American Rhetoric: Movie Speech

"Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939)


Senator Smith Debates Senator Paine

Audio mp3 delivered by Jimmy Stewart and Claude Rains


Senate President: The Chair recognizes -- Senator Smith!


Mr. Smith: Thank you, sir. Well, I guess the Gentlemen were in a pretty tall hurry to get me out of here. The way the evidence is piled up against me, I can't say I blame them much. And I'm quite willing to go, sir, when they vote it that way. But before that happens, I've got a few things I want to say to this Body. I tried to say them once before, and I got stopped colder than a mackerel. Well, I'd like to get them said this time, sir. And as a matter of fact, I'm not going to leave this Body until I do get them said.

Senator Paine: Mr. President will the Senator yield?

Senate President: Will the Senator yield?

Mr. Smith: No, sir, I'm afraid not! No, sir. I yielded the floor once before, if you can remember, and I was practically never heard of again. No, sir. And we might as well all get together on this yielding business right off the bat, now. I had some pretty good coaching last night, and I find that if I yield only for a question or a point of order or a personal privilege that I can hold this floor almost until doomsday. In other words, I've got a piece to speak and blow hot or cold, I'm going to speak it.

Senator Paine: Will the Senator yield?

Senate President: Will Senator Smith yield?

Mr. Smith: Yield how, sir?

Senator Paine: Will he yield for a question?

Mr. Smith: For a question, alright.

Senator Paine: I wish to ask my junior colleague -- this piece he intends to speak: Does it concern Section 40 of that bill, the dam at Willow Creek?

Mr. Smith: It does, sir.

Senator Paine: Every aspect of this matter, the Gentleman's attack on that Section -- everything -- was dealt with in Committee hearings.

Mr. Smith: Mr. President.

Senator Paine: I wish to ask my distinguished colleague: Has he one scrap of evidence to add now to the defense he did not give and could not give at that same hearing?

Mr. Smith: I have no defense against forged papers!

Senator Paine: The committee ruled otherwise! The Gentleman stands guilty as charged. And I believe I speak for every Member when I say that no one cares to hear what a man of his condemned character has to say about any section of any legislation before this House.

Senate President: Order. Order, gentlemen.

Mr. Smith: Mr. President, I stand guilty as framed! Because Section 40 is graft! And I was ready to say so. I was ready to tell you that a certain man in my state, a Mr. James Taylor, wanted to put through this dam for his own profit -- a man who controls a political machine, and controls everything else worth controlling in my state. Yes, and a man even powerful enough to control Congressmen, and I saw three of them in his room the day I went up to see him.

Senator Paine: Will the Senator yield?!

Mr. Smith: No, sir! I will not yield! And this same man, Mr. James Taylor, came down here and offered me a seat in this Senate for the next 20 years if I voted for a dam that he knew and I knew was a fraud. But if I dared to open my mouth against that dam, he promised to break me in two. Alright, I got up here and I started to open my mouth and the long and powerful arm of Mr. James Taylor reached into this sacred chamber and grabbed me by the scruff of the neck --

Senator Paine: Mr. President, a point of order.

Mr. Smith: Mr. President!

Senate President: Senator Paine (will state it).

Senator Paine: It was I who rose from this chamber to accuse him. He's saying that I was carrying out criminal orders on falsified evidence.

Mr. Smith: No, Mr. President.

Senator Paine: He has imputed to me conduct unworthy of Senator, and I demand that he be made to yield the floor.

Mr. Smith: Mr. President, I did not say that Senator Paine was one of the Congressmen in that room.

Senator Paine: I was in that room!

Senate President: Order, gentlemen.

Senator Paine: I accuse this man, by his tone, by his careful denials, he is deliberately trying to plant damaging impressions of my conduct. I'll tell you why we were in that room. Because Mr. Taylor, a respected citizen of our state, had brought with him the evidence against this man. And we were urging him to resign. Why? To avoid bringing disgrace upon a clean and honorable state. But he refused!

Mr. Smith: Mr. President, have I --

Senator Paine: There's only one answer to a man like him: the truth -- which I rose and gave to this Body. Mr. President, he is trying to blackmail this Senate as he tried to blackmail me. To prevent his expulsion he would probably even try to hold up this deficiency bill, vital to the whole country, which must be passed immediately -- today.

Mr. Smith: Have I the floor?!

Senator Paine: Gentlemen, I have lost all patience with this brazen character. I apologize to this Body for his appointment. I regret I ever knew him. I'm sick and tired of this contemptible young man, and I refuse to stay here and listen to him any longer. I hope every Member of this Body feels as I do.

Senate Members: [to Smith] Yield the floor! Yield the floor! Yield the floor....

Senate President: Gentlemen, gentlemen please address the Chair!

First Senate Member: Mr. President, what does the Gentleman [Smith] want with this Body?

Mr. Smith: I'll tell you what I want, sir. I want a chance to talk to people who will believe me --the people of my state, they know me. And they know Mr. Taylor, and when they hear my story they'll rise up and they'll kick Mr. Taylor's machine to kingdom come. Now, I want one week to go back there and bring you proof that I'm right. And in the meantime, I want this Senate's promise that I will not be expelled and that the deficiency bill will not be passed.

First Senate Member: Will the Senator yield?

Mr. Smith: For a question.

First Senate Member: Has the Gentleman the effrontery to stand there convicted and in disgrace and try to force postponement of the deficiency bill?

Mr. Smith: For one week.

Second Senate Member: Mr. President, I appeal to the Senator. Is he fully aware that this bill has been months in both Houses, delayed and delayed? Why millions will be without food and shelter. Public works will be at a standstill.

Third Senate Member: Are we going to keep relief from the country?

Mr. Smith: The people of my state need permanent relief from crooked men riding their backs.

Second Senate Member: Mr. President, if the Senate yields to this sort of blackmail at this time from this man, it'll become a laughingstock.

First Senate Member: It is an insult to this Body to have to listen; an insult to our colleague, Senator Paine. I, for one, will follow the Senator's example and refuse to remain in this chamber as long as that man holds the floor!

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HTML transcription by Michael E. Eidenmuller.