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.
On the last day of the last session of the Fortieth Congress, the President of the United States signed, and thus approved, a bill, which had been regularly passed by both Houses of Congress, entitled "An Act making appropriations for sundry civil expenses of the Government for the year ending June 30, 1870, and for other purposes."
On the 9th of April, 1869, at the first session of the Forty-first Congress, in the House of Representatives, Mr. Dawes, from Massachusetts, addressed the speaker as follows; " I ask unanimous consent to report from the Committee on Appropriations a bill making available an appropriation heretofore made for furniture for the Presidential Mansion. The appropriation made at the last session of Congress cannot be made available until next July, unless this bill is passed."
The bill introduced by Mr. Dawes, who was at that time chairman of the Standing Committee of the House on Appropriations, was a perfectly legitimate piece of legislation. He also presented to the House, at the same time a letter from the Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Boutwell, who stated that the appropriation bill of the previous session, mentioned above, had been referred to the Comptroller of the Currency for his views, and that the comptroller had expressed the opinion that the money appropriated to purchase furniture for the President's House could not be drawn before July 1, 1869. The Secretary also requested that a bill similar to that now introduced by Mr. Dawes might be passed by Congress.
The House received the bill presented by Mr. Dawes, which was read a first and second time, without opposition. It was in substance as follows.
"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That the sum of *25,000 appropriated by the act approved March 3, 1869, entitled ' An act making appropriations for sundry civil expenses of the government for the year ending June 30, 1870,' for the purpose of refurnishing the President's House, may be made available for that purpose without increasing the amount."
Mr. Brooks, of New York, asked: "Can the gentleman name what is the amount appropriated for the White House this year'"
Mr. Dawes replied: "There has been none made by this Congress. The last Congress appropriated $25,000 - the usual amount at the coming in of a new administration. It has never been less than that. On one occasion it was more."
No further remarks being made, the bill was ordered to be engrossed and read a third time, and being engrossed, it was accordingly read a third time, and passed by the House as it was introduced by Mr. Dawes.
For some unexplained cause, Mr. Dawes then moved to reconsider the vote by which the House had passed the bill, and also moved that the motion to reconsider such vote be laid on the table.
The bill was now ready to go to the Senate for concurrence, amendment or defeat.
On the following day, in the Senate, a message was received from the House of Representatives, by its Clerk, Mr. McPherson, announcing that the House had passed the bill making available an appropriation heretofore made for furniture for the Presidential Mansion, and requesting the concurrence therein of the Senate.
Mr. Fessenden, of Maine, said "That is a very short bill, and I move that it be taken up at once and acted upon. It is absolutely necessary to pass it, because the money which has been appropriated for that purpose cannot be used in the present fiscal year as the law stands. This bill is merely to allow the money to be used at once."
He then called attention to the letter from the Secretary of the Treasury, expressing the opinion of the Comptroller of the Currency as to the unavailability of the appropriation in its present condition.
Mr. Stewart, referring to the bill, said: "It had better be read."
By unanimous consent, the bill was read twice by its title, and was then considered as in Committee of the Whole.
Mr. Conkling said: "Let us hear the letter read of which the chairman told us."
The Chief Clerk then read Secretary Boutwell's letter in reference to the appropriation.
Mr. Fessenden said: "I notice that the bill reads that ' the sum of $25,000, etc., is hereby made available for such purpose.' It is available now, but not until the close of the fiscal year. I think, therefore, that it will be necessary to amend it. I move to amend it by inserting after the word 'available' the words, during the present fiscal year ' "
The amendment was agreed to as in Committee of the Whole.
The bill was next reported to the Senate as amended, and the Senate concurred in the amendment.
It was ordered that the amendment be engrossed, and the bill read a third time.
So the bill was read a third time and passed.
A message from the Senate, by its Secretary, Mr. Gorham, announced to the House that the Senate had passed the bill, with an amendment, in which he was directed to ask the concurrence of the House.
Mr. Dawes said: "I ask unanimous consent that the bill just returned from the Senate may be taken up, and the amendment of the Senate concurred in.
Messrs. Kerr, Brooks, and others objected.
Mr. Fessenden, in the Senate, on the same day, said: "In regard to the bill authorizing the $25,000 appropriated for furnishing the President's House to be used during the current year, which we sent back to the other House with an amendment, I understand that it cannot be got up in the House," - owing to the objections of Messrs. Kerr, Brooks and others, - " and it is sent back to me informally, with the request that it be passed as it is. I move, therefore, regarding the bill as here by unanimous consent, that we reconsider the vote by which it was passed, and then vote down the amendment, and pass it" - the bill as it came from the House at first - " without amendment. "
Mr. Edmunds, of Vermont, said. "It has not been returned formally."
Mr. Edmunds said: "No, but informally."
The President of the Senate said: "The vote will be regarded as reconsidered if there be no objection."
Mr. Edmunds and others said: "Let it be done by unanimous consent."
The President of the Senate said; " There being no objection, the vote on the passage of the bill making available an appropriation heretofore made for furniture for the Presidential Mansion will be regarded as reconsidered. The amendment will be regarded as rejected, and the bill passed without amendment - if there be no objection. "
In the House a message from the Senate, by its Clerk, Mr. Gorham, announced that the Senate had passed, without amendment, an act making available the appropriation heretofore made for furniture for the Presidential Mansion.
A message from the House, by its Clerk, Mr. McPherson, announced that the Speaker of the House had signed the bill making available the appropriation for furniture for the White House; and the President of the Senate then signed it. It was then ready to be sent to the President of the United States for approval and signature, in the same form as that in which Mr. Dawes introduced it in the House of Representatives on the previous day
The history of this bill is something unusual, and the action upon it irregular, but the legality of the measure is unquestioned. After the Senate had passed the bill with the amendment, it was the duty of the House to either accept or reject the amendment by ballot. This it failed to do. It was irregular, also, for the Senate to reject its own amendment without having the bill before it, as it should have had, but it could not have it. The bill having, therefore, finally passed both houses without amendment, and the presiding officers having both signed it, it became a law, for it is not likely that the President would veto a bill of so much importance to the house in which he lived. It was something unusual, too, for the Senate to first consider the bill " as in Committee of the Whole," there agree to it, report it to the Senate as a body, and then put it on its passage.