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The action taken was in direct compliance with this rule. The question, therefore, is as to the validity of this rule, and not what methods the Speaker may of his own motion resort to for determining the presence of a quorum, nor what matters the Speaker or Clerk may of their own volition place upon the journal. Neither do the advantages or disadvantages, the wisdom or folly, of such a rule present any matters for judicial consideration. With the courts the question is only one of power. The Constitution empowers each House to determine rules of proceeding. It may not by its rules ignore constitutional restraints or violate fundamental rights, and there should be a reasonable relation between the mode or method of proceeding established by the rule and the result which is sought to be attained. But within these limitations all matters of method are open to the determination of the House, and it is no impeachment of the rule to say that some other way would be better, more accurate, or even more just. It is no objection to the validity of a rule that a different one has been prescribed and in force for a length of time. The power to make rules is not one which once exercised is exhausted. It is a continuous power, always subject to be exercised by the House, and, within the limitations suggested, absolute and beyond the challenge of any other body or tribunal.
The Constitution provides that “a majority of each (House) shall constitute a quorum to do business.” In other words, when a majority are present the House is in a position to do business. Its capacity to transact business is then established, created by the mere presence of a majority, and does not depend upon the disposition or assent or action of any single member or fraction of the majority present. All that the Constitution requires is the presence of a majority, and when the majority are present the power of the House arises.
But how shall the presence of a majority be determined ? The Constitution has prescribed no method of making this determination, and it is therefore within the competency of the House to prescribe any method which shall be reasonably certain to ascertain the fact. It may prescribe answer to roll-call as the only method of determination; or require the passage of members between tellers, and their count as the sole test; or the count of the Speaker or the Clerk, and an announcement from the desk of the names of those who are present.
Any one of these methods, it must be conceded, is reasonably certain of ascertaining the fact, and as there is no constitutional method prescribed, and no constitutional inhibition of any of these, and no violation of fundamental rights in either, it follows that the House may adopt either or all, or it may provide for a combination of any two of the methods. That was done by the rule in question; and all that that rule attempts to do is to prescribe a method for ascertaining the presence of a majority, and thus establishing the fact that the House is in a condition to transact business.
As appears from the journal, at the time the bill passed the House there was present a majority, a quorum, and the House was authorized to transact any and all business. It was in a condition to act on the bill if it desired; and the other branch of the question is whether, a quorum being present, the bill received a sufficient number of votes; and here the general rule of all parliamentary bodies is that when a quorum is present the act of a majority of the quorum is the act of the body. This has been the rule for all time, except so far as in any given case the terms of the organic act under which the body is assembled have prescribed specific limitations, as, for instance, in those States where the Constitution provides that a majority of all the members elected to either House shall be necessary for the passage of any bill. No such limitation is found in the Federal Constitution, and therefore the general law of such bodies obtains.
It is true that most of the decisions touching this question have been in respect to the actions of trustees and directors of a private corporation, or of the minor legislative bodies which represent and act for cities and other municipal corporations, but the principle is the same. Those are legislative bodies representing larger constituencies. Power is not vested in any one individual, but in the aggregate of the members which compose the body, and its action is not the action of any separate member or number of members, but the action of the body as a whole, and the question which has over and over again been raised is, what is necessary to constitute the official action of this legislative and representative body? In Rex vs. Monday (2 Cowp., 530, 538) Lord Mansfield said: "I will take it for granted that a majority of the mayor and aldermen for the time being was sufficient to constitute the corporate assembly; and the fact found by the special verdict is that the majority of those in being did meet. When the assembly are duly met I take it to be clear law that the corporate act may be done by the majority of those who have once regularly constituted the meeting.
In 5th Dane's Abridgment, page 150, the rule is thus stated: “When a corporation is composed of a definite number, and an integral part of it is required to vote in an election, a majority of such integral definite part must attend, aliter there is no elective assembly, but a majority of those present when legally met will bind the rest.” In i Dillon's Municipal Corporations (fourth edition), section 283, the rule is thus stated: “And, as a general rule, it may be stated that not only where the corporate power resides in a select body, as a city council, but where it has been delegated to a committee or to agents, then, in the absence of special provisions otherwise, a minority of the select body, or of the committee or agents, are powerless to bind the majority or do any valid act. If all the members of the select body or committee, or if all the agents are assembled, or if all have been duly notified, and the minority refuse or neglect to meet with the others, a majority of those present may act, provided those present constitute a majority of the whole number. In other words, in such case a major part of the whole is necessary to constitute a quorum, and a majority of the quorum may act. If the major part withdraw, so as to leave no quorum, the power of the minority to act is in general considered to cease.”
