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put to so severe a trial the adhesive properties of our govern. ment, testify.
Those whom duty or inclination may have led to reflect on these matters know that it is much more difficult now to gov. ern the representative body than it was some years ago. The overleaping progress of the age has found its way also into this department of public affairs. How would the “ free and easy" men of our generation of legislators writhe under such a construction of rules of order as, for example, this: Many years ago, a member, under the impulse of a sudden neuralgic pain in the toe, raised his foot to the corner of his desk, in the hope, by pressure, to mitigate the suffering. Quick as thought, the speaker dispatched a messenger to him, indicating the violation of decorum implied in the act. The member courteously acknowledged the rebuke by a bow, which the speaker returned, and so the matter ended. Peace to thy departed spirit, gentle member! Who should repose in the bowers and shades of Paradise, if thou shouldst not ? Would that the grave wherein thou liest “ quietly inurned” could “burst its cerements" in this latter day, that thou mightest be permitted to gaze upon some of thy successors, and behold the form and fashion which they have given to the “rules and orders" of proceeding!
Yet the government of this branch of Congress seems in all time to have been a thing not very easy of accomplishment; for it is recorded that, even so far back as the war of 1812-15, during the speakership of Henry Clay, when a proposition was pending that the House should march out in a body to meet the enemy, the speaker declared that he should be sorry to lead such a disorderly body into battle. We have heard Caleb Cushing vindicate, in a speech, the uproarious fermentations to which the House was prone, regarding them as a safetyvalve for popular opinion and popular excitement; and we have heard him declare that the scenes there enacted would compare favorably with those witnessed in the Chamber of Depu. ties or the House of Commons. Be this as it may, we have observed that the House was always best ruled by the firmest speaker. Men who will scoff at his deputies, will respect public authority in him. If he be a man of firm nerve, a resolute will, a good voice, and sufficient amenity of general manner not to excite the suspicions of the fiery spirits that surround
him that he is intentionally a despot, it is marvelous at times to see how soon his steady hand at the helm will put the ship to rights. Like the crew of some glorious frigate, the House knows its captain, and when his accustomed voice is heard above the storm, the effect at times is magical. The stern brow is unknit; the loud, imperious tone of complaint or defiance hushed; passions, hoti enough for any resort, are allayed, and chaos is again reduced to order. This is not always so, but we have often seen it.
And now to the ceremonial of introduction : “No member shall be allowed to speak more than one hour to any question.”
Such is the comprehensive, but peremptory language of the One Hour Rule. Many and bitter are the lamentations which have been poured forth against it. Indignation, ridicule, vituperation, all have been expended upon it in vain. Mr. Chipman scouted it as an intellectual straight-jacket. . "No gentleman," he said, " can acquit himself well in debate, whether physically or intellectually, while confined in a straightjacket." This proposition, startling, though self-evident as it was, seemed to take no 'hold on the imagination of the House. Nay, there were two or three condensing Republicans—so to call them—who went so far as to intimate that, in the mysterious dispensations of Providence, cases might occur where a straight-jacket, in the most extensive sense of its application, would expedite the business of the House, and promote the public interests. Far be from us the thought of expressing an opinion on so grave a proposition!
Mr. Hilliard placed the rule in the same category with the bed of Procrustes, because, he said, “it cut all to the same length.” Francis W. Pickens, suddenly arrested in his aerial flight by the fall of the speaker's hammer, plucked his watch from its pocket, and took his seat with the exclamation, "Bless my soul! have I run my race? This is the most infamous rule ever passed by any legislative body.” Robert C. Winthrop spoke of it as "the inexorable hour that must come alike to all in this House.” Daniel D. Barnard, in the most eloquent satire upon its operation that we have yet heard, said, “No steam-engine was ever supplied with a more complete condensing apparatus than this House now is. It is now understood that a Congressional orator goes just one hour. You wind him up by a parliamentary law; he rises, and, like the pointer of a clock, describes his exact circuit on the parliamentary dialplate, and then stops-he has run down. But no matter; there is a great saving of time in this; and, besides, it is very democratical; nobody can deny that. All men are equal-if not, they ought to be. That, I think, is now the doctrine. My colleague over the way (Mr. MKeon) can tell. Is not this the tendency of the time? Are not rail-roads bringing down distinctions? Why, a poor man may now travel as far and as fast as the rich, and make about as much display in doing so. And so here: we have come to the end of ambitious displays in oratory in this House; we have seen an end of your threeday and your three-hour orators; we are all, now, all one hour orators, on a principle of strict Democratic equality. And we carry our Democratic notions further still, for we have discovered that subjects and topics are all equal, as well as persons, and that, at any rate, no subject is fit to be brought before this House for consideration which a member may not dispatch, in all its merits, in one hour, while it is very properly taken for granted that there is no man on this floor who can not tell all he knows on any subject in one hour. Yes, sir, be it known to all people, that we here mount in turn, and each performer rides around the ring for just one hour. And, of course, he who displays in that time the greatest amount of skill, and the greatest number of astonishing feats in jockeyship, will be entitled to the greatest applause from the whole circus, from pit to gallery.
