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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

A Case in Congress in 1818

By Mathew Carey (1760–1839)

[The New Olive Branch. 1820.]

TWO, three, and sometimes four months are drawled away in the early part of the session—with three, four, six, eight, ten or twelve acts—and afterwards all the business is hurried through with indecent haste. In the one portion of the time, the progress resembles that of the snail or the sloth—in the other, that of the high-mettled racer. In fact and in truth, if Congress desired to bring republican government into disgrace, to render it a by-word and a reproach, it would not be very easy to devise a plan more admirably calculated for the purpose than a considerable part of their proceedings….

The case of General Stark deserves to be put on record, to corroborate some of the opinions offered in this chapter.

On the 6th of March, 1818, a petition was presented by this old veteran, representing his necessitous circumstances, and praying that the bounty of the national government might be extended to him, in the decline of life, in compensation of his faithful services in defence of his country. It was referred to a committee, who reported a bill on the 9th, which was read the first and second time on that day. It then lay over untouched for above five weeks, till Saturday the 18th of April, when it was passed and sent to the senate, where it was read and referred to the committee on pensions, who reported it on that day without amendments. It was read the third time on Monday the 20th, in committee of the whole, and agreed to with amendments. It being against a rule of the senate to pass a bill under those circumstances, on the same day, Mr. Fromentin moved that the rule be dispensed with. But this motion was unfeelingly rejected. And as the session was closed that day, the bill of course was lost; and the venerable old hero, about ninety years of age, and bending over the grave, was disappointed at that time of receiving the pittance intended for him. The importance of his victory at Bennington, which led to those all-important events, the battle of Saratoga and the capture of General Burgoyne, which stand conspicuous among the proudest triumphs of the revolutionary war, is so deeply impressed on the public mind, that every good man in the nation felt deep regret at this very ill-timed and ungracious punctilio.

The compensation bill, which was to render members of congress salary officers at the rate of 1500 dollars per annum, passed by a former congress, forms a proper contrast to the bill in favor of General Stark.

  • It was read the first and second time in the house of representatives
  • March 6th, 1815.
  • Read a third time and passed
  • 9th
  • Read first time in senate
  • 11th
  • Second time
  • 12th
  • Third time and passed
  • 14th
  • Laid before the president
  • 18th
  • Approved same day.
  • What wonderful economy of time!

    Thus a bill for their own benefit which introduced a novel principle into the country, in twelve days passed through all its stages from its inception to the presidential approbation!!