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child! It was a good illustration, Sir, of the sort of reasoning by which this rule must be defended, if it is to be defended at all. But this House does not stand in loco parentis to the people of the United States. We are not their parents, masters, or guardians. We are sent here to ascertain their wishes; to carry out their will; to do their work. And for us to undertake to limit their liberty to address us, or abridge their privilege of being heard here, on any subjects on which they may choose to be heard, is to reverse entirely our relative positions. It is the representative instructing the constituent; the agent prescribing terms to his principal; the servant imposing conditions on the master!

I shall be told that individual petitioners are not the people; and that the rights of the signers of petitions, few or many, are not to be confounded with the rights of the people at large. There would be some fitness and some force in this suggestion, if we were considering the reception of a single petition, or of any ascertained number of petitions. But where is the limit to this rule? Where is the limit to the principle of this rule ? Why, Sir, this rule excludes, practically and daily, thousands and hundreds of thousands of petitioners. It denies a hearing, practically and daily, to whole States — sovereign States

speaking through the resolutions of their Legislatures. The Journals, I think, will show that the resolutions of four or five States have been thrust back into the faces of their representatives on this floor, in a single hour of a single morning. And if as many States as were arrayed here the other day on the subject of General Jackson's fine, -seventeen, I think,could come to a common opinion on any point connected with any one of the subjects enumerated in this rule, - nay, if all the States in the Union, or all the people of all the States, could come, as they ought to come, and as I believe that one day or other they will come, to the conclusion, that whatever may be done with the institution of slavery in the District of Columbia, the slave trade here shall be no more tolerated, but that this metropolis of the American Republic shall be purged from the pollution of an inhuman and abominable traffic, this rule is broad enough, and general enough, to deny a hearing to them all! In principle, then, this rule goes the full length of asserting the

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right of this House, to say to the people, to the whole people of the Union - “ Come one, come all, we will not hear you.”

But, says the gentleman from South Carolina, (Mr. Rhett,) have we not a plenary power, under the Constitution, “ to determine our own rules of proceeding?” Yes, Sir, we have that power, and there is no appeal from our determination as to those rules. But power is one thing, and right is another. We have the power to do many things in this House which we have yet no manner of right to do. We are the final judges of the elections and returns of our own members. And if a majority in this House, in its wilfulness or its wantonness, should see fit to give the seat in a contested election to a candidate clearly in a minority, or to admit to a right of membership on this floor persons under twenty-five years of age, or who have resided less than seven years in the United States, or persons who do not possess any other of the constitutional or legal qualifications of members, -and something of this sort has been done, as I think, at this very session, — there is no power elsewhere to revise or reverse our decision. We have the power, also, to adopt a rule of proceeding by which the yeas and nays shall not be recorded on a call of one fifth of the members present, or shall not be recorded at all; and, indeed, a majority of this House almost went this length at the outset of the session, in excluding from the records a full and intelligible statement of a question on which the yeas and nays were demanded and taken. We have the power, too, to suppress or expunge from our Journals any proceedings which we may not fancy to have the people find recorded there; and this proceeding, again, is not entirely unknown to this Capitol, or even to this House during the present session. But who can assert that we have any right to resort to such measures, in defiance of express provisions of the Constitution? Sir, it is plain that this power to determine the rules of our own proceeding must be held in subordination to other provisions of the Constitution, and must be exercised also with a due regard to the rights, the reserved or inherent rights, of the people. Our power over our own rules of proceeding is, indeed, an irresponsible power. But this consideration should only make us the more anxious to ascertain what is its rightful and constitutional

child! It was a good illustration, Sir, of the sort of reasoning by which this rule must be defended, if it is to be defended at all. But this House does not stand in loco parentis to the people of the United States. We are not their parents, masters, or guardians. We are sent here to ascertain their wishes; to carry out their will; to do their work. And for us to undertake to limit their liberty to address us, or abridge their privilege of being heard here, on any subjects on which they may choose to be heard, is to reverse entirely our relative positions. It is the representative instructing the constituent; the agent prescribing terms to his principal; the servant imposing conditions on the master!

