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ROBERT EMORY PATTISON,
Governor of the Commonwealth,
Inaugural Address to the Assembly. 1891. Gentlemen of the Senate and House of Representatives
and Fellow-Citizens: Chosen by the people to undertake, for a second time, the duties of the chief executive of the commonwealth, I make use of this occasion which custom has established to declare to what end I “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” A deep sense of respon. sibility attends the assumption of this obligation. At such an hour it is meet to look to Him from whom cometh every good and perfect gift, and, with devout thanksgiving for the blessings bestowed, to seek for a continuance of his favor.
Four especially important problems confront us: First, constiutional enforcement; second, the purification of elections, involving ballot reform, personal reg. istration and the prevention of the misuse of money in polities; third, taxation; fourth, municipal government.
The present executive will zealously strive to maintain the constitution and the laws. Our constitution as approved by the people is in many respects a model of organic law. It breathes the essential spirit of popular government through all its members. By it the general welfare is sought to be promoted. In it there is no hostility to any interest, individual or corporate. It was drafted by a convention controlled by as noble and choice characters as ever adorned our state. Many of its important provisions are, however, uninforced, notably article 17. That article commends nothing but what is right and forbids nothing but what is wrong. It simply provides that corporations shall treat all persons fairly, impartially and justly. It prohibits unfair discrimination against persons or places. It forbids extortion. It seeks to prevent monopolies and to compel the creatures of the law, who owe their life to the people, to be law obedient. It commands that they shall not use their granted powers to harass and oppress. It also specifically directs the legislature to enforce its provisions by appropriate legislation. Surely an earnest effort should be made to give adequate effect to so wise and just a part of the fundamental law. Every power of the executive shall be exercised to enforce the constitution of the state in every article and section.
When the modern state, in the exercise of its sovereign power, created that extraordinary reality called, in the irony of the law, an artificial person, it produced a being almost omnipotent for good and for evil. To deny the great benefits conferred upon society by corporate capital would be as futile as it would be foolish. But these should not blind us to the perils connected therewith in a democratic community. Many a modern charter enables a single man to wield powers greater than were ever wielded by a mediaeval king, and these powers, exercised under the broad seal of the state, may be and have been wielded notoriously to the injury of the state and of her people. The state, therefore, having created these artificial persons and clothed them with enormous powers, should protect herself and her natural children against their abuse and misuse. Before the state sanctions, either by judicial decision or legislative act, any extension of these powers into others still more colossal, it is to be hoped that some means may be found to place them under and to prevent their becoming superior to the commonwealth, the law and the people.
BALLOT REFORM. The constitution requires that all elections shall be free and equal, but such elections are not secured by existing laws. Nor is our ballot secret. Fierce political conflicts between parties have given birth here as elsewhere to many phases of corruption, to the lavish use of money by rich candidates, to fraudulent regis. tration, to intimidation by corporations and by large employers of labor, to false counting, and to marked, altered and suppressed ballots. These political contests have revealed the existence of a purchasable element in our midst evolving all forms of ballot debauchery.
The sovereignty of the people depends for its efficiency upon the cooperate intelligence and the incor. ruptable integrity of the sovereign. To make sure of the former we have established our public schools; to make sure of the latter we have adopted the ballot box and have thrown around it the protection of peculiar laws. But the abolition of the viva voce vote and the adoption of the ballot have proved to be only a step toward pure elections. Now, at the ballot box the equality of all the citizens must be sacredly protected; the freeman's franchise must be preserved. But when law-abiding voters are confronted at the polls with the corrupt hirelings of leaders who scorn the law they are degraded to an equality insulting and dangerous. For the purchaser of votes is a repeater by proxy; to him the commercial and industrial interests of millions are of far less moment that his hold of power. Hence his gangs of organized ignorance and purchased vice; hence his sneers at the decalogue of politics, his defiance of the law, his bold attempt to thwart the popular intelligence and to defeat the popular will. He is the most insidious foe to our institutions, for he aims at the overthrow of virtue, liberty and independence. Every dollar used to defeat the unbought will of the people is an attack not only upon free institutions, but upon every vested interest. When money shall be king at the American polls, money will be king at American capitols.
61-Vol. X-4th Ser.
NOT A MERE LOCAL AGITATION.
It is not mere local agitation that underlies the present demand for a thorough revision of electoral methods. A great popular movement for ballot reform has set in, and fifteen states of the Union have already responded to it. All political parties in Pennsylvania have made open profession in favor of securing the most perfect attainable expression of the public will, and the only question that we now deal with concerns the most expeditious and efficient method of its accomplishment. The Australian ballot system is the best agency yet devised for purifying elections. It is neither an untested experiment nor a questionable expedient. Upward of eighty-five millions of people conduct their elections by its machinery. It is not the method of any one country or people, but finds a home wherever a free and accurate expression of conviction is desired.
Its cardinal features are:
Second-Uniform official ballots containing the names of all candidates printed under state or municipal authority.
Third-Official equality of nominations when made either by a party convention or by a paper signed by a given number of voters.
Under this system all qualified voters have equal facilities for voting and all candidates have equal facilities for receiving votes.
Wherever tried, the Australian ballot system has completely changed the aspect of the elections. It se cures the tranquility, purity and freedom of choice, and there is abundant testimony that it is the best, the most rapid and facile mode of obtaining the unbiased wish and mind of the voters.
The Australian system has produced effects far wider than the mere achievement of a single reform. When opportunity is given to put honest and capable men in public office and keep them there, then is the standard of public service elevated and made worthy the honorable ambition of our best men. Ballot reform offers not only free and pure elections, but free nominations. It offers a method of nomination that is open to all, and frees us unmistakably from the rule of political bosses. I will heartily favor any well-considered legislation which will secure these or any portion of these results.
But it is manifest that the deep-reaching and effective ballot reform for which the popular mind in Pennsylvania has been fully prepared by recent discussion must go beyond the present restrictions of the constitution. The complete advantages of what has so widely approved itself as the Australian system cannot be realized while the ballot numbering provision remains in the constitution. That provision requires each ballot to be numbered for identification. It is expressly designed for an exposure, in certain contingencies, of the contents of the ballot, while the Australian system is expressly designed to prevent such exposure in any contingency. The dependent voter will never feel the security to which he is entitled, and