Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

equivalent advantages to the public, derived from the improvements. The success of the system will therefore mainly depend upon the wisdom and discretion of the General Assembly, in the selection of the ohjects of improvements to which the State shall give her patronage. The aid of the State granted by the last General Assembly to the amount of one half the cost of construction of public improvements authorized by law, if a proper discrimination be observed in the selection of the objects of improvement, is not in my judgment too large, and should be continued.

Our system is yet in its infancy, and the laws are undoubtedly in many respects defective, and will require amendment.

It is respectfully submitted whether the public interests do not require that a board of public works, to be composed of two or more competent and scientific men, should be authorized, and their duties prescribed by law. Should it be deemed proper to organize such a board, it should, among other things, be made their duty to make minute surveys and estimates of the cost of construction of all new works proposed, the probable profits which would be derived from them when completed, with their, opinion of their public utility. It should be made their duty to superintend the letting out of contracts, the construction of all public works in which the State was interested, the faithful application of the public monies, and to report upon oath to the General Assembly at each stated session. When new works are proposed, their report of surveys and the estimates of the cost of construction should in all cases be made before a charter of incorporation is granted, or an appropriation of public money made. They should be placed under adequate bonds, and suitable penalties should be imposed to insure a faithful performance of their duties. The General Assembly would in this manner be at all times in possession of full and accurate information of the condition and progress of the several public works authorized by law, as well as of the propriety of engaging in such new works as may be proposed. A proper responsibility too, for the faithful application of the public money to the objects authorized by law, would be secured. A board of public works, such as is suggested, if employed by the State, must of course be paid an adequate compensation for their services, but in the end their employment would be real economy, as well as tend to promote a system of improvement which would be permanently useful.

Under the existing laws, when the State subscription is paid to the several improvement companies, it is committed exclusively to their control and management, and there is no sufficient guaranty or security tirat it will be faithfully applied. The State, it is true, is entitled to a representation in the directory of the several boards. The State directors, however, are generally persons résiding in the vicinity of the paldie works, unt, after the money of the stockholders and of the State is; i to ihe Treasurer of the board, and the contracts for construccon amil, their duties practically case.

They are not required by law, nor indead can it be expected that they will, without compensation, and from motives of patriotism alone,

give their time and attention to the faithful application of the public money. The money of the State and the construction of the works are left practically under the exclusive control of the individual stockholders or directors. Contracts for the construction of the works may be let at higher rates than they should be, may be taken by the companies themselves, and the State subscription made nearly (if not quite) to execute the whole work, one half of which when completed, will bleng to the individual stockholders. Frauds of this character if attempted should be guarded against hy an amendment of the existing law.

When the State engaged to "subscribe for one half of the capital stock" of such incorporated companies as had been or might be authorized by law, it was undoubtedly intended that the State should pay in cash or par funds, the amount of her subscription so soon as the individual stockholders had paid the other half the capital stock in like funds; and in order to secure punctual payment by the private stockholders, they were required first to pay, and upon that fact being made known to the Governor in the manner prescribed by the act of the last session, the State was bound to pay in cqual proportions. The partnership was intended to be an equal one, and to be alike binding upon the private stockholders and upon the State. The State used her credit as the means of raising a fund to enable her to pay her subscription. She authorized the issuance of state bonds redeemable at the end of thirty years, and bearing an annual interest at five per cent.-In the then state of the money market, it was calculated that bonds of this description could be readily sold and converted into specie or its equivalent at par. It however appears that they cannot be sold in the market at par.

