THE FACTS CONCERNING THE RECENT IMPORTANT RESIGNATION [Mark Twain, New York Tribune, Feb. 13, 1868, p. 2]

Harpers 3.7.1868 _ Mark Twain in DC blogTHE FACTS CONCERNING THE RECENT IMPORTANT RESIGNATION

Washington, Feb. 9, 1868

I have resigned once more. The circumstances were these. The Hon. Mr. Axtell, member of the House of Representatives from California, requested me to act in his stead in Congress for a few days, during which he was obliged to be absent. The President of the United States, and also the Pacific delegation of Senators urged me to comply with that request, believing, as they were kind enough to say, that I could settle this Reconstruction business, if I would throw the weight of my wisdom into it. Thus importuned, I consented to overlook former ill-treatment, and connect myself with the Government once more in an official capacity. It was for the good of my country. Without further explanation, then, suffice it that I became a member, ad interim, of the House of Representatives on the 5th day of February, and entered at once upon the duties of the position. The following proceedings took place:

Mr. Logan – Mr. Speaker, I do solemnly protest against any gentlemen publishing in The Globe remarks purporting to have been made in this House in answer to another gentlemen, but never actually delivered. Now, in the four columns and a quarter of my colleague’s speech, there are undoubtedly many things that he did say; there is no question about that; but as to his delivering on the 9th day of January, in the little colloquy that took place on this floor, a speech four columns and a quarter long, every gentleman who was present on that occasion knows that it is not the fact. True, I find in this speech many things which I recognize as having been said by my colleague. For instance, I find here a beautiful piece of poetry which was quoted by him, and which shows him to be a gentleman of erudition, and one who has dealt much in the classics of the language. It is this:

“A little thieving is a dangerous art,

But thieving largely is a noble part;

‘Tis vile to rob a hen-roost of a hen;

But stealing makes us gentlemen.”

The gentlemen did say that. He might have added:

“A little nonsense now and then

Is relished by – many men.”

[Laughter.] About three-fourths, or a little more of the first column I recognize as what the gentleman did say, although it is somewhat “dressed up.” That ended the discussion. But after that there follow in the published speech there columns or more which I never heard, and I listened to the whole debate.

Mr. MARSHALL. – Mr. Speaker, I am utterly amazed at the course my colleague has seen fit to take this morning. It was by the merest incident that I happened to come into the Hall while he was making this personal attack upon myself. My colleague’s wit is just about as bright as his memory is accurate. As I came in he was in the act of stating that I had the floor for five minutes, by the courtesy of the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Pile), or some other member. Now, every one who was in the House at the time I made the remarks published in The Globe, will remember that I spoke at length. My colleague is certainly a man of most excellent education and I know that a man of his accuracy in language, and perfect self-possession, does not find it necessary to look over the minutes taken by the reporters. His classical education and his beauty of diction are so remarkably fine that it is not necessary for him, as it is for most members of the House, to apply for the repowers to ascertain whether the report of his language is just such as he desires to go to the country. Now, Sir, I do not admit the right of my colleague, from any position that he occupies here or before the country, to become my censor in regard to anything here or elsewhere. I occupy a position as a gentleman and as a man of honor that is not to be affected by any remarks that may be made by my colleague now or upon any other occasion.

Mr. LOGAN – In regard to what my colleague has said about his being a gentleman, I have nothing to say; nor have I anything to say in reply to his remarks about my affecting his standing as a gentleman. I do not desire to affect it. I do not desire to reply to insinuations made in such bitterness and coming from the lips of a gentleman so highly cultivated that he can insinuate here that I am an illiterate man. I desire not to say anything to affect the honesty, the moral integrity, or the personal standing of any gentlemen who stands so high that he can cast an insinuation of that kind upon a colleague in this House. True it is, I was not educated in any of the higher colleges, nor was my colleague. I was educated, however, in a town that has church steeples. Whether my colleague can say as much is for him to answer. I do not claim that I am one of the highly educated gentlemen of this House; I claim no such thing. But I will say to my colleague that he, with his own knowledge of his own abilities and erudition should be the last man to insinuate anything against the education or abilities of any man on this floor.

