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Thus, (continued Mr. McC.) it will be seen by the committee that the law, prevents those from voting who are Constitutionally entitled, although their names may be registered. I, therefore, hope the provision will be agreed to. And, if it is not in the proper place now, it can afterwards be transfered to be the Bill of Rights.
Mr. Cox, of Somerset, remarked that the gentleman from Chester (Mr. BELL) had said that he was informed that the
registry law was passed without examination, without consideration, without being amended, or even read; and that it was represented, at the time, to be entirely of a local character. Now, he (Mr. C.) would tell the gentlemen that whoever had given him this information, was either ignorant of the facts or had grossly erred. The fact was that the bill was reported by a Mr. THOMPSON, a member from the county of Phildadelphia, and it was read,considered, and discussed. It was first brought forward, on due notice, in March. Subsequently, that bill, or something very much in the same shape, was oppened by a member either from the city or county of Philadelphia, to a bill regulating the election districts. It was then fully discussed, and after there had been some action upon it, it was offered as an amendment to an. other bill, reported by Mr. Davis, of Lancaster. He knew that the bill was fully considered, and that highly respectable members of the House stated that frauds had been commited in the city and county of Philadel. phia. They spoke of it as if cognizant of it themselves. The evidence was true and undisputed, and fully confirmed by subsequent facts, and the law was talked of as being absolutely necessary to prevent those frauds from being commited at the elections, and which were so much complained of. He would tell his friend from Beaver (Mr. LICKEY) that he never should regret the passage of that bill, unless he were convinced that the information which was adduced on that occasion in regard to the necessity of such a measure, was erroneous. But, that it was not, he felt satisfied from what had recently taken place in the county of Philadelphia. It was but the other day that he heard a highly respectable gentleman, and with whom he did not agree in politics, say that both parties in the third Congressional district were busily employed in importing voters to carry the election. Now, if that statement were true (and he did not doubt it) it went far to prove what had formerly been said relative to frauds having been commited.
Mr. C. repeated the information which the gentleman from Chester had received in regard to the passage of the registry act, was erroneous. The bill was read, considered and discussed. It was first brought forward on due notice, in March; it was then offered as an amendment to a bill relative to courts, and finally to another bill.
It was fully discussed, and there was evidence before the House that frauds of such a nature and extent had been practised at the polls in Philadelphia, as to render the law necessary. That evidence was true and undisputed, and had been fully confirmed by subsequent facts. It was now asserted that both parties in the third Congressional district, were engaged in importing voters as a preparation for the contest.
If this allegation was true, it showed the necessity of the law. Though a large number of the citizens of the county might not be engaged in those fraudulent transactions ; yet, if a small number would engage in such practices with success, our duty was to prevent them. If we had a right
to pass a restrictive law of a general character, then we had a right also to pass a special law, when circumstances required it. He could not vote for the amendment of the gentleman from Montgomery. However, we could not undertake to judge for all time to come, whether any special legislation would be necessary. It was improper thus to tie up the hands of the Legislature, and prevent them from taking measures, when needful, to prevent frauds at elections. He left it to the committee to judge, whether it was fair to judge of the effect and propriety of a law from the source in which it originated. Some gentlemen had characterized that Legislature by which the registry act was passed, as factious; and the gentleman from Northampton (Mr. PORTER) said it was a body of peculiar character, such as never existed before, and never will again. But I say, sir, that the Legislature of 1835-6, did more to sustain and promote the great interests of the Commonwealth, than any which preceded or followed it. The House of Representatives was then composed of men of independent character, who acted for the public good, without reference to popular effect. The Senate was of the same character, and still remained so. The gentleman's predictions as to the future, he did not think would be realized. Though he had much respect for his judgment and ingenuity, he did not think him a prophet. The gentleman had given us a history of the revolutions of parties, and had, with much candor, acknowledged that he had been blown about by the shifting winds, first one way, and then another.
Mr. PORTER. The gentleman makes his own facts.
Mr. Cox. His words were, then, that he stood still, while others were carried off from him in every direction by the changing current. The gentleman had brought to our notice some strange revolutions, and for aught the gentleman could tell, stranger things would yet happen, than any that he had hitherto witnessed.
The Chair here interposed and called the gentleman to order.
Mr. C. might (he said,) have travelled a little out of the road, and he did not complain that the strict rule of order was imposed on him, though on no other person before. An effort had been made to impeach the motives of the party to whom was attributed the registry act, and he had stepped aside for the purpose of showing who they were. We were told that the act was passed for the purpose of trampling on the rights and privileges of the poor. He would like to hear some evidence to sustain this fact.
