- The reduction of the expenses of the Government under Mr. Buchanan's administeration -- the expedition to Utah -- the Covode Committee.
The rancorous and persistent opposition to Mr. Buchanan's administration throughout its whole term, did not divert it from devoting its efforts to promote the various and important interests intrusted to its charge. Both its domestic and foreign policy proved eminently successful. This appears from the records of the country. We deem it necessary to refer only to a few of the most important particulars The administration succeeded by rigid economy in greatly reducing the expenditures of the Government. To this task Mr. Buchanan had pledged himself in his inaugural. It was no easy work. An overflowing treasury had produced habits of prodigality which it was difficult to correct. Over the contingent expenses of Congress, which had become far more extravagant than those of any other branch of the Government, the President could exercise no control For these the two Houses were exclusively responsible, and they had so far transcended all reasonable limits, that their expenses, though in their nature they ought to have been purely incidental, had far exceeded the whole of the regular appropriation for their pay and mileage. Such was the extent of the abuse, that in the two fiscal years ending respectively on the 30th June, 1858 and 1859, whilst the regular pay and mileage of the members were less than $2,350,000, these contingencies amounted to more than three millions and a half. In the fiscal year ending on the 30th June, 1860, they were somewhat reduced, but still exceeded $1,000,000.  Notwithstanding this extravagance and the large outlay unavoidably incurred for the expedition to Utah, the President succeeded in gradually diminishing the annual expenditures until they were reduced to the sum of $55,402,465.46. We do not mention the cost of the expedition to Paraguay, because, through the careful management of the Secretary of the Navy, this amounted to very little more than the ordinary appropriation for the naval service. This aggregate embraces all the expenses of the Government, legislative, executive, and judicial, for the year ending 30th June, 1860, but not the interest on the public debt. If this, which was $8,177,814, be added, the whole would amount to $58,579,779.46. If to this we should make a liberal addition for appropriations recommended by the War and Navy Departments, as necessary for the defence of the country, but which were rejected by Congress, we shall be able to appreciate justly the correctness of the President's declaration in his annual message of December, 1860, ‘that the sum of $61,000,000, or, at the most, $62,000,000, is amply sufficient to administer the Government and to pay the interest on the public debt, unless contingent events should hereafter render extraordinary expenditures necessary.’ These statements, though made in the message, were never controverted by any member of either House in this hostile Congress. The expenditure was reduced to a much lower figure than the friends of the administration deemed possible. The result was the fruit of rigid economy and strict accountability. All public contracts, except in a very few cases where this was impracticable, were awarded, after advertisement, to the lowest bidder. And yet, in the face of all these facts, the administration of Mr. Buchanan has been charged with extravagance.
Utah.In addition to the troubles in Kansas, President Buchanan, at an early period of his administration, was confronted by an open resistance to the execution of the laws in the Territory of Utah. All the offer of the United States, judicial and executive, except two Indian agents, had found it necessary for their  personal safety to escape from the Territory. There no longer remained in it any Government, except the Mormon despotism of Brigham Young. This being the condition of affairs, the President had no alternative but to adopt vigorous measures for restoring the supremacy of the Constitution and the laws. For this purpose he appointed a new Governor (Cumming) and other Federal officers, to take the place of Governor Young and of those who had been compelled to leave the Territory. To have sent these officers to Utah without a military force to protect them whilst performing their duties, would have only invited further aggression. He therefore ordered that a detachment of the army should accompany them to act as a posse comitatus when required by the civil authority for the execution of the laws. There was much reason to believe that Governor Young had long desired and intended to render himself independent. ‘He knows [says the President, in his annual message of December, 1857] that the continuance of his despotic power depends upon the exclusion of all settlers from the Territory, except those who will acknowledge his divine, mission and implicitly obey his will; and that an enlightened public opinion would soon prostrate institutions at war with the laws both of God and man. He has, therefore, for several years, in order to maintain his independence, been industriously employed in collecting and fabricating arms and munitions of war, and in disciplining the Mormons for military service. As Superintendent of Indian Affairs, he has had an opportunity of tampering with the Indian tribes, and exciting their hostile feelings against the United States. This, according to our information, he has accomplished in regard to some of these tribes, while others have remained true to their allegiance, and have communicated his intrigues to our Indian agents.’ ‘At the date of the President's instructions to Govenor Cumming, a hope was indulged that no necessity might exist for employing the military in restoring and maintaining the authority of the law, but this hope has now vanished. Governor Young has, by proclamation, declared his determination to maintain his power by force, and has already committed acts of hostility  against the United States. Unless he should retrace his steps, the Territory of Utah will be in a state of open rebellion. He has committed these acts of hostility, notwithstanding Major Van Vliet, an officer of the army, sent to Utah by the Commanding General to purchase provisions for the troops, had given him the strongest assurances of the peaceful intentions of the Government, and that the troops would only be employed as a posse comitatus when called on by the civil authority to aid in the execution of the laws.’ He not only refused to sell, or permit the Mormons to sell, any provisions for the subsistence of the troops, but he informed Major Van Vliet that he had laid in a store of provisions for three years, which in case of necessity he would conceal ‘and then take to the mountains, and bid defiance to all the powers of the Government.’ The message proceeds to state that ‘a great part of all this may be idle boasting; but yet no wise government will lightly estimate the efforts which may be inspired by such frenzied fanaticism as exists among the Mormons in Utah. This is the first rebellion which has existed in our Territories; and humanity itself requires that we should put it down in such a manner that it shall be the last. To trifle with it would be to encourage it and to render it formidable.’ It was not until the 29th of June, 1857, that the General in Chief (Scott) was enabled to issue orders, from his headquarters at New York, to Brigadier General Harney, for the conduct of the expedition.1 (And here it may be proper to observe that Col. A. S. Johnston, of the 2d United States cavalry, was soon after substituted in the command for General Harney. This was done on the earnest request of Governor Walker, who believed that Harney's services in Kansas were indispensable.) The season was now so far advanced, and Utah was so distant, that doubts were entertained whether the expedition ought not to be delayed until the next spring. But the necessity for a prompt movement to put down the resistance of Brigham Young to the execution of the laws, and to prevent the consequences of leaving him in undisturbed possession of supreme  power for another year, were most fortunately sufficient to overcome these doubts. General Scott in his orders refers to these difficulties, and makes them the occasion of prescribing to the commander the great care and diligence he ought to employ. He says: ‘The lateness of the season, the dispersed condition of the troops, and the smallness of the numbers available, have seemed to present elements of difficulty, if not hazard, in this expedition. But it is believed that these may be compensated by unusual care in its outfit and great prudence in its conduct. All disposable recruits have been reserved for it. So well is the nature of this service appreciated, and so deeply are the honor and interests of the United States involved in its success, that I am authorized to say the Government will hesitate at no expense requisite to complete the efficiency of your little army, and to insure health and comfort to it, as far as attainable.’ The happy result of this expedition we shall present in the language of the annual message of the 6th of December, 1858, as follows:
The present condition of the Territory of Utah, when contrasted with what it was one year ago, is a subject for congratulation. It was then in a state of open rebellion, and cost what it might, the character of the Government required that this rebellion should be suppressed, and the Mormons compelled to yield obedience to the Constitution and the laws. In order to accomplish this object, as I informed you in my last annual message, I appointed a new Governor instead of Brigham Young, and other Federal officers to take the place of those who, consulting their personal safety, had found it necessary to withdraw from the Territory. To protect these civil officers, and to aid them as a posse comitatus in the execution of the laws in case of need, I ordered a detachment of the army to accompany them to Utah. The necessity for adopting these measures is now demonstrated. On the 15th of September, 1857, Governor Young issued his proclamation, in the style of an independent sovereign, announcing his purpose to resist by force of arms the entry of the United States troops into our own Territory of Utah. By this he required all the forces in the Territory “to hold themselves in  readiness to march at a moment's notice to repel any and all such invasion,” and established martial law from its date throughout the Territory. These proved to be no idle threats. Forts Bridger and Supply were vacated and burnt down by the Mormons, to deprive our troops of a shelter after their long and fatiguing march. Orders were issued by Daniel H. Wells, styling himself “Lieutenant-General, Nauvoo Legion,” to stampede the animals of the United States troops on their march, to set fire to their trains, to burn the grass and the whole country before them and on their flanks, to keep them from sleeping by night surprises, and to blockade the road by felling trees and destroying the fords of rivers, etc., etc., etc. These orders were promptly and effectually obeyed. On the 4th of October, 1857, the Mormons captured and burned, on Green River, three of our supply trains, consisting of seventy-five wagons loaded with provisions and tents for the army, and carried away several hundred animals. This diminished the supply of provisions so materially that General Johnston was obliged to reduce the ration, and even with this precaution there was only sufficient left to subsist the troops until the first of June. Our little army behaved admirably in their encampment at Fort Bridger under these trying privations. In the midst of the mountains, in a dreary, unsettled, and inhospitable region, more than a thousand miles from home, they passed the severe and inclement winter without a murmur. They looked forward with confidence for relief from their country in due season, and in this they were not disappointed. The Secretary of War employed all his energies to forward them the necessary supplies, and to muster and send such a military force to Utah as would render resistance on the part of the Mormons hopeless, and thus terminate the war without the effusion of blood. In his efforts he was efficiently sustained by Congress. They granted appropriations sufficient to cover the deficiency thus necessarily created, and also provided for raising two regiments of volunteers “for the purpose of quelling disturbances in the Territory of Utah, for the protection of supply and emigrant trains, and the suppression of Indian hostilities  on the frontiers.” 