this subtle demand of

Immediately after the change of administration in 1885, the pressure
began for the ousting of Republican office-holders and the substitution
of Democrats in their places. While I claim to have earned a position
which entitles me to resent the accusation that I either openly or
covertly favor swift official decapitation for partizan purposes, I
have no sympathy with the intolerant people who, without the least
appreciation of the meaning of party work and service, superciliously
affect to despise all those who apply for office as they would those
guilty of a flagrant misdemeanor. It will indeed be a happy day when
the ascendancy of party principles, and the attainment of wholesome
administration, will be universally regarded as sufficient rewards
of individual and legitimate party service. Much has already been
accomplished in the direction of closing the door of partizanship as
an entrance to public employment; and though this branch of effort in
the public interest may well be still further extended, such extension
certainly should be supplemented by earnest and persuasive attempts to
correct among our people long-cherished notions concerning the ends
that should be sought through political activity, and by efforts to
uproot pernicious and office-rewarding political methods. I am not sure
that any satisfactory progress can be made toward these results, until
our good men with unanimity cease regarding politics as necessarily
debasing, and by active participation shall displace the selfish and
unworthy who, when uninterrupted, control party operations. In the
meantime, why should we indiscriminately hate those who seek office?
They may not have entirely emancipated themselves from the belief that
the offices should pass with party victory; but even if this is charged
against them, it can surely be said that in all other respects they are
in many instances as honest, as capable, and as intelligent as any of
us. There may be reasons and considerations which properly defeat their
aspirations, but their applications are not always disgraceful. I have
an idea that sometimes the greatest difference between them and those
who needlessly abuse them and gloat over their discomfiture, consists
in the fact that the office-seekers desire office, and their critics,
being more profitably employed, do not. I feel constrained to say
this much by way of defending, or at least excusing, many belonging
to a numerous contingent of citizens, who, after the 4th of March,
1885, made large drafts upon my time, vitality, and patience; and I
feel bound to say that in view of their frequent disappointments, and
the difficulty they found in appreciating the validity of the reasons
given for refusing their applications, they accepted the situation
with as much good nature and contentment as could possibly have been
anticipated. It must be remembered that they and their party associates
had been banished from Federal office-holding for twenty-four years.

I have no disposition to evade the fact that suspensions of officials
holding presidential commissions began promptly and were quite
vigorously continued; but I confidently claim that every suspension
made was with honest intent and, I believe, in accordance with the
requirements of good administration and consistent with prior executive
pledges. Some of these officials held by tenures unlimited as to their
duration. Among these were certain internal-revenue officers who, it
seemed to me, in analogy with others doing similar work but having a
limited tenure, ought to consider a like limited period of incumbency
their proper term of office; and there were also consular officials
and others attached to the foreign service who, I believe it was
then generally understood, should be politically in accord with the

By far the greater number of suspensions, however, were made on
account of gross and indecent partizan conduct on the part of the
incumbents. The preceding presidential campaign, it will be recalled,
was exceedingly bitter, and governmental officials then in place were
apparently so confident of the continued supremacy of their party that
some of them made no pretense of decent behavior. In numerous instances
the post-offices were made headquarters for local party committees and
organizations and the centers of partizan scheming. Party literature
favorable to the postmasters’ party, that never passed regularly
through the mails, was distributed through the post-offices as an item
of party service, and matter of a political character, passing through
the mails in the usual course and addressed to patrons belonging to
the opposite party, was withheld; disgusting and irritating placards
were prominently displayed in many post-offices, and the attention
of Democratic inquirers for mail matter was tauntingly directed to
them by the postmaster; and in various other ways postmasters and
similar officials annoyed and vexed those holding opposite political
opinions, who, in common with all having business at public offices,
were entitled to considerate and obliging treatment. In some quarters
official incumbents neglected public duty to do political work,
and especially in Southern States they frequently were not only
inordinately active in questionable political work, but sought to do
party service by secret and sinister manipulation of colored voters,
and by other practices inviting avoidable and dangerous collisions
between the white and colored population.

