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with an oath ; nor are Catholics justified in not keeping faith in any transaction, either of a public or private nature.
“ Thus it will be seen that all the Universities promptly and unequiVucally declared that Catholics were under no civil or temporal subjection to the Pope. The Catholic Bishops in Great Britain, in the year 1826, declared that .No power in any Pope or Council, or in any individual or body of men invested with authority in the Catholic Church, can dispense with any oath by which a Catholic has confirmed his duty of allegiance to his sovereign, or any obligation of duty or justice to a third person.'"*
Hon. J. R. Chandler, of Pennsylvania, also reviewed and replied to Mr. Banks, on the “current belief” touching the disability of Catholics to be good citizens, owing to spiritual interference in temporal matters. An effective point was his quoting from the late Dr. England, the justly-esteemed Roman Catholic Bishop of Charleston, who said, “ We deny to Pope and Council united any power to interfere with one tittle of our political rights, as firmly as we deny the power of interfering with one tittle of our spiritual rights to the President and Congress." He also alluded to the fact that “ kings and. emperors of the Roman Catholic Church have frequently been at war with the Pope. Yet they did not cease to be members of the Church, and subject to his spiritual jurisdiction, although they resisted his warlike attacks."
The first session of the Thirty-Fourth Congress commenced on the 3d of December, 1855. The opening of this Congress was unprecedented in parliamentary history in the excitement preceding the election of a Speaker. For nine weeks the organization of the House of Representatives was protracted by the dogged obstinacy of party men, the complications of party views, and the manæuvring of party leaders. The year had been fruitful in political disasters to all parties, as distinctly recognised by the people. Party principles had been invaded, disguised, or suppressed; party names had bowed to emergencies suddenly sprung upon politicians; and politicians had hurriedly bent the knee to clamors which they thought indications of popular will. Old-fashioned party men could scarcely recognise their isolation; and new-fashioned party men soon lost their definitiveness, or were unable to master or serve it, in the jumble that took place. Thus, when the elements of the House of Representatives assembled in Washington, there was much machinery at work, of a bold though unobtrusive and elaborate though apparently impromptu nature.
* Appendix to Cong. Globe, 2d Sess. 33d Cong. p. 68.
The House was called to order by the Clerk of the previous House, John W. Forney, Esq., on the 3d of December, at noon; and until that able, eloquent, and fearless gentleman vacated the position of presiding officer, on the 2d of February following, a succession of scenes of the most exciting importance took place on the one hand, while on the other, all the business of the session requiring the co-operation and concurrence of the House was suspended. The complexion of the candidates put in nomination for the Speakership is thus truly reflected : William Richardson, of Illinois, Democrat; Lewis D. Campbell, of Ohio, Free-Soiler; Nathaniel P. Banks, of Massachusetts, Republican and Know-Nothing; Humphrey Marshall, of Kentucky, Democrat and Know-Nothing; and Henry M. Fuller, of Pennsylvania, Whig and National Know-Nothing. To these may be added, as prominently brought out during the struggle, Alexander C. M. Pennington, of New Jersey, Republican ; James L. Orr, of South Carolina, moderate Southern Democrat; and William Aiken, of South Carolina, ditto.
Campbell rose to 81 votes, and withdrew on the 7th of December. On the 19th, Fuller, making an explanation, said he would have voted against the Kansas-Nebraska Bill had he been in Congress, and that he would admit Kansas without reference to the admission or prohibition of slavery. A member from Pennsylvania declared that if he had known those to be Mr. Fuller's views, he would sooner have cut off his arm than have voted for him, and “all his Free-Soil adherents at once deserted him." On the 24th of January, Richardson withdrew, having reached 122 votes, and the Democrats brought out Orr. Banks soon led the anti-Democrats. On the first ballot, he received but 21 votes; but in a few days he rose to 86, to 100, on the 11th of December to 107, and remained close upon that vote until the finale.
On the 11th of January, the House resolved to put test-questions to the candidates, in reply to which Mr. Banks defined his position with great force and clearness.
He did not regard the Kansas-Nebraska Bill as promotive of the formation of free States, inasmuch as it repeals the prohibition of the institution of slavery over the sections of the country to which that statute applies.
He believed in the constitutionality of the Wilmot Proviso, that it is within the power of Congress to prohibit slavery in a Territory of the United States.
He did not believe that the Constitution carried slavery into the Territories. He based his view on Webster's declaration, that even the Constitution of the United States itself does not go to the Territories until it is carried there by an act of Congress; that Congress was wrong in repealing the Missouri restrictions of 1820; and that he was in favor of restoring the Missouri restrictions.
In reply to a query of Mr. Barksdale, of Mississippi, touching the races, Mr. Banks, so far as he had studied the subject, believed
, the general law to be, that the weaker is absorbed. “Whether," said he, “the black race of this continent, or any other part of the world, is equal to the white race, can only be determined by the absorption or disappearance of one or the other; and I propose to wait until the respective races can be properly subjected to this philosophical test before I give a decisive answer.” This, of course, elicited roars of laughter.