The law was made to apply to all classes, both rich and poor; and it did not affect the rights of the poor more than it did those of the rich. On the contrary, it seemed well calculated to give the poor great advantages and privileges. There could be no difficulty thrown in their way in approaching the polls. It removed obstacles to their voting. All they had to do, was to go to the polls, tell their name, and vote. They were called upon two or three times for their names; and then they had, besides, the privilege of going and recording their names on the lists of their own accord. What then was complained of? The rich had the same, and no
greater privileges than the poor man had. Gentlemen said that the result of the last election proved the act to be unpopular and odious. What was the fact ! Had not the people given to the party which originated this act a majority in this body! The majority here were composed of the same political materials as the majority of the Legislature of 1835-6.
But it was, so far as we were concerned, a matter of no consequence, whether the act was popular or not. He should not press this topic any further. He should vote against the amendment offered by the gentlemau from Montgomery, because it interposed between the legislative
authority and the public interests, and prohibited the Legislature from passing any law to regulate the district elections, however necessary such legislation might become in any particular district.
Mr. BROWN, of Philadelphia. Did the gentleman say, that a committee had reported the registration bill. He could not find it on the record.
Mr. Cox replied, that in March, Mr. THOMPSON, a member he believed from the county of Philadelphia, asked leave to bring in the bill, and subsequently introduced it. It was reported, but not in the same shape.
Mr. DICKEY would say a word or two in reply to the gentleman from Chester, who said he did not know the source of the registry law, nor how it became a law. On the 21st of February, Mr. Thompson asked leave to bring in the bill: on the 8th of March Mr. Davis reported the registry bill : and on the 8th of April, it became a law.
That was the course of the registration law which was so odions to some gentlemen. It was canvassed in the newspapers from the time of its passage till the extra session; then it was revised and again passed, after meeting every objection that gentlemen urged against it here. I did say, sir, continued Mr, D., that I pride myself on having voted for that law, both in the first instance, and again when it was taken up for revision. He prided himself on being one of those who thought it their duty to provide for the protection of the persons and lives of their fellow-citizens, when they went to deposite their ballots at an election. It was not the object or intention of that law to limit or restrain the right of suffrage. Its object was to afford protection to every one who exercised the right of suffrage. It enabled every one to vote in quiet and peace, without molestation or apprehension. To whom is the law odious ? To those only who wish to exclude voters from the polls by making it perilous for them to approach them: To those who wish to see men compressed out of shape in the crowd around the window, and then passed out of the crowd over their heads. The object was now to repeal that law, without examination, and, on party grounds, to annul it. The gentleman from Chester, the leader of the true democratic party, has denounced the act, and again summoned his party to the rally,
Mr. D. said he was bred and born a democrat, and he had believed that the principles which governed him were common to all democrats, until experience taught him the contrary. He had supposed that a cardinal principle of democracy was rotation in office. He was, heretofore, in favor of limiting to two terms the eligibility of any person for the office of Governor, and also of limiting, in like manner, the eligibility of those officers who hold their offices at his pleasure. In that, however, he had the pleasure to act with the gentleman from Chester, and he was proud to say that, with a minority, they had triumphed against a majority. For his attempts, however, to carry out this principle, which the democratic party had contended for, he was denounced as a disorganizer of the party by the democrats here.
Mr. Bayne interposed. He insisted that the Chair was bound to say,
whether all this was in order, He had listened to those irrelevant discussions till he was tired of them.
The Chair said the gentleman was undoubtedly out of order, but not more so than others were before him. The Chair had informed members, that they were out of order in pursuing topics foreign to the question, and if they would persist in that course the CHAIR had no remedy for it.
Mr. DICKEY. One word more. He was here by a large majority of the people of Beaver: and every one of those, who, like himself
, belonged to that Spartan Band, which the gentleman from Northampton had spoken of, would, he believed, be triumphantly sustained by their respective constituents.
