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This resolution was adopted by the 67th annual congress, National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, on May 29, 1957, and the resolution is entitled “To Maintain Free Debate in the Senate.”
Senator TALMADGE. Without objection, the resolution will be inserted at this point in the record.
(The resolution referred to is as follows:) Whereas maintenance of freedom of debate in the United States Senate performs the same essential function as freedom of the press, under the first amendment, in keeping the people fully informed in respect to matters which may vitally affect their freedom and the security of constitutional rights.
In recent years various attempts have been made to bring about the enactment of restricted rules in the Senate of the United States which may endanger freedom of discussion in that House of Congress.
We recognize the possibility of abuse of the right of free debate in the Senate, just as we know that freedom of the press is, at times, abused.
The alternative, which is control of debate, and may lead to a condition equivalent to censorship, is too dangerous to be seriously considered: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That we express our unalterable opposition to the enactment of any rule in the Senate which will substantially alter the right to freedom of discussion secured by Senate rule XXII.
We call upon the Rules Committee of the Senate to protect this essential right when acting on pending proposals relating to the change of that Senate rule.
Foregoing resolution adopted by 67th annual congress, National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, May 29, 1957.
Mr. PUTNAM. That was adopted unanimously.
Senator TALMADGE. For the record, what is the Sons of the American Revolution?
Mr. PUTNAM. The Sons of the American Revolution is an organization of men, descendants of those who served in the establishment of our country.
Senator TALMADGE. In other words those men who fought under George Washington?
Mr. PUTNAM. That is right.
Mr. PUTNAM. At the present time we have 19,000 members organized in 48 States, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Alaska, and a society in France.
Senator TALMADGE. Do you have an affiliated women's group, too?
Mr. PUTNAM. We do not. The Daughters of the American Revolution are entirely a separate organization. There happens to be a very close friendly relationship and cooperation, but we are not actually affiliates in any real sense.
Senator TALMADGE. No further questions.
Senator JAVITS. Mr. Putnam, are you aware of the fact that there is a limitation of debate in the Senate now?
Mr. PUTNAM. We are aware of the fact that there is some limitation.
I confess I am not thoroughly familiar with all of the rules under which you are operating at the present time, sir.
Senator Javits. Before your members adopted this resolution, was any speech made for and against this proposition developing the facts?
Mr. PUTNAM. There were some speeches made in favor but there were none against.
Senator Javits. None against?
Senator JAVITs. If you don't know, Mr. Putnam, do you think your members know whether there is any limitation of debate in the Senate?
Mr. PUTNAM. Yes, because our chancellor general in bringing this matter before the congress made some mention of that.
I do not have the exact record of what he said, but I recall that there was some mention made of it—that there was some limit of debate at the present time.
Senator Javits. Mr. Putnam, do you believe that there is free speech in the House of Representatives?
Mr. PUTNAM. I don't know that I could say that I conscientiously believe that. I believe there have been some attempts in recent years to limit some of our free speech up and down the line at various places; yes, sir.
Senator Javits. Do you believe as a fact that there is or is not free speech in the House of Representatives?
Mr. PUTNAM. I don't know that I would be able to say that I believe that there is. I am not sure that I would be prepared to say that I believe there is unlimited free speech in a complete sense.
Senator Javits. Do you consider the only kind of speech that is free to be unlimited?
Mr. PUTNAM. As we stated in our resolution, Mr. Javits, we recognize that there is going to be some abuse of that privilege the same as there is abuse of the privilege of freedom of the press and freedom of speech in our everyday life. There is bound to be some abuse, but on the other hand we feel that any curtailment of the privilege would result in greater harm than the abuses which are being practiced.
Senator JAVITS. Do you believe that your organization desires a situation by which debate can stop a measure from being voted on at all?
Mr. PUTNAM. We don't subscribe to an idea that any measure perhaps might not be voted on at all. That comes under the exact thing that we said we recognize there is likely to be some abuse of.
Senator JAVITS. Do you believe, therefore, that it would be consistent with your resolution for the Senate of the United States to consider what limitations are needed in order to enable it to vote? Mr. PUTNAM. Isn't it true, sir, they have some limitations today?
Senator JAVITS. I say they do but I am asking you the question: Do you feel your organization would feel that therefore the Senate of the United States has a right to determine what limitation it ought to impose so that it could vote when it thought it ought to?
