Imagens das páginas

of the people, and plunder the treasury, ad-libitum, by the force of its own provisions—that if innocent individuals became public creditors, under its solemn guaranties, it would be thought to be a monstrous violation of the public faith, to interpose so rickety an “obstacle” as the Constitution to their prejudice, and thus, from the necessity of preserving the public faith, the bill would be permitted to run its course without interruption. These considerations are always potential with governments, and they become doubly so when the strong bonds of interest encircle the sinews of labor, and the leprous distilment of public corruption has penetrated all classes of the commonwealth. If this bill shall pass, in all human probability, nine millions of dollars of bank bills, resting on the funds represented by these “revenue certificates” for their basis and security, will be scattered broad-cast over the State, and will be found in the hands of the people, who receive money in small amounts, and pay it out for daily subsistence, as well as in those of the more active and enterprising, who mould public opinion to their purposes, and direct it by exciting the apprehensions of the less intelligent. When such a combination of interests, much of it honest but ill-directed, and much of it knavish and corrupt, shall be brought to bear on this question, who will be found to stand by the Constitution and breast the storm 2 Who will be found with courage commensurate to the crisis, to stand up in the Legislature of the state, and oppose the authority of the Constitution to the daring and flagitious robberies of this bill? History answers, no man. No, not one 5th. It is submitted that the 10th section of this bill cannot be constitutionally adopted, at this time. Whether it can be in 1854, depends on a contingency that cannot now be known, and the present Legislature can make no disposition of the revenues, which may, or may not, be diverted to supply the deficiencies of the general fund, until the period has arrived, when it may be determined that the unappropriated revenues will not be sufficient for the ordinary expenses of the government. The Legislature can make no binding provision on that subject, until the year 1854. Although this section is not a very important one, nevertheless it is an attempt to do what cannot be constitutionally done. I have examined all the provisions of this bill, which the time allowed me by the Senate has permitted; and I have come to the conclusion, unhesitatingly, that the whole scheme is a direct, open and palpable infraction of the Constitution. The sections examined in detail, are harmonious parts of a system, and I hesitate not to say, a system of bold and daring aggression upon the rights of the people, and one which deserves the condemnation and reproach of all just men. The battle for financial integrity was fought in this State in 1842, and again in 1846, and resulted in the triumph of sound and correct principles. The war is again renewed by this bill, but a new and deeply interesting element mingles in the contest. The preservation of a constitutional government is involved in this issue; and although it is by no means the first attempt which has been made to overleap the barriers set by the people, to protect themselves against the rapacity of irresponsible power, it is the last effort which can be made in behalf of the fundamental law of the land. The breach made by this bill is too wide to be closed or defended, and when the pledged funds of the State can be invaded in very contempt of the Constitution by which they are surrounded, and should be protected—and that too, by the men who have solemnly sworn to guard this trust, and respect the instrument which declares it to be “sacred,” our hopes of the future perish within us, and our confidence in the fidelity of the representative, and in the power of the Constitution by which he is created, withers and dies. I have the consolation of being able to reflect, that during the whole of this struggle, I have been upon the ramparts, and stood firmly by the right, and now again I am cheered by your indulgence. Your kindness has permitted me to declare my opinion of this measure. I have done so, boldly, but I hope respectfully. I have done what I have conceived to be a solemn duty, and I have an abiding conviction, that come what will, yours will be done also. Respectfully submitted, L. S. CHATFIELD, Attorney General.

Protest of the Twelve Senators.

President of the Senate :

