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Much Like Iraq Debate Today, House Sought To Kill Funding For Jay Treaty in 1796

With George Bush of Texas content to have the Iraq War drag on and on, some feel that Congress should end the war by cutting off it’s funding.

The concept of Congress attempting to kill the funding for a controversial Executive branch policy is nearly as old as the republic.

The Jay Treaty was intended to tie up with Great Britain some of the last loose ends from the Revolution. The treaty is named after Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay who was the lead negotiator of the agreement.

Jay was seen by opponents of the Washington Administration and of the Federalist Party as pro-British. This ran against the pro-French sympathies of the opposition. Many felt the Jay Treaty was overly kind to British interests.

The Senate ratified the treaty by a 20-10 margin. However, not long after the Senate’s approval the House took up the matter of funding the treaty.

In 1796, the House spilt 47-47 over the appropriations needed to implement the treaty. The tie-breaking vote would have to be cast by House Speaker Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania.

Muhlenberg had recently switched from friend of the Washington administration to opponent of the administration. Despite this switch, he was leaned on by both sides. Supposedly, the prospective father-in-law of Muhlenberg’s son said that if Muhlenberg voted to stop the funding that he would withhold the hand of his daughter.

For whatever reasons, Muhlenberg voted for the funding. As a result of this vote he was later stabbed by his brother-in-law who apparently felt quite strongly about the issue. Muhlenberg survived the stabbing but did not run for reelection in 1796. 

The fight between the President and Congress over Iraq has a precedent in American history that dates back to almost the beginning of our three branches of government.

June 8, 2007 Posted by | Political History | 2 Comments