Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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RIDERS (IN U. S. HISTORY). In the federal government, and in the state governments also, with some exceptions (see VETO), a limited veto power is given to the executive, the president or the governor. Where a legislative majority is sufficient to pass a bill, but not to overcome the veto, a measure which has good reason to fear a veto is sometimes attached to some very necessary bill, such as an appropriation bill, and the two are passed as a single bill, so as to force the executive either to accept the doubtful measure or to incur the odium of a veto of the more essential bill. Such an addition is commonly called a "rider." It is evidently an invasion of the executive province. In most of the states it is now forbidden, 1, by requiring every bill to relate to but a single subject, and that to be expressed in its title, not in order to lay a ground for adjudication by the courts, but to give the executive a fair excuse for the veto; or 2, far more effectively, by giving the executive the power to veto single clauses in an appropriation bill, while approving the rest. The constitution of the confederate states (see that title) adopted both these remedies; and the second has been suggested as a very proper amendment to the constitution of the United States.


—I. In the States. Riders were not familiar in our early history. The only original state constitution which refers to them is that of Maryland, 1776. "That the senate may be at full and perfect liberty to exercise their judgment in passing laws, and that they may not be compelled by the house of delegates either to reject a money bill which the emergency of affairs may require, or to assent to some other act of legislation in their conscience and judgment injurious to the public welfare, the house of delegates shall not on any occasion, or under any pretense, annex to or blend with a money bill any matter, clause or thing not immediately relating to, and necessary for, the imposing, assessing, levying or applying the taxes or supplies to be raised for the support of government, or the current expenses of the state." In Delaware, 1792, provision was made that no "matter or clause not immediately relating to and necessary for raising revenue, be in any manner blended with or annexed to a bill for raising revenue"; and this has been continued in force ever since. Kentucky, 1799, provided that the senate "shall not introduce any new matter, under color of an amendment, which does not relate to raising a revenue," and renewed it in 1850. The language of this latter provision was followed by Louisiana in 1812 and in all subsequent constitutions, and by Maine in 1820. In other states the evil is either still untouched, or has been attempted to be remedied in one of the two modes above specified. The first method, by requiring single subjects for bills, introduced by New Jersey in 1844, has been imbedded in the state constitutions since the following years: Alabama, 1865; Arkansas, 1868; California, 1849; Colorado, 1876; Florida, 1868; Georgia, 1865; Illinois, (private bills and salaries) 1848, (all bills) 1870; Indiana, 1851, Iowa, 1846; Kansas, (Topeka constitution) 1855, (Lecompton) 1837, (Wyandotte) 1859; Kentucky, 1850; Minnesota, 1857; Missouri, 1865; Nebraska, 1866; Nevada, 1864; New Jersey, 1844; New York (private or local bills), 1846; Ohio, 1851; Oregon, 1857; Pennsylvania, 1864, (by amendment), 1873; South Carolina, 1865; Tennessee, 1870; Texas, 1845; Virginia, 1850; West Virginia, 1861; Wisconsin (private and local bills), 1848. In all these it is still in existence The second method, the extension of the veto power to single clauses, is in force in the following states, having been introduced by the constitutions of the years named: Alabama, 1875; Arkansas, 1874; California, 1879; Colorado, 1876; Florida (amendment in), 1875; Georgia, 1865; Louisiana, 1879; Missouri, 1875; Nebraska, 1875; New Jersey (amendment in), 1875; New York (amendment in), 1874; Pennsylvania, 1873; Texas, 1866; West Virginia. 1872.


—II. In the Union. The power of attaching riders to bills has never been taken away from the national legislature, though it has gradually, by increasing and unnecessary use, come to be looked upon as an illegitimate and possibly dangerous exercise of power. It would not be possible here to specify all the instances in which provisions in the nature of riders have been added: it is only intended to specify the cases in which the rider has attracted general attention as a possible precedent, or has provoked important opposition.


—The first of these was the joining, by the senate in 1820, of the bill for the admission of Maine to the Missouri bill permitting slavery, so as to compel the house to take both or neither. In this case the two bills were finally separated. (See COMPROMISES, IV.)


—In 1849 the territory acquired from Mexico was still unorganized, the house being determined to prohibit slavery therein, against the wish of the senate. (See ANNEXATIONS, IV.; WILMOT PROVISO; COMPROMISES, V.) In the senate, Feb. 20, while the civil and diplomatic appropriation bill, which the house had already passed, was under consideration, Walker, of Wisconsin, offered as an amendment a provision that the constitution and revenue laws be extended to the still unorganized territory, and that the president be authorized to enforce them; and this was adopted Feb. 26. Its object was to secure the introduction of slaves to the territory, under cover of the constitution, though Webster showed conclusively that the constitution could not thus be made a territorial law. But he resisted the rider mainly on the score of prudence, acknowledging that it was parliamentary, and that he "could not say that, if you had a bill under consideration for abolishing flogging in the navy, you might not introduce an amendment declaring war with Great Britain." The house very ingeniously threw the onus back upon the senate, March 2. It did not reject the rider, but "concurred with the amendment" that the existing (Mexican) laws be continued in the territory until July 4, 1850, unless sooner superseded by organization. As the Mexican law forbade slavery, this would have fixed the status of the territory. After midnight of March 3, the adjournment day, the senate receded from its amendment, thus getting rid of the house amendment with it, and passed the appropriation bill without any rider.