SIR —The undersigned members of the Senate of the State of New York, consider the bill now about to be put to a final vote, authorizing a loan of nine millions of dollars on a pledge of “the remainder of the canal revenues in each fiscal year,” as clear, direct and flagrant violation of the plain and intelligible financial provisions of the Constitution. The 12th section of the 7th article of that instrument, and which we were all sworn to support, when we took our seats in this Senate, declares that, except the debts specified in the 10th and 11th sections of that article, (which are debts to meet casual deficits or failures of revenue, or for expenses not provided for, not exceeding at any time one million of dollars, and to repel invasion, suppress insurrection, or defend the State in war,) no debt shall hereafter be contracted by or on behalf of the people of this State, unless such debt be for a single work or object, and a tax be imposed sufficient to pay the principal and interest within eighteen years from the time of the contracting thereof; and that every law authorizing a loan, shall, before it takes effect, be submitted to the people at a general election, and be approved by a majority of all the votes cast for and against it at such election. The sixth section of the same article declares that “the Legislature shall not sell, lease, or otherwise dispose of any of the canals of the State, but they shall remain the property of the State, and under its management forever.” The third section of the same article provides, that “after paying the expenses of superintendence and repairs of the canals, and the sums appropriated by the first and second sections of this article, (one million six hundred and fifty thousand to pay our existing State debt,) there shall be paid out of the surplus revenues of the canals, to the treasury of the State, on or before the 30th day of September in each year, for the use and benefit of the general fund, such sum not exceeding two hundred thousand dollars, as may be required to defray the necessary expenses of the State, and the remainder of the revenues of the said canals shall, in each fiscal year, be applied in such manner as the Legislature shall direct, to the completion of the Erie Canal enlargement and the Genesee Valley and Black River Canals, until the said canals shall be completed.” The bill referred to, which is entitled an act to provide for the completion of the Erie Canal enlargement and the Genesee Valley and Black River Canals, clearly violates, according to our understanding, both the letter and spirit of these provisions of the Constitution. It authorizes a loan of nine millions of dollars, without submitting the law to the approval of the people, and without imposing a tax to pay the debt created as the Constitution requires. It authorizes the creation of a debt of nine millions of dollars, and pledges the future revenues of the canals, which are by the Constitution to be applied to their completion, for its payment. It creates an obligation or pledge on the part of the State, so to arrange and regulate the tolls on all of our canals as to produce a surplus of at least eight hundred thousand dollars in each year, until the Erie Canal enlargement is completed, and after that, sufficient to provide a surplus of at least one million of dollars in each year, until a sufficient sum shall have been collected and safely invested, to pay the sum borrowed, thus mortgaging the canals of the State, and binding the State to impose tolls and taxes on transportation, on all our canals, so as to produce, at least, a given amount of revenue to pay the mortgage, however oppressive such impositions may be to the forwarders or destructive to the trade and business of our canals. Such obligations, contracted on the part of the state, with its creditors, amount to a conditional disposal of the canals of the state, and violate both the letter and spirit of that clause of the Constitution, which declares that the Legislature shall not sell or otherwise dispose of the canals, but they shall remain the property of the State, and under its management forever. The bill also violates those provisions of the Constitution which direct “the remainder of the revenues of the canals in each fiscal year,” to be applied to their completion. It appropriates for years to come, a portion of the remainder of the revenues of the canals to the payment of interest on money borrowed, instead of applying such remainder in each fiscal year to the completion of the canals. It pledges the remainder of the revenues in each fiscal year for the payment of money borrowed, and which, when borrowed and placed in the State Treasury, may be appropriated with a less violation of good faith than it is borrowed, to other purposes than the completion of the canals, The bill also directs portions of the money borrowed, on a mortgage or pledge of the revenues of the canals, to be applied to the payment of the interest on the money so borrowed, thus recognizing and establishing the principle that the state may borrow money and create debt to any extent in its power, on a pledge of the future income of our canals, and may increase that debt by other loans on like security, to pay interest on the money previously borrowed, and may bind itself forever to tax transportation on our canals to the extent necessary to pay the debts thus contracted. The establishment of this principle nullifies those provisions of the constitution which plainly and expressly prohibit the Legislature from contracting debts, without first obtaining the sanction of the people, and from in any way selling or disposing of the canals, and may, in its results, impose on the State the obligation to tax transportation on all our canals, by such high tolls as to destroy their usefulness, by driving business into cheaper and untaxed channels of transportation, or else compel the State to lay a direct tax on the people, to pay the money, thus borrowed. We are in favor of the enlargement of the Erie Canal, and the completion of the Genesee Valley and Black River Canals, and we desire to have the work done in the manner which the Constitution authorizes and requires, and we are willing to submit the decision of that question to the people; but we will not consent, for the purpose of accomplishing that or any other object, however desirable, knowingly, to violate the Constitution and trample it under our feet. If the policy of the democratic party, adopted in 1833, of enlarging the canal by the application of the surplus revenues to that work, had been continued, the enlargement would now have been completed, and our State Debt so far reduced, that the Legislature could at this time remove the greatest obstacle in the way of the forwarder, high tolls. We regret to say that this is not the first instance in which we have felt constrained to differ from the majority in the decision of an important constitutional question, which this senate has been called on to decide. We allude to the decision recently pronounced here, that a member of this body, duly elected and returned as a member of Congress, with his consent, and not declining to accept the office, was entitled to sit here as a senator after the commencement of his official term as a member of Congress, notwithstanding the constitutional declaration, that “no person being a member of Congress shall hold a seat in the Legislature.” Whether the decision made by a majority of this body in that case, was in any degree influenced by a desire on the part of the majority to retain the power in this body to carry this and other favorite measures, we will not assume the right to determine, but will leave the decision of that question to the impartial judgment of our constituents. We have felt constrained by the obligation which we are under to support the Constitution, to oppose the passage of this bill in every stage of its progress through the Senate. We cannot but regard its final passage as a prostration of all the barriers intended to be erected by the Constitution against the abuse of legislative power to borrow money, contract debts, and impose taxes. It now seems that our arguments, our appeals, and our remonstrances, are in vain, to arrest the passage of this bill.

