Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Clayton Compromise 5: "Instantly Senators arose from sofas"

As I mentioned in the last post, the Senate passed the Clayton Compromise bill shortly before 8:00 a.m. on Thursday July 27, 1848. The session had begun at 11:00 a.m. the day before. I've read portions of the Senate debate on the bill and it is singularly unenlightening. Almost everyone seems to have been exhausted and befuddled. And yet a majority was so desperate to end the agony by producing a bill – almost any bill, it would seem – that they refused to adjourn until a vote was taken. This excerpt from the Congressional Globe is more instructive than the speech of any Senator:
Mr. [John M.] NILES addressed the Senate for some half hour. There being only one Senator present in his seat, he moved that the Senate adjourn.

It was then two a.m., but instantly Senators arose from sofas and various parts of the lobby, and the yeas and nays were demanded, and the motion was disagreed to [by a vote of 11-32].

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