22d Congress.] 

No. 478. 

[1st Session.



Navy Department, April 10, 1832.


In reply to yours of the 9th instant, I have the honor to state that the act to which you refer, concerning the transfer of appropriations, under certain contingencies, did not originate in this Department, nor was it reported on my request or suggestion. The history of it, so far as known to me, is believed to be this:

In the annual communication from this Department, at the commencement of the present session of Congress, I did suggest the expediency of making the naval appropriations more specific than heretofore, and therefore prepared the estimates so as to leave the enumerated contingent less than $150,000, when it had formerly been about $250,000. This was effected by throwing a number of the items, whose usual yearly amount was tolerably certain, under specific heads, and by striking those items entirely out of the enumerated contingent. But the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, in the House of Representatives, preferred a bill in the usual form, and I accordingly prepared, for that committee, on their wish, a second bill, restoring all the items to the enumerated contingent, and striking out their amount under the specific heads.

I had also recommended, and introduced into the first bill, an appropriation at the beginning of the year sufficiently large to meet the claims on all the items of the enumerated contingent during the whole year, instead of an appropriation, as usual, which would leave forty or fifty thousand dollars of those claims to be delayed and afterwards paid by new appropriations for arrearages. The sum, which eight or ten years' records in the Department showed had been annually supplied for arrearages, was from forty to fifty thousand dollars, making the whole amount proper for the old items in the enumerated contingent about $285,000.

But that committee reported the bill at the former amount for these items, viz., $250,000, and, to avoid the practice, which once prevailed, of taking the deficiency from specific appropriations without any authority, as well as to avoid what has happened since that practice ceased, the delay and embarrassment of a resort to new appropriations in subsequent years for arrearages, the committee, as I understand, introduced the bill now under consideration. One other reason has been suggested. The estimates and appropriations are made only to the close of the year; whereas the new appropriation bills seldom pass till the second or third month of the ensuing year, during which last time many of the heads of appropriation become wholly exhausted, while others may happen to have a surplus remaining. These circumstances, united with the greater exposure of the naval service to unforeseen contingencies than any other department of the government, constitute the only "necessity" for the bill which has occurred to me. Falling short, as some specific appropriations unexpectedly may, before new ones pass; deficient, as the appropriation to the enumerated contingent has long been known to be; injurious, as the failure of it before the year closes often has been to our credit abroad, as well as at home; and refusing, as Congress has, to increase it at the commencement of the year, I must be permitted to express my conviction that this bill, under these circumstances, is decidedly preferable to the losses and embarrassments incident to arrearages, or to the manifest illegality of supplying deficiencies from other appropriations, without the express sanction of Congress, whenever those deficiencies, from any cause, may happen to occur. If the further inquiries in your letter, as to the "acts of 1809 and 1817," require any answer not included in the above remarks, I will be happy to examine them, on your pointing out, more particularly, the acts and the sections which may be supposed to need attention.

Respectfully, yours, LEVI WOODBURY.

Hon. R. Y. Hayne, Chairman of the Naval Committee of the Senate.