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it can be before the vote is taken upon it, after which you are no longer at liberty to change it. But this is an amendment to an amendment and does not come within the operation of that rule. In this case, there was no opportunity of offering the amendment to the amendment before the vote was taken on the amendment to the amendment offered by the gentleman from Chester (Mr. DarLINGTON). The Chair did receive the amendment of the gentleman from Chester, and very properly.
The Chair : That proposition did not strike out any of the language, or change it.
Mr. Read said he did not care whether it struck out any of the language or not. He was arguing the principle. A motion to amend the amendment has been decided to be inadmissable; and if this decision be sustained, gentlemen cannot afterwards offer any amendment at all. By reference to JEFFERSON's Manual, it would be seen that any member has a right to make the amendment as perfect as possible. Had I a right (asked Mr. R.) to offer this before ? No. The matter is now before us precisely in the situation as to liability to amendment, as if the gentleman over the way (Mr. Bell) had originally offered it in the form in which it now is. He called the Chair to reflect if the gentleman from Chester had offered the proposition in the same words, would it be in order to strike out?
The Chair: Yes, before the vote was taken.
Mr. READ resumed: Could he have offered this amendment before ? Nothing could be plainer, and there had never been before an attempt to gag members in the mode now proposed; by rejecting a motion to amend before the vote was taken, and then rejecting it afterwards. It was a perfect absurdity. There are thirty different propositions, perhaps, now to be offered, and these cannot be heard. We cannot go a step further than the amendment to the amendment. It is an attempt to gag numbers of gentlemen who had never had an opportunity to make any proposition concerning the amendment. The rule which has been read, and which regards striking out, does not apply to an amendment to an amendment. We cannot be curtailed of our rights, and all opportunity to be heard is cut off by this decision, if sustained. The presiding Chairman has not reflected that if this proposition had been offered before the vote was ta. ken, it would have been rejected as out of order, because it is not allowed in parliamentary practice, to pile amendments, the effect of which would be to confuse the minds of members, and to throw out of sight the original proposition. It is only necessary to say that all amendments are cut off if this decision is sustained. I could not offer this yesterday because the vote was not taken : I cannot offer it to-day, because it is taken. The committee had not yet agreed as to this part of the Constitution, but had merely decided that there should be an amendment to the amendment of the gentleman from Chester. The Chair is correct as to the pending question : it is on the amendment of the gentleman from Chester, as amended. If there be no further amendment to be offered, why have we not done with it? It is not to be tolerated that all amendments should now be excluded, and the effect of this decision would be to cut off all. We are gagged if this decision is to be sustained.
Mr. Martin, of Philadelphia, thought the appeal must be seen to be correct. 'The difficulty into which we have got with the amendment of
the gentleman from Chester has completely blocked the game. The gentleman from Chester (Mr. DARLINGTON) takes the report of the committee, copies it, and offers it as an amendment to the amendment of his colleague in a modified form. After the question was taken on this report of the committee, copied and modified, I offered an amendment to the report in the first line, and was told it could not be received, as the report was the mere amendment of the gentleman from Chester. But it was not so, it was the report of the committee copied, and made his amendment. We are certainly gagged, when we cannot offer a proposition to amend before the question is taken, because there is an amendment to the amendment pending, nor afterwards, because that has been adopted. The gentleman from Chester has left nothing for us to do. We are at the mercy of the gentleman from Chester.
Mr. STERIGERE made a reference to SUTHERLAND's Manual to sustain the course taken by the Chair, and compared the course of the gentleman from Susquehanna to a case in which, after a trial before an ordinary court, an appeal was taken to the Supreme Court, and after its decision, another trial was asked for in the court below. As to gagging, when a proposition was made which was unsatisfactory to the majority, it was voted down; and, when agreeable it was adopted; and then there could be no change. The reasons are set forth both in JEFFERSON’s and SUTHERLAND'S Manuals—from which Mr. S. read extracts to sustain his views. If amendments are to be received, striking out what has been agreed to be inserted, there will be no end of the thing. Amendment after amendment may be proposed until it has been carried to an extent which would be absurd. He had no feeling on the subject, he would like to offer an amendment himself, but he did not believe that the rules would allow him to do so. He would be glad to offer his amendment, and many others would be glad to offer their's ; but if this doctrine was admited, it would allow the gentleman from Chester to begin again with new alterations and amendments.
