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i pecially as to expanel informed of the carefully pro
and “the yeas and nays of the members of either House on any question shall, at the desire of one-fifth of those present, be entered on the journal.” The Constitution also carefully provides for keeping the people well informed of the action of Congress, especially as to expenditures : “Each House shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and, from time to time, publish the same"; and specially provides that “a regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures of all public moneys shall be published from time to time."
So it will appear, that while Congress is charged with the control of the public moneys and has the undoubted constitutional power to fix a definite limit on their expenditure, yet because of the practice of permanent and indefinite appropriations, the dependence of Congress on the Executive department for details of the public requirements, and especially the persistent habit in departments and bureaus of making expenditures, and contracts involving expenditures, in excess of the appropriations, which sooner or later, in the form of “Audited Accounts," receive legislative recognition, the responsibility for the expenditures of Government is practically divided between Congress and the Executive departments. The demand for the constant exercise of the powers of the people in the administration of the Government is nowhere more manifest than in the ample, and in a large degree unrestricted powers of Congress in the raising of revenue and its expenditure, and in the tendency in Congress to divide the responsibility for expenditure with the Executive departments, which, while less open to public observation, are the more exposed to unscrupulous raids upon the public funds committed to their charge. Surely, the fathers could indulge the confident belief that in matters that concerned the integrity as well as the burdens of Government, public vigilance would not be suspended.
In the early years of our history there were high motives for frugal government, not only in the impoverished condition of a people just emerging from a great struggle, but in the desire to present a contrast between a free people administering their own affairs and the impoverishing governments of Europe; nor can we doubt that the self-denying statesmen of that day sought to present to the coming ages the example of a Government having in view only the happiness and prosperity of its people. To the close of 1791, from the inauguration of Washington as President, the revenues were $4,409,951.19; and the entire expenditure, including $175,813.88 for pensions, $1,177,863.03 for interest and $699,984.23 payment on the public debt, amounted to $3,797,436.78, leaving still nearly three-quarters of a million of dollars in the Treasury. Passing from this period to the close of the half century, we find that in 1841 the entire current ordinary expenditures (omitting the extraordinary-pensions, interest, and payments on the public debt, for these cannot well be considered in a review of current, ordinary expenditures and belong to specific periods) were $23,808,405.78. The appropriations for this year, for the ordinary expenditures, were $22,147,701.91. The expenditure exceeded the appropriations in consequence of Indian war. The appropriations include for the civil list, diplomatic and postal service, $8,517,079.35, and for the army, navy, fortification, West Point and Indians, $13,620,566. The civil list includes appropriations for military, geographical and geological surveys. The Executive office is not overlooked, and for that service the whole appropriation is as follows: “For annual repairs of the President's house, gardeners' salary, horse and cart, laborers and tools, and for amount due F. Masi and Company for repairs on furniture, $2628.” And at the foot of this list of appropriations for 1841, the following interesting legend arrests attention : “No new offices created or salaries increased." Such, at the end of half a century, was the force of a great example and public vigilance; and yet, as will appear, the expenditures of 1841 were materially above the average of that period, at least of ensuing years, and exceeded by two million dollars those of the preceding year. Up to this period, the entire expenditures of Government, including pensions and excluding the public debt, was $632,351,388. Our territory had been vastly extended by two great purchases, and our population had reached beyond seventeen millions.
We are not able as yet to compare our second half century of government with the first; dividing the completed period will indicate the result when it can be done. The appropriations made for the current expenses of the first fiscal year of President Lincoln's administration, which commenced on the first day of July, 1861, excluding a double appropriation for the postal service and the pension list, were $64,621,603.46. Some increase of military force was included, and the disordered state of the country precludes any just comparison; but during the preceding
decade, as will appear, there was a marked tendency to increased expenditure. The appropriations for the current ordinary expenditures of 1882 were $148,412,071.46, and for the present fiscal year reach $179,729,015.21, pensions and public debt in both years excluded. The entire current appropriations for the year are $295,729,015.21, including $116,000,000 for the pension list, sixteen millions of which are for deficiencies of the preceding year. A portion of this appropriation for pensions, it is believed, will not be required during this fiscal year. To this is to be added the estimated expenditure of $80,591,225 under permanent appropriations, making the aggregate for the year $376,320,240, independent of the sinking fund.
In 1841, at the beginning of our second half century, our population exceeded seventeen millions; in 1883, it is over fifty. three millions, and our current ordinary expenditures, civil list, consular and diplomatic, postal service, army, navy, and miscellaneous (pensions and public debt excluded), have increased on the basis of the appropriations above given, in the period of forty-two years, more than sevenfold. It must be admitted that in some degree growth of population involves some increase in the expenses of our Government, but it cannot be shown that the necessary increase would be even observable except through a considerable period of years.
