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voked the blessing of Almighty God upon Congress, and prayed " that all their deliberations and enactments might be such as to secure the Divine approval, and insure the unanimous acquiescence of the people, and command the respect of the nations of the earth.”
Soon after the preliminary formalities of opening the Senate had transpired, Benjamin F. Wade, Senator from Ohio, inaugurated the labors of the Thirty-ninth Congress, and significantly foreshadowed one of its most memorable acts by introducing “a bill to regulate the elective franchise in the District of Columbia."
The Senate signified its willingness to enter at once upon active duty by giving unanimous consent to Mr. Sumner, Senator from Massachusetts, to introduce a number of important bills. The measures thus brought before the Senate were clearly indicative of the line of policy which Congress would pursue. The bills introduced were designed “to carry out the principles of a republican form of government in the District of Columbia ;" “to present an oath to maintain a republican form of government in the rebel States;" “to enforce the amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery;" “ to enforce the guarantee of a republican form of government in certain States where governments have been usurped or overthrown."
Senator Wilson, of Massachusetts, was not behind his distinguished colleague in his readiness to enter upon the most laborious legislation of the session. He introduced "a bill to maintain the freedom of the inhabitants in the States declared in insurrection by the proclamation of the President on the first of July, 1862.”
Senator Harris, of New York, long known as one of the ablest jurists of his State, and recently an eminent member of the Senate's Judiciary Committee, 'directed attention to his favorite field of legislative labor by introducing "a bill to reorganize the Judiciary of the United States."
While the Senate was thus actively entering upon the labors of the session, a somewhat different scene was transpiring in the other end of the Capitol.
Long before the hour for the assembling of Congress, the halls, the galleries, and corridors of the House of Representatives were thronged with such crowds as had never before been seen at the opening of a session. The absorbing interest felt throughout the entire country in the great questions to be decided by Congress
had drawn great numbers to the Capitol from every quarter of the Union. Eligible positions, usually held in reserve for certain privileged or official persons, and rarely occupied by a spectator, were now filled to their utmost capacity. The Diplomatic Gallery was occupied by many unskilled in the mysteries of diplomacy; the Reporters' Gallery held many listeners and lookers on who had no connection with newspapers, save as readers. The “floor” was held not only by the “members,” who made the hall vocal with their greetings and congratulations, but by a great crowd of pages, office-seekers, office-holders, and unambitious citizens, who thronged over the new carpet and among the desks.
The hour having arrived for the assembling of Congress, Edward McPherson, Clerk of the last House of Representatives, brought down the gavel on the Speaker's desk, and called the House to order. The members found their seats, and the crowd surged back up the aisles, and stood in a compact mass in the rear of the last row of desks.
Edward McPherson, who at that moment occupied the most prominent and responsible place in the nation, had come to his position through a series of steps, which afforded the country an opportunity of knowing his material and capacity. A graduate of Pennsylvania College in 1848, editor, author, twice a Congressman, and Clerk of the House of Representatives in the Thirty-eighth Congress, he had given evidence that he was reliable. Having shown himself a thoroughly conscientious man in the performance of all his public duties, the great interests of the nation were safe in his hands.
The country had been greatly concerned to know how the Clerk would make up the Roll of the House, and whether the names of members elect from the late rebellious States would be called at the opening of the session. If this should be done, the first step would be gained by the Representatives of those States toward holding seats in Congress to which the majority at the North considered them not entitled. It had even been intimated that the color of constitutionality which they would gain from recognition by the Clerk would be used to justify an assertion of their claims by force. What the Clerk would do, as master of the rolls and presiding officer of the House, was not long in doubt.
The Clerk proceeded to call the roll of Representatives elect, while the subordinates at the desk took note of the responses. He called the names of Congressmen from the States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and so forth, in a certain order which had been customary time immemorial in naming the States. In this order Tennessee had place after Kentucky and before Indiana. When the name of the last Representative from Kentucky had been called, the decisive moment arrived. The delegation from Tennessee were on the' floor, ready to answer to their names. The Clerk passed over Tennessee and went direct to Indiana. As soon as the first member from Indiana had responded, there arose a tall, blackhaired, dark-faced figure, that every body recognized as Horace Maynard, of Tennessee. He shook his certificate of election at the Clerk, and began to speak, but the gavel came down with a sharp rap, and a firm, decided voice was heard from the desk, “ The Clerk declines to have any interruption during the call of the roll.” The roll-call then proceeded without further interference to the end. When, at last, the Clerk had finished his list of Representatives and Territorial Delegates, Mr. Maynard once more arose. “The Clerk can not be interrupted while ascertaining whether a quorum is present,” says the presiding officer. The count of the assistants having been completed, the Clerk announced, “One hundred and seventy-six members having answered to their names, a quorum is present." Mr. Morrill immediately moved that the House proceed to the election of Speaker. “Before that motion is put," said Mr. Maynard, again arising. The Clerk was ready for the emergency, and before Mr. Maynard could complete his sentence, he uttered the imperative and conclusive words, “The Clerk can not recognize as entitled to the floor any gentleman whose name is not on this roll.” A buzz of approbation greeted the discreet ruling of the Clerk. The difficult point was passed, and the whole subject of the admission of Southern Representatives was handed over intact, to be deliberately considered after the House should be fully organized for business.