Mr. Banks, of Mifflin, said when the question was first brought forward he had believed the gentleman from Susquehanna to be wrong, and the Chair to be in the right. It would give him pleasure always to support the decision of the Chair, so long as he could do so, without violating the convictions of his understanding. He then read various extracts from JEFFERSON's Manual, to which he had refered since the question came up, and which had brought his mind to the conclusion that the views of the gentleman from Susquehanna were the correct ones, and should be sustained.
Mr. STERIGERE briefly explained, for the purpose of shewing that his reading of JEFFERSON had brought him to conclusions opposite to those adopted by the gentleman from Mifflin.
Mr. CUNNINGHAM, of Mercer, expressed his belief that a short history of the case would make it plain to every gentleman that this amendment was not in order. The gentleman from Chester on his left (Mr. BELL) offered an amendment. The gentleman from Chester on his right (Mr. DARLINGTON) offered an amendment to strike out the words of his col. league's amendment, and insert others, which superseded the first amendment. The committee adopted this amendment to the amendment. Can you now alter it? References had been made to Jefferson's Manual, but
the passages quoted had not received the proper construction. That which resered to an original proposition, had been taken, and made applicable to an amendment to an amendment. If this motion were to be received, it would lead to great confusion and waste of time. The amendment cannot now be altered, or there would be no end to alterations. There must be a time when propositions cease to be in order, or amendments would be eternal. There were two ways in which the gentleman from Susquehanna could have reached his object. He might have read his proposition, and given notice that he would offer it, if the amendment to the amendment was rejected. If, after that, the committee had thought proper to negative the amendment to the amendment, and to take the proposition of the gentleman from Susquehanna, in lieu of it, they would have done so. Another way is, to reconsider the vote by which the amendment to the amendment has been adopted. If a majority refuse to reconsider, the inference is plain that the committee will not take the proposition of the gentleman from Susquehanna. The gentleman might obtain a vote to reconsider and offer his amendment, in case he obtained the reconsideration ; but it was in vain for him to attempt to offer it now, because it was against the rule of order. He may however reconsider.
Mr. Read again read the rule as laid down by JEFFERSON to correct the gentleman from Montgomery of error, and then cited whether, if he had offered his motion before the question had been taken, it would not have been instantly and properly rejected. He was astonished that the gentleman from Mercer (Mr. CUNNINGHAM) did not see that by sustaining the decision of the Chair, he would cut off all possibility of the amendment being offered. The gentleman from Montgomery had alluded to a trial. He (Mr. R) was not on a trial. No one could say he had not a right to have the question on his amendment, if he should himself be the only one to vote for it. The question was too plain. Is the amendment rejected because it is too late?
The CHAIR: It is rejected because it would strike out a part which has been inserted.
Mr. READ: Must there not have been some time at which he might have offered the amendment? He must have a day in court. It was now too late. If he had offered it before it would have been too early. It is decided that if offered before the question was taken, it would have been too soon ; and now, after the question has been taken, it is too late, when would it be in order? He would like that some gentleman would inform him. It was not in order yesterday, because we must not pile amendments on each other.
The CHAIR: It would have been in order to move the amendment by way of a proviso, so as not to alter or strike out any of the words which have been inserted. Mr. READ: The distinction was an unimportant one.
He could not have the question on his amendment because the question has been decided. The reason of this rule is that you cannot strike out what has been ordered to be inserted, because it is amendable before the final question is put. But that is not this case. This is not amendable because it is an amendment to an amendment. He had the same right now to amend as if the gentleman over the way (Mr. BELL) had offered the amendment, originally in the very words in which it had been put by the modification
of the gentleman from Chester (Mr. DARLINGTON). If it had been before us now in that form, and no vote had been taken, would it not have been as much in order to strike out, as to add to it?
Mr. DENNy said there would be no end to the action of the committee, if we went on in this way. Each member would ask us to adopt his proposition, and when we had adopted one hundred and thirty-two propositions, we should be called upon to begin the work over again.The gentleman from Susquehanna knew that if the proposition of the gentleman from Chester was adopted, his own would not be in order. Had not the majority rights here, and was not the object of offering amendments to make propositions more acceptable to the majority ? In this case, the committee had distinctly expressed its opinion against the motion of the gentleman from Susquelianna, by adopting that of the gentleman from Chester. There would be no end to amendments, if the course proposed by the gentleman was adopted. He would not reach his object by striking out what had been adopted.
