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quire. A narrow and literal construction of the resolution might seem to restrict inquiry to simple accounting ; while a more liberal, and obviously a more rational interpretation, would permit and require an investigation of every case of unjust acquisition and detention of the public funds; for all funds obtained or detained by fraud, covin or deceit, should be accounted for.
For every practical purpose, whatever the law permits, in the appropriation of the public funds to private use, it com. mands. It will be therefore sufficient for our present purpose, to notice some of the abuses, which the law now in force permits, or does not prevent. Such an investigation will furnish a practical commentary on the law, and be a safe guide, to the remedies, which the defects of the present law require.
It has been the policy of the government to leave open numerous avenues to the public treasury. As the law now is, a claimant, wishing to obtain an order on the Treasurer for an alledged claim on the state, may apply to the County Court; to the Supreme Court; to the Quarter Master General; to the Auditor ; to the committee on Debentures, and to the General Assembly; nor are these all the avenues open to the cupidity of claimants on the public treasury. If the claimant be denied at one department, he may resort to another. If the claim be allowed in part at one department, he may accept the allowance pro tanto, and present the claim anew, at another department, to be again allowed, and thus abstract from the public treasury an amount commensurate, with his own views of the justice of his claim, or the demands of his avarice.
If a claim have been allowed by the legislature, in a spirit of compromise, with an express proviso, that it shall be a final settlement of the claim, the claimant has but to wait till the transaction is forgotten, or other men come into power, to present it again for a second or third allowance, as the conscience of the claimant will allow.
The laws now in force do not prevent such practices, but all these abuses can be, and have been practiced under the existing laws, and those in force at the time of the revision. It is not less true of the Treasury, than of a fortress, that the fewer the avenues to it, the more easily will it be defended.
To illustrate the operation of the law in practice, the fol. lowing facts may be stated, as having come under the immediate observation of the undersigned, or so far within his knowledge as to leave no doubt of their truth.
A claim was presented to the proper department for allowance; it was disallowed, with the offer to refer it to the General Assembly, for their consideration. The reference was declined, and the claim withdrawn. It was subsequently presented at another department and allowed. Had the claim been referred to the General Assembly, the reasons for the disallowance might have been considered. In such a state of things, it is apparent, that a claimant has much the advantage of the government, for though many times defeated, he may ultimately obtain, while no judgment except the last, will avail 10 protect the government against a subsequent allowance.
Another claim was presented for allowance; it was considered and allowed at such a sum as was supposed to be just, and no appeal was taken. The claimant's order was paid at the Treasury, and in the mean time, the same claim was again presented at another department, the same reasons urged for allowance, as had been before ussd, and the claim allowed at a much larger sum, than the first allowance.
Claims against the state have been frequently allowed by the General Assembly, with an express proviso, that the sum allowed should be in full satisfaction for all demand on the government for the alledged cause; the condition has been accepted, the money received, aud still in a very brief period, the claim has been again presented and allowed, and in some instances at a greater sum.
In other cases, dishonest attempts to obtain more than one compensation for property, taken for public use, or for services rendered the state, have been defeated, by the memory of an aged member of the Legislature, assisted or refreshed by a recurrence to a musty journal of that body.
Another practice has obtained of preferring the same claim before the General Assembly from year to year; and though the subject has been, upon as full and impartial examination, as any legislative proceeding can be, finally decided to be without merits, still the claimant has contined to press his demand, to the great delay and hindrance of the public business, and probably to his own damage, until some committee has
fore an end of all. In this latter which
reported to allow it, as a mere expedient to dispose of a troublesome subject, rather than from its justice.
Between individual litigants, a judgment recovered in a court of justice, or before arbitrators, or an accord and satis. faction, is to the parties s an end of all strife" ; but not so between claimants and the government. In this latter case, the demand will be urged from year to year, during all which time the reasons against allowance are fast fading away, while the constant vigilance of the claimant is accumulating reasons for allowance, which did not exist, when first presented. Could a board be constituted, clothed with legal and equitable authority, finally to dispose of all such claims upon the government, it would seem to be promotive of justice, and prevent the loss of much valuable time of the Legislature. There would seem to be no good reason, why a claimant upon the government should be permitted perpetually to urge his claim against it, after such investigation and judgment had, as would be final and conclusive between individuals. If a claim has been fairly adjusted and paid, all will allow, that the Legislature should be exempted from further attention to the subject. So, too, if on an impartial investigațion it be found io be destitute of merits. If a claimant will continue to petition, the petition may be received, and these facts appearing, the Legislature in justice should be discharged from further attention to the subject.
