« AnteriorContinuar »
tion of our territory, appropriated what they thought would be a sufficient amount to defray the annual expenses of the legislature, previous to the holding of the annual session thereof, is conclusive evidence to your committee that the appropriation of $20, 000, contained in the act of 18th May, was intended to defray the expenses of the present session of the legislature. But if any doubt could exist it would be removed by reference to the act of 29th August, the object and intention of which was to pay and discharge all arrearages of expenses of the legislature of Wiscon sin, owing to the legislature having incurred an annual debt greater than the annual appropriations of congress.
The object of the act last referred to was to relieve the territory from its pecuniary embarrassments, not to crush it, by depriving it of the invaluable privileges of legislation.
It cannot be supposed by any honest and rational mind, that it was the intention of congress to deprive the people of Wisconsin of all the rights of legislation, or that having failed to include, as it is possible the governor may suppose, an appropriation to defray the expenses of the present legislature, in the usual law, they would afterwards, on the last day of the session, pass another law, prohibiting a session of the legislature because they had failed or neglected to make such appropriation. In looking at the usual course of congress in defraying the expenses of our legislature, no doubt exists in the minds of your committee, that in passing the act of 29th August, it was their belief that the appropriation of $20,000, previously made, was to cover the expenses of the present legislature.
By the 11th section of the organic act, there is "to be appropriated annually a sufficient sum to defray the expenses of the legislative assembly," and by the act of the territory already quoted, "the regular session of the legislative assembly shall commence on the first Monday of December in each and every year."
These acts are plain, explicit, and unrepealed, and if it be true that congress have not "appropriated annually, a sufficient sum to defray the expenses of the legislative assembly," and if true, that for that reason, the regular session of the legislative assembly" cannot "convene on the first Monday of December," then are both these laws to that extent repealed. But can it be believed that congress ever intended, by, to say the most of it, so strained and remote an inference, to repeal laws which lay at the very foundation of our political existence? Such a construction would be an insult to the understanding and the good faith of the congress of the United States.
But it is said, that whatever may have been the intention of congress in making the appropriation, it has in point of fact, been received by the secretary of the territory and paid out by him in defraying the expenses of the last session of the legislative assembly. A conclusive answer to this is: of this we know nothing officially; and if the governor possesses any information upon this subject, he has not deigned to communicate it to the legislature. But assuming such to be the fact, does it affect in any degree our right to sit as a legislative assembly? It must be borne in mind that the restriction upon our legislative powers, arises only from the want of an appropriation, not for the want of money in the treasury of the United States, nor from the misapplication of that money to any other purpose, nor even the refusal of the Treasury Department to pay it out when made, nor from any circumstances whatever, except the want of an appropriation. Your committee admit, that if no appropriation had been made, there can be no session of the legislative assembly at the present time; but if made, the mere fact that the secretary has not yet received the same, can furnish no valid objection to the legislative assembly holding a session at the present time.
Your committee are at a loss to know upon what ground the governor refuses to meet the legislature; whether it is because no appropriation has been made, or whether, if made, it has been misapplied by the Treasury Department, or the secretary of the territory. If the appropriation has been made, we have clearly the right to hold a session of the legislature. If made, what evidence have we that it has been misapplied, or if so, that the full amount will not be forthcoming before the expiration of the time limited by law for the close of the session ? If, as we contend, the appropriation has been made, there was, on the 29th of August,last, in the treasury of the United States, to the credit of Wisconsin, at least 40,000 dollars, being the amount of the appropriations, and a sufficient sum to defray arrearages of expenses of former ses
sions; and if the suin of 20,000 dollars has been misapplied in the payment of arrearages, it leaves an equal amount in the treasury to be applied as originally intended, to defray the expenses of the present session. While your committee are fully of the opinion that the matter will be satisfactorily adjusted at the Treasury Department, and that the secretary will return with the appropriation, yet we can have no assurance that the governor will then recognize our right to sit, because he might not consider it as the identical and specific sum appropriated by Congress.
