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individual citizens—the security of property-the remedies afforded for the violation of private rights, or the breach of obligations; indeed, the whole subject of statutory law is open for your revision. That the general operation of the statute laws of Michigan, thus far, has been favorable to the welfare of the citizen and the body politic, is too well attested by the universal safety and prosperity of the country to admit of a doubt., Defects and incongruities have, however, been observed in them, and experience has doubtless suggested many salutary reforms which may judiciously be engrafted upon thein, With the work of the reviser, carefully prepared, before you, the duty of passing upon the revision is committed to your hands. The great object of government and of law is to secure the rights and happiness of individuals, and to do this in the inost simple, direct and economical manner possible. For this purpose, the subject of the expenses of government, and of the administration of the laws will deserve careful attention. It may well be questioned whether the machinery of township, county and state administration, may not in some respects be simplified, and some of the offices abolished without detriment to the public interest. I recommend, also, a careful examination of the laws relative to the appointment of officers, with a view to committing to the people themselves, the choice of a larger number of the public servants, A proper graduation of the salaries of officers should also be secured, so as to avoid giving in any case at compensation disproportioned to the labor and responsibility, and ay the same time to bestow a reward sufficiently liberal to enable the public to command the efficient services of the best and ablest men.
In reyising the laws relative to the judiciary, and the proceedings in courts of justice, especial care should be had to establish a system simple and efficient in its operations, economical to the public, and such as shall best secure the rights of parties litigant. I woul also respectfully recommend to your consideation the propriety of dispensing with the trial by jury in all cases, unless one of the parties shall signify his desire 10 have a jury called in the case, and a modification of the rules of evidence requiring the court to hear and determine the question of alleged interest in a witness whose testimony is offered for the jury, and to exclude him if such interest be established. These and many other matters which will readily suggest
themselves are well worthy the consideration of the Legislature, in adopting a revision of the laws. Crude and ill digested innovations, endangering the public interests, should be rejected, while at the same time, a due regard to the general welfare, requires the adoption of all such provisions us manifestly tend to advance the public good, and secure the efficient administration of justice.
The present statutes being familiar to our citizens, and many of them having received a judicial construction, it would be sound policy to retain without alteration such portions of them as are free from objection. Excessive legislation, and constant change in the statutes, have given rise to many inconveniences which have often been attributed to other causes. It is to be hoped that the revision of the laws may be of such a character, as to secure a favorable reception from the people, and also to prevent in future those frequent and unnecessary alterations under which the public interest always suffers. It cannot be expected, however, that any general revision can be adopted and go into operation, although beneficial in all its provisions, without occasioning some inconveniences. Time will be requisite for the community to become familiar with its requirements and its remedies, and to conform themselves and their business to its provisions. It should be remembered by all, that a full and fair trial of such code, when once adopted by the proper authorities, is necessary for the public interest, and that permanency and stability in the provisions of our statutes, are the best security for individual rights.
The disasters which have been brought upon the people of Mich. gan, by the numerous banking institutions created within our limits, have had the effect, for the last few years, to check the granting of such chartered privileges by legislative enactment. Since our state organization, there have been in operation eleven banks under charters granted by the territorial government, and seven under enactments of the State Legislatures. There were also established under the provisions of an act to regulate banking institutions, approved, March fifteenth, 1837, and usually denominated the general banking law, forty-nine associations. By an act of the Legislature, approved February sixteenth, eighteen hundred and forty-two, the corporate rights and privileges of forty.seven off banking these associations were expressly annulled, and provision was made for closing up their
affairs. By another act of the same date, the acts incorporating all the chartered banks then in operation, except the bank of St. Clair, the Bank of River Raisin, and the Farmers' and Mechanics' Bank of Michigan, were expressly, and by name repealed, reserving, howev- , er, to five of them, the right to retain their corporate powers upon certain specified terms. The Oakland County Bank hasavailed itself of this right, and is now in operation. Or the banks above named, which were not embraced in the repealing act before mentioned, the Bank of St. Clair has ceased to do business. The Michis gan State Bank, and the Bank of Michigan, it is understood, still claim a corporate existence, notwithstanding the repeal of their charlers by the act above referred to.
The Report of the Attorney General, upon whom are now devolved the duties formerly pertaining to the office of Bank Commissioner, will be laid before you, and will exhibit the situation of the banks, five in number, now doing, or claiming to do, à banking business in the state.
