Front Page Titles (by Subject) Note (A) to Chapter 16: PRIVATE BILLS - The American Commonwealth, vol. 1
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Note (A) to Chapter 16: PRIVATE BILLS - Viscount James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, vol. 1 
The American Commonwealth, with an Introduction by Gary L. McDowell, 2 vols (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1995).
Part of: The American Commonwealth, 2 vols.
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Note (A) to Chapter 16
Pecuniary claims against the government are in England not raised by way of private bill. They are presented in the courts by a proceeding called a petition of right, the Crown allowing itself to be sued by one of its subjects.
In America no such difference of treatment as the above exists between public and private bills; all are dealt with in substantially the same way by the usual legislative methods. A bill of purely local or personal nature gets its second reading as a matter of course, like a bill of general application, is similarly referred to the appropriate committee (which may hear evidence regarding it, but does not hear counsel), is considered and if necessary amended by the committee, is, if time permits, reported back to the House, and there takes its chance among the jostling crowd of other bills, Fridays, however, being specially set apart for the consideration of private business. There is a calendar of private bills, and those which get a place early upon it have a chance of passing. A great many are unopposed, and can be hurried through “by unanimous consent.”
Private bills are in Congress even more multifarious in their contents, as well as incomparably more numerous, than in England, although they do not include the vast mass of bills for the creation or regulation of various public undertakings within a particular state, since these would fall within the province of the state legislature. They include three classes practically unknown in England, pension bills, which propose to grant a pension to some person (usually a soldier or his widow), bills for satisfying some claim of an individual against the federal government—these, however, have been largely reduced by the creation of the Court of Claims—and bills for dispensing in particular cases with a variety of administrative statutes. Matters which in England would be naturally left to be dealt with at the discretion of the executive are thus assumed by the legislature, which is (for reasons that will appear in later chapters) more anxious to narrow the sphere of the executive than are the ruling legislatures of European countries. I subjoin some instances showing how wide is the range of congressional interference.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Read twice, referred to the Committee on Invalid Pensions, and ordered to be printed.
Mr. Murch introduced the following bill:
For the relief of James E. Gott
Be it enacted,
Read twice, referred to the Committee on War Claims, and ordered to be printed.
For the relief of the heirs of George W. Hayes
Be it enacted,
That the proper accounting officer of the Treasury be, and he is hereby, directed to pay to the heirs of George W. Hayes, of North Carolina, the sum of four hundred and fifty dollars, for three mules furnished the United States Army in eighteen hundred and sixty-four, for which they hold proper vouchers.
Read twice, referred to the Committee on Commerce, and ordered to be printed.
For the relief of Thomas G. Corbin
Be it enacted, etc.
That the President of the United States be, and is hereby, authorized to restore Thomas G. Corbin, now a captain on the retired list of the Navy, to the active list, and to take rank next after Commodore J. W. A. Nicholson, with restitution, from December twelfth, eighteen hundred and seventy-three, of the difference of pay between that of a commodore on the active list, on “waiting orders” pay, and that of a captain retired on half-pay, to be paid out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated.
Read twice, referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, and ordered to be printed.
Mr. Robinson introduced the following joint resolution:
Authorizing the remission or refunding of duty on a painted-glass window from London, England, for All Souls’ Church, in Washington, District of Columbia.
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress Assembled.
That the Secretary of the Treasury be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to remit or refund, as the case may be, the duties paid or accruing upon a painted-glass window from London, England, for All Souls’ Church, in Wasington, District of Columbia, imported, or to be imported into Baltimore, Maryland, or other port.