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The argument of the gentleman from Northampton is plain enough. He says the registry law of 1836-'8 is a violation of the present Constitution. "If it be a violation of the present Constitution, then it would be code trary to this amendment. If it be not a violation of the present Constitution, then neither would it be a violation of a law made in the very words of this amendment. This is perfectly clear, for the operative words of the amendment are exactly the same as the words of the Constitution. It is useless, therefore. But he objected to this amendment as accumulating, in the Constitution, redundant and unmeaning phraseology. You have already, in the first place, the definition of the qualifications of voters; then you have in the Bill of Rights a provision for preserving the rights, that is, the qualification as defined. Together, they make a complete and adequate provision. Yet, you would now put in a third provision, and that provision is substantially, if not literally, the same as the one in the Bill of Rights. A mere repetition of what is already clear. What is the use of all this? The true plan was this—and here he agreed with the gentleman from Northampton ;-if the clause in the Bill of Rights be equivocal, amend the article in its proper place in the Bill of Rights, and make it efficacious, but if you introduce a third clause you only make confusion in the instrument, and furnish a pretext for disputes and controversies. But, now suppose this to be otherwise. He meant to take it in either view ; that it is equivocal, or that it is clear. If it is equivocal and uncertain, it is objectionable on that account. He thought it was so. Suppose it to be otherwise, the virtue in the amendment will not be in declaring that the elections shall be equal, for that is already in the Constitution—but it will consist in its being an attempt to define what is meant by equality. He would request the Secretary to read that part of the amendment.
Now he thought the language was equivocal. The present Constitution declares that elections shall be free and equal. "This amendment declares that the election laws shall be equal. There is not, perhaps, perfect certainty with regard to the exact force of language in the present Constitution, that elections shall be equal; equality cannot with perfect exactness be predicated of elections. Still its construction is sufficiently understood. But when you say the eleetion laws shall be equal, what is meant ? Does it mean that elections shall be conducted in the same manner precisely all over the State? If that be the meaning, equal is not the word, because you cannot, with propriety, speak of election laws being equal. The word ought to be uniform, that is, the same. If so, then that word may be introduced. Suppose it to be introduced, the effect of it is to oblige ihe Legislature to provide that elections shall be conducted in every part of the Commonwealth exactly in the same way. Now, is it expedient that this duty should be imposed on the Legislature? Sir, the Constitution says, as it now stands, that elections shall be free and equal. But are they uniform throughout the Commonwealth? Do not the election laws provide that in some districts the polls shall be opened two hours earlier than in others? Do they not close in some districts sooner than in others? Is there uni. formity there ? No, sir, there is not. It may be said this is not material. Be it so, but in the Constitution is it expedient so to tie up the Legislature that they shall be obliged to inflict an injury and inconvenience on one part of the State, because they cannot grant relief without inflicting a greater injury and inconvenience on another part of the State? Is it expedient to
restrict the Legislature so that it shall not have power to pass a registry law for some parts of the State ? Sir, let us remember that the Constitution provides that the elections shall be free as well as equal; and he held uniformity to be subordinate to freedom. He held that system or law which, by any construction, would destroy the freedom of elections, to be destructive of liberty. You are to have both freedom and equality. But suppose, in your efforts to obtain both, you sacrifice freedom in some large districts, because your Legislature are compelled to provide for elections, that is to say, election laws, being equal. Then for equality are you to sacrifice freedom? What do gentlemen mean by freedom?' He was not satisfied to understand by freedom an ideal thing; an abstraction; a thing to be argued about most vehemently and learnedly, and in the conclusion to be found about as rational, as to say that all men should wear coats of one size and shape.
He meant by freedom a practical thing; defined as far as definable, and extended to us to as great an extent as we are capable of enjoying. He did not mean freedom from the oppression of laws merely, nor from the oppression of the majority which might be tyrannical ; but from oppression and wrong of every sort. Then he would ask whether the man enjoyed freedom of election who was elbowed away from the window where his vote was to be received? Those who are there before him are in the enjoyment of freedom, and will not give way for him, and he is turned off without having the opportunity of depositing his ballot. He has the right to vote, but he cannot vote. Then what becomes of your freedom of election? Will you not leave a power in the Constitution to guard the weak, the aged, the timid, who come to the polls, and, after repeated and fruitless efforts to get to the windows, go off in despair. Is that freedom? No, sir, it is sacrificing the freedom of one man, or may be ten men, in order that another may have a greater quantity of freedom than belongs to him. If you take the power from the Legislature to correct this evil, then you leave it no where. He was never present at an election in the county of Philadelphia in his life, therefore, he could say nothing about what occured at their elections. One delegate had said he never saw a drunken man there. Well, he did not question the truth of this assertion to the very letter. That delegate only says he never saw such a man there, but it is but a day or two since he said a man had a right to get drunk on the fourth of July. He believed election day was held to be a day of equal license.
