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debts; and this marked feature in their character, seems to remain unchanged and unchangeable. They have ever treated the financial provisions in our State Constitution, as “an obstacle across their path.” They seem to have held, that the “adoption of a Constitution, containing so many valuable provisions, could not be regarded as an expression in favor of the financial article; and that that article was not rejected, because its rejection could only be purchased by the rejection of a Constitution, containing many, very many, Wise and enlightened provisions.” Their actions have corresponded with their views as to the financial policy of the government. The framers of the Constitution, and the people who adopted it, made a sure provision for the certain but gradual extinguishment of our State debt, by sacredly pledging, in the Constitution, one million six hundred and fifty thousand dollars, annually, from our canal revenues, to that object; but the people of the State cannot learn but with surprise, that, although this large sum has been annually set apart and appropriated to pay our State debt in each of the four years since the Constitution was adopted, the debt has, nevertheless, been diminished only the small amount of $406,854. The official reports from the Comptroller's office, show that our entire State debt on the 30th September, 1846, was $22,937,656, and that it was on the 30th September, 1850, reduced only to the sum of $22,530,802. You will very naturally inquire into the causes which have produced this result; a result for which the party now in power is responsible. To us it seems clear, that it has been produced by the bad administration of our finances. Money has been used with a profuse and lavish hand, to reward followers, to benefit localities, and to procure supporters of the party in power. The expenses of the general administration of the government, and of our canals, have been largely increased; old claims against the Treasury, of doubtful obligation, have been revived, and finally allowed, by persevering and combined pressure on the Legislature and Canal Board, and funds dedicated by the Constitution to the completion of our canals, have been used for the benefit of other localities, in violation of law. But one abuse exercising a corrupting influence and strongly demanding the condemnation of the people, is that which has arisen from the great and unprecedented increase in the expense of the public printing. . The average annual cost of doing the public printing for eight years, next preceding the 30th September, 1846, was $45,405. But under the present administration, its annual cost has been greater by one hundred per cent, than the average of the eight years next prior to September 30th, 1846. This expense is paid out of what is called the General Fund of the State, which is, in part, derived from a direct tax levied annually on the property of the people. During the year 1848, ninety thousand dollars were appropriated and paid for public printing. In 1849, seventy thousand dollars were appropriated and used for the same object. In 1850, eighty thousand dollars were appropriated for the same purpose, and there was paid out of the Treasury, from September 30, 1849, to Jan. 1, 1851, a period of fifteen months, for the public printing, engraving and binding, over the sum of ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY-SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARs, leaving still due on January 1, 1851, the sum of thirty thousand dollars for printing, as stated in the annual report of the Comptroller, made at the present session of the Legislature. This enormous absorption of the public money for printing, has arisen from the practice of ordering large editions of books and reports to be printed, having no connection with the proper business of legislation; and the last act of the Assembly was, to postpone for twenty minutes, the motion to concur in the joint resolution for adjournment, so that a resolution could, in the hurry and excitement of the moment, be pressed through for printing a large edition of the Documentary History of the State, for the use of the members, at a cost to the Treasury, as estimated, of from thirty to forty thousand dollars. This last act of the present Assembly, may justly be regarded as the crowning and closing act of the session, and as in some manner characterizing the majority who controlled its action in that matter. The measure of the greatest importance to the people of this State, which has been brought before the Legislature for its adoption, during its recent session, was a bill to authorize nine million of dollars to be borrowed on a pledge of the “remainder of the revenues of the canals,” for the purpose of completing, within three years, the Erie Canal Enlargement and the Genesse Valley and Black River Canals. It is proper that we should advert to the circumstances under which this measure was brought forward, and its final passage unyieldingly insisted on.
