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On the 6th of April, 1853, Mr. Chase, of Ohio, introduced a resolution against secrecy in the proceedings of the Senate, which Mr. Sumner supported in a brief speech, in which he used the following language:
In the Constitution there is no injunction of secrecy on any of the proceedings of the Senate; nor is there any requirement of publicity. To the Senate is left absolutely the determination of its rules of proceedings. In thus abstaining from all regulation of this matter the framers of the Constitution have obviously regarded it as in all respects within the discretion of the Senate, to be exercised from time to time as it thinks best.

The Senate exercises three important functions: first, the legislative or parliamentary power, wherein it acts concurrently with the House of Representatives, as well as the President; secondly, the power ‘to advise and consent’ to treaties with foreign countries in concurrence with the President; and, thirdly, the power ‘to advise and consent’ to nominations by the President to offices under the Constitution. I say nothing of another, rarely called into exercise, the sole power to try impeachments.

At the first organization of the Government the proceedings of the Senate, whether in legislation or on treaties or on nominations, were with closed doors. In this respect the legislative business and executive business were conducted alike. This continued down to the second session of the Third Congress, in 1794, when, in pursuance of a formal [202] resolution, the galleries were allowed to be opened so long as the Senate were engaged in their legislative capacity, unless in such cases as might, in the opinion of the Senate, require secrecy; and this rule has continued ever since. Here was an exercise of the discretion of the Senate, in obvious harmony with public sentiment and the spirit of our institutions.

The change now proposed goes still further. It opens the doors on all occasions, whether legislative or executive, except when specially ordered otherwise. The Senator from South Carolina [Mr. Butler] says that the Senate is a confidential body, and should be ready to receive confidential communications from the President. But this will still be the case if we adopt the resolution now under consideration. The limitation proposed seems adequate to all exigencies, while the general rule will be publicity. The Executive sessions with closed doors, shrouded from the public gaze and public criticism, constitute an exceptional part of our system, too much in harmony with the proceedings of other Governments less liberal in character. The genius of our institutions requires publicity. The ancient Roman, who bade his architect so to construct his house that his guests and all that he did could be seen by the world, is a fit model for the American people.

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