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I am gratified in being enabled to inform the Legislative Council, that during the past year, the Bank has made arrangements with some of the holders, by which a considerable amount of the bonds of the Territory have already been taken up; and it is expected that others will be retired in a short tinte, and returned to the Executive to be cancelled. Having ceased to exercise its banking privileges, and all the energies of its officers being devoted to the collection of its debts and the payment of its liabilities, the Bank presents strong claims to our aid and support, and the hope is indulged, that under its present economical and judicious management, its operations may be so conducted, as to discharge all its obligations and relieve the Territory from its responsibility.
By an act of the Legislative Council, approved the 4th of March 1839, entitled “ An act in addition to the military laws in force in this Territory,” the Governor was authorised to issue and negotiate the Bonds of this Territory, in order to raise funds for the defence of the frontier settlements then exposed and assailed by the Indians, along their whole extremity. Under this authority, fifty bonds for one thousand dollars each, payable on the first day of July 1854, bearing an anual interest of 8 per cent, payable semi-anually, on the first day of January and the first day of July of each year, were negotiated with the Union Bank of Florida, from which that sum was obtained and expended for the object contemplated by the act.' All the accounts and vouchers for this expenditure passed the ordeal of examination by the Legislative Council and were fully approved. This sum having been expended by the Territory in the defence of the frontier, we had, in my opinion, a right to claim a re-imbursement of the whole amount, from the Government of the United States. The accounts were therefore presented to the proper Department for payment, and a portion of them amounting to $35,416 have been allowed, and the amount paid to the Union Bank. This sum has been appropriated to the payment of thirty-one of the bonds above mentioned, and the payment of coupons for interest which, with the bonds have been returned to the Executive, and have been cancelled in conformity with the law on that subject. There are still unpaid, nineteen of these bonds, for one thousand dollars each, with the interest which has ac. cumulated upon them. I conceive, that we have a right to insist on the payment of this sum by the General Government, and I respect. fully suggest the propriety of passing a resolution, requesting our Delegate in Congress to urge this claim before the proper Department of the Government. Should we fail in procuring a re-imbursement of this sum, it will become necessary for the Legislative Council to make an appropriation to satisfy the bonds held by the Bank. The liberality and patriotism, with which this Institution at all times, during the Seminole war, advanced its funds, for the defence of the country, requires that every effort in our power should be made, to refund the amount loaned to the Territory. If the extensive resources of this institution can be rendered available, and it is our duty to
aftord every facility which can be granted for that purpose, its situation will be found to be much more favorable than it has generally been considered. The interest alone now due, if collected, it is believed, would be very nearly sufficient to discharge all its immediate liabilities. And the liberal indulgence it has observed towards its debtors, in times of great embarrassment, aided by the change we may anticipate in the prosperity of the country, will probably enable them gradually to make payments, and finally discharge their entire obliga. tions to the Bank.
During the past year, the Bank of Florida has renewed its operations under the amended charter, granted at the last ses. sion of the Legislative Council ; and although its capital has been limited, it has afforded many facilities in the transaction of business. It has furnished a safe circulation, to some extent, and the prudence and discretion with which it has been conducted, entitles it to the confidence of the public.
The report of the Commissioner will place you in possession of the present condition of the Tallahassee Fund, and the measures adopted by him for the preservation of the walls of the unfinished part of the Capitol. The well-founded hope entertained, that an appropriation would have been made by Congress during the last session, for the completion of this building, has not been realized, and from the want of other resources, the Commissioner was compelled to form a contract on credit, in order to comply as near as practicable with the instructions of the Legislative Council, expressed in a resolution of the last session.
The contract is as favorable as could have been expected, under existing circumstances, and the work which it required to be done, will be permanent, tending to the completion of the building. Should the appropriation anticipated by Congress be made during the present session, the building may be finished in time for the reception of the next Legislative Council. The scarcity of money, and the limited demand for property of every kind, during the past year, rendered it inexpedient in the opinion of the Commissioner to dispose of any part of the remaining land appropriated by the Government, in which opinion I have fully concurred.