Mr. EARLE regreted, he said, that so much time had been spent in a debate so foreign to the purposes for which we came here; but, he would not attempt to retaliate upon those who had taken part in it, by moving an adjournment till to-morrow, or Monday. He would never take a course which would sacrifise the interests of the community, for the purpose of gratifying private pique. This remark he made in reference to the statement which he had read, that the Convention adjourned the other day out of personal pique against him ; but, he made no such accusation against the members. He did not believe that there was any gentleman here, so lost to honor and principle, as to act from such a motive ; but, he had seen a letter in the Philadelphia Inquirer, written, probably, by a person permited, by the PRESIDENT, to come within the bar of the Convention, as an annotator of its proceedings, in which this slanderous accusation was made. The letter writer states, that the Convention did adjourn, last Friday, until Monday, because he called the yeas and nays on a motion. This was a vile libel on the Convention; for, men who would be guilty of such an act, from such a motive, would rob a hen roost, or commit treason.
In regard to the registration law, he said that, from and after the passage of that act, no person in the city and county of Philadelphia was permited to vote for any officer, until he had paid a tax. Now, he would ask the learned gentleman from Philadelphia (Mr. HOPKINSON) whether the Legislature, if they say that no one shall vote until he has paid a tax, for one year, cannot also say that he shall not vote till he has paid a tax for twenty years. He would also submit to the gentleman whether the Legislature could not require that the amount of the tax should be one hundred dollars. The gentleman says the Constitution is clear and distinct, but this is ambiguous. One eminent lawyer, the gentleman from Northampton, says the registration law is unconstitutional : and another that it is distinctly Constitutional. Then either one gentleman or the other is wrong. He should be pleased to have the Constitution made clear in this respect. He would be glad if the gentleman from Montgomery would modify his proposition, but, as it was, he would take it. He was not going to squabble about the place. Suppose gentlemen refuse to vote for the proposition when it is offered in the Bill of Rights, on the ground that it will be out of place there. Then we shall never get it in at all. If we followed this course, we should love every thing. There was always a dispute about the proper place, and he knew no way to get along but to take a proposition when it was offered ; but he thought this was in its proper place. If, however, it was to be voted down because it was not offered in the right place, was it becoming in gen
tlemen to make so long a discussion about it? It was not proper, certain. lý, to speak three or four hours upon a proposition and then vote againstit because it is out of place. They could not, with propriéty, say any more than that it was out of place here, and that here they would not vote for it. If this proposition was out of place, the discussion was still more so. It was argued in support of the registry law that it had been useful in preserving order and peace at the elections, but order could better be preserv. ed without it. He had resided ten years in one ward in the county, and he had never known any disorderly conduct at the polls. There never was any disturbance in the small districts, and all that was necessary to be done was the division of the large districts into small ones. The disturbances which had been spoken of occured in the large districts. Locust ward, and the first ward in Spring Garden, where eight hundred votes were polled. To poll eight hundred votes, it would require eight hours and a half, to give every voter sufficient time, and, therefore, the time was too short, and the consequence was, a crowd at the polls and disorder.
But the gentleman says that both parties are now importing votes to carry the coming electi The registry will not hinder this; for a certificate of registry can be obtained for the imported voter. The remedy is the election of honest inspectors. The elections ought to be so regulated that the minority should have one of the inspectors. He hoped that the amendment would prevail, and secure to the poor man his right. The man who owns a house will always be registered; for his house is taxed, and the owner, whether at home when the assessor goes round or not, will be registered; but the poor man changes his place of residence, is unknown, and may be overlooked by the assessor.
Mr. DENNY could not concur in the amendment for several reasons.The first objection was, that it was an interference with what appropriately belonged to the Legislature, and descended to the details of legislation. This was not the business of this Convention. Are gentlemen ready to investigate, legislate, and repeal laws ? The gentleman from Northamption (Mr. PORTER) says that this proposition contains no more than is contained in the ninth article. Why then introduce it here? Why discuss the repeal of laws ? Laws, too, declared by those gentlemen to be unconstitutional. Gentlemen have often declared that they would oppose all alterations in the Constitution not called for by the people. Has this been called for? His constituents had not called for it, and he doubted whether the delegates even from the county of Philadelphia had been instructed in favor of this amendment. The conversion of the Convention into a Legislature of one branch to pass or repeal laws, he considered very improper.
With regard to the registry act, it might be a wholesome regulation for the city, where large masses of the people were brought together, while it might be inconvenient for the country. Disorders, riots, and tumults, more often occured in a crowded population. No longer ago than last evening, he was told by a gentleman residing in the city, that such was the crowd at the elections there, that men were taken up and pitched over the heads of the crowd to the polls. The registry act might then be necessary to preserve propriety and order at the ballot boxes. He believed, that it was no more unconstitutional than the division of election districts.
But the gentleman from Northampton says, that the law is unconstitu, tional, and that it was enacted by a Legislature, which was not sustained