The power of the Legislature to repeal the general banking law, or to annul the corporate existence of any association organized under it, has not been questionel. This right is expressly reserved by the terms of the act. The power to terminate the existence of a corporation deriving its powers from a special charter, by a repeal of the act of incorporation, where no such power is expressly reserved, presents a different question. Under the weig'it of numerous judicial quthorities in the Federal and State Courts, the Supreme Court of the State have held that the act above named, purporting to repeal the special charters of the banks enumerated therein, is unconstitutional, and therefore void. The proper method of accomplishing the same objects, where corporations have violated their charters, is, by a judgment in a court of law, or decree in chancery. The power of the Legislature to simplify the proceedings in cases of alleged violation, cannot be doubted, and I respectfully recommend to your careful revision, the law upon this subject. Special privileges, or exemption from liability, granted by a charter to an association of individuals, which, as mere individual citizens, the same persons would not possess, should be held under the strict terms of their grant. Any violation of its provisions, or manifest perversion of the powers con
ferred, or any use of them not contemplated by the charter, should be deemed a forfeiture of all such rights and powers, and the method of enforcing this forfeiture should, if possible, be made as direct and simple as the most ordinary proceeding to enforce a legal individual right.
Besides these existing bank charters, there are also on our statute books, many other charters granted for various purposes, in some of which forfeiture of the chartered privileges had been incurred by non-user, and in others by misuser. In some of these cases, the power to repeal by legislative enactment is reserved by the charter itself. In such cases it should be promptly exercised. In others, a simplification of the proceedings to obtain a judicial forfeiture would secure their speedy determination.
My cwn clear convictions of the inexpediency of allowing charters, for whatever object granted, to remain in force for years after the object of the association is relinquished by those who obtain them, or a forfeiture has been incurred, induce me to press this matter upon your serious attention. We have already too often witnessed the resuscitation of corporations, which had long ceased to do business, and which have been revived, greatly to the public detriment. Upon no subject has public opinion been more progressive than ,upon that of corporate powers and privileges. Every instance of the perversion of those powers, every failure of such corporation to meet its pecuniary liabilities, and every instance in which powers thus granted have infringed upon individual rights, have taught us a lesson of caution. The sad experience of the last twenty years, has surprized the most ardent advocates of such institutions, and given the American people a knowledge upon the subject, which has wrought a wonderful change in public sentiment. He would little deserve the name of patriot, who, having the public interests committed to his charge, should fail to profit by the light thus shed upon his path. The various safeguards, once deemed ample to secure the people from loss, have proved to be totally insufficient for that purpose. Check after check has been tried, and still new limitations and restrictions are found necessary. It is then obviously important to leave upon the statute book no obsolete grant of special privileges, which may be assumed by individuals at pleasure, to the manifest injury of the community.
The experience of Michigan has been such in reference to banking incorporations, as to render it doubtful at least, whether the public good can be subserved by any attempt under the fostering protection of legislative enactment, to create a paper substitute for a gold and silver currency, or to give to the banking business the privileges of a special charter. The ruinous evils produced by an inflated and changeable currency are undeniable. of the sixty-seven banks and banking associations in operation since our State organization, with but a single exception, none have continued in constant operation and with untarnished credit. Most of them have become bankrupt, their assets have passed into the hands of receivers, their chartered rights have become forfeited, and their paper to a vast amount has proved valueless in the hands of our citizens. These circumstances, still fresh in our memory, afford little inducement again to embark in the hazardous experiment. They should at least admonish us to peculiar caution in listening to any application having for its object the granting of such privileges.
In connection with this subject, I would also call your attention to the fact, that, under the present law, any individual creditor or stockholder, may file a bill in chancery against a corporation for a violation of its charter, with a view to obtain a decree of forseiture. These proceedings by individuals, are usually instituted for the purpose of obtaining satisfaction of some private claim, and may be discontinued at the pleasure of the complainant. I would respectfully suggest, that such proceedings, having for their object a decree of forfeiture, should be commenced at the suit of the Attorney General only, or at least, when commenced by a private individual, that notice should be given to that officer, and a discontinuance should not be had without his approbation.
During the past year, thirty-seven convicts have been received into the state penitentiary; thirty-five have been discharged ; four escaped, and one deceased. The whole number of prisoners at present, is one hundred and nineteen. There has been drawn from the treasury during the year, for the support of convicts, and for the sał aries of officers, the sum of thirteen thousand, one hundred and thirty-three dollars, and twenty-one cents. There have. also been expended for the same purpose, sums received from contractors and oth