These lands, lying continguous to the city, are daily robbed by trespassers of the timber, which constitutes their greatest value, and unless some more efficient measures are adopted to prevent intrusions, serious damage will be sustained by the Territory. I invite the at. tention of the Legislative Council to this subject.
The accompanying reports of the Auditor and Treasurer of the Territory, will inform you of the present state of the Treasury.From these documents you will perceive that the receipts from all sources during the past year until the 15th of December, amount to seven thousand one hundred and eighty dollars thirty-three cents, ($7,180 33,) and that the balance remaining unexpended on that day was five hundred and seventy dollars thirty-one cents, ($5,70 31.) Of the sum received at the Treasury, only one hundred and eighty-one dollars eighteen cents, ($181 18,) have been derived from the land tax, and this sum has been received from the Tax Collector of one County only. From the other counties nothing has been received. Nor have the tax-lists required to be forwarded by the Clerks of the respective County Courts, been but partially received. This apparent neglect of duty, on the part of those officers, is most probably owing to a defect in the revenue law. For, although the Assessors are required, immediately after the “four first days succeeding the first Monday" in April, to forward the tax lists to the Clerks of the respective County Courts, no time is provided by law when the consolidated assessments for each County shall be forwarded to the Auditor of Public Accounts. The law is equally deficient in specify, ing no time when the Tax Collectors shall be required to pay into the 'Treasury the revenue collected by them. I invite your attention to this subject, and recommend that the law may be so amended as to render it efficient for this purpose.
So far as I am able to form an opinion from the few returns of assessments made to the Auditor, I entertain the belief that the present tax on lands is entirely insufficient, aided by the other sources of revenue, to relieve the Treasury from its present embarrassments. The tax on land is one-fourth of a cent per acre on all first rate land, and one-eight of a cent per acre on all other lands. I have been unable to test in any manner the accuracy of the very limited returns made to the Auditor, in order to ascertain whether they embrace all the lands subject to taxation in the County for which they are made. But the amount assessed is very inconsiderable, and more than one-half of this will be absorbed in the expenses of collection. In one County, where the revenue assessed on lands is reported to be two hundred and fourteen dollars seventeen cents, ($214 17,) after deducting the compensation allowed by law to the several Assessors, to the Clerk for consolidating the tax-lists, and to the Tax Collector, the nett sum to be paid into the Treasury is only eighty four dollars ninety-nine cents, ($84 99.) If, from this result, we may form an estimate of the amount of funds the Territory will receive from that source, it is very apparent that other measures must be adopted to replenish the Trea
expenses of collection may be somewhat reduced, but the rate of taxation must be increased, or revenue be derived from other than the present sources, in order to pay the arrearages of the Treasury, and meet the current expenses of the Government.
You will perceive from the report of the Auditor, that the unsatisfied warrants of his department amount to $14,614 45, making a reduction from the debt of the Territory of only $1,869 96 during the past year. It is due to the public creditors, no less than to the character of the Territory, that the debts which have already accumulated, as well as the future expenses of the Government for every legitimate purpose, should be promptly paid. The resources of the country are abundantly sufficient to furnish a revenue for this purpose without resorting to a system of taxation, which would be at all oppressive to the people. It is highly disreputable to the Territory that its officers and
creditors, instead of obtaining payment of their salaries and warrants at the Treasury, should be compelled to sell the Auditor's warrants in their favor at such a discount as the purchaser may require. I there. fore recommend that the public revenue be increased in proportion to the wants and the necessities of the Territory. The present land tax is almost too inconsiderable in amount to justify the trouble and expense of its collection, and might be increased one hundred per cent without material inconvenience to the land proprietors. Should this not produce a sufficient fund to supply the public demand, resort should be had to other sources from which revenue is usually derived.
