A Field Day in the House of Representatives

January 24, 1867


A bill was passed that prevented Confederate lawyers from practicing in U.S. courts. The vote took hours, as the democrats distracted congress (i.e. filibusters) to delay voting. Warrants were placed out for members who left unexcused.


The telegraph informs us that the House of Representatives passed on yesterday Mr. Boutwell's bill to prevent Confederate lawyers from practicing in the United States courts. Of course the bill, being ex post facto, and for that and other reasons unconstitutional, will not be binding upon the courts, but will be set aside by the Supreme Court. We are also told that the House was in session all night, the Democrats trying all sorts of measures for the purpose of staving off the vote. To enable the reader to understand how this bushwhacking is done, we quote a very small part of the report of Tuesday's proceedings: A warrant was then issued to the Ser-geant-at-arms and his assistants to arrest numbers who had not answered to their names and had not been excused. The first member brought up was Mr. Whaley; but he protested that he had answered to his name. Proceedings were therefore stopped against him. The Sergeant-at-arms appeared with Messrs. Perham and Eckley in custody. In excuse for their absence, it appeared that they had gone for their dinner. They were condemned to pay the costs of their arrest. Mr. Radford asked leave to make a suggestion in the way of compromise, but Mr. Randall, of Pennsylvania, objected to any compromise. Mr. Bingham moved an adjournment, but the motion was voted down. Then Mr. Bingham moved to suspend all further proceedings under the rule; but that was also voted down. Mr. Bingham suggested that his colleague [Mr. Le Blond] have ten minutes to address the House. Mr. Le Blond modestly declined the proffered grace. Mr. Eldridge said he would yield eight minutes of his time to the gentleman from Ohio, [Mr. Bingham,] if he wanted to address the House. A Republican member asked what time Mr. Eldridge had to give. Mr. Eldridge replied that he had all night. Mr. Delano was brought in by the ser-geant-at-arms and excused himself by stating he had gone home to dinner. Mr. Scheuck inquired whether it would be in order to call upon Mr. Delano to take the test oath. [Laughter.] Mr. Delano was excused on payment of costs. Mr. Buckland being also brought in, made a like excuse. Mr. Scheuck inquired where he had got his dinner; it in the restaurant of the House, that was penalty enough. Mr. Buckland was excused on payment of costs. Mr. Rogers inquired whether it would be in order to have ham-sandwiches supplied to members. The Speaker replied that that would require an appropriation, and would have to be first considered in Committee of the Whole. [Laughter.] Mr. Bingham made another effort to suspend further proceedings ; but the Democrats added their negative votes to those of the more resolute Republicans, and the motion was lost. Then Mr. Boyer moved to adjourn, but! tLe motion was voted down-34 to 64. This last vote showing that there was a quorum present, Mr. Raymond made an effort to get the House to resume business on the bill; but that effort was also ineffectual. The point of order having been made on Mr. Ingersoll, that smoking cigars in the hall was contrary to the rules, the Speaker so decided, and Mr. Ingersoll had to forego the enjoyment of is cigar. A colored waiter being, soon alter, in the act of delisting a dinner-tray on the desk of a member, Mr. Ingersoll took his revenge by calling attention to that as a breach of the rules. The Speaker decided in the same way, and the hungry member had to retire to eat his dinner in one of the cloakrooms. Mr. Radford inquired whether the colored waiter was entitled to the privileges of the floor; and the Speaker replied that as an employee of the House he was. Another motion to adjourn was made, and tellers called for on ordering the yeas and nays. There were 2 yeas and 3 nays; and the Speaker stated that over one-fifth of those voting having voted aye, the yeas and nays were ordered. And so the Clerk proceeded to call the roll. Mr. Orth, being captured by the ser-peant-at-arms, made the excuse that he had been home to dinner. Mr. Eldridge moved that, being subjugated, he accept suffrage without regard to race or color, and take the test oath. [Laughter.] He was excused on payment of costs. Mr. Hise was next brought in, and proceeded seriously to express how discouraged and disgusted he had been with the bill that was before the House, and which was one of a series of such measures. Mr. Allison called him to order. It was not in order to discuss the merits of the bill now. The Speaker sustained the point of order, adding that if the gentleman was opposed to the bill it was the greater reason for the gentleman to remain in his seat. Mr. Hise went on, and declared that when he had heard the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Boutwell) get up and proclaim such monstrous and abominable doctrines, and when he (Mr. Hise) was precluded from replying, he thought he might retire without prejudice to the public service. He hoped, if not now in order, it would some time be in order to express his views on the bill. Mr. Price called attention to the fact that the reason assigned by Mr. Hise for his absence was the same reason alleged by southern members for retiring from their seats in 1861. The Speaker stated that Mr. Price was not in order. Mr. Wentworth wanted to know what effect the recent decision of the Supreme Court had on these arrests. The Speaker was not aware that it had any. [Laughter.] Mr. Hise was excused on payment of costs; but immediately afterwards Mr. Wilson, of Iowa, moved to reconsider the vote excusing him. And so on all night.
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Walker Black




“A Field Day in the House of Representatives,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed November 28, 2022, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/503.