2 Happily, there was no occasion to call these regiments into service. If there had been, I should have felt serious embarrassment in selecting them, so great was the number of our brave and patriotic citizens anxious to serve their country in this distant and apparently dangerous expedition. Thus it has ever been, and thus may it ever be! The wisdom and economy of sending sufficient reenforcements to Utah are established not only by the event, but in the opinion of those who, from their position and opportunities, are the most capable of forming a correct judgment. General Johnston, the commander of the forces, in addressing the Secretary of War from Fort Bridger, under date of October 18th, 1857, expresses the opinion that “unless a large force is sent here, from the nature of the country, a protracted war on their [the Mormons'] part is inevitable.” This he considered necessary, to terminate the war “speedily and more economically than if attempted by insufficient means.” In the mean time it was my anxious desire that the Mormons should yield obedience to the Constitution and the laws, without rendering it necessary to resort to military force. To aid in accomplishing this object, I deemed it advisable, in April last, to despatch two distinguished citizens of the United States, Messrs. Powell and McCulloch, to Utah. They bore with them a proclamation addressed by myself to the inhabitants of Utah, dated on the 6th day of that month, warning them of their true condition, and how hopeless it was on their part to persist in rebellion against the United States, and offering all those who should submit to the laws a full pardon for their past seditions and treasons. At the same time I assured those who should persist in rebellion against the United States that they must expect no further lenity, but look to be rigorously dealt with, according to their deserts. The instructions to these agents, as well as a copy of the proclamation and their reports, are herewith submitted. It will be seen by their, report of the 3d of July last, that they have fully confirmed the opinion expressed by General Johnston in the previous October as to the necessity of sending reenforcements to Utah. In this they state that they  “are firmly impressed with the belief that the presence of the army here, and the large additional force that had been ordered to this Territory, were the chief inducements that caused the Mormons to abandon the idea of resisting the authority of the United States. A less decisive policy would probably have resulted in a long, bloody, and expensive war.” These gentlemen conducted themselves to my entire satisfaction, and rendered useful services in executing the humane intentions of the Government. It also affords me great satisfaction to state that Governor Cumming has performed his duty in an able and conciliatory manner, and with the happiest effect. I cannot, in this connection, refrain from mentioning the valuable services of Colonel Thomas L. Kane, who, from motives of pure benevolence, and without any official character or pecuniary compensation, visited Utah during. the last inclement winter for the purpose of contributing to the pacification of the Territory. I am happy to inform you that the Governor and other civil officers of Utah are now performing their appropriate functions without resistance. The authority of the Constitution and the laws has been fully restored, and peace prevails throughout the Territory. A portion of the troops sent to Utah are now encamped in Cedar Valley, forty-four miles southwest of Salt Lake City, and the remainder have been ordered to Oregon to suppress Indian hostilities. The march of the army to Salt Lake City, through the Indian Territory, has had a powerful effect in restraining the hostile feelings against the United States which existed among the Indians in that region, and in securing emigrants to the far west against their depredations. This will also be the means of establishing military posts and promoting settlements along the route. I recommend that the benefits of our land laws and preemption system be extended to the people of Utah, by the establishment of a land office in that Territory.Nearly eight years after these events had passed into history, Mr. Buchanan was no little surprised to discover that General  Scott, in his autobiography, published in 1864,3 asserts that he had protested against the Utah expedition, and that it was set on foot by Secretary Floyd, ‘to open a wide field for frauds and peculation.’ He does not even intimate that the expedition had been ordered by the President. The censure is cast upon Floyd, and upon Floyd alone. The President had, as a matter of course, left the military details of the movement to the Secretary of War and the Commanding General of the Army; From a reference to the instructions from the General to General Harney, the President could not have inferred the existence of any such protest. On the contrary, General Scott explicitly states the fact that they had been ‘prepared in concert with the War Department, and sanctioned by its authority wherever required.’ In these instructions General Scott, so far from intimating that he had protested against the expedition, states that ‘the community, and in part the civil Government of Utah Territory, are in a state of substantial rebellion against the laws and authority of the United States. A new civil Governor is about to be designated, and to be charged with the establishment and maintenance of law and order. Your able and energetic aid, with that of the troops to be placed under your command, is relied upon to secure the success of his mission.’ And the General, as we have already seen, expresses the belief that the honor and interest of the United States were deeply involved in the result. Most certainly Mr. Buchanan, until he read the autobiography, never learned that General Scott had protested against the Utah expedition.
