Samuel Sullivan Cox.

Key to the dead lock. Speech of Hon. Samuel S. Cox, of New York, in the House of represntatives online

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Online LibrarySamuel Sullivan CoxKey to the dead lock. Speech of Hon. Samuel S. Cox, of New York, in the House of represntatives → online text (page 1 of 3)
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Saturday, June 17, 1876,




Has not'experience verified tlie utility of rc=-u'aining money
biUs to tlie iiumediate representatives of the people? — 2Iadi-
son Papers, volume 3, page 1313.


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On tile President's message relating to appropriations .

Mr. COX said :

I would not take up the time of tlie House now except for certain
imputations which have been tlirown on the famous retrencliment.
rule. VM. This rule I had the honor to introduce from the Committee
on Kules. It is my pleasure to defend it. Besides, I si)eak because
of remarks made by the distinguished gentleman from Pennsylvania
[Mr. Kklley] in relation to the Committee on Banking and Currency
and the silver bills.


As to the last matter,det me say that the House will recollect that
at the beginning of this session there was a discussion as to which
committee should take charge of the currency busiues.s. It was con-
tended by gentlemen on one side that the Committee of Ways and
Means was the only proper committee, because the greenback was
currency, and because, being a debt also, it had charge of it by vir-
tue of raising ways and means to support the Government. It was
argued that to it lielonged the exclusive jurisdiction on that sub-
ject. It was contended, on the other hand, that the Committee on Bank-
ing and CiUTency should take control. As the author of the measure
dividing the old Ways and Means into three committees, I was com-
pelled to speak. My remarks were to the effect that it would be
well if all the wise men of both committees and in Congress should
give their liest attention and judgment to the solution of our most
difficult and perilous problem. But the gentleman from Pennsylvania
took great care in that debate to assume for his Coumiittee of Ways
and Means that it was the only committee which should have the
power to consider and report such measures. Now, sir, when he com-
plains of the committee of which I am chairman, may I ask if any
report has ever come from the Committee of Ways and Means? Cur-
rency bills have been referred to it as to my committee. We have
reported something to remonetize silver. Has his committee reported
anything /

Mr. KELLEY. Will the gentleman allowme to state my position ?

Mr. COX. I prefer not to yield now.

Mr. KELLEY. Let me say that I held that the Committee of
Ways and Means had the right over the money and bonds, and that
the currency or bank paper belonged to the Committee on Banking
and Currency.

Mr. COX. It is enough to say that we have had no report on money
or greenbacks or .-my kind of currency from the Committee of Ways
and Means. But why should I blame it on account of this? No

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committee of this House, no party in this House, has heeii ready
thus far to make a satisfactory report. Nor has the receut cou-
Yeution of the republicau people at Cincinnati given any definite
couchision on that matter. All conolnsious have heen general and
inconclusive. There are no remedies proposed. Why, sir, iu Cincin-
nati the other day, was it an uncertain or a certain 'sound as to the
repeal of this resumption law ? I say to the House what I said the
other day, that the Committee on Banking and Currency will take
that matter up for consideration as soon as a quorum appears. We
have no desire to postpone it now that a privilege is afforded us tore-
l)ort at any time. A quorum will Ije here on Monday. All intima-
tions of disinclination to consider and report on that critical question
will be easily repelled by the frankness and future action of that
committee which has been peculiarly honored by the House.


But the matter now before the House is brought here by the message
of the President. It is signiticaut of conflict, and calls for pluck,
faith, virtue, and popular deliance. The debate from one side is an
attack ou Rule 120 as amended. The ol^ject of the amendment of
"that rule, as gentlemen know very Avell, was to allow the Committee
ou Appropriations to retrench and reduce expenditures and salaries.
The object of the old rule, I do not care by whom enacted, was to
allow them only to increase.

"It has been decided," says Barclay, (page 16,) "that under Rule
120 it is not in order to propose an amendment to a general appro-
priation bill vt'hich changes existing law." Ijut ou the same page it
is said that it was also decided that the latter branch of the rule not
only permitted amendments increasing salaries, but was framed for
that very purpose.