Mr. MARSHALL – I do not desire to carry this any further. My colleague is mistaken, I made no reference to his education. I do not know whether he is educated or not. [Laughter.] It is a matter of no importance to me.

Mr. LOGAN – I am sure of that. Now, I say this, Sir, so far as the charge against my colleague is concerned of interpolating remarks that he did not make when he says that charge is unfounded he pettifogs. Being a lawyer and having practiced many times, as I have myself before a Justice of the Peace, he understands pettifogging. He is an excellent pettifogger, as are many of the gentlemen from Illinois. [Laughter.] If, as he says, it is the custom of the House to inject in The Globe speeches never made in this House, that custom ought to be abolished this very day, for it is infamous that the people should be taxed dollar after dollar to pay for speeches that are written by lawyers in this city, handed to a member, and published in The Globe. Sir, there is no parallel for this except when two gentlemen from Ohio read the same speech, one a few days after the other, probably written for both by the same person. [Laughter.]

Mr. MARSHALL – Mr. Speaker, this bandying about of remarks between my colleague and myself, as I before said, is not pleasant to me. I have made the statement that the speech published is the speech delivered by me on that occasion with the additions which I have explained, and which I referred to at the time, before taking my seat, and there are several gentlemen around me who remember the fact. If my colleague expects to make any reputation by the display he has made here this morning he is entirely welcome to all he can gain thereby. I know my colleague is at times very irritable, and sometimes, and sometimes troubled with what may, metaphorically, at least, be called * * * * * [laughter], and I imagine this was as good an occasion as he could, obtain to * * * * * * that has been disturbing him.

The SPEAKER- The Chair does not think these remarks are parliamentary.

Mr. MARSHALL – What remarks?

The SPEAKER – The remark of the gentlemen in regard to * * * * * [laughter] and what followed.

Mr. MARSHALL – I take it back. I withdraw the * * * * [Laughter.] I would commend to my friend hereafter when he is disturbed by feelings such as have disturbed him this morning to procure a bottle of Mr. Winslow’s Soothing Sirup [ED: sic], or perhaps Jayne’s Carminative Balsam would be better to relieve him from such pains as have been agitating him this morning. If that does not produce the desired effect, if he will get a bottle of good, strong vermifuge he will most unquestionably be relived from the pains which have been weighing him down. [Laughter.]

Mr. LOGAN – But one word, and it is this: I will say to the gentleman and to this House that I am too much a gentleman to reply to any indecent language, such as has been used by the gentlemen who claims to be a gentlemen; whether he is or not has never been determined by a jury. [Laughter.]

Mr. CHANDLER – Mr. Speaker, I rise to a question of privilege. I wish to state that the blackguard from Kentucky (Mr. Julian) is a coward.

Mr. JULIAN – Mr. Speaker, I wish to say to the gentlemen from New York that he lies. I am no coward. I will give him an opportunity at the earliest possible moment to satisfy himself upon this point, Sir –

THE SPEAKER – Be seated, gentlemen. I think this language is unparliamentary. Mr. Rawhide is entitled to the floor.

Mr.  RAWHIDE – Mr. Speakers, I have several times sought this opportunity to place myself on record upon this great question of Reconstruction, but I have always been forestalled by one driveling idiot or another upon this floor. I am happy to know that the time has at last arrived when I may freely lift my feeble voice in behalf of my suffering country. Let me not waste it. Sir, I have listened to the sneaking hypocrisy of the gentlemen (Mr. Lipservice) from one state upon this grand subject. I have listened to the coarse brutality of the gentleman (Mr. Muscle) from another, upon the Reconstruction laws.  I have listened to the monstrous lies of the gentlemen (Mr. Ananias) from another, concerning the matter of constitutionality. I have listed to the nauseating tirades of a dozen other gentlemen. Sir, upon the all-absorbing topic; but, Sir, none of these have speeches have convinced me – none of them have constructed me – they have failed to extinguish the sacred fountain of my patriotism or befoul its pure fires with wrathful deluges they have exhaled from the festering Augean stables of their degraded souls! Lies will not do, Sir! Brutality cannot convince, Sir! Sneaking villainy, base hypocrisy, balderdash, billingsgate, fall from the lips of Congressmen unheeded by me, when I know that their object is to blind me to the best interests of my country by these dazzling flights of deceptive eloquence. Sir –

THE SPEAKER – The gentlemen is entitled to the floor; but I would request him to yield it a moment to the member ad interim from California, in compliance with an honored custom of the House, which gives a new member an opportunity himself, if he desires to do so.

