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No narrow construction of the immense power given by these words to Congress over the public revenues should be adopted.

If Congress should make a law which in clear terms made an appropriation for decorations on such an occasion as that at San Francisco, the direct question of its constitutionality would present itself. It could scarcely be authorized under the authority to “provide for the common defence."

The “general-welfare” power is one which has been discussed in many volumes. As a separate, distinct, substantive power, unlimited save only by the discretion of Congress, it can, to that extent, have no existence. Its existence and extent are debatable.

Where the existence of a power is in a large measure denied, and is not claimed in an unlimited sense by any one, and only in a qualified sense by the current of opinion, a law should not, merely by inference and construction, be held as carrying the exercise of such power. This could only be when the words or purpose of the law clearly or by fair inference so require.

Whether a law authorizing the decoration of a public building at the public expense for an object having no connection with the public service, but merely as a mark of respect for high officials, can be justified under a general-welfare power, certainly admits of reasonable doubt at least; and in such case the doubt should be resolved against a construction to make an appropriation by inference for that object.

There were decorations in 1876 of public buildings for the purposes of the “Centennial International Exhibition.” This exhibition was authorized or aided by the acts of March 3, 1871, (16 Stats., 470;) June 1, 1872, (17 Stats., 203;) June 5, 1874, (18 Stats., 53;) June 16, 1874, (18 Stats., 76;) March 3, 1875, (18 Stats., 375;) February 16, 1876, (19 Stats., 4;) April 17, 1876, (19 Stats., 34;) May 1, 1876, (19 Stats., 45;) March 3, 1877, (19 Stats., 370;) joint resolution June 20, 1879, (21 Stats., 50;) joint resolution June 27, 1879, (21 Stats., 53;) act June 6, 1880, (21 Stats., 281.) (Eysler vs. Centennial Board, 94 U. S., 500.)

Most of these were in force in 1876. They provided for an exposition of the industry of all nations. They were made “to

provide for the general welfare of the United States." They had the authority of the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations." The whole legislation of Congress making such appropriations during that time had some reference to these conditions and purposes; and it was necessary and proper that the laws should be construed with reference to them.

Great national and international interests were involved and pro

moted by making our public buildings attractive. The direct interests of our citizens were promoted by it.

What was then justified for great purposes like these can furnish no precedent for occasions of public demonstration in honor of high officials.

It is not intended to limit the use of contingent funds to purposes absolutely necessary to carry out the object of a direct appropriation, Such funds may be used, within proper bounds, to contribute to the convenience and comfort of the public service.

Those articles of convenience, and even of ornament, sanctioned by refined and enlightened usage, may, to a certain extent, be presumed to be within the purpose of appropriations.

In the purchase of articles necessary for the public use, the elements of utility and ornament may be combined; but perishable articles for ornament alone, with absolutely no utility for public service, are not within the purpose of a contingent fund.

The rejection of a voucher, as in this case, by no means implies censure of any officer. The superintendent of the Mint at San Francisco has been, and is, distinguished alike for ability, fidelity, and economy. The appropriation for contingent expenses of the Mint under his charge for 1879 was $87,500; his expenditure, only $75,864 63. The appropriation for 1880 was $87,500; his expenditure, only $46,525.75.

This is an example worthy of commendation and imitation, and compares very favorably with expenditures under prior appropriations.

It is a sufficient objection to this voucher that the expenditure covered by it does not appear to have been made by the “written order” of the head of the


bureau. The action of the superintendent may, however, be ratified, and thus rendered as valid as if originally authorized; and this may be considered as done, since the action in question has the sanction of the able and careful head of the proper bureau. But the latter's approval is not conclusive on the accounting officers, whose duty it is, by express law, to pass on the legal validity and amount of the expenditure, (Rev. Stats., 191, 236, 269, 277.)

The voucher for $250 is disallowed.

First Comptroller's Office, March 14, 1881.


1. The “deficiency" act of March 3, 1881, appropriating money to pay a per diem

compensation to “clerks to committees (of the Senate] during the special session” of the Senate, commencing March 4, 1881, makes no appropriation to pay any compensation, extra or otherwise, for or by reason of services rendered by

clerks at the previou8 regular session of the Senate. 2. The fact that some of those who were clerks during the regular session were

reappointed in that capacity to committees as reorganized at the special session, March 18, does not aid them, nor enlarge the operation of the deficiency

appropriation made by the act of March 3, 1881. 3. No payment of compensation to clerks can be made by virtue of a resolution of

the Senate directing it, unless there be a law which authorizes payment. 4. In the absence of any restraining statute, the Senate is the exclusive judge of the

purposes for and manner in which its contingent fund shall be applied. Vo executive officer can, in such case, call in question the propriety or validity of

its application. 5. Under section 1765 of the Revised Statutes, a resolution of the Senate cannot

authorize the payment from a general appropriation of extra compensation to

clerks whose per diem pay is fixed by law. 6. But section 1765 is so far restrained by section 3630 that under the latter the Sen

ate may, by resolution, authorize the payment from its contingent fund of extra

compensation to clerks appointed by resolution, and after being so appointed. 7. Section 3682 of the Revised Statutes does not prohibit either House of Congress

