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not authorize him to do so; besides, if a deputy could act, it must be done as a sheriff under this same law, and then he also becomes immediately a judge, and, consequently, this court could have no sheriffin whose presence the voters shall vote. His absence, therefore, on the second day, ought not to operate such an injury to the legal voters as to deprive them of their elective franchise. My worthy colleague, in his argument yesterday, confounded the personal qualifications of voters with the requirements of the law, as to the time, place, and manner of holding elections, and said if you can reject the vote of a person under twenty-one years of age, because the law has required him to be of that age to entitle him to vote, you can reject a vote where the law has not been complied with in regard to time, place, and manner. Now, as I stated before, there is a clear and manifest dif. ference between the qualification of the voter and the means provided by law to give effect to his vote. In all the transactions of life, whether in a civil, moral, or political point of view, when we are called on to act as responsible agents, the intention, the quo animo, constitutes the very essence of accountability. A man may commit the utmost atrocities, such as homicide, houseburning, nay, he may flay another alive, yet, if he be destitute of reason, he commits no crime: this is a principle that runs through all human actions, and all our decisions intended to promote and advance the well-being of society proceeds upon the quality of the motive that has given rise to the act. Will it be said that the man who goes to an election with a full knowledge that he is not twenty-one years old, and who, consequently without right, votes contrary to law, is to be placed upon the same footing with the legal voter, who votes ignorantly as to the authority of the magistrate or sheriff, to receive his vote? If the law had considered them in the same situation, it would, when it required the judges to swear the voters as to their right of suffrage, have provided a simi. lar oath to be administered by the voters to the presiding officers as to their official qualifications. This is obviously the effect of the rigid construction contended for by the committee. The elector, to be safe, must, before he gives in his vote, take the election law and subject the managers to some such interrogations as these: “Mr. Sheriff, did you wait till ten o’clock, to the minute, before you opened the election? are the judges of your appointment, or of the county court's? if of the first, under what circumstances did you make it, if of the last, have they been sworn ? Have you been present all the time of the election, never turned your back once, walked aside, talked with any one while the people were voting? because, if you o: were just as absent for all the objects of the law, as if you had been called home to a sick wife.” Indeed, Mr. Speaker, you perceive, in order to secure his privilege, the voter will do manifest injustice to himself if he does not ask every question necessary to give effect to his suffrage. If every voter takes this precaution, instead of three days it will take three months to hold an election. And, after all, one false answer from the court or the sheriff would defeat him at last; for, under this notion of literal construction, a violated law could not be satisfied any more than if no inquiry had been made at all. But if these are informalities, I insist upon it, Mr. Speaker, they are not such as to amount either to a good cause to reject the votes, or vitiate the election; because they produce no injury to the rest of the voters or to the complainant at your bar, who has been seeking their confidence. On the contrary, it materially injures the discarded elector and his competitor. That some such reasonable rule as this must be adopted I apprehend no one will deny; for it is idle to say that
députy; and according to the strict construction contended severy informality will or should produce the result confor, a deputy cannot act, because the election law does
tended for. There is not a law under heaven that can be literally carried into effect. Suppose the sheriff had not opened the election until aster ten o'clock, does any one believe it would have vitiated the election, or even a vote? Suppose he had not given the month's notice of the election required by the law, would that have invalidated it? No one believes it. In all the great purposes of government, its ends and objects must be attained by a rational exposition of its rules and regulations. That great law, superior to all law, the law of necessity, pervades every thing human, and cannot be legislated away. Let me give you an illustration of its ascendency. If the sheriff, I think they cali him Hocker, had done his duty, Mr. Letcher would now be the sitting member. Suppose, at the beginning of the session, he had voted for the present Clerk of the House, and that Clerk had been elected by one vote, and suppose it shall now be determined, as I fear it will, that Mr. Letcher is not entitled to the seat, will any one say that the Clerk’s place should be vacated, because he was elected by a person who was not a lawful voter? ...And why not? Because, if respect is not paid to the color of office in the diversified relations of public functionaries, there is nothing which can be made to stand the incompetency of language to convey our ideas, or the frailty of forecast to provide for unseen difficulties, or misconceived results. Great and important laws may be passed by one single illegal vote, and yet who believes that you must travel all along the process of this legislation to detect its errors, and then down through its consequences to correct its mischiefs? But, sir, if these informalities are such as the consciences of honorable members cannot surmount, by all that is holy in principle and honest in reason, they cannot work a benefit to one, and a palpable injury to the other contending party, much less can they deprive legal