Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the act entitled "An act to provide ways and means to support the Government" approved March third, eighteen hundred and sixty-five, shall be extended and construed to authorize the Secretary of the Treasury, at his discretion, to receive any Treasury notes or other obligations issued under any act of Congress, whether bearing interest or not, in exchange for any description of bonds authorized by the act to which this is an amendment; and also to dispose of any description of bonds authorized by said act, either in the United States or elsewhere, to such an amount, in such manner, and at such rates as he may think advisable, for lawful money of the United States, or for any Treasury notes, certificates of indebtedness, or certificates of deposit, or other representatives of value, which have been or which may be issued under any act of Congress, the proceeds thereof to be used only for retiring Treasury notes or other obligations issued under any act of Congress; but nothing herein contained shall be construed to authorize any increase of the public debt: Provided, That of United States notes not more than ten millions of dollars may be retired and cancelled within six months from the passage of this act, and thereafter not more than four millions of dollars in any one month: And provided further, That the act to which this is an amendment shall continue in full force in all its provisions, except as modified by this act.
Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That the Secretary of the Treasury shall report to Congress at the commencement of the next session the amount of exchanges made or money borrowed under this act, and of whom, and on what terms; and also the amount and character of indebtedness retired under this act, and the act to which this is an amendment, with a detailed statement of the expense of making such loans and exchanges.
APPROVED, April 12, 1866.
December 4, 1865 to July 28, 1866.
United States Currency.
Mr. Hooper, of Massachusetts, introduced a bill to amend an act to provide ways and means to support the Government.
The bill provides that the act entitled "An act to provide ways and means to support the Government," approved March 3, 1865, shall be extended and construed to empower the Secretary of the Treasury to sell any description of bonds authorized by said act at such rates not less than par as he may think advisable for lawful money of the United States, or to receive in payment any Treasury notes, compound-interest notes, certificates of indebtedness or of deposit, with the interest accruing thereon, which have been or which may be issued under any act of Congress.
The bill further provides that it shall be the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury to retire and cancel an amount of Treasury notes, certificates, or other obligations bearing interest, equal in amount to the bonds disposed of, and the public debt shall not be hereafter increased by authority of this or any previous act of Congress, and that from and after the 1st day of July next the interest on certificates of deposit for temporary loans shall not exceed the annual rate of five per cent.---[At least Mr. Hooper is honest, he follows along the plan he laid out in 1862: to use "United States stock as security for the bank notes that are circulated as currency" in order to "secure(d) all the benefits of the old United States Bank", except in this case "divided into many parts". If the circulating medium, which Treasury Notes are, is 'retired' what remains there to conduct daily transactions ? The Government has no gold/silver and there is not enough gold/silver in the country to facilitate the business needs of the people. Mr. Hooper knows and acknowledges that. Then, should there be no unit of exchange in currency ? Should trade come to a halt and people revert to barter ? Because retiring Treasury Notes will result in exactly that. The fine upstanding representative of his constituency wants (and gets) the U.S. to replace the (Government) Treasury Notes that were spent into circulation with (private) bank notes that have to be borrowed (at interest) into circulation; and the bonds which these notes are based on, require yearly interest.]
Mr. Morrill. I desire to know how that bill gets in.
The SPEAKER. Under the regular call of the States for bills and joint resolutions to be referred to the appropriate committees and not to be brought back by motions to reconsider.
Mr. Hooper, of Massachusetts. I wish to say, if the House will allow me, that if the bill of last week is lost, I wish to have this bill, which I think, judging from the discussion, carries out the wishes of a large majority of the House, referred to the Committee of Ways and Means. I have endeavored to make the bill conform to what I believe to be the expressed wish of the House.
The bill was read a first and second time, referred to the Committee of Ways and Means, and ordered to be printed.
United States Currency.
Mr. KELLEY introduced a bill relating to the currency of the United States, which he asked to have read at length.
The bill was read.
The first section authorizes and directs the Secretary of the Treasury to pay and fully liquidate the principal and interest of all the compound-interest notes of the United States when the same may become due, and to issue legal-tender notes, bearing no interest, for the purpose of paying and liquidating such compound-interest notes, provided that the amount of legal-tender notes to be so issued shall not exceed the amount of compound-interest notes paid and liquidated.
The second section provides that from and after the passage of this act it shall not be lawful for the Secretary of the Treasury to increase the amount of legal-tender currency or national bank currency of the United States, except as provided in the first section of this act; or to diminish the amount to less than $900,000,000.
Section three provides that from and after the passage of this act it shall not be lawful for the Secretary of the Treasury to sell or dispose of any gold coin or gold certificates of the United States at a less price than one hundred and thirty cents in the currency of the United States for one dollar in coin or gold certificates of the United States until the 1st day of July next; and after that time it shall not be lawful for him to diminish the price of gold more than one per cent. in any month below the price of the preceding month.
Section four provides that all acts and parts of acts inconsistent with this act shall be repealed.--- [Clearly indicating that he understood what needs be done:
The bill was read a first and second time, and referred to the Committee of Ways and Means. [and never heard of again]
The House next proceeded to the consideration of Mr. Beaman's motion to lay upon the table Mr. Garfield's motion to reconsider the vote by which the loan bill was rejected.
Mr. Beaman demanded the yeas and nays.
The yeas and nays were ordered.
The question was taken; and it was decided in the negative-- yeas 70, nays 78, not voting 85; as follows: ......
So the House refused to lay the motion to reconsider upon the table.
During the roll-call,
Mr. Deming stated that he had paired with Mr. Harris.
The result having been announced as above recorded,
The question recurred on the motion of Mr. Garfield to reconsider the vote by which the bill was rejected.
Mr. Garfield. I believe, by the usage of the House, I am entitled to the usual time. I have promised to give a part of it to some gentlemen who desire to express their views on the subject.
Mr. Harding, of Illinois. Is the gentleman entitled to the floor by right, or by courtesy ?
The Speaker. The gentleman is entitled by right; the previous question has exhausted itself on the rejection of the bill.
Mr. Garfield. I will give thirty minutes of my time to the gentleman from Pennsylvania, [Mr. Broomall] after which I shall claim the floor again.
Mr. Broomall. [John Martin Broomall (January 19, 1816 - June 3, 1894) lawyer (R) Pennsylvania] Mr. Speaker, it was with extreme reluctance that I voted against the bill under consideration on Friday last, not so much on account of any merit I could see in the bill itself, as because it was looked upon by the country and urged upon the House by its advocates as the commencement of the contraction of our currency. The views of the Secretary of the Treasury on this subject, known and approved by the country at the time of his appointment, set forth in his speech at Fort Wayne and in his recent report, justified the people in looking for a return to specie payments at no distant day. The indorsement of those views by the House of Representatives at an early period of the session by a vote lacking only six of being unanimous, strengthened the hopes of the people and was received with rejoicing by all classes except speculators and gamblers in the public funds who thrive upon inflation, instability of prices, and uncertainty about public policy. It was therefore a thing by no means to be desired that Congress should even seem to have backed down from its position, to have repudiated its indorsement of the Secretary, and undertaken to thwart him in his efforts to put the country upon the road toward specie payments.