Mr. Brown, of Philadelphia, explained. He had spoken of a particular election day when there were several thousand on the ground and he had not seen one drunk. He had not pretended to say there were not drunken men there on some other days.
Mr. SERGEANT said, in relation to that, he was not going to enter into an argument about it, unless it become actually necessary, and all he had to say with regard to the election day was, that it was a holiday ; labor was suspended; the shops were shut up, and a great many went there for a frolic and fun, which no doubt added much io the inconvenience of elections. But we have certainly heard it asserted, by some, that there has been intoxication and riot and disturbance and hindrance of voters at the elections in the city and county of Philadelphia, and we have heard it denied by others. It is quite clear that some regard should be paid to those who make the afirmative assertion, rather than to those who make the negative, because
it may be that those latter gentlemen have not seen it, when, nevertheless it had occured. The fact was, it was known in the city that a good deal of rioting and disorder had occured at the elections at different times. He himself had seen leading men of opposite parties make a formal treaty, on the morning of election, so that every man might have a chance to vote, and the arrangement was that they should come up in ranks and each one wait for his turn, and by this means disorder was prevented. This sometimes could be done, and sometimes it could not. It was a mere voluntary arrangement. Well, sir, do you mean to tie up the Legislature so strictly that they shall have no power to secure the freedom of election ? If so, where would be your much boasted freedom ?
Suppose frauds are practised in elections, and persons are allowed to vote who are not qualified to vote. He was not going to speak about the facts, the rumor was, that the importation of votes was now going in the county of Philadelphia. This he knew nothing about, but he did know that such a thing is likely to have happened, and it was likely it might happen again ; and, have you not a right to guard against this ? Put the case, that five hundred illegal voters vote there. Does not every one of these votes diminish the value of the vote of the legal voter ? May it not be, that they would turn the minority to be the majority, and put persons to rule over that majority in opposition to their clear and express will? Then again : every man who was thus brought in to the polls, was a bribed man. He was bribed to come there to vote, when he knew he had no right to vote, and had no concern in the election. He sold his vote to those who paid him, and provided him with food and drink. Here then was fraud and corruption introduced at your elctions, to overpower and destroy the elective franchise; and, are you willing to bind up the Legislature, so that they shall not, if by an appropriate remedy, they can, protect the real citizen from being bullied, or cheated out of his rights by strangers, hired for the occasion--mere mercenaries? Are you to consider equality with regard to elections, to consist in every election being conducted exactly in the same way? Do not, or may not, circumstances, in different parts of the Commonwealth, require that they should be conducted differently? Are there not in the city and county of Philadelphia, large masses of voters, who have to vole at one window, or in one immediate vicinity, in a small space. Do not, and may not, the bustle, confusion and disorder, of an election in that part of the Commonwealth, present a scene entirely different from the election in a small election district; and, what he said with regard to Philadelphia, might be so in Pittsburg. Now, if the Legislature should be satisfied, that the mode of proceeding, proper to be adopted to secure the freedom of elections in these cities, were not necessary in other parts of the State, will you forbid them to legislate, to secure that freedom of elections, because, it is not necessary in other parts of the State ? Or must every other part of the State be subjected to inconvenience for their sakes-to preserve an absurd uniformity? Then you sacrifice the end for the means, the substance for the shadow, and give up the sense, for the purpose of keeping the word; you destroy the very objects you have in view, and endanger elective government itself. You are not guarding the freedom of elections, unless you leave it in the power of the Legislature to employ every means they can devise to make them peaceable, safe and easy, and give to every man the opportunity of voting,
who desires it, without risk of life or limb, or an unreasonable effort of courage or patience. As to perfect equality, it cannot be brought abour. He knew of no means of giving every man the opportunity of voting at elections but one, and that was too objectionable to be thought of he meant the giving to every man, who was absent, the right to vote by proxy; and then, every man qualified, might equally vote on the day of election. If this is not done, it cannot be arranged so that every man can vote on the day of election. Some will be absent, or sick, or unable to attend—some will neglect to pay their taxes, or to be registered. All you can undertake to do is, to give every man the opportunity of voting, who desires to come to the polls and vote. With regard to the registry law, he would only say, it does not affect the substance of the qualification in the least. It had been so considered in Massachusetts, and New York, and it must be so considered here. So far as it applies to the city of Philadelphia, he had never heard a complaint with regard to the operation of it.He had always heard it spoken of as being conducive to peace and order, and he thought it desirable that it should be continued. "It was a law of freedom—the freedom of elections.