—The dispersion of the Kansas legislature in July, 1856, by federal troops, under the president's order (see KANSAS), was at once brought up in congress, where the new republican party controlled the house (see REPUBLICAN PARTY, I.), while the senate was democratic. When the army appropriation bill came up, the house added to it a rider forbidding the employment of federal troops for the enforcement of the territorial laws of Kansas, and directing the president to protect persons and property, to keep the peace, to disarm the territorial militia, to prevent them from attempting to enforce the territorial laws, and to recall United States arms distributed in the territory. The senate rejected the amendments; both houses adhered to their position; and the time fixed for adjournment, Aug. 18, came, leaving the army bill still unpassed. The president, by proclamation, at once called a special session for Aug. 21. The house again added its rider, and the senate again rejected it. Finally the house yielded, and passed the bill without the rider by the close vote of 101 to 98; and it became law Aug. 30.


—The great volume of legislation required by the rebellion made this period prolific in riders. Thus, the validation of the president's acts and proclamations of 1861 (see HABEAS CORPUS), after failing as a separate bill, was added as a rider to an act to increase the pay of privates in the regular army, Aug. 6; and generally the words "and for other purposes" in the titles of bills become indicative of some hidden or open rider. None of these provoked special opposition, and they may be passed over. From the first appearance of the conflict of opinion between President Johnson and the majority in congress (see RECONSTRUCTION), it was evident that riders would play an important part. In the senate, May 2, 1866, a rider was attached to the postoffice appropriation bill, forbidding the payment of salaries to officers until their confirmation by the senate (see TENURE OF OFFICE); but this was subsequently reconsidered and rejected. During the next session the conflict became open, and in February, 1867, the army appropriation bill was passed with two important riders. The second section of the bill enacted that the orders of the president and secretary of war to the army should only be given through the general of the army (Gen. Grant); that the latter should not be relieved, removed or transferred from Washington without the previous approval of the senate; and that any officer who should transmit or obey orders, except through the general of the army, should be punishable by imprisonment for from two to twenty years. The sixth section ordered the immediate disbanding of the militia forces of the unreconstructed states. March 2, 1867, the president signed the bill, but protested against the riders, as attempts to deprive him of his functions as commander-in-chief, and ten states of their right to control their own militia, both of which were given by the constitution, not by congress. These sections were preliminary steps to the impeachment of Johnson. (See IMPEACHMENTS, VI.)


—Jan. 13, 1868, while a bill to make five, instead of six, of the supreme court judges a quorum, a most important rider was added, providing that no decision against the constitutionality of a federal law should be valid without the concurrence of two-thirds of the judges therein. The senate did not consider it.


—There was no further important party contest in congress on riders (but see AMNESTY) until 1872. June 7, three days before final adjournment, Senator Kellogg, of Louisiana, suddenly moved to add to the civil appropriation bill a general election law, authorizing the oversight and control of elections by federal supervisors, which the senate had already passed, but which the democratic minority in the house was opposing with a probability of success. There are no rules in the senate to limit debate, but in the case of appropriation bills, and "such amendments as directly relate to the appropriations," the senate minority had agreed to limit each senator to five minutes debate. The democratic senators alleged that the introduction of this amendment was a breach of faith; but the republican majority decided it to be germane. Sumner, under this ruling, endeavored also to get in his supplementary civil rights bill (see that title), but the senate rejected it, and passed the amendment. Much the same objection was made in the house, but after several conferences the amendment was adopted. It amended an act of Feb. 28, 1871, by allowing the appointment of federal supervisors of election in any county or congressional district where ten citizens should request it from the federal circuit judge, with the proviso that the supervisors appointed under it should "have no power or authority to make arrests," only to witness the election, the counting of the votes, and the making of the returns. The bill was thus passed, under a suspension of the rules, by a vote of 102 to 79, and in the senate by a vote of 39 to 17.


