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December 10, 1867.
OF THE MAJORITY OF THE COMMITTEE ON THE
SALT SPRINGS OF THE STATE.
The Committee on the salt springs of the State deem it important, for a proper understanding of this subject, to submit a brief statement showing the relations which the State sustains to these springs.
The salt springs are the property of the State. By the treaties of 1788 and 1795, the State acquired the title to the lands containing these salines, of the Indians, including a territory of more than one mile in width around the Onondaga lake. Previous to this time, small quantities of salt, of an inferior quality, had been made from brine obtained from shallow excavations in the earth near the margin of the lake.
The first act concerning the salt springs was passed in 1797. It was therein provided that the reservation should be laid out into suitable and convenient lots containing some ten or fifteen acres each, and that leases should be given for the occupancy of these lots for the term of three years, to such persons as had or would erect salt works thereon, of a certain specified capacity, and pay the State a rent or duty of four cents for every bushel of salt made from the [Con. No. 156.]
brine thus obtained. This act also defined the rights and privileges of manufacturers, and provided for the appointment of a State superintendent to collect the duties and enforce the regulations therein specified.
The quantity of salt manufactured that year was only 25,474 bushels.
The demand for salt continued to increase until it became necessary to sink deeper wells and raise the brine by machinery.
In 1812, the Legislature reduced the duty to three cents per bushel, and appropriated two acres of land for the purpose of making salt by solar evaporation. The total production of that year was 221,011 bushels.
By the act of 1817, the duty on salt was increased to twelve and a half cents per bushel, and the Superintendent was required to report and pay quarterly to the Commissioners of the Canal Fund.
The Constitution of 1821, provided that the duty on salt should not be reduced below twelve and a half cents per bushel, until after the full and complete payment of principal and interest on the money borrowed, or to be borrowed for the construction of the Erie and Champlain canals. This rate of duty continued to be collected and paid over as directed by the act of 1817, and required by the Constitution, until, by an amendment of that instrument in this respect in 1833, the Legislature was authorised to reduce the duty on salt to six cents per bushel, and pay the same to the treasury of the State to the credit of the General Fund.
The increased demand for salt consequent upon opening up the country by the construction of the Erie canal, in conjunction with the annoying difficulties which had long existed among the salt manufacturers in regard to their respective rights to the use of the brine, and the necessity of furnishing a more adequate supply influ. enced the Legislature, by act of 1825, to direct the Superintendent to take possession of all the wells, pumps and other machinery then on the reservation for supplying brine, and provide that thereafter the brine should be furnished at the expense of the State. Previous to the last above mentioned date, the wells were sunk by the manufacturers, who were also required to furnish the machinery necessary
for raising and distributing the brine, at their own expense. No private wells were permitted on the reservation from that time. The duties of the State Superintendent, which heretofore had been confined mainly to the inspection of salt and the collection of the revenues, were by this act greatly enlarged. Additional officers were appointed to assist him, in sinking new wells and providing and superintending the machinery necessary to raise and furnish to the manufacturers a full supply of brine, in accordance with the priority of the leases for the lots which they respectively occupied. Under this arrangement, the production of salt was materially increased, as will appear from the superintendent's reports. In 1828, 1,160,888 bushels were manufactured.
A commendable zeal has ever been manifested on the part of the State to improve the quality as well as to increase the quantity of salt made from these springs. As early as 1822, the State offered and paid a bounty of three cents per bushel for all coarse or solar salt that should be sent to the Hudson River or to Lake Erie, or that should be shipped from Oswego to Canada, and that manufacturers of coarse salt should be allowed a preference in the distribution of the brine. Repeated and expensive chemical experiments for improving the quality and lessening the cost of its production, have been made at the expense of the State.
On the assumption that a sufficient sum of money had been received from the duties on the manufacture of salt, as established by the act of 1817, and incorporated into the Constitution of 1821, to discharge the canal debt of the State, together with the fact that a large reduction in the tariff had been made on foreign salt by the general government, the Legislature was allowed, by an amendment of that instrument in 1833, to reduce the duty on salt; but such reduction should not be below six cents per bushel, which reduction was perfected at the next session of the Legislature.