But by thus defeating the first measure of the Department presented here through the appropriate committee for the avowed purpose of commencing the policy which has received the indorsement of this body and of the country, I do not believe that the majority of this House intended to repudiate that policy. I rather believe that those who voted with me against the bill did so for the same reason which governed me: from a conscientious opposition to the details of the bill, and the extent of the powers conferred by it, and not hostility to the avowed object of it. And it is with the view of getting a bill giving all the necessary powers, without containing the objectionable features of this one, that I now advocate the reconsideration, which I would have moved if the gentleman from Ohio [Mr. GARFIELD] had not anticipated me.
The discussion which has taken place, and the several votes by which this bill was defeated, must have shown the Committee of Ways and Means that while they cannot get this legislation, unless as a Democratic measure, they can obtain from the Union majority of this body all the powers which ought to be conferred upon the Secretary of the Treasury in the premises at this time. I therefore entreat the committee to consent to a recommitment of the bill, with or without instructions, as they may elect.
Personally I owe the Secretary no more than goodwill, if that much. I entertain a profound dislike of his political opinions, as far as I understand them, and I have, if possible, still less confidence in his knowledge of human nature. But I believe him to be quite as competent for the difficult and embarrassing situation he holds as any other financier in the country. And I am anxious to give him all the power he thinks necessary to carry out his policy, subject to all the safeguards we believe to be required for the good of the country.
Is there any doubt about the necessity of legislation ? Is there any question about the currency being redundant ? One might think so from some of the arguments presented here within the last few days. If it were worth while to debate such a question, I would ask, why otherwise are prices generally inflated ? Currency, like everything else transferable, is subject to the law of supply and demand. Its price is measured in all other commodities just as the prices of all other commodities are measured in it. Now, when thus measured, where currency is apparently cheap and everything else is apparently dear, and when the question arises which of these appearances is the reality, it is natural to look at the point where the smallest or slightest cause will produce the effect. It is natural to suspect that the single article, currency, has fallen in actual value rather than that all the thousands of other things have simultaneously risen.
But we are not left to this inference alone. When a commodity becomes too cheap compared with all others, it is because it has become too plentiful; because the supply is greater than the demand. There is no other regular and permanent cause of a fall of price in a single article than an over supply of it. Before 1860 the currency of the United States, including the precious metals, never exceeded $300,000,000; now it exceeds $900,000,000. Formerly eight dollars per capita of the population answered the purposes of the country; now we have thirty dollars. This would look very much like an over supply of the article, and would quite significantly suggest the idea of depreciation.--- [yes, but how much did production and business activity increase ? Was the 1860 currency level optimal, or below what the nation could have used ? Either way, if you reduce the currency to one-third, you will get the result what you did get: economic depression]
I do not look upon this enormous increase, however, as positive proof of redundancy. Nothing but the experiment will solve the problem, how much currency any given people require. So much depends upon the habits of the people, whether trading or otherwise, whether inclining to mutual confidence or otherwise, whether ingenious in substitutes for currency or otherwise, that all estimates and all calculations are at fault. As a rule a sparse population requires less currency than a dense one of the same numbers. It is true the latter is more ingenious in contriving modes of dealing without currency, and therefore is enabled to make the same number and amount of exchanges with less currency, yet contiguity so largely increases the number and amount of exchanges as to counterbalance this many times over.
Strong as these inferences are of a redundancy of the currency, the problem is not left to rest solely upon them. There is one fact that has the merit of affording positive proof of that proposition. The currency is not worth its nominal value when measured by the standard of the commercial world, and therefore the supply is in excess of the demand. Gold being used for the same purpose by all nations, flowing freely, like water, from places of accidental superabundance to fill places of accidental displacement, keeps a more uniform actual value than any other commodity. It is therefore the best measure of value, and where ever it is driven out of use, it is because the people have found something cheaper, something that will measure their commodities to better advantage, just as the three-foot yardstick would give place to one two feet and a half long if the venders of fabric were left to their choice.
It is argued in certain quarters that there is no superabundance of currency because there is at certain times and in certain places an actual scarcity of it, not enough to answer the purposes of the community. Now, the alleged fact may be admitted, but the inference attempted to be drawn from it is by no means a logical one. When it is said that a currency is redundant, it is not meant that there is too much of it at the price at which it passes. That would be impossible. It is the quantity compared with the demand for it that fixes that price. If the quantity was less, the price would be higher; if the quantity was greater, the price would be lower, always supposing the demand to remain constant.
What is meant by a redundant currency is that there is too much of it to pass at its nominal value. In our case there is too much to pass at a higher rate than about seventy cents to the dollar, but just enough to pass at that rate.
When a currency has once had its proper value assigned to it under the operation of the laws of supply and demand, a temporary or local scarcity may occur just as readily when that price is ten cents to the dollar as when it is a hundred. Nobody pretends that there is too much currency for the wants of the community. The proposition is that there is too much of it to pass at par, and that therefore the price has gone down until it has reached a point at which there is no longer too much for the purposes of the community.
It is this depreciation, with the long train of evil consequences arising out of it, that is proposed to be remedied. No one ought to doubt the necessity of legislation; but what shall that legislation be ? It is proposed by some to debase the coin, to cut the dollar down to about seventy cents, and thus to jump at once to specie payments. This is an old remedy, and a sure one. It is cutting the Gordian knot with a vengeance. But it may be greatly questioned whether the remedy is not worse than the disease, like amputating the leg to cure corns.
Are we ready to repudiate thirty cents to the dollar of the public debt ? Why not, then, repudiate the whole of it ? If we are to incur the scorn and condemnation of the civilized world, let us not do it for the mere "thirty pieces." If we must come out with loss of character, let us at least come out clear of debt. It may be said that repudiating our debt is no worse than breaking our faith so often pledged to the loyal men of the South. This may be true; but both would be worse than either alone; and if we must desert our allies and sacrifice our friends, let us at least be as good as common gamblers, pecuniarily honest.