The Governor, in his message at the commencement of the session, said, “It affords me much satisfaction to congratulate you on the sound and healthful condition of our State finances.” From this official announcement, we were naturally led to suppose that our financial condition was of the most prosperous character, and that all the great interests of the State, as well as of our canals, were in the most flourishing condition. We were also told in the Comptroller's report, that the General Fund was in “a healthy condition,” and had been found sufficient to meet all the demands upon the Treasury during the year, and that the balance of cash in the Treasury on the 30th September last, was $54,521, but on analyzing the statament of the condition of the various funds, it was found that the money reported as in the Treasury on the 30th September, all belonged to the School and Trust Funds of the State, and that there was not, in truth, a dollar of money in the Treasury on that day, out of which any current expenses of government could be legally or constitutionally paid. The canal funds of the State, it was also soon found, were in but little better condition. It was shown, by the reports of the State officers, that there were two millions four hundred and twenty-one thousand dollars of work under contract on the Enlargement and Genesee Valley and Black River Canals, yet to be paid for, and that there was not, on the 1st February last, a dollar in the Treasury from which payment could be made to the contractors, and that the sum of only $408,749 would, as estimated by the Auditor of the Canal Department, be received into the Treasury during the remainder of the current fiscal year, which could, under the Constitution, be applied to the prosecution of the public works. The contractors were accordingly notified that the work, which they had engaged to perform for the State, must be suspended for want of means in the Treasury to pay. The mismanagement of the State officers in letting contracts without means in their hands to fulfil them, and the bankruptcy of the Treasury, could be no longer concealed from the people of the State, unless some device could be invented to borrow money by violating the safe financial provisions of the Constitution. To submit the whole matter fully and unreservedly to the people, and ask them to change the financial provisions of the Constitution, or to give their assent to the contracting of a debt in the manner authorized in that instrument, would not meet the exigencies of the case. The time required to obtain relief in this constitutional manner, was too long, and besides, it was feared that the people would not be willing to abandon the protection they had secured to themselves and their property by the adoption of the financial provisions of the Constitution, or give their assent to the contracting of a debt in the manner pointed out in that instrument for these objects. Some mode must, therefore, be devised of obtaining money by borrowing it for the use of the State, without contracting a debt, by or in behalf of the State, for the money borrowed. To perform this feat of legerdemain, certainly required the nicest dexterity of “able jurists;” but still the trick was attempted to be performed by a bill introduced into the Assembly, entitled “an act for the completion of the Erie Canal Enlargement and Genesee Valley and Black River Canals.” By the provisions of this bill, the Comptroller was authorized to borrow, on what were to be called canal revenue certificates, nine millions of dollars, within three years, on a pledge of the future surplus revenues of the canals, for the re-payment of the interest and the principal, within twenty-one years. And the State was, by the bill, to obligate itself so to arrange and fix in each year the tolls on our canals, as would, taking the average of the tonnage of the three preceding years, yield a surplus of revenue, after setting aside the sums pledged in the Constitution for repairs and the payment of our State Debt, of at least eight hundred thousand dollars in each year, until the canals were completed, and then a surplus of at least a million of dollars in each year, until the money borrowed should be fully paid. These canal revenue certificates were to be issued in sums not less than fifty dollars, payable to the lender of the money or his assigns; and authority was given, by the provisions of the bill, to make them receivable by the Bank Department, as security for circulating bank notes, and also to the Canal Board to issue them to the contractor or contractors on the public works, in payment of the work performed for the State. The bill further provided, “that the Canal Commissioners shall, upon such terms, and in such manner as the Canal Board shall direct and approve, contract for the completion of the canals,” but such contracts shall be awarded to such parties being of sufficient responsibility, as shall agree to execute their work, so as to insure the completion of the canals by the opening of navigation in the spring of 1854, “terms which shall, in the judgment of the Canal Board, be most safe and advantageous to the State.” These extraordinary provisions of the bill indicate clearly the real designs of the political jobbers who were its authors and advocates. The party in power have a majority of one in the Canal Board, while two out of the three Canal Commissioners are democrats. It was necessary, therefore, to change the laws which have been in force for many years in this State, by which the Canal Commissioners were required to award contracts for the execution of the public works to the lowest bidder, irrespective of their party attachments, so as to secure to the peculiar friends of the party now in power the patronage arising out of the expenditure of nine millions of dollars, and of the remainder of the revenues of the canals for twenty-one years, and thereby save them from the political ruin which they perceive is rapidly approaching, to prostrate and overwhelm them. Such a concentration of power and patronage, in the hands of a few men, would tend to corrupt the purity of the elective franchise, and would prove greatly destructive to the best interests of our system of internal improvements. Under the provisions of this bill, judging from the experience of the past, it is fair to infer that contracts would have been made by the favor of the Canal Board, only with those who would use the means placed in their hands, so as in the best manner to sustain and perpetuate the power of the men by whose partiality the contracts were awarded to them. * Although the nine millions of dollars were to be borrowed in three years, yet, under the peculiar and extraordinary provision of the bill, contracts could have been made, not with the lowest bidders for the work, but with such individual or individuals as the Canal Board deemed of sufficient responsibility, and without any security for performance, to do the entire work required