Summary of Legislative Debate regarding “A Bill for the Organization of the County of Van Buren,” 21 December 18361
After the reading of the journal.
The Speaker addressed the House. He said that yesterday, it would be recollected a paper had been presented by a minority of the committee on petitions, adverse to the division of Sangamon county, which had been proposed to the House by a report of the majority of the committee. The Speaker said that he had stated to the House yesterday, on the presentation of this paper, that he had doubts concerning the course which the paper should take in the House. Since that time he had examined the subject, and had made up his mind on the question. According to Jefferson’s Manuel, a book which was deservedly looked upon as a standard in all parliamentary bodies in the United States, the minority of a committee could not make a report.2 The Speaker said, that the rule was the same in an ordinary committee as in a committee of the whole, which always proceeds as the House itself, which of course never acts by the minority, but by a majority of its members. The Manuel says in regard to committees that they must act together, and that nothing but the act of the majority shall be considered as the act of the committee, that nothing is to be considered as a report, but that made by the majority of the committee; which may report by its chairman. This was the rule. The Speaker said that on examining the Manuel, he could find nothing in it on the subject of minority reports.
At the last session of this Legislature, Mr. Murphy, from the minority of a committee, made a report accompanied by a bill, but it afterwards appeared that the report was really from the majority, and not a minority of the committee. The Speaker said the inconvenience of considering papers from the minority of committees as roports, was manifest to all. Separate members in the minority, might each make a report, and we should never have an end of the reports of the minority. The Speaker said he had inquired into, and examined the practice of Congress on the subject, and had found that in that body, the reports of the minority were viewed only as simple protests. The only thing that is done with them, is to print them generally along with the majority report, on the same subject. They are never received as reports. If the House thinks proper to spread the minorty’s views on the pages of the journal, they might do so, on motion.
Mr. Lincoln then moved that the report of the minority be spread upon the Journals, in order he said, that his constituents might see that report.
Mr. Linder said, that for one, he should vote against the motion. He could see no advantage that could result to any body, by placing this minority report upon the pages of the journal. It was subjecting the State to needless expense in printing. There were many other ways by which the gentleman from Sangamon could get the report among his constituents, without putting it upon the journals of the House.
Mr. Lincoln replied that he claimed the right to know what was due to his constituents as much as any gentleman, and especially as much as one who was not their representative. He had made the motion to spread the report on the journal, because he thought it due to his constituents, and no more than a common act of courtesy from the House, to comply. Mr. L. said, he hoped that all that had been said on this subject, would go to his constituents. He thought it uncourteous, and a departure from the rules of etiquette, for the gentleman from Coles to meddle in the matter at all; but if the House chooses to go by the views of that gentleman, so be it; I am content. Mr. L. said he did not think the small expense to the State which the printing of the report would incur, the whole object of gentlemen, in opposing his motion. The intention is to affect my constituents.
Mr. Linder said, he would take the liberty to assure the gentleman from Sangamon, that he did not profess to be as well versed in the rules of etiquette, as some gentlemen, and he would take the occasion to thank the gen[tleman] . . .3 L. have our constituents no interest in the question? May we at our pleasure thrust our hands into their pockets and tell them they have no interest in the matter? He had yet to learn that courtesy demanded that we shall pick the pockets or our constituents, and for one he dissented from such rules of courtesy. Mr. L. said that the effect of admitting this minority report on the Journal was manifest, every minority report made to the House, would have to go on the Journals, and their pages would be swelled to a most enormous size.
The gentleman from Sangamo seems to think something is intended against his constituents. Why, if they want the report, let them print it out of their own pockets. They are rich enough God knows: they hold the bag, like Judas; and with as little merit as he. Mr. Speaker, I have but little love for Sangamo. It has as little claim on the generosity of the Democracy of this State, as any portion of God’s heritage. For his part, Mr. L. said, he thought he should never ask for such a thing as the printing of a minority report. What possible advantage could the House derive from printing it? None whatever. But the gentleman says he wants it to go home to his constituents. Will the Journal go home to his constituents, upon the pages of which, he desires to have it spread? Not for months after the close of the session. Mr. Speaker, I would advise the gentleman to move for the printing of 3000 copies of this report for the especial benefit of his constituents! Will you not gentlemen of the House, go to the expense of printing 3000 copies for the benefit of Sangamo? But before you do, consider awhile whether your constituents may not teach you another sort of courtesy.
Mr. L. said it was marvellous what talents some gentlemen possessed, and how determined they were that the House and the world should have the benefit of them. Every report said Mr. L., as long as my finger, must needs be spread upon the Journal regardless of the extent to which its pages might be swelled. With regard to the particular motion before the House, to spread this minority report on the pages of the Journal, he thought Sangamo should have been the last to make such a demand; and instead of the House being twitted for waut of courtesy, for refusing he thought that courtesy, or rather a sense of her position, on the part of Sangamo, ought to have made her silent.
Mr. Dubois said, he rose only for the purpose of making an enquiry of the gentleman from Coles, what is Democracy?
The question was then taken on the motion to spread the report on the pages of the Journal, and decided in the negative.—Ayes 24.—Nays 44.
1This debate concerned “A Bill for the Organization of the County of Van Buren”. In 1836, Sangamon County encompassed parts of the present-day counties of Christian, Logan, Menard, and Mason. The new county proposed by this bill would have included present-day southern Mason County and most of present-day Menard County.
Thomas Jefferson, A Manual of Parliamentary Practice for the Use of the Senate of the United States (1801).
Printed Document, 1 page(s), Illinois State Register & People’s Advocate , (Vandalia, IL), 12 January 1837, :2-3