IT is the theory that the majority of the members of the federal House of Representatives may pass whatever measure they desire. As a matter of fact, the body is under the dominion of three persons, — the Speaker, the chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, and the “filibuster.” Of these three, the Speaker is the most potent, although the other two are very powerful.
The Committee on Appropriations does not alone possess the right to import at any time. Other committees, notably the Ways and Means, enjoy the same privilege. But the bills providing for the public expenditures are regarded as so vital that the question of consideration can rarely be carried against one of them. The question of consideration gives to the majority of the House one of its few opportunities to overrule the plans of the little army of leaders. It may he raised against any measure, at the moment it is laid before the House. Even if the bill has been made a “ special order ” for the day, the majority may determine that it shall not be considered on that day, and this may go on until some bill is reached upon which the majority is desirous of voting. Naturally, it is very seldom that there can be found a majority to vote against the consideration of an appropriation bill. For this reason, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee has a great power of obstruction ; for so long as he has one of his regular bills in hand he can interpose it against any motion that is obnoxious to him.
The filibuster is one of the most offensive products of our system of legislative procedure. He is the creature of a theory that the right to ad journ is one of the most sacred of parliamentary privileges, and that the motion to break up the sitting is always in order. There is also a tradition, of modern origin, that the rules are made to protect the minority from the encroachments of the majority. During the last session of the Fiftieth Congress, a Representative determined that a certain bill should have a hearing, and he proceeded to accomplish his object by preventing the transaction of all other public business until the leaders of the House came to an agreement with him. It was a most pitiable exhibition of the weakness of the popular branch of the American Congress. One man brought it to its knees and gained his will of it. This was bad enough, but he had been inspired by the opponents of the measure, who were in the minority, and who had, in their turn, filibustered to prevent its consideration. It was in this unreasoning, discordant, and riotous way that the majority gained its end. But just before his triumph, those who subsequently became the worst-beaten victims of this man’s obstructive tactics had delivered themselves of some extraordinary speeches. The Committee on Rules had reported a resolution, the object of which was to put an end to a certain species of filibustering. It provided that during the remainder of the session there should be no call of States for the introduction of hills and resolutions on the two Mondays of the month on which motions to suspend the rules may be made. The session was near its end. No bills introduced at that time could be considered even by the standing committees to which they would be referred. No report on them could be expected. They would not even find a place on the calendar, the grave of many measures that ought to be on the statute-book. Nevertheless, the resolution was defeated, because the filibusters of the House desired to retain the power to wear out the legislative suspension day, by introducing long bills which had been raked up from the dust - covered documents of former Congresses, and demanding that the clerk should read them through. There is nothing so simple, nothing which necessitates so little exertion of the mind of the Congressman who resorts to it, and therefore nothing so brutal in the armory of the filibuster as this demand that bills shall be read at the clerk’s desk in order that time shall be consumed. The most serious effect of the defeat of this resolution was the failure of the friends of the International Copyright Bill to secure a hearing.
It was during the debate on this resolution that the first victims of the action of the House made their extraordinary speeches. One would have thought, to hear them, that the Commons were still contending against the Crown’s tyrannical claims of prerogative, and that the House of Representatives at Washington was the Commons’ House. It was all so mediæval and archaic, — so reminiscent of the darker days of English history, when the representatives of the people were buying privileges and immunities with the supply bills. The contention was that the right to pervert the rules of the House, and to prevent Congress from discharging its constitutional functions, is one of the muniments of our civil liberty, a governmental institution as unassailable as the Bill of Rights. The right to filibuster, so argued these alarmists, is essential to defend the minority from the encroachments of the majority ; and the majority seemed to think the argument sound, and that in some mysterious way the minority would be persecuted, and that it would suffer from aggressive violence, if the rules of the House should be employed for the purpose of facilitating the transaction of business.
Toward the close of the last Congress, this minority, having years ago ceased to be in any sense political, came to consist of half a dozen men, or occasionally of only one or two ; and these few men, desiring to defeat some legislation, or to weary the House into consenting to consider their measures, carried their objects by playing unworthy tricks with the rules; in a word, by committing the offense of filibustering. The filibuster, therefore, may secure an affirmative as well as a negative result. He can not only prevent the consideration of a measure which he may desire to defeat, but he can compel a hearing for his own schemes. It is true that only a few members of Congress will take the responsibility of filibustering for or against measures that are not partisan, but these few are very dangerous, especially if they are not carrying out the wishes of the people of the districts which they represent, as was true of some of the busiest of the obstructionists of the last Congress.
