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MR. SUMNER. I believe I have the floor.
MR. NORRIS. But I rise to a question of order. I submit that that is not the question. The Senator from Massachusetts has given notice that he would ask leave to introduce a bill. He now asks that leave. If there be objection, the question must be decided by the Senate whether he shall have leave or not. Objection is made, and the bill cannot be read.
MR. SUMNER. Very well; the first question, then, is on granting leave, and the title of the bill will be read.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER (to the Secretary). Read the title.
The Secretary read it as follows: "A Bill to repeal the Act of Congress approved September 18, 1850, for the surrender of fugitives from service or labor."
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. The question is on granting leave to introduce the bill.
MR. SUMNER. And I have the floor.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Massachusetts is entitled to the floor.
MR. SUMNER. I shall not occupy much time, nor shall I debate the bill. Some time ago, Mr. President, after the presentation of the Memorial from Boston, signed by twenty-nine hundred citizens without distinction of party, I gave notice that I should, at a day thereafter, ask leave to introduce a bill for the repeal of the Fugitive Slave Act. Desirous, however, not to proceed prematurely, I awaited the action of the Committee on the Judiciary, to which the Memorial, and others of a similar character, were referred. At length an adverse report was made, and accepted by the Senate. From the time of that report down to this moment, I have sought an opportunity to introduce this bill. Now, at last, I have it. At a former session, Sir, in introducing a similar proposition, I considered it at length, in an argument which I fearlessly assert
MR. GWIN (of California). I rise to a point of order. Has the Senator a right to debate the question, or say anything on it, until leave be granted ?
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. My impression is that the question is not debatable.
MR. SUMNER. I propose simply to explain my bill, to make a statement, not an argument. MR. GWIN. I make the point of order,
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. I am not aware precisely what the rule of order on the subject is; but I have the impression that the Senator cannot debate
MR. SUMNER. The distinction is this
MR. GWIN. I insist upon the application of the decision of the Chair.
MR. MASON (of Virginia). Mr. President, there is one rule of order that is undoubted: that, when the Chair is stating a question of order, he must not be interrupted by a Senator. There is no question about that rule of order.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator did not interrupt the Chair,
MR. SUMNER, The Chair does me justice in response to the injustice of the Senator from Virginia.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Order! order !
MR. Mason. The Senator is doing that very thing at this moment, I am endeavoring to sustain the authority of the Chair, which certainly has been violated.
1 Nothing is clearer, under the rules of the Senate, than that Mr. Sumner was in order, when, on introducing his bill, he proceeded to state the causes for doing it.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. It is the opinion of the Chair that the debate is out of order. I am not precisely informed of what the rule is; but such is my clear impression.
MR. WALKER (of Wisconsin). If the Senator from Massachusetts will allow me, I will say a word here.
MR. SUMNER. Certainly.
MR. WALKER. It is usual, upon notice being given of intention, to ask leave to introduce a bill. The bill is sent to the Chair, and it is taken as a matter of course that the Senator asking it has leave. But in this instance, differing from the usual practice, objection has been made to leave being granted. The necessity is imposed, then, of taking the sense of the Senate on granting leave to the Senator to introduce his bill. That, then, becomes the question. The question for the Chair to put is, Shall the Senator have leave ?
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. That was the question proposed.
MR. WALKER. Now, Sir, it does seem to me that it is proper, and that it is in order, for the Senator to address himself to the Senate, with the view of showing the propriety of granting the leave asked for. · He has a right to show that there would be propriety on the part of the Senate in granting the leave. I think, therefore, as this may become a precedent in future in regard to other matters, that it should be settled with some degree of deliberation.
MR. GWIN. Let the Chair decide the question.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. The Chair has decided that debate was not in order, in his opinion.
MR. SUMNER. From that decision of the Chair I most respectfully take an appeal.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. From that ruling of the Chair an appeal is taken by the Senator from Massachusetts. The question is on the appeal.
MR. BENJAMIN. In order to put a stop to the whole debate, I move to lay the appeal on the table. That is a motion which is not debatable.
MR. SUMNER. Is that motion in order ?
MR. WELLER (of California). I desire to make one remark in regard to the rule.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. It is not in order now. The question must be taken without debate.
MR. SUMNER. Allow me to state the case as it seems to me. I was on the floor, and yielded it to the Senator from Wisconsin strictly for the purpose of an explanation. When he finished, I was in possession of the floor; and then it was that the Senator from Louisiana, on my right THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Wil
Will the Senator from Massachusetts give leave to the Chair to explain?
MR. SUMNER. Certainly.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. A point of order was made by the Senator from California [Mr. GWIN], that debate was not in order upon the question of granting leave; and the Chair so decided. The Senator from Massachusetts then lost the floor, as I apprehend, and he certainly did by following it up by an appeal. After that he could go no further. He lost the floor then again for a second time, and then it was that the Senator from Louisiana intervened with another motion, which is certainly in order, to lay the appeal on the table. That is not debatable. This, it seems to me, is the state of the case.
1 The motion was clearly out of order: first, because in the Senate an appeal from the decision of the Chair on a question of order cannot be laid on the table; and, secondly, because Mr. Sumner was already on the floor, so that Mr. Benjamin could not make a motion.
MR. CHASE (of Ohio). Will the Chair allow me to make a single statement ?
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Certainly.
MR. CHASE. The Senator from Massachusetts rose and held the floor during the suggestion made to the Chair by the Senator from Wisconsin. The Chair then, after the Senator from Wisconsin had finished his suggestion, declared his opinion to be, notwithstanding the suggestion, that debate was not in order. The Senator from Massachusetts then took an appeal, and retained the floor for the purpose of addressing the Senate on that appeal. While he occupied the floor, the Senator from Louisiana rose and moved to lay the appeal upon the table. That will be borne out by the gentlemen present.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. That is so; but the Chair does not understand that debate was in order on the appeal. The appeal was to be decided without debate, and therefore the Senator from Massachusetts necessarily lost the floor after he took the appeal.
MR. BELL (of Tennessee). I would inquire whether there is not a bill already pending for the repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law ?
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. I have not inquired of the Secretary, but it is my belief there is a similar bill pending; but it was not on that ground the Chair made this ruling
MR. BELL. I would inquire whether there is not such a bill pending ? Did not the honorable Senator from Ohio some time ago bring in such a bill ?