This declaration has been quoted approvingly by this court in the case of Brown 0s. The District of Columbia (127 E. S. 579, 586). In 2 Kent's Commentaries, 293, the author draws a distinction between what is necessarily a meeting of a representative and a constituent body in these words: “There is a distinction taken between a corporate act to be done by a select and definite body, as by a board of directors, and one to be performed by the constituent members. In the latter case a majority of those who appear may act; but in the former, a majority of the definite body must be present, and then a majority of the quorum may decide.” In Horr & Bemis's recent work on Municipal Police Ordinances, 42, the authors observe: “ Those who are present and help to make up the quorum are expected to vote on every question, and their presence alone is enough to make the vcte decisive and binding, whether they actually vote or not. The objects of legislation can not be defeated by the refusal of any one to vote when present. If eighteen are present and nine vote, all in the affirmative, the measure is carried, the refusal of the other nine to vote being construed as a vote in the affirmative, so far as any construction is necessary.' See also.Ex parte Willcocks (7 Cowen, 402); Commonwealth vs. Green (4 Wharton, 531); State vs. Green (37 0. S., 327); Launtz vs. The People (113 11., 137); Gas Company vs. Rushville (121 Ind., 206); Gosling vs. Veley (7 A. & E., 406); S. C. (4 H. of L. Cases, 679).
In State vs. Deliesseline (1 McCord, 52) it is said:
"For, according to the principle of all the cases referred to, a quorum possesses all the powers of the whole body; a majority of which quorum must of course govern. * * * The constitutions of this state and the United States declare that a majority shall be a quorum to do business: but a majority that quorum are sufficient to deci the most important question."
In Wells vs. Rahway Company (19 N. J. Eq., 402) we find this language:
“A majority of the directors of a corporation, in the absence of any regulation in the charter, is a quorum, and the majority of such quorum when convened can do any act within the power of the directors.”
And in Attorney-General vs. Shepard (62 N. H., 383, 384) the question was whether an amendment to a city charter had been properly adopted by the board of aldermen. All the members of the board were present but one. The ordinance was duly read and put to a vote, and declared by the chair to be passed. The yeas and nays were then called; three voted in the affirmative, three refused to vote, and the chair declared the ordinance passed.
The court held, Chief Justice Doe delivering the opinion, that the amend. ment to the charter was legally adopted by the board of aldermen. He said:
“The exercise of lawmaking power is not stopped by the mere silence and inaction of some of the lawmakers who are present. An arbitrary, technical, and exclusive method of ascertaining whether a quorum is present, operating to prevent the performance of official duty and obstruct the business of government, is no part of our common law. The statute requiring the presence of four aldermen does not mean that in the presence of four a majority of the votes cast may not be enough. The journal properly shows how many members were there when the vote was taken by yeas and nays; there was no difficulty in ascertaining and recording the fact; and the requirement of a quorum at that time was not intended to furnish a means of suspending the legislative power and duty of a quorum. No illegality appears in the adoption of the amendment."
Summing up this matter, this law is found in the Secretary of the Tres ury's office, properly authenticated. If we appeal to the journal of the House, we find that a majority of its members were present when the bill passed, a majority creating by the Constitution a quorum, with authority to act upon any measure; that the presence of that quorum was determined in accordance with a reasonable and valid rule theretofore adopted by the House; and of that quorum a majority voted in favor of the bill. It therefore legally passed the House, and the law as found in the office of the Secretary of State is beyond challenge.
With reference to the other question: The opinion of the circuit court seemed to be that the act cast upon the Secretary of the Treasury a special duty of classification in all cases of the import of worsted cloths, and that unless he so acted in any particular case the duty remained as it was prior to the passage of the act. We quote its language:
** This act proceeds on an entirely novel theory. It provides expressly for a classification in direct nonconformity to the facts. It authorizes an officer of the government who may find an import to be in fact an article which under the tariff laws pays one rate of duty, to call it something else which it is not, in order to enable the revenue officers to levy upon it a rate of duty which that other article, which it is not, pays.
* I do not mean by that to suggest for one moment that under the phraseology of this act it is the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury to himself examine the packages of goods, to handle or see their contents; but having been informed and advised as to the facts in the same way in which he is informed and advised upon any facts upon which he is required to pass, by the examination and report of such trustworthy subordinates as he may select, the final classification of the particular articles is one to be made by him."