Under these circumstances, we cannot consent, by longer retaining our seats here, to be accessory to what seems to us a deliberate infraction of the Constitution under which our government is formed, and by which it exists. All other matters before the Legislature, when compared with this, sink into insignificance. We regard the preservation of the Constitution, in its full force and meaning, as paramount to all other considerations, and we do therefore, for the reasons herein stated, as the only means left to us to prevent the attempted prostration of the provisions of the Constitution restricting the debt-creating power of the Legislature, (that instrument requiring a quorum of three-fifths [20] of all the members elected to be present on the final passage of this bill), resign our offices respectively as Senators of this State, and we submit the propriety and justice of the act to the impartial judgment of those whose interests and rights we were sent here to represent and protect.

Senator from the 1st district.
- Senator from the 8th district.
Senator from the 9th district.
Senator from the 16th district.
Senator from the 17th district.
Senator from the 18th district.
Senator from the 15th district.
Senator from the 19th district.
Senator from the 21st district.
Senator from the 25th district.

Senator from the 26th district. APRIL 17, 1851.

Lieut. Governor and President of the Senate :

I hereby resign my office of Senator of the State of New York, from the 20th Senatorial district. Your obedient servant,

A. C. STONE, APRIL 17, 1851.

[ocr errors][merged small]

To the Democratic Republican Electors of the State of New York : FELLow CITIZENs: The undersigned, democratic members of the Legislature during its recent session, now about to return to our homes, feel it our duty to give you some account of the present condition of our State affairs, and of the manner in which we have endeavored to discharge the important trusts committed to us. The session of the Legislature which has just terminated in a sudden and unexpected manner, has been, in many respects, of an extraordinary character, and will be remembered in the history of the State. The executive, legislative and administrative departments of the government, are in the full possession of a political party, whose doctrines and policy have ever been antagonistic to good government, based on sound republican principles. That party had, until the 4th of March, 17 of the 32 members of the Senate, and 82 of the 128 representatives in the Assembly. They from that time, by continuing Mr. Schoonmaker in his seat in the Senate, notwithstanding his being a member of Congress, possessed uncontrolling power over the course and action of both branches of the Legislature, and must be held responsible to the people for the policy pursued and the measures brought forward and adopted, or rejected. The Governor, in his annual message, recommended to the consideration of the Legislature, various subjects of general interest to the people of the State; but such has been the course of action, on the part of the controlling majority,that but few subjects of that character have received that careful attention which they deserved from the representatives of the people. Subjects of a political or private nature have engrossed more of the time and attention of the Legislature, than those of a general and public character, and have exercised so pernicious and corrupting an influence on the whole course of legislation, that suspicion has been unavoidably cast on its purity and integrity. The subjects of a general nature which have engaged most of the attention of the Legislature, have related chiefly to the finances and internal improvements of the State, and matters intimately commected therewith. These are always subjects of great importance to the whole people, and deserve and should receive the careful attention of those whom they have sent here to protect their interests and guard their rights. The party now in power has had uncontrolled possession of the State administration, for three out of the four years since our present Constitution was adopted, and a brief statement of the results of their management of the financial interests of the State during that period, cannot be otherwise than useful. The people, in the adoption of our present Constitution, incorporated into that instrument, such financial provisions as would insure the certain and gradual payment of our large State debt of twenty-two and one-half millions of dollars; and in that way, in a few years, relieve the transportation of property on our canals from high tolls, and at the same time secure to the people ample revenues for the payment of the annual expenses of government, and thus free them from the burthen of a direct tax, now imposed for that object. It should not be forgotten that this large State debt, and the necessity for a direct tax to support the government, have been imposed on the people of this State by the whigs, when in power, departing from the financial policy always sustained and advocated by the democratic party. . The whigs, as a party, have always been distinguished both in the State and National administration, more for their ability and willingness to contract, than to pay

« AnteriorContinuar »