The letter of Mr. Washburne having been read by the clerk, Mr. Donnelly remarked that he was certainly justified in the declarations he had made that the annals of Congress presented no parallel to that letter, and he thought he should establish that there were in that letter twenty-three distinct statements which were twenty-three distinct falsehoods. He should attempt to deal with them as rapidly as possible. Mr. Donnelly went on to explain that he had only received the draft of the bill on the 2d of March; that he had asked leave to introduce it on the 20th; that Mr. Washburne had objected; that he (Mr. Donnelly) had then gone to Connecticut to aid the Republican party in the canvass in that State. He expressed his belief that the objection made by Mr. Washburne had sprung from personal and malicious motives, and remarked that that gentleman could not speak the truth when the truth would best serve his purpose. Having referred to and examined other points in Mr. Washburne's letter, Mr. Donnelly went on to speak of Mr. Washburn, of Wisconsin, as " mousing around" in reference to some other bill.
The Speaker interrupted, and said that that was not parliamentary language toward a member who was absent, and who was not involved in the controversy.
Mr. Donnelly said he would withdraw the remark.
Mr. Washburne (rep.), of Ill., expressed the hope that the party would be allowed to go on.
Mr. Donnelly, after passing from that point, referred to the charge in Mr. Washburne's letter that his (Mr. Donnelly's) opposition to the bill offered some time since by Mr. Washburn, of Wisconsin, to reduce fares on the Pacific Railroad might be attributed to the fact that he had a free pass to ride over the road, and declared that he had never ridden over a mile of the road, and did not expect to until it was completed from the Mississippi to the Pacific. It would be a consolation then to know that this mighty work had been resisted and opposed by every blatant, loud-voiced, big-breasted, small-headed, bitter-hearted demagogue in all the land. (Laughter on both sides of the chamber.) Referring to the charge made against him in Mr. Washburne's letter of his being an " official beggar," Mr. Donnelly said, "An official beggar!" and that from a gentleman bearing the name which he does! Et tu Brute! " An official beggar!" Why, Mr. Speaker, when I entered the State of Minnesota it was Democratic; when I entered the country in which I live it was two to one Democratic.
I asked no office, - I expected none. But the charge comes from such a quarter that I cannot fail to notice it. The gentleman's family are chronic office-beggars. They are nothing if they are not in office. Out of office they are miserable, wretched, God-forsaken, - as uncomfortable as that famous stump-tailed bull in fly-time. (Laughter.) This whole trouble arises from the persistent determination of one of the gentleman's family to sit in this body. Every young male of the gentleman's family is born into the world with " M. C." franked on his broadest part. (Laughter.) The great calamity seems to be that God in his infinite wisdom did not make any of them broad enough to make room for " U. S. S." (Laughter.) There was room for " U. S.," but the other S. slipped over and " U. S. & Co." is the firm. (Laughter.)
The Speaker interrupted Mr. Donnelly and reminded him that his language was beyond the usual limit of parliamentary propriety.
Mr. Washburne again expressed his desire that the " party " should be permitted to go on.
Mr. Donnelly said he was sorry to transgress the proper limits of debate, but the House would perceive that the character of the letter on which he was commenting made him speak under such feeling.......
He has lowered by his wholesale, reckless assaults on the honor and character of the members the standard of this body; he has furnished arguments for the wit of Dan Bice; he has furnished substance for the slanders of the pothouse. Mr. Speaker, I need enter into no defence of the Fortieth Congress. In point of intellect, of devotion to the public welfare, of integrity, of personal character, it will compare favorably with any Congress that ever sat since the foundation of the government. It is illustrated by names that would do honor to any nation in any age of the world. If there be in our midst one low, sordid, vulgar soul, - one barren of mediocre intelligence, - one heart callous to every kindly sentiment and to every generous emotion,- one tongue leprous with slander, - one mouth which is like unto a den of foul beasts, giving forth deadly odors, - if there be here one character which, while blotched and spotted, yet raves and rants, and blackguards like a prostitute, - if there be here one bold, bad, empty, bellowing demagogue, it is the gentleman from Illinois.......
Mr. Washburne said: During my entire time of service in this House I have never asked leave to make a personal explanation, and I never expect to. The party from Minnesota has had the letter which I wrote to a gentleman in that State read to the House, and it goes upon the records of the House and on the records of the country, and there it will remain for all time. Every assertion made in that letter is true, and whoever says it is not true states what is false. If I were called upon - and I desire only to say that if I, under any operation of circumstances, were ever called upon,-to make a personal explanation in reply to a member, it would not be to a member who had committed a crime; it would not be to a member who had run away; it would not be to a member who had changed his name; it would not be to a member whose whole record in this House is covered with venality, corruption, and crime.
The Speaker reminded the gentleman that his remarks were not parliamentary, etc., etc.
Finally, a committee was appointed to investigate the charges made in Mr. Washburne's letter, and Mr. Donnelly informed the members, that, if it were not unparliamentary, he would ask them all to take a drink !