The Congressional Globe, Volume 13, Part 1: Twenty-Eighth Congress, First Session Page: 60
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sired to know whether there had . been an appeal
from the decision of the Chair that the gentleman
from Massachusetts was out of order.
Mr. WINTHROP said that he appealed from that
decision, for he thought the gentleman was clearly
entitled to proceed, unless gome member objected;
and until such objection were made, there was no
occasion for a vote of the House to permit the gen-
tleman to proceed.
The SPEAKER remarked, that if there was no
objection, the gentleman would be of course at liberty
Mr. BLACK of Georgia rose and objected.
The question whether the gentleman from Mas-
sachusetts should be allowed to proceed with his
remarks was put by the Chair, and decided in the
Mr. ADAMS then proceeded as follows: I am
much obliged to the House, sir, for their kindness;
and I shall endeavor to proceed, for a very few mo-
ments, in order. But, sir, there has been so much
of very irrelevant debate in this House since I was
ordered by the Speaker of this House to take my
seat, before my speech was concluded, that I shall
have some difficulty, perhaps, in collecting the scat-
tered ideas which the eloquence and wisdom which
I have heard in this House since I was seated have
tended to drive from my mind; and in renewing
those arguments in favor of the liberty of the people
- of this country, which I was exercising the freedom
of speech in endeavoring to support or redeem.
I was saying that the petition, received or not
received, suspended (God knows where, I don't)
somewhere between heaven and earth, which now
forms the subject of renewed debate, contained one
prayer which I was afraid the Speaker of this
House would consider as coming within the rule,
and therefore not admissible.
Mr. DUNCAN said he desired to raise another
question. He understood the debate was predi-
cated on a petition which had been offered yester-
day, and which had been laid over. He desired
to know whether, when a petition which gives rise
to debate was laid over until the next or some sub-
sequent day, it came up as a matter of course; and
whether the person who offered it was entitled to
occupy the time of the House to the exclusion of
petitions from other States.
The SPEAKER stated that it was the opinion of
the Chair that, before the close of the first thirty
days of the session, where a debate arose upon a
petition, and was suspended, it came up, as a mat-
ter of course, on the following day, as the unfin-
Mr. DUNCAN. To the exclusion of other pe-
The SPEAKER. To the exclusion of all other
Mr. ADAMS resumed. The question is on the
reception of the petition by the House; and I was
endeavoring, to the best of my ability, to show the
House that it ought to be received, read, and re-
ferred—at least those parts of it which, in the opin-
ion of the Speaker, do not come within the exclu-
ding rule. I admit, sir, that that portion of the pe-
tition which the Speaker will probably decide to
come within the rule must be excluded from the
consideration of the committee to which the other
parts of the petition may be referred; and, sir, I
was going, to-day, into an argument or two for the
reception or admission of those parts of the petition
which do not come within the rule.
X do not know but that I shall transgress the or-
der of the House again, by saying that I hope the
House, in regard to the rights of their constituents,
the sovereign people of these United States, will not
extend the exclusion of petitions of a particular class
or description to all petitions coming from a particu-
lar scction of the country, against the rights of the
people of that section, while the same rule does not
operate upon other parts of the Union. I hope that
the House will not proceed to extend the exclusion,
which has been provided for particular cases, to
other cases to which it is not applicable, notwith-
standing the vast multitude of pretensions that are
set up for that purpose, such as that the prayer
which the petition contains—to acknowledge the
authority of God—is an insult to this House.
Why, sir, I have heard of constructive treason; and
I have no doubt those who framed the Constitution
of the United States knew what constructive treason
means, as well as its cruel operation upon those up-
on whom it was brought to bear; but as for con-
structive insults to this House, is it possible for the
human imagination to conceive that a prayer to ac-
knowledge the authority of Almighty God can be
taken to be an insult to this House?
Sir, the petition bears evidence on its very face
that the persons who signed it were acting under a
sense of duty to their God—under a deep conscien-
tiousness; and though members of this House, and
possibly I myself, may suppose that it would have
been perhaps more prudent for the petitioners to be
silent on the subject, rather than to make it a matter
to be brought before the House, yet, sir, I cannot
conceive of anything more absurd than to say that
such a prayer is an insult to the House. If such a
doctrine as this were sound, nothing could be said
Jjy petitioners which the House might not consider
an insult—at least, a constructive insult. A prayer
for the acknowledgment of God an insult to the
Sir, there are large portions of the people of this
country who are laboring under burdens of con-
science, and entertaining opinions and feelings in
consequence of the convictions of their consciences,
who would, nevertheless, be among the last men in
this Union to offer an insult to this House, or to the
laws of the country. Theylabor, perhaps, under un-
necessary apprehensions and fears. They perhaps
entertain the opinion that the majority of this House
do not sufficiently recognise the laws and authority
of God; and though they may be mistaken in their
views and fears and apprehensions, yet this consci-
entious feeling on their part deserves, on the part
of the House, very different treatment from being
turned away with scorn, and the petitioners told
that they are insulting the House.
Sir, I say that this petition, which the House has
refused to hear read, bears upon its face proof of
having been signed by persons who were under deep
conscientious conviction. And though I might my-
self not be ready to vote for all which they require,
I do hope the House will not only receive it, but
refer it to a committee, and obtain from that com-
mittee a report; which they may do without granting
the prayer of the petition. We may at least satis-
fy the petitioners by receiving their petition, and re-
Sir, the House have had heretofore, and will have
again at this session, numerous petitions, no doubt,
against the transmission of themailsupon the Lord's
day. There is a very large portion of the people of this
community who are under the same sort of convic-
tion, that the practice is contrary to the law of God.