Mr. Morrill, in moving to proceed to the election of a Speaker, had forgotten or neglected to demand the previous question, and thus cut off debate. Mr. James Brooks, most plausible in address, and most ready in talk on the side of the minority, saw the point left unguarded by his opponents, and resolved to enter. Born in
Maine, now a citizen of New York, and editor of the “Express," Mr. Brooks was in Congress for the fourth time a champion of what he deemed the rights of the South, and not in accordance with the prevailing sentiments in his native and adopted States.
Mr. Brooks obtained the floor, and desired to amend the motion. He thought the roll should be completed before proceeding to the election of Speaker. “I trust,” said he,“ that we shall not proceed to any revolutionary, any step like that, without at least hearing from the honorable gentleman from Tennessee. If Tennessee is not in the Union, by what right does the President of the United States usurp his place in the White House when an alien and a foreigner, and not from a State in the Union?"
At this stage, a man of mark—five times a Representative in Congress, but now twelve years away from the capital and a new member-John Wentworth, of Chicago-elevated his tall and massive form, and with a stentorian voice called Mr. Brooks to order. The Clerk having fairly decided that gentleman entitled to the floor on the question of proceeding to the election of a Speaker, Mr. Wentworth sat down, and Mr. Brooks in résuming his remarks improved his chance to administer rebuke in a manner which provoked some mirth. “When the honorable gentleman from Illinois is better acquainted with me in this House,' said Mr. Brooks, “ he will learn that I always proceed in order, and never deviate from the rules.” Mr. Brooks then returned to his championship of Mr. Maynard: "If he is not a loyal man, and is not from a State in this Union, what man, then, is loyal ? In the darkest and most doubtful period of the war, when an exile from his own State, I heard his eloquent voice on the banks of the St. Lawrence arousing the people of my own State to discharge their duties to the country.”
Mr. Brooks joined Virginia with Tennessee, and asked the Clerk to give his reasons for excluding the names of Representatives from these States from the roll. The Clerk replied that he had acted in accordance with his views of duty, and was willing to let the record stand; if it was the desire of the House to have his reasons, he would give them.
“It is not necessary," said Thaddeus Stevens; “We know all."
“I know," replied Mr. Brooks," that it is known to all in one quarter, but that it is not known to many in other quarters in this House, why this exclusion has been made. I should know but little, if I had not the record before me of the resolution adopted by the Republican majority of this House, that Tennessee, Louisiana, and Virginia were to be excluded, and excluded without debate. Why without debate? Are gentlemen afraid to face debate? Are their reasons of such a character that they dare not present them to the country, and have to resort to the extraordinary step of sideway legislation, in a private caucus, to enact a joint resolution to be forced upon this House without debate, confirming that there are no reasons whatever to support this position except their absolute power, and authority, and control over this House? If the gentleman from Pennsylvania would but inform me at what period he intends to press this resolution, I would be happy to be informed.”
"I propose to present it at the proper time," was the response of Mr. Stevens, provoking laughter and applause.
Mr. Brooks replied: “Talleyrand said that language was given to man to conceal ideas, and we all know the gentleman's ingenuity in the use of language. The proper time! When will that be ?” Mr. Brooks then proceeded at some length to answer this question. He supposed the proper time would be as soon as the House was organized, and before the President's message could be heard and considered, that the action of the House might silence the Executive, and nullify the exposition which he might make, and become a quasi condemnation of the action of the President of the United States.
Mr. Brooks was at length ready to close, and sought to yield the floor to a Democratic member. The Republicans, however, were ready to meet the emergency, and objected to the floor being yielded in such a way as would cause delay without. furthering the business of organizing the House. Points of order were raised, and efforts made to entangle the Clerk, but in vain. His rulings were prompt, decisive, and effectual. The moment a Republican fairly held the floor, the previous question was moved, the initial contest was over, and the House proceeded to elect a Speaker.
A stoop-shouldered, studious-looking gentleman, now for the sixth successive term a member of Congress—Justin S. Morrill, of Vermont-arose and nominated Schuyler Colfax, of Indiana On the other side of the house, a gentleman from New York