Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

quillity, for the sake of those fundamental principles on which so much depends, and which, whether as Senator or citizen, I can never for get-I appeal to you, sir, and to my associates on this floor, not to allow this question to be revived. Let Colorado wait at least until she recognizes the Declaration of Independence.

The PRESIDENT pro tempore. The morning hour having expired, it becomes the duty of the Chair to call up the unfinished business of yesterday, which is House bill No. 238.

Iowa desires to hear the Senator from Massachusetts, I shall not object. The rule of the Senate, I believe, has been, when there has been a response not to allow debate afterward. The PRESIDENT pro tempore. Such is the rule of the Senate. After the call of the yeas and nays and a Senator answers, the rule of the Senate is that debate ceases. The Senator from Iowa, however, is right, in the opinion of the Chair, in point of fact, that the name of the Senator from Rhode Island had been called, and his answer was heard by the Chair. When the Senator from Missouri's nane was called, he made a few words of explanation, no Senator objecting. The Chair then directed the call to proceed. The call again commenced, and the Senator from Rhode Island had answered, and simultaneously with his answer, or perhaps immediately after, the Senator from Massachusetts addressed the Chair and was recognized. If the point of order, however, is made, the Senator from Massachusetts, under the rule, is not entitled to be heard.

Mr. SUMNER. Does the Chair decide that

The PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Chair does not understand that any Senator makes the point of order objecting to the Senator from Massachusetts proceeding. The Chair simply stated that if the point of order should be made, the Senator from Massachusetts would not be entitled, under the rule, to be heard. According to the practice, however, which has been adopted in the case of the Senator from Missouri, the Senator would be entitled; but still no point of order was made then. The Chair did not feel called upon to enforce the rule as against the Senator saying a few words of explanation, and he would not now as against the Senator from Massachusetts, and does not understand that any one now makes the point of order. The Chair therefore recognizes the Senator from Massachusetts.

Mr. SUMNER. Mr. President, I hear Senators about me say, "Make your speech after the motion to reconsider has been adopted." I have no speech to make, but I wish to meet this question on the threshold, frankly and sincerely, with my most earnest protest. I feel that the Senate will make a great mistake if they proceed to reconsider this vote. The question was amply discussed on a former occasion; it was considered in every possible aspect. The condition of the Territory of Colorado was exposed; its want of population was exhibited, and its constitution having in it the word "white" was also exhibited to the Senate. On those grounds I felt it my duty then to oppose the admission of that Territory as a State into this Union. I opposed it then as earnestly as I could, believing it my duty as a Senator; fully satisfied that it would have been a fatal mistake for us to admit it. Having acted as I did then, I feel that I should be untrue to myself if I let slip any opportunity to resist the effort to introduce this Territory into the Union at this time, and under the present circumstances of the case. I hope, therefore, that the Senate will not proceed to reconsider the vote that, to their honor, they have already recorded. They did well when, on a former occasion, after a two days' debate, by a large vote they deliberately refused to receive this Territory into the Union. Has anything occurred since to cause a change of opinion? Is there any new evidence? Are there any new facts? Is there anything which can change your responsibilities or which can make you see your duty in a new light? Has that constitution been amended? Has the word "white" been struck out of it? Why, sir, at this moment the most important practical question before the country is, whether we shall allow the word "white" to be in the constitutions of the late rebel States. Sir, with what just weight can you insist that the word "white" shall be excluded from those constitutions when you yourself deliberately receive into the Union a new State which has that principle of exclusion? I say, therefore, for the sake of my country, for the sake of public tran

Mr. WILSON. I should like to have a vote on this question, and I move to pass over that bill for a short time.

[blocks in formation]

Mr. CHANDLER. I make that motion. The PRESIDENT pro tempore. It is moved to postpone the present and all prior orders in order to continue the consideration of the motion to reconsider the vote on the bill for the admission of Colorado.

Mr. GRIMES. I trust the Senators who are so anxious that Colorado should be admitted will allow this measure to go over until there can be a fuller Senate than there is to-day.

Mr. WILSON. I propose that it shall go over until to-morrow morning.

The PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Michigan makes a motion to postpone the present and all prior orders. Mr. CHANDLER.

I withdraw the motion.

Let it go over.

PROTECTION OF UNITED STATES OFFICERS. The PRESIDENT pro tempore. The bill (H. R. No. 238) to amend an act entitled "An act relating to habeas corpus and regulating judicial proceedings in certain cases," approved March 3, 1863, is before the Senate as in Committee of the Whole, the pending question being on the amendment reported by the Committee on the Judiciary.

Mr. NYE. I think when we adjourned yesterday we were upon the naval bill, and I had the floor upon that question.

Mr. CONNESS. This was a subsequent arrangement.

Mr. NYE. I did not hear it.

Mr. CLARK. I called up the bill to make it a special order. That was the very object of moving to take it up, and then to adjourn.

Mr. NYE. That was a very sharp thing. Mr. CLARK. Not at all sharp. It is the usual practice of the Senate.

Mr. NYE. I move to lay that order of business aside, and take up the bill relating to the iron-clads.

Mr. CLARK. I hope that will not be done; let us not lay aside this public business for what may be considered the private business of individuals.

Mr. NYE. That is important public business, relative to the construction of the ironclads.

1

up is one of public importance and one of urgency. I think my friend from Nevada himself, when he knows what the bill is-his attention has not been turned to it-will consent that it shall come up. It is a bill to protect loyal men from prosecutions and suits for acts done in obedience to orders in putting down the rebellion. There are at this time, I understand, several thousand suits pending against loyal men who have committed no offense and done no act except in obedience to orders of superior officers. They are now being sued and prosecuted in the courts of Kentucky and other States, and this is a bill which has passed the House of Representatives and is of a public character; and it is due to the men who hazarded their all to save the country that we should protect them from prosecutions and suits for simply doing their duty. I hope that we shall go on with it.