No funds at their nominal or par value have been or can be raised upon them.' The companies to whom a portion of them have been issued, have been compelled to take them “in payment of " the State subscription at their nominal value," when they were in fact below par, and have either retained or sold them in the market at à ruinous sacrifice, making the State subscription available to the companies in fact, less in amount than that paid by the private stockholders. If the position assumed be correct, that it was intended by the act to make the State an equal partner with the private stockholders, and that she should pay an equal proportion with them of the capital stock of the several incorporated companies who comply with its provisions, it follows, that if instead of paying the State subscription out of the Treasury, the State uses her credit by the issuance of State bonds as the means of raising the amount of her subscription, she should issue them of such a character as would command in the market their nominal or par value. The three hundred thousand dollars authorized by the same act to be applied to the improvement of the navgable rivers of the State have been wholly unavailable, because the five per cent. bonds authorized to be issued for that purpose could not be sold in the market at their nominal or par value.

It is respectfully suggested that the bonds of the State which have been issued, or which it may be deemed expedient to issue, should be

of a character which will insure a ready sale in the market at their par value. Should the bonds authorized to be issued be of such a description as to command a premium in the market, the excess over their nominal amount would enure exclusively to the State. It is further recommended that provision be made by law, that any bonds which may be issued by the State, shall be sold either by the “Bank of Tennessee" or some other authorized agent of the State, and not as heretofore be issued and delivered in small amounts to internal improvement companies to be hawked about the streets of our principal commercial cities, and offered and sold in the market at ruinous sacrifices. To permit the latter course is injuriously to affect the credit of the State as well in our own country as abroad.

The State of Tennessee has contracted a smaller amount of public responsibility or debt in proportion to her population, wealth and resources than any State in the Union. With a population of near a million of inhabitants, with a salubrious climate, and a fertile soil, abounding in many parts of the State with rich and inexhaustable minerals, and with an enterprising and industrious population, the whole public debt of the State, exclusive of the Internal Improvement Bonds authorized to be issued by the last General Assembly, and exclusive of the State's portion of the Federal revenue held on deposite, amounts only to the sum of $1,763,6663. To meet thịs the State owns of stock in the Union Bank $646,600---one million of the capital stock of the “Bank of Tennessee;" and $263,666} of the capital stock of Internal Improvement Companies chartered previous to the last session of the General Assembly.

The internal improvement bonds which have been issued under the act of the last General Assembly, bearing an interest of five per cent. amount to $899,580, making the whole public debt of the State of every description, exclusive of her portion of the Federal surplus revenue which she holds on deposite, the sum of $2,666,1663. The faith of the State is pledged for the punctual payment of the semi-annual interest on the State Bonds issued and authorized to be issued, as well as for their ultimate redemption, and there is no State in the Union whose public securities should command a higher price in the market than ours.

If the State shall hereafter dispose of her own bonds through an authorized agent, there cannot be a doubt that they will command in the market as high a price as similar public securities of any of our sister States,

If there be ambiguity, as has been suggested in the terms of the Internal Improvement law of the last session, or doubts of its proper construction, the General Assembly it is hoped will, by an amendatory act clearly define their meaning and intention.

No subject is, in my judgment, of more importance to the State than a vigorous prosecution of a judicious system of improvements. None can so much tend to develope our resources, and add to our wealth and prosperity. So important was the subject regarded by the convention that revised the Constitution of the State, that by a constitutional provision it is made the duty of the General Assembly to encourage it.

Being an interior state, without a seaboard, washed only on her western border by the Mississippi-Tennessee is, from her geographical position and the difficulties and cost of transportation, cut oil during many seasons of the year from the most profitable markets. The improvement of the navigable tributary streams of the Mississippi which water the state, is deemed to be of great importance, and is recommended to the favorable consideration of the General Assembly. The state is separated by natural boundaries into three grand divisions; and leading highways from the western to the eastern border, whereby the different sections would be more immediately connected together in trade and intercourse, seem to be demanded by our geographical position. The eastern division is isulated and further removed from market than any other portion of the state, and the improvement of the navigation of the Tennessee river, and its upper tributaries would be of incalculable advantage to that portion of the state. Leading improvements from North to South, connecting themselves with similar improvements North and South of us, would afford facilities to interior trade, as also for the cheap and easy transportation of our products to the most profitable markets without the state, and for a return by a like cheap and easy conveyance of the articles we need for consumption. Some of these are now in a course of construction. The state has heretofore given to them her countenance and aid by a liberal subscription to their stock. In their continued progress of construction they will probably require further public patronage.

