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THE PROTEST AGAINST EXPUNGING.

IN

THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES,
MOXDAY, JANTJAHY

16, 1837.

The Senate

having under consideration the Resolution, moved by Mr.
expunging from the Journal of Proceedings of the Senate,
for March, 1834, a Resolution declaring the opinion of the Senate concerning the illegality of the removal of the public money from its lawful

BENTON,

for

place of deposite, the Bank of the United States; and the Debate thereon
having come to a close, and the question being about to be taken on

agreeing

Mr.

to the said

WEBSTER

Resolution
rose and addressed the Senate as follows

:

Mr. PRESIDENT: Upon the truth arid justice of the
original resolution of the Senate, and upon the authority
of the Senate to pass that resolution, I had an opportunity to express my opinions at a period, subsequent to the
adoption of that resolution, when the protest of the President was before us.
Those opinions remain altogether

unchanged.
And now, had the constitution secured the privilege of
entering a PROTEST on the journal, I should not say one
word on this occasion although, if what is now proposed
shall be accomplished, I know not what would have been
the value of such a provision, however formally or carefully
it
might have been inserted in the body of that instrument.
But, as there is no such constitutional privilege, I can
only effect my purpose by thus addressing the Senate
and I rise, therefore, to make that PROTEST in this
;

;

mariner, in the face of the Senate, and in the face of the
country, which I cannot present in any other form.

I

in

speak

my own

behalf,

and

in

behalf of

my

col-

we

both speak as Senators from the State of
Massachusetts, and, as such, we solemnly PROTEST against

league

;

whole proceeding.
deny that Senators from other States have any
power or authority to expunge any vote or votes which
we have given here, and which we have recorded, agreethis

We

ably to the express provision of the constitution.
have a high personal interest, and the State

We

whose

we

are, has also a high interest in the enof every part and parcel of the record
preservation
of our conduct as members of the Senate.

representatives

tire

This record the constitution solemnly declares shall be
kept ; but the resolution before the Senate declares that
this

record shall be expunged.

Whether subterfuge and evasion, and, as it appears to
us, the degrading mockery of drawing black lines upon
the journal, shall or shall not leave our names and our
votes legible, when this violation of the record shall have
been completed, still the terms " to expunge," and the
terms " to keep," when applied to a record, import ideas
" to
preexactly contradictory, as much so as the terms
" to
and the terms
serve,"
destroy."

A

is expunged, is not a record which is
more than a record which is destroyed can be a
kept, any
The part expunged is no
record which is preserved.

record which

longer part of the record it has no longer a legal existence.
It cannot be certified as a part of the pro;

ceeding of the Senate for any purpose of proof or
evidence.
object of the provision in the constitution, as we
think, most obviously is, that the proceedings of the
Senate shall be preserved, in writing, not for the present

The

published only, because a copy of the
not regular legal evidence but preservprinted journal
only, not

until

is

;

preserved, as other records are preserved,
destroyed by time or accident.
Every one must see that matters of the highest im-

ed

indefinitely

;

till

portance depend on the permanent preservation of the
What but the journals
journals of the two Houses.

show

that bills have been regularly passed into laws,
through the several stages I What but the journal shows

are members, or who is President, or Speaker, or
What but the journal
Secretary, or Clerk of the body 1
contains the proof, necessary for the justification of those

who

who

act under our authority, and who, without the power
of producing such proof, must stand as trespassers'!

but the journals show who is appointed, and who
or who is
rejected by us, on the President's nomination

What

;

who

convicted, in trials on impeachment'?
Jn short, is there, at any time, any other regular and legal
proof of any act done by the Senate than the journal
acquitted, or

itself!

The
serve

idea, therefore, that the

its

journal only until

alter, mutilate,

or destroy

bound to prepublished, and then may

Senate

is

it

is

it

at pleasure,,

appears to us

one of the most extraordinary sentiments ever advanced.
We are deeply grateful to those friends who have
shown, with so much clearness, that all the precedents
relied on to justify or to excuse this proceeding, are either
not to the purpose, or, from the times and circumstances
at and under which they happened, are no way entitled to
respect in a free Government, existing under a written
constitution.
But, for ourselves, we stand on the plain

words of that constitution itself. A thousand precedents elsewhere made, whether ancient or modern, can
neither rescind, nor control, nor explain away these words.
The words are, that " each House shall KEEP a journal

of

its

proceedings."

interpretation,

No

and much

no ingenuity, no specious
can any fair or just reason-

gloss,
less

ing reconcile the process of expunging with the plain
meaning of these words, to the satisfaction of the com-

mon

sense and honest understanding of mankind.

If the Senate

may now expunge one

part of the

journal of a former session, it may, with equal authority,
expunge another part, or the whole. It may expunge the
entire record of

any one session, or of all sessions.
how any men can regard
such a power, and its exercise at pleasure, as consistent
with the injunction of the constitution. It can make no
difference what is the completeness or incompleteness of
the act of expunging, or by what means done whether
by erasure, obliteration, or defacement if by defacement,
as here proposed, whether one word or many words are
written on the face of the record ; whether little ink or
much ink is shed on the paper or whether some part, or
the whole of the original written journal may yet by
If the act done be an act to expossibility be traced.
It

seems

to us inconceivable

;

;

;

punge, to blot out, to obliterate, to erase the record, then
the record is expunged, blotted out, obliterated, and erased.
And mutilation and alteration violate the record as much
as obliteration or erasure.
ed,

is

A

not the original record.

record, subsequently alterIt

no longer gives a just

account of the proceedings of the Senate. It is no
longer true. It is, in short, no journal of the real and
actual proceedings of the Senate, such as the constitution

says each

The

House

shall keep.

constitution, therefore,

is,

ment, violated by this proceeding

in

our deliberate judg-

in the

most plain and

open manner.

