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general soundness of a body whose soul is honour.
I might, from the materials in my possession, bring forward many facts in illustration and in proof, if need were, of the habit among members of Congress of receiving money for the transaction of business before the House, and for their support in favour of certain measures. I will confine myself to one or two, which sufficiently describe the process; and I will add an Act of Congress lately passed upon the subject.
The following is an extract from a speech of Colonel Benton, an active member of the democratic party, and a personal friend of the present President, delivered just previously to the late presidential election. Colonel Benton, speaking of several measures which had been passed by Congress, of which he disapproved, said :
“The root of all this vicious legislation, and the opprobrium of our government, is a new power which has grown up at Washington, and which performs for legislation pretty much the same favour which caucuses and conventions perform for elections, that is, takes it out of the
hands of the people's representatives, and puts it into the hands of self-constituted managers. These are the class of agents, now multiplied to scores, and organised into a body, and supplied with all the means of conciliating members or combining interests. These guard the halls of legislation, and create interests strong enough to carry through bad measures, and to embargo the good, unless they consent to lend a helping hand to the bad. I am told the way now to get any large bill through Congress for a claim, or a contract, or even for a just grant of railroad land, is to apply to one of these agents as the effeetive man (members of Congress being considered quite secondary), arrange with him, and, like a good grand-juryman, keep your own and your fellow's counsel. The great game of log rolling'* then begins, and a mass of conglomerated measures pass easily, many of which could get no support alone. To lend a hand at a pinching vote—to get out of the way at a pinching vote, now becomes the duty of the mollified members, and negative votes absent, often answer the purpose as well as positive ones present. * It was the view of such proceedings as these which induced the representative from North Carolina (Mr. Venables). to say in a speech at Richmond, Virginia, that with money enough any bill might be carried through Congress.”
Thus much for the general notoriety of the fact. It is necessary to justify such accusations by a particular instance.
* “Log-rolling," means, “Help me in my job, and I will help you in yours.”—Notes on Public Subjects, p. 123.
About three years ago a Dr. Gardiner brought forward before a committee of Congress claims to a large amount against the United States Treasury, which were allowed. It afterwards appeared, on investigation before a special committee of the House of Representatives, of which Mr. Preston King was chairman, that this testimony was forged. Senator Corwin was stated to have prosecuted those claims until he became Secretary of the Treasury; and another Secretary, Mr. Crawford, was publicly accused of being implicated in these transactions. The result of the investigation was, that the committee of the House of Representatives accompanied their report by a Bill, which very soon after passed into a law, a copy of which, to obviate all misapprehensions, I give entire in the Appendix.
The New York Evening Post of March 4, 1853, thus describes this Act, which passed on the 26th of the preceding month :
“It punishes with fine and imprisonment any officer of
the United States Government, or member of either branch of Congress, and all persons in their official employ, who shall assist in the prosecution of any claim against the Government, except in the discharge of their official duties.
• It visits with like penalties, and also disqualifies for holding any public office, any person who shall give, and any member of Congress, or officer of the United States Government who shall receive, any gratuity or favour of any description designed to influence their votes or official action.
“While we profess our deep sense of the importance of this law, and the special obligations of the country to Mr. King, by whom it was reported, and through whose exertions and personal influence more than any other cause it was enacted, we cannot forbear expressing our mortification and regret that the necessity for any such legislation existed; that it has become necessary to threaten cabinet ministers with the penitentiary to keep them from peculation, and that members of Congress have been compelled to arm themselves with the heaviest penalties of the law against the temptations of their official position.
Our pen has never fashioned any satire half so cutting, nor any invective half so bitter as this law, by which Congress deliberately declares that a necessity exists for invoking the aid of the judiciary to protect the country from the corrupt practices of its own members, and of the executive branch of the Government."
While the Act was, in the shape of a Bill,
under the consideration of the Senate, I find in the report of the proceedings of that body for the 25th of January, 1853, that
“Mr. Hale, of New Hampshire, inquired whether the Bill covered the case of agents who were in the habit of daily exacting black mail' from sailors and officers of the navy, to get business done before the Department or Congress ? He said that it had been shown under oath, that these men were in the habit of daily selling' Congress for a price, and if the Bill did not cover such cases, he desired that it lie over for amendment.
"Mr. Badger (who had charge of the Bill) said that the Bill did not cover what Mr. Hale desired, but he nevertheless hoped that it would be passed for what it did cover.'
• The Bill was then read a third time and passed."
The system, therefore, of bribery of members of Congress through the instrumentality of “agents," as described by Colonel Benton, is not only stigmatised, and sought to be prevented, by an Act of Congress, but admitted to exist in cases not reached by that Act.
Whether the one or the other mode, thus admitted to exist, by which certain members of Congress (and confessedly by no means a small proportion of them) add to the emoluments assigned to them by law as their daily