More powerful, however, than the chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, and generally than the filibuster, is the Speaker. He is in modern theory the leader of the majority party in the House, although in fact there is no real party leader in either branch of the Congress. Even the authority of the caucus has been weakened, if it has not been actually destroyed, by the persistent refusal of the protection Democrats to vote for the tariff bills which have been agreed to by the conclave of their party. But the Speaker comes nearer to leadership than any other member of the House, and he has an influence which is due not only to the fact that he is usually the real intellectual leader of his side of the House, but to the more substantial fact that he is possessed of a wealth of patronage which is not wholly exhausted by the appointment of the standing committees. He has a directive power over legislation that makes his friendship of great value to a member, while his enmity is something that very seriously damages the public career of any one who is so unfortunate as to incur it.
Precisely why the Speaker is so nearly absolute, and why he must continue to be so until our existing system of legislation is changed, can be appreciated only by a clear understanding of the constitution of the House. In the first place, as has been frequently pointed out by writers on Congress and its methods, there is no such leader in the House of Representatives as there is in the British House of Commons. We have no such institution as that which is known in England as “ government,” because our ostensible Executive is the real Executive, while one of our fundamental theories is that the two departments must be wholly independent of one another. This may be classed as an American fiction, and is quite on a footing with a great mass of fictions that lie at the foundation of English constitutional law. We have no immediate personal representatives of the Executive in Congress, and no person or no body of persons charged with the duty of preparing and directing the legislation for which the political party in control of the House is to be held responsible.
The domination of the standing committees and the leadership of their chairmen have been severely criticised as destructive of debate and of wise deliberation in the House of Representatives. The committees have been called “ little legislatures,” and their influence for evil has been strongly dwelt upon. It is not within the province of the present article, however, to examine into the merits of that question. It is sufficient for our purpose to point out the existence of the committees, and their influence over the legislation of the House and the Speaker. Whether they could profitably be supplanted by some other supervisory power cannot be settled offhand. It is true that they divide responsibility, and are a source of weakness in some respects. On the other hand, they perform useful functions, generally very well, which would not be done at all unless the organization of the House should he revolutionized, and the subject-matter and the form of bills placed in the hands of some such arbitrary body as the British Cabinet. It is doubtless the fact that the prime cause of the difficulties of the House of Representatives, of its inability to accomplish its task satisfactorily, of its practical burial under the mass of business that cannot possibly be attended to, lies in the usurpation by Congress of jurisdiction over subjects which were not within the contemplation of the framers when they defined the powers and duties of the legislative branch of the government. Not only is the country larger than was dreamed of by the men of a hundred years ago, but about two thirds of the States are the creatures of the United States. The federal government was an outgrowth of the original thirteen States, while the twenty-five newer States owe their place in the Union to the federal government. Their people look to Washington for much that the makers of the Constitution expected that the States would attend to, and this has bred a habit of mind throughout the whole country which vastly multiplies the burdens and labors of the federal government. The subjects which Congress considers have increased so much that it is impossible for a single body to begin to attend to them. Bad as committees are, from the point of view of those who think that the majority party should be responsible for the passage or failure of bills, and that there should be a clearly defined leadership to which all the members of the party should yield obedience, they are absolutely necessary in the present condition of things; and as little as Congress seems to accomplish, very much less would be done if its work were not divided as it is.
The important committees represent the Executive Department of the government. They take the place in the legislative body filled in England by the members of the Cabinet. They are in communication with the President and his advisers, and with their subordinates, the heads of bureaus and chiefs of divisions. They know whatever defects in the law have been discovered by those who administer it. They are familiar with the remedies that are suggested by the experience of the experts of the Executive Department. The work of the government has grown to be so great and so multifarious that it cannot be comprehended by a few men, and the committee system has at least the advantage of making it possible for each Cabinet officer to procure the preparation of intelligent bills concerning the subjects which come within the scope of his duties. The committees not only accomplish this, but in a measure they take the place of the official government draftsmen of the British Parliament, harmonizing and perfecting the form of legislation.