For several years the prominent, and yet, within reasonable limits, the most justifiable increase of expenditure is noticeable in the post-office department. In 1853, it had reached by slow degrees, $7,982,957, and in the last fiscal year, $40,482,021. This is largely attributable to the extension of the railroads and the heavy charges they impose on the Government. The postal service is of especial interest and value to the whole people, yet recent events have demonstrated how readily and plausibly even a great public institution, where intregity is of special value, can be dishonestly employed in the interests of private aggrandizement. But the decline of the old-time frugality is everywhere manifest. The most unexpected objects for expenditure are discovered. The appropriations for the present year contain $61,676.45 for expenses incurred by gentlemen in their contests for seats in Congress. At the close of our first half century, $29,128.00 was deemed sufficient for the compensation of the President and the expenses of the Executive office; in President Lincoln's term, $39,600 was all that was required; while
$141,164 is barely deemed sufficient for the present year, with $25,500 for the improvement of the ground on the south and roadways and sidewalks on the north of the Executive mansion. The "horse and cart” at the end of the first half century is the prototype of this. The State department is our most conservative and stationary feature, yet the salaries and incidental expenses of the office (omitting cost of publishing laws in pamphlet form not now incurred by the department) were, during President Lincoln's administration, $73,800, and for this current year, $155,830. But the field is too large for details.
Mr. Benton, certainly a very high authority, in his “ Thirty Years' View," considering the appropriations for the year 1855, in which he wrote, says:
6. The evils of extravagance in government are great. Besides the burden upon the people, it leads to corruption in the Government and to a janissary horde of office-holders to live upon the people while polluting their elections and legislation and poisoning the fountains of public information in molding public opinion to their own purposes..... At the same time, it is the opinion of this writer that a practical man, acquainted with the objects for which the federal Government was created and familiar with its financial working from the time its fathers put it into operation, could take his pen and cross out nearly the one-half of these seventy odd millions, and leave the Government in its full vigor for all its proper objects, and more pure by reducing the number of those who live upon the substance of the people.”
Mr. Benton, in generalizing, overestimated the expenses for 1855. Omitting the extraordinary expenditures (pensions and the public debt), they were $54,838,585.39. But when, twentyeight years later, the appropriations for current annual expenditure have reached $179,729,015.21, it is absolutely certain that if Mr. Benton's method could be applied in considering the vast body of items which make up the great aggregate, the benefit to the people would, in the elevation of their Government, enormously exceed the saving to their treasury.
The force of public opinion is nowhere, in the conduct of our affairs, so absolute as in this field of expenditure. The war of 1812 had so increased the demands on the Treasury, that in 1816, the ordinary expenditures exceeded twenty-three millions; and yet, at the close of the Fourteenth Congress, the famous “Compensation Act” was passed, enlarging the pay of congressmen from six dollars per day, during the session, to $1500 per year. This act was deemed mercenary and venal, and aroused the fiercest
indignation throughout the entire country. The obnoxious measure was promptly repealed, but the greater number of the members of Congress who had supported it were promptly and permanently retired from public life; even the matchless eloquence of Mr. Clay barely rescued him from the general wreck. This exhibition of public feeling produced positive results, and the current ordinary expenditures were heavily and persistently reduced. As late as 1823, they were $8,004,576.07, and in 1829, the last year of President John Q. Adams's administration, $11,691,615.93.
The log-cabin campaign of 1840 led to a searching inquiry into public expenditure sand reanimated the people with admiration and love for the old-time frugality of their Government. This was followed by a period of positive retrenchment; and as late as 1844, the current ordinary expenditures for the year were but $18,628,099.02. One cannot examine the financial condition of that period and of the preceding years without being impressed with the conviction that the most tempestuous political campaign, when animated by questions and measures of public administration, may have a most wholesome and purifying influence on public affairs.
An event of recent years is still more instructive. In 1873, in the closing hours of the Forty-second Congress, a large number of salaries, including those of the President of the United States and members of Congress, were greatly increased with retroactive compensation to the members of Congress, and the current ordinary appropriations of the session were increased by many millions over those of the preceding year, and by more than forty-one million dollars over the expenditures of the year next preceding that. These measures received at once universal condemnation. A feeling of mingled indignation and disappointment pervaded the country, for it had been the general belief that when the miscellaneous debts incident to the war had been adjusted, a heavy reduction of taxation and expenditure would follow. The press universally held these measures up to public condemnation as the outgrowth of a venality and self-seeking in public employments that could not be endured.
The Forty-third Congress hastened to undo the work of its predecessor so far as was possible; but the public indignation was not appeased; the enormous budget of expenditure was carefully explored, the spirit of the Grange movement, especially