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such provisions as will carefully protect the rights of the creditor, and guard against the commission of fraud, while they may effect much in the cause of humanity toward the prevention of crime, the relief of poverty, and the support and education of the young and the helaless. †. policy of our government and of our institutions is wisely adverse to large standing armies. Our reliance is therefore upon the militia organized and armed in accordance with the requirements of the Federal Constitution, and the laws of Congress in pursuance thereof. The condition of this force within our State is highly satisfactory. Prior to the enactment of the law of 1847, for the reorganization of the militia, the system had become obnoxious to large numbers in the community, and the militia service was regarded with disfavor, except, in the various uniformed corps, which did not exist to any great extent out of the cities and the large towns: and the trainings of the militia came to be regarded as an uselessly onerous burthen to the people. The object of the militia laws of 1847 and 248, was to provide a thorough enrolment of all persons in the State liable to military duty —to offer larger inducements and thereby to increase the o: of uniformed companies—to advance their efficiency, and at the same time to lessen the expense both in time and money to which the members were subject, and to relieve the mass of the citizens from the burthens of the previous law. The organization under these new laws progresses but slowly. Like every new system, this has its defects, which were not foreseen at the time of its enactment, but which it is hoped can be remedied by the Legislature, as they are developed in practice. Some of these defects will be pointed out, and the remedy will be suggested, in the report of the Adjutant General, to which I solicit your early attention. It is estimated that there are near 300,000 persons in the State liable to military duty, and yet the number enrolled the present year is returned at only 87,595. These returns are very imperfect. They embrace but about one-third of the State. It is particularly important that you direct your attention to such an amendment of the laws as will ensure full and accurate returns, and an early organization of the entire body of the militia. Notwithstanding the delays and difficulties which have embarrassed a new system, 233 uniform companies have been organized under the late acts, in addition to others previously in existence—thus presenting a strong, efficient and reliable force, constantly increasing, read and willing to sustain the laws of the State, and to fulfil the duties imposed upon them by the Constitution of the United States. The report of the Commissary General will present to you the condition of the State property entrusted to the care of this officer. The laws relating to this department require a thorough revision. I am induced to believe that some alterations will be suggested in the report of the Commissary General, to which I beg . to call your attention.
Few subjects affect more intimately the interests and convenience of the people, than the means of safe, speedy, and widely extended social and commercial communication. There are now in operation within the State, twenty-five railroad companies, and upwards of eleven hundred miles of road, upon which daily vast numbers of human beings are carried. In judging of the future, it would be difficult to form an adequate conception of the immense stream of travel and commerce which will flow over these great highways, at no distant day, when they shall have penetrated the yet sequestered regions of the State, and when the trade of the great West, still in its infancy, shall have reached its full growth and magnitude. It is the duty of a wise government to encourage enterprises which tend, like our railways, to approximate distant parts of the State, to destroy sectional interests, to explore and bring into social and commercial relations districts hitherto almost inaccessible, and to increase largely the sale of agricultural products, by bringing the best market near to the door of the producer. So, on the other hand, the great and rapid extension of the railway system calls for such judicious legislative regulations as will more adequately secure the protection of life, and the largest degree of safety, coupled with comfort, and the requisite rate of speed.
The frequency of accidents and collisions naturally leads to enquiry into the causes, and the proper remedy to be applied to the prevention of so great an evil. It cannot be doubted that a large proportion of these accidents arises from the use of a single track, i. cars running in opposite directions. The subject is eminently worthy of legislative attention, with a view to afford every just facility for the construction of railroads, and at the same time to enforce prudent regulations for the security of human life.
While the power of the Legislature to authorise, by a general law, the taking of private property for public use, in other cases than where the constitution sanctions a delegation of local legislative authority to the boards of supervisors, may well be questioned, there exist strong reasons why the exercise of so important a branch of sovereign prerogative should not be surrendered, in this way, to private associations without great caution. Provision, has, however, already been made by law, for the exercise of the right to decide the public utility of highways, turnpikes and plank roads, by the local authorities of the counties within or through which such improvements are designed, and under proper restrictions it might be sound policy to extend the benefit of similar provisions to the construction of railroads. Beside the plain and strict compliance with the provisions of the constitution which such a system would present, in connection with the general law authorising companies to incorporate themselves, it would take from these corporations, every ingredient of exclusive privilege, and would relieve the Legislature from the weight and burthen of a large amount of duty j upon it under the present system, and would prevent, in a great degree, the interference of speculating enterprises, or of measures prompted by the anticipation of gain, with the consideration and the decision of other questions of public importance.