I mention these things in order that what I shall say later may be
better understood. I by no means attempt to describe all the wrongdoing
which formed the basis of many of the suspensions of officials that
followed the inauguration of the new administration. I merely mention
some of the accusations which I recall as having been frequently made,
by way of illustrating in a general way certain phases of pernicious
partizanship that seemed to me to deserve prompt and decisive
treatment. Some suspensions, however, were made on proof of downright
official malfeasance. Complaints against office-holders based on
personal transgression or partizan misconduct were usually made to
the Executive and to the heads of departments by means of letters,
ordinarily personal and confidential, and also often by means of verbal
communications. Whatever papers, letters, or documents were received
on the subject, either by the President or by any head of department,
were, for convenience of reference, placed together on department
files. These complaints were carefully examined; many were cast aside
as frivolous or lacking support, while others, deemed of sufficient
gravity and adequately established, resulted in the suspension of the
accused officials.

Suspensions instead of immediate removals were resorted to, because
under the law then existing it appeared to be the only way that
during a recess of the Senate an offending official could be ousted
from his office, and his successor installed pending his nomination
to the Senate at its next session. Though, as we have already seen,
the law permitted suspensions by the President “in his discretion,” I
considered myself restrained by the pledges I had made from availing
myself of the discretion thus granted without reasons, and felt bound
to make suspensions of officials having a definite term to serve, only
for adequate cause.

It will be observed further on that no resistance was then made to the
laws pertaining to executive removals and suspensions, on the ground
of their unconstitutionality; but I have never believed that either
the law of 1867 or the law of 1869, when construed as permitting
interference with the freedom of the President in making removals,
would survive a judicial test of its constitutionality.

Within thirty days after the Senate met in December, 1885, the
nominations of the persons who had been designated to succeed officials
suspended during the vacation were sent to that body for confirmation,
pursuant to existing statutes.

It was charged against me by the leader of the majority in the Senate
that these nominations of every kind and description, representing
the suspensions made within ten months succeeding the 4th of March,
1885, numbered six hundred and forty-three. I have not verified this
statement, but I shall assume that it is correct. Among the officials
suspended there were two hundred and seventy-eight postmasters,
twenty-eight district attorneys, and twenty-four marshals, and among
those who held offices with no specified term there were sixty-one
internal-revenue officers and sixty-five consuls and other persons
attached to the foreign service.

It was stated on the floor of the Senate, after it had been in session
for three months, that of the nominations submitted to that body to
fill the places of suspended officials fifteen had been confirmed and
two rejected.

Quite early in the session frequent requests in writing began to issue
from the different committees of the Senate to which these nominations
were referred, directed to the heads of the several departments having
supervision of the offices to which the nominations related, asking the
reasons for the suspension of officers whose places it was proposed to
fill by means of the nominations submitted, and for all papers on file
in their departments which showed the reasons for such suspensions.
These requests foreshadowed what the senatorial construction of the
law of 1869 might be, and indicated that the Senate, notwithstanding
constitutional limitations, and even in the face of the repeal of the
statutory provision giving it the right to pass upon suspensions by the
President, was still inclined to insist, directly or indirectly, upon
that right. These requests, as I have said, emanated from committees of
the Senate, and were addressed to the heads of departments. As long as
such requests were made by committees I had no opportunity to discuss
the questions growing out of such requests with the Senate itself,
or to make known directly to that body the position on this subject
which I felt bound to assert. Therefore the replies made to committees
by the different heads of departments stated that by direction of
the President they declined furnishing the reasons and papers so
requested, on the ground that the public interest would not be thereby
promoted, or on the ground that such reasons and papers related to a
purely executive act. Whatever language was used in these replies,
they conveyed the information that the President had directed a denial
of the requests made, because in his opinion the Senate could have no
proper concern with the information sought to be obtained.

It may not be amiss to mention here that while this was the position
assumed by the Executive in relation to suspensions, all the
information of any description in the possession of the Executive or in
any of the departments, which would aid in determining the character
and fitness of those nominated in place of suspended officials, was
cheerfully and promptly furnished to the Senate or its committees when

In considering the requests made for the transmission of the reasons
for suspensions, and the papers relating thereto, I could not avoid the
conviction that a compliance with such requests would be to that extent
a failure to protect and defend the Constitution, as well as a wrong to
the great office I held in trust for the people, and which I was bound
to transmit unimpaired to my successors; nor could I be unmindful of a
tendency in some quarters to encroach upon executive functions, or of
the eagerness with which executive concession would be seized upon as
establishing precedent.

The nominations sent to the Senate remained neglected in the committees
to which they had been referred; the requests of the committees for
reasons and papers touching suspensions were still refused, and it
became daily more apparent that a sharp contest was impending. In
this condition of affairs it was plainly intimated by members of the
majority in the Senate that if all charges against suspended officials
were abandoned and their suspensions based entirely upon the ground
that the spoils belonged to the victors, confirmations would follow.
This, of course, from my standpoint, would have been untruthful and
dishonest; but the suggestion indicated that in the minds of some
Senators, at least, there was a determination to gain a partizan
advantage by discrediting the professions of the President, who, for
the time, represented the party they opposed. This manifestly could be
thoroughly done by inducing him to turn his back upon the pledges he
had made, and to admit, for the sake of peace, that his action arose
solely from a desire to put his party friends in place.

Up to this stage of the controversy, not one of the many requests made
for the reasons of suspensions or for the papers relating to them had
been sent from the Senate itself; nor had any of them been addressed
to the President. It may seem not only strange that, in the existing
circumstances, the Senate should have so long kept in the background,
but more strange that the Executive, constituting a coördinate branch
of the Government, and having such exclusive concern in the pending
differences, should have been so completely ignored. I cannot think
it uncharitable to suggest in explanation that as long as these
requests and refusals were confined to Senate committees and heads
of departments, a public communication stating the position of the
President in the controversy would probably be avoided; and that, as
was subsequently made more apparent, there was an intent, in addressing
requests to the heads of departments, to lay a foundation for the
contention that not only the Senate but its committees had a right to
control these heads of departments as against the President in matters
relating to executive duty.

On the 17th of July, 1885, during the recess of the Senate, one George
M. Duskin was suspended from the office of District Attorney for the
Southern District of Alabama, and John D. Burnett was designated as
his successor. The latter at once took possession of the office, and
entered upon the discharge of its duties; and on the 14th of December,
1885, the Senate having in the meantime convened in regular session,
the nomination of Burnett was sent to that body for confirmation.
This nomination, pursuant to the rules and customs of the Senate, was
referred to its Committee on the Judiciary. On the 26th of December,
that committee then having the nomination under consideration, one of
its members addressed a communication to the Attorney-General of the
United States, requesting him, “on behalf of the Committee on the
Judiciary of the Senate and by its direction,” to send to such member
of the committee all papers and information in the possession of the
Department of Justice touching the nomination of Burnett, “also all
papers and information touching the suspension and proposed removal
from office of George M. Duskin.” On the 11th of January, 1886, the
Attorney-General responded to this request in these terms:

The Attorney-General states that he sends herewith all papers,
etc., touching the nomination referred to; and in reference to
the papers touching the suspension of Duskin from office, he
has as yet received no direction from the President in relation
to their transmission.

At this point it seems to have been decided for the first time that
the Senate itself should enter upon the scene as interrogator. It
was not determined, however, to invite the President to answer this
new interrogator, either for the protection and defense of his high
office or in self-vindication. It appears to have been also decided at
this time to give another form to the effort the Senate itself was to
undertake to secure the “papers and information” which its Committee
had been unable to secure. In pursuance of this plan the following
resolution was adopted by the Senate in executive session on the 25th
of January, 1886:

Resolved, That the Attorney-General of the United States be,
and he hereby is, directed to transmit to the Senate copies of
all documents and papers that have been filed in the Department
of Justice since the 1st day of January, a.d. 1885, in relation
to the conduct of the office of District Attorney of the United
States for the Southern District of Alabama.

The language of this resolution is more adroit than ingenuous. While
appearing reasonable and fair upon its face, and presenting no
indication that it in any way related to a case of suspension, it
quickly assumes its real complexion when examined in the light of
its surroundings. The requests previously made on behalf of Senate
committees had ripened into a “demand” by the Senate itself. Herein is
found support for the suggestion I have made, that from the beginning
there might have been an intent on the part of the Senate to claim
that the heads of departments, who are members of the President’s
Cabinet and his trusted associates and advisers, owed greater obedience
to the Senate than to their executive chief in affairs which he
and they regarded as exclusively within executive functions. As to
the real meaning and purpose of the resolution, a glance at its
accompanying conditions and the incidents preceding it makes manifest
the insufficiency of its disguise. This resolution was adopted by the
Senate in executive session, where the entire senatorial business done
is the consideration of treaties and the confirmation of nominations
for office. At the time of its adoption Duskin had been suspended for
more than six months, his successor had for that length of time been
in actual possession of the office, and this successor’s nomination
was then before the Senate in executive session for confirmation.
The demand was for copies of documents and papers in relation to the
conduct of the office filed since January 1, 1885, thus covering a
period of incumbency almost equally divided between the suspended
officer and the person nominated to succeed him. The documents and
papers demanded could not have been of any possible use to the Senate
in executive session, except as they had a bearing either upon the
suspension of the one or the nomination of the other. But as we have
already seen, the Attorney-General had previously sent to a committee
of the Senate all the papers he had in his custody in any way relating
to the nomination and the fitness of the nominee, whether such papers
had reference to the conduct of the office or otherwise. Excluding,
therefore, such documents and papers embraced in the demand as related
to the pending nomination, and which had already been transmitted, it
was plain that there was nothing left with the Attorney-General that
could be included in the demand of the Senate in its executive session
except what had reference to the conduct of the previous incumbent
and his suspension. It is important to recall in this connection the
fact that this subtle demand of the Senate for papers relating “to the
conduct of the office” followed closely upon a failure to obtain “all
papers and information” touching said suspension, in response to a
plain and blunt request specifying precisely what was desired.

I have referred to these matters because it seems to me they indicate
the animus and intent which characterized the first stages of a
discussion that involved the rights and functions of the Executive
branch of the Government. It was perfectly apparent that the issue
was between the President and the Senate, and that the question
constituting that issue was whether or not the Executive was invested
with the right and power to suspend officials without the interference
of the Senate or any accountability to that body for the reasons of
his action. It was also manifest if it was desired to deal with this
issue directly and fairly, disembarrassed by any finesse for position,
it could at any time have been easily done, if only one of the many
requests for reasons for suspensions, which were sent by committees of
the Senate to heads of departments, had been sent by the Senate itself
to the President.

Within three days after the passage by the Senate, in executive
session, of the resolution directing the Attorney-General to
transmit to that body the documents and papers on file relating
to the management and conduct of the office from which Mr. Duskin
had been removed, and to which Mr. Burnett had been nominated, the
Attorney-General replied thereto as follows:

In response to the said resolution, the President of the
United States directs me to say that the papers that were in
this department relating to the fitness of John D. Burnett,
recently nominated to said office, having already been sent
to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, and the papers and
documents which are mentioned in the said resolution, and still
remaining in the custody of this department, having exclusive
reference to the suspension by the President of George M.
Duskin, the late incumbent of the office of District Attorney
for the Southern District of Alabama, it is not considered that
the public interests will be promoted by a compliance with said
resolution and the transmission of the papers and documents
therein mentioned to the Senate in executive session.

This response of the Attorney-General was referred to the Senate
Committee on the Judiciary. Early in February, 1886, a majority of
the committee made a report to the Senate, in which it seems to have
been claimed that all papers–whatever may be their personal, private,
or confidential character–if placed on file, or, in other words, if
deposited in the office of the head of a department, became thereupon
official papers, and that the Senate had therefore a right to their
transmittal when they had reference to the conduct of a suspended
official, and when that body had under advisement the confirmation of
his proposed successor. Much stress was laid upon the professions made
by the President of his adherence to Civil Service reform methods, and
it was broadly hinted that, in the face of six hundred and forty-three
suspensions from office, these professions could hardly be sincere.
Instances were cited in which papers and information had been demanded
and furnished in previous administrations, and these were claimed to
be precedents in favor of the position assumed by the majority of the
committee. Almost at the outset of the report it was declared:

The important question, then, is whether it is within the
constitutional competence of either House of Congress to have
access to the official papers and documents in the various
public offices of the United States, created by laws enacted by

In conclusion, the majority recommended the adoption by the Senate of
the following resolutions:

Resolved, That the Senate hereby expresses its condemnation of
the refusal of the Attorney-General, under whatever influence,
to send to the Senate copies of papers called for by its
resolution of the 25th of January and set forth in the report
of the Committee on the Judiciary, as in violation of his
official duty and subversive of the fundamental principles of
the Government, and of a good administration thereof.

Resolved, That it is under these circumstances the duty of the
Senate to refuse its advice and consent to proposed removals of
officers, the documents and papers in reference to the supposed
official or personal misconduct of whom are withheld by the
Executive or any head of a department when deemed necessary by
the Senate and called for in considering the matter.

Resolved, That the provision of Section 1754 of the Revised
Statutes, declaring that persons honorably discharged from the
military or naval service by reason of disability resulting
from wounds or sickness incurred in the line of duty shall be
preferred for appointment to civil offices provided they are
found to possess the business capacity necessary for the proper
discharge of the duties of such offices, ought to be faithfully
and fully put in execution, and that to remove or to propose
to remove any such soldier whose faithfulness, competency, and
character are above reproach, and to give place to another who
has not rendered such service, is a violation of the spirit
of the law and of the practical gratitude the people and
the Government of the United States owe to the defenders of
constitutional liberty and the integrity of the Government.

The first of these resolutions contains charges which, if true,
should clearly furnish grounds for the impeachment of the
Attorney-General–if not the President under whose “influence” he
concededly refused to submit the papers demanded by the Senate. A
public officer whose acts are “in violation of his official duty
and subversive of the fundamental principles of the Government, and
of a good administration thereof,” can scarcely add anything to his
predicament of guilt.

The second resolution has the merit of honesty in confessing that the
intent and object of the demand upon the Attorney-General was to secure
the demanded papers and documents for the purpose of passing upon the
President’s reasons for suspension. Beyond this, the declaration it
contains, that it was the “duty of the Senate to refuse its advice
and consent to proposed removals of officers” when the papers and
documents relating to their “supposed official or personal misconduct”
were withheld, certainly obliged the Senate, if the resolution should
be adopted, and if the good faith of that body in the controversy
should be assumed, to reject or ignore all nominations made to succeed
suspended officers unless the documents and papers upon which the
suspension was based were furnished and the Senate was thus given an
opportunity to review and reverse or confirm the President’s executive
act, resting, by the very terms of existing law, “in his discretion.”

The third resolution is grandly phrased, and its sentiment is
patriotic, noble, and inspiriting. Inasmuch, however, as the removal of
veteran soldiers from office did not seem to assume any considerable
prominence in the arraignment of the administration, the object of the
resolution is slightly obscure, unless, as was not unusual in those
days, the cause of the old soldier was impressed into the service of
the controversy for purposes of general utility.

A minority report was subsequently submitted, signed by all the
Democratic members of the committee, in which the allegations of the
majority report were sharply controverted. It was therein positively
asserted that no instance could be found in the practice of the
Government whose similarity in its essential features entitled it
to citation as an authoritative precedent; and that neither the
Constitution nor the existing law afforded any justification for the
action of the Senate in the promises.

These two reports, of course, furnished abundant points of controversy.
About the time of their submission, moreover, another document was
addressed to the Senate, which, whatever else may be said of it, seems
to have contributed considerably to the spirit and animation of the
discussion that ensued. This was a message from the President, in which
his position concerning the matter in dispute was defined. In this
communication the complete and absolute responsibility of the President
for all suspensions and the fact that the Executive had been afforded
no opportunity to speak for himself was stated in the following terms:

Though these suspensions are my executive acts based upon
considerations addressed to me alone, and for which I am wholly
responsible, I have had no invitation from the Senate to
state the position which I have felt constrained to assume in
relation to the same, or to interpret for myself my acts and
motives in the premises. In this condition of affairs I have
forborne addressing the Senate upon the subject, lest I might
be accused of thrusting myself unbidden upon the attention of
that body.

This statement was accompanied by the expression of a hope that the
misapprehension of the Executive position, indicated in the majority
report just presented and published, might excuse his then submitting
a communication. He commented upon the statement in the report
that “the important question, then, is whether it is within the
constitutional competence of either House of Congress to have access
to the official papers and documents in the various public offices
of the United States, created by laws enacted by themselves,” by
suggesting that though public officials of the United States might be
created by laws enacted by the two Houses of Congress, this fact did
not necessarily subject their offices to congressional control, but,
on the contrary, that “these instrumentalities were created for the
benefit of the people, and to answer the general purposes of government
under the Constitution and the laws; and that they are unencumbered by
any lien in favor of either branch of Congress growing out of their
construction, and unembarrassed by any obligation to the Senate as the
price of their creation.” While not conceding that the Senate had in
any case the right to review Executive action in suspending officials,
the President disclaimed any intention to withhold official papers
and documents when requested; and as to such papers and documents, he
expressed his willingness, because they were official, to continue, as
he had theretofore done in all cases, to lay them before the Senate
without inquiry as to the use to be made of them, and relying upon
the Senate for their legitimate utilization. The proposition was
expressly denied, however, that papers and documents inherently private
or confidential, addressed to the President or a head of department,
having reference to an act so entirely executive in its nature as the
suspension of an official, and which was by the Constitution as well
as by existing law placed within the discretion of the President, were
changed in their nature and instantly became official when placed for
convenience or for other reasons in the custody of a public department.
The contention of the President was thus stated:

There is no mysterious power of transmutation in departmental
custody, nor is there magic in the undefined and sacred
solemnity of departmental files. If the presence of these
papers in the public office is a stumbling-block in the way of
the performance of senatorial duty, it can be easily removed.

The Senate’s purposes were characterized in the message as follows:

The requests and demands which by the score have for nearly
three months been presented to the different departments of
the Government, whatever may be their form, have but one
complexion. They assume the right of the Senate to sit in
judgment upon the exercise of my exclusive discretion and
Executive function, for which I am solely responsible to the
people from whom I have so lately received the sacred trust of
office. My oath to support and defend the Constitution, my duty
to the people who have chosen me to execute the powers of their
great office and not relinquish them, and my duty to the chief
magistracy which I must preserve unimpaired in all its dignity
and vigor, compel me to refuse compliance with these demands.

This was immediately supplemented by the following concession of
the independent and unlimited power of the Senate in the matter of

To the end that the service may be improved, the Senate is
invited to the fullest scrutiny of the persons submitted to
them for public office, in recognition of the constitutional
power of that body to advise and consent to their appointment.
I shall continue, as I have thus far done, to furnish, at the
request of the confirming body, all the information I possess
touching the fitness of the nominees placed before them for
their action, both when they are proposed to fill vacancies
and to take the place of suspended officials. Upon a refusal
to confirm, I shall not assume the right to ask the reasons
for the action of the Senate nor question its determination. I
cannot think that anything more is required to secure worthy
incumbents in public office than a careful and independent
discharge of our respective duties within their well-defined

As it was hardly concealed that by no means the least important
senatorial purpose in the pending controversy was to discredit the
Civil Service reform pledges and professions of the Executive, this
issue was thus distinctly invited at the close of the message:

Every pledge I have made by which I have placed a limitation
upon my exercise of executive power has been faithfully
redeemed. Of course the pretense is not put forth that no
mistakes have been committed; but not a suspension has been
made except it appeared to my satisfaction that the public
welfare would be promoted thereby. Many applications for
suspension have been denied, and an adherence to the rule laid
down to govern my action as to such suspensions has caused
much irritation and impatience on the part of those who have
insisted upon more changes in the offices.

The pledges I have made were made to the people, and to them I
am responsible for the manner in which they have been redeemed.
I am not responsible to the Senate, and I am unwilling to
submit my actions and official conduct to them for judgment.

There are no grounds for an allegation that the fear of being
found false to my professions influences me in declining to
submit to the demands of the Senate. I have not constantly
refused to suspend officials and thus incurred the displeasure
of political friends, and yet wilfully broken faith with the
people, for the sake of being false to them.

Neither the discontent of party friends nor the allurements,
constantly offered, of confirmation of appointees conditioned
upon the avowal that suspensions have been made on party
grounds alone, nor the threat proposed in the resolutions now
before the Senate that no confirmation will be made unless
the demands of that body be complied with, are sufficient to
discourage or deter me from following in the way which I am
convinced leads to better government for the people.

The temper and disposition of the Senate may be correctly judged, I
think, from the remarks made upon the presentation of this message by
the chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary and the acknowledged
leader of the majority. On a formal motion that the message be printed
and lie upon the table, he moved as an amendment that it be referred to
the committee of which he was chairman, and said:

I merely wish to remark, in moving to refer this document to
the Committee on the Judiciary, that it very vividly brought to
my mind the communications of King Charles I to the Parliament,
telling them what, in conducting their affairs, they ought to
do and ought not to do; and I think I am safe in saying that
it is the first time in the history of the republican United
States that any President of the United States has undertaken
to interfere with the deliberations of either House of Congress
on questions pending before them, otherwise than by messages
on the state of the Union which the Constitution commands him
to make from time to time. This message is devoted simply to
a question for the Senate itself, in regard to itself, that
it has under consideration. That is its singularity. I think
it will strike reflecting people in this country as somewhat
extraordinary–if in this day of reform anything at all can be
thought extraordinary.

King Charles I fared badly at the hands of the Parliament; but it was
most reassuring to know that, after all said and done, the Senate of
the United States was not a bloodthirsty body, and that the chairman
of its Committee on the Judiciary was one of the most courteous and
amiable of men–at least when outside of the Senate.

The debate upon the questions presented by the report and resolutions
recommended by the majority of the committee, and by the minority
report and the presidential message, occupied almost exclusively the
sessions of the Senate for over two weeks. More than twenty-five
Senators participated, and the discussion covered such a wide range of
argument that all considerations relevant to the subject, and some not
clearly related to it, seem to have been presented. At the close of the
debate, the resolution condemning the Attorney-General for withholding
the papers and documents which the Senate had demanded was passed by
thirty-two votes in the affirmative and twenty-five in the negative;
the next resolution, declaring it to be the duty of the Senate to
refuse its advice and consent to proposed removals of officers when
papers and documents in reference to their alleged misconduct were
withheld, was adopted by a majority of only a single vote; and the
proclamation contained in the third resolution, setting forth the
obligations of the Government and its people to the veterans of the
civil war, was unanimously approved, except for one dissenting voice.

The controversy thus closed arose from the professed anxiety of the
majority in the Senate to guard the interests of an official who was
suspended from office in July, 1885, and who was still claimed to be in
a condition of suspension. In point of fact, however, that official’s
term of office expired by limitation on the 20th of December,
1885–before the demand for papers and documents relating to his
conduct in office was made, before the resolutions and reports of the
Committee on the Judiciary were presented, and before the commencement
of the long discussion in defense of the right of a suspended
incumbent. This situation escaped notice in Executive quarters, because
the appointee to succeed the suspended officer having been actually
installed and in the discharge of the duties of the position for more
than six months, and his nomination having been sent to the Senate
very soon after the beginning of its session, the situation or duration
of the former incumbent’s term was not kept in mind. The expiration of
his term was, however, distinctly alleged in the Senate on the second
day of the discussion, and by the first speaker in opposition to the
majority report. The question of suspension or removal was therefore
eliminated from the case and the discussion as related to the person
suspended continued as a sort of post-mortem proceeding. Shortly
after the resolutions of the committee were passed, the same person
who superseded the suspended and defunct officer was again nominated
to succeed him by reason of the expiration of his term; and this
nomination was confirmed.

At last, after stormy weather, Duskin, the suspended, and Burnett, his
successor, were at rest. The earnest contention that beat about their
names ceased, and no shout of triumph disturbed the supervening quiet.