You would not consider that an abridgment of the right of free speech, would you?
Mr. PUTNAM. That would be a question that would be decided by— how that limitation was determined, I think.
I would not want to answer that as a blanket question, no.
Senator Javits. Have you studied the bills which are before this committee?
Mr. PUTNAM. Personally?
Senator Javits. I am just speaking to you as a representative of your organization, sir.
Mr. Putnam. I have not personally studied the bills particularly. I have only just casually read them.
Our chancellor general, who is an attorney and practices before the Supreme Court, has made quite a study of it, sir.
Senator Javits. Do you interpret that resolution as being against all the bills which are before us?
Mr. Putnam. That might not necessarily apply, no. We stated our belief in the general principle. When you try to pin it down to some specific bill, I think that will be a little difficult for us to pin it down because, not being familiar with all of the bills as you stated, sir, I would not be in a position to make that statement clearly. · Senator JAVITs. One other thing, Mr. Putnam.
I don't want to detain you any longer. We are trying to get all the information we can. · I understand your position, and I respect it, though I don't agree with it.
Has your organization taken any position against any of the socalled civil rights bills, that is the antilynching, antipoll tax, FEPC bills, or the President's civil rights program?
Mr. PUTNAM. No, sir; we have not. May I state on that question-you have raised a question which I think I am entitled to make our position very clear on
Senator JAVITS. Please.
Mr. PUTNAM. We very carefully refrain from things that we believe are highly political controversial matters. We believe when there is strictly a matter of constitutional right involved, then we have a right to make our opinions known without being accused of entering into politics.
Senator Javits. Now, Mr. Putnam, do you believe that your organization adopted this resolution which you have read to us under the belief that it was not highly controversial and highly political?
Mr. PUTNAM. We do not believe it is highly controversial and political because we believe there is a fundamental constitutional law involved there and we believe we have a right to be heard on that.
Senator JAVITS. And do you not believe there is an equal question of fundamental constitutional law involved in the so-called civil rights bills that I have described to you?
Mr. PUTNAM. That is something that we do not participate in.
We do not believe it is our prerogative to express our opinions on that one.
Senator Javits. I don't want to press you, sir, but I would like to get an answer to the question because it enables us to evaluate what your people did.
Does your organization-or do you, it is probably much fairer to ask-do you believe that there is a constitutional question involved in the civil rights bills, at least equivalent to the constitutional question involved in the resolution you have just read? Mr. PUTNAM. No, I do not. Senator Javits. You do not? Mr. PUTNAM. No, sir. Senator JAVITS. Thank you, that is all.
Senator TALMADGE. Mr. Putnam, each State in the Union has two Senators, doesn't it?
Mr. Putnam. Yes, sir.
Senator TALMADGE. Senator Javits' State of New York has approximately 14 million population.
Senator Javits. Seventeen million, Mr. Chairman. We have grown.
Senator TALMADGE. Seventeen million. Nevada has, I believe, only about a quarter of a million. Yet they each have two Senators.
Now the House of Representatives is apportioned according to population, isn't it, so there would exist some very strong reasons for a difference in rules between the House of Representatives and the Senate, would it not? Mr. PUTNAM. I think so.
Senator TALMADGE. Do you think the reason each State has two Senators is because they are representing sovereign States in the United States Senate? Mr. PUTNAM. That is the theory, I believe. Senator TALMADGE. Any further questions?
Senator Javits. I just had one other question I would like to ask you, Mr. Putnam, if I may, and that is whether or not your organization, when it passed this resolution, understood that it was or was not a highly controversial political question?
Mr. PUTNAM. I think they understood it was a highly controversial question.
I can't agree with you we considered it a political question.
Senator TALMADGE. Anything further you wish to state, Mr. Putnam, or insert in the record ?
Mr. PUTNAM. No. I think that I have stated the position of our society on this matter very clearly.
Senator TALMADGE. Thank you very much.
We appreciate your coming and I would ask that Senator Javits' assistant and my assistant get in touch with Mr. West to make arrangements for 6 or 8 witnesses for next Friday.
We stand recessed until Friday Morning at 10 a. m.
(Whereupon, at 11 a. m., the subcommittee was adjourned, to reconvene at 10 a. m., Monday, June 24, 1957.)