—Feb. 24, 1873, an amendment was moved to the legislative appropriation bill, increasing the salary of the president to $50,000; those of the vice-president, supreme court justices, secretaries and speaker of the house to $10,000; and of the senators and representatives to $7,500 and traveling expenses. It passed both houses, and became law, March 3. The increase of salary to congressmen included the members of the congress which had voted it; and hence the increase, popularly known as "the salary grab," proved to be highly unpopular. (See SALARY GRAB)


—Feb. 25, 1865, an act, introduced by a democratic senator from Kentucky, became law. Originally it forbade, under penalties, the bringing of any troops to an election place in any state "unless it be necessary to repel the armed enemies of the United States," but the republican majority added thereto the words "or to keep the peace at the polls." In this form it became, in 1874, §§ 2002 and 5528 of the Revised Statutes. The general election law of May 30, 1870, amended Feb. 28, 1871, authorized the appointment, by federal circuit judges, of two supervisors of elections for congressmen, to personally count every ballot, but not, as above amended in 1872, to make arrests. Both of these provisions were disliked by the democrats, and they also complained of unfairness shown by clerks of federal courts in making up grand jury lists. During the session of 1876-7 the democratic majority in the house had passed the army appropriation bill with a rider forbidding the employment of the army in sustaining the reconstructed southern state governments. The senate refused to concur, and congress adjourned in March without passing the appropriation bill. The army was unpaid until, at the special session of Oct. 15, an army appropriation bill was passed without the rider. One section of the general election law allowed the marshal or his deputies, in case of resistance to arrest, to call in the posse comitatus to assist them; and in 1876 the attorney general decided that the federal troops might be summoned as a posse. In 1878 a rider was added to the army appropriation bill, forbidding the use of federal troops as a posse, except in cases where it was "expressly authorized by the constitution or by act of congress," and the bill was approved June 18, 1878. This initial success encouraged the democrats to attack the whole body of legislation above specified, in which was contained most of the legislation under which troops could still be employed. Their determination to do so was stimulated by the elections of 1878, which made it certain that the succeeding congress would be democratic in both branches. If the still republican senate should obstinately resist the riders, and force a special session after March, a concurrent house and senate would then be arrayed against the president alone, who had not hitherto had any effective support from his own party. (See HAYES, R. B.) The struggle began early in February, 1879. The house passed the army appropriation bill, with a rider re-enacting §§ 2002 and 5528, without the words "to keep the peace at the polls," and the legislative, executive and judicial appropriation bill, with riders repealing the essence of the general election law, forbidding the payment of any money to supervisors, etc., and changing the grand jury law so as to have the list arranged by members of both political parties. The senate struck out all the riders; the two houses disagreed; the bills failed to pass; and both parties "appealed to the country" on the final adjournment. March 4, President Hayes called a special session of the new congress for March 18. Its meeting was the signal for a political tournament of about two months, in which the democrats declared their purpose to wipe out the remnants of war legislation, and the republicans charged their opponents with a design to "starve the government to death," since they had failed to "shoot it to death." The principal results of the session were the partial success of the democrats, the renewed support of the president by his party, and the recognition of Garfield as an unusually able party leader. The army bill was first passed with its rider, and was vetoed, April 30, on the grounds that there was plenty of time to pass both political bills and appropriation bills, and that the junction of the two was an attempt to coerce the president, and possibly, in the future, the senate also, and to enable the house to dictate permanently whatever legislation it might see fit to attach to appropriation bills. The democratic majority was but eight in the senate, and seven in the house; so that the bill was not passed over the veto. Another army appropriation bill, omitting the original rider, and substituting another forbidding the use of any money for the transportation or subsistence of troops for service at the polls in any state, was passed toward the end of the session, and approved June 23. The original rider had first been passed as a separate bill, and vetoed May 12. The executive, legislative and judicial appropriation bill, with its riders, was then passed, and was vetoed May 29. June 10-14, two appropriation bills were passed: the first, for the executive and legislative expenses, without any riders, was approved June 21; the second, for the courts alone, with the riders which had caused the veto of the whole bill, was vetoed June 23, on the grounds that there were but two proper methods of overthrowing existing legislation, by repeal, or through the courts, and that the riders simply forbade the executive to execute laws yet unrepealed. July 1, congress adjourned, leaving the courts unprovided for. It was suggested that the president should continue calling special sessions until congress was willing to pass an appropriation bill for the courts; but this extreme, though legitimate, measure was not put in force. The courts and court officers went unpaid until the following session, when the struggle was renewed in a milder form. The democrats passed a judiciary bill, with a proviso that special deputy marshals should be selected from the different political parties, and should be of good moral character. This was also vetoed May 4, 1880, as a bad precedent of an indirect repeal of a law. The bill was then passed without an appropriation for special deputies. The army appropriation bill of May 4, renewed the rider forbidding payment for transportation or subsistence of troops for service at the polls in any state.


—See (I.) Poore's Federal and State Constitutions; 2 Hough's American Constitutions, 657, a summary of provisions as to veto power in the states, as they stood in 1872; the variations in this article are subsequent changes; (II.) see Congressional Globe and Congressional Record, under the several dates; 16 Benton's Debates of Congress, 306, 1 Greeley's American Conflict, 195, 2 Wilson's Rise and Fall of the Slave Power, 29, 505; and Statutes at Large and Revised Statutes, under the dates and sections named.


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