3 March 1805
adams-john10 Neal Millikan US Constitution

3. Congress were obliged to sit this day, though a Sunday— Great part of the business of the Session having been protracted to this time, by the trial of the impeachment— Several Bills were this day first sent to the Senate by the House of Representatives; read three times and pass’d— Others were stop’d and lost by the objections of single members, to their having all their readings in one day. The Conferees of the two Houses on the Invalid Bill, could not agree; whereupon the Senate adhered, to their original Bill, and the House finally receded from their Amendments; so that the Bill pass’d as it went from the Senate— The Bill providing for payment of the witnesses on the Impeachment was not equally successful— The amendments made to it in Senate were disagreed to by the House; insisted on by the Senate, who asked a conference— The conferees of the Senate, were Messrs: Giles and Bradley— Those of the House, Messrs: John Randolph, Nicholson and Early— They met and could come to no agreement— Each House adhered to its own purpose, and of course the Bill was lost— No provision therefore is made, for the payment of any of the witnesses, summoned on either side— After the loss of the Bill, an attempt was made in the House of Representatives, to pay the witnesses summoned on their part, by Resolution of that House alone, and by charging it on their contingent expences— The only circumstance which defeated this Resolution, was, that whenever it was taken up, so many of the members immediately left their seats that a Quorum could not be made to pass it without them— The Bill for the Preservation of Peace in the Ports and Harbours, was finally pass’d in Senate this day— I first moved its postponement untill the next Session; but withdrew the motion on finding it opposed from all quarters— I then moved various amendments only one of which was adopted— There was, as usual on the last day of a Session, an extreme reluctance to hearing any debate, and a determination to pass this Bill— The final question was taken by yeas and nays—3 to 25. and my name among the former— At about 1 O’Clock, Mr: Moore, of the Committee of enrollment, asked leave of absence, he having engaged to leave town this day— It was granted him.— A member of the Committee was to be chosen in his stead— On taking the ballots there were 6 votes for Mr: Smith of Ohio, and 6 for me—the Secretary said I was chosen; which I contested— The President said that by our Rules, when two members had an equal and the highest number upon a ballot, the person first in alphabetical order was considered as chosen— I replied that upon looking over the Rules, I could find none to that point— The President corrected himself, and said that instead of Rule, he should have said universal practice— He said however, the Senate could excuse me from this Service, which was not an agreeable one, if I desired it; he knew I had already once performed it; and it was not usual to require of any one member that he should twice be burthened with it— I therefore requested to be, and was excused— Mr: Smith of Ohio then undertook it— My motive for declining was not the labour, but because I thought the object of those who voted for me was to make my absence from Senate absolutely necessary to discharge the duty, and thus to get rid of a troublesome member— In this project I did not wish to gratify them.— At half past 3 o’clock the Senate 148adjourned untill 5. and I went over to Stelle’s and dined with Mr: Otis— I found there, Judges Marshall and PattersonMr: LatrobeMr: Blodget and Mr: Gooch, one of the witnesses on Judge Chase’s trial— At 5 O’Clock Senate met again— Among the new Bills sent from the House this day, two were stopp’d by single members— Mr: Stone stopp’d a Bill for erecting a Light-House on Watch-Hill Point, Rhode-Island— And Mr: Maclay stopp’d a Bill to continue and amend the Law prescribing the mode of taking Evidence in cases of contested elections— But after thus arresting this Bill, Mr: Maclay moved that it should be postponed untill next Session; on the ground of objections to the Merits of the Bill— I objected to this as giving a colour to our proceedings different from the reality— A postponement to the next Session would appear to be the Act of the whole Senate; and might be taken unkindly by the House, as the Bill related to a subject, peculiarly and in some sort exclusively concerning them— When in truth the Bill was defeated by the objection of a single member— Some high words pass’d between Mr: Jackson and Mr: Maclay, who finally withdrew his motion for postponement. A Resolution was pass’d giving a gratuity to the Officers of the Senate, for extraordinary Services, this Session, chargeable on the contingent fund— Also a Resolution to defray the expences incurred by order of the V. President, for arrangements in the Hall, and other charges on the impeachment.— It was stated by the President, that although by the Rules, a Bill cannot be twice read on the same day; without unanimous consent, yet after it has been stop’d by the objection of a member, it may again be called up to be read; and that this call may be repeated as often as any member pleases, in the course of the day.— When the business was finished, I moved the usual order for a Committee with such as the House should join, to notify the President that we were ready to adjourn— On this Committee I was appointed, with General Smith of Maryland— We called at the House for their Committee, who were Messrs: J. Randolph, Nelson and Huger— We accordingly went to the President who was in one of the Committee-Rooms; and I gave him the information, as we were directed— He desired us to inform the two Houses that he had no further communications to make to them; whereupon we returned; and the Senate was, at half past 9 in the Evening adjourned without day. It was almost 11. at Night when I got home.— Thus has terminated the second Session of the Eighth Congress; the most remarkable transaction of which has been the trial of the Impeachment against Samuel Chase— This is a subject fruitful of reflections, but their place is not here— I shall only remark that this was a party prosecution, and has issued in the unexpected and total disappointment of those by whom it was brought forward— It has exhibited the Senate of the United States, fulfilling the most important purpose of its institution, by putting a check upon the impetuous violence of the House of Representatives. It has proved that a sense of Justice is yet strong enough to overpower the furies of faction; but it has at the same time shewn the wisdom and necessity of that provision in the Constitution which requires the concurrence of two thirds for conviction upon Impeachments— The attack upon Mr: Chase, was a systematic attempt upon the independence, and powers of the Judicial Department, and at the same time an attempt to prostrate the authority of the National Government, before those of the individual States— The principles first started in the case of John Pickering at the last Session, have on the present occasion been widened, and improved upon to an extent, for which the Spirit of party itself was not prepared— Hence, besides the federal members, six, out of the twenty-five, devoted to the present administration voted for the acquittal of Judge Chase on all the charges, and have for a time arrested the career of political frenzy.— The Resolutions for amending the Constitution, brought forward by two of the Managers, of the Impeachment, immediately after the decision, and the proceedings of the House upon them, are ample indications that this struggle will be renewed, with redoubled vehemence at the next Session of Congress— How far the firmness of the Senate, or of individual Senators will support the promise of this time, I presume not to conjecture— Untill the final question was taken, I confess I had no reliance upon that firmness now, because I had seen it yield the last Session to a breech of principle to my mind as great, as it would have been at this time— They certainly have shewn now a degree of perseverance and of spirit in their resistance, which then failed them— Their conduct now has partly redeemed their characters in my opinion; yet the extent of their compliance before, has proved beyond redemption that they are made of materials which will break— The prophetic and solemn words of Mr: Burr, that the dying agonies of the Constitution, will be witness’d on the floor of the Senate, were uttered with 149a pointed allusion to what had just pass’d, and they lead to an anxious consideration of the temper of metal, to be found in the body as now composed— The essential characters which ought to belong to the Senate are coolness, and firmness. I hope that when the occasion shall call they will be found to possess them; and it would be doing injustice to the body, and its members not to acknowledge that in this memorable instance these qualities have been eminently displayed. It has however furnished several instances of weak compliance, as well as of honourable resistance, and I have some reason to believe that more than one member voted for the conviction of the Judge, who at the same time disapproved altogether of the prosecution— On the subject of the Bill for paying the witnesses, Mr: Anderson this day told me, that it would have given him pain more than he could express, if a single member of the Senate had been found, who would have yielded, upon the point in dispute.—for if the principle were once established, that an Officer acquitted on Impeachment should be burthened with the payment of the witnesses essential to his justification, while the Nation was to pay all the witnesses produced against him, not an Officer in the Union would be safe, and there would be no bounds to the persecutions of the other House. I observed to him in a jocular manner, alluding to the two resolutions for altering the Constitution introduced by two of the late Managers, that Mr: Burr appeared to have been mistaken, as the agonies of the Constitution were happening on that floor, and not upon ours— Upon which he answered me with great earnestness—No Sir—the sense in which he said that was, that the struggle here, would be to preserve the Constitution; and there, it would be to destroy it.— Mr: Giles too upon this Article, has been firm, and correct— He seems indeed to consider himself as personally implicated in the question—for the form of the subpoena to witnesses was adopted on the Report of a Committee of which he was chairman, and it makes no discrimination between those summoned by the Managers, or by the Respondent— Hence the obvious propriety of treating them all alike. Mr: Giles this day told me that the ardour of his feelings upon political subjects had very much abated— That there was not a man in the Union against whom he harboured any resentment or aversion, and that he had accepted his seat in Senate, only because he knew that if he had not come, a person of violent principles would have been sent, who probably would have done mischief— But he did not tell me who this was.