In examining this part of the subject referred to us, in every light in which it has presented itself to our minds, we cannot hesitate to give it as our decided opinion, that there is no valid objection to the legislative assembly holding its annual session at the present time, by reason of no appropriation having been made by Congress
In considering the second question referred to us, your committee feel that it is one of great delicacy and importance, and its decision may seriously affect the prosperity of Wisconsin. Your committee are aware that there are many important subjects, deeply affecting the interests of the people, upon which they are now anxiously desiring legislative action. í A few of the more important of those subjects your committee will briefly refer to that the legislature and the public may form some idea of the necessity of holding a session at the present time. Some immediate legislative action is required in relation to the acts and condition ef the Milwaukee and Rock River Caral Company. With this subject the legislature is sufficiently familiar, without requiring at this time an extended notice. Your committee would merely suggest that some legislative action is required to ascertain the condition of the bonds, to the amount of 100,000 dollars, issued to aid in the construction of the canal, and whether the same have been recalled by the governor—the amount for which the territory is actually liable on account of said canal and to lease the water power at Milwaukee, if the property of the territory-and to save from forfeiture for taxes, about seven thousand acres of canal lands under mortgage to the territory. On the 20th of this month, your committee are informed that these lands will be forfeited for taxes, to redeem which about three hundred dollars is required. A suit is now pending against the territory on one of the canal bonds, amounting to one thousand dollars, involving some important questions, and possibly heavy pecuniary liability on the part of the territory. To defend this there is no person authorized by law, in whom your committee have any confidence. During the present winter the offices of canal commissioners will expire by their own limitation, and should there be no session of the legislature, the governor may appoint these officers, as he has heretofore done, in violation of all law. Under the present laws he may force into market all of the unsold canal lands, amounting to about one hundred thousand acres, and thereby involve the territory with the general government; and, without responsibility, assume the control of a large amount of public money.
Suits are now pending in favor of the territory against James D. Doty, governor of said territory, as a public defaulter, which, on account of the term of the court to which the suits have been removed at the instance of the defendant, being limited to one weck, can never be brought to an issue; and thus if his excellency can succeed in preventing all legislation, he may riot with impunity upon the property of the territory, and bid defiance to all her courts and judicial proceedings.
It will be recollected also, that the term of office of the commissioner of public buildings expires with the close of the present session of the legislative assembly, and cannot be supplied, except by a joint ballot of both houses of this assembly. Inasmuch as this officer is the agent of the territory in conducting those suits, and the only person who has any authority in law to procure the attendance of witnesses, and generally superintend their management, hence a failure to elect such officer by the legislature, would be placing the management of those suits, in which a large amount of the money appropriated by congress for the erection of our public buildings is pending, in the hands of his excellency, who is the principal defendant. How far this could have been an influencing motive to induce his excellency to the extraordinary course he has taken, your committee will not express an opinion.
The capitol is in an unfinished and exposed condition, and un. less the means be furnished by the territory, it will be seriously injured, if not totally ruined.
At the session of 1840, the legislature passed a law authorizing the issuing of territorial bonds to the amount of $7,000, bearing an interest of ten per cent., for the purpose of finishing the capitol. At the last session a bill passed both houses, requiring the treasurer to pay to the contractor for tinishing the capitol, the sum $1,700, part of the money appropriated by congress to aid in the erection of our capitol, which is now in the hands of said treasurer. This bill the governor refused to return to the legislature, in consequence of which it did not become a law. Without a further act of the legislature, the money must remain in the hands of the treasurer, thereby subjecting the territory to loss by the payment of a high rate of interest.
- Add to these the many other subjects constantly occurring in a newly settled and rapidly growing country, and the legislature can form sopie definite opinion of the necessity of holding its session at this time.
Yet, notwithstanding this pressing necessity, and the important subjects to be brought before the legislature, your committee are constrained by a sense of duty, to report that, in their opinion, it is inexpedient to hold a session of the legislature at the present time. To this conclusion your committee are forced by the act of the governor himself, who, in violation of all law, has refused, for reasons which may be apparent, to hold any communication with the legislature. Your committee have not thought it necessary to enter upon a discussion of the question whether the legislature can enact laws without the concurrence of the governor, but inasmuch as serious doubts are entertained upon this subject, they are led to the conclusion above stated.
The legislature have done all that the law, duty to their constituents, or courtesy to the governor, a co-ordinate branch of the legislature, have required. If consequences injurious to the territory result from the course which we recommend, let the responsibility rest upon the head of him who invoked it.
The opinion of the committee as to the third subject referred to them may be gathered from the views already expressed. They cannot but consider the conduct of the governor, in refusing to