A motion to elect a Speaker by a plurality of votes had been negatived; but, weary with the struggle, it was agreed on the 2u of February that if, after three ballotings, they should fail to elect, the one having the greatest number of votes should be declared Speaker. Mr. Orr then withdrew, and was replaced by his colleague, Mr. Aiken. Mr. Fuller withdrew also; and now the certainty of terminating the terrible struggle led to an anxiety, an excitement, and a personal and political fervor more intense than ever. The result on the last (the 133d) ballot -according to the rule adopted—was, N. P. Banks, 103; W. Aiken, 100; and 11 scattering votes. And thus these marvellous scenes terminated with the election of the member from Massachusetts as Speaker, and his being escorted to the chair by a committee of the leading rival candidates. After thanking the House for the honor conferred, Mr. Banks said,
“I have no personal objects to accomplish. I am animated by the single desire that I may in some degree aid in maintaining the well-esta
blished principles of our Government in their original and American signification; in developing the material interests of that portion of the continent we occupy, so far as we may do so within the limited and legitimate powers conferred upon us.
During the two months which were occupied in the attempt to select a Speaker, the Clerk of the previous House, John W. Forney, Esq., was the presiding officer; and the historical importance of the period renders it becoming and necessary to make more than a mere allusion to the manner in which he performed the duties of his office. Those who will peruse the official record of the struggle above indicated cannot fail to be struck with the prompt energy, the elevated but respectful dignity, and the clear analysis of complications growing out of the exigencies of the hour, exhibited by Mr. Forney. His decisions always met with the concurrence of the House; and when it is considered that in addition to his arduous duties as presiding officer-demanding all the alertness of his intellect and all the endurance of his body—he had also to keep the Clerk's department in working order with official precision, and at the same time conduct and write editorials for the Government organ, the Union, of which he was the chief, some idea of Mr. Forney's force and energy may be arrived .at. Conflicting as his position in the House and that in the Union was, and liable as his articles in the one were to be made the subject of attack or denial by the Opposition in the other, it is gratifying to remark that he conducted himself with such a delicate and manly sense of his own strength that he received from all sides tokens of approbation. His impartiality drew from Marshall, of Kentucky, Harrison, of Maryland, Paine, of North Carolina, Trafton, of Massachusetts, Campbell, of Ohio, and other prominent members of the Opposition, tributes of esteem; and after Banks was sworn in, a resolution of thanks was unanimously passed to Mr. Forney "for the distinguished ability, fidelity, and impartiality with which he has presided over the deliberations of the House of Representatives during the arduous and protracted contest for Speaker which has just closed.”
Gentlemen of all sides of politics accord to Speaker Banks the fullest meed of approbation for his conduct during his term of service in the eminent position to which fortune-aided or made by his own judgment, tact, and will—had elevated him. It is conceded that he possesses in a very remarkable degree the qualities necessary for a presiding officer; and the celerity and precision with which he despatched the business of legislation have been the subject of earnest commendation by gentlemen who, though differing from him in politics, benefited by his knowledge of parliamentary rules and the promptitude with which he made them paramount. His self-possession is a striking feature of his character. A close observer narrates the following :
“While on the subject of his non-committalism, I cannot help telling an instance related to me by a member of Congress who suffered from its effects. This gentleman wanted to obtain from Mr. Banks the chairmanship of an important committee as an equivalent for his vote for him as Speaker. Pending the Speakership contest, therefore, he waited upon Mr. Banks, beginning as follows:-“Mr. Banks, you know I have no objection to your being Speaker, but your election hangs on my vote. Now, I suppose you will understand me when I tell you I shall not vote for Mr. [the Opposition candidate,] for I don't believe he will place me on any committee worth serving in. What do you think of that?' Mr. Banks, having heard the statement and the interrogatory, remained quiet a moment, as if collecting his thoughts for an important proposition; but after a preliminary clearing of his throat, and with an air of grave astonishment, he only responded, “Mr. is it possible ?' It is needless to say that the applicant transferred his suggestion and his support to another quarter."
In proof of the fairness which characterized his decisions, a writer in Harper instances the fact that a Democratic member from Georgia, in advocating the vote of thanks with which Speaker Banks was honored on the last day of the session, eulogized his impartiality in reference to the sectional struggles of the House, with the remark that Mr. Banks “stood so straight that he almost leaned over to the other side.”
In the fall of 1856, Speaker Banks made a great speech in Wall Street, New York, by invitation, and advocated Fremont for the Presidency.
In the recess after the Thirty-Fourth Congress, and during the financial crisis, Speaker Banks delivered a speech in Fanueil Hall on the absorbing topic of the day, and, in view of the sufferings of working people in consequence of being paid in paper money, advocated the reimbursement of labor with specie, and believed the time not far distant when the small notes given in