Mr. CLARK. This is a matter of a great deal of importance. I understand that in one State there are some three thousand suits which are to be reached by this bill.

The PRESIDENT pro tempore. The tion is on the motion of the Senator from Nevada to postpone the present and all prior orders and take up the bill referred to by him. Mr. TRUMBULL. I hope not. The bill which the Senator from New Hampshire calls

Mr. NYE. At this point I should like to have the question of priority established a little. The Senator from Ohio, [Mr. WADE,] when I had the floor on the amendment offered by the Senator from Iowa [Mr. GRIMES] to the bill in relation to the contractors for iron-clads, moved that that question be laid aside until to-morrow (to-day) at one o'clock, to which I consented. Afterward, as the Senate was about to adjourn, the Senator from New Hampshire slipped in this bill. I merely want to learn what the practice is, that hereafter I may avail myself of it if I desire to get priority. I supposed that when the Senate made an order that the naval bill should go over until to-day at one o'clock, it meant what it had said.

Mr. CLARK. I do not quite like the expres sion of the Senator from Nevada that I had slipped the bill in, implying that I had done it for the purpose of defeating his bill. The Senate will remember that the Senator from Ohio made the motion to postpone the navy bill, the bill which was under consideration, and to proceed to the consideration of the bill chartering a company for the sewerage of this city. He moved to postpone the navy bill until one o'clock to-day, but it was not made a special order, and if it had been made a special order the unfinished business would override that special order. Mr. NYE. That is what I want to learn. Mr. CLARK. The Senate will bear me out in the assertion that when I moved to take up this bill the Senator from Massachusetts [Mr. WILSON] said, "You are not going further, Mr. CLARK;" and I said that I wanted to take up the bill so that it might be in order for to-morrow, (to-day,) and the Senate thereupon took it up and put it in order for this time. There is no "slipping" about it. It is the deliberate order of the Senate taking up the bill at that time.

Mr. NYE. You slipped me.

Mr. CLARK. But it is before the Senate in its order.

The PRESIDENT pro tempore. The question is on the motion of the Senator from Nevada to postpone the present and all prior orders and proceed to the consideration of the bill named by him.

Mr. CLARK called for the yeas and nays, and they were ordered; and being taken, resultedyeas 17, nays 14; as follows:

YEAS-Messrs. Anthony, Buckalew, Cowan, Doolittle, Howard, Howe, Lane of Kansas, Morgan, Nesmith, Nye, Poland, Ramsey, Riddle, Stewart, Sumner, Wade, and Yates-17.

NAYS-Messrs. Clark, Conness, Edmunds, Foster, Johnson, Kirkwood, Lane of Indiana, Pomeroy, Sherman, Sprague, Trumbull, Van Winkle, Willey, and Williams-14.

ABSENT-Messrs. Brown, Chandler, Cragin, Creswell, Davis, Dixon, Fessenden, Grimes, Guthrie, Harris, Henderson, Hendricks, McDougall, Morrill, Norton, Saulsbury, Wilson, and Wright-18. So the motion was agreed to. CONTRACTORS FOR VESSELS AND MACHINERY. The Senate accordingly resumed, as in Comques-mittee of the Whole, the consideration of the bill (S. No. 220) for the relief of certain contractors for the construction of vessels-of-war and steam machinery, the pending question being on the amendment of Mr. NYE to the amendment of Mr. GRIMES.

The amendment of Mr. GRIMES was to strike out all after the enacting clause of the bill and insert in lieu of the words to be stricken out the following:

should give the price of labor per hour during every month that they were engaged in the construction of these ships. Upon that point there is no question that the statements rendered are true and perfectly reliable; they come to the Committee on Naval Affairs certified by the president of the board as correct and true.

The Senate will bear in mind that these contractors were invited and required to appear, not before a tribunal of their own choosing, not before a tribunal where they had the opportunity of even choosing one member; but the Government itself fixed the tribunal, and required and demanded the presence of these contractors before that board, in compliance with the resolution that the Senate had adopted. Then, sir, there are two things which the Government had done. The Senate had passed the resolution, and the Navy Department had acted under that resolution. A board was organized, and before it these men were required to appear. That board was diligent in its business, and sat from June until December, and it required these contractors to come before it and present their claims. Was the Government in earnest with these contractors, or was it trifling with them? Was this all to go for naught and the judgment of the board to be reversed and the Senate of the United States to sit as a court of appeals for the purpose of reversing the judgment of the board appointed by the Government itself? Sir, the committee to which this subject was referred felt that our inquiries need go no further than to ascertain what was the actual cost of these vessels. To ascertain that, a board of inquiry had been sitting for five months, and we took the report of that board as evidence of the cost of these ships. It seems to me that that is just. When a poor mechanic or contractor has gone on to do work for the Government, and has, as my friend from Iowa [Mr. GRIMES] said yesterday, involved not only all his own fortune but the fortune of his friends in the construction of these ships, and when the Government by a tribunal of its own has declared that the cost of these ships was so much, it seems to me that the Government is estopped from going back of the judgment of the tribunal of its own selection.

That the Secretary of the Treasury be directed to pay, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, to the several parties the awards made in their favor by the naval board organized under the resolution of the Senate adopted March 9, 1865, the awards being made under date of December 23, 1865, and reported to the Secretary of the Navy; Provided, That the payment shall not, in any case. exceed twelve per cent. upon the contract price, except in the case of the Camanche, in which case the award shall be paid in full.