The vigilance of the Treasurer has detected, and I hope for the future will prevent, the recurrence of certain abuses and mal-practices of some of the receiving officers, in speculating in the depreciated liabilities of the Territory. The fourth section of the act, approved the 22d November, 1829, provides, “that it shall not be lawful for any person charged with the collecting or paying over money into the Treasury of this Territory, to speculate direcily or indirectly in claims against the Territory, but they shall in all cases pay over such funds as they shall receive ; and any person violating the provisions of this section shall, on conviction in any Court of Record, in this Territory, pay a fine of five hundred dollars." In violation of this emphatic provision of the law, some of the Auctioneers who received gold and silver in payment of the taxes or sales at auction, have themselves, or by agents,"charged with paying over money into the Treasury,” appropriated the public revenue in iheir hands io the purchase of claims against the Territory, at a large discount. The claims purchased have been the warrants of the Auditor on the Treasury, given to the creditors of the Territory, and which have not been taken up from the want of funds in the Treasury for that purpose. A continuance of the mal-practice of speculating in these claims, would result in the exclusion of money from the Treasury. The whole annount of the revenue would be paid in claims purchased at a large discount, and the revenue officers would enjoy two-thirds of the public treasure, while the other officers and ihe creditors of the Territory, would from necessity receive nothing in payment of their just demands, but the Auditor's warrant on the Treasury, which they would be compelled to sell at such a discount as might be required. The rigid enforcement of the law by the Treasurer, and a few examples under it, will no doubt terminate these abuses in office.
The act entitled, “ An act relative 10 Auctioneers," approved the 9th of March, 1843, has been promptly executed, and will generally be productive of favorable results. But I segret to say that, in many instances, under its provisions, great injustice has been done to some of the Auctioneers. The first section of this act requires the Auctioneers to pay into the Territorial and County Treasuries, respectively, all moneys they may be required to pay thereia, semiannually, on the first days of May and November. The second section provides that if any of these officers shall fail to make their
reports to the Auditor and shall fail to pay into the Treasury the money due the Territory for taxes and sales at auction at the times required by law, the Auditor shall cause legal proceedings to be instituted against such defaulting officer, "and shall also report every such delinquency to the Governor, who shall thereupon remove such delinquent Auctioneer from office.” In accordance with the requisitions of the law, the Auditor of public Accounts reported to me, during the past year, a number of Auctioneers as defaulters; and having no discretionary power under its provisions, I was compelled to dismiss them from office. I was gratified subsequently to learn, however, that with but few exceptions they were either not subject to the rigor of the law, or were able to justify their conduct under it; and in nearly all such cases where they have desired it, they been reinstated in office.
I deem it proper to invite the attention of the Legislative Council to the act passed at the last session entitled, “ An act to reduce and fis the compensation of certain Territorial Officers." By the provisions of this act the salary of the Auditor and Treasurer of the 'Territory is fixed at three hundred dollars each per annum; a compensation entirely disproportioned to the duties and responsibilities of these officers. They occupy stations of high public irust.'requiring labour, industry and capacity to perform the duties appertaining to them, and they should receive a corresponding compensation. I therefore recommend that their salaries be increased.
I have endeavored to carry into execution, so far as practicable, the act approved the 15th of March, 1813, entitled, “ An act for the preservation of the Seminary lands, granted by Congress for a Seminary of learning, and the disposition of the fund arising from the lease thereof." The Trustees, provided for by this act, were appointed soon after the adjournment of the Legislative Council ; • but the annual report required to be made by them under its provisions, 10 the Governor and Legislative Council, has not been received; and so far as I am advised, they have never assembled for the purpose or organizing a board. I am not apprised that any measure has been adopted by the Trustees, for the purpose of carrying the law into effect; and I am apprehensive that the Seminary lands are still unprotected, and have remained, during the past year, subject to the injurious trespisses with which they have so long been visited. The act authorizing the appointment of the Trustees, requires of them the performance or arduous and responsible duties, and expressly provides that those duties shall be performed without compensation. The diíliculty of assembling as frequently as necessity would require, at any one point, five persons possessing the capacity and requisite local information relative to the situation and characier of these lands, dispersed as they are on so great an extent of country, is in my opinion, insuperable under any circumstances ; but the difficulty is materially increased, when they are required to perform this duty at their own expense. Believing that no officers who may be appointed under the provisions of this law, can ever