Of the fifty-four standing committees, nine represent different branches of the Treasury Department, three the State Department, fifteen the Interior Department, six the War Department, three the Navy Department, two the Department of Justice, and two the Post-Office Department. In addition to these there are committees having jurisdiction over privileges and contested elections, over private claims, and over the routine business of the House, such as accounts, enrolled bills, mileage, rules, etc.
The reports that come from this swarm of committees go upon one of three calendars, or upon one of the three parts of a single calendar. They are divided into revenue bills, public bills not affecting the revenue, and private bills. No bill can be placed upon the calendar unless it is reported from a committee. Formerly, bills from the Senate used to go to the Speaker’s table ; but now they are referred to the appropriate committees, and cannot be considered unless they are upon the calendar, or by way of substitutes for House bills under discussion.
It is impossible that any bill on the calendar should be reached and taken up in its order. So far as the chances of obtaining a bearing for it are concerned, it might as well be No. 3000 as No. 300. The calendar is not called. Priority on it is of very little, if of any advantage. Legislation goes by favor, and mainly by favor of the Speaker. It is necessary that there should be some selection from the piled-up heaps of proposed legislation that come tumbling out of the hoppers of the committees on every day that reports are in order, and the Speaker’s command of the floor, his influence with his party, his patronage, and his ex officio chairmanship of the Committee on Rules give to him an immense, almost an absolute power over the order of business. He does not say directly that this bill shall come before the House, and that that shall not, but he is the most powerful factor in determining what propositions shall be discussed and voted on. He bears very little resemblance to his British prototype, who simply administers the rules of parliamentary law; and yet it is a mistake to assume that it was the original intention that he should be anything more than the quasi-judicial officer who presides over the House of Commons. But when the Constitution declared that “ the House of Representatives should choose their Speaker,” the end was inevitable; for the Speaker is almost necessarily the principal member of the majority party, who, if he remained on the floor, would attain leadership, as nearly as is possible in Congress. Whether this power is used wisely and virtuously depends upon the man who has been chosen to the speakership. It is an evil power, because its possessor is not responsible for its abuse. It is not wielded openly and in the presence of the country. Few people outside of Congress know that it resides anywhere, least of all that a certain measure has been taken up by the House of Representatives because the Speaker chose to recognize its mover, and agreed with him in advance that he would. It is not realized that very little can be done without the Speaker’s consent, and that next to nothing can be accomplished against his opposition. It is a just theory of our institutions that all functions that are not exercised in public, and for the abuse of which no one can be held responsible, are dangerous to the welfare of the government. It is the great evil of the Speaker’s power that the temptation to abuse it, for his party, is forever pushing him in the direction of extreme partisanship. When he yields to the pressure, or when he connives at the passage of an unsound bill or the killing of a popular measure, he does not stand in the open light, under the gaze of the country; he deals his blow from behind and surreptitiously. A good man in the Speaker’s chair will decide fairly between his own party and its opponents, and will be a great aid to wise legislation; but the principle which enables him to give this aid is wrong, and will assist a bad man to forward the corrupt schemes always to be found on the calendar, with plenty of noisy and industrious backing on the floor, in the lobbies, and in the newspapers. There have been many fair and honorable Speakers, but it is the fashion of extreme partisans in Congress to denounce fairness as weakness, and to insist that a public man best shows strength of mind by acts of injustice to his political opponents. Mr. Carlisle, the Speaker of the last three Congresses, is a remarkably firm and independent man. In the discharge of his official duties he was so fair that he won the respect and regard of the members of the opposite party. He looked upon the speakership as a judicial office, and could not have been induced to make a partisan decision. There have been other Speakers like him, and, in his admirable work on the American Commonwealth, Mr. Bryce does scant justice to many men who have filled this office, when he says: “In America the Speaker has immense political power, and is permitted — nay, expected — to use it in the interests of his party. In calling upon members to Speak he prefers those of his own party. He decides in their favor such points of order as are not. distinctly covered by the rules.” The truth is that Speakers of whom all this could be asserted are few, and a presiding officer guilty of always administering the rules of the House in favor of his party would soon lose caste with the men who selected him; for while nearly every individual Congressman of his party might be glad to have the Speaker strain a point for him, the body of Representatives, like the average of their fellow-countrymen, love fair play, and would resent such ostentatious and wholesale unfairness as Mr. Bryce describes.