The amendment of Mr. NYE to this amendment was to strike out "twelve" and insert "fifteen."

Mr. NYE. Mr. President, in calling the attention of the Senate to this bill by the motion just made, I did not intend to press it in advance of any other more important measure; but I deem it quite important to the country, and especially important to these contractors, that they should know as soon as possible the exact condition in which they are to stand.

A little more than a year ago this Senate adopted a resolution authorizing and directing the Navy Department of the Government to appoint three competent persons to ascertain the actual cost to the contractors of the vessels and steam machinery that had been accepted by the Government. I assumed then that the Senate conceded one point, that by authorizing the board to do that duty they conceded that the Government were at least equitably bound to pay the actual cost of these vessels and machinery to the contractors. In introducing that resolution I had no other object in view than to ascertain the exact cost of these vessels and the machinery, so that at this present session of Congress the subject could be acted on understandingly. We assumed, of course, that the Department would appoint such a board as in all of its constituent parts would make a perfect whole to ascertain that fact; || and we rested upon that supposition. They appointed that board and the board have reported. Their report has been the subject of investigation by the Committee on Naval Affairs, and as the Senator from Indiana [Mr. HENDRICKS] has said, received the careful consideration of the sub-committee to which it was referred. They came to the conclusion that it was no more than an act of justice on the part of this Government to pay to the contractors the actual cost of the labor they had performed.

Sir, it seems to me in all its phases to be eminently just. The whole system of this mode of naval construction was new. The Government itself knew very little about it, and the contractors as little as the Government. But an absolute necessity existed for the construction of these ships; the necessities of the Government were such that, cost what they might, it must have them, and the ships have answered well the end for which they were constructed. I think I can say in truth that there is no class of men who have been engaged on Government contracts that have displayed a nobler spirit of self-sacrifice and patriotism to the Government than those men who vied with each other to see who could construct the best and most efficient vessels-of-war. At any rate the Government had determined to have this class of ships, and made its contracts for them in 1862 and 1863, and from that time until the period of their completion the reasons are ample and very clearly set forth why there must of necessity have been a great increase in the cost of the work. The Government acknowledged this. The Government acknowledged that it did not know itself what it did want and was constantly retarding the work on these ships by alterations from the specifications in the contracts.

It is patent to us all that from 1862 to 1864 not only the price of labor, but of every material which enters into the construction of a ship, almost doubled in cost. So accurate were the board that had this matter under investigation, that they required of these contractors that they

Sir, are we to be toid that this Government is too poor to be just? Are we to be told here that this tribunal had not sufficient ability to determine what the cost of these ships was? I have observed that whenever a tribunal is appointed by this Government to ascertain what is due from the Government it is exceedingly exacting, exceedingly careful, and it is very rarely that a mistake is made in giving the applicant or contractor more than he ought to receive. I approve of that care and of that scrutiny, but I assert that when a judgment is rendered in favor of a claimant this Government should be controlled by it.

The Senator from New Hampshire, [Mr. CLARK,] always careful, always vigilant, and exceedingly scrutinizing, denounced this as an omnibus bill. Sir, here are just as many bills as there were double-enders and iron-clads that were accepted by this Government. He fears that an unjust bill is to be carried through on the back of just bills. In answer to that, let me say there is no greater probability of there being danger of one bill helping another, in the bill as it is presented, than though there were forty separate bills. I therefore dismiss that suggestion made by the Senator with that simple explanation.

cost of their work is ascertained, that is the exact measure of justice which the Government ought to mete out to them in a spirit of magnanimity.

The Senator from Iowa, the chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs, proposes to give these contractors twelve per cent. in addition to their contract price. I do not think that that mode of relief is as just as the other; I do not believe that it will be as equitable to all these parties, and for this reason by that proposition some will get more, perhaps, than they would get under the award as it has been rendered, and some will get greatly less. Some will get more than they ought to have, and others will get less than they ought to have. It seems to me that when the amount which is due these contractors for the actual

Mr. GRIMES. The Senator is mistaken as to my amendment. As the amendment is drawn they cannot get more than the award; but where the award is more than twelve per cent. they get the twelve per cent. If the award is less than twelve per cent., they will get the amount of the award, whatever that may be.

Mr. NYE. Then I understand the Senator to say that the award may be less than he proposes to give.

Mr. GRIMES. The award is less than twelve per cent. in several instances. In those instances, under my substitute, if adopted, the parties will only get the amount of the award, which may be two per cent. or five per cent.; but in the other cases where the award exceeds twelve per cent., those contractors will get the twelve per cent.

Mr. NYE. I thank the Senator for his explanation; it simply shows that, after all, he puts great confidence in this award as being right, and I assume that there is no other basis that can be right as between these contractors and the Government but that resting upon the award of this tribunal constituted by the Government itself. It is therefore that I object to the amendment, but if that mode of relief is to prevail-and I know the power of the distinguished chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs, and feel great embarrassment in attempting to go against anything that he desires -if that must be guarded as he says the amendment is, "that no person shall receive more than the amount of the award in any case and shall be paid by a percentage, I insist upon it that my amendment should prevail, to insert "fifteen" instead of "twelve" per cent. If the representations of these contractors are to be relied upon, their sufferings in a pecuniary and financial point of view have been very great. They have subjected themselves to large payments of interest, have had many anxious hours and days in regard to it, involving their friends' property in the issue. It seems to me that upon every principle of justice this Government ought to pay the contractors the actual cost of the work done by them.