voters of their right to a participation in the choice of a representative who is to legislate on his dearest rights, perhaps of life, liberty, and property. Mr. Speaker, there is something wrong in this case from the beginning. An attempt was made to deprive Mr. Letcher of his election by the hocus-pocus of this Mr. Sheriff Hocker, who has disgraced himself, and nearly his State, and against whose conduct every honest man, from Maine to Georgia, and even beyond those places, if beyond them the case has gone, and honest men can be found, has manifested the most indignant detestation. The scheme which met the cry of shame, shame, from every quarter, having failed, the same object, pursued with an untiring zeal, must be accomplished, first by illegal votes; and that sailing also, the law must be made to give way, even at the expense of legal votes, and all the sacred principles of the rights of majorities must be made to yield to a purpose which the most formidable public and private rights cannot resist. Many cases of contested elections have been relied on by the committee to prove that the provisions of election laws must be complied with: grant that this is right in notorious cases of injury, yet does it follow that the nonobservance is to deprive legal voters of their privileges, and throw the result of the election into the hands of a minority? With the exception of two cases cited, the whole current of the authorities show that new elections were ordered. Why have the committee labored by these cases to establish particular premises, and then jumped to a wholly different conclusion? Following up those decisions, they ought to have recommended a new election. But have they done this? If you cannot count these seventy legal votes, fifty-four of which were for Mr. I.etcher, for heaven's sake, do not suffer the operation of their rejection to assist a man in obtaining a trust which the majority of the legal voters of his district beMay 22, 1834.]
|lieved he did not deserve, and which they had conferred Polish Exiles--Kentucky Election.
upon another. Send the question back to them, and let them decide it for themselves. Sir, I will put a case, which will show the absolute justness of this course. Suppose there had been but one more vote, besides these seventy, in the county of Garrard, and that one, according to the notions of the committee, the only legal vote, would you say that this vote should determine the election in favor of the candidate for whom it was cast against the other seventy given to his opponent? If you answer in the negative, remember the principle cannot be altered by mixing this single vote with ten thousand others, provided the rejection of legal votes turns the election in favor of a minority. Again: suppose the case I have put should have occurred in all the counties of that district, five in number, (and what might happen in one, might occur in all,) is any one prepared to say that the five legal votes should prevail against five times seventy, equally legal, but void merely for the want of formal requisites? But, sir, suppose, which places the case out of ali doubt, there had been no legal votes in any of the counties, but all liable to the objections raised against the seventy, would this House give the election to Mr. Letcher's opponent? And why not? If, in the case put, one vote is allowed to outweigh seventy, and five, five times seventy, then that principle would permit none to do it. If you go upon the doctrine that because Mr. Letcher is not elected, Mr. Moore must be; if you maintain that all fraudulent votes shall be taken from him for want of qualifications in the voters, and all his legal ones for want of a compliance with the form of law, you are bound to decide in favor of Moore, whether he gets any votes or not. Such principles cannot long prevail in this country, however they may serve to answer a temporary purpose. Sir, I would fain hope that they are not intended to answer even a temporary purpose. Though I sincerely believe the decision will be wrong, if made in favor of the petitioner, yet it may not be right in me to imagine that such resuit has been influenced by party considerations. I am bound to believe that every member on this floor is actuated by as high and honorable motives as myself, yet, sir, it is not amiss to caution the best among us, from which I do not intend to exclude myself, to beware of the insidious character of party feeling. Parties are necessary in every Government; and in a contest for political principle, I do not condemn a single honest exertion for the ascendency, but when private rights are to be settled, when the case is between man and man, as to property or privi. lege, the judge or juror that could not forget his party affiliations, must be lost to every principle of honesty and justice. I may be deceived, but I think I can with great truth say that I am able to approach this decision exempt from such a control; for I belong to a party which, I an proud to say, differs altogether from those to which the competitors are attached. This case will soon became one of history, and the strong feelings of party with which, at present, it is unhappily surrounded, will as soon pass into oblivion. We should, therefore, take care that we do not lay up for ourselves matter for severe reproach to the end of our lives. The idea of having wronged a fellow being from considerations which we know to be antagonist to the enduring claims of truth and right, Inust be a reflection calculated to make a most unwelcome pillow companion in the closing scenes of time. Sir, this election should be decided as if all the people of the district were surrounding us in that circular gallery, and looking them in the face, we should listen to the voice of the seventy rejected legal voters, imagining we hear them demand to have their rights respected as much as those who have been less unfortunate in the presentation of their suffrage, but not more entitled to its exercise. It was my intention to have said more, but I am obliged to desist from a severe pain in my breast.