The Speaker’s power over legislation begins with his appointment of the standing committees. He is the choice of the majority of his party. Sometimes the party is united on the leading subjects that will come up for consideration, but that is infrequently the case, for parties in Congress do not always divide on strict party lines. Probably it would be impossible to elect a Speaker from either of the great parties who would agree with all his fellow-partisans on fiscal questions. If he were a Western Republican, he would not be likely to be so strict a protectionist as the Eastern Republicans would select. He would also, doubtless, differ from the New England view of the silver dollar, the provision that ought to be made for our foreign service, and the worth of the national bank system. If he were a Democrat, the difference between himself and Eastern Democrats on these questions would be still more radical, and the tariff would figure very largely in the list of disputed questions. Mr. Carlisle was selected as the candidate of his party in 1883, at the end of what appeared to be a most vigorous struggle between the revenue reformers and the protectionists of the Democratic party. In the caucus, however, Mr. Carlisle received about two thirds of the votes. The party, therefore, pledged itself to the policy of revenue reform. If an English political party had placed itself in a similar position before the country, the pledge would have been redeemed. As a matter of course, the Ways and Means Committee was made up to do the will of those who triumphed by the selection of Mr. Carlisle. The Speaker appointed as its members men who would report a revenue reform bill, and, more than that, such a bill as he himself thought was wisest. Mr. Morrison conducted the successful campaign in the contest for the speakership, and, as he ought to have been, under the system which prevails in Congress, was made the chairman of the leading committee in the House. It was not, however, because he was at the head of the struggle against Mr. Randall that he was given his important place ; it was because he, of all other Democrats in Congress, was the one to be put at the head of an effort to reform the tariff law by the reduction of duties. The story of that effort and its failure is part of the exceedingly interesting legislative history of recent years. It is referred to now simply to indicate in what manner the Speaker exercises an influence over legislation by the appointment of committees.
Precisely as Mr. Carlisle determined the character of the work that should be done by the Ways and Means Committees of the Congresses over which he presided, every Speaker determines, to a certain extent, legislation on the subjects that, in his mind, are most important; for, as has been explained, there can be no legislation without the assent of the committees. One Speaker will so compose his Ways and Means Committee that it will report a protection bill; another, so that it will not report any amendment to the tariff law. The Speaker can arrange for favorable committee action on almost any matter in which he may be interested. He may advance his theories for or against civil service reform ; he may lend a helping hand to the Indian philanthropists or the Oklahoma boomers; he may construct the Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures in such a manner that it will report a free coinage bill, or a bill suspending the government’s monthly purchase of $2,000,000 of silver, or no bill at all. He may cause the annual appropriations to be penurious or extravagant. He may strike a blow at the army, and suspend the reconstruction of the navy. He may accomplish all that committees do in the preparation of legislation for the House. The body over which he presides must consider the legislation which he has seen fit to inspire.
Although the Speaker possesses this power of controlling bills, he does not always exercise it. He makes up his committees with a view to his party’s interests, and sometimes to his own. He takes care that all proposed legislation on well-defined issues shall be in accord with the opinions of his own party or faction. Mr. Randall selected the Appropriations Committee with a view of keeping the expenditures of the government down, and the Ways and Means Committee for the purpose of keeping the tariff question out of the House. Mr. Carlisle appointed the members of the Ways and Means Committee with the opposite end in view, but some of his other committees were composed on the conservative plan. It must be borne in mind that the Speaker works under one serious limitation in choosing the members of his committees. It is that of his material. He must cut his coat according to his cloth. There are only a few strong men on each side of the House,— not enough generally for the chairmanships. If all the strong men are chairmen, the average of the committees must be low. If a predominant sentiment on a certain question pervades the majority, it must be recognized by the Speaker. If that sentiment favors the free coinage of silver, the Speaker must recognize it. He cannot make ideal committees. He cannot even satisfy himself in all respects. He can guard against what he considers dangerous legislation, but he must see to it that the prevailing feeling of the House is represented on its committees. He cannot gain all his ends. He can do a good deal, and he is very powerful, but he cannot stand up in opposition to the majority of his party. The House has for years favored bi-metallism, and Mr. Bland, of Missouri, has been its leader on this subject. If Mr. Carlisle had desired the repeal of the Bland law, it is highly probable, nevertheless, that he would have appointed Mr. Bland as chairman of the Coinage Committee, because, if he had not, the silver men would have prevented the transaction of public business. They would have filibustered, and especially against any bills that most intimately represented the policy of the Speaker and his friends.
