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Thursday, September 03, 2015

Legislative Nostalgia, Part Six

From the Carthage (IL) Republican, (which, ironically, favored the Democratic party):

The nomination of Hon. Thomas B. Reed for speaker by the republican caucus was forseen a year ago, and only a languid interest can attach to that circumstance.  What he would say in accepting the nomination, equivalent to an election, could not be anticipated.  Reed is a humorist, as well as a despot, and is, or has been, capable of surprised.  It was, therefore, by no means certain that a man of his nimble wit might not say something readable in his speech.
        Power, however, brings responsibility, and responsibility begets conservatism.  There is little of the flavor of the Romanoff in the czar's latest utterances.  Not only has he a lively recollection of the manner in which he wrecked his party in the session of congress which began six years ago, but he is now {1896}a candidate for the presidency.  Somehow it has come to be a sort of axiom among the theological disputants of a former age, in their frank and free ecclesiastical billingsgate, called "dumb dogs," are available for presidential nominations.  When it is not possible for them to be wholly dumb, they open their mouths to enumerate platitudes or deal in generalities that are absolutely unintelligible in their application to current problems.
       Mr. Reed was Delphic from the beginning of his speech.  Returning thanks for the honor was purely prefunctory, and it was lukewarm, as became a man who knew that no real opposition could have been offered, and who also doubted in his heart whether this nomination would make or mar him.  But his next sentence was constructed with admirable art to leave the hearer in doubt.  "History," said he, "will accord us praise for what we did in the 51st congress, and it may accord us praise in this for what we do not do."
       This is not the note of the Reed of six years ago.  "High-reaching Buckingham grows circumspect."  He talks now of a divided government, of small results, and warns his party of the danger of crude and hasty legislation.  Can this be the man who thanked God that the house of representatives was no longer a deliberative body?  But what does Mr. Reed mean by "history?"  Has not the 51st congress already passed into history?  Has not the judgment of the people been passed upon it over and over, and always in condemnation?  Does Mr. Reed desire to appeal from the judgment of 1890, 1891 and 1892 to that of the next century?  He cannot appeal to 1894 and 1895, for the work of his congress was not then in issue.
       When Mr. Reed said that if the republicans had possession of all branches of the government they would possibly not create a perfect world, but that they would make a world more fit to live in than the one we have at present, we recognize a touch, faint, indeed, of his old humor.  But even back of the humor there is a suggestion, not quite so faint, of that partnership with God which the republicans have always claimed as the peculiar characteristic of their party.  Every intelligent man in the country knows full well that if this part of the world is not so pleasant to live in as it once was, the difference is due to the legislation of the 51st congress to a greater extent than to any other cause.
       It would be interesting to know for what Mr. Reed thinks the country will accord praise to the 51st congress?  Is it for the McKinley bill?  If so, Maj. McKinley is the logical candidate for 1896, and Mr. Reed's aspirations to the presidency are an impertinence.  Is it for the Sherman silver purchase act, which by confession of republicans brought on the panic?  Then why did Mr. Sherman and Mr. Reed urge its repeal?  Is it for the passage of the force bill by the house?  If so, why do republicans now say there will never be another force bill?  These were the measures which occupied most of the time of the 51st congress, and if they give it a standing in history, then history will be singularly deaf to contemporary evidence.
       As to the question of revenue Mr. Reed is equally enigmatical.  He says that all parties will maintain the rigor of the house to initiate taxation, which is true in a general way of everybody but the senate, which has frequently provoked remonstrance by originating measures of taxation under the pretext of proposing amendments. He then says that no man can doubt that the majority of the house will furnish adequate revenue for the government, "according to our sense of public duty."  This last clause makes the whole sentence ambiguous.  Unfortunately, there are a good many men who not only can but do doubt whether the house will furnish revenue according to the sense of public duty of the majority.  Many of us would move to strike out the words and substitute "according to their sense of personal or party interest."-- Louisville Courier-Journal

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