By a subsequent amendment of the Constitution in 1835, the duties on salt were restored to the General Fund.
By the terms of the amendment of 1835, the Legislature was reinvested with the power to regulate the amount of duty that should be imposed on salt " whenever a sufficient sum of money had been received and invested to discharge the canal debt." That amendment
also provided that the canal tolls on salt should not be reduced until such debt had been fully paid and discharged. To evade these em. barassing requirements, in 1841 an act was passed authorizing a " drawback” on the salt duties, which was denominated a bounty. In 1843, by an amendment, the provisions of the above mentioned act were extended to lead, coal and gypsum, which paid no duties to the treasury. Under this bounty law, there has been paid from the Treasury of the State the sum of $417,101. A bounty was also paid by the State upon the transportation of salt barrels carried upon the canals. In 1846, the Finance Committee of the Senate, in their report recommending a repeal of the act of 1841, giving a bounty on salt, say: "The principle upon which the law in question is founded, is believed to be wholly indefensible. The price of salt to the consumer should be the cost of its manufacture, the duty paid to the State, and the expense of its transportation. Those residing nearest the works have a natural advantage over those who reside more remote. The price of salt should be enhanced in proportion to the distance at which the consumer resides from the place of its manufacture ;” and conclude their report by recommending the repeal of the bounty law, and in favor of a duty of two cents a bushel on salt. By the subsequent action of the Legislature on the above mentioned report, the bounty law was repealed, and the duty on salt reduced to one cent per bushel; the immediate effect of which was to reduce the revenue which the State obtained from the manufacture of salt from $230,014.86 in 1846, to $39,513.51 in 1847.
The law "concerning the Salt Springs and the manufactnre of salt,” in force at the present time, was passed in 1859. It sets out with a recital of the provisions of the present Constitution on that subject, and declares that "there shall be collected and paid upon all salt manufactured in this State a duty of one cent per bushel of fifty-six pounds, which duty shall be paid into the General Fund.” By this act, the possession of all the real estate and personal property belonging to the people of the State, connected with the Salt Works and Salt Springs, together with the “care and superintendence of the Salt Springs and the manufacture and inspection of salt
upon the Reservation," are vested in a Superintendent to be appointed by the Governor and Senate, and hold his office for three years. He is authorized to appoint deputies and assistants and establish such rules and regulations as he may deem expedient from
time to time. He is also required “ to provide such additional wells, pumps, reservoirs, aqueducts and machinery as shall be needful for supplying the manufacturers of salt with brine in the largest quantity and of the best quality," and report to the Comptroller at the end of each fiscal year. The 44th section of this act makes it the duty of the Superintendent to lease for a term of thirty years from June 20th, 1859, the several salt lots on the Reservation, the fee of which is in the State, for the purpose of manufacturing salt, subject only to the regulations prescribed by law, reserving to the State the power of vacating such lease at any time by paying a reasonable value for such manufactories and their necessary appendages.
By this act the vexed question in regard to the priority of right to the use of the brine was also settled, by declaring that “no distinction shall be made in the distribution of brine, but all the erections which were in existence on the 15th day of April, 1858, shall be considered equally entitled to a supply of water from the springs ; but in case there shall be an insufficiency of brine to supply all such erections, then the Superintendent shall classify the same in such a manner as to furnish a full supply of water to each of such erections an equal portion of the time. And the Superintendent shall, during the months of July and August, classify favorably to the erections for the manufacture of solar salt; but such classification shall not give said erections a supply for more than an equal portion of the time as above mentioned."
The act from which the above extracts are made, is the law now in force on this subject, and is a codification of former statutes, with numerous amendments and additions.
The present constitutional provision in regard to the salt springs and the lands connected there with, may be found in section seven of article seven of the Constitution of 1846, as follows:
" The Legislature shall never sell or dispose of the salt spriugs belonging to this State. The land contiguous thereto, and which may be necessary and convenient for the use of the salt springs, may be sold by authority of law and under the direction of the Commissioners of the Land Office, for the purpose of investing the moneys arising therefrom in other lands alike convenient, but, by such sale and purchase, the aggregate quantity of these lands shall not be diminished.''