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The gentleman from Beaver (Mr. DICKEY) had admited that he only had been informed of what he had stated, and 'he would tell that gentleman that it was like all hearsay testimony, entitled to very little credit. Another high-handed act of the Legislature, was, that they passed a law declaring that the inspectors and judges of the election for 1835, should also be judges and inspectors for the year 1836, contrary to the will of a large majority of the people of those districts, because by an unfortunate division in the ranks of the democratic party the election officers of that year were elected by a minority of the voters. All this went to show that instead of enlarging the right of franchise in the city and county of Philadelphia, it restricted it to a very considerable extent; and as to what had been said by gentlemen in relation to his district he would only say if gentleman had resided among us they would find the people there as honest, upright, high-minded and patriotic as in any other county in the State. The county of Philadelphia had a large population, and had a large representation in your hall of legislation, but he trusted this was not to have any influence here which would cause the rights of her citizens to be the less respected. He thought the Constitution should express in clear terms that which should constitute the qualifications of electors, and leave nothing to the action of the Legislature on this subject; and believing that the amendment would effect this object he would vote for it.
Mr. Scott confessed he did not see the relevancy of much of the ar. gument which we have had, to the real question before the Chair, that is upon the propriety of agreeing to the amendment of the gentleman from Montgomery, (Mr. STERIGERE); nevertheless, the discussion having taken a wide range, it seems impossible to confine it within what might originally have been considered proper bounds. In the course of this discussion, a particular act of the Assembly had been almost the sole object of attack; and, the few remarks he should trouble the committee with, would refer to it, because it was his fortune to have been a member of the Legislature which passed that law, occupying, for a short time, a place occupied, during the preceding part of the session, by a better man, who died while a member of the House of Representatives. Great pains have been taken to show, that the registry act was an unconstitutional law.Well, if that be true, there is no occasion to amend the Constitution, for the purpose of getting rid of it. If it be true, that the law violates the existing Constitution, he would beg to remind gentlemen that that instrument provides a means of getting rid of that unconstitutional law. If the law be unconstitutional, and otherwise objectionable, the best thing gentlemen can do, is to adhere to the present Constitution, and bring the matter before the judicial tribunals of the country, who will, beyond all question, if gentlemen can make it appear to be unconstitutional, declare it null and void, and there will be an end of it. If we attempt to change the Constitution in this feature, to which, it is said this law is opposed, we may so change it as to support and uphold the law ; he would, therefore, suggest to those gentlemen who held the opinion, that the law was opposed to our fundamental law, to hold on to the present Constitution, and take the matter before the Supreme Court, who will pass upon the subject to their entire satisfaction, if they can make it appear to the court, as it appears to them. selves, and this will put an end to the operation of the aci, ļt had been
said that the law was unconstitutional, by the gentleman from Northampton (Mr. PORTER). This was the opinion of an able lawyer, but he hoped he might be allowed to say, that if this was the gentleman's opinion, it was an opinion which ought to be asserted with some degree of modesty, as is might safely be regarded as not very certain, when we look round this Hall, and see how many gentlemen there are, who were members of that Legislature, and voted for that very act of Assembly, who have been returned by their respective constituents, not to legislate, but to pass upon the Constitution of the land.
It had been indignantly urged by a gentleman from the county, that the law had been forced upon the county without their assent—that it was a matter with which the State at large had no concern, and all action upon which should have been postponed juntil asked for that it was reprobated by the city and county-passed hastily and without just cause, and merited the severest reprobation. He denied, peremptorily, that it was a matter in which the State had no concern: she had the deepest interest-every county in the State had the deepest interest—in the freedom and purity of the elections in every part of the State. The representatives from the city and county of Philadelphia, did not legislate upon subjects belonging to their own district only : their voice was heard, and, when the numbers of the delegation were considered, was potential too, in promoting the general welfare of the Commonwealth: their votes might rule her legislation for weal or for woe. Even over the local interests of the remotest county, their influence was felt, and their votes told. Suppose, in the general prostration of the resources of the nation, it should once more become necessary to look around for objects of taxation to supply a diminished revenue; and, the eye of the legislator should light upon the broad acres of the farmer, and the rich personalities of the east, and pause between the two-would not the farmer feel that these representatives had a voice, the just exercise of which was important to them? Had not the whole Commonwealth an interest in the just, and pure, and free election of their Governor? of every representative in the Senate of the State ? and in the Congress of the United States ? Away, then, with this idea, that the rest of the Commonwealth had nothing to do with the exercise of the elective franchise in the city and county of Philadelphia. If they perceive that franchise to be abused there, or corrupted there, or its free and fair exercise impaired there, it is due to themselves to interfere, though the whole county should raise its voice in hostility. It would be due, not only to themselves, but to the cause of freedom throughout the world; endangered, and disgraced as the cause must be, by any corruption of this, the corner stone of the republican structure of Government.