Sir, 1 do not entirely coincide in opinion with them.
I think it exceedingly doubtful, if the question
should be brought before the House again, (as I pre-
sume it will be,) whether I shall bring myself to
vote against the transmission of mails upon the
Sabbath. But this petition, praying the acknowl-
edgment of the authority of God, is an insult to
the House ! I am confident the next thing will be,
that if a petition is presented here against the trans-
mission of the mails on the Sabbath, the same ob-
jection will be made to it. It will be said to be an
insult to this House; and yet that is but another
modification of the prayer of this very petition to
acknowledge the authority of God. In the under-
standing of these petitioners, they believe that the
authority of God is against the transmission of the
mails upon the Sabbath. The Holy Scriptures
themselves declare that the Sabbath shall be a day
of rest from labor.
Sir, I am limited very much in my course of ar-
gument upon this petition, by the refusal, hitherto, of
the House to have this petition read. I hope it will be
read, if only upon the ground that the petitioners
were perhaps mistaken in the views there set forth,
and that they require some expostulation on the
part of the House, or report of a committee at least,
showing that the acknowledgment of the authority
of God is no part of the duty of this House. Per-
haps it is not constitutional. I am willing to see an ar-
gument upon the subject, in the report of the com-
mittee, assuming the ground that the acknowledg-
ment of the authority of God and the Christian re-
ligion would not be constitutional; that the Con-
stitution of the United States forbids this House to
acknowledge the authority of God, or of Jesus
Christ. I say I am willing to see the report of a
committee upon this point; but to say that the prayer
of this petition is an insult to the House—sir, I
hope the House will not disgrace itself by any such
determination! Sir, I wish not to occupy the time
of this House more than is necessary. I wish to
God I could present all these petitions, and that they
could be received, and referred to committees
without a word of comment by anybody; and that
we might have reports jus to what was unconstitu-
tional and what was not, in the petitions themselves.
Sir, these petitions, in my opinion, deserve the most
attentive consideration of this House. Let it be
shown, by the answer which the House will make,
whether the contents of them are proper or improper
to be presented to this House. I say it appears
upon the face of this petition, that the persons from
whom it comes are not actuated by any factious
spirit, but that it comes from persons acting under
strong religious convictions. I hope, therefore, it will
be received, and referred to the Judiciary Commit-
tee. As an amendment to the Constitution is re-
quested, it will perhaps be proper to refer it to the
Judiciary Committee, as to that committee belongs
the consideration of all questions of this nature. I
wish the whole of it may be referred, if the Speaker
thinks that it does not come within the rule; but if
otherwise, then that those parts which do not come
within the rule may be referred.
Mr. WISE moved to lay the question of recep-
tion upon the table.
Mr. ADAMS demanded the yeas and nays upon
Mr. TIBBATTS desired to hear the petition
The SPEAKER said the petition would be read
by the Clerk, if there was no objection.
Mr. WISE inquired if it would be in order to
The SPEAKER replied that it could be decided
by a vote of the House whether it should be read.
Mr. WISE contended that it was not properly in
the possession of the House; that the Clerk had no
right to have it in his hand. The rule applied to
papers in the possession of the House, and not to
papers out of the House—not to papers in niAibus.
The hand of the House did not hold the papers.
They might as well call spirits from the vasty deep,
as to call for the reading of the petition.
Mr. BEARDSLEY said he did not profess to
know much about the rules of the House, but, as
he understood them, the question was this: a gen-
tleman rises in his place, and asks for the reading of
a petition; the mover states what he understands to
be the substance of the petition; the general rule
then was, that, presumptively, the petition should be
received. Objection being made, he would ask if
any one could say, upon principles of common
sense and propriety, that the House could decide
whether to receive or reject it until they heard it
read. He would not say that the contents
were altogether proper to be introduced to that
House; it appeared to him, however, to be perfect-
ly harmless. He believed there was no treason in
it, although there might be some absurdity. It all
proceeded from enthusiasm. How could any gen-
tleman object to its reception until he knew what it
contained. If it was disrespectful towards the
House, he would vote for its rejection; but if other-
wise, it ought to be received.
Mr. DAVIS of Indiana said he understood the
petition had been presented yesterday, and received
by the House. "" [Cries of "No, no; it was not re-
The SPEAKER said the question of reception
had been laid over because it involved debate; and
it came up to-day as the unfinished business of yes-
Mr. HARALSON observed that, as he made the
motion yesterday against the reception of this peti-
tion, it became him, in order that he might not be
misunderstood, to offer some remarks on the sub-
Mr. BARNARD rose to a question of order.
The motion to lay the question of reception on the
table not being debatable, he presumed that the in-
cidental question growing out of it, and then pend-
ing, was also not debatable. He made this sugges-
tion, not out of want of respect to the gentleman
from Georgia, [Mr. Haralson,] but to enforce the
rules of the House.
The SPEAKER observed that a question of order
was raised by the gentleman from New York,
whether the proposition of the gentleman from Ken-
tucky, [Mr. Tibjbatts,] to have the paper read, was
debatable, the motion to lay the question of recep-
tion on the table having been previously made.
The Chair was of opinion that, the motion to lay
on the table not being debatable, neither would the
incidental question before the House be debatable.
Mr. HARALSON asked if he might be permit-
ted to give the reasons which induced him to object
to the reception of the petition, as an offset to the re-
marks of the gentleman from Massachusetts [Mr.
Adams.] . "
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United States. Congress. The Congressional Globe, Volume 13, Part 1: Twenty-Eighth Congress, First Session, book, 1844; Washington D.C.. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth2367/m1/84/: accessed September 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.