A SPEECH DELIVERED IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, ON THE 14TH OF JANUARY, 1836, ON MR. BENTON'S RESOLUTIONS FOR APPROPRIATING THE SURPLUS REVENUE TO NATIONAL DEFENCE.
IT is not my purpose, Mr. President, to make any remark on the state of our affairs with France. The time for that discussion has not come, and I wait. We are in daily expectation of a communication from the President, which will give us light; and we are authorized to expect a recommendation by him of such measures as he thinks it may be necessary and proper for Congress to adopt. I do not anticipate him. In this most important and delicate business, it is the proper duty of the executive to go forward, and I, for one, do not intend either to be drawn or driven into the lead. When official information shall be before us, and when measures shall be recommended upon the proper responsibility, I shall endeavor to form the best judgment I can, and shall act according to its dictates.
I rise, now, for another purpose. This resolution has drawn on a debate upon the general conduct of the Senate during the last session of Congress, and especially in regard to the proposed grant of the three millions to the President on the last night of the session. My main object is to tell the story of this transaction, and to exhibit the conduct of the Senate fairly to the public view. I owe this duty to the Senate. I owe it to the committee with which I am connected; and although whatever is personal to an individual is generally of too little importance to be made the subject of much remark, I hope I may be permitted to say a few words in defence of my own reputation, in reference to a matter which has been greatly misrepresented.
This vote for the three millions was proposed by the House of Representatives as an amendment to the fortification bill; and the loss of that bill, three millions and all, is the charge which has been made upon the Senate, sounded over all the land, and now again renewed. I propose to give the true history of this bill, its origin, its progress, and its loss.
Before attempting that, however, let me remark, for it is worthy to be remarked and remembered, that the business brought before the Senate last session, important and various as it was, and both public and private, was all gone through with most uncommon despatch and promptitude. No session has witnessed a more complete clearing off and finishing of the subjects before us. The communications from the other house, whether bills or whatever else, were especially attended to in a proper season, and with that ready respect which is due from one house to the other. I recollect nothing of any importance which came to us from the House of Representatives, which was neglected, overlooked, or disregarded by the Senate.
On the other hand, it was the misfortune of the Senate, and, as I think, the