Covode Investigation.On March 5, 1860, John Covode, a member of Congress from Pennsylvania, introduced the following resolution in the national house of representatives: "Resolved, That a committee of five members be appointed by the speaker, for the purpose of investigating whether the president of the United States, or any other officer of the government, has, by money, patronage, or other improper means, sought to influence the action of Congress, or any committee thereof, for or against the passage of any law appertaining to the rights of any state or territory; also, to inquire into and investigate whether any officer or officers of the government have, by combination or otherwise, prevented or defeated, or attempted to prevent or defeat, the execution of any law or laws now upon the statute book, and whether the President has failed or refused to compel the execution of any law thereof; and that said committee shall investigate and inquire into the abuses at the Chicago or other postoffices, and at the Philadelphia and other navy yards, and into any abuses in connection with the public buildings and other public works of the United States.
"And resolved further: That as the President, in his letter to the Pittsburgh centenary celebration of Nov. 25, 1858, speaks of the employment of money to coerce elections, said committee shall inquire into and ascertain the amount so used in Pennsylvania, and any other state or states, in what districts it was expended, and by whom, and by whose authority it was done, and from what source the money was derived, and to report the names of the parties implicated; and that for the purpose aforesaid, said committee shall have power to send the persons and papers, and to report at any time."
The resolution was adopted by a vote of 117 to 45, and the speaker appointed on the committee John Covode of Pennsylvania, Abram B. Olin of New York, Charles R. Train of Massachusetts, Warren Winslow of North Carolina, and James C. Robinson of Illinois. The resolution, as will be seen at a glance, was wide in its scope, and, even if somewhat vague in its charges as intimated by its opponents, was sweeping in its provisions. The committee organized at once and held daily sessions until June 16, when it submitted its report, which was published as Document No. 648, Thirty-sixth Congress, First session, a volume of nearly 1,100 pages.
Only the first part of the resolution related to Kansasthat is, that portion as to whether the president or any officer of the government had exercised an undue influence to prevent the passage of any law affecting the right of any state or territory. On this subject the majority report of the committee says: "Your committee first direct attention of the house to that portion of the testimony which relates to the Kansas policy of the present administration of the government. The patriot will mourn, the historian will pause with astonishment over this shameless record. Accustomed as the American people are to the errors and crimes of those in power, they will read this exposure with feelings of unmingled indignation. The facts revealed by the testimony prove conclusively
"1The emphatic and unmistakable pledges of the president, as well before as after his election, and the pledges of all his cabinet to the doctrine of leaving the people of Kansas 'perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way.'
"2The deliberate violation of this pledge, and the attempt to convert Kansas into a slave state by means of forgeries, frauds, and force.
"3The removal of, and the attempt to disgrace, the sworn agents of the administration who refused to violate this pledge.
"4The open employment of money in the passage of the Lecompton Constitution and English bills through the Congress of the United States.
"5The admission of the parties engaged in the work of electioneering those schemes that they received enormous sums for this purpose, and proof in the checks upon which they were paid by an agent of the administration.
"6The offer to purchase newspapers and newspaper editors by offers of extravagant sums of money.
"7And finally the proscription of Democrats of high standing who would not support the Lecompton Constitution and English bills."
Among the witnesses examined by the committee concerning the Kansas policy of the administration were ex-Gov. Robert J. Walker, ex-Gov. Samuel Medary, A. J. Isaacs, M. P. Bean, Henry Wilson, Ellis B. Schnabel, Thomas C. McDowell, and a number of members of Congress who testified to having received, or having been offered money to support the Lecompton Constitution bill. With regard to the testimony of ex-Gov. Walker the report says: "The evidence of Hon. Robert J. Walker is conclusive as to the first of these facts; and it is so compact and clear as to require no comment . . . . The treatment which Gov. Walker received evinces a depth of ingratitude unusual among politicians. It shows how, even in our happy country, power may not only be used to destroy an honest citizen, but also may be wielded to overthrow the vital elements of constitutional liberty."
The majority report closes by stating: "The testimony is now in possession of the house, and your committee have no further suggestions to offer." This report was signed by Covode, Olin and Train, and a minority report was submitted by Mr. Winslow. After going into details regarding the testimonydetails that grow tiresome to the readerhe closes his report as follows: "As the majority of the committee has not thought proper to introduce articles of impeachment or censure, the undersigned is strengthened in the opinion that the whole intent of the resolution was to manufacture an electioneering document. At all events, the failure to take such action is a clear indication on the part of the majority that none was justified by the evidence, in which opinion the undersigned fully concurs."Pages 462-464 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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