Increase only ! Not decrease at all. No wonder this new Congress,
fresh from an impoverished and indignant people, desired more virtue
iu our rules as well .as rulers. What virtue comes from the new rule,
which strikes out increasing and inserts its opposite, is due to the
honest gentleman from Indiana [Mr. Holman] or the Committee on
Rules, who reported that peculiar amendment which he sent to us.
It is duo as well to the House which has so gallantly sustained the
Appro]iriation Committee in giving eftect to the amended rule. From
this fountain of pure legislation will come what relief a fi-ugal peo-
j)le will receive from the exactions of profligate legislatures and a
more profligate administration. ,

The amendment from the Committee on Rules was intended to re-
move our disability to economize. It passed with some disgruntling
remarks from gentlemen opposite. It has had several ordeals, but it
has come out thus far burnished and purified. Its results arc seen iu
the various reductions which I will hereafter refer to.


It may be proper to say that the Senate received it in no pleasant
mood ; and their action upon the liills passed under its auspices
shows plainly that the reform it would work is not acceptable to that
body. They fear it will encroach upon their prerogative, or that it
will repeal bad laws. However, I venture to say that there was no
other mode left to kill the parasite alike with the monster which
had been so long eating up the siil>stance of the people by ordinate
salaries and scandalous outlays. Besides, it was framed in the very
spirit of the best parliamentary law. If it he an innovation, it is a
wise one, for what does it not save through the agency of fresh and
just legislation ?


Au anthill itative w-riter, Mr. May, speaking of the English system,
reminds ns that the Honse can entertain any motion for diminisliing
a tax or charge upon the people; and bills are fi-equently brought iu
for that purpose without the formality of a committee. All rules
are opposed to the imposition of burdens, but not to their removal or
alleviation. This is a principlo laid down by Gushing, ^ 2039. In-
stances of the value of this principle mnj be given pertinent to our
newly-amended Rule r20. as wlien blanks are left for salaries, rates,
Arc. "^These are tilled up in committee, but on the report the House
may reduce their amount. To increase requires recommittal. So, too,
deductions from custom duties may be entertained Ijy the House, but
payments out of the revenue must be considered in committee. If,
therefore, the Senate objects to the reductions of our appropriations,
we plant ourselves upon this priceless principle, lying at the root of
parliamentary law and frugal legislation, uaiuely, to guard closely
and make facile the blessed privilege of retrenchment : consider long,
heedfully, carefully, and jealously the dangerous privilege of increas-
ing burdens. Whereas, as I have shown, under our rule of many years'
standing, only amendments on appropriation bills were allowed so as
to increase, the new order plainly recognizes the sacred, traditional,
rational, and invaluable popular right of curtailing expenditures!
To this branch of Congress belongs the credit of building this smooth
and broad highway to reform. Without it all jjlatforms and pUxt-
itudes, all promises and irretentions to economy are as ashes I


Yet we are confronted at the closing of this Congress with the men-
acing challenge of the Senate. We have sent to them our bills, framed
in the spirit of economy. The consnlar and di[ilomatic bill was passed
here after much difficulty and contention, but it passed almost unan-
imously. The Senate at once disagrees with the House. The legisla-
tive, jiulicial, and executive bill, which had forty days and forty
nights of a deluge of debate, passed almost unanimously. The Senate
assumes and x)resumes at once to usurp our function. By a thousand
amendments it would make it not only a new bill substantially, but
would thereby resuscitate the old bills, as to which the popular rein-o-
batiou is fresh and uncompromising. Our other bills are to share the
same treatment. Let us meet this contest a Voutrance. Let ns be
patient. The people are behindsus. Let the House stand upon the an-
cient ways. Let us re-assert its undoubted privilege. No prerogative
of power, no assumption of equality in this matter, is to be tolerated.
No pretentions dignity or increasing usurxiation of power on the part
of the Senate will excuse the representatives of the people from tlie
courageous performance of their duty. If tliese liills fail and the very
organism of government itself stops, as is threatened by the menacing
message read to-day, for want of the motive power, the corrective will
be applied by the popular mandate, from which there is no appeal,
and before which the Senate is impotent.

