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of this nation, and upon which, as one of the people, he had a decided opinion. If touched at all, it would be incidentally, as the natural consequence of remarks upon the subject before the House, and of the facts he should have to state, and not as a principal point.,
It was one thing, he said, to offer a resolution like that under consideration, and another to vote upon it after it had been offered. The gentleman from Kentucky, he hoped, would consider him as speaking with entire respect for his motives and views. But, for himself, he must say, that he (Mr. S.) would not have offered the resolution; yet, being brought forward, he would not vote to lay it upon the table, nor to make any other disposition of it that would prevent the proposed inquiry from having a full discussion and a free course. The reasons for both these conclusions appeared to him to be perfectly satisfactory.
He would not, he said, have proposed such a resolution, because he thought it must be unavailing. It was too extensive for any practical purpose—it aimed at too much. It embraced the whole business of congress. It was our duty, he said, to take care that the public affairs were carried on in the most profitable manner for the people, and with the least public burthen. And this was not peculiarly the duty of congress at any one time, but at all times. It was the great end and object of our labours and our care, and ought to be of daily application by all of us. He thought it too much to devolve upon a single committee the whole of that which was the common concern and care of congress.
He thought it unnecessary. Every inquiry proposed by this resolution, was already provided for, in accordance with the duty of the house, by the appointment of committees, to give effect to the great guards of the constitution within their respective spheres. No money can be drawn from the treasury, but in pursuance of appropriations made by law. No officer can be appointed but under the autho
rity of the constitution or the laws. No salary can be affixed to an office, but by the same warrant. The Committee of Ways and Means, a standing committee of the house, acts upon estimates furnished by every department of the government. When called upon to report appropriations, they compare these estimates with existing laws and existing exigencies, and report only such as are justified by law.
When they report the appropriation bill, each item of it is subject to the revision of every member of this house. The annual appropriation bill brings every thing under review. The House itself is to examine in detail, and see that all is in conformity with the law. Have we not, too, committees on the expenditure of each department? And a Committee on the Public Expenditures, to make a biennial examination, and see that the monies have been faithfully applied, according to the appropriations, and fully accounted for? He would not speak at present of the manner in which congress makes appropriations, nor how they are to be accounted for, particularly the contingent fund of this House, or of any of the departments. But he would say this—if there be any appointment not authorized by law, or any salary paid which the law does not authorise, let the specific abuses be pointed out and traced to its source, so that the offence and the offender may be known. He knew of none such.
There was still another reason why he would not have brought forward such a resolution-he spoke sincerely, and after listening to this debate, as well as making some examination for himself, there was no basis laid for the resolution, as there ought to be, by showing that there was abuse or extravagant expenditure, or such a state of things as rendered a general inquiry necessary, either for the purpose
of immediate correction, or, as had been intimated, to procure materials for a more propitious moment. The structure of this government was not the work of a day.
He did not speak of the constitution, but of the fabric which had been constructed under the constitution for effecting its great purposes. It had not been built up at one time, but by successive and continued exertions of successive legislatures. It was not the work of one party, but of all the parties which had existed in the United States. Begun by one, extended and enlarged by another-at one time perhaps carried too far, and then somewhat reduced, so as to adapt it to the state of the country, but in such reduction always following the only course that can lead to any practical result—that of examining it item by item, and piece by piece. It was not now the possession of one set of men, or of any one party, but of the whole people of the United States, by whose immediate representatives it had thus been constructed. The legislature was created by the Constitution—its pay and expenses are regulated by itself. The executive, too, was established by the constitution. The subordinate officers have been created by congress, and increased according to the growing wants of this expanding nation. Their pay and emoluments also have been fixed by congress. Even the number of clerks in each department, and the pay of every clerk, is regulated and ascertained by law. It had, indeed, been remarked by the gentleman from Virginia, (Mr. Randolph,) that the contingent expenses of this House bad increased in a much greater ratio than its numbers—that in twenty years the numbers had only doubled, and the expenses were nearly quadrupled. This matter is entirely under the regulation of the House. If the expense be too great, let it be checked and controlled, by limiting, if it be possible, those branches of service which occasion the expense. But he did not believe the numerical argument .precisely correct, or that in this case two and two would necessarily only make four. When it was considered that this confederation now embraced twenty-four states and three territories, the extent of the country, and the space through which information was to be
diffused—he thought it would be a great error to suppose that the expenses would increase only according to the increase of the number of representatives. He rather thought, that, like the price of plate-glass or diamonds, they would increase in somewhat of a geometrical ratio. The greater part of the expense, it was obvious, was incurred for the purpose of giving information, and this was an object of too much importance to be sacriticed, for the purpose of saying expense.
The establishments of the country have been formed in the same way-the army, the navy, the foreign intercourse. On what basis do they stand ? Each on the footing upon which it has been deliberately placed by congress, after carefully considering what the public service required, and what they were respectively worth. There may have been error—nothing human is exempt from liability to error. Sometimes, however, it is imputed with unjust severity. But if there be error, let it be pointed out, examined, and corrected. There let the wisdom of congress apply the remedy at the point where the evil exists.
There was an additional reason why, he would not have offered such a resolution, and especially at the present moment. He would state it freely. At the same time, he thought it proper to say that he had no doubt the resolution was fairly and honestly meant, and for the direct purpose which the mover had himself stated. He (the mover) thought, and some of his constituents thought, that there were points in which reform was necessary, and that they might be embraced by a general inquiry. But his (Mr. S.) objection to himself bringing forward such a resolution was this—a general allegation of extravagance and abuse-such as the resolution seems to imply, cannot be accurately and satisfactorily met. It is impossible, whatever may be the fact, to give it a demonstrative refutation, because it presents no specific subject for discussion. It may do harm; it is calculated to spread abroad an opinion that abuse and
extravagance exist, and are allowed, here, at the seat of government, under the very eye of congress—It is calculated to weaken the attachment of the people to the government-not to the administration—he did not mean that -not to this set of men in power, or to that set of menbut to the government itself—and to give point to an inquiry he had seen in a newspaper with great regret-of what advantage or use is this government to the people? This is especially the case where the allegation includes ourselves.
There was one part of the resolution to which he had the strongest repugnance as a subject of discussion. He never had discussed it, and he did not think he ever would. He referred to the inquiry about our own pay. The amount of the pay of members of congress has never been altered but once since the adoption of the constitution, (Mr. Randolph-twice). Twice altered the mode of compensation, the amount but once. The
diem now allowed was intended to be about equal in substance (he had made no exact calculation) to the per annum allowed by the compensation law. Two dollars a day—and no more—had been added, to the pay fixed at the organization of the government. This could not be deemed an extravagant or exorbitant addition. He looked back, he said, to the period of that law (compensation law) with great regret. Not that he thought the per annum compensation injurious in principle or wrong in amount—but he regretted extremely that the public mind should have been agitated as it was, by such a question. He would rather have foregone any advantage to himself. No: the advantage was not worth estimating-he would rather have foregone the whole pay for the time, than have been instrumental in furnishing such a cause for regret.
Dismissing this subject of the pay of the members (always accompanied with unpleasant feelings,) he said he was, on general grounds, prepared to believe, from some