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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;
3 occurrences of jefferson cyclopedia
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1573. CONGRESS, Privilege.—[continued].
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3 occurrences of jefferson cyclopedia
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1573. CONGRESS, Privilege.—[continued].

In December, 1795, the
House of Representatives committed two
persons of the names of Randall and Whitney,
for attempting to corrupt the integrity
of certain members, which they considered
as a contempt and breach of the privileges of
the House; and the facts being proved,
Whitney was detained in confinement a
fortnight, and Randall three weeks, and was
reprimanded by the Speaker. In March,
1796, the House of Representatives voted a
challenge given to a member of their House,
to be a breach of the privileges of the House;
but satisfactory apologies and acknowledgments


Page 181
being made, no further proceedings were had. The editor of the Aurora having
in his paper of February 19, 1800, inserted
some paragraphs defamatory to the Senate,
and failed in his appearance, he was ordered
to be committed. In debating the legality of
this order, it was insisted in support of it,
that every man, by the law of nature, and
every body of men, possesses the right of selfdefence;
that all public functionaries are
essentially invested with the powers of self-preservation;
that they have an inherent right
to do all acts necessary to keep themselves
in a condition to discharge the trusts confided
to them; that whenever authorities are
given, the means of carrying them into execution
are given by necessary implication;
that thus we see the British Parliament exercise
the right of punishing contempts; all
the State Legislatures exercise the same
power; and every Court does the same; that
if we have it not, we sit at the mercy of every
intruder who may enter our doors or gallery,
and by noise and tumult render proceeding
in business impracticable; that if our tranquillity
is to be perpetually disturbed by newspaper
defamation, it will not be possible to
exercise our functions with the requisite coolness
and deliberation; and that we must,
therefore, have a power to punish these disturbers
of our peace and proceedings. To
this it was answered, that the Parliament and
Courts of England have cognizance of contempts
by the express provisions of their law;
that the State Legislatures have equal authority,
because their powers are plenary; they
represent their constituents completely, and
possess all their powers, except such as their
Constitutions have expressly denied them;
that the Courts of the several States have
deputies ad libitum to aid him (3 Grey, 59.
147, 255), is equal to the smallest disturbances;
that, in requiring a previous law, the
Constitution has regard to the inviolability of
the citizen as well as of the member; as,
should one House, in the regular form of a
bill, aim at too broad privileges, it may be
checked by the other, and both by the President;
and also as, the law being promulgated,
the citizen will know how to avoid offence.
But, if one branch may assume its own
privileges without control; if it may do it
on the spur of the occasion, conceal the law
in its own breast, and after the fact committed
make its sentence both the law and
the judgment on that fact; if the offence is
to be kept undefined, and to be declared only
ex re nata, and according to the passions of
the moment, and there be no limitation either
in the manner or measure of the punishment,
the condition of the citizen will be perilous indeed.
Which of these doctrines is to prevail,
time will decide. Where there is no fixed
law, the judgment on any particular case is
the law of that single case only, and dies with
it. When a new and even similar case arises,
the judgment which is to make, and, at the
same time, apply, the law, is open to question
and consideration, as are all new laws. Perhaps
Congress, in the meantime, in their care
for the safety of the citizen, as well as that
for their own protection may declare by law
what is necessary and proper to enable them
to carry into execution the powers vested in
them, and thereby hang up a rule for the inspection
of all, which may direct the conduct
of the citizen, and, at the same time, test the
judgments they shall themselves pronounce in
their own case.—
Parliamentary Manual. Washington ed. x, 9.


Page 182

Navy, who repeated the word “ragamuffin.”
His friends present supported him spiritedly,
so that nothing further followed. Conceiving,
and, as I think justly, that the House of
Representatives (not having passed a law on
the subject) could not punish the offenders,
he wrote a letter to the President, who laid
it before the House. * * * He has conducted
himself with great propriety, and I
have no doubt will come out with increase
of reputation, being determined himself to oppose
the interposition of the House when they
have no law for it.—
To Mary Jefferson Eppes. Ford ed., vii, 404.
(Pa., Jan. 1800)