The Speaker may determine what shall be the leading characteristics of legislation in the House, but the committees must represent the opinions of the House to a large degree; and, moreover, a pool tradition, of recent growth, makes it the Speaker’s duty to recognize seniority of service in selecting chairmen. Obedience to this bad precedent often compels the appointment of a chairman who is not only opposed to some of the Speaker’s views, but who is one of the men who must be watched. He may be dishonest or injudicious. Whichever it is, he will possibly bring discredit upon the Speaker and the majority of the House, whose representative he is, as to the subjects within the jurisdiction of the committee over which he presides. Therefore he must be overweighted by the other members, and the usefulness of the committee impaired.
It is worth while to consider still another limitation upon the Speaker’s power to accomplish all that he may desire. There may be two or more subjects in which he is interested, and which must be referred to the same committee. He may find it impossible to form a committee which will agree with him on all of these subjects, and he must therefore choose what, in his opinion, is the most important of them. The consequence will be that while this committee will report one bill that is satisfactory to the Speaker, all its other reports may be far from pleasing; and this may subsequently lead to a struggle on the floor of the House between the various measures, on the question of consideration.
From all this it will be seen that while the Speaker is very powerful in influencing reports, he is not absolute. He can secure favorable reports on bills which embody the unquestioned views and theories of the party or faction which nominated him for the speakership. He may also prevent reports on bills which he considers dangerous or impolitic by so balancing a committee that it cannot act, and he may secure favorable action on bills concerning which the House has no opinion. The latter bills are by far the greater part of those which are introduced, and the Speaker is as much at sea concerning most of them as any of the members. Practically he is governed by the sentiment of the House. There are very few questions in which the party is concerned, and these he considers when he makes up his committees. Like any other member, he is not interested in many of the bills that are introduced on Mondays. He knows very little about them, and cares less. As a rule, he constructs most of his committees without regard to particular questions that may he presented to them, and it is untrue that many Speakers have bargained with the Representatives for or against legislation. It is not impossible, however, to imagine a Speaker who would use his power to shape legislation through the appointment of committees in the interest of the corrupt schemes that are constantly asking the aid of the law-making body.
To sum up, whatever may be the power of the Speaker, he appoints committees to promote or defeat certain measures in obedience to the will of his party, and to further the few business propositions which he may favor and which are not opposed to a ruling sentiment of the House. The political power which the appointment of committees places in his hands is very important. Each House of Representatives legislates for one session after its successor has been chosen, and it may be, and often is, the case that the bills reported by some of the committees in this last session are directly contrary to the most recently expressed will of the people.
After a bill has been reported by the committee, and is on one of the three calendars of the House, the Speaker possesses a great deal of power over its future. Now is the critical time, because so few of the measures that reach the calendar can be considered by the House. Revenue bills must have a hearing, of course, and other bills that are so popular as to defeat revenue measures on the question of consideration. There are certain other subjects that are privileged, such as contested election cases ; conference reports ; matters pertaining to the comfort of the House and the facilitation of its business, like reports of the committees on enrolled bills, printing, and accounts ; river and harbor bills, etc.
All general business, however, must pass by favor. If a measure is unimportant, or if it is generally agreed to, favor may take the form of unanimous consent. But before the member who has charge of the bill can obtain the unanimous consent of the members of the House, he must be recognized by the Speaker. That is the first concession for which he has to ask. Another method of passing bills which command a strong vote in the House is under a suspension of the rules. Motions to suspend the rules may be made on the first and third Mondays of each month, and on the last six days of the session. On the first Monday, these motions are made by individuals ; on the third Monday, they are made in behalf of committees. The votes of two thirds of the members present for the proposition are necessary to carry it. Here again the Speaker’s recognition is the prerequisite.
It is true, as has been stated by writers on this subject, that the Speaker generally keeps a list of those whom he intends to recognize ; but the list is in the nature of a memorandum, and the Speaker does not hold himself bound by it. At the last moment, he may be asked for recognition in behalf of some matter which he regards as especially meritorious, and he always feels at liberty to give its mover an opportunity, notwithstanding the existence of a previously arranged list.
