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be handled always with supremest caution, and which at the present moment is almost a question of life and death, is still to be considered by the Senate; and yet Senators are willing, by fixing the hour of adjournment, to see this most important debate "cabined, cribbed, confined" to the limits of a few hours, I might almost say minutes. Why, Sir, it has not yet been finally acted on in the other House, and we know not when it can reach us. But we know well, that, whenever it does reach the Senate, the whole vast subject of taxation will be open again. It is understood that the pending proposition is for an increased income tax. In other times, when Senators had not such uncontrollable longings for home, such a measure would have been approached with becoming care. But this is not the only question involved. It is proposed to tax tobacco in the leaf, and thus add millions to the revenue. And then we have again the perpetually recurring question of taxing whiskey on hand, destined to bring into our exchequer yet other millions.
Have we not considered that?
MR. SUMNER. I understand that at this moment it is under consideration in the other House.
Has it not been under consideration for
MR. TRUMBULL. months?
MR. SUMNER. Of course it has; but it is under consideration still. The two Houses, as the Senator knows well, have differed. The other House favors taxing whiskey on hand. The Senate has steadfastly resisted the tax. But it is not too late for the Senate to yield, especially when the necessity for more money is apparent, and the late distinguished head of the Treasury has in a formal communication recommended this very tax. There is no way in
which so much money can be had so easily and so justly. Let Congress stay together until the tax is laid. At all events, do not leave without considering it again in the new light. This is my answer to the Senator from Illinois.
But if you are unwilling to tax whiskey on hand, or tobacco, then find something else to tax. But tax you must. Tax, because of the necessity of the case. Tax, because the people ask to be taxed. For the first time in history the phenomenon occurs that the people rise up and demand to be taxed. Unless I err, this is the cry from every quarter. I know it is the cry from my part of the country. It is a patriotic cry, because the people believe further taxation essential to the national credit and the safety of the country. All honor to the people for this invitation to Congress!
And now Congress is about to leave, to flee away, without performing this essential duty. A tax bill has been passed, which already, before going into operation, is pronounced inadequate in an official communication by Mr. Chase. And yet, in despite of this judgment, Senators are willing to go home. It is said we need some hundred million dollars more; and yet, in the face of this asserted necessity, and in the face of that generous demand from every part of the country, which Congress should make haste to gratify, it is now urged that we should abdicate.
MR. DAVIS. Mr. President,
MR. SUMNER. Let me finish. I will give the Senator from Kentucky a fair opportunity in one moment.
MR. DAVIS. I merely wish to ask a question.
MR. DAVIS. The question I ask the honorable Senator is, whether he is not mistaken as to the subject of this great
demand of the country, whether, instead of being taxed, it is not to have Slavery abolished everywhere. [Laughter.] Unquestionably there is a great demand to have Slavery abolished everywhere, thank God! I present petitions daily with this prayer. But another demand at this moment is to make the war practical and efficient by all needed supplies; and, as I have said, the people, for the first time in history, ask to be taxed.
Where are your petitions from the people for
MR. SUMNER. Petitions! They will be found in the public press, and in the communications of constituents. Formal documents are not needed. Gentlemen have arrived here to-night, fresh from the people, who are in themselves more than "petitions." They insist that there must be more taxation. Here, also, is a telegraphic despatch, received this very evening, signed by the first business men of Massachusetts:—
"To Hon. CHARLES SUMNER.
"It will be simply an act of madness for Congress to adjourn without passing bills for large additional taxes, and such other measures as the existing financial crisis demands."
Language could not be stronger. Surely I am right in saying that Congress ought not to turn a deaf ear to this unprecedented prayer. At least, the prayer ought to be considered. For myself, I wish not only to consider it, but to supply the desired taxation, and I ask that Congress shall continue in these seats until the good work is done. Nay, more, Sir,-I protest against any desertion until that work is done.
The great contest in which we are engaged depends not only upon General Grant in the field, but upon
Congress also. If Congress fails to supply the needed means, vain is victory, vain are all the toils of many hard-fought fields. It is through these means supplied by Congress that the future will be secure. Do not deceive yourselves by saying that you have already taxed the country. The late distinguished Secretary of the Treasury, in an authoritative communication, insists that more means are needed. Do not set him aside without at least considering his recommendation. On such an occasion, when perhaps the life of the country is in question, when surely the national credit is at stake, err, if err you must, on the side of prudence.
Mr. President, it is natural that Senators who have been engaged for months in the labors of an anxious session should be glad to escape from the confinement and heat of Washington. I sympathize with them. I wish to be away. I long to leave the capital. Did I allow myself to take counsel of personal advantage, I should be among the most earnest of those now crying for adjournment. Born on the sea-shore, accustomed to the sea air, I am less prepared than many of my friends. to endure the climate here. I feel sensibly its sultry heats, and I pant for the taste of salt in the atmosphere. Nor am I insensible to other influences. What little remains to me of home and friendship is far away from here, where I was born. But home, friendship, and sea-shore must not tempt me at this hour. Lord Bacon tells us, in striking and most suggestive phrase, “The duties of life are more than life." But if ever there was a time when the duties of a Senator were supreme above all other things, so that temptation of all kinds should be trampled under foot, it is now.
An earnest debate ensued, in which Mr. Sumner spoke again.
I TAKE it, Sir, that the proceedings to-night are utterly without precedent in the history of the Senate. It is now more than two hours into Sunday morning. The Senate has on former occasions sat Sunday morning, but it was under the exigency of the Constitution, which brought the session to a close on the 4th of March. There is no such exigency now, and this Sunday morning debate is instituted simply to secure an adjournment of Congress on Monday. That is the single object of all done here to-night,-all these strange proceedings, making a sort of Walpurgis night of Sunday. But I say nothing of incidental matters. I bring home the fact that you now extend your session into Sunday merely that you may hasten away on Monday. It is not for any public exigency; it is not to pass any great measure; it is not to comply with any requirement of the Constitution; but simply to satisfy your own desires or predilections to leave Washington on Monday.
And now, Sir, as to leaving Washington on Monday, we are told that the other House wish to leave, and that it has already disposed of the question of taxation by sending us a proposition for an income tax, and the Senator over the way [Mr. LANE, of Kansas], who tells us he has kept such sharp look-out on the House tonight, announces that all other propositions are discarded, that there is to be no tax on tobacco, no tax upon whiskey on hand, no tax on anything else, for the House has come to its conclusion. Does the Senator know, that, if Congress continues in session twenty-four hours longer, or forty-eight hours longer, the House will not be wiser and more patriotic? Does the Senator who has kept such sharp look-out know that the House will not rise at last to the requirements of the hour?