Will it be said that this proposed debasement of the coin shall not affect the public debt, but only transactions between individuals ? I will never consent that the widow's dower and the orphan's portion shall be cut down one third, while the public creditor shall be paid in full in gold, even though his bond cost him in gold but forty cents to the dollar. I will never consent that the national bank shall receive full payment from the Government, and yet shall pay their own depositors but seventy cents to the dollar. But the day for debasing the coin has gone by some centuries, and Americans are jealous enough of their national honor to prevent the practice being revived in our country.--- [Sorry, sir, on February 24, 1869, you will vote for the Credit Strengthening Act; and said: "Mr. Speaker, I have no doubt about the proposition that the five-twenty bonds are, by the law which authorized their issue, payable either directly or indirectly in gold coin, for if payable in notes, the notes are national obligations, as sacred as the bonds, and are due on demand in coin; and hence I shall vote for the first section of this bill upon the ground that it is a mere expression of opinion on the legal question involved." and the bondholders received 100 cents gold for bonds they purchased for 40 cents. Next year, in December 1867, after Culloch retired $400,000,000 in notes you still said there was redundancy of currency]
It is proposed by some that the currency should remain at its present volume, and that the country should be suffered to grow up to it. This would require about thirty-four years, if we suppose that the amount of currency per capita needed before the war should become and continue that required after the disturbing causes arising out of the rebellion shall have ceased to operate. But by increasing, the population will become more dense, and therefore, as I have already said, will require more currency per capita. Taking everything into consideration, it may be estimated with some probable approach toward accuracy, that in 1890 the population of the United States will need the present amount of currency at the gold standard, that is to say, $900,000,000.
At first view this remedy would seem to be an easy one. But it must be borne in mind that during all these long years we will be laboring under all the effects of a gradual contraction of the currency. The healthy performance of all the functions of society, of all the operations of business, requires that the volume of currency should increase with the increase of population; and there is no difference in effect between a constant currency with an increasing population, and a decreasing currency with a constant population. All the evils of a return to specie payment will have to be borne whether the currency shall be reduced to suit the community, or the community grow up to suit the currency. The difference is that in the latter case the evils will be extended over a greater period of time. Some men might prefer that the process of tooth-drawing should be protracted throughout the entire day that the pain maybe less intense at any given moment.
Let no man delude himself with the belief that the road toward specie payments is an easy one. Upon that road every one who undertakes to pay money will have to pay in effect more than he bargained for. Every one who buys property will find it depreciating in price upon his hands. The manufacturer will often sell his goods for less than the raw material cost him, and the poor laborer will find his wages cut down to the point at which the most fortunate of his class can barely live. But the road must be traveled. The evils must be borne. We may protract them throughout a greater period of time, and thereby soften the intensity, but we cannot escape them.
I know it is said that we have been traveling upon this road for a considerable time, and have actually progressed from the point at which gold commanded a premium of one hundred and eighty-five per cent. to that at which it commands only thirty. It is argued that as we have gone this distance without serious inconvenience, the rest of the way may be looked upon as a very small matter.
This is plausible, but unfortunately it is exceedingly unsound. Gold is not the sole and absolute measure of value. It is only the best one. Like all other commodities, it is subject to fluctuations wholly independent of the value of the instrument by which it is measured. It never was 285 by reason of the depreciation of the currency alone, and it is very doubtful whether the low price at which it sells now is not the result of mere oscillation. Let us examine this. Every commodity is subject to fluctuation in value on account of an over or under supply. Now, if we could combine the measured value of a sufficient number of commodities to balance these fluctuations, and exterminate the errors arising from them, we could thereby obtain a measure of value more certain than gold itself, a measure by which the fluctuations in value of even gold might be tested.
In order to approximate to this measure of value and apply it, I have taken twenty commodities in most common use, embracing those least likely to be affected by the extraordinary demands of war -- wheat, flour, corn, oats, beef, pork, mackerel, tea, coffee, sugar, molasses, raisins, cheese, salt, tallow, wool, hops, soap, iron, leather, and coal. I have taken three periods of time and combined and averaged the prices of those commodities at each of them. The first period extends from 1858 to 1860, when gold was at par; the second is July 1, 1864; and the third, February 15, 1866. From the first period to the second the prices of those commodities had risen one hundred and two per cent., while gold had risen one hundred and eighty-five. From the second period to the third those prices had fallen to fifty-seven per cent., while gold had fallen to thirty-nine. The inference is strong, though not irresistible, that gold at 285 was higher than the volume of the currency would warrant, and that it is now lower.
If it should be asked why gold rose in price so much more than other commodities, the answer is easy. There was an extraordinary demand at that time from two classes of people, one those who desired to get their property out of the country by reason of their doubts about the stability of our institutions, and the other the merchants who desired to be ready to pay future duties and who feared that the contest between Congress and the gold gamblers, which was then lively, would soon render it impossible to obtain the commodity at any price. Of course the gamblers operated upon both these doubts, and thereby inflated the price still higher than it would otherwise have been. This view is strengthened by the fact that one month previously the premium on gold was only eighty-nine, and in three months subsequently it had again fallen to the same figures, while the volume of currency and the prices of other commodities remained about the same during that period of four months.
From this criterion alone we would infer that we had traveled upon the road toward specie payment from one hundred and two to fifty-seven. But it will not do to assume even this. All the commodities from which I have deduced the measure of value had risen in price at the second of these periods by reason of the extraordinary demand arising from the war to a point above what they would have stood at but for the war; and that demand having ceased, all those commodities fell in price to a point below what they would have stood at but for the war. Now, how much of the difference between the second and third periods is owing to this ? I think all of it. In other words, I think if no other cause operated upon the price of gold than the redundancy of the currency, it would be quite as high now as ever it has been.
I believe we have not yet even started upon the road toward specie payments. More than this, I believe we are not yet at the height of the inflation unless speedy measures are taken to reduce the volume of currency, and therefore it is that I am unwilling to adopt the policy of keeping up the present volume of the currency and suffering the community to grow up to it. If there is yet time to avoid some of the evil consequences of the inflation; why not do so ? Why not cut off the top of the mountain which we would otherwise have to climb over ?
This is an important consideration. If we have not yet reached the height of the inflation nobody will doubt the propriety of reducing the currency at once in order to prevent farther evil consequences. Let us therefore look at this question. There is no principle plainer or better settled than that doubling the currency of a community will double prices in the absence of any counteracting element. This result will not be produced at once. It requires time for the new standard of value to enter into the prices of all commodities. It may require years. The first effect is to stimulate trade unnaturally. This for the time employs part of the excess of currency and prevents it entering into the prices of commodities. The ease with which debts may be paid off with the new currency also gives temporary employment to the excess. But these and other disturbances will disappear sooner or later, and the doubled currency will have ultimately doubled prices, or, to speak more critically accurate, will have depreciated to one half its original value. So plain a proposition needs no demonstration.--- [not exactly; if you spend money into circulation against production the ratio between money does not change; if you spend money into existence to pay 6% interest that causes inflation]
Now, our currency has been increased three-fold since 1860, while prices have as yet advanced only once and a half. Are there any other than temporary causes operating here to prevent the increase of currency from acting to its full extent upon prices ? I see none. Some of the excess was employed in the business of war, which was to a large extent a cash business. But this retarding element has disappeared. There was the usual unhealthy stimulus to trade and speculation. There was also the rapid payment of old debts, both employing large quantities of the excess. But these are rapidly passing away. There was also a temporary disuse of the ordinary expedients to deal without currency. But society is rapidly settling down into its old habits. Already credit in its various shapes is taking the place of currency, and in a short time there will be nothing to prevent the expansion from imposing its full measure upon prices. A year or so may elapse in the mean time, but when this process shall be fully completed, if the currency shall remain as it is, gold will sell at 250, and other commodities at corresponding prices.---[then cut back on credit, reduce or eliminate bank note circulation]
I ought to qualify this assertion by admitting the possibility of a panic in the mean time, which, if sufficiently extensive, would crush half the trading community and bring gold to par. I know no means of foretelling when a mercantile people will become so distrustful, so alarmed as to destroy one another in their efforts to escape some real or imaginary evil. All we know is that panics follow inflations, and usually terminate them.
By far the greatest proportion of the evils of contraction result from the panics that are caused by it. If these could be avoided the process of returning to specie payments would be no very serious matter; but I know no way to avoid them. An opinion is prevalent, and I believe is entertained by the Secretary of the Treasury, that a contraction sufficiently gradual will cause no panic. I think this is a mistake. Bringing prices down by retiring the currency is like pulling a heavy weight on the ground with a long elastic rope. No matter how slowly and gradually you pull, the weight comes at last with a jump and a jerk. In like manner a slow and gradual contraction of the currency has no effect whatever upon prices for a time. As it continues money slowly becomes scarcer, rates of interest go up, but still men pay those rates, hoping the stringency is temporary. Occasionally a small dealer goes by the board, but this alarms nobody. Money becomes still scarcer, rates of interest higher; but prices remain substantially the same until large dealers can stand no longer. Then the crash begins; each failure causing others. Then everybody wants everybody else to pay up; the demand for money becomes enormous. Prices come down with a run, because debtors to save themselves try to convert their commodities into cash at any price. Nobody trusts anybody else, and the community is in the midst of a panic just as disastrous as if the contraction had been sudden.
I have said that I know no way to prevent this. Possibly if the community were informed from week to week of the amount of currency retired; and could be made to consider the ultimate result of it, the evil might be ameliorated.
If I am right in all this, why not commence the business of contraction ? Why not prevent the evil from becoming still greater ? I am not asking that the price of gold should be reduced below its present point (130) at once. I would be quite content to keep it there for a year to come; but the people have a right to require at the hands of the Government that the price be not enhanced.
I am willing to empower the Secretary of the Treasury to sell bonds at not less than par, and with the proceeds to retire and cancel the interest-bearing legal tenders. This is substantially the proposition of the gentleman from Massachusetts, [Mr. Hooper] a proposition which, I trust, will be adopted. The prohibition to sell bonds at less than par for the purpose is quite a sufficient guard against undue contraction, because the first symptom of undue contraction will be a stringency in the money market, and this will at once stay the proceeding by preventing the bonds from selling at par. Thus guarded, the power ought to be sufficient to enable the Secretary to prevent a rise in the price of gold. If it should prove insufficient, I am quite willing to increase it.
The mere fact of the passage of a bill looking toward specie payments will go far to prevent the future evil consequences of the expansion. It will make men cautious about incurring liabilities. It will cause them to hesitate before embarking in doubtful and hazardous enterprises, and thereby enable them the better to withstand the effect of a panic when that shall happen. If anything could make the road toward specie payments easy it would be a general preparation beforehand, a full understanding of the nature of the road and complete consciousness that we are upon it.
To conclude, I voted with the friends of the bill with the hope of getting that of the gentleman from Massachusetts [Mr. Hooper] substituted for it. If this shall fail, I must vote against the bill. I am unwilling to confer upon any department of the Government the power contained in this bill. I look upon the power to control the currency of a country like ours as greater for evil or good than that of any European monarch. That power belongs to Congress, and that body would be false to every duty to the country in conferring it now without restrictions upon any other department.
Mr. Garfield. I yield ten minutes to the gentleman from Massachusetts, [Mr. BOUTWELL.]
Mr. BOUTWELL. Mr. Speaker, nobody can be more reluctant than I am to oppose a measure of a committee of this House or any department of the Government. But I am inclined to maintain the position that under no circumstances ought this House to confide to any agent of the Government authority to diminish the non-interest-bearing legal-tender notes. I am altogether opposed to endowing an agent to do that which we think ought not to be done.
If this House will look at the condition of the country with reference to its finances, it seems to me it can reach but one conclusion, and that is, that the bill submitted by my colleague [Mr. Hooper] is one which ought to receive the support of this House and of the country.
And I have an observation to make to the gentlemen on this side of the House. After having passed through four years of the greatest peril, both in a military and financial point of view, I submit that now is not the time to accept gifts from the Greeks, and that it is now a matter of honor as well as of right that those who sit on this side of the House and represent a majority of the loyal people of this country should define and limit the financial policy of the Administration.
We have $450,000,000 of non-bearing-interest currency. We have $260,000,000 of national bank currency, which may reach the maximum of $300,000,000, making $750,000,000 in all. We have in addition to that $180,000,000 of legal-tender notes bearing interest, which added to the currency amounts to something more than nine hundred million dollars. Under this condition of things gold is to-day quoted at 128.5/8. Last Friday it was 130.5/8.---[Soooo, take out of circulation that $260 million bank currency, prohibit new issues of it, and you reduced the circulating medium by one third.]
It is proposed on this side of the House, by those who object to the measure of the Committee of Ways and Means, that the currency of the country shall be reduced, between now and the 1st day of December next, at the discretion of the Secretary of the Treasury, $180,000,000, or about twenty per cent. of the existing currency of the country. And if, as gentlemen contend -- a proposition which I do not admit -- the price of gold follows the volume of the currency of the country, then gold should stand, with that reduction, at 105 when Congress reassembles in December next.
That, sir, is as much as the business of the country can bear. But if in addition to that a further reduction is made of $100,000,000, as is proposed, three quarters of the manufactories of the central and northern portions of the country will be suspended.
Sir, it is not a question whether laborers shall be able to earn a dollar and a half or a dollar a day, but it is a question of work and subsistence for eight thousand people that I represent in one of the cities of Massachusetts. Therefore I should be false to my trust if I hesitated to say that a limit should be fixed beyond which the Secretary of the Treasury shall not go in this condition of public affairs.
We offer to fix it at $450,000,000 non-bearing-interest legal tender; $300,000,000 national bank currency, and if that reduction be made, specie will approximate to par with paper next December.
The authority to reduce the currency without limit is a vast authority to confide to any man. It gives the Secretary the power to make every man in the country, between the Rio Grande and the St. John, weep or laugh, any day at pleasure. I, for one, can consent to no such proposition, and yet I feel bound to say that there is no man whose general financial policy I would more heartily support than that of the Secretary of the Treasury, and I should look upon it as a calamity if his place should be occupied by any other man whom it is my fortune to know. But notwithstanding this feeling, and although we are all aware that this power is not to be exercised, yet by confiding it to him you give the people reason to apprehend that at some time the power may be exercised by him or by his successor, whoever he may be, and that apprehension will be constant weight upon the business interests of the country.