It is in connection with requests for unanimous consent and with motions to suspend the rules that the Speaker’s power is most felt. It is safe to say that no measures of any moment are passed in this way unless the Speaker understands and approves of them. It has become the fashion for the occupant of the chair to set up as a censor over the House, and to refuse to permit the Representatives to have their way if he considers it a bad way. A good Speaker may, by exercising this kind of supervision, save the government a great deal of money, and keep the House clean from many a scandal that might otherwise rest upon it ; but a bad Speaker may as easily help and encourage all manner of corruption. At all events, the practice is contrary to the theory of representative government, which is that the majority of the legislative body shall do its pleasure so long as it keeps within the limitations of the Constitution. The Speaker has no more right to thwart the majority and to prevent it from transacting the public business than the most commonplace and insignificant of filibusters. Private bills have their day each week, and pension bills their evening. Public building attacks upon the Treasury have usually their day or two days in court in each session. Therefore the bills which are in control of the Speaker’s nod, and for which a unanimous consent or a twothirds vote may be obtained, are usually of general interest.
Another method of securing a hearing for a measure is by having a day set for consideration. This is a favor also, and it is obtained by unanimous consent, which is seldom given, or by a resolution that runs the gauntlet of a motion to suspend the rules, or is referred to the Committee on Rules. The Speaker is chairman of this committee. The reference is made by the House, and not under any of the standing rules, because reports from this committee are privileged. Here again the Speaker has enormous power over the fate of a bill; for the committee meets when he calls it, and he may refuse to call a meeting for months in order to kill a resolution fixing a day for a bill to which he is opposed, or because he fears that a report from the committee will result in the consideration of a measure which he is determined shall not have a hearing.
Still another method by which a bill may be brought before the House is provided in the rules. The committees are not only called for reports, but to make selection of bills that must be considered at once. The bill chosen by a committee, when it is reached, must be finished within the morning hours of two consecutive days, or go upon the calendar as unfinished business. This means re-burial, and therefore important measures, which usually attract opposition, cannot be advanced under this rule. In fact, the plan, which has been recently adopted, is not of much value. Committees also secure special orders for fixed days for any legislation which they may bring forward ; and if the chairman of the Appropriations Committee does not interpose with one of his bills, or the question of consideration is not carried against the regular order, or the filibuster does not rise up, the favored and fortunate committee succeeds in getting something considered.
In this stage of legislation, when the bill has passed out of the committee room and is on the calendar, the Speaker exercises his power more freely than he does in appointing the standing committees. He very often gives a member the opportunity to get his measure before the House; and he oftener absolutely kills bills by refusing to permit their movers to catch his eye. When the debate is on, he recognizes the speakers agreed upon. This power is enormous, and because many Speakers have endeavored to exercise it fairly and for the advancement of the public business, it is none the less dangerous. The order of business and the character of the legislation of the House of Representatives rest largely in the discretion of one man, who is not held responsible because he is not charged with the task which he performs. The first thoroughly bad Speaker we have will show the country what an evil thing this is. The Speaker here, as in the composition of the committees, is limited in the exercise of his power by what may be called the public opinion of the House. He cannot safely go against that, but the House, like each of its individual members, is interested in comparatively few subjects, and there is a very large and important field in which the Speaker can direct legislation. Here he is subject only to the filibuster, who is now nearly omnipotent. The Speaker may determine the character of a measure by his composition of the committee which considers it. He may see that the member in charge of it secures the floor and presents it to the House, but here his functions cease. He cannot force it to a vote. From this time on, the filibuster is master of the situation. He is Stronger than the Speaker, or the committee, or the House. He can compel the withdrawal of the measure, or he can force the Speaker to trade with him. Under the most recent theory of the rights of the minority, which may consist of only one member, all business is subject to his attack, and the man who can sway legislation and bend it as he desires must succumb at the last and most critical step if the filibuster rises up against him, while, opposed to this potentate, not even the public opinion of the House can prevail.
Here are the two mightiest powers in the House of Representatives, the two which control the law - making body. The Speaker is under certain limitations, which operate the more effectively the higher the character and ambition of the man who occupies the chair. The filibuster need not feel the force of any restraining influence, for it may well be that he has neither reputation to lose nor future to imperil. Until these two powers are bound, the majority of the American House of Representatives cannot control its business. So far as the Speaker is concerned, it is true that, until the present system is changed, he must continue to exercise the right to select bills for consideration. There must be some one to perform this task, and it would be the height of unwisdom if the House should undertake to go on without a regular and well-defined order of business; but that order should he directed by itself, and the legislation of Congress should not he left to the discretion of any man who may easily become an irresponsible autocrat.
Henry Loomis Nelson.