Was there not, he asked, sufficient cause, at that time, to put that Legislature upon inquiry? Of the election frauds in the county of Philadelphia, he knew nothing. But in his own fair, and beautiful, and beloved city, he had seen, before the passage of that registry act, her citizens in hostile array, contending with violence and riot, for the possession of the place of their primary elections—and bloodshed had followed in the train of that contest. Conflagration, too, in an adjoining district, has done its work. And at the polls he had beheld men, pressed by incumbent crowds against the wall, through the window in which their ballots were to be received, till their human shape itself seemed to be endangered ; and then, having thus,
at the peril of limb, if not of life, exercised their right, projected bodily over the heads of masses of men, in order to effect their 'escape. Was niot this, he again asked, fit cause for inquiry? And if, under the knowledge of these things, a law was passed, wise or unwise, to restore the freedom of elections, cannot common charity find some other motive of that law, than one which imputes dishonor to the law-maker? It had been asserted, too, that at these elections, New Jersey, and even New York furnished their respective quotas of voters, usurping the places of the sons of the soil, and influencing the results of the polls. Of the truth of the assertion he could not judge. Nor did he suppose that disorder, and riot, and fraud, if fraud existed, were to be imputed to any one political party exclusive of others. It was one of the bitter fruits of the bitter spirit of party which cursed the land, that wrong or injury perpetrated by any one, was more fiercely retaliated and exaggerated by the other. And thus all the precious gifts of freedom were brought into danger, and her institutions into disgrace. Was it not right, then, he asked once more, that the guardians of the Commonwealth should enquire into these things ? And are they to be branded with impurity of motive for so doing, because they did not agree in politics with those who preceded them in the halls of legislation ? They passed a law! What then? If unwise or imperfect, was it not capable of amendment or repeal? And if at a subsequent session, one chamber was in favor of that repeal, and the other and graver branch against it, is it necessary or proper, in a body like this, to suppose that difference of opinion might not be honest! After that law had gone into operation, order and quiet were restored the aged, the infirm, could and did vote- the numbers, when the ballots were deposited in the boxes, were not diminished. Riot and conflagration did cease--freemen once more felt that their dearest franchise might be exercised without peril of life—and it was exercised in peace and harmony by all men-of all parties. Whether this was owing to that abused law or not, he could not say; it was at least a fair supposition, and he would leave it to the committee to judge. He did, however, say that, among his constituents, it was an act extremely popular. Those who had aided in its passage were returned to the Legislature, in the cases in which they presented themselves to the suffrages of the people. And on the floor of this Convention, elected to reconsider the structure of our Government, and to revise the organic law of the State, are found not a few of its advocates, from all parts of the Commonwealth. And when upon this floor Senators are reproached with their votes, those Senators might point to the fact of their being here as a proud refutation of the injustice. It was, indeed, a hardy act, and he was a bold individual who would undertake with his single arm to hold the scales, and weigh the Senate of Pennsylvania against the House of Representatives of Pennsylvania, and pass his judgment between them. The spirit which was equal to this, was better fitted for the chair of a dictator than that of a representative.
The registry act, he added, was not hastily passed, nor without reflection. It was passed in one shape at the ordinary session of the Legislature, was then examined by the public, commented upon, and at the extra session revised and remodelled. Its origin is supposed by one gentleman to be found in the act of parliament levelled by Sir Robert Peel, against the sorty shilling freeholders of Ireland. He (Mr. S.) was inclined to believe, that the friends of the law were not thinking of Mr. Peel, or the freehold
ers of any other land, nor even of the great agitator, Mr. O'CONNELL himself—an individual, however distinguished for greatness in his own hemisphere, not remarkable for his admiration or his
praise of our institutions. He was inclined to believe they found their model in another of the free States of our own Union, where a similar enactment had been for years in existence, and had been tested by experience, and approved in practice. It was more probable, looking to dates, that Mr. Peel might have known the Massachusetts rules, and have borrowed a hint from this side of the Atlantic-our good mother England having, in modern times, discovered that she might borrow improvements, both in science and in law, from her once despised offspring. It would not, however, be a fatal objection, if one more suggestion had been taken from a land from which are derived all our institutions, and to whose common law, at least, we must daily recur for our conduct in all the ordinary transactions of life.
