The Bill Before The Committee

When the full bill came up in the committee for consideration, Smith was requested to be present with one or two of his friends to explain anything that might be deemed questionable. Smith and his friends did their best to convince the committee of the fairness and utility of the measure. They described the geographical position with neat diagrams, and the commercial interests with nicely-arranged statistics. They represented the value of the Nippewisset river below the proposed dam as already worthless for commercial purposes - a thing of swamps and shoals and bars. They pointed with much enthusiasm to the increased value of lots and lands made available by making the river navigable above the dam. The committee courteously dismissed Smith and his friends, and then discussed the question of reporting the bill favorably to the House. One or two opposition members argued against the measure on political grounds, and one or two more objected otherwise, but the value of the levees or dykes to the commerce of that section of country was a strong argument. The chairman thought the improvement was richly worth the sum it would cost for its promotion of commerce in the Northwest. He had known railroads that promised less to receive large grants of land and great subsidies of money without a murmur of opposition. Now 15,000 people and 500 farms were to be benefited by the appropriation of an insignificant sum of money. He believed in encouraging steamboats, canal-boats, sail vessels or railroads impartially, in proportion to their relative business. A railroad company needed more help than a steamboat company, and always got it. He should vote for the measure as one of the committee, or as its chairman with his casting vote. Then the vote was taken. It stood five to three before the chairman voted; then it stood six to three.

Report Of The Committee

Next day the chairman of the Committee on Commerce stood up in the House and favorably reported Smith's bill without amendment.

The House went into Committee of the Whole that afternoon to consider some appropriations for special objects. Smith's bill was among them. Smith was a little nervous. It is true he had won an important victory. The Committee on Commerce was made up of men of good common sense and ability, and their recommendation was on the side of the dominant political party in the House. But now the bill had to run the gauntlet of the entire House - friends and foes. Smith made an able plea in behalf of it, and his colleague (Benson) made another. One or two Eastern members, with pardonable sectional indifference, briefly objected to the West swallowing up so much of the public money; but an old stalwart veteran from Massachusetts said that the East had no reason to be ashamed of the West and its energetic commercial prosperity. The two sections were no longer divided in their interests. Massachusetts was the older and the better cultivated State in the matter of intellect and commercial affairs, but Wisconsin was fast overtaking any of the New England States in both of these advantages. Then he wound up with an oratorical slap at New York's overgrown steamship and railroad monopolies, and said he should vote for Smith's bill. Two or three other gentleman spoke of Wisconsin in the most favorable terms. Her war record was briefly reviewed and compared favorably with her agricultural, manufacturing and political position in the Union. Many members listened to the discussion with perfect indifference. One man suggested an amendment by striking out the appropriation. This bit of waggery caused a general smile and hastened the vote on the bill. The yeas and nays were called for and taken; the bill received a handsome majority on the question of reporting it favorably to the House, and then the committee rose.

One secret of the success of Smith's bill, thus far, is found in the real benefit that it proposed to bring to everybody living above the dam; the population below the dam had not yet found out enough about it to oppose it intelligently.

On the following day, the action of the Committee of the Whole was duly reported to the assembled House, and the bills favorably passed upon by the committee were called up in rotation for action by the House. That is, the members moved the second reading of each one as it came up, and it was so ordered.

Debate followed the second reading. Some of the bills were discussed at length: some were laid on the table; some were postponed; others were ordered to be engrossed for a third reading and put upon their passage. One or two were passed by good majorities. One or two more were recommitted to their respective committees for further consideration and amendment.

A Speech In Favor Of The Bill

Smith's bill was read a second time. Benson good-naturedly spoke in favor of its passage. He had been in Congress one or two terms, and always spoke to the point and pleasantly. In consideration of its having favorably passed the Committee on Commerce and the Committee of the Whole, he felt it due to his colleague (Smith) and the State which they both represented, to move its third reading and passage by the House.

An opposition member, from a district in another portion of the Union, wished to know if the lobby had come well-primed to urge this bill through the House.

Benson indignantly repelled the insinuation of corrupting influences. The parties named in the bill were business men in good standing - not millionaires, and men who had no money to throw away in buying votes for a paltry sum of 815.000. Suppose they had a prospective money interest in the bill. So had every business man in the county. The lobby were a unit in advocating the measure, and not a word of genuine opposition had been heard except from the opponents of the dominant party in this House. "I," said Benson, in conclusion, "I move, sir, that the bill go to a third reading and be put upon its passage."

Smith seconded the motion. The crisis had come in the House, but he felt rather sure of success. The men from below the dam had not been heard from. The other eight members from Wisconsin knew of no good reason why the bill should not pass, and they said little or nothing in regard to it. Besides, they might need the votes of Smith and Benson in some little measures of their own during the session; so they were a unit on this question.

The yeas and nays on the passage of the bill were called. The vote showed political bias and considerable indifference as to the result. It stood: Yeas, 94; nays, 65; not voting, 37. So the bill was passed.

The Bill Goes To The Senate

A day later, Smith's bill, with others, is taken to the Senate Chamber by the Clerk of the House of Representatives and handed to the Secretary of the Senate. The latter officer, at the proper time, announces to the Senate the receipt of these bills, which have been sent to that branch of Congress for its concurrence. As the title of each is read, some Senator moves its reference to a committee, or to be laid on the table, or to be read in full a first or a first and second time.

A Senator, hearing the title of Smith's bill read, requested that it be read in full. Having heard it read, the Senator moved that the bill be sent to the Committee on Commerce.

Another Senator moved that it go to the Committee on Appropriations. This last motion being seconded, the first Senator withdrew his motion.

The President: " Unless objection is made, the bill will be sent to the Committee on Appropriations. "

No one objected; and the bill was referred to the Committee on Appropriations.