We do not so construe the act. We understand it rather as a declaration by Congress as to the construction to be placed upon that portion of the act of 1883 which refers to imported woolen cloths. It was an act suggested by the contest then pending in the courts, and which was finally decided adversely to the government, in the case of Seeberger vs. Cahn (137 U. S., 95), in which it was held by this court that “cloths popularly known as 'diagonals,' and known in trade as 'worsteds,' and composed mainly of worsted, but with a small proportion of shoddy and of cotton, are subject to duty as a manufacture of worsted, and not as a manufacture of wool, under the act of March 3, 1883, c. 121.” The form of expression used in the act may be novel, but the intent of Congress is quite clear. Recognizing the fact that the Secretary of the Treasury is the head of the financial department of the government, that to him, as its chief administrative official, is given the supervision of the tariff and all the collections thereunder, it directs him to classify all worsted cloths as woolen cloths, and it gives to him no discretion. He may not classify some worsteds as woolens and others as not.
There is given no choice or selection, but it is the imperative direction of Congress to him, as the chief administrative officer in the collection of duties, to place all worsted cloths, by whatever name properly known or known to the trade, within the category of woolen cloths, and, of course, if placed within that category, or, using the familiar language of the tariff, “ classified as woolen cloths," subject to the duty imposed on such cloths. If action were necessary by the Secretary of the Treasury to put this act into force, which we think is not, such action was taken by the circular letter of May 5, 1890, from the Treasury Department to all customs officers, publishing the act for the information and guidance of the public.
Our conclusion, therefore, is that the act was legally passed; that by its own terms, and irrespective of any action by the Secretary of the Treasury, the duties on worsted cloths were to be such as placed by the act of 1883 on woolen cloths.
The judgment of the circuit court will be reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings, in accordance with this opinion.
STATEMENT OF OUTSTANDING PRINCIPAL OF THE PUBLIC DEBT OF THE
YEAR FROM 1843 TO 1891, INCLUSIVE.
Jan. 1, 1791..
1792. 1793 1794 1795. 1796 1797. 1798. 1799 1800. 1801 1802. 1803 1804 1805. 1806. 1807 1808 1809. 1810. 1811. 1812. 1813. 1814 1815. 1816. 1817. 1818 1819 1820 1821 1822 1823. 1824 1825 1826 1827 1828 1829 1830. 1831 1832. 1833 1834. 1835. 1836 1837 1838 1839 1840 1841
$75,463,476.52 Jan. 1, 1842.
1853. 86,427, 120.88
$13,594,480.73 20,201,226.27 32,742,922.00 23.461,652.50 15,925,303.01 15,550,202.97 38,826,534.77 47,044,862.23 63,061,858.69 63,452,773.55 68,304,796.02 66,199,341.71 59,803,117.70 42, 242,222.42 35,586,956.56 31,932,537.90 28,699,831.85 44,911,881.03 58,496,837.88 64,842,287.88 90,580,873.72 524,176,412.13 1,119,772,138.63 1,815,784,370.57 2,680,647,869.74 2,773,236,173.69 2,678,126,103.87 2,611,687,851.19 2,588,452, 213.94 2,480,672,427.81 2,353,211,332.32 2,253,251,328.78 *2,234, 482,993.20 *2,251,690,468.43 *2,232,284,531.95 *2,180,395,067.15 *2,205,301,392.10 *2,256,205,892.53 *2,349,567,482.04 *2,120,415,370.63 *2,069,013,569.58 *1,918,312,994.03 *1,884,171,728.07 *1,830,528,923.57 +1,876,424,275.14 11,756,445,205,78 11,688,209,591.63 +1,705,992,320.58 11,640,673,340.23 11,585,821,048.73 11,560,472,784.61
* In the amount here stated as the outstanding principal of the public debt are included the certificates of deposit outstanding on the 30th of June, issued under act of June 8, 1872, for which a like amount in United States notes was on special deposit in the Treasury for their redemption, and added to the cash balance in the Treasury. These certificates, as a matter of accounts, are treated as a part of the public debt, but being offset by notes held on deposit for their redemption, should properly be deducted from the principal of the public debt in making comparison with former years.
+ Exclusive of gold, silver, currency certificates, and Treasury notes of 1890, held in the Treasury's cash, and including $64,623,512 bonds issued to the several Pacific railroads.