Mr. RAWHIDE – Certainly, certainly. I yield to the cur.

Mr. TWAIN – Mr. Speaker – When the proud bird of freedom spreads his broad pinions –

MR. ANANIAS – I call this innocent ass to order. The proud bird of freedom is not before the House.

MR. TWAIN – I scorn the interruptions of lying miscreants. Sir, when the proud bird of freedom spreads his broad pinions –

Mr. LOGAN – Bosh!

Mr. TWAIN  – I scorn also the feeble wit of savages from the wilds of Illinois. Sir, when the proud bird of freedom spreads –

Mr. CHANDLER – Why, let her spread, fool!

Mr. TWAIN – Silence! You pitiful gutter-snipe! Mr. Speaker, I perceive here a disposition on the part of gentlemen to deny to me that courtesy which is due to gentlemen in my position. Sir, this is the first time I have ever had the privilege of appearing before this illustrious company of blackguards, and I feel a natural delicacy about intruding my views so early upon their attention. My duty to my constituents, however, imperatively demands that I should place myself upon record at once. I therefore beg leave to repeat, Sir, that when the proud bird of freedom.

Mr. MARSHALL – Well, this drawling parrot is certainly troubled with * * * * ! [Laughter.]

Mr. TWAIN – Mr. Speaker, manifestly I cannot proceed if I am to be constantly interrupted by this Hoosier vagrant and the slang-dispensing varlets who have preceded him in the same business. I will now take my seat, Sir, preserving to myself the floor for this morning hour to-morrow, at which time I shall be ready with a speech in their own atrocious dialects, which will scorch these puny sand-pipers as they were never scorched before.

*    *   *    *   *

I was not permitted to keep my word. At 7 o’clock that evening I was summoned to appear before the honorable corporation known as the Newspaper Correspondents’ Club. I trembled then, for I could guess what was coming. I found a full board present. The President of the club said:

“Mr. Twain, it grieves me to state that you been found guilty of conduct unbecoming a respectable member of the community, and especially unbecoming a member of this Club. You have so far forgotten yourself as to descend to the rank of a common Congressman. Pause and reflect upon the style of men these people are. They are sent here by a confiding people to carry out in an honorable and dignified manner, the behests of a great nation. In authority they rank, as a body, above the President himself. They hold that place which, in other hands, is sacred to royalty alone. How do they show their appreciation of their great office? By uttering offensive personalities – slang – inferior wit – unnecessary and procrastinating speeches upon unimportant matters – and sometimes, alas! Language that tinges the cheeks of ladies in the galleries with a blush. These things are not done by all of these gentlemen; but are not they that permit them, unrebuked, accessories to the wrong, and therefore guilty, also? Mr. Twain, we cannot listen to explanations. You have outraged our dearest sensibilities, and must receive our sentence in silence. You are suspended from all voice in the Club for the space of thirty days; you are fined the sum of five hundred dollars; you are commanded to appear no more in Congress.”

I need say no more. My countrymen will understand my unfortunate situation. There was but one course to pursue. I sent a resignation of my Congressional honors to the Speaker of the House of Representatives. – MARK TWAIN

NOTE. – This much of this seeming burlesque is copied word for word from the regular Congressional debates as published in The Globe. The correspondent states that the character of the words which he has replaced with stars may be gathered from Mr. Logan’s last remarks – [ED. Tribune.]

 SOURCE:

New-York tribune. (New York [N.Y.]), 13 Feb. 1868. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030214/1868-02-13/ed-1/seq-2/>

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