“Well, Mr. Chairman, I am now mounted, and off; but, before I go, let me say one word more. I ride, because I feel myself bound, in some measure, by my original undertaking, to do so, as one of the troupe, and not because I expect to win any thing for myself, or bring much golden profit to the com
Notwithstanding, however, the bitter taunts and denunciations to which the rule has been exposed, it has “stood the storm when waves were rough,” and its attraction, in the eyes of both parties, seems rather to have increased than diminished with years. We regard the recent, but fruitless effort to repeal it as giving it still deeper root in the affections of all sides of the House, and as holding forth, therefore, the promise of
a still more prolonged existence. For our own part, we are strongly prepossessed in its favor. It is emphatically democratic in its operation. Fifty members, or more, can speak now where ten or fifteen could speak before. It has not only super. seded those speeches of terrible length, stretching “ from Indus to the poles,” which formerly monopolized the public time, and set aside the public business, but it has accomplished ends even greater. In connection with another kindred rule, it has gone far toward abolishing those exhausting, and, at times, almost riotous night sessions, which were once so distinguishing a characteristic of the popular body. We have sat one, two, and three days listening to a single speech. Verily, we have done So. A day to a day and a half was a moderate allowance. Men of the nineteenth century! ye for whom steam-engines and electric telegraphs are almost too slow, what, say ye?..
In this state of things, the only mode by which a decision could be obtained on any great political question was by a resort to physical force—not exactly to the “wager of battle,” but by testing which of the two parties could sit long enough to weary out the other, and thus force the measure to its issue before an adjournment. There was no end to the evils and abuses which the old system admitted. Speaking against time, or “ speaking a measure to death,” as it is called, was a common resort. Now, every man can speak against his own hour, but no longer. We have seen a member who had been so long in his seat that he forgot, in the intensity of his weariness, what he was voting upon; and when it was announced that a motion had been made to lay the whole subject on the table, he asked, in a tone of heart-rending despondency, “Oh! what subject, Mr. Speaker ?”
In one midnight session, when an important bill was in the throe toward its passage, we recollect to have seen a member from the Southwest rise and commence a speech which, from the manner of its beginning, could scarcely be expected ever to come to an end. He said that in the discussion of grave questions of national policy, it was sometimes useful to recur to first principles; and with this view, coolly taking a small Bible from his drawer, he began to read it, commencing with the first chapter in Genesis. And he read,
" In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. VOL. I.-M
" And the earth was without form and void ; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.”
A distinguished member from the South liere rose to order, and made the point that the remarks of the gentleman were irrelevant and profane. The speaker ruled them out of order as irrelevant, not profane.
Perhaps it may not be inappropriate to remark, that to have excluded this course of argument as “profane,” would have been to establish a precedent likely to cut in more directions than one. Many of us remember that Mr. Adams, during the Oregon debato, laid the foundation of our title to that territory in those “first principles,” contained in that very book from which the member was now quoting.
“Sir," said Mr. Adams, - there has been so much said on the question of title in this case, that I believe it would be a waste of time for me to say any thing more about it, unless I refer to a little book you have there upon your table, which you sometimes employ to administer a solemn oath to every member of this House to support the Constitution of the Cnited States. If you have it, be so good as to pass it to the clerk, and I will ask him to read what I conceive to be the foundation of our title.
“If the clerk will be so good as to read the twenty-sixth, twenty-seventh, and twenty-eighth verses of the first chapter of Genesis, the committee will see what I consider to be the foundation of the title of the United States."
The clerk accordingly read as follows:
“ 26. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
“27. So God created man in his own image ; in the image of God created be him; male and female created he them.
“ 28. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."
“ That, sir," continued Mr. Adams, “in my judgment, is the