from applying its contingent fund in paying extra compensation to clerks. 8. The character of an appropriation is not necessarily determined by the head under

which it is placed, nor by what it may be called in the act, but by its evident

purpose. Hence9. An appropriation specifically for the payment of a designated number of clerks is,

eo nomine and technically, no part of a "contingent fund” merely because so

called, or placed under such head. 10. The appropriation act of June 15, 1880, makes no provision for the payment of

clerks with a per diem compensation after the regular sessiou which terminated

on the 3d of March, 1881. 11. A valid resolution of the Senate directing its Secretary, who is also its disbursing

officer, to pay money, without in terms stating the fund from which it is to be paid, will be construed as intended to apply to the contingent fund over which the Senate has control, when there is no other fund to which the direction

could properly apply. 12. An appropriation act could authorize payment from any fund set apart by it for

use under a resolution of either branch of Congress, whether called a contingent fund or otherwise.

13. Section 3680 of the Revised Statutes is prospective in its operation, applying only

to clerks after their appointment by resolution. 14. The accounting officers of the Treasury Department, in settling the accounts of

disbursing officers, cannot allow vouchers for unauthorized payments. 15. The "deficiency" act of March 3, 1881, appropriating money to pay certain clerks

therein named, without fixing the rate of per diem compensation, is to be construed as supplemental to the act of June 15, 1880, and as adopting by inference the rate of compensation therein prescribed.


The Secretary of the Senate addressed a letter, as follows:

" Washington, March 21, 1881. "Sir: In the general deficiency bill, approved March 3, 1881, a clause

appropriates money for the pay of per diem committee-clerks and the pages of the Senate during the special session. * You decided, under date of March 2, 1881, that the termination of the regular session put an end to committee organizations; and hence the per diem clerks, not being strictly employed, were not entitled to the benefits of the above-mentioned act. On the 18th of March, 1881, the Senate, desiring to meet the point thus raised by your office, passed the resolution which I enclose.

I would respectfully ask whether, in your opinion, it constitutes the clerks legally employed between the dates specified, and hence entitled to the compensation provided for in the appropriation bill? “Very respectfully,


Secretary. "First Comptroller." The resolution mentioned is as follows:

“IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, March 18, 1881. Resolved, that the Secretary of the Senate be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to pay the clerks of the committees of the Senate who held such positions on the fourth day of March, 1881, and who do not receive annual salaries, the usual per diem compensation from the fifth day of March to the eighteenth day of March, 1881, inclusive. - Attest:

INO. C. BURCH, Secretary.The Senate committees were not organized at the special session until March 18, 1881.

The previous committee organizations ceased with the close of the Forty-sixth Congress on March 3, 1881. The Senate now in session is that of the Forty-seventh Congress.


The legislative, executive, and judicial appropriation act of June 15, 1880, (21 Stats., 210,) makes appropriations, among others, for the payment of clerks, laborers, &c., of the Senate, during the fiscal year

from July 1, 1880, to June 30, 1881.

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When the law was passed there was but one regular session of the Senate provided for—that from December 6, 1880, to March 3, 1881, inclusive.

The act, accordingly, in providing per diem compensation for clerks, uniformly uses the expression “during the session," and declares that this " shall be construed to mean four months."

This evidently refers to the regular session, and no other.

The inauguration of a new President on the 4th of March rendered a special session of the Senate proper, and it was accordingly called, February 28, 1881, by the President, to meet on the 4th of March following:

In anticipation of this, and in view of the exhaustion of the appropriation made by the act of June 15, 1880, for per diem compensation of clerks to Senate committees, an act of Congress was passed, approved March 3, 1881, (21 Stats., 414,) entitled

"An act making appropriations to supply deficiencies in the appropriations for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, eighteen hundred and eighty-one, and for prior years, and for those certified as due by the accounting officers of the Treasury in accordance with section four of the act of June fourteenth, eighteen hundred and seventy-eight, heretofore paid from permanent appropriations, and for other purposes."

It declares in the enacting clause:

“That the following sums be, and the same are hereby, appropriated, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, for the objects hereinafter stated, namely:


“For twenty-two clerks to committees, and eighteen pages, a sum sufficient to pay them during the special session of the Senate.

"For salaries of officers, clerks, messengers, and others receiving an annual salary in the service of the Senate, a sum sufficient to pay the twelve laborers, during the special session of the Senate."

The question presented is, whether, under this appropriation “for twenty-two clerks to committeesand the resolution of March 18, a per diem of $6 for the period from March 5 to March 18, inclusive, can be paid to the “twenty-two clerks” who held such positions on the third (or, as the resolution says, fourth day of March, 1881!

It is very certain that no payment is authorized by the resolution, either alone or in connection with the act of March 3, 1881, or that of June 15, 1880. These may be considered in the view that payment is claimed either (1) to give a gratuity or extra compensation to those who were clerks during the regular session on the 3d of March, but who were not afterwards reappointed; or (2) to give pay during the period from March 5 to March 18, whilst not legally in service, but actually

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