The Common School Fund of the State is declared by the Constitution to be a "perpetual fund, the principal of which shall never be diminished by Legislative appropriation, and the interest thereof shall be inviolably appropriated to the support and encouragement of common schools throughout the State and for the equal benefit of all the people thereof." Your attention is called to a faithful observance of the constitution in this respect, and to such amendments of the existing laws as experience may have shown to be proper and necessary to insure a more rigid and strict accountability on the part of public agents and officers to whom is entrusted the management and control of this fund and the annual proceeds arising from it, and to insure also a more general diffusion of its benefits throughout the State.

It will be necessary during your present session to make provision by law, prescribing the mode of choosing electors to vote for President and Vice President of the United States at the election which will take place in 1810, the act of the 19th Feb. 1836, upon that subject, having provided only for the election which took place in that year.

Your attention is called to the propriety of revising the laws, prohibiting the practice of betting on elections. The existing laws declare the offence of betting on elections to be a misdemeanor, punishable by indictment or presentment, but their provisions are found in practice to be inadequate to prevent it. The demoralizing tendency of the practice, as well as the evil influences which it exerts upon the tree and unbiassed exercise of the right of suffrage, have been seen and felt wherever it has prevailed. It begets excitement, engenders strife, and

it but too often happens that those who have stakes at hazard become more interested to secure them than by a dispassionate exercise of suffrage to promote the public good. The same reason exists, and it

possible in a higher degree, to prevent gaming of this character that does to suppress it on games of hazard and address. Betting on elections is usually publicly done, and the evil example upon society is consequently more pernicious. The propriety of the' enactment of such laws as will ellectually prevent and suppress it, is submitted to your consideration.

Different and conflicting rules of constructioa of the constitution and laws in regard to the qualifications of electors to vote at elections, obtains in diflerent parts of the State, and often at different places of voting in the same county. In some counties the right to vote in any election is restricted under the construction given to the constitution and laws, to persons residing in the county in which they offer to vote, and who have so resided for a period of six months immediately preceding the day of election. In other counties under a different construction of the constitution and laws, the right to vote for Representatives and Senators in the State Legislature, in cases where the Representative or Senatorial District is composed of more counties than one, and for Representative to Congress, is allowed to persons residing within the Representative, Senatorial or Congressional District in which they offer to vote. A declaratory law, or Legislative exposition of the provision of the Constitution upon this subject is suggested, so as to make the rule of construction uniform, and the rights of the citizen the same, in every part of the State. If permitted to vote in any county in the State where the voters do not reside, they should be permitted to exercise the same rights in all.

The General Assembly in the year 1832, considering that the incrcasing number oi lunatics in the State had made it necessary for the safe. ty and well being of society, as well as for the comfort and security of those unfortunate beings whom Providence has afflicted with the most severe of all earthly afflictions, passed a law to establish a Lunatic llospital, and made an appropriation for that purpose. At the sessions of 1835-6 and 1837-8 additional appropriations were made with the same object. In pursuance of the act of 1832, and those subsequently passed, a site has been purchased near this city, and suitable buildings have been erected and are now nearly ready for the reception of inmates. To carry into effect the humane intention of your predecessors, I recommend that provision be made by law for the appointment of suitable persons to take charge of the institution, and for the reception comfort and security of such unfortunate persons as may fall within the class for whose benefit it was established.

In closing this communication, it is cause of mutual congratulation that all the elements of prosperity continue to exist in the State.Though suffering the inconveniences of a sudden and temporary derangement of the currency, plenty abounds; labor of every description receives its just reward; we are in the full enjoyment of civil and religious liberty; and, under a benificent and overruling Providence, are

« AnteriorContinuar »