Mr. Dickey said he believed the gentleman from Susquehanna had said, if he was not mistaken, that the Legislature of 1835-6 had introduced and passed a bill to which they gave a false title; or that they were afraid to give it its true title. If the gentleman would refer to that act he would find that the title corresponded exactly with the law itself. He would find that it was a law to repeal the State tax, extend the internal improvement sys. tem, and recharter the United States Bank. He was never ashamed of the title of that bill; nor were the party he acted with ashamed of it; and the highest compliment paid the body which passed that act was paid by the gentleman from Susquehanna himself. When that bill was introduced in the Senate the gentleman was in a doubtful situation; and if he mistook not, that gentleman asked for time on account of the depth of the snow and the state of the roads until he could ascertain how his constituents stood effected in relation to it. Other gentlemen felt prepnred to act without consulting their constituents, and the bill was passed. That gentleman voted against it, and he had no doubt he voted in accordance with the will of his constituents. On a recent occasion, however, this same gentleman voted seven different times for an individual for Speaker of the Senate, who was one of those who had been denounced as bribed traitors in consequence of the votes he had given on the passage of the United State Bank bill. Notwithstanding this, the democratic member from Susquehanna with six other anti-bank members, voted for this individual who had been denounced as a bribed traitor,
The Chair said the remarks of the gentleman were irrelevant to the question before the committee.
The question was then taken on the second branch of Mr. STERIGERE's amendment, and it was disagreed to-yeas 49 nays 67, as follows:
YEASMessrs. Banks, Bedford, Bell, Bigelow, Bonham, Brown, of Northampton! Brown, of Philadelphia, Butler, Clarke, of Indiana, Cummin, Curll, Darrah, Dillinger, Donagan, Donnell, Doran, Earle, Fleming Fouikrod, Gamble, Gearhart, Gilmore, Grenel, Hastings, Hayhurst, Helffenstein, Kennedy, Lyons, Magee, Mann, Martin, M'Cahon, M'Dowell
, Miller, Overfield, Read, Ritter, Rogers, Sellers, Scheotz, Shellito, Smith, Smyth, Sterigere, Taggart, Weaver, White, Woodward_49.
Nars Messra. Agnew, Ayres, Barndollar, Barnitz, Bayne, Biddle, Brown, of Lancaster. Chambers. Chandler. of Choster Chauncy, Clapp, Clarke, of Boaver, Clark, of Das. phin, Cleavinger. Clin, Coates, Cochran, Cope, Cox, Craig, Crain, Crum, Cunningham, Darlington, Denny, Dickey, Dickerson, Farrelly, Forward, Fry, Fuller, Harris, Henderson, of Alleghony, Hende 'son, of Dauphin, Hicster, Hopkinson, Houpt, Hyde, Jenks, Kerr, Konigmacher, Long, Maclay, M'Call, M'Sherry, Merrill, Merkel, Montgomery, Myers, Penny packer, Pullock, Porter, of Lancaster, Porter, of Northampton, Purviance, Reigart, R-wyer, Russell
. Saeger, Scott, Seltzer, Sill, Snively, Swelland, Thomas, Todd, Waidman, Sergeant. President-67.
So the question was determined in the negative.
Mr. Martin moved the following amendment : “Provided, that the rights of an elector shall in no case extend to others than free white male citizens".
The committee then rose, reported progress, and obtained leave to sit again in the afternoon, when
The Convention adjourned.
FRIDAY AFTERNOON-4 O'CLOCK.
THIRD ARTICLE. The Convention again resolved itself into committee of the whole on the third article of the Constitution, Mr. Kerr, of Washington, in the Chair.
'The question pending being on the motion of Mr. Martin, of Philadelphia, to amend the amendment, by adding to the end thereof the following proviso : “ Provided also, That the rights of an elector shall in no case extend to others than free white male citizens".
Mr. Martin said, he would now proceed to state his reasons for offering this additional provision. In doing so, he would be as brief as possible, being informed that there was no disposition among members to enter into the discussion of this topic, and would only say a few words on the merits of his proposition. By reference to the journals of the House of Representatives of 1831, 1832, page 838, he found that the number of black males, in the city and county of Philadelphia, was 6757. That being the number five years ago, it must now have become more than b000. The increase of colored inhabitants in this State, from the year 7790, is larger, in proportion to the members, than in the white populalion. The great increase of the colored population, the fact that it is still tincreasing rapidly, and the certainty that, after the adoption of the Constitution we are now making, the increase will be still more rapid, constitute the reasons which induced me to offer this amendment. I find, in addition, that in all the States west and south of us, commencing with Ohio, the giant of the west—a State to which we feel proud to be near; whose progress, in all the arts and sciences, in civilization and moral worth, we are proud to acknowledge ; our immediate sister, lying on our own borders-precisely the same provision is introduced into their Constitutions. Following out all the great western States, to the State of Dela'ware, only a few miles from our own doors, we find the same policy prevaile, except in the State of Kentucky, where the Indians also are inclu,