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of the Idiot. The parents and the friends of the many hundred Idiots in the State, seek in vain a refuge, or a school, where their afflicted children or friends may be protected or made useful. The reason is doubtless to be found in the strong impression which has prevailed, that nothing could be done for the improvement of the Idiot. This impression must, however, now be confined to those who are not willing to receive the evidence of what has been successfully accomplished. . He has been taught to articulate, and to talk distinctly, and to bring his passions and appetites into subjection; he has been instructed and made to read, to write, and to sing, and to exercise mechanical labor and skill in various trades. These results induce me to recommend the establishment, by the Legislature, of an Asylum and School for Idiots, on such scale and terms of endowment as your wisdom shall deem best. The operation of the laws of the last session on the subject of Alien Passengers, has been highly satisfactory. It is believed that the objections to the former o laws, on which they were decided by the Supreme Court of the United States to be repugnant to the Federal Constitution, have now been obviated ; whilst the original object of that legislation, the relief and support of diseased or destitute emigrants, have been . attained. The experience of the year has pointed out some imperfections in the details of the act, which do not affect its general principle or leading provisions, but which demand legislative correction. These will probably be pointed out by the Commissioners in their report. The change of the system at the Quarantine, separating the charge of the Marine Hospital from the other duties of the Health Officer, has resulted in a much improved efficiency, economy, and order in the Quarantine establishment. The magnitude of the business devolved upon the Commissioners under these laws, may be conceived from the statement, that 213,552 alien passengers arrived at the port of New-York during eleven months, from 1st January to 1st December, 1849; of whom 2,894 were forwarded by the Commissioners to distant places, where they could meet employment; 7,000 were received into the hospitals at Ward's and Bedlow's Islands, and 3,162 into the Marine Hospital. The average weekly number of patients in the former hospitals exceeded 1,392, and in the latter, 455. Temporary relief was afforded to 16,200 emigrants; and the sum of $43,023.77 was paid to the several counties of the State, to reimburse them for expenses incurred in the relief afforded by them to emigrant poor. This amount does not include the expenses of such counties for any part of December, nor the whole amount for November. The laws for the protection of emigrants from the imposition to
which they are specially subject, immediately on their arrival, have been attended with excellent results, in defending or assisting the helpless and the stranger, who have sought a refuge on our shores. Still, these laws are not perfect—they need further examination and improvement; for which object I earnestly commend them to your consideration.
[SENATE Journal.] 3
It will become part of your duty to consider the necessity which seems to exist of providing more ample, if not more adequate, accommodations for the State Library. When the care of the Library was committed to the Regents of the University in May, 1844, the number of volumes was computed to be about 10,000. In the Catalogue now printing, the Law Books alone exceed 9,700, and the aggregate number of volumes is about 25,000. It is evident that the rooms now used are not capable of meeting this rapid increase which is still progressing. Every part of them is now filled, and it has become difficult to find, or take down many, while hundreds of volumes are locked up in various repositories, for want of sufficient accommodation in the Library rooms. In addition to this, the State has a very valuable and interesting collection of Maps, and will shortly receive many more, illustrative of the progress and history of our country. These should be easy of examination and reference. We have, too, the valuable and extensive collection of . s presented by the Pope, which should be exhibited on the walls of the Library.
Uniting all these considerations, and adding to them the comparatively unsafe condition of the present rooms, in reference to the danger from fire, to which I referred more particularly in a communication to the Legislature last winter, I feel it incumbent upon me to recommend an appropriation for additional, if not other apartments for the use of the Library.
In connection with this subject, it may be remarked that the building now partly occupied by the State Cabinet of Natural History, is totally unfitted for such a purpose. The rooms are arched, and a quantity of space is lost which is much needed for the exhibition of the valuable and extensive collection of specimens which the State has brought together, to illustrate its Natural History. And the trustees are completely stopped in their plans for increase, by the absolute want of room in which to place the very interesting Indian and Natural History collections which are crowding upon them. The State Agricultural Society, from the extension of its collections, needs all the lower rooms of this building.