It is with no slight degree of pain that I feel it a duty again to refer to a subject which is attracting the earnest attention, and the most anxious solicitude of the people, and which continues to excite the strongest sectional prejudices, and forms perhaps the . speck in our political horizon whence any danger can be reasonably apprehended to affect the internal harmony of our confederacy. The acquisition by the United States of a large extent of territory contiguous to that portion of the States wherein the institution of domestic slavery continues to be tolerated, and the necessity of providing some form of government for these new accessions to the jurisdiction of the general government, have furnished the occasion, which seems to be inevitable, of determining the question whether the institution of slavery shall be permitted to extend itself within the bounds of these newly acquired possessions, from which it has been excluded by the municipal laws of the power which at the time had the sovereign jurisdiction over the territory, and from which the United States acquired its title and its right. The discussion and the decision of this exciting question, should be approached in the spirit of kindness and of mutual and charitable toleration for differences of opinion, necessarily resulting from differences of education, of habits, and of the association by which men are surrounded, and with the determination to resist and to check all tendencies, from whatever quarter they may proceed, toward fanatical agitation, sectional excitement, or partizan advancement. A firm and decidcd expression of our own convictions of right, and even of our unalterable determination of action, if o; made in this spirit, is not only justifiable, but proper, and can give no just cause of of: fence to Ho: with whom we differ on this one point, while united by the strongest bonds of brotherhood in the recollection of a common and a glorious union in the past, in the realization of a common interest in the present, and in the hope of a brilliant and an enduring future of peace, of union, and of prosperity to our common country and to her cherished institutions. It is no new declaration in behalf of the state of New-York, that she regards slavery as a moral, a social and a political evil. At the time of the separation of the States from the government of Great Britain, the people of New-York, in common with most of the other states of the ū. found the institution of slavery among the evils which had been fastened upon them by the avarice or the misgovernment, or neglect of the parent country. Appreciating it then, as she now does, as an evil and a wrong, our state, early, and while the slave population was large, and bore the proportion of more than one to fifteen of the free population commenced a course of legislation for the extinction of slavery within her borders. Regarding it as a domestic relation founded upon and limited to the range of the territorial laws of our state, dependent for its continuance and its regulation upon the legislation of the several states, New-York exercised her exclusive power over the institution within her own borders, but has carefully avoided any interference with the right of other states to regulate their internal policy in their own way; not because her repugnance to human bondage, or her attachment to the principles of universal freedom, were confined to the limits of her own jurisdiction; but because of her attachment to the Union of the States, and because of her solemn regard for the compact into which she had entered with those States. But while she has thus scrupulously abstained from all interference with the domestic institutions and the internal legislation of her sister states, her voice has been frequently raised in behalf of human freedom, and in opposition to the extension of slavery beyond the limits of those states within which it has heretofore been sanctioned. Her expressions on this point have been frequent and emphatic, and their repotition at this time will not be unexpected. At the time of the adoption of the Federal Constitution, slavery existed in twelve of the thirteen states of the Union. From six of the twelve it has since been excluded by the legislation of the states themselves. Seventeen new States have been added to the confederacy, nine of which recognize and sanction slavery, while only eight have come into the Union with laws prohibiting involuntary servitude. The admission of five of these eight free states was guaranteed by a compact anterior to the adoption of the Federal Constitution, made between the States of the Confederacy and the people residing in the territory northwest of the River Ohio, leaving only three new free States which have been admitted into the Union whose admission was not contemplated and assured at the adoption of the Constitution. Of the nine new slaveholding States, five have been formed out of territory which has been acquired by the United States since the adoption of the constitution, and which, consequently, could not of right claim the benefit of the compromises of that instrument, which, nevertheless, have been gratuitously extended to them. And one of these five States has come into the Union with a clause in the resolutions whereby it was annexed, under which, at some future day, four additional slaveholding States may ask admittance into the Union. However deeply New-York may have regretted the extension of an institution which she solemnly believes to involve a great moral wrong, and to be attended with social and political ills, in her loyalt and devotion to the Union, she has refused to consider the political advantages which have been so repeatedly conceded, and has assented to an extension of the compromises of the Constitution, in order to bring into the Union new elements of strength and of greatness, to open new fields for enterprise, and to develope the national power and the capacity of man for self-government. n this assent to an extension of the compromises of the Constitution, while again and again yielding important political advantages, New-York has made no concession of principle. The institution of Slavery existed within the territory out of which these new States were formed, before it came under the jurisdiction of the United States, and by virtue of previously i. ordinances of the power from which our Government derived its title.
- - - - f * -- of - . . ! --- *- : o Holding that the Government of the United States has no right to interfere either towards the establishment or the abolition of this domestic relation within the limits of the several States, New-York reaffirmed her constitutional belief when she renewed the evidences of her attachment to the Union, and of her disposition to yield advantages, by assenting to the admission of these new States. She did not stop to consider the magnitude nor the frequency of the concessions which she was making, and the merely political advantages which she was voluntarily relinquishing;-nor does she now consider them. But she does stop before consenting to be a party to what she deems a wrong, and such she considers would be the attempt to establish Slavery, under the sanction, or with the assent of the General Government, within any portion of the Territories of the United States whence it is now legally excluded. The General Government has made four separate acquisitions of territory. By each of the three former, slave territory was acquired, and from these acquisitions, five new slaveholding States have already been admitted into the Union, with an implied promise of four more, at some future day. The last accession of territory is the only one whereby we have acquired jurisdiction over soil whence Slavery was, by existing laws, entirely prohibited. By the treaty with Mexico, the territories of New No. and California came to us free; and the laws of Mexico abolishing Slavery, which were in force at the time of the cession, continue to be operative, and are not affected by the transfer of sovereignty over the territory. The people of California have recently taken initial steps toward admission into the Union as a sovereign State. By the Constitution which they have adopted, they have embodied, in their organic law, the #. of slavery or involuntary servitude. And a petition was presented to Congress, during the past winter, in behalf of a portion of the people of New Mexico, asking for the establishment of a Territorial Government, which should protect them against the institution of domestic slavery. The voice of the people of É. has thus been expressed in favor of Freedom ; and there is little room for doubt that New Mexico sympathises in sentiment with California. Congress cannot, without a transgression of its constitutional powers, establish slavery within this territory; nor can it, without the violation of the principles of justice, and an utter disregard of the wishes of the people, and of the protection which it is bound to extend over the territory to which it has acquired the title, refuse admission to the new State, or countenance or sanction, in any way, the introduction of slavery within the territory. And without the sanction and the assent of Congress, these newly acquired territories are secured to Freedom, and must remain as they now are, exempt from the institution of Slavery. The emphatic voice of the Legislature of the State of New York, expressed in the resolutions passed at their last two sessions, and the nearly unanimous sentiment of the people of our State, have declared that under no circumstances will their assent be given to the extension of Slavery into these territories, from which it is now excluded.