This is not an isolated case, or one peculiar to our own Government. I have taken occasion, since this question came up, to examine a little into.the proceedings of the English Government at the time of the Crimean war. They needed vessels of a different kind from those which had been usually employed, and the rule they adopted where contracts were made in a hurry, not knowing what the additional cost would be resulting from the necessity of speedy construction, was to pay the contractor the cost. Can this Government or its representatives afford to see the grand crash that will be made in individual fortunes, rather than step up and say that the contractors shall receive what the labor and materials actually cost them? A man would hardly be tolerated to live as a good citizen in a neighborhood who would get a contract which was oppressive and ruinous on his neighbor and so use it as to crush him; and surely this nation can afford to be as magnanimous as individual is to individual.

But we are told by the Senator from Iowa that this is only the beginning of the end, that there are other claims. I have not taken occa sion to investigate that fact; I have not thought it material. If this claim rests upon the principles of equity and justice, and there are other claims resting upon the same foundation, this nation, in view of its own dignity, in view of its own sense of justice, ought to meet them. Our Navy is not a thing of a day. It has done more to defend our national honor and our national integrity and has given a more noble exhibition of our national genius and enterprise than any other arm of the service used during the war; and it has made old England sing in subdued accents that she is mistress of

[ocr errors]

and twenty days, I take it they did not understand that the Government was to change the model, change the machinery, or to order such alterations as would require more than the time prescribed in the contract for the performance of the original work, to make the alterations, as it appears in this report was done in a number of instances. Five hundred thousand dollars worth of extra work was done on one vessel.

the sea. From the day that the little Monitor went down to Hampton Roads and sank the rebel craft, or so shattered her that she had to take herself back to her moorings, the character of the American Navy has attracted the admiration of the world. I believe sincerely that these contractors have tried to do the best they could, not for their own advantage, but for their country's glory, and to establish the fact that the character of the American Navy that was being built had more in it than any other navy that had ever been built.

Now, sir, we have this Navy, and I submit to the Senate, I submit to the country, whether it is not worth all that it has cost. I care not. sir, what its cost may be; we have a Navy now that admonishes the world that we are prepared for offensive and defensive warfare with a naval force such as no other country can boast. Much of the credit of this achievement is due to the noble patriotism and magnanimity of the contractors who built these ships, and they will stand as a monument to the genius of American skill and enterprise when those who are talking about them to-day will have been forgotten.

Mr. HOWARD. Then I understand from the Senator from Nevada that the Government insisted on some fundamental changes in their mode of construction.

Mr. NYE. In a large number of cases. Mr. HOWARD. Necessarily increasing the cost of the work.

Mr. SHERMAN. I ask if that was not in all cases paid for.

Mr. NYE. The extra work was paid for; but the time it took to do the extra work was as great as the contract time for doing the whole work.

Mr. SHERMAN. Still all the increased cost on account of the extra work was paid for, as I understand.

Mr. NYE. I understand so, except in one case; but that does not change the principle. The point is that time was essential, and that every month that rolled around increased the cost of doing the work. On one ship extra work to the amount of $500,000 was ordered, which took more time to perform than it would have required to make the original construction. The question of time is important in two views. The price of labor by the hour doubled and the cost of materials almost doubled. Almost all the materials which they had necessarily to use advanced in price from seventyfive to one hundred per cent. In another case, as appears by the report, the contractors did not receive the draft for the machinery until after the contract time for the completion of the work had expired, and as the Department say in the letter to them, it was owing to the hurry of business in the Department. In every one of these cases there is a reason rendered, and a reason that has been entirely satisfactory to the Navy Department. The Department accepted the work as evidence of their satisfaction. They took it when completed; and that is the highest evidence of their satisfaction with the work, both with regard to time and with regard to quality. Therefore the suggestion which the Senator from California [Mr. CONNESS] made yesterday falls to naught. It is not at all unusual, but usual, when ships-of-war go from here, and especially new ones, to the Pacific coast, to send them to the dry-dock on Mare Island to be overhauled and repaired.

up,

Sir, I insist upon it that the report of the board is the fairer, truer, and less liable to mistake than the proposition submitted by the Senator from Iowa in his amendment; but if that basis must be surrendered, if that proposition, mathematically certain, must be given I insist upon it that the amendment of the Senator from Iowa should be amended by inserting fifteen per cent. instead of twelve per cent. These contractors have given the cost of every nail and spike and bolt. The cost of every item in the construction of the vessels, from the laying of the keel to their completion, is here before us. I am unwilling that this Government should say to them, "Notwithstanding it cost you so much, we will give you a portion only of what the work cost you. If you adopt the principle that the Government is liable and should be held responsible to any extent, the whole ground is Fielded. If the contractors are entitled to anything, they are entitled to what the work cost. Either reject the entire principle and Bay you will not pay at all, or give them the actual cost of the work. I appeal to the mag nanimity of the Senate, the representative of the great nation whose Navy this is, not to send these men beggarly away, and let not the only return they get for their patriotism and energy be an expression of ingratitude from the representatives of the people of this country.

Mr. HOWARD. I desire to put a question to the Senator from Nevada in reference to the basis on which this claim is made. Were not the contracts regularly made with each one of the firms mentioned in this bill, for the construction of these iron-clads, and were not the prices fixed by the contracts; and where does it appear that the Government of the United

States is bound either in law or on principles of honor to pay them more than was required by their contracts? I understand that the object of this bill is to supply deficiencies of that kind, and to indemnify contractors who claim that the work cost them more than the contract price. I wish some information on this subject from the honorable Senator from Nevada. Mr. NYE. These contracts were made in 1862 and 1863, at a time when labor was at a given price. The vessels were to be completed within a certain time specified in the contract; but the Government admits the fact, and it is shown in the report, that for various reasons by the operation of governmental direction they were retarded in their work, and much of it was not completed until 1864, when the price of almost every article they had to use had doubled. Mr. HOWARD. Did not the contractors themselves contemplate that this delay might be produced by the direction of the Government, and had the contractors therefore any ground to complain of the delay produced in that manner?