in the completion of the Erie Canal Enlargement and the Genesee Valley and Black River Canals; and in that way the present Canal Board would have disposed of, pledged or appropriated, the whole of the nine millions to be borrowed, as well as the surplus canal revenues for the next twenty-one years. This unprecedented job thus to be farmed out by the present Canal Board, would have been used, as the canal patronage has been used, solely for the perpetuation of the party now in power. As your representatives, sworn to support the Constitution, which the people had adopted for our guidance, we could not, according to our understanding of what seemed to us its plain import and meaning, give any support to the proposed bill for borrowing nine millions of dollars on a pledge of the future revenues of our canals. The twelfth section of the seventh article of the Constitution, declares that, except as therein specified, no debt shall be hereafter contracted by or on behalf of this State, unless such debt shall be authorized by a law for some single work or object, which law shall not take effect until it has been submitted to and received the assent of the people at a general election. The sixth section of the same article of the Constitution, 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 the remainder of the revenues of the canals, (after setting aside the sums pledged by the Constitution for repairs, and to pay our State Debt), 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 comleted. p These provisions of the Constitution seem to us so plain, that no man can misunderstand or misconstrue their meaning. They were intended to guard and protect the people against hasty legislation and corruptschemes of public plunder, sanctioned by faithless representatives in the Legislature, for the purpose of rewarding party adherents, and perpetuating their own power at the expense of the tax payers of the State. The twelfth section before referred to, plainly declares that no debt shall hereafter be contracted by or on behalf of the people of this State, except in the manner therein authorized, and yet an attempt has been made, notwithstanding that plain declara
tion, to borrow nine millions of dollars under the pretence that no debt will be thereby created. Our minds are not acute enough to understand how the State can borrow nine millions of dollors on a pledge or mortgage of its own property and for its own use, and agree that it shall be repaid with interest, and not owe a debt for the money thus borrowed; nor are we able to understand how the Legislature can mortgage or pledge the revenues of our canals without violating that plain injunction of the Constitution, which declares that the Legislature shall not sell, lease, or otherwise dispose of any of the canals of the State, but that they shall remain the property of the State and under its managnment forever. The third section of the Constitution has provided for the certain completion of the Enlargement of the Erie Canal and of the Genesee Valley and Black River Canals, by declaring that the surplus revenues shall, in each fiscal year, be applied to these works until they shall be completed. This provision was agreed to by all parties in the Convention which framed the Constitution as a compromise between conflicting interests, and should be faithfully adhered to. We have felt it was a duty we owed to our constituents and to the cause of constitutional government, to resist and defeat by every means in our power, the adoption of a measure, which to us seemed a clear and wholly indefensible infraction of the plain provisions of the Constitution. In our view it is better to have no Constitution of government than to have one which is set aside and trampled in the dust by the people's representatives in the Legislature, whenever the interests or wishes of the corrupt leaders of a party demand the deed to be done. But we could not regard the adoption of the measure in question, irrespective of the constitutional objections, as either wise or expedient. The bill in question required the enlargement of the Erie Canal to be completed in three years. We are in favor of the completion of that work, and of the other canals, at the earliest practical period in which the work can be done under the provisions of the Constitution and the circumstances of the case, but we do not believe that over 246 miles of the excavation on the enlargement, (185 miles of which is not yet under contract), can be properly or economically executed in three years, when, in order to preserve the navigation of the present canal, a great portion of the work must be done during the winter months in this severe climate. The completion of the enlargement under such disadvantages in doing the work, in the short period of three years, would probably cost nearer twenty than ten millions of dollars. Since the resumption of the work on the enlargement, and on the Genesee Valley and Black River Canals, in 1847, six millions twenty-three thousand one hundred and fifty dollars of work, at the estimated cost, has been put under contract, and payments made to the contractors to the amount of three million six hundred and one thousand five hundred and ninety-seven dollars; and, during the same period, there has been paid on these canals for engineering, $558,355, and $525,549 for land damages and miscellaneous charges; and within the four years ending the 30th of last September, there has been paid for interest on the canal debt of the State, the sum of $3,616,414, all of which has been levied on transportation on our canals. Now, it is proposed to increase the annual expenditure for construction, at the rate of three millions of dollars a year, by borrowing that amount, and levying the interest on the money borrowed as well as the principal, by high tolls on transportation for the next twenty-one years. In our judgment, it is much better policy to pursue the safe and prudeut course always adhered to by the democratic party, for the completion of these canals, and which, by a wise, faithful, and economical application of the means placed at the disposal of the State, would complete them as rapidly as the necessities of business, or the interests of the people demand. Another fact in relation to the enlargement was incidentally developed in the discussion of the nine million bill, which deserves notice. - r We allude to the changed plan adopted, or intended to be adopted by the Canal Board, in the size of the enlargement between Rochester and Buffalo, and which has not hitherto been communicated to the Legislature or the public by the officers having charge of the canals in any of their official reports, required by law to be made. It is now, however, admitted that the canal, from Lake Erie to Lockport, or the greater part of that distance, is to be nine feet deep and ninety feet wide, and from Lockport to Rochester the size is to be gradually diminished until it shall be at Rochester 7 feet by 70.