Mr. JONES, of Georgia, made a brief explanation on a point in which his argument had been misapprehended by his colleague. Mr. HARDIN followed in support of the amendment, and in further reply to the gentlemen from Georgia, [Mr. Jon Es.] The question being on the motion to amend the resolution, by striking out all after the word resolved, and inserting the following: “That the legal votes which were received in Lancaster, (Garrard county,) whilst Moses Grant, Esq. acted as one of the judges, on the first morning of the election in August last, and those of a like character, given on the second day of the election, in the casual absence of the sheriff, ought to be estimated in ascertaining the results of the election.” Mr. GILMER called for a division of the question on the amendment, so as to take the question separately on the legality of the votes taken the first day in Garrard; which was pronounced by the Chair to be in order. Mr. BOON wished the question to be first taken on the motion to strike out; which the Chair pronounced to be out of order. Mr. GRIFFIN asked the yeas and nays on the question; which were ordered. Mr. JONES, of Georgia, spoke at considerable length in rejoinder to the several gentlemen who had replied to him. Mr. HAMER took the floor, but yielded it to a motion to adjourn. The House then adjourned.
Truns day, May 22.
After disposing of the usual morning business— The following message, received yesterday from the President of the United States, was read:
WashingtoN, May 21, 1834.
I lay before the House of Representatives a copy of a “convention for the settlement of claims between the United States of America and her Catholic Majesty,” concluded on the 17th February last.
This convention has been ratified by me, agreeably to the constitution, and will be immediately transmitted to Madrid, where it will doubtless be ratified by her Majesty. It is deemed proper to communicate the convention thus early, that provision may be made for carrying the first article into effect as soon as the ratifications shall have been exchanged, in order that our citizens may, with as little delay as possible, obtain the stipulated compensation.
ANDREW JACKSON. POLISH EXILES.
Mr. CAMBREI.ENG asked the unanimous consent of the House to submit a motion granting the use of the Hall on Monday evening next, for a public meeting to be held to devise means for the benefit of the Polish exiles.
Mr. HAWES objecting—
Mr. CAMBRELENG moved a suspension of the rule, to-onable him to submit the motion.
The House suspended the rule, and the question on the motion having been put, it prevailed: Ayes 90, noes not counted.