There is, therefore, in this dilemma no other course for us but re-
sistance to encroachment. If the Senate will copy the example of
the House of Lords in some of its attempts to encroach on the Com-
mons, let them at once make it a standing order to "reject at sight"
all of our appropriati(m bills. Much better and braver would be this
contemptuous treatment than the lu-etenseof considering our bills iu
detail only to reject them en bloc.


It is in the beauty of proportion and its compensations of power


that our Government finds its best eulogy. Let one brancli eucroacli
upon another, and it will become as Mr. Jiladison once said of Greece :
she was undone as soon as the King of Macedou obtained a seat
among the Amphictyons. It was not alone the monarchical form of
the new confederate, but the disproportionate and disturbing force.
Give to the Senate a power over appropriations ungranfced and
pernicious, and you not only give it a force in our Federal economy
ilisproportioued and jarring to the general harmony, but you place
upon the House itself a responsibility, disproportioued to its power.
I would not place too much confidence in the Senate. It may be as
fatal as too much jealoiisy of the people. If a Senate which comes
within one vote of impeaching Andrew Johnson, to aggrandize its
own power, could thus arrogate more than it should, are we not wise
to be jealous of its power when it would breed confusion and dis-
content by tamperiug with or denying great reforms made by the
popular decree and by the popular branch f


History teaches that in all contests for power between the governed
and the government and between dift'erent departments of the gov-
ernment, the question of taxation is not only the most sensitive, but
the most potential for good or ill. From the early exactions of the
oriental despots and their satrapies down to the largesses of the last
Turkish Sultan, which worked his dethronement and suicide ; from
the embattled protests written in Gaelic blood in the time of the
Eoman Ciesars, down to the wild sanguinary scenes of the French
revolution; from the early protests of the "gentlemen of Eugland"
in her Commons against the exactions of the Plantagenets and Stuarts
to the last allowance for the children of Queen Victoria; from the
times of Hampden and ship-money and Samuel Adams and tea-tribute,
which cements by a priuciple England with her colonies, and both
with Magna Charta and the declarations and bills of right, down to the
present dissolute extravagance and corruption of the Federal officials
in this Capitol and elsewhere, and from the large cities of the sea-
board to the remotest border, where the post-trader plies his ill-gotten
trade for ill-gotten gain, the perversion of the taxiug and appropri-
ating power,"which wrests supplies from the peojjle, has been watched
with jealousy and attacked with determination.

This Congress will not shame the history of its origin, nor degrade
the lofty ])rivilegcs granted to it by the"^ Constitution. It will not
allow them to be abridged or frittered away by making itself the
supple slave to an exacting Senate or a gras])ing Executive. It is,
by organic law on this matter, the master.


I am not sure that it might, mahjr^ all usage to the contrary, be
held that the Senate has no more' right to originate or destroy the
fundamental propositions or substance of our monetary reform bills
than it has to pass bills of attainder, (?j^j>osf/«c/o orretros])ectivelaws.
When it has proposed amendments, and we do not concur, is it not
its duty to yield formally to the House ? Is not the House the egg
or source of the only money bills to be passed ? Does merely jjrojws-
ing an amendment give the right to defeat or reject the bill alto-
gether ?

A distinguished English parliamentary writer, Mr. Hatsell, rejects as
precedents all the proceedings of both Houses from 1641, when Charles
I went to the Commons to arrest its members, until the restoration.
May we not ask, are not all recent preceilents found in the Senate over-

steppiug the express coustitntioual privilege of the House to the con-
trol of money bills equally valueless ? If it were not so, would not an
architect who is consulted as to alterations in a house claim the right
to tear down and build anew ? May not this peculiar authority of the
House as to money bills excluding the Senate from any proprietorship
in the substantial legislation be the very method intended to prevent
the " dead-lock " so often threatened and so often feared ? May it
not be the plan adopted by the sages of the Constitution to keep the
wheels running without hazard of losing supplies by conflicting
bodies ?