Mr. NYE. When they contracted to build a ship in a hundred and fifty days or a hundred 39TH CONG. 1ST SESS.-No. 125.

ernment have reaped where they did not sow to the amount of $1,000,000, that ought to satisfy at least a sensible, honorable body of men who take justice for their standard and equity as their rule.

Mr. GUTHRIE. Mr. President, I have dif ficulties about this bill on two points. It is avowed here as a rule that we are to pay the cost of this work, though it exceeds the contract price. Are we to establish the precedent that nobody that contracts with the Government is to lose; that Congress will make up any loss? That is a pretty broad precedent to make, particularly at this time, or, indeed, at any time. Another question involved is that you guaranty by this action the value of the currency, or in other words you guaranty them against the increase of war prices during the time they are fulfilling their contracts.

I should not like the Senate to establish either of these principles, that the contractors with the Government of the United States are to be paid the cost of their work without regard to the contract price, or that they are to be indemnified for the depreciation of the currency and against the increase of war prices. All that is embraced in the resolution that was passed by the Senate at the heel of the session last year, authorizing the Department to form this board to pass upon the cost of the vessels. If I was making laws to last for all time to govern a people, I would make no such rules and regulations. I have been, to a limited extent, engaged in public works; and my experience has been that there is a difference in the talent, ingenuity, and skill of contractors. One man or one set of contractors will do their work, pay all their hands, and make money, and upon the same description of work and at the same prices another set will fall short and not be able to pay their hands, and fail in the end. Why is this? It is on account of the superior energy and skill of some, their power of combination, and their ability to apply their means to the end in view, the accomplishment of the work. If I can understand these reports, that has been the case in some of these contracts. Under precisely the same circumstances some have complained of no losses and others have complained of pretty heavy losses.

Now, we know what ship-builders are, as well as what they should be. Give them the dimensions of a ship, and the character of the vessel, and they know what quantity of timber is needed; they know what iron is necessary and the amount of labor necessary to accomplish it. They can make their estimate of what it will cost them, and allow for a fair profit, including their capital in machinery and in the investment; and as intelligent men they do make their estimates and their bids accordWe know the immense fortunes that some of these ship-builders have made, and yet we know that there are others who fail, and so it is in all the avocations of life. Men of skill, energy, and judgment are the prosperous men; men who lack skill, lack energy, and lack judgment are the men who fail in the affairs of this world.

Mr. President, I do not desire to occupy the time of the Senate, or to keep the more important measure, as it is deemed, of the Sena-ingly. tor from New Hampshire from being acted on. I have only to say that the report in this case was carefully drawn and is the result of mature deliberation by the sub-committee. If the Senate, after the suggestion of the chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs, proposes to pay a percentage, I think it ought to pay at least fifteen per cent. upon the contract price. If the figuring of my distinguished friend from Iowa is correct, and I have observed that he never figures so as to pay out very much money, fifteen per cent. will give almost a million dollars less than the board reported that the work cost the contractors. It seems to me that a million less ought to satisfy the Government. If such a reflection is at all sweet, I think the reflection that it has had and is now enjoying the benefit of more than a million dollars hard earned by days of toil and anxiety ought to satisfy the most voracious. If it is required here, under the lead of my distinguished friend from Iowa, that these men shall contribute a million, let that suffice; but I insist upon it that he shall not by his twelve per cent. proposition take half a million more from them which their families and their own interests require that they should have. I submit to the justice of the Senate that when it is shown by figures that the Gov

Now, sir, I am unwilling (and that is my difficulty about this bill) to make the rule that this Government is to answer for whatever a contract may cost the individual to accomplish the work, without regard to the contract price. They are sagacious men; they make their calculations upon the character of the currency and the chances of its depreciation. They know the effect of war and how it changes prices; and that, too, if they are fit for their avocations, enters into their calculations when they bid. I believe all these specifications required them to make additions and alterations before the completion of the work; and that was within their contemplation at the time they made these contracts. It may be true, and no doubt is true, that they have been delayed by these alterations, by the large additional work that was required to be done; but for this additional work they were paid under the contracts. They may not have been paid for all the delays, all the damages that were

done them. They could not have foreseen the extent of this additional work. They may have supposed the designers of these vessels understood their business and had made the designs carefully, and that the alterations would be but small and immaterial. An alteration that would cost an additional $500,000 certainly was not within the contemplation of any contractor, because it never should have been allowed by a Department that understood its business in relation to the building of vessels.

the time. If you are going to make compen-
sation for the difference between the contract
price and the value of the money when it was
paid, to all the soldiers who received your pay,
to all the officials to whom you paid salaries,
and to all the contractors who contracted to
deliver to you on time all the supplies for the
Army and Navy that have enabled this coun-
try to carry on the most stupendous war that
has happened in our time, or that I hope ever
will happen on the continent of America, it
will be an endless and ruinous job, and you will
never be done settling the cost of this war.