Whether this change in the plan is required to maintain a good navigation, or to give an additional water power to Lockport, does not appear in any official report from the Canal Board. A resolution of the Senate, requesting the Canal Board to communicate their plans and copies of the resolutions adopted by them in respect to an increase of size in the enlarged canal, west of Syracuse, has remained unanswered. Why this fear of disclosure of plans for the enlargement, unless it is that an apprehension exists that the plans adopted or proposed will not meet the approval of the Legislature or of the people, or that the actual cost of executing . work may far exceed the estimates on which legislative action was to be preicated. Fellow Citizens—We have thus briefly given to you a statement of the provisions of a highly important measure, deeply affecting the interests and welfare of the State, which has been originated and brought forward since you have had an opportunity of choosing representatives in the Legislature, and which you have had no opportunity of examining or considering, or of expressing your wishes in relation to it, to those who, as your agents, were called on to give to it the form and sanction of a legislative enactment. The measure in question had been pronounced by the Attorney-General, the legal adviser of the Legislature, and the highest law officer of the government, to be clearly in conflict with the plain provisions of the Constitution. Under these circumstances, we felt constrained, by our sense of duty to you, and by our obligation to support the Constitution, to oppose the passage of the bill in question by every means in our power, but all our arguments and remonstrances were unheeded by an overbearing and tyrannical majority in both branches of the Legislature, and the bill was about to be forced through, when thirteen members of the Senate, as the last and only means of resistance left to them, resolved to resign their seats, if necessary to defeat so unconstitutional a measure, and to appeal to the people for a justification of the act. Twelve of these Senators felt compelled to tender their resignation, and the remaining one avowed his determination to do so, in case it was necessary, all declaring at the same time a willingness to retain their seats in case the nine million bill should not be passed, and thus enable the Legislature to complete the large amount of other business then matured and ready for final action, and having, according to all legislative usages, a priority in point of time to the bill for borrowing nine million of dollars. . But the majority, in their rage and disappointment at the threatened defeat of their favorite scheme of public plunder, resolved that, if that could not be passed, all other bills which had been previously matured, and which deeply af. fected public and private interests, should be lost with it; and they accordingly adjourned with both branches of the Legislature without day, with a recommendation to the Governor to convene an extra session, at a large expense to the State, for the pretended purpose of doing what could have been done, and what the twelve Senators who resigned offered to remain and assist in doing, by continuing in session for a single day longer; and there can be no doubt that the session would have been so continued by the majority and the business transacted, notwithstanding the resignation of the twelve Senators, if the nine million bill could have been passed. It is urged by some that, if the nine million bill was in violation of the Constitution, an appeal should have been made to the judicial tribunals to arrest its execution; but under a law of this character, the mischief might have been done before it could be arrested by an appeal to the courts, and it is not yet well settled whether the courts have jurisdiction in a case of this kind to afford a complete remedy by restraining the executive officers of the government from executing a law enacted by the Legislature, authorizing the borrowing of money, for or on behalf of the State. A proposition so to amend the bill as to give unquestioned jurisdiction to the courts to adjudicate the questions raised, was rejected by a unanimous vote of a majority in the Senate. We have thus given you a brief account of the present condition of affairs in our state government, and of the manner in which we have endeavored to discharge the responsible trusts committed to us as your representatives. We submit our conduct in respect to the important matters on which we have been called to act, to your impartial judgment, with undoubting confidence that the free and independent electors of the State of New York will, at all times and under