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are present answer to their names and the absentees are noted, after which, the names of the absentees are again called over, when such as may have entered the house since the first call, can answer to their names. The speaker then orders the doors to be closed, and those for whom no excuse or insufficient excuses are made, may, by the order of those present, (if amounting to fifteen in number,) be taken into custody, as they appear, by the sergeant-at-arms, or may be sent for, and taken into custody wherever to be found, by spe. cial messengers appointed for that purpose.
A call of the house is very frequently commenced, and the proceedings afterwards suspended, when most if not all of the members are found to be in the house, on the call of absentees. It is one of the modes resorted to by the respective parties, to fill the house before a decision is had on any question of great interest. The call, how. ever, is sometimes made to retain a quorum at the close of the session, and particularly at night. In instances of that kind, the members remaining in the house, frequently carry out the rules to the fullest extent, and compel members who have retired, to repair to the house, where they hear their excuses, and discharge some upon payment of fees, and others without, as their excuses may warrant. The fees of the sergeant-at-arms are, for every arrest, two dollars ; for each day's custody, and releasement, one dollar; and for travel. ling expenses for himself, or a special messenger, going and returning, one-tenth of a dollar per mile.
Rule 9. In all cases of ballot by the house, the
speaker shall vote : in other cases he shall not vote, unless the house be equally divided, or unless his vote, if given to the minority, will make the division equal ; and in case of such equal division, the question shall be lost.
The speaker, by this rule, never votes on a bill or any proposition that requires a vote, viva voce, unless his vote will either pass or prevent the passage of the proposition before the house. Some think it a great hardship that the speaker should only be allowed to vote once or twice during the session. I am however inclined to think the presiding officer is well satisfied with the rule ; it keeps him from unnecessarily coming in collision, upon every question, with the feelings of the respective parties in the house, while it gives him a vote whenever it is important that an individual should have a vote, and that is, when his vote will certainly tell. During even a long session, the speaker will not be called upon to give his casting vote more than two or three times at most. I recollect two speakers, at different times, giving their vote to second the previous question.
I have said elsewhere that the speaker is elected for the whole congress. In the early history of our congressional proceedings, I think, Mr. Muhlenberg was elected for only a single session.* The
*“ April 20, 1798. The speaker of the house of representatives being indisposed, the house elected the Hon. George Dent, speaker, pro tempore.
May 28, 1798. A message from the house was received by the senate, informing that body that the Hon. George Dent had been chosen speaker, pro tempore, and that he had signed an enrolled bill, which the clerk of the house was de:
practice is however so well settled, that I apprehend it will never be changed, because it is always in the power of the house to displace their speak. er, if they think proper. He is to the house what a chairman is to a committee, and may
be changed at pleasure. Indeed, it is a matter of importance that this subject should be understood, as it gives to the presiding officer and members a just notion of their relative rights. While on this subject, it may not be improper to suggest a word upon the re-organizing of the committees at the second session. It is my opinion, that the committees are as certainly chosen for the whole congress, as the speaker. The speaker holds the chair on the principle of its being a second session of the same congress-an adjournment, if you please; and why ought not the committees to stand unchanged upon the same principle? 'The fifteenth rule would seem to settle the question.
Rule 15. After six days from the commencement of a second or subsequent session of any congress, all bills, resolutions, and reports, which originated in the house, (reported by committees) and at the close of the next preceding session, remained undetermined, shall be resumed and acted upon in the same manner as if an adjournment had not taken place.
If the reports are to stand the same as if an ad. journment had not taken place, so must the com. mittees. sired to bring to the senate, for the signature of the vice-president.” This is the only instance I have met with in my examination of the journals, in which a speaker, pro tempore, of the house signed a bill.
The franking privilege of members extends to two ounces. Documents printed by the order of congress, of any weight, can be sent by mail under their frank. The letters of members are received by one of the messengers from the post-of. fice of the city of Washington, who carries them to the postmaster of the house, and he sorts and sends them to the lodgings of members.
COMMITTEE ROOMS. The committees have separate rooms, and fixed days for meeting, in the capitol ; an attendant sees that the room is well and properly warmed, and the clerk sends all the petitions and resolutions referred, to the respective committee's room, and enters them on the committee-book kept for that purpose, prior to their meeting.
Messengers pass every half-hour from the house to the post-office, or to some of the departments, or to the bank. Horses are kept for that purpose, despatch always being an important matter in this intercommunication.
PRIORITY OF BUSINESS.
Rule 96. All questions relating to the priority of business to be acted on, shall be decided without debate.
This rule is applied to the taking up of business; and no man is permitted to shew, that it is important to take up his bill; for if a debate could be permitted upon the propriety of proceeding to the consideration of a bill, the whole time of the house would be expended, in arguing for or against considering a bill, instead of acting upon it. A bill must therefore, from its character, have weight enough to secure the action of the house; no argument can be listened to in the house, to shew why it ought to be considered.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COMMITTEE. Rule 68. It shall be the duty of the committee for the District of Columbia, to take into consideration all such petitions and matters or things touching the said district, as shall be presented, or shall come in question, and be referred to them by the house ; and to report their opinion thereon, together with such propositions relative thereto as to them shall seem expedient.
The inhabitants of the District of Columbia, having no representative or delegate in congress, have a committee of the house appointed to attend to their interests, and usually two days are assigned for the consideration of their business. Exclusive legislation being vested in congress over this district, it is entitled to a full share of their attention. There is a faint impression afloat, that congress is not quite satisfied with the people of the place. My experience, however, for at least twelve years, satisfies me, that although occasion. ally some of the members are not well pleased with the city and some of its citizens, yet the main body of congress is thoroughly satisfied, both with the inhabitants and Washington, and think that the capital could not be located much more conveniently in any other portion of the United States, with the exception perhaps of some of the large cities. Washington, however,