I do not wish to set up my judgment against the judgment of anybody. If it is the sense Mr. HENDRICKS. I think there is force of the Senate that it should extend its hand to in his suggestion so far as regards ordinary relieve the calamities of the contractors who contracts; but I think it is due to the Depart- have failed, be it so; but I have seen enough ment to say, as is stated in this report, that the of this case to see that some of these parties building of these ships was to some extent and have failed in the construction of precisely the almost altogether in this country an experi- same class of vessels in regard to which other ment, and the Department had to avail itself parties have made no complaint, thus showing of all possible experience, and as improve-that the failure in the one case was owing to ments were found necessary they had to be the want of skill and knowledge of the conmade. Therefore I suggest to the Senator that tractor and not to any fault of the Government. it is not like the construction of a ship upon There is no period in the history of the nation, old plans, and I have not been able to see that when you are carrying on a great war or great even in the case to which he refers the Depart-constructions and improvements, that this same thing will not happen-some will fail while others make money.

ment was in fault.

I felt bound to say this much on these few points. I am not willing to establish the rule that we will compensate every contractor for the cost of the work that he contracts to do, or that we will take into consideration the difference in the value of money and the value of labor during the whole period of the contract; but still, wherever the loss has been occasioned by the action of the Government in delaying the specifications or requiring additional work that could not have been fairly calculated upon when the contract was made, I think there is ground for equitable compensation, and I feel willing and ready to vote for it.

Mr. GRIMES. I only rise to set the Senator from Kentucky right in regard to one thing. I think, in the first place, that he is mistaken in supposing that so many of these cases are predicated upon the loss that has been sustained by the contractors in consequence of alterations made by the Navy Department. But the inference would be drawn from what he has said that the conduct of the Navy Department in the construction of these vessels was rather of a blundering character, and that they ought not to have directed changes to be made; and he says that these are not the first iron vessels that have been built; that they have been built before. That is true. Iron vessels have been built before; but no such vessels as we have built have been built before; and almost all of the attachments to these vessels have been compelled, necessarily, to be altogether of a different character from what was before known. In the first place, it required a great deal of time and ingenuity and a great many experiments in order to determine which was the best character of a rudder to apply to these monitors. Then there were constant changes made in order to obviate the defects which were found to exist in the original Monitor, so as to prevent the great overhanging which was doubtless the cause of the sinking of the original Monitor. Then it was exceedingly difficult to arrange the compass, and many experiments were made and considerable delay occasioned in consequence of the variation caused by the action of the | iron on the deck of the vessel upon the compass. They finally devised a way of raising the compass on a high staff and having a card on which it could be read down in front.

If the Senator will go with me down here to the navy-yard I will show him two monitors, one of which was built in 1862, and another one built recently, the Tonawanda, and he would hardly suppose that the original Monitor that was built in 1862 was the prototype and original of the perfect vessel that is now lying at the wharf. These changes have been going on gradually. Every battle

Mr. HENDRICKS. Will the honorable Senator allow me to make a suggestion?

Mr. GUTHRIE. Certainly,

Mr. GUTHRIE. Mr. President, every special case that appeals to the Treasury, has its placebo, its excuse for failure. The building of iron vessels was no new thing-no new thing in America, no new thing in Europe. We are not to suppose that our officers made the plans without information as to how far the science had progressed in other countries. I do not impeach them with any such want of judgment and skill as to suppose that they went on blundering ignorantly without knowing what had been done in other countries.

that has been fought, every storm that they have encountered, every experienced and capable man who has commanded one of them has made some suggestive changes, and where those changes have met the approval of the proper advising officers of the Navy Department, although a vessel might be upon the stocks, availing themselves of the clause in the contracts which authorized them to change the specifications of the contract, they have done so. Manifestly it was the interest and the duty of the Government to make such changes. I am happy to be able to say, and I think the Senator will concur with me if he has consulted with any naval gentlemen and entertains the same opinion with them, I am happy in being able to say, what is my own honest conviction, that we have to-day the most perfect iron vessels in the world; and they have all sprung out of a defective original vessel, and all been perfected through these changes which have been gradually going on in these various ship-yards, either private shipyards or our own.

I rose, Mr. President, not for the purpose of controverting or entering into a discussion of the merits of this proposition, but simply not to let it be inferred that I acquiesced in what might possibly be drawn as a conclusion from the Senator's remarks, that I believed there had been any improper blundering in regard to these iron-clads. I know that the Navy Department have made mistakes, I know they made most egregious mistakes in regard to one class of vessels not included in this bill. I am not here to defend those mistakes; but I am here to defend every improvement and change that has been made toward making a perfect ship-of-war, which I think we have done.

Mr. SUMNER. Mr. President, I am happy to agree with the Senator from Kentucky in the fundamental principle which he has laid down and developed so clearly. I agree with him that by no legislation of ours must we recognize the principle that contractors with the Government may never lose. The Senator cannot state that proposition too strongly. But I part company with him when he undertakes to apply the proposition to the present case. We agree on the proposition; we disagree on the application.

Had these contracts been in a period of peace, then there would have been occasion for the application of the proposition of the Senator; but they were not in a period of peace; they were in a period of war. The Senator himself has characterized the war as perhaps the greatest in all history. If they were not precisely in a period of war, they were in those early days which were the heralds of war. The prac tical question for us as legislators is, whether we can shut our eyes to that condition of things. The times were exceptional and surely tho remedy must be exceptional also.

I have no question in my own mind that most of these men have lost money; I think they have lost money, principally because of the alterations that were made; and I should be glad to have some criterion devised upon which I could vote for settling their bills, so that we might be done with them.

The difficulty I have is in coming up to the point that this Government is to establish now and forever the principle that no man who contracts with it is to lose, and that it is to act upon the principle hereafter that the contract price is not to be the rule of compensation. If the contractors then swell the cost of work that they have undertaken to perform, it is nothing to them. They will not care how high wages go, for Uncle Sam is to pay.