Should you deem it advisable to authorise the construction of any additional building, it appears very desirable that such erection should be made for the accommodation of both the Library and Cabinet of Natural History, as will meet their wants for some years to come, and by giving to the agricultural society the use of the rooms now occupied by the cabinet, increase the accommodation and the means of usefulness of this valuable association.
I desire to bring to your notice the fact, that we have no complete collection of the colonial laws of New-York in print. The origimals of these laws are in the Secretary of State's office. I cannot doubt that a competent commission could be instituted to superintend such a publication, without any pecuniary compensation. The only expense, exclusive of that of printing, would be a moderate salary for a secretary to do the necessary clerical work, and to arrange the laws in chronological order.
A law passed last winter, appointed three Commissioners of the Code to perform the duties specified in the 17th section of article I. of the Constitution, and authorised the Governor to fill any vacancy which might occur during the recess of the Legislature. Two of these Commissioners have resigned. The resignation of Mr. Spencer was on the 25th of June last; that of Mr. Worden took effect on the 1st day of November. Under the power conferred by the law, I have endeavored to fill the vacancies in a manner calculated to ensure the object contemplated by the act and by the Constitution, and have j the appointments to a number of the most eminent jurists of the state. The vacancies, however, still exist. As they occurred during the recess of the Legislature, the power to fill them under the act is probably with the Governor. But as I have not succeeded in the exercise of the power, before the Legislature has convened, and as, in my opinion, an alteration of the law organising the Commission is essential to its practical success, I respectfully refer the matter to your consideration, and shall abstain from . efforts to fill the Commission during your sittings, or until there shall be an expression of your opinion on the subject. The principal difficulty in filling the existing vacancies, arises from the inadequacy of the compensation allowed, and the limitation of time compared with the magnitude of the labor to be accomplished. The restriction of time imposed by the existing law, is fatal to the accomplishment of the work. The undertaking “to reduce into a written and systematic code the whole body of the law of this state,” is too vast to be accomplished under the pendency of such a pressure, or to be completed by the labors of three men within two years. I therefore recommend an increase of the compensation of the Commissioners, and an extension of the time limited for their continuance in office. It is a subject of not unfrequent complaint, that the due administration of public justice is often impeded in consequence of the present mode of empannelling jurors in criminal cases, and of the exercise of the right of challenge by the traverser, and by the manner of conducting the trial and defence. Trials attended with any notoriety, are apt to involve great consumption of time in the scrutiny of the jury. Weeks .. Consumed in this effort in a single cause; and I am informed by one of the Justices of the Supreme É. that in a trial before him, upwards of four thousand persons were examined in a fruitless endeavor to empannel a jury. I understand that the Commissioners to revise the rules and practice of the courts, will submit to your consideration a proposition intended to obviate the difficulty which has been experienced in this particular. Not having had the opportunity to examine the alterations which they propose, I cannot express an opinion upon their suggestion; but the subject is one of importance, and will, I hope, engage your early attention. The experience of those familiar with the proceedings in the criminal courts, has suggested the propriety of allowing to the prosecution a limited number of peremptory challenges. I am convinced that the ends of justice would thereby be advanced. The allowance of bills of exceptions, is believed to be a principal cause of the delays and protracted trials in criminal cases, and of the occasional failure of justice. Prior to the adoption of the Revised Statutes, criminal trials were reviewed by the courts reserving the point in dispute for the consideration of the Supreme Court on a case made ; when, if the point did not affect the merits, the court was at liberty to disregard it. Upon bills of exception, however, the whole case is not sent up, but only enough for a proper understanding of the single point raised; and is the ruling on that point be erroneous, however immaterial it may be to the main question of guilt or innocence, a new trial must be granted. The effect is, that the judge on the trial, unwilling to embarrass the case by exceptions, or to give the accused the chance to avoid the consequences of a verdict of guilty by exceptions on points really immaterial, is tempted to relax the rules of evidence, and to