I appeal to the chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means to allow this bill to be recommitted to his committee without instructions and take their judgment after this debate. If he will agree to allow the motion to recommit to be made, I think I may say that we will not object to the reconsideration; but if the committee insist that there shall be no recommitment of the bill, then there is no course for us but to vote against the motion to reconsider the vote of Friday last.
Mr. GARFIELD. Mr. Speaker, every gentleman in this House must admit that during the short time given to the committee this morning a full hearing has been given to two of the ablest gentlemen who oppose this measure, and I presume their views could not have been more strongly stated in the same length of time than they have just been stated by the gentleman from Massachusetts, [Mr. Boutwell]. But I wish to call his attention and that of this House to the fact that in the discussion of the bill he has raised an issue aside from the question. He has undertaken to antagonize the policy of the Secretary of the Treasury with the business interests of the country, and has told us that we are putting in the hands of the Secretary a power which may be used against the industry and honest labor of the country.
We propose, sir, to put power into his hands to be used against the gamblers of the country who would break down the public credit, and thus injure the most important interests of the country. I would be the last man to cast a vote that could oppress the manufacturer or any other producer of wealth, and I believe that the honorable Secretary asks for power, not to oppress, but to encourage industry. But I ask gentlemen whether they have considered where he will be left in case we do not give him the power he now asks. Why does he ask it ? The President of the United States declared a financial policy which has been more fully elaborated by the Secretary, and we are now asked to give him power to carry out that policy, but gentlemen hesitate because it may bring a temporary pressure upon the business of the country.--- [ye arrested 1,000s of people arbitrarily, because they voiced their opinion; why not arrest these 'gamblers' instead of punishing everybody; by the way, as the result of your reducing the currency, how many gamblers went bankrupt ?]
The gentleman has stated the amount of currency that might be withdrawn under the provisions of this bill, and says if the whole were withdrawn it would cause a disastrous collapse. He has forgotten that there are nearly $300,000,000 of gold and silver in this country which will flow into the circulation as the greenback currency is retired.
He has also forgotten that we are now producing over $100,000,000 in gold and silver every year from our mines. He has omitted these very considerable sums, which change entirely the conditions of the problem before us.
Mr. STEVENS. From what data does the gentleman undertake to say that there is $300,000,000 in gold now in this country ready for circulation ?
Mr. Garfield. I base my estimate on the opinion of those who have given the subject careful attention, and also from the condition of our foreign exchanges. The gentleman is aware that exchange for gold with all nations is now in our favor, and that cannot be unless we have a very considerable quantity of gold in the country.
Mr. STEVENS. I have seen no record of over $70,000,000.
Mr. Garfield. There are $55,000,000 in the Treasury now, besides what is deposited in banks and in private coffers. Beside this, it must be remembered that gold is now the currency of the Pacific States. But the fact that foreign exchange is in our favor is an indubitable proof that we have a large supply of specie.
Mr. Kelley. Will the gentleman permit a single brief question ? Is not the inflowing volume of gold a return for bonds rather than for produce of any kind, raw or manufactured ?
Mr. Garfield. That does not alter the fact. By whatever means it comes, we have the gold, and the supply is increasing and will increase so long as we pursue the policy of resumption.
And now, once for all, I desire to say before leaving this subject, that neither the Secretary of the Treasury, nor the Committee of Ways and Means intend or desire that there shall be a rapid contraction of the currency; there is no purpose of that kind. Already in anticipation of the measure now under discussion, gold is falling even more rapidly than is desirable. I am sorry to see it move downward so fast as it does. And the Secretary of the Treasury, if he could, would make its decline more gradual. Mr. Speaker, the question is, will you give the Secretary of the Treasury the power to initiate the policy of contraction of the currency, as the House indicated so decisively on the 18th of December last ? What other policy has been suggested ? A policy has been suggested by the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. Kelley] in a bill he introduced this morning. That bill authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to take up short bonds as they mature and issue greenbacks in payment. If it should be adopted, $1,000,000,000 of greenbacks would be issued in the next eighteen months.--- [That is not exactly what he proposed, he suggested that the compound-interest notes be replaced by non-interest-bearing notes; there were $170 million of them, due in 1867-'68. Culloch replaced these Treasury notes, and other Treasury notes with gold-interest bearing long bonds, altogether $1,200 million of them (this was the portion of the indebtedness that we actually owed to ourselves); how much better it was to pay hereinafter 6% interest on bonds and remove from circulation this amount of currency (and borrow National currency from the bankers); as opposed to replacing the $170 million compound notes with interest-free notes and leaving the circulation as it was !]
I have upon my desk a pamphlet written by a citizen of Pennsylvania signing himself "Patriot," who recommends the immediate issue of $1,000,000,000 of greenbacks, and believes it would put the country in a healthy condition for business ! This enthusiastic pamphleteer rises to the sublime, if not to the blasphemous, and declares as the sum of his financial wisdom that next to the immortal God, paper money is the greatest and most beneficent power on this earth. This "Patriot" will be delighted with the bill of his distinguished Representative----
Mr. KELLEY. Mr. Speaker---
Mr. Garfield. I cannot be interrupted at present. This very morning the gentleman's proposition was introduced to show us a better way to meet our difficulties, by flooding the country with a new deluge of paper money, and thus plunge business and industry deeper and deeper into uncertainty and dishonesty.
Mr. KELLEY. Mr. Speaker---
Mr. Garfield. I decline to yield. Mr. Speaker, there is no leading financier, no leading statesman now living, or one who has lived within the last half century, in whose opinion the gentleman can find any support. They all declare, as the Secretary of the Treasury declares, that the only honest basis of value is a currency redeemable in specie at the will of the holder. I am an advocate of paper money, but that paper money must represent what it professes on its face. I do not wish to hold in my hands the printed lies of the Government; I want its promise to pay, signed by the high officers of the Government, sacredly kept in the exact meaning of the words of the promise. Let us not continue this conjurer's art by which sixty cents shall discharge a debt of one hundred cents. I do not want industry everywhere to be thus crippled and wounded and its wounds plastered over with legally authorized lies.
A bill was introduced into the House expressing the wishes of the Secretary of the Treasury. The Committee of Ways and Means reduced its proportions, struck out several provisions that they believed could safely be spared. They struck out the foreign loan clause and restricted the power conferred by it till the Secretary declares that with any less power he will be unable to fund our indebtedness and manage our finances.
Mr. WILSON, of Iowa. Will the gentleman allow me to ask him a question ?
Mr. Garfield. I will yield for a question.
Mr. WILSON, of Iowa. I understand the gentleman from Ohio [Mr. Garfield] to say that the Committee of Ways and Means have taken out of the bill the foreign loan clause. I do not so understand it; I think that clause is still in the bill.
Mr. Garfield. Mr. Speaker, by an express vote of the House, on motion of the chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means---
Mr. WILSON, of Iowa. That was only a proviso in relation to the time, mode, and place of payment.
Mr. Garfield. The power to negotiate a loan to be paid abroad and paid in foreign coin or foreign currency was stricken out; and the bill now stands just as all our bills on this subject have stood for the last two years.
I propose, sir, to let the House take the responsibility of adopting or rejecting this measure. On the one side it is proposed to return to solid and honest values; on the other, to float in the boundless and shoreless sea of paper money, with all its dishonesty and broken pledges. We leave it to the House to decide which alternative it will choose. Choose the one, and you float away into an unknown sea of paper money that shall know no decrease until you take just such a measure as is now proposed to bring us back again to solid values. Delay the measure, and it will cost the country dear. Adopt it now, and with a little depression in business and a little stringency in the money market, the worst will be over, and we shall have reached the solid earth. Sooner or later such a measure must be adopted. Go on as you are now going on, and a financial crisis worse than that of 1837 will bring us to the bottom. I for one am unwilling that my name shall be linked to the fate of a paper currency. I believe that any party which commits itself to paper money will go down amid the general disaster, covered with the curses of a ruined people.
Mr. Speaker, I remember that on the monument of Queen Elizabeth, where her glories were recited and her honors summed up, among the last and the highest, recorded as the climax of her honors, was this -- that she had had restored the money of her kingdom to its just value. And when this House shall have done its work, when it shall have brought back values to their proper standard, it will deserve a monument.
Mr. Speaker, I call the previous question.
Mr. Conkling. I would like to ask my colleague on the committee a question.
Mr. Garfield. I yield for a question only.
Mr. CONKLING. I wish to ask of my colleague, who has charge now at least of the motion to reconsider, whether, if that prevails, he will allow a motion to be made to recommit this bill to the Committee of Ways and Means, or whether he will demand the previous question and insist upon a vote on the bill as it now stands.
Mr. GARFIELD. The Committee of Ways and Means have taken action on this bill, have reported it, have expressed their opinions upon it, and I do not see that that committee can do anything that would so advance the interests of the country as to pass this bill. I therefore desire that the sense of the House shall be taken, that the bill shall meet its fate, and I decline to entertain the gentleman's proposition.
Mr. CONKLING. Then I desire to make an inquiry of the Chair. If the vote on the passage of the bill be reconsidered and the demand for the previous question be not sustained, will a motion to recommit be in order ?
The Speaker. If the motion to reconsider should prevail, the question will recur on the passage of the bill. If then the previous question should be demanded and sustained, the House will have to vote on the passage of the bill. If the previous question should not be sustained, a motion to recommit could be made.
Mr. Conkling. Then, if the previous question should not be sustained, I will, if able to get the floor, move that the bill be recommitted.
Mr. Stevens. I desire to ask the gentleman from Ohio [Mr. Garfield] one question. If the vote on the passage of the bill be reconsidered, will the gentleman allow a motion to be made to recommit the bill with instructions to the committee to adopt the bill introduced this morning by the gentleman from Massachusetts, [Mr. Hooper] so as to test the sense of the House upon that bill ?
Mr. Garfield. I have examined that bill, and it contains one clause which I believe (and I think that most of the members of the committee concur with me in the opinion) will render it almost valueless, because it ties the hands of the Secretary of the Treasury. I cannot allow the motion to be made.
Mr. KELLEY. I desire to ask the gentleman whether I understood him correctly when I understood him to say that I had introduced a bill for redeeming the bonds of the country in greenbacks.
Mr. Garfield. As I understood the bill offered by the gentleman from Pennsylvania, that was the purport of it. I went to his seat to get a copy of it and failed. I was told by several gentlemen that such was the character of the bill.
Mr. KELLEY. I have only to say I have never introduced such a bill.
The SPEAKER stated that the previous question would exhaust itself on the motion to reconsider.
The previous question was seconded, and Mr. Garfield demanded the yeas and nays.
The yeas and nays were ordered.
The question was taken; and it was decided in the affirmative-- yeas 81, nays 67, not voting 35; as follows: .....
So the motion to reconsider was agreed to.
During the vote,
Mr. Phelps stated he was paired with Mr. F. Thomas, who would vote against, while he would vote for the motion.
Mr. Deming stated he was paired with Mr. HARRIS.
Mr. Laflin stated that he was requested by Mr. Clarke, of Kansas, to say, if he were well enough to be present, he would vote against the pending motion.
The vote was then announced as above recorded.
The question then recurred on the passage of the bill.
Mr. Garfield demanded the previous question.
Mr. CONKLING. I appeal to the gentleman to let me make a motion to recommit. [Cries of "No!" "No!"] Then I shall demand the yeas and nays on ordering the main question.
The House divided on seconding the call for the previous question; and there were-- ayes 53, noes 69.
Mr. Garfield demanded tellers.
Tellers were ordered; and Messrs. Garfield and Conkling were appointed.
The House was again divided; and the tellers reported-- ayes 64, noes 80.
So the previous question was not seconded.
The question recurred on the passage of the bill.
Mr. Conkling. Mr. Speaker, before making the motion for which a majority have already virtually pronounced I ask the attention of the House for a few moments, feeling the more at liberty to do so because, although a member of the committee by which the pending measure was reported, I have thus far had little part in the debate.
I wish to relieve not myself, because I have steadily voted for the bill, but those with whom I have differed in these votes, from the imputation, if imputation it be, from the construction at least which may be put upon their opposition to a measure looking to a resumption of specie payments. It has been intimated in the debate, and already an effort is visible in certain quarters, to spread abroad the impression that all those who have withheld their votes from the bill are opposed to a return to specie payments, and that the lesson of the hour is that a majority of the Union party in this House is wedded to paper currency as a permanent financial policy for the country. No impression could be more false, few more pernicious. The divided front we have seen arises from differences in detail as to the wisest measure to adopt in order to bring about what nearly all discreet and patriotic men desire.
The country is in an unhealthy condition. Values are afloat, prices are wild, labor is burdened, finances are disturbed and disordered. War, taxation, paper money, inflation, these are the causes. Their presence is our misfortune; our necessity, perhaps. The issue of paper money was an expedient; a passing, temporary expedient in an hour of urgent and sudden need.
The authors of the expedient believed it a necessity; they admitted it to be a necessity, and they advocated it only upon the ground that it would be but a passing, ephemeral device. No man dared to argue for it in any other way. It would never have been accepted when it was or as it was but for this qualification and apology. Congress knew, the nation knew then as well as everybody knows now, that paper is not a true standard of value, nor, indeed, any standard at all. Gold and silver are the measures and standards of value; the honest standards, the world's standards, the real standards. Why ? Because they are money. Is that the only reason ? Not at all. And here I differ with the gentleman from Pennsylvania, [Mr. Broomall]. Coin is the true standard of value in the commercial world because it represents the cost of production. That is the difference between a metallic and a paper currency. Its value is not alone in its being stamped or called "money"---
"The rank is but the guinea's stamp."
A silver dollar or a gold eagle represents the cost of producing it, with a trifling difference, perhaps, arising from the expense of coinage, and the alloy which hardens it against attrition and keeps it out of the crucibles of other nations.
What does paper represent ? If redeemable in coin, it represents the metallic value behind it, if irredeemable it represents nothing in itself, it simply is evidence of a promise to pay.
The "legal-tender policy," as it is called, the policy of licensing by law a suspension of specie payments, was not inaugurated by the American Congress in ignorance of all this.
The vote on Friday, by which the pending bill was for the moment lost, was not given in ignorance or forgetfulness of this, nor by those who deny the maxims of sound political economy -- far from it.
The Secretary of the Treasury, at Fort Wayne, and in his able annual report, and the President of the United States in the clear and cogent passage of his annual message in which he set forth the financial topic, did but echo the universal, well-considered sentiment of the nation when they said that the present condition is unnatural and that we are to return at the earliest practicable moment to the old-fashioned, safe, and honest basis -- the hard-money standard.
This is the sentiment, as far as I can gather it, universally among Union members here. The question, when we can resume, exactly how soon, and precisely how resumption is to be brought about and forced about, is a point upon which the warmest advocates of early resumption doubt and differ to some extent. But the main idea we all hold to. The gentleman from Illinois, [Mr. Wentworth] who even now attracts attention by the uneasy zeal with which he supports the bill, need not, I think, instruct his colleagues on this subject. Certainly I do not need it.
I was here when the "legal-tender" policy was launched. I remember the contest well. The financial question was then, even more than now, the overmastering public question. It was the only rock on which we could split, and we all examined ourselves to see that we made no blunder which consideration could avoid. I gave my vote and my voice against taking the first step toward driving coin from circulation. I believed then, I believe now, that the hour had not yet come when it was impossible longer to postpone suspension. I believed we might wait yet awhile; that we might try other and lesser remedies first, and thus in the end mitigate the evil after it should come. Therefore I resisted the first motion to suspend specie payments, and I say to the gentleman that those who stood then for the old and approved ways will be able to stand now, and to go as far and as fast as sound discretion will permit in the path which leads to frugality and solvency.
Mr. Wentworth. I desire to state to the gentleman that I was not here at that time.
Mr. Conkling. No, Mr. Speaker, the gentleman has been here many times when he was useful, but just then he was away.
This, however, candor compels me to say, that the event has been far better than the expectation. Opposed as I was to the experiment of paper being resorted to at the time, dreading as I did, more than I have ever dreaded any final result threatened by the war, the effect of a paper policy, I admit and assert that we have escaped, as we had no right to expect, the consequences and disasters of the measure. I say that it is something to be thankful for, and something which proves the wise administration of the finances, and the efficacy of the legislation of Congress as it stands now, that gold has been rapidly falling for weeks and months, that it has fallen two per cent. since Friday, and that a dispatch just put into my hand announces that it is selling in New York at this moment for 128.5/8.
I wish we were safely, not only almost but altogether, back to par; but all things are not possible in the twinkling of an eye in finance any more than in other things. So gentlemen think; and I have no quarrel with them for that; the Committee of Ways and Means has no quarrel with them for that; the Secretary of the Treasury has no quarrel with them for that. He could not if he would, and he would not if he could, make sudden and violent reductions. When the Secretary said at Fort Wayne that at the earliest practicable moment we ought to come back to specie payments, he did not mean a crash; he did not mean a shock, a panic; he did not mean to seize the currency and by a single grasp to crush values, to paralyze transactions, or to shrivel and benumb. The President of the United States, by the well-chosen words in which he recommended a financial policy, meant no such thing. Not only would disaster follow violence and haste in this respect, but such an immediate contraction of the currency as would carry it instantly to par, if it could be effected at all, could be effected only by withdrawing obligations of the Government which bear no interest whatever, and issuing in their stead obligations bearing interest. Such a proceeding, beside the interest account it would assume, beside the destructive mutations it involves, would so contract the market that bonds could not be sold at par either for the present or in future to redeem the compound-interest notes and seven and three-tenth notes which must be met in such enormous sums within the next two years. Every holder of a Government obligation soon to mature has an option to demand payment in money if he will. Should our bonds be at par or above, we can fund by mere exchange; but if below par, of course we must sell for what we can get, and pay in cash. Looking, therefore, merely to the engagements the Government itself must meet, and saying nothing of the affairs of the people, we cannot afford to cramp or convulse the money market by spasmodic action. However rapidly we approach resumption, the approach must be gradual.--- [sounds very good, but that is not what happened; reduction of currency was rapid; so rapid that by December 1867 bill was introduced to stop Culloch from contracting any more. Did Culloch act hastily or according to a plan ?]
Sir, it is a good omen that the House is about to accept a motion to recommit this subject to the appropriate committee. We shall, I trust, be able to bring forward a measure adequate to the occasion, and acceptable alike to the Secretary of the Treasury and to both Houses of Congress. This is the true solution, and the Committee of Ways and Means will, I am sure, willingly profit by the debate and the expression of the House.
No matter how well considered the measure maybe, I do not, without an effort to improve it, want it to pass against the sentiment of a majority of our friends. It is not fit that the committee or the country should accept the necessity of carrying on the business of this Congress by an alliance between a minority of this side of the House and the whole body of the Opposition. It is not fit that an accidental and subordinate difference of opinion about the minor provisions of a bill should be made to look as if any considerable portion of the Union party withheld its support either from a sound financial policy or from an administration measure. The country is not yet reduced to the necessity of depending upon its enemies for support against its friends.
It is not necessary to seek aid from those who, when the vessel was drifting on the rock, stood idle, if not hostile spectators on the shore. Until a spirit and disposition is discoverable which has not appeared yet, it is safe to assume that the people expect those who act together as a majority here to stand together and to originate and pass proper measures, and if these measures command the assent of political opponents so much the better. It will, I think, be found that that majority is quite competent to the task, and can afford to wait the final verdict to be pronounced upon us. At any rate we will try -- we will try to do our duty, and to be united too.
That great difference of opinion should prevail as to the necessity and propriety of some of the provisions of the bill as it stands, is quite natural. These differences grow very largely out of existing acts. I shall not at this time stop to review them, but when reviewed it will be found that great powers sleep in them, powers which whenever brought into requisition will subject the currency to the control of the Treasury Department to an extent which for the present would satisfy the most enthusiastic advocate of immediate contraction.
In my view of the existing law, the bill before us gives but one new power, and it takes away one which now exists. We will see hereafter how this is, and if we can all understand it alike, I think we can go together for a sound policy looking to early resumption. Should this come to pass, it will be well for all save those who now, as heretofore, are "taking the chances," and operating upon the necessities, political and otherwise, of their country.
Mr. RANDALL, of Pennsylvania. Will the gentleman allow me to ask him a question ?
Mr. Conkling. Willingly.
Mr. Randall, of Pennsylvania. I would ask the gentleman who he voted with -- with which side of the House -- when he voted against making paper money legal tender.
Mr. Conkling. Which side of the House ?
Mr. Randall, of Pennsylvania. Yes, sir.