I will not agree to establish that principle; but still these men have suffered by the change of plans and the additional time required to do the original work, throwing them into more expensive times. I would be willing to furnish a criterion of compensation if I knew what it was. The chairman of the Naval Committee seems to fix upon twelve per cent.; the Senator from Nevada fixes it at fifteen per cent. I should like to have these bills settled at the one or the other, and that we should be done with them; but I beg you, gentlemen, not to establish the principle that a contractor with the Government is never to lose, let his work cost him what it will. Such a rule would not do in private life among individual citizens. In extraordinary cases of hardship or of difficulty, individuals, who are able to do so, compensate the contractor beyond the contract price. That is an appeal to his own sense of equity and justice on account of the misfortune of the man who has made the contract. But when we come to make general rules and declare the general principle that we are to compensate all these men, we take from them their interest in the result of their work and we are to pay the bills. Allusion has been made to the depreciation of the currency, and that is urged as an argument in favor of this bill. Why, sir, there is no intelligent man but what takes that into consideration in making a contract. He estimates the cost and the hazards that he will incur. All those things are within his contemplation at

I have said, had it been a moment of peace, then the Senator from Kentucky would be right, and we should not be justified in exercising the influence which we have over the public Treas ury in opening it for the relief of these contractors. But, sir, war is a great disturbing force. What force in human society, what force in business, is more disturbing? Wherever it goes it not only carries with it death and destruction, but the derangement of business, the change of pursuits, the interference with the currency, and generally the dislocation of the common relations of life. You cannot be blind to such a condition of things. You must not shut your eyes to its consequences. If you do so you cannot do justice to the case that is now before you.

I repeat, therefore, did these contracts grow out of a period of peace I should not be here now to advocate them; but it is because they grow out of a period of war that I insist that those who have suffered by them shall enjoy that same justice which we are making haste to accord to all who have contributed to our success in that terrible war. Why, sir, how often do we plead in this Chamber for justice to all who have contributed to our success! It

[ocr errors]

for any cause the fact will be immediately reported
to the Provost Marshal General. The commandant
will decide what operatives come within the provis-
ions of the circular.

Very respectfully, GIDEON WELLES.
Secretary of the Navy.
TO COMMANDANTS OF NAVY-YARDS.
Mr. KIRKWOOD. What is the date of
that?

Mr. SUMNER. "Navy Department, 13th
of August, 1864.'

Mr. KIRKWOOD. Now, I should like to ask, at what time were these contracts given out for the building of these ships? In 1862, I believe.

is my duty constantly to plead here for justice to those freedmen who have done so much and placed you under undying obligations. I hope I am not indifferent also to those national creditors who have supplied the means which helped your triumph; nor yet again to those soldiers, whether on land or sea, who have so powerfully served the national cause. But there is still another class, for whom no one has yet spoken on this floor, who have contributed to your success not less than the soldier or the creditor; I was almost about to say not less than the freedman; I mean the mechanics of this country. They, sir, have helped you to carry on this war to its victorious close. Without the mechanics where would you have been? What would have been your equipments on the land? Where would have been that marvelous navy on the sea? It was the skilled labor of this country, coming so promptly to the rescue, which gave you that power which carried you on from victory to victory.

Now, sir, the practical question is, whether these mechanics, who have done so much to turn the tide of battle, shall be losers by the skill, the labor, and the time which they devoted to your triumph? Tell me not, sir, that they acted according to their contract. To that I reply, the war disturbed that contract, and it is your duty here, sitting as a high court in equity, to review all the circumstances of the case and to see in what way the remedy may be fitly applied. You cannot turn away from the equities of the case. You cannot treat it literally and severely according to the precise terms of the contract. You must go into those vital considerations which arise out of the peculiar circumstances of the case.

There are several facts which are obvious to all. They have been alluded to already in this debate. A Senator on the other side of the Chamber has alluded to them. In the first place, there was the general increase in the price of labor and material that ensued after these contracts were made. Nobody doubts that. There was, then, in the second place, another fact somewhat connected with the first. I mean the change in the currency. There was, then, in the third place, what has been alluded to several times, the changes made in the models of these vessels at the Navy Department, which necessarily imposed upon these contractors additional expense and labor. Then there was another circumstance to which my attention has been directed latterly-I believe, however, the Senator from Iowa alluded to it yesterday-that at the moment of the war, when labor was the highest, when it was most difficult to obtain it, there came an order from the proper authorities exempting those who labored in the arsenals and public yards of the United States from enrollment. Of course all who were then working in private yards or with contractors, naturally, so far as they could, hurried under the national flag that they might become workmen there and thus obtain exemption from enrollment. I have here an order from the Navy Department which I believe has not yet been introduced into this debate, and which I will read. It is introduced by an order from the War Department, as follows:

[Circular No. 28.]

WAR DEPARTMENT, PROVOST MARSHAL GENERAL'S OFFICE, WASHINGTON, D. C., July 25, 1864. Skilled mechanics and operatives employed in the artorics, arsenals, and navy-yards of the United States who shall be drafted, and, on examination, held to service, will not be required to report for duty under such draft so long as they remain in the aforesad service, provided the officer in charge shall certify that their labor, as mechanics or operatives, is necessary for the naval or military service. JAMES B. FRY, Provost Marshal General.

Then comes the supplementary order from the Navy Department, as follows:

In accordance with the provisions of the circular, should "skilled mechanics and operatives" employed the yard be drafted, the commandant will certify the Provost Marshal General that "their labor as Rolanies or operatives is necessary for the naval *vice. The excaption from military duty continonly so long as the drafted persons are employed in the navy-yard; and should either of them leave

Mr. SUMNER.