The establishment of such a board would not conflict at all with the right of petition, and would further the ends of justice. Many petitions for remuneration from the public Treasury require judicial investigation, and whenever the ju. dicial functions of government can be exercised, separate and distinct from the Legislature, it is desirable, that it be so done. A claim may be presumed to be as dispassionately considered by a board constituted expressly to investigate public claims, as by a committee of the Legislature. If it be urged, that a government should be liberal to claimants, upon its bounty or its justice, it should not be forgotten, that every cent allowed beyond strict justice, is so much wrongfully wrested from a taxpaying community; and that liberality on the one hand, becomes extortion on the other. In such case the inquiry is one, which may be much better settled by the cool and calm deliberations of a judicial body, than by a committee of the Legislature, subjected to the influences of party, the press of public business and other causes, but illy calculated to aid the mind, in coming to a just decision on an important question.
Another defect in the law at present in force, is the absence of an uniform rule of allowance, for services of the like character. The judges of the county courts are authorized to "allow and tax any reasonable sum for cost and expenses of arresting, pursuing, detaining, and transport any person, who have been convicted of any erime in this state.” Also to allow sheriffs and constables accounts, for arresting and transporting prisoners, apprehended on warrant charged with some crime. In these cases different rules of allowance have been adopted in different counties. In some, a strict construction of the words "costs and expenses” has been supposed to com. port best with the intention of the Legislature, and nothing has been allowed the person apprehending the felon, for his time ; while in other counties allowance has extended to cover not only “cost and expenses,” but the time of the pursuer also. A charge for apprehending a prisoner escaping from jail, through the insufficiency of the jail or the carelessness of the jailor, has heen allowed and paid from the State Treasury. In neither contingency should the payment have been made from the State Treasury. The expenses of apprehending, detaining, and transporting persons apprehended on criminal warrants, has greatly augmented within a few years, New items of charge have crept in; the prisoner has, from one pretext or another been in the custody of keepers, for several days in succession, and bills have been presented and paid, containing charges for boarding prisoner, for keepers, for tavern expenses, &c. greatly exceeding former allowances.
That abuses in the allowance of claims, growing out of the administration of our criminal jurisprudence, have crept in, may be inferred from the following facts. The amount paid court orders for the year, ending November 1838, was $ 16,298 33. The amount paid, from November 1838, to Septernber 30th, 1839, was $20,405 94. The amount paid from September 30th, 1839, to September 30th, 1840, was $26,020 24; and the amount paid for the year ending Sept. 30, 1841, was $31,726 63.
The examination of the Treasurer's books, thus presents the striking fact, of a pretty unilorm increase of payments made on court orders for the above named five years. The
balance paid court orders during the year ending November 1838, over and above the amount paid into the Treasury by State's Attorneys was
$12,424 26 Balance for 1839 was
15,079 86 Balance for 1840 “
24,215 97 And balance for 1841 was
Thus while there has been a very considerable increase of expenditure in the payment of court orders, there is witnessed a diminution of the amount of moneys paid into the Treasury by State's Attorneys. From an examination of the returns of state causes, ihere appears to be no considerable increase of state prosecutions, on the criminal dockets, of the courts, nor has the number of convicts in our penitentiary, for the period under consideration, materially increased. It is hence inferred, that the excess of expenditure, for that period, is to be attributed to some other cause than to the increase of criminal prosecutions.
There is noticible a marked disproportion, between the amount of court orders paid at the Treasury, originating in different counties.
In the year 1841, the amount of sheriff's bills paid in court orders, for the county of Windsor, was $288 99 only. The dockets of the courts were unusually crowded, even for that county, and two pannels of jurors were summoned each term. In another county in the state, consisting of a population but a fraction over one half that of Windsor county, the sheriff's bills paid in court orders that year amounted to $984 75, being an excess of alınost 400 per cent. over the amount paid for the like service, in Windsor county, though the population of the latter county exceeds that of the former almost 50 per cent. The result is, that the sheriffs in one county are paid $7,61, while those of the other are paid $1,00, or in that proportion.
This great disproportion between these two Counties cannot be reasonably charged wholly to the different amount of business done. Something may be presumed to be attributable to some innovation in charging and allowance of accounts.
Another defect, in the law now in force, is, that in some cases it secures no accountability from persons entrusted with the public funds, nor does it secure even a record of the prop