let in almost any testimony which may be offered. A serious defect exists either in our statutes relating to summary convictions upon the charge of vagrancy, or in the practice under those statutes. These proceedings involve a wide departure from the principle which pervades our whole jurisprudence, and which secures to every person accused of an offence a trial by jury; they are, therefore, justly regarded with jealousy, and should be restrained by stringent rules for the protection of personal liberty. While public policy undoubtedly indicates the necessity of placing under restraint and discipline those who lead an idle life, without employment, and without the visible means of support, it also indicates, with equal certainty, the distinction which should be observed between them and the willfully corrupt. A distinction is recognised by our statutes between different individuals, whom it classes under the general name of “vagrants;” some are recognised as proper objects for the poor house, while others are to be committed to the common jail. But in practice, it is believed that nearly all the commitments for vagrancy are to the county prisons; thus merging the distinction (so essential to justice and to the moral elevation and reformation of the vagrant, as well as to the effective punishment of the criminal,) between poverty and crime; and commingling, in a common disgrace and punishment, those whose chief fault is destitution or perhaps disease, with those who have been convicted of a willful transgression of the law. I have been led to these remarks by an investigation made during the past year, and embodied in the presentment of a grand jury, in which it is represented that of seven hundred and forty-six persons at that time confined in the Penitentiary of the city of New-York, upon the charge of vagrancy, whose commitments had been examined, two hundred and twenty were confined “for matters which do not “ constitute vagrancy under any description of it,” as defined by our statutes, but “because the offence charged is poverty, sickness, or destitution,” while of the whole number of seven hundred and fortysix, only three were lawfully imprisoned. Such a fact calls imperatively for an examination of the statutes under which such transactions have occurred. While it is admittedly a primary duty of the Legislature to enact laws for the punishment of vice, it is no less its duty to remove the causes which frequently lead to the commission of crime. The impressions made upon the youthful mind by the gentle force of parental authority and example, and by the associations of the family circle, are among the most active and enduring of the influences which control the conduct of after life. Much of the vice that we are called upon to deplore, may be traced to the early removal of its subject from the reach of that authority and example, and from the innocent but wholesome associations of a home, however humble. The cause of morality, no less than the dictates of humanity, demand the preservation of the family circle, and the maintenance of the family home, as efficient preventives of vice, and sure and permanent contributors to individual virtue and happiness, and to public prosperity and order. In this view it becomes us to consider whether the causes by which this wholesome influence is often broken up, may not be removed or lessened. Doubtless the most frequent cause of dismemberment of families is found in the pecuniary inability of the parent to maintain his household establishment. The humane and wise policy of the State, many years since, provided an exemption from execution for debt, of sundry articles in favor of persons being householders. The list of articles thus exempted has at various times been enlarged—at all-times in favor of persons being householders, and so as to embrace articles essential to the maintenance of the household establishment, and to prevent the dismemberment of families. And yet the wise policy of the law often fails of its object, and the household is dispersed for want of an abode, wherein the pleasures of an undivided family may alone be left to sweeten the hours of adversity, and to cheer and stimulate its members in their efforts to repair their misfortunes while they retain their virtue. It is this consideration which induces me to suggest a further extension of the present exemption, so as to exempt from sale upon execution, the premises occupied as a Homestead, to a limited value. The most exact observance of the rights of property, and of the inviolability of contracts, should characterize all legislation in a civilized government. An essential feature, therefore, of any law for this purpose, should be its careful and scrupulous avoidance of the violation of any existing o The exemption should not extend to contracts made before the enactment of the law, but should be #. in its operation, and the homestead should not be exempt rom a debt incurred for its purchase. I submit these as among the guards which should attend the exemption; relying, however, upon the wisdom of the Legislature, should it think proper to consider the subject, to suggest and mature