In 1862 and 1863.
Mr. KIRKWOOD. What proportion of the
work, then, was done after the issuance of this
order?

Mr. SUMNER. That I am not able to say.
Mr. KIRKWOOD. We ought to know that,
in order to see what effec. that order is to have
on our deliberations.

be seen in those mighty results which we all now enjoy.

Mr. CLARK. Many of them were finished a year before that.

Mr. SUMNER. But I take it they were not all finished at that time. Surely they were not. This order illustrates very plainly the disturbing influence from the war; and this brings me again to press this point upon your attention. I mention certain particulars in which this appeared; but I wish to bring home to your minds the controlling consideration that we were in a time of war, vast in its proportions, and most disturbing in its influence. This alone is enough to account for the failure of these contractors to complete their contracts. We were not in a period of peace, and you err if you undertake to hold these contractors to all the austere responsibilities to which you might properly hold them in a period of peace.

The Senator from Kentucky said that they
took the war into their calculations. Perhaps
they did; but who among these contractors
could take that war adequately into his calcu-
lations? Who among those sitting here or at
the other end of the avenue properly appreci-
ated the character of the great contest that was
then coming on? Sir, we had passed half a
century in peace; we knew nothing of war or
of war preparations, when all at once we were
called to efforts on this gigantic scale.
Are
you astonished that these contractors did not
know more about the war than your statesmen?
Be to these contractors as gentle in judgment
and as considerate as you have been to others
in public life who have erred in their calcula-
tions with regard to it.

I have said that the interest now in question
was the great mechanical interest of the coun-
try. It is an interest, let me add, that is not
local, as this bill is for the benefit of mechanics
in all parts of the loyal States, from Maryland
in the South to Massachusetts and Maine in the
North and East, and then stretching from New
York on the sea-board to Missouri beyond the
Mississippi. I have here a list of the States
interested, through different contractors, in this
very bill. I will read it: Maine, Massachusetts,
Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New
Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland,
Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, and even California.
The interest for which I am now speaking
crosses the mountains and goes to the Pacificing

I

And now again I ask, are you ready to see these contractors who have done this service sacrificed? You do not allow the soldier to be sacrificed, nor the national creditor who has taken your stock. Will you allow the mechanic to be sacrificed? There are many of them who, without your help, must suffer. One of the most enterprising and faithful in the whole country is a constituent of my own, who during the last year has been obliged to go into bankruptcy from his inability to meet liabilities growing out of the war, and at this moment he finds no chance of relief except in what a just Government may return to him. My friend on my right [Mr. NYE] asked you to be magnanimous to these contractors. do not put it in that way. I ask you simply to be just. Do by them as you would be done by. The Senator from Nevada also very fitly reminded you of the experience of other countries. He told you that England, at the close of the Crimean war, when her mechanics had suffered precisely as your mechanics have suffered, did not allow them to be sacrificed, but every pound and shilling of all their liabilities under their contracts was promptly met by that Government. Will you be less just to your mechanics than England? It is an old saying that republics are ungrateful. I hope that this Republic may certainly vie with any monarchy in gratitude to those who have served it. You have shown great energy in meeting your enemies. I ask you to show a commensurate energy in doing justice to those who have coutributed to your success.

||

Now, sir, the practical question remains, what shall be paid? I, of course, shall vote for the amendment of the Senator from Nevada raising the percentage in the proposition of the Senator from Iowa to fifteen per cent.; but I am free to say that does not satisfy me. I prefer the report of the committee, and I will tell you precisely why. I prefer it because it is founded on the judgment of a court. I do not use the language hastily. I say it is founded on what for practical purposes may be called the judgment of a court. It was by a resolution of this body that a commission was constituted of honorable gentlemen having the confidence of the country, one of them an eminent commodore in the Navy; another a paymaster, and another an engineer; three gentlemen who from their education and position were supposed to be peculiarly competent to deal with such matters, and to them these cases were submitted. They sat as a tribunal for months; they listened to all the evidence that was brought before them; and you have now before you their final judgment. They were a court of claims created by yourselves to deal with these cases.

Mr. KIRKWOOD. I should be glad to call the attention of the Senator to the fact that the board was constituted for this purpose:

"To inquire into and determine how much the vessels-of-war and steam machinery contracted for by the Department in the years 1862 and 1863 cost the contractors over and above the contract price and allowance for extra work."

They were organized for the purpose of ascertaining just what the cost was, not concern

the question whether it ought to be allowed or not. It was a mere question of dollars and cents, a matter of figures. It does not touch the question whether we should make the allowance that they report.

Mr. SUMNER. I do not pretend to say-that I hope my friend will understand metheir report is, technically, in the form of a judgment of a court; but I do submit that under the circumstances of the case it is to be taken by us as of similar value. It is the findof a tribunal created to consider this very question. Sir, do we not almost every day act in the judgment of the Court of Claims, sitting m another part of this building? We accept their deliberations, and do not undertake to open their judgments, except in rare cases. I do not mean to say that the Senate may not open the judgment of the Court of Claims, nor

ocean.

I said that this was the skilled labor of the
country. What labor more valuable; what
service, while the war was going on, more im-
portant! If these mechanics did not expose
their persons in the peril of battle, they gave
their skill to prepare others to achieve the vic-
tory. It was in ancient times that the oracle
said to the city in danger, "Look to your
wooden walls. The oracle in our country
said, "Look to your iron-clads and your double-ing
enders;" and these mechanics came forward
and by their generous labor enabled you to put
those iron-clads and double-enders on the
ocean, and thus to secure the final triumph.
The building of that invulnerable navy was
one of the great victories of the war, not to
be commemorated on any special field, but to

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »