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by the people. It is true, that popular prejudice was excited against the Legislature, and he was sorry that it was 80. It is true, that there have been very few such Legislatures, and he regreted the fact. But while the Legislature of last winter, that sucr eeded it, would sink into oblivion, or be remembered only for the imbecility of its acts, or the recklessness of its course, the Legislature of 1835-6 would stand on the annals of time as a bright model of virtue, independence and patriotism, and whose illustrious acts will form a proud era in the legislation of the Commonwealth. That Legislature retrieved the fallen credit of the State, invigorated the system of internal improvement, repealed the State tax, and while all the efforts of the General Government were directed to depress, it sustained and put on a sure basis the credit and the finances of the Commonwealth.
[Here Mr. Porter held up a ten cent note].
If, continued Mr. DENNY, the policy of that Legislature had been carried out, we should never have seen a shin plaster currency. If their policy
had prevailed, and their influence had extended to our councils at Washington, the currency would never have been thrown into such confusion. That Legislature resuscitated the credit of thc Commonwealth which was then rapidly falling to the lowest scale of depreciation ; and this was done in opposition to the influence and efforts which were exerted both here, and by the General Government, to impair the credit of the State. If the effects of that Legislature had been suffered to prevail, we should never have witnessed such evidences as the gentleman has shown us, of the present degradation of the currency. What, he asked, would have been the situation of this Commonwealth now, but for the wise foresight of the Legislature? Where would have been your public works in these times of general embarrassment? Owing to the prudence and sagacity of those men, we are now enabled to go on with our public works. This was that Legislature which was so much censured for passing the registry act.Gentlemen say that the law was hastily concocted, and rapidly hurried through its forms. Some gentlemen even go so far as to intimate that it was clandestinely passed.
If the gentleman had turned to the journals he would have found that the bill was reported in March, which was a very early period for it to have been reported. Notice was given in February and the bill reported in March and printed as all other bills are. He held in his hand the bill as it had been amended in May and reported with those amendments, so that there was nothing done in the dark; that was not the Legislature that did its acts in secret ; but it was the Legislature that advocated open conduct. Here is the bill as read in May, with sundry amendments attached and reprinted at that time; and why do gentlemen make these charges unless they can sustain them by the facts. It is easy to make broad assertions ; but gentlemen ought not to make such assertions without something to sustain and support them. He had taken some pains to examine the journals and records of the House because he never liked to deal in these broad charges without having examined and ascertained the facts. Why did not the gentlemen from the county of Philadelphia who had noticed this matter very frequently, examine into and see what the true state of the case was. They seemed to be very much interested, and one of the main reasons for passing this amendment seemed to be to repeal this act which was declared io have been passed in this hasty manner. The amendments attached to
the bill were, in the first place, to another bill, but were detached and placed od to this bill because it was considered to be the most appropriate place. Gontlemen have said, however, that this was not the appropriate place; but he would ask them where a more appropriate place could be for amend. ments in relation to elections in the city and county of Philadelphia, than to a bill, the title of which was an act regulating election districts, and for other purposes”. There was nothing obscure in the title, it was as plain and explicit as titles to acts generally are. Well, this bill which was said to be hurried through in such a hasty manner that no one knew any thing about it, was taken up and discussed freely and not finally passed until the 13th of June, which was the last day, he believed, on which it could have been passed; the Legislature having adjourned on the 16th of June. Then this bill was reported and printed in March, was before the Legislature until May, when sundry amendments were attached to it, and it was again reprinted and not eventually passed until the 13th of June. What hasty Legislation was there in all this? Were bills generally so long before the Legislature ? or had the people of the country, generally, so great an opportunity of knowing any thing of the character of bills which passed as they had in this case. But gentlemen had said that the rule was dispensed with, and it received two readings in one day. Now he beliered this generally to be the practice where bills have received ample discussion in committee of the whole, and have been before the body for some time; besides, it being but three days before the adjournment, it was necessary that this should be done or the bill could not have passed at all. He had merely risen to bring these facts before the committee to set the minds of gentlemen right in relation to the passage of this law.
Mr. SHELLITO said, it might seem rather miraculous that he should rise to say any thing on this subject, after it had been so fully discussed by other gentlemen. It appeared to him, that the question How was, were we, or were we not going to prevent the Legislature from hereafter passing laws to operate onerously on one town or county, while they permited other counties to continue without such laws ? Was one county to have a burthen imposed upon it, which another has not ? Has the Legislature done such a thing as this? If they have done so, it ought to be sufficient for us to know it, and then prevent them from ever again making such distinctions. Have the Legislature imposed upon any district in this Commonwealth, a law which was not asked for by that district, and which was contrary to the will of the majority of its citizens. If they have done such a thing as this, their names, instead of being handed down to posterity, should be sunk in oblivion, to be remembered no more. If such a thing had been done by any Legislature, whether federal, democratic, or anti-masonic, it was enough for him. He would prevent them from the exercise of such powers again. Now, cannot be denied, but this thing has been done ; and, if they can go that far, may they not take away the rights of the freemen, and say who shall have the privilege of voting, and who shall not? Who would trust the sacred right of franchise in the hands of a Legislature, which would take upon itself to pass laws for the government of a district, which was contrary to the express will of the people of that district ? He trusted the good sense of this Convention would put a check upon any such legislation ; and he hoped, if this amnedment was so drawn up, as to prevent a recurence of such acts, . that every friend of freedom would vote for it.
Mr. READ said that the first objection of the gentleman from Allegheny was a very strange one. It was, that by the adoption of this amendmeni, we would interfere with duties appropriately belonging to the Legislature; and he endeavors to assimilate propositions, to carry out his views, which were as different and distinct as any two matters of Legislation could be. He endeavored to assimilate legislation on the subject of the right of suffrage, with the mere local legislation of dividing and regulating an election district, and contends that these two subjects are fit and appropriate matters to be embraced in one bill. Now, he thought, any gentleman who would endeavor to show an analogy between two cases so entirely distinct, must be hard pushed for arguments to sustain his course. Was it possible that any gentleman would attempt to show that there was any analogy between the mere matter of putting a vote in at one window in a district, or at another, and the grave matter of what constitutes the right of suffrage! But the gentleman has spoken of the illustrious Legislature which passed this registry law. Now, let us see what this illustrions body has done. Why, sir, they passed a district bill under the last enumeration of taxable inhabitants, at which every friend of the bill now blushes. There is no man at this day who voted for that bill, who can stand up and
it was right. There is no man who will venture an opinion that it was not palpably and plainly an unconstitutional act. It was so notorious a violation of the Constitution, that it is only necessary to call the attention of the Convention to it to show the illustrious character of that Legislature. It was merely necessary to read the title to that act to render the character of that Legislature illustrious in all time to come. What else did they do? Why, sir, they passed a law to which they were ashamed to give its true name. They introduced a bill to incorporate the Bank of the United States of Pennsywnia, without daring to put the name in :he title.
Mr. BANKS pped his friend from Susquehanna would not pursue this matter further, as it must lead 10 an unprofitable discussion.
Mr. READ said he took the hint of the gentleman, but there were a few of the acts of that illustrious Legislature which he desired to notice. It increased the paper currency of the State from eighteen to seventy odd millions of dollars, and might, with all appropriateness, be called the shin plaster Legislature, or at least that party which re-chartered the United States Bank, might be termed the shin plaster party.
Mr. BROWN, of Philadelphia, hoped the gentleman from Susquehanna would not bring this question upon us now. Come it will, in some other place, but let us wait until it is taken up in its proper place.
Mr. READ was very much obliged to the gentleman for the suggestion. That illustrious Legislature, from any share of whose glory he wished to be exempted, by interfering with subjects properly belonging to the National Government, has placed us, to be sure, in a most notable position, and this, sir, is the fruits of their labor, (holding up a yellow ten cent SUCKER note). Allow me to read it.
The CHAIR said the gentleman was out order.
Mr. READ: Then I must appeal from this decision, as I am desirous the Convention should hear the contents of this note,
Mr. DARLINGTON : I presume, from the appearance of it, it is a part of the gold curreney.
The question was taken on the appeal, and the decision of the CHAIR affirmed.
Mr. READ: I will not then read the bill, but I will state my recollections of its contents. In one corner stands the figure 10 ; and then, in large Gothic capitals—SUCKER Institution, No. 1000. Next, it goes on to say, the SUCKER Institution promises to pay to Solomon CODFISH, or order, ten cents, IN SUCKERS, at the end of one year. [Loud laughter throughout the Hall.]
Mr. Bayne: I insist upon it, that we have some order; otherwise, I think, we had better adjourn and go home.
Mr. DICKEY: I hope the gentleman will be allowed to proceed, as I wish an opportunity to bring to the test his democracy at that particular time.
Mr. Read said, he had merely wished to bring to the notice of the Convention the fruits of the shin plaster party, in that illustrious Legislature.He had nothing more to say.
Mr. SERGEANT, (President) was sorry that the gentleman from Susquehanna (Mr. Read) had been interrupted in his remarks. That gentleman was an experienced legislator; knew well what the rules of order were ; and knew well what was due from one member to another. We have been engaged in a very grave and serious discussion for some time, and he supposed the delegate from Susquehanna thought we were fatigued with this long continued gravity. He only wished, therefore, to relieve us with a little fun about the Suckers, and why should he have been stopped in his good natured remarks ? He thought the Convention had entirely misunderstood the delegate. He did not wish to provoke debate, impugn motives, apply the tactics of party warfare, or wound the feelings of any body, but merely to do the amiable and make himself agreeable by giving us a little sport.
Mr. S. would now come to the amendment about which he had but a word to say. He had an objection to the amendment, and would endeavor to state what it was. He agreed with the gentleman from Northampton (Mr. Porter) that this was not the place for this amendment, if it were to be introduced at all. It belonged to another part of the Constitution. Gentlemen might think it a sufficient answer to this objection that the question of place and order was not material.
He thought, however, that order was a good thing. He thought that justice was a good thing, and he thought it especially requisite before proceeding to condemn a law that we should be sure about our facts. He thought there was nothing more dangerous, nothing more hostile to sound legislation, and nothing more to be deprecated for its destroying effects, than the attempt, in a deliberative assemblage, to pass summary sentence upon bodies and classes of men upon no evidence at all-upon loose rumors and hearsay, in a manner, made up as we go along. What will be thought of us when it comes to be our turn to be treated in the same way in which we have been treating the Legislature of Pennsylvania ; when the members of that Legislature may rise in their places and talk of us, as we have been talking of them here, and charge us with not knowing what we were about; and show us up, as being guilty of the folly of spending
two days in discussing whether or not, there was a drunken man on the election ground in the county of Philadelphia. There was nothing more unjust than these general charges. Here had been a very honest gentleman, who he knew would not state any thing he did not believe; yet he had made a statement derogatory in the highest degree, to the Legislature, which the journals of the Legislature showed to be entirely unfounded, and this arose from introducing assertions of fact here without any examination, upon mere hearsay.
Now there was nothing more dangerous than the adoption of such a course of proceeding. To be sure, if the gentleman from Northampton should be a true prophet, and such a Legislature should never assemble again, it might be that there would never be a word in reply. But his objection to this amendment was entirely different from, and independent of, all such questions and statements. He laid them aside, as of no possible consequence. In the outset he would remark, the words of this amendment are not different from the language of the Constitution as it now stands. Not in the least. Look at the Constitution, read it over, and you will find that it consists of two parts. In the first place it declares that the elective franchise shall be enjoyed by all persons possessing certain qualifications. What is the consequence of that declaration ?Why, that every man possessing these qualifications shall be entitled to vote. He did not now speak of the Bill of Rights, but of the Constitution, usually so called, as distinct from the Bill of Rights, which, nevertheless, was part of the Constitution. Does not the Constitution say that if a man is qualified he shall have the right to vote. Can the Legislature pass any law contrary to that? Where is the act of the Legislature of Pennsylvania which has attempted to deprive a qualified voter of his right to vote. If it had passed such a law, it would have been a violation of the existing Constitution, and would not require the aid of this amendment. If it had not, the question is altogether different—it is a question of discretion or expediency, which belongs to the Legislature, and not to us. Again, the bill of rights says that elections shall be free and equal. Now what does the amendment say? It says the elections shall be free and equal throughout the Commonwealth. If this meant that every man should have the opportunity of voting, and that the qualifications of voters shall be equal throughout the Commonwealth, he gave it his full assent. He concured with those who so interpreted the Constitution that the Legislature could not alter the qualifications of voters. This however, did not take from them the power to make a registry law. Such a law did not affect the qualification, it only prescribed the evidence. That, as he understood it, was the opinion of Mr. Van Buren in the New York Convention, as read by the delegate from Northampton. He (Mr. SERGEANT) did not value it particularly on account of the quarter it came from. He had no particular respect for Mr. Vas Burea's opinions before he was President, and he could not say he entertained more, since he had become President. But, on the other hand, if an opinion was right, he would not reject it Iperely because Mr. Van Bures had adopted or expressed it. He was fully satisfied that the opinion expressed in this case was a sound one, and he (Mr. S.) adopted it not because it was the opinion of the President, but because it was a sound opinion :-wherein then, he repeated does this amendment alter the present Constitution?