of the original compromise, on which the Constitution was founded; I am committed against any and every derangement of the powers of the several departments of the Government, against any derogation from the Constitutional authority of Congress, and especially against all extension of Executive power; and I am committed against any attempt to rule the free people of this country by the power and the patronage of the Government itself. I am committed, fully and entirely committed, against making the government the people's master.
These, Gentlemen, are my opinions. I have purposely avowed them, with the utmost frankness. They are not the sentiments of the moment, but the result of much reflection, and of some experience in the affairs of the country. I believe them to be such sentiments as are alone compatible with the permanent prosperity of the country, or the long continuance of its Union.
And, now, Gentlemen, having thus solemnly avowed these sentiments, and these convictions, if you should find me hereafter to be false to them, or to falter in their support, I now conjure you, by all the duty you owe your country, by all your hopes of her prosperity and renown, by all your love for the general course of liberty throughout the world - I conjure you, that, renouncing me as a recreant, you yourselves go on - right on - straight forward, in maintaining with your utmost zeal, and with all your power, the true principles of the best, the happiest, the most glorious Constitution of a free government, with which it has pleased Providence, in any age, to bless any of the nations of the earth.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, JANUARY 14, 1836, ON
MR. BENTON'S RESOLUTIONS, FOR APPROPRIATING THE SURPLUS REVENUE TO NATIONAL DEFENCE.
It is not my purpose, Mr. President, to make any remark on the state of our affairs with France. The time for that discussion has not come, and I wait. We are in daily expectation of a communication from the President, which will give us light; and we are authorized to expect a recommendation by him of such measures as he thinks it may be necessary and proper for Congress to adopt. I do not anticipate him. I do not forerun him. In this most important and delicate business, it is the proper duty of the Executive to go forward, and I, for one, do not intend either to be drawn or driven into the lead. When official information shall be before us, and when measures shall be recommended upon the proper responsibility, I shall endeavor to form the best judgment I can, and shall act according to its dictates.
I rise, now, for another purpose. This resolution has drawn on a debate upon the general conduct of the Senate during the last session of Congress, and especially in regard to the proposed grant of the three millions to the President on the last night of the session. My main object is to tell the story of this transaction, and to exhibit the conduct of the Senate fairly to the public view. I owe this duty to the Senate. I owe it to the committee with which I am connected; and although whatever is personal to an individual is generally of too little importance to be made the subject of much remark, I hope I may be permitted to say that, in a matter, in regard to which there has been so much misrepresentation, I wish to say a few words for the sake of defending my own reputation.
This vote for the three millions was proposed by the House of Representatives as an amendment to the fortification bill; and the loss of that bill, three millions and all, is the charge which has been made upon the Senate, sounded over all the land, and now again renewed. I propose to give the true history of this bill, its origin, its progress, and its loss.
Before attempting that, however, let me remark, for it is worthy to be remarked, and remembered, that the business brought before the Senate last session, important and various as it was, and both passed
public and private, was all gone through, with most uncommon despatch and promptitude. No session has witnessed a more complete clearing off and finishing of the subjects before us. The communications from the other House, whether bills or whatever else, were especially attended to in a proper season, and with that ready respect which is due from one House to the other. I recollect nothing of any importance which came to us from the House of Representatives, which was here neglected, overlooked, or disregarded.
On the other hand, it was the misfortune of the Senate, and, as I think, the misfortune of the country, that, owing to the state of business in the House of Representatives towards the close of the session, several measures which had been matured in the Senate, and passed into bills, did not receive attention, so as to be either agreed to or rejected, in the other branch of the Legislature. They fell, of course, by the termination of the session.
Among these measures may be mentioned the following, viz.
The Post-OFFICE REFORM Bill, which passed the Senate unanimously, and of the necessity for which the whole country is certainly now most abundantly satisfied ;
The Custom-House REGULATIONS Bill, which also nearly unanimously, after a very laborious preparation by the Committee on Commerce, and a full discussion in the Senate;
THE JUDICIARY Bill, passed here by a majority of thirty-one to five, and which has again already passed the Senate at this session with only a single dissenting vote ;
THE BILL INDEMNIFYING CLAIMANTS FOR FRENCH SPOLIATIONS BEFORE 1800 ;
THE BILL REGULATING THE DEPOSIT OF THE PUBLIC MONEY IN THE DEPOSIT Banks ;
THE BILL RESPECTING THE TENURE OF CERTAIN OFFICES, AND THE POWER OF REMOVAL FROM OFFICE; which has now again passed to be engrossed, in the Senate, by a decided majority.
All these important measures, matured and passed in the Senate in the course of the session, and many others whose importance was less, were sent to the House of Representatives, and we never heard any thing more from them. They there found their graves.
It is worthy of being remarked, also, that the attendance of members of the Senate was remarkably full, particularly toward the end of the session. On the last day, every Senator was in his place till very near the hour of adjournment, as the Journal will show. We had no breaking up for want of a quorum; no delay, no calls of the Senate; nothing which was made necessary by the negligence or inattention of the members of this body. On the vote of the three millions of dollars, which was taken at about eight o'clock in the evening, forty-eight votes were given, every member ·f the Senate being in his place and answering to his name. This is an instance of punctuality, diligence, and labor, continued to the very end of an arduous session, wholly without example or parallel.
The Senate, then, sir, must stand, in the judgment of every man, fully acquitted of all remissness, all negligence, all inattention, amidst the fatigue and exhaustion of the closing hours of Congress. Nothing passed unheeded, nothing was overlooked, nothing forgotten, and nothing slighted.
And now, sir, I would proceed immediately to give the history of the Fortification Bill, if it were not necessary, as introductory to that history, and as showing the circumstances under which the Senate was called on to transact the public business, first to refer to another bill which was before us, and to the proceedings which were had upon it.
It is well known, sir, that the annual appropriation bills always originate in the House of Representatives. This is so much the course, that no one ever looks to see such a bill first brought forward in the Senate. It is also well known, sir, that it has been usual, heretofore, to make the annual appropriations for the Military Academy at West Point, in the general bill, which provides for the pay
bill did not contain any appropriation whatever for the support of West Point. I took notice of this singular omission when the bill was before the Senate, but presumed, and indeed understood, that the House would send us a separate bill for the Military Academy. The army bill, therefore, passed; but no bill for the Academy at West Point appeared. We waited for it from day to day, and from week to week, but waited in vain. At length, the time for sending bills from one House to the other, according to the joint rules of the two Houses, expired, and no bill had made its appearance for the support of the Military Academy. These joint rules, as is well known, are sometimes suspended on the application of one House to the other, in favor of particular bills, whose progress has been unexpectedly delayed, but which the public interest requires to be passed. But the House of Representatives sent us no request to suspend the rules in favor of a bill for the support of the Military Academy, nor made any other propositions to save the Institution from immediate dissolution. Notwithstanding all the talk about a war, and the necessity of a vote for the three millions, the Military Academy, an institution cherished so long, and at so much expense, was on the very point of being entirely bro
Now it so happened, sir, that at this time there was another appropriation bill which had come from the House of Representatives, and was before the Committee on Finance here. This bill was entitled “ An act making appropriations for the civil and diplomatic expenses of the Government for the year 1835."