The

constitution, moreover, provides that the yeas and
shall, at the request of one-fifth of

nays, on any question,

This
present, be entered on the journal.
most manifestly, gives a personal right to those
provision,
members who may demand it, to the entry and preservathe

members

tion of their votes

on the record of the proceedings of
one day or one year only, but for all

the body, not for
time.
There the yeas

and nays

are to stand, for ever, as
of the manner in which
permanent and lasting proof
members have voted on great and important questions
before them.

But

now

*

members, taken
and thus entered on the journal, as
by yeas and nays,
matter of right, may still be expunged so that that, which
it
requires more than four-fifths of the Senators to prevent from being put on the journal, may, nevertheless, be
struck off, and erased, the next moment, or at any period
afterwards, by the will of a mere majority or, if this be
it is

insisted that the votes of

;

;

not admitted, then the absurdity is adopted of maintaining, that this provision of the constitution is fulfilled by

merely preserving the yeas and nays on the journal, after
having expunged and obliterated the very resolution, or
the very question on which they were given, and to which
alone they refer leaving the yeas and nays thus a mere
list of names, connected with no subject, no
question, no
;

We put

to the impartial judgment of mankind,
if this proceeding be not, in this respect also, directly and

vote.

it

palpably inconsistent with the constitution.
protest, in the most solemn manner, that other

We

Senators have no authority to deprive us of our personal
rights, secured to us by the constitution, either by ex-

punging, or obliterating, or mutilating, or defacing the
record of our votes, duly entered by yeas and nays ; or

by expunging and obliterating the resolutions or questions on which those votes were given and recorded.
We have seen, with deep and sincere pain, the Legislatures of respectable States instructing the Senators of
those States to vote for and support this violation of the

journal of the Senate; and this pain is infinitely increased
by our full belief, and entire conviction, that most, if not

all

these proceedings of States had their origin in prompt-

ings from

Washington that they have been urgently reand insisted on as being necessary to the accomquested
plishment of the intended purpose and that it is nothing
else but the influence and power of the Executive branch
of this Government which has brought the Legislatures
of so many of the free States of this Union to quit the
;

;

sphere of their ordinary duties for the purpose of cooperating to accomplish a measure, in our judgment, so
unconstitutional, so derogatory to the character of the
Senate, and marked with so broad an impression of com-

pliance with power.
But this resolution

is to

pass.

We

it.

expect

That

cause, which has been powerful enough to influence so
many State Legislatures, will show itself powerful enough,
especially with such aids, to secure the passage of the
resolution here.

We
is

make up our minds

to

behold the spectacle which

to ensue.

We
scene

collect ourselves
is

exhibited which,

to look on, in
if

we

silence, while

did not regard

it

a

as ruth-

a sacred instrument, would appear to us
elevated above the character of a contemptible

less violation of
to

be

little

farce.

This scene we

and hundreds of American
citizens, as many as may crowd into these lobbies and
with what feelings I do not
it also
galleries, will behold
shall behold,

:

undertake to say.
But we PROTEST, we most solemnly PROTEST, against
the substance and against the manner of this proceeding,
its

object, against
tell you that you have

against

We

its

form, and against

its effect.

no right to mar or mutilate the
record of our votes given here, and recorded according
we tell you that you may as well
to the constitution
erase the yeas and nays on any other question or resolu;

7

questions and resolutions, as on this we
tell you that you have just as much right to
falsify the
so altering it as to make us appear to have
record, by
tion, or

on

all

;

voted on any question as we did not vote, as you have to
erase a record, and make that page a blank, in which outvotes, as they were actually given and recorded, now
stand.

much

The one

proceeding, as it appears to us,
a falsification of the record as the other.

Having made

this

PROTEST, our

duty

is

is

as

performed.

We rescue our own names, character,

and honor from all
and whatever the wayward
in this matter
participation
character of the times, the headlong and plunging spirit
;

of party devotion, or the fear or the love of power, may
have been able to bring about elsewhere, we desire to
thank God that they have not, as yet, overcome the love
of liberty, fidelity to true republican principles, and a
sacred regard for the constitution, in that State whose
soil was drenched, to a mire, by the first and best blood
of the Revolution. Massachusetts, as yet, has not been
conquered and while we have the honor to hold seats
;

here as her Senators, we shall never consent to a sacrifice
either of her rights, or our own we shall never fail to
;

oppose what we regard as a plain and open violation of
the constitution of the country and we should have
thought ourselves wholly unworthy of her if we had not,
with all the solemnity and earnestness in our power,
PROTESTED against the adoption of the resolution now
;

before the Senate.

LOAN

DEPT.
'

SEP 192008
CD

LD

21A-60w-10 '65
(F7763slO)476B

General Library
University of California
Berkeley

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