Mr. Conkling. If the gentleman had been here, he would know that there was no "which side of the House" about it, politically speaking.
Mr. Randall, of Pennsylvania. On the contrary I understand that the gentleman voted with the Democrats then in the House.
Mr. CONKLING. The gentleman understands what was not the fact, if he supposes that it was a party question. It was not. One member of the Committee of Ways and Means was absent, and the committee was left composed of eight members only; four of the committee were for the legal-tender policy and four against it. The House also divided much after the same fashion; most of the Democrats no doubt opposed the bill, and it passed against the will of exactly half the Committee of Ways and Means.
Mr. Eldridge. I desire to ask the gentleman if this is now a party question. Why is it more a party question now than it was then ?
Mr. Conkling. The gentleman does not want to make that inquiry seriously. He knows better than he thinks we do, or the country does, the parade that is making by his party of its willingness to patronize the Administration. It will not amount to much, because everybody understands it.
Mr. BROOKS. Will my colleague allow me to ask him a question ?
Mr. CONKLING. Certainly.
Mr. BROOKS. I am puzzled how to vote on the motion of my colleague, and I wish an opinion from him upon the subject. If some thirty gentlemen over here vote now for his motion to recommit, will the other side of the House vote against it ? [Laughter.]
Mr. CONKLING. If I knew how to help my colleague I would. His question being to divert attention from things not funny to things that are, perhaps I shall most assist him by no answer at all.
Mr. BROOKS. I have tried to support the Administration on this measure. I have gone with him. The President recommended the course of policy we have been pursuing. The Secretary of the Treasury recommends the course of policy that we have been pursuing. The Committee of Ways and Means recommend the course of policy that we have been pursuing. And the majority of this House have voted that way. Now, are they going to turn back on themselves because some thirty men upon this side of the House have helped them ? I wish an answer to my question, that I may know how to vote on his motion.
Mr. CONKLING. I will endeavor to answer my colleague, and the vote of the House will show him presently that the fate of the motion will not be affected by the action of himself or his friends.
The gentleman may assume that everybody understands pretty well how he "tries to support the Administration," and why we hear such unctuous indorsements of the President of late from those who have blocked the wheels of the Administration for the last four years. The gentleman and his friends vote where the chances of party advantage lead them. If a bill comes in to give suffrage to the negroes in the District of Columbia, they will vote with the extreme men and labor to advance the extreme view. They will go solid against every proposition for restricted or qualified negro suffrage, and insist upon the most unguarded and indiscriminate enactment, and yet they try to support the Administration, which means that the object and mission of the gentlemen and his friends is to improve little party opportunities -- that is all.
So now, as a mere political maneuver, they vote for this measure. [Laughter.] The gentleman understands that. It is not necessary to explain it. It explains itself as it goes along. I was going, when the interruptions began, to remind the House that recommittals work well usually after a debate has failed to concentrate sentiment. During this session we have saved time and improved measures in this way.
When the constitutional amendment came up, the House rioted in discussion and amendments; everybody was against it, or so much for something else that he could not go with anybody else or get his neighbor to go with him. The subject was recommitted, and being reported back to the House was ratified with the effort of the committee, although no substantial change was made, and the amendment passed by the entire Union vote, with but three or four exceptions.
Mr. Rogers. I suppose the gentleman does not mean the constitutional amendment.
Mr. CONKLING. I think I do.
Mr. Rogers. The constitutional amendment was not recommitted, I believe.
Mr. CONKLING. I have a vague, misty recollection that the constitutional amendment was recommitted.
Mr. Brooks. I rise to a point of order. The question of negro suffrage or any other constitutional amendment has nothing to do with the subject under consideration, which is a money question.
The SPEAKER. The Chair understands the gentleman from New York [Mr. Conkling] is stating what has been the effect of recommitment in other cases, in support of his motion to recommit this bill.
Mr. BROOKS. Well, I will withdraw my point of order.
Mr. CONKLING. We did recommit the constitutional amendment in regard to the basis of representation. It came back the next day, and was passed, nobody dissenting on this side of the House except three or four members.
The same thing happened in the case of the civil rights bill. There was some objection to it; I had some objections to it myself; it was recommitted to the Committee on the Judiciary; the committee revised it, made some alterations satisfactory to the House, and it passed, I believe, by all the Union votes of the House save those which were not given either way. In the present instance, perhaps, the revision of the committee will be equally beneficial; let us try.
Mr. ROSS. Then I suppose if we over here vote for the proposition of the gentleman others over there will be induced to vote against it.
Mr. CONKLING. That was not a very luminous suggestion the first time it was made by my colleague, [Mr. Brooks] [Laughter] We get the full force of it over here now it is made again, and we will admit the entire effect of it now, just the same as if some gentleman should again repeat it [Laughter.]
We shall not vote for or against any proposition because it is supported or opposed on the other side. Nor will we be wheedled into any position which will deprive the majority of the House of a fair, deliberate opportunity of doing what it means always to do, and that is to strive earnestly to find out what is best and then stand by it.
I now move that the bill be recommitted without instructions to the Committee of Ways and Means, and upon that motion I demand the previous question.
Mr. Stevens. Will the gentleman withdraw his demand for the previous question for a moment ?
Mr. WENTWORTH. I hope the gentleman will do so, and allow me to say a few words, as I am on the same committee with him.
Mr. CONKLING. I am reluctant to withdraw. Several gentlemen are appealing to me for the floor beside the two who address the Chair, and I cannot oblige one and refuse another; if all are heard we shall be at sea again. I think, therefore, we better sustain the previous question, and then if we are to have debate it will be within narrow bounds. I insist upon the demand for the previous question.
Mr. Stevens. I would inquire of the Chair whether if the demand for the previous question is voted down, the bill will then be open to amendment ?
The SPEAKER. If the demand for the previous question is not sustained, the motion to recommit will be open to amendment. But the bill will not be open to amendment without reconsidering the third reading.
Mr. Wentworth. I ask the gentleman from New York, [Mr. Conkling] as he is on the same committee with myself, whether he will allow me, upon the pledge to renew the call for the previous question, to take the floor, and agree to allow our opponents some of my time ?
Mr. Conkling. For what purpose does the gentleman seek the floor ?
Mr. Wentworth. I will limit myself to any number of minutes for the purpose of debating what should be debated. I want to show to the House that there is another party here who go with the gentleman, although differing as widely from the gentleman as do those over the way.
Mr. Conkling. I propose to compromise by admitting what the gentleman says, and then to have the previous question. [Laughter.]
The previous question was seconded, and the main question ordered.
Mr. Morrill. I hope that the motion to recommit will be assented to unanimously, as a majority of the House are evidently in favor of that motion.
On agreeing to the motion to recommit, there were -- ayes ninety-seven, noes were not counted.
So the motion to recommit was agreed to.
Mr. Conkling moved to reconsider the vote by which the bill was recommitted; and also moved that the motion to reconsider be laid on the table.
The latter motion was agreed to.