The House resumed the consideration of the report of the committee on
"I"HE KENTUCKY ELECTION. The question before the House was the resolution reported by the Committee of Elections, that Thomas P. Moore was entitled to the seat in the House from the fifth congressional district, as proposed to be amended by Mr.; BAN is, by declaring that the votes taken in Garrard
county, in the absence of the judge of the election appointed by the county court on the first day, and in the absence of the sheriff on the second day, be counted. Mr. HAMER rose and said: Mr. Speaker: Before I proceed to submit my views of the question now pending before the House, I trust 1 shall be indulged in making a single remark, in reference to myself. I concur with the gentleman from New York [Mr. VANDEnroel.] who addressed the House the other day, and who is a member of the Committee of Elections. He informed us that it was not by his desire that he had been placed on that committee. So of myself, sir. Although I have never sought to avoid any responsibility that devolved upon me, in the several stations I have had the honor to occupy, still I bave never courted it when it did not belong to me. With a knowledge of the business that must come before the Committee of Elections, I should have been very unwise, at the commencement of the session, to have desired a place among its members. But, sir, I was placed upon it by the presiding officer of this House, and I have endeavored to discharge my duty faithfully. It was the fortune—good or bad–of the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. BANKs) and myself, to be selected as a sub-committee, to examine the immense mass of testimony, consisting of some eighteen hundred pages of manuscript, and making a large volume, now that it is in print, that had been taken by the respective claimants to a seat on this floor. Nearly five hundred votes were assailed as illegal. Some were said to be given by minors; others by aliens; others again, by persons who were not residents of the county where they voted; and a variety of other disqualifications were alleged to exist. In some instances, three, four, or five witnesses were examined to prove the illegality of a vote; and three or four depositions would be taken to assail the credibility of one of these witnesses. Indeed, the case presented for our examination almost every question that can be imagined to exist in a contested election. We labored upon it, as is known to a number of gentlemen, night and day, for many weeks, until my own health was seriously impaired. Upon a large majority of the points presented to us, we agreed; upon some we differed. Having travelled through it, the majority and the minority of the committee have each submitted the results of their examination to the House. From the fact of my having served upon the sub-committee, it is expected that my views of the question will be made known in this discussion. One word more, sir, and I proceed. I hope it will be distinctly understood, that, in whatever terms I may feel myself compelled to speak of the arguments of gentlemen, I mean no personal disrespect. I have no unkindness of feeling towards either of the claimants, or for any gentleman who has spoken in the progress of this discussion on either side of the question. It is not my habit to impugn the motives of others, or to give an uncharitable construction to their conduct; and, pursuing that course towards those who differ with me, should it be my misfortune, either now or hereafter, to have my own motives assailed, or my conduct misrepresented, I trust 1 swall know how to repel all such assaults with the spirit that becomes a freeman. The majority of the committee find themselves placed in a most singular condition. They are charged by the minority with erroneous decisions, in a number of cases where votes have been stricken from Mr. Letcher's poll; and it is said by gentlemen that if these cases had been correctly determined Mr. Letcher would have had a majority of all the votes of the district, and would be entitled to the seat. On the other hand, Major Moore has laid a printed argument upon our tables, accompanied
by a list of some forty or fifty votes, which were retained
[MAr 22, 1834.
by the majority for Mr. Letcher, that he (Mr. Moore) asserts should be stricken off; thereby making the majority for him much larger than it is now. Thus we are standing between two fires, both parties complain of our decisions. Under such circumstances, there is but one course for us to take; and, so far as I am concerned, but one will be taken; it is to proceed directly forward, regardless of the consequences, be them what they may. I agree, sir, with the gentlemen who have preceded me, that this is a question of deep importance. It is important to the claimants, because it involves the right to a seat on this floor; it is important to the people of the fisth congressional district, and, indeed, of the whole State of Kentucky, as affecting their representation in this branch of the Government; and it is important to this House and to the American people; for the decision now made will be looked to as a beacon for the guidance of those who may have to determine similar cases in after times. It behooves us, therefore, to proceed with caution and deliberation; to weigh well every argument that may be presented; and so to decide, as that vital principle may be preserved inviolate, and substantial justice meted out to all concerned. To discuss this subject in the manner best calculated to present its merits clearly and intelligibly to those who hear me, it becomes necessary to relieve it from some of the encumbrances that have been heaped upon it by the gentlemen who have preceded me. It often happens that we mislead both ourselves and others, in discussing a question, by making false issues, and by incorporating extraneous matters that do not properly belong to the subject. These are so many false lights that lead us astray in the pursuit of truth. They should be extinguished; for their glare upon our mental vision has a direct tendency to obscure the object which they were designed to illuminate. One prominent position has been taken by the minority of the committee, and by all the gentlemen who have spoken upon that side of the House, which I am bound to notice. They charge the majority with advancing the doctrine, that an individual having a minority of the votes in the fifth district is entitled to a seat on this floor. Sir, I deny this charge. The committee have advanced no such doctrine in their report; and not a single member of it has advocated such a principle. For myself, I wholly repudiate it. We have not only not contended for any such principle, but we have said, expressly, that, after a full and thorough purgation of the polls, counting in as legal all the votes given at Lancaster on Monday, whilst Esquire Grant was on the bench, and all given during the absence of the sheriff on Tuesday, still there was a clear majority of the individual votes in favor of Major Moore. We contend for the doctrine that a majority shall rule, as strenuously as the gentlemen do. Indeed, both the candidates maintained their claims before us upon this principle. It was the main question to be determined by the committee. Each of the claimants contended that, after striking off all illegal, individual votes, he had a majority of what remained. The legality of the votes given at Lancaster, on Monday and Tuesday, was a question upon which the committee felt bound to give an opinion, because it was one that would probably come before the House. But, independently of that question, they found a majority of votes for Major Moore. Why, then, are we charged with maintaining that a minority is to prevail over a majority? I ask the gentlemen whether, in ascribing to us such sentinents, they treat us with the fairness to which we are justly entitled ” Again, sir: A disinterested listener, who was unacquainted with the merits of this controversy, would suppose, from the speeches of gentlemen, that we were about to overthrow the dearest rights that belong to the people of this great republic. One gentleman [Mr.
