This section is from the book "Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: A Guide To Correct Writing", by Thos. E. Hill. Also available from Amazon: Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: The How-To-Do-Everything Book Of Victorian America.
That more or less of personal selfishness should sometimes reveal itself in Congressional legislation is a natural consequence. In order to show the routine work of introducing a bill, the nature of the lobby, the means which may influence the passage of a law in Congress, where personal benefits are conferred, the following illustration is given. This class of bill is presented as illustrative of the work of the lobby and the means sometimes used to influence legislation in securing appropriations for personal profit.
Mr. Smith does not believe that any man ever goes to Congress without at least one selfish motive - one "axe to grind." Pott, his predecessor, had half a dozen axes to grind, and came very near ruining a good portion of his constituency by advocating his selfish measures. Smith confesses (to himself only, however,) that he has one motive of a personal nature in coming to Congress. The city in which he lives - Smithtown (named after his uncle, its first settler) - is located on the west bank of the Nippewisset river, near its headwaters. Fifteen miles below, on the east bank, is Poppleton, another thriving city, in which Smith and his relatives own large real estate and commercial interests. The Grand Trunk Through-route Railroad runs around Smithtown to the north, and completely ignores it, while passing trains from Iowa to Milwaukee. On the other hand, the Great Occidental Railroad, running from Chicago to a junction with the Northern Pacific, has a station at Poppleton, and receives and delivers freight and passengers, regularly. Smith's idea is to conneet Smithtown and Pop-pleton by steamers running on the Nippe-wisset river as a means of benefiting both towns. But the Nippewisset can hardly be called a navigable stream, for although it is forty rods wide and seventy miles long, and empties into the Mississippi, it is full of shallow water between Smithtown and Poppleton, and in the summer time an empty pontoon could hardly be floated between the two points. Smith has formed an idea to remedy this evil, and it is taking shape in his brain. In his seat in Congress and in his private lodgings he is engaged in putting it upon paper.
" Mr. Speaker - 1 hold in my hand a bill entitled: ' An Act to build a dam across the Nippewisset river at a point three miles below the town of Poppleton. Lomax county, Wisconsin, and appropriating $15,000 for that purpose.' This bill, sir, is in the interest of a large and populous section of my district, and is offered for the purpose of facilitating trade and commerce between the great Northwest and the metropolitan city of Chicago and the Atlantic sea-board. I desire, sir, to have it read and referred to the Committee on Appropriations." Smith " fairly ached" to make a speech on his bill, but he wisely refrained until it should regularly come before the House. He sent it to the Speaker by a page. Smith's colleague (Benson) requested that it be read before being referred, as it was short. He thought that an internal improvement bill of this sort had sufficient public interest to demand this consideration.
The fact is that Benson only preferred his request to satisfy his own curiosity. He had no special interests in Smith's district, and if the bill did no injury to the State, it might pass and welcome.
The Speaker said: " If there are no objections, the bill will be read by the Clerk."
The Clerk read as follows:
"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That permission is hereby granted to Robert Sweet, Thomas P. Glade and John Q. A. Sweet to construct and maintain a substantial dam across the Nippewisset river, three miles below the city of Poppleton, in the county of Lomax and State of Wisconsin.
"Section 2. The said dam shall be constructed of natural stone and timber, and earth, put together as crib-work, and extend from the present east shore of the Nippewisset river, at a point known as Winkle's ford, to the west shore of said river to a point known as the northeast corner of Tripp's farm.
"Section 3. The lands likely to be overflowed by reason of the construction of the said dam are swamp-lands, owned by the State of Wisconsin; and the said Robert Sweet, Thomas P. Glade and John Q. A. Sweet, their heirs and successors, are hereby authorized and required to build and maintain strong and substantial dykes, or levees along the line of the banks of said river, between the river and said swamp-lands, to prevent the overflow of the river into said swamps.
"Section 4. There is also appropriated to the said Robert Sweet, Thomas P. Glade and John Q. A. Sweet, to aid in the construction of said dam and dykes, or levees, the sum of $15,000, to be paid from moneys in the Treasury of the United States not otherwise appropriated."
The Speaker: "If there is no objection, the bill will be sent to Committee on Appropriations."
A Member: "I move that it be ordered printed and sent to the Committee on Commerce."
Another Member: " I second that motion."
The yeas and nays being called for, the motion prevailed, Smith himself voting in the affirmative.
That afternoon Smith's bill was sent to the room of the Committee on Commerce by a messenger, with other bills that had been referred to them during the day.
Smith had a lobby force at the capital, a number of personal friends from Smithtown and Poppleton, who knew the value of Smith's project to the interests of their respective towns and their own pockets. Ostensibly the surrounding country was to be greatly benefited by the passage of the bill. Now the lobby went to work in good earnest. They advocated the measure to every member of the House who would listen to them. They were liberal in dinners, wines and cigars. They had an argument to meet every objection. It was not a trumpery affair. A whole district would be benefited; towns would flourish, farmers be encouraged, commerce be increased, and labor enlisted. They all understood the merits of the bill. Smith was modest; he only pleaded the best interests of his constituents. Glade, one of the parties named in the bill, was there. He got in some good arguments also. Smith knew two or three of the Committee on Commerce, and by his manly bearing and quiet demeanor gave them a favorable impression of himself.