He had heard it said, and he believed it to be the fact, that this act existed in one of the Eastern States, and that it was introduced because they were subject to the interpolation of a people who have no right on our soil. He would say again, if it be a crime, it is the crime of no particular partythe one side having commenced the wrong, and the other having carried out the wrong.
He never accused any party of the act. It commenced beyond that stream which divides us from New Jersey. And how long does it take New York to put her shoals on our strand. In five hours she can transfer them from her own wharves to those of Philadelphia; and this time may yet be reduced to two hours. In twenty years, what will be the population of your cities east and west-of Philadelphia and of Pittsburg—and others in the heart of your State? What will be the situ. ation of your northern counties along the line of New York, and the southern bounded by Maryland and Virginia ? How long will it then require the power of steam to transport its thousands from New York to our eastern borders ? Who can tell what may not be required to protect our own rights at the polls? It is obvious that these portions of the State may, and will, require guards and checks not essential to, or proper in, the central positions. If so, another Constitution will be required to protect the rights of the citizen, and remedy his wrongs. Most of us will be in our graves before the curse will be felt in all its bitterness. It should be recollected that we are not now legislating for a year-not for the purpose of aiding the ambition of a Van BUREN, a Clay, or a WEBSTER; but that we are arranging an organic law for human beings not yet born. Let us carry our vision thirty or forty years beyond the present period, and see what will then be the state of our population. You will be surrounded by a stranger population, not of the soil, who will influence your elections. And shall we say to the Legislature, you must be debarred from making laws to prevent the evils which such a state of things may produce ?Shall we fetter them so that they shall not be able to provide against the future changes ? Shall we pass an amendment to the Constitution, forbiding the Legislature, twenty years hence to pass laws for the purpose of securing the elective franchise in its purity? We are talking of matters far beyond our own period of time ; matters which belong to another age, which must be regulated by our children and our grand children. Let the Legislature of that day then be left untrammeled and free to act according to the condition of things, the state of public intelligence, and the demands
of the public exigencies. There will, doubtless, be virtue and intelligence enough in the Commonwealth at that time, to discover what is wrong~ and to get rid of that wrong. Do not let us evince any little jealousy of posterity. Let us trust the Commonwealth to our gallant sons. They will be as able to protect her, in the days of their strength and manhood, as we have been in ours. If we do right now, they will, doubtless, be as virtuous and as wise in their generation, as we may have been in ours.
The committee then rose and reported progress and obtained leave to sit again, and
The Convention adjourned.
FRIDAY, JUNE 23, 1837.
Mr. CHAUNCEY, of Philadelphia, presented the memorial of certain citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for the abolition of lotteries.
Mr. Scott, of Philadelphia, presented a memorial from certain citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, similar in its import.
These memorials were laid on the table.
The Convention again resolved itself into a committee of the whole, on the third article of the Constitution, Mr. KERR, of Washington, in the Chair.
The question pending, being on the second division of the amendment to the amendment proposed by Mr. STERIGERE, as follows:
“The election laws shall be equal throughout the State, and no greater or other restrictions shall be imposed on the electors in any city, county, or district, than are imposed on the electors of every other city, county, or district”.
Mr. FULLER, of Fayette, said, as the question stood now, although he might be in favor of the principle, he should object to its adoption in the present section, he believed the proper place for it would be in the Bill of Rights. Without going into any of the debate on the question of the registry act, he would content himself with voting against the amendment in its present form.
Mr. BROWN, of Philadelphia, expressed his hope that the gentleman from Montgomery (Mr. STERIGERE) would withdraw his amendment, with a view to obtain a fair expression of the opinions of the committee on this question. There were many gentlemen who would not vote for it, because they considered it as out of place in this section. He would say a few words to explain the vote which he would give in favor of the amendment, which ought to be adopted here, and transfered to its proper situation afterwards. It would seem, from the remarks of the gentleman from the city, (Mr. SCOTT) that this special legislation was beneficial. He, on the contrary, thought it was not good. The gentleman from the eity said, it had worked well in the city; that, before its adoption, there