I shall be told that individual petitioners are not the people; and that the rights of the signers of petitions, few or many, are not to be confounded with the rights of the people at large. There would be some fitness and some force in this suggestion, if we were considering the reception of a single petition, or of any ascertained number of petitions. But where is the limit to

. this rule ? Where is the limit to the principle of this rule ? Why, Sir, this rule excludes, practically and daily, thousands and hundreds of thousands of petitioners. It denies a hearing, practically and daily, to whole States — sovereign States

speaking through the resolutions of their Legislatures. The Journals, I think, will show that the resolutions of four or five States have been thrust back into the faces of their representatives on this floor, in a single hour of a single morning. And if as many States as were arrayed here the other day on the subject of General Jackson's fine, — seventeen, I think, could come to a common opinion on any point connected with any one of the subjects enumerated in this rule, - nay, if all the States in the Union, or all the people of all the States, could come, as they ought to come, and as I believe that one day or other they will come to the conclusion, that whatever may be done with the institution of slavery in the District of Columbia, the slave trade here shall be no more tolerated, but that this metropolis of the American Republic shall be purged from the pollution of an inhuman and abominable traffic, - this rule is broad

, enough, and general enough, to deny a hearing to them all! In principle, then, this rule goes the full length of asserting the

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right of this House, to say to the people, to the whole people of the Union — “ Come one, come all, we will not hear you."

But, says the gentleman from South Carolina, (Mr. Rhett,) have we not a plenary power, under the Constitution, “ to determine our own rules of proceeding?" Yes, Sir, we have that power, and there is no appeal from our determination as to those rules. But power is one thing, and right is another. We have the power to do many things in this House which we have yet no manner of right to do. We are the final judges of the elections and returns of our own members. And if a majority in this House, in its wilfulness or its wantonness, should see fit to give the seat in a contested election to a candidate clearly in a minority, or to admit to a right of membership on this floor persons under twenty-five years of age, or who have resided less than seven years in the United States, or persons who do not possess any other of the constitutional or legal qualifications of members, -and something of this sort has been done, as I think, at this very session, — there is no power elsewhere to revise or reverse our decision. We have the power, also, to adopt a rule of proceeding by which the yeas and nays shall not be recorded on a call of one fifth of the members present, or shall not be recorded at all; and, indeed, a majority of this House almost went this length at the outset of the session, in excluding from the records a full and intelligible statement of a question on which the yeas and nays were demanded and taken. We have the power, too, to suppress or expunge from our Journals any proceedings which we may not fancy to have the people find recorded there; and this proceeding, again, is not entirely unknown to this Capitol, or even to this House during the present session. But who can assert that we have any right to resort to such measures, in defiance of express provisions of the Constitution ? Sir, it is plain that this power to determine the rules of our own proceeding must be held in subordination to other provisions of the Constitution, and must be exercised also with a due regard to the rights, the reserved or inherent rights, of the people. Our power over our own rules of proceeding is, indeed, an irresponsible power. But this consideration should only make us the more anxious to ascertain what is its rightful and constitutional

limit, and the more careful to keep ourselves strictly within that limit.

It is contended, however, by the advocates of this rule, that it is not inconsistent with any provision in the Constitution, nor with any right of the people. The first article of the amendments to the Constitution, it is said, provides only that “ Congress shall make no law abridging the right of the people to petition the government for a redress of grievances ;” and this rule is not a law. Sir, this is sticking to the bark of the Constitution with a witness to it! Can it be seriously pretended that it is consistent with the spirit and intent of this clause, that one branch of Congress should effect, by a mere rule of proceeding, what both branches are prohibited from effecting by solemn statute? If the Senate and House of Representatives and the President combined, can pass no law abridging the right of the people to petition the Government, is it not, a fortiori, incompetent for this House alone to abridge that right? But I deny the propriety of this literal interpretation of the word law in the article in question. The first article of amendment, as it originally passed the House of Representatives in 1789, did not contain that word. Its phraseology was, “the right of the people to apply to the Government for redress of grievances shall not be infringed." This is the real gist of the provision. The Senate, in incorporating some additional matter into the same article, found it necessary to change the construction of the sentence. But it was a change of construction only, and there is not the slightest ground for the idea, that any change of the sense or substance was intended.

Why, Sir, this article of amendment, with many others, was adopted, as is well known, on the recommendation of a number of the State conventions, by which the Constitution was originally ratified.

And in what terms did those State conventions recommend it? In what terms did your own State of Virginia propose its adoption? “Every freeman has a right to petition, or apply to the Legislature for the redress of grievances.” This was the language of Virginia in 1789; and it was well said of it by Judge Tucker, in his appendix to Blackstone, that "it was the language of a free people asserting their rights," while the

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