Mansit ALL] declares that the sense of the country will put down our doctrine; and he asks, most triumphantly, whether this is a principle by which any gentleman is willing to stand in this country? Why, sir, this would all be very appropriate, if the committee had attempted to sustain the proposition ascribed to them; but I have already stated that they do not. Their report rests upon no such sandy foundation. It stands upon the great fundamental principle, that the majority shall rule. It recognises the rights of the people as secured by their own institutions. And I tell the gentleman, in answer to his question, that, by this principle and these institutions, I am willing to take my stand; and to risk, in so doing, what little reputation I now possess, or may hereafter live to acquire. The conduct of Alfred Hocker, the sheriff of Lincoln, has been alluded to by all the gentlemen who have addressed the House upon the other side. It has been called “disgraceful;” the term “hocus pocus” was applied to it by the gentleman from Georgia, [Mr. CLAytos.] His conduct, right or wrong, has nothing to do with the question now before us. It is the conduct of Thomas Kennedy, the sheriff of Garrard, that is under consideration. No one has attempted to justify the act of Mr. Hocker, in withholding the poll-book of Lincoln, as a legal act. The committee have expressly condemned it. Major Moore, in whose favor it operated, does not pretend to justify it as legal. He claims nothing under it. But the act itself, and the motives of the individual, are two distinct considerations; and this man, whose name has been loaded with maledictions, is proved to possess a most excellent character—to be an upright, honest, and patriotic citizen. His motives were, no doubt, good, and his *cts resulted from what is supposed to be a wrong construction of the law. Let us see if there is nothing to palliate his offence. The law provides that the sheriffs shall meet within fifteen days after the election, and, by a faithful comparison and addition of the votes given in the several counties, ascertain who is elected, and make out his certificate. Mr. Hocker believed that the sheriffs, when so met, composed a board, having the right to decide upon the validity of a poll-book; and, if the election, in any one precinct, had been held in open violation of law, that they had a right to reject the votes so given. In this opinion, he may have been wrong; yet the language of the law affords a plausible excuse for the sentiments he avowed. Finding that the sheriffs would not enter into such an examination as he desired, believing that the votes about to be counted ought not to be considered in a faithful comparison and addition, he retired with his poll-book, leaving the question to be decided by the constituted authorities of the country. It has been said, in the course of this debate, that the certificate of the three sheriffs proves nothing; that, not being made pursuant to the law, it is void; that Major Moore claimed a seat here upon such a certificate; that Mr. Letcher ought to have had the seat, upon the copies of the poll-books which he presented; and, says the gen"leman from Georgia, [Mr. CLAY'rox,] the ground is now changed in favor of the former; and it is contended that a minority of votes shall entitle him to a seat here. The validity of such a certificate is not now a legitimate subJect of discussion. It has no connexion whatever with the point before the House; but I beg leave to set the gettle man right, with regard to the respective position of the two claimants throughout this whole contest. At the commencement of the session, there was nothing in dispute but the right to a temporary seat in the House. *-ich party claimed it; one upon the copies of the polllooks, and the other upon a certificate signed by three *r of of the Congressional district—the law requiring
all the sheriffs to sign it. Neither of them had the evidence, strictly speaking, which the law required. Neither of them contended for a permanent seat here, upon such evidence. The right to that, they both admitted, would depend upon a majority of the votes given in the district, after a thorough purgation of the polls. Precisely that doctrine have they both contended for ever since. In all their communications with the committee, they rest their claims upon this principle; and each one insists that he has such a majority. Their claims to a temporary seat, we all know, were waived, and the whole matter referred to the committee. How, then, has the ground been changed? Why does any gentleman indulge himself in throwing out reflections upon one candidate and not upon the other? I deny, sir, that the ground has been changed. The right to a permanent seat is still claimed by both candidates, as it has been from the first, by virtue of a majority of the individual votes. Who has this majority, is the question now to be determined by the House. Here, l cannot but notice a remark that fell from the gentleman from Georgia, [Mr. CLAxton,] who is not a member of the committee. He declared that he believed this case would be decided wrong! For my own part, I entertain no such fears. I will not anticipate an erroneous decision by this House of any question. To the apprehensions of gentlemen, that party influence will be brought to bear upon the minds of honorable members, I will not speak in reply. It should be presumed, I think, that all will act from pure motives and sound and honest principles. Various cases have been presented, by way of argument and illustration, from the election laws of Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky. I do not feel bound to answer the inquiries they propose, because they have no direct bearing upon what is believed to be the true issue before the House. They may serve to amuse and instruct us upon other points, but it is most important that we consider the question upon which we have to decide. The gentleman from Kentucky, [Mr. HARDIN,) who last addressed the House, expressed his surprise and regret that the committee had not decided two very important questions, as he conceived them to be. The first was, whether the sheriff could, under any circumstances, open the polls before 10 o’clock. The other was, whether the certificate, made out by the three sheriffs, and transmitted to this House by the Executive, or copies of the poll-books, furnished the best evidence of the number of votes received by the candidates. Now, the answer to all this is easily given. The committee did not feel themselves called upon to decide either of the points named; because they arrived at a final termination of the whole case without such decision. Take either the poll-books or the certificate as evidence of the number of votes received, and Major Moore has a majority. Count all the votes taken before 10 o'clock, at Lancaster, or exclude them, and in either event he has still a majority. Although these questions were presented to the committee, as a great many points are presented in argument to a court or jury, by counsel, still they no more considered themselves obliged to decide upon them, than the court feels bound to adjudicate upon all the points raised by the advocates during the trial. They find one or two principal points, upon which the whole case turns, and decide them; leaving the others for some future occasion, . necessity may require a solemn judgment upon them. That gentleman presented another very grave inquiry. It was—“what is a day !" As the constitution of Kentucky gives a day to the electors for exercising their right of suffrage, he contended that the Legislature could not limit them in the exercise of the right to certain hours of the day. Any such attempt, he thinks, would be
unwarranted; any such law would be unconstitutional.
H. of R.] Kentucky Election. [May 22, 1834.
I am not disposed to enter the arena with the gentle
- House, demand the rejection of these votes, we are not
man to discuss so serious a question. If he chooses to to inquire for the consequences to a particular individual;
mullify the law, let him do so. If he determines constitu
- whether it will put him in or out of a seat. Apply the
tional questions by a literal application of the language|principle to the facts of the case—let it cut off whomsoemployed in the charter, then his criterion is different ever it may.
from the one which I have been accustomed to regard as . The gentleman from Georgia [Mr. CLAxton] has inthe truer and safer rule. To carry out the principle formed us that the very existence of representative govwould involve us in great difficulties. In almost every lernment is menaced by the report of the committee; and American constitution there is a clause which declares, that he firmly believes this case will be decided wrong.
substantially, that justice shall be administered, withou sale, denial, or delay. Suppose you owe me a sum o
t|From what premises does the gentleman draw his concluf|sions? How has he ascertained which side is right, and
money, but fail to pay it on the day the debt becomes which wrong? How has he learned which of these candue: I am entitled to justice without delay. It is a con- didates has a majority of the individual votes given in the stitutional right. The law ought to provide, according fifth district? Has he made a thorough purgation of the to the principles of the gentleman, for an immediate ar. polls? Has he, in one short week, the time we have had rest, trial, judgment, and sale of property, or person, or the printed documents upon our tables, examined the imprisonment of the latter at least. There must be no testimony, and decided for himself, upon all the questions security taken for the defendant’s appearance at court— involved in the contest? I apprehend he will not say he
no time allowed to prepare for trial—no stay of execu
-|has. If the gentleman undertakes to pronounce one side
tion. These would occasion delay, and a law allowing right, and the other wrong, without this searching exami
the debtor such privileges would be unconstitutional!