Btit it is not necessary to assume or assert so much as this jiroposi-
tiou involves. It is enough to say now to the House as a matter of
political ethics: Stand on your superior vantage-ground ! Adhere to
your own rule of action and your own principle of retrenchment !
Bate not a jot of heart or hope, but press right onward to the relief
of a deficient Treasury and a plundered people ! Thus acting you
will be crowned with the approbation of a grateful constituency.


In this grapple between the representatives of State sovereignties
an<t the representatives of the people it would be as well before the
final struggle and test to know precisely in what consist the respect-
ive elements of strength. What is their vigor as derived from the
Constitution ? If in seeking this knowledge we find our quarrel just
we shall have the added strength of conscious rectitude, and we will
not fail.

The fii'st clause of the seventh section of the first article of the
Constitution declares that —

All biHs for raising rovenne shall originate in tlie Honseof Representatives; but
the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills.

Now, what is meant by bills for raising revenue ? Does the clause
apply to all "money bills," and does it include '' aiipropriation bills ?"
I maintain that it does, and that that was the meaning of the clause.
JBills for spending as we'll as for the raising of money are to be consid-
ered as belonging in their origin to the House. "All clauses," says
Cushing, "relative to taxation are divisible into two classes, namely,
those which relate to raising revenue only and, second, those which
embrace both the raising and spending of money." The constitu-
tions of New Hampshire and Massachusetts use the term " money
bills" to include the raising and appropriation of money. In Georgia,
and perhaps in other States, appropriating moneys is used in order to
be more cautious and definite.


In the discussion of this clause in the constitutional convention, as
will api)ear in Madison's Deljates, volume 3, pages lb06, et seq., all the
eminent debaters regarded " money bills " as within the signitication
of " revenue." To origiuate and tax, to tax and appropriate was, by
the constitutional fathers, considered grouped in one subject — " money
bills." "Money bills" — the exact language of English statesmen —
had reference to all uses of the money raised.


In order, however, accurately to define the constitutional clause, we
go with the commentator Judge Story to its source. He makes no
question as to the origin of this clause :

It is borrowed from the British House of Commons, of which it is the ancient and
indisputable privilei^e and right, that all grants of subsidies and parliamentary aid,s


shall begin in their house, and are first bestowed by them, although their grants
are not effectual t« all intents and purposes until they have the assent of the other
two branches of the legislature. (2 Story, ^ 831.)


Blackstoiie, with his ti.sual perspicuity, enforces the statement of
Story by a clear statement of the fitnctions of the Commons in this
relation. I quote from his first book, page 169 :

The peculiar laws and customs of the House of Commons relate principally to
the raising of taxes and the election of members to serve in Parliament.

First, with regard to taxes, it is the ancient, indisputable privilege and right of
the House of Commons that all grants of subsidies or parliamentary aids do begin
in their house and are first bestowed by them ; although their grants are not ef-
fectual to aU intents and purposes until they have the assent of the other two
branches of the legislature. The general reason given for this exclusive privilege
of the House of Commons is that the supplies are raised upon the body of the peo-
ple, and therefore it is proper that they alone should have the light of taxing them-
selves. •

But such an experiment will hardly be repeated by the Lords under the present
. improved idea of the privilege of the House of Commons, and in any case where a
money bill is rem.inded to the Commons all amendments in the mode of taxation
are sure to be rejected.

In reading the history of similar legislation in England, I find in
May's Parliamentary Practice that we are conforming to the English
mode in this respect. I shall take leave (by the favor of the House)
to make some elaborate remarks upon this subject. They touch the
constitutional functions of the House. They are entirely unpartisan
in conception as in delivery.

The English system as to appropriation bills allows iieculiar privi-
leges for retrenchment — never for increase except under extraordi-
nary circumstances ; and shall we, the representatives of the American
people, — we who are specially charged with the initiation of. money
bills — shall we be behind the Commons of England in claiming the
privilege which they fought for against the prerogative of the Crown
and the assumptions of the Hoi;se of Peers ? I trust there is spirit
enough in this House, irrespective of party, to maintain its organism
as it was intended to be and as it was niodelediifter the English system.

