June 4 1812: House Passes War Bill

On June 4 1812, the House of Representatives passes "An Act declaring war between Great Britain and her dependencies, and the United States and their Territories." The act is pushed through the House by Speaker Henry Clay of Kentucky who marshals majority votes to defeat all attempts by the Federalists to defeat or delay the legislation. The vote marks the first time that the House has exercised its constitutional power to declare war. 

The day started with a motion by Mr. Milnor to have the doors of the  House opened so that the debate can be held in public. The motion is defeated. The House then forms itself into a Committee of the Whole House to consider the war bill. After some discussions, the Speaker resumes the Chair. Mr. Bassett reports that the committee has considered the bill and proposes no amendments.  

Mr. Quincy moves to amend the bill by adding a provision to repeal the Non-Intercourse Act of 1810 and the Embargo Act of April 4, 1812.  Mr. Nelson then moves that the bill and the proposed amendment be recommitted to a Committee of the Whole House. This motion is defeated — yeas 42 and nays 83. No other amendment is proposed so a motion is brought to have the war bill read a third time. The motion passes yeas 78 and nays 45. The war bill is read a third time. Mr. Randolph next brings a motion to have the further consideration of the bill postponed to the first Monday in October. A vote is taken and the motion is defeated —yeas 42 and nays 81. Mr. Stow next brings a motion to have consideration of the war bill postponed until tomorrow. Again, there is a vote and the motion is defeated yeas 48 and nays 78. Mr. Goldsborough then brings a final motion to adjourn the House. The motion is defeatedyeas 43 and nays 82. 

The main question is then put to the House on whether it will pass the the war bill. A vote  is taken and the measure passes  yeas 79 and 49 yeas. The “war hawks” have won led by House Speaker Henry Clay and Representative John Calhoun of South Carolina. Most members from the South and West supported the declaration of war, while those from the Northeast opposed. Mr. Macon and Mr. Findley are then appointed to send the Act to the Senate, and to advise that the House has passed the Act in confidence or secret, and to request its concurrence. 

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