Mr. Biddle said the question was neither difficult nor complicated. All amendments consisted either of single propositions, or of several ; and all agreed that the same matter could not be twice brought before the committee. Here the committee had decided upon a part of an amendment. The question, therefore, was not, whether amendments could be offered, but whether the committee could be compelled to pass again and again on what had been decided.
Mr. Cox maintained that the decision of the Chair was correct. An amendment had been adopted on an entire new and distinct proposition, taking the place of the report of the committee; no portion of the original proposition had been retained, and there was nothing to be amended. Additions, not clashing with its provisions, could be made; but no part of what had been agreed to could be stricken out. He would cheerfully vote for the proposition of the gentleman from Susquehanna, whenever it could be offered.
Mr. Dickey argued that the question was still open, because the amendment was offered to the report of the committee, and contended that the Chair had no right to decide that the amendment could not be received. He had heretofore supposed, he said, that there was no way to suppress discussion except by the previous question, but this mode would be quite as effectual.
Mr. AGNEw could not agree with his colleague on this question. A motion to strike out what had been decided upon could not be entertained, else the same question might be presented again and again for decision. The only way to reach it would be by a motion to reconsider.
Mr. SERGEANT hoped, he said, that when the question was taken, it would be taken by yeas and nays, for the reason that every decision made by the House or the committee, became binding upon us as a rule.
The rules of the House of Representatives direct that all the decisions shall be printed in the Journal, as a part of the laws of the House. These laws we cannot depart from without forming a rule, and, therefore, when we proceed contrary to them, in order to answer a present purpose, we create a source of disorder and confusion for the future. It was a matter of importance that the decisions should be made considerately, and in reference to the future proceedings of this body. In the minds of some
the question might appear to be very plain, but he was surprised to hear the gentleman from Susquehanna say, that in relation to any opinion expressed in opposition to his, that it was senseless.
Mr. READ spoke, he said, of the distinction that had been taken, and not of any gentleman's opinion.
Mr. SERGEANT continued : He would not say that of any one's opinion. He would not characterize the opinion of any gentleman in that way, because it might deter persons from uttering their opinion ; at least, it might have that effect when it came from a gentleman of so much weight and experience as the gentleman from Susquehanna. He differed, entirely, from that gentleman, on this question, but we were here for free debate, and he should give his opinion with perfect respect. The decision of the Chair was this—that what a majority decided was decided, and could not be touched again. What then has the committee decided? Why, that the amendment of the gentleman from Chester, on his right, (Mr. DARLINGTON) should stand in the place of that of the other gentleman from Chester, (Mr. Bell,) and as a substitute for the report of the committee. What was proposed now? To alter the amendment of the gentleman, (Mr. DARLINGTON) and to say that what had been adopted should be varied. Such a proposition was not in order. All the authorities were uniform on the subject : none were contrary to it: no deliberative body could get along in any other way. It was argued that the decision would cut off amendments ; but, did not the previous question cut off all amendments in esse and in posse?-And could any one complain, that after a question was decided, it could not be called up and determined, again and again.
Mr. Read did not expect, he said, in this matter, to encounter the formidable opposition of the President of the Convention, and he was sorry he did not explain himself, at first, in such a manner as not to be misunderstood. There was no rule against him, and, on the contrary, it was clearly in his favor. The question was on the amendment of the gentle. man from Chester, (Mr. Bell) as modified by the committee, and that modified amendment was still an open question. The rule was this: “ when it is proposed to amend by inserting a paragraph, or part of one, the friends of the paragraph may make it as perfect as they can by amendments, before the question is put for inserting it”. The rule applied in this case with all its force, for the question was on amending the report of the committee by inserting the proposition of the gentleman from Chester, (Mr. Bell). The friends of that proposition had a right to make it as perfect as possible, prior to its insertion in the report of the committee. The rule was distinctly and directly in his favor. We had nothing to do with the amendment of the other gentleman from Chester, (Mr. DARLINGTON). The question was on inserting the prior amendment as modified by the committee, and the rule gave him the privilege of making it as perfect by amendment as possible. Gentlemen say, that in this way, we may go on ad infinitum. Very well there is but one way to cut off amendments, if offered in time-namely, by the previous question. Gentlemen may call the previous question now, and that would cut off his amendment and that of the gentleman from Chester (Mr. Bell). That was the only way to cut off amendments ; but to be cut off from the opportunity to offer amendments by the decision of the Chair, was a thing