Why, sir, do not gentlemen know that to-day in the House\of Peers
they dare not amend an appropriation bill from the Commons, but
that perfunctorily and with certain formalities they assent, and "as-
sent" only to those bills making approiiriations ?

Let me quote from Mr. May :

The legal right of the Commons to originate grants cannot be more distinctly
recognized than by these various proceedings ; and to this right alone their claim
appears to have been confined for neariv three hundred years. " The Lords were not
originally precluded from amending bills of supply ; for there are numerous cases
in the joiuuals in which the Lords' amendments to such bills were agreed to ; but
in 1671 the Commons advanced their claim somewhat further by a resohnng nem.
con., " That in all aids given to the king by the Commons the rate or tax ought not
to be altered; " and in 1()78 their elaini was urged .so far as to exclude the Lords
from aU power of amending bills of supply. On the 3d of July, in that year, they
resolved —

" all aids and supplies and aids to His Majesty in Parliament are the sole
gifts of the Commons ; and all bills for the granting of any such aids and supplies
ought to begin with the Commons; and it is the undoubted and sole right of the
Commons to direct, linjit, and appoint in such bills the ends, purposes, considera-
tions, conditions, limitations, and qualifications of such grants, which ought not to
be changed or altered by the House of Lords." It is upon this latter resolution
that all proceedings between the two houses in matters of supply are now founded.

The principle is acquiesced in by the Lords, and, except in eases when it is diffi-
cult to determine whether a matter be stiictly one of supply or not, no serious
difference can well arise. The Lords rarely attempt to make any but veibal alter-
ations in which the sense or intention is not affected ; and even in regard to these,
when the Con)mon8 have accepted them, they have made special entries in their
journal, recoi-ding the character and objects of the amemlmeuts and their reasons


for a^ecing to them. So strictly is the i.iiiiciple observed in all matters affecting-
the iiiiblic revenues that where certain pavineiits have beeu directed by a bill to be
made into and out of the consolidated fund, the Commons have refused to permit
the Lords to insert a clause providing that such pavmeuts should be made under
the same regulations as were applicable by law to other similar payments.

This would seem to make it clear that all o;rautsor appropriations,
all parliamentary aids to the executive in the shape of moneys, are
nuderstood as connected with the raising-of revenue. The mere rais-
ing of it by taxation is no pleasant privilege and no salutary safe-
guard. The spending of the money for specific objects of pul)lic good
IS the higher privilege and riglit. 80 it has been regarded in a ma-
jority of the States where corresponding provisions are inserted as to
the origin of such money bills.

How far the House may go in tacking on legislation not strictly be-
longing to revenue or appropriation is a study for the philo.sophic
8tate.smau. He will find its practice by no means uniform. Although
in England the Lords have endeavored to check this mode of legisCi-
tion, yet here it may be au open and debatable question. But in'^snch
an exigence as thepresent condition of our business and affairs I would
not hesitate to tack remedial provisos and conditious to the disburse-
ment of public money, so as to effectuate reform and stop prodigality.
The House has not hesitated ; and if it awakens a tempest at the
other end of the Capitol, it will only prove a summer tluinder-storm,
with a clearer blue and a imrer atmosphere in the skv after it is over.

It is not difficult to tra'ce the reason of this constitutional right.
Blackstone explains it, and the parliamentary history of England
illustrates his explanation. The Conmions represents the people, and
tlie supplies come from the body of the people. It is their estate
which is administered when supplies are voted. The Lords came in
originally for a small modicum of the power only because they held a
largeshareof the property of the realm ; a reason whichinuovalidsense
applies to our Senate, which represents not their own estates, nor the
people, nor their property. If the Senate may simply propose amend-
ments or simply concur in them, it does not derogate from the high
privilege of the commonalty to restrain lavish and improvident jTp-
propriations. To allow the Senate to concur is easy and p'easiug ; to
allow them to propose amendments is respectful and courteous; but

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Online LibrarySamuel Sullivan CoxKey to the dead lock. Speech of Hon. Samuel S. Cox, of New York, in the House of represntatives → online text (page 1 of 3)