Surely the gentleman does not contend for a mode o interpretation that would lead to such extravagant con
nation, is he not in danger of falling into fatal mistakes? f| Sir, he kindly' admonished the House against allowing - party feelings to enter into the decision of this question;
sequences. I apprehend, sir, that the true rule is, to but if he permits himself in advance to pronounce one give all these clauses a reasonable construction; one that side right and the other wrong, is he not in danger of the is consistent with the general principles and scope of the same pernicious influence against which he so earnestly instrument, and with the manifest intention of those who warns others? I do not believe that honorable gentlemen
have formed their opinions, and steeled their understand
Whilst upon this subject, I will take occasion to say ings against all argument upon this subject. If so, it that, to my mind, there is a striking incongruity in the would be in vain for me to stand up here, and submit my doctrines of some gentlemen. At one time they adhere views for their consideration: I might as well atternpt to the very words of the constitution and laws of Ken- to struggle with the whirlwind. No, sir, the gentlemen tucky. They are strict constructionists of the straitest are mistaken with regard to the character of our report. sect. For example, when the constitution says that the It does not, nor do the principles we advocate, menace election shall be held on the first Monday in August, and the existence of representative government. It does not, the law says that the sheriff shall open the polls by 10|nor do we, contend for the doctrine, that a minority shall o'clock, and keep them open till at least one hour before govern a majority. The report of the committee is based
sunset, why, here it is contended that the voters are en
upon the broad principles of inflexible truth, which, soon
titled to the whole day, from midnight of the previous |er or later, will bear down all opposition. Our report is evening, until midnight of the first Monday in August; shielded and sustained by the laws and the constitution of and that the sheriff may open the polls immediately after the country. It imbodies principles that will bear the midnight, and keep then open during the whole twenty-test of human scrutiny, apply it whensoever and wheresofour hours. . In this case, we must “stick to the letter.” ever you may.
But, when the law says that all votes shall be given in
the presence of the judges and sheriff—then we must course of this discussion about the inalienable rights of
turn latitudinarians of the ultra school. In this case, gemtlemen tells us that the law does not mean what it says
voters, and the inherent right of suffrage. These rights are neither inherent, nor are they inalienable, as was most
at all. We must give it a liberal construction. The conclusively shown by the gentleman from Georgia, [Mr.
sheriff may absent himself from the county entirely, and Joses,) who is a member of the committee.
yet the votes given in his absence will be valid in law.
An inherent right of suffrage does not exist, it never did exist. And
Perhaps gentlemen can reconcile these two modes of I am surprised to hear gentlemen of great ability, who
construction as consistent with each other, but I confess have been long in public life, talk of an inherent right to
my utter inability to do so.
vote. They have not considered this subject with their usual care, or they would not indulge in the use of such
has told us that, among all the precedents referred to, no terms, nor would they attempt to derive arguments of on case can be found where this House has, under circum- a proposition so wholly untenable. The right of suffrage
stances like the present, stricken off the whole or a part is not inherent.
of the votes given in a township, parish, or precinct, on account of the illegal manner of conducting the election,
It is derived from the social compact, and did not exist anterior to it. It is not inalienable, for it may be forfeited by those who possess it, in various
and then given the seat to a candidate who had a minori- modes pointed out in the constitutions of the several States
ty of votes, by retaining such poll-book; but a majority, by its rejection. . Without stopping now to say how far precedent should control us in deciding a case of such marked peculiarities, I will inquire of the gentleman whether this House has not, by former decisions, established the principle that such poll-books are to be rejected; that where the law has been openly violated and disregarded in conducting the election, the votes given shall not be counted in the final addition? That such decisions have been made, and such a principle established, will scarcely be denied. Well, sir, it is for the principle we contend; by that we should be governed. If the constitution and the law, as well as the former judgments of this
of this Union.
Mr. Speaker, there has been a great deal said in the