The Covode Committee.We have already more than once referred to the violent and persistent opposition manifested in Congress to President Buchanan's administration throughout its whole term. This was displayed in a signal manner by the creation and proceedings of the notorious Covode Committee, during the session immediately preceding the Presidential election. It was instituted, beyond doubt, to render the existing Democratic administration odious  in the eyes of the people, and thereby to promote the election of any Republican candidate who might be nominated. The manner in which this committee was raised, by stifling debate, plainly augured the character of its future action. On the 5th March, 1860, Mr. John Covode, a Representative from Pennsylvania, moved to suspend the rules of the House so as to enable him to introduce the resolutions creating his committee.4 The Speaker decided that this motion was not debatable. Several members endeavored to discuss the character of the resolutions, but they were soon called to order and silenced. Before Mr. Underwood was stopped he had got so far as to say: ‘I rise to a point of order. It is, that it is not in order, in this House, for any member to propose an investigation upon vague, loose, and indefinite charges, but it is his duty to state the grounds distinctly upon which he predicates his inquiry. If the gentleman who offered these resolutions will state to the House, upon his responsibility as a member, that he knows, or has been informed and believes, that offers have been made to bribe, as insinuated in that resolution, nobody will object. But I do object to charges against any officer of the Government by insinuation.’ Mr. Covode was silent to this appeal, but Mr. Bingham came to his relief by objecting to the debate as ‘all out of order.’ Mr. Winslow afterwards (amidst loud and continued cries of ‘Order’) said: ‘I feel some hesitation about my vote. These resolutions are very vague and indefinite, large in their terms, and framed like a French indictment, covering a deal of ground and abounding in a multitude of general charges. I have perfect confidence in the integrity of the President and his Cabinet. Let any specific charge be brought against him or them, and I will cheerfully yield the fullest investigation, and accord the promptest action. I will do nothing to hinder but every thing to facilitate it. I cannot, however, vote for a committee on these sweeping charges.’ Mr. John Cochrane, of New York, had also got so far as to say: ‘Because no charges have been made on which an investigation can be founded,’ when ‘Mr. Grow and others called the gentleman to order.’  The motion to suspend the rules was passed, and the resolutions were then before the House for consideration and discussion, when Mr. Covode instantly rose before any other member could obtain the floor, and called for the previous question on the adoption of the resolutions, which if sustained would cut off all amendment and debate. Mr. Noell. ‘I desire to offer an amendment, and ask that it may be read for information.’ Mr. Covode. ‘I cannot yield for that purpose.’ Mr. Noell. ‘I ask to have the amendment read for information.’ Mr. Bingham ‘I object.’ ‘The previous question was seconded and the main question ordered to be put, and under the operation thereof the resolutions were adopted.’ On the 9th March, 1860, Mr. Speaker Pennington appointed Mr. Covode of Pennsylvania, Mr. Olin of New York, Mr. Winslow of North Carolina, Mr. Train of Massachusetts, and Mr. James C. Robinson of Illinois, members of the committee.5 The Covode Committee was thus ushered into existence in ominous silence, its authors having predetermined not to utter a word themselves, nor to suffer its opponents to utter a word, on the occasion of its birth. The President could not remain silent in the face of these high-handed and unexampled proceedings. He felt it to be his imperative duty to protest against them as a dangerous invasion by the House of the rights and powers of the Presidential office under the Constitution of the United States. Accordingly he transmitted to the House, on the 28th March, 1860, the following message:6
The principles maintained in this message found no favor with the majority in the House. It was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, of which Mr. Hickman, of Pennsylvania, was chairman.7 On the 9th of April, 1861, he reported resolutions from the majority of the committee in opposition to its doctrines, whilst these were sustained by the minority. The majority resolutions were adopted by the House on the 8th of June following.8 Meanwhile the Covode Committee continued to pursue its secret inquisitorial examinations until the 16th of June, 1860, when Mr. Train, one of its members, and not Mr. Covode the chairman, made a report from the majority, accompanied by the mass of all sorts of testimony which it had collected.9 The views of the minority were presented by Mr. Winslow of North Carolina, now no more—a man possessing every estimable quality both of head and of heart, and one who had enjoyed the highest honors which his own State could confer. The committee, though it had been engaged for three months with vindictive zeal and perseverance in hunting up all sorts of testimony against the President and members of his Cabinet, yet finally shrunk from the responsibility of reporting a single resolution accusing or censuring any one of them. In the boundless field it had explored, it failed to discover a single point on which it could venture to rest any such resolution. This surely was a triumphant result for the President. We refrain from now portraying the proceedings of the committee in their true light, because this has already been sufficiently done by the message of the President to the House of the 28th June, 1860, of which we insert a copy from the Journal10 
On the reading of this message it was, on motion of Mr. Benjamin Stanton, of Ohio, referred to a select committee, consisting of himself, Mr. Curry, Mr. Charles F. Adams, Mr. Sedgwick, and Mr. Pryor, which was instructed to report to the House at the next session. No report was ever made. Thus ended the Covode Committee.