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ALL THE OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS, RELATING TO THE SUBJECT, AND
BY NATHANIEL H. CARTER AND WILLIAM L. STONE,
MARCUS T. C. GOULD,
THE Volume which is now presented to the public, is the work of differ ent hands; and lays claim to no other merit, than that of being a faithful and impartial record of the proceedings of the Convention, which assembled at Albany, on the 28th of August, 1821, and closed its session on the 10th of November following. It consists of the constitution of 1777—the acts of the legislature, of March and April, 1821, recommending a Convention— a minute and full journal of the proceedings and debates of the Convention, arranged in the order in which they occurred, including the reports of the several committees the ayes and noes on all important questions—and the constitution, as amended-together with an appendix, containing several documents relating to the Convention-and a well digested index of the whole volume.
In preparing the work for the press, its joint authors have availed themselves, as far as practicable, of the corrections suggested by the members of the Convention, of that part of the proceedings, which has appeared in the public journals; and the speeches, which have not been published, are given with as much accuracy, as the rapidity with which the volume was executed would permit. The editors are not sensible of any want of care or attention, to render these reports correct and satisfactory; but with all their industry and labour, it is not improbable, that amidst other avocations, and the hurry in which the work went to press, errors may have escaped their observation; and in some cases, perhaps, injustice has been done to the speakers.
If, on examination, such defects in the work shall be found, the reporters trust they will find an apology in the difficulty of hearing at all times distinctly, speakers in a remote part of the house; of apprehending their arguments always when they were heard; and of following with minute accuracy the chain of proceedings, amidst the intricacies and confusion, in which the Convention sometimes found itself involved. On this topic they will merely add, that they have on all occasions assiduously laboured to give a fair and impartial transcript of the remarks of the speaker.
The office of a reporter is in all respects invidious and ungrateful. While its duties are arduous and responsible, requiring great labour and patient industry, the most unwearied and faithful discharge of these duties is attended with no adequate reward, in a literary point of view. The nature of the office precludes the exercise of those faculties of the mind, which can alone confer dignity and reputation upon literary efforts; and the reporter, in his
best estate, is but a manufacturer of intellectual wares, from such raw materials, as are furnished at his hands. This reduces his province to very narrow limits; and the only reputation he can expect, must arise from the exercise of his judgment, in moulding the materials into fabrics for which they were intended. It would be equally incompatible with the principles of correct taste, and with the fidelity of the reporter, to attempt to invest plain sense and dry argument, with the embellishments of fancy, or the elaborate elegance of diction. It is the duty of the reporter to give the speeches, both in matter and manner, as they were delivered, except in such inadvertent inaccuracies as might be supposed to occur in the heat and hurry of debate.
Conscious of these restrictions and limitations, the compilers of this volume did not undertake the work with the hope of acquiring literary reputation. Two of them are editors of public journals; and the immediate object in view, was to supply their own, and other papers, with the daily proceedings of the Convention. In addition to this primary object, it was believed to be important, both to the present generation and to posterity, to preserve in a more regular and durable form, than the fugitive columns of a newspaper, a full and accurate record of the proceedings of a body, in which was to be agitated and settled the first principles of a free government, and to which was assigned the duty of amending, to an unlimited extent, the constitution of a great and flourishing republic.
The compilers of this volume have not been disappointed' in their anticipations of the number and importance of the amendments, which would be proposed and discussed. Public expectation has been even surpassed, both in respect to the variety and magnitude of the changes, which have been recommended by the Convention. Scarcely a pillar has been left standing in the venerable fabric, erected by the political fathers of the state. THE LEGISLATIVE, EXECUTIVE, and JUDICIAL DEPARTMENTS, have all been newmodelled, and undergone radical and important alterations. The APPOINTING POWER, on the discreet regulation of which depend in a great measure the dignity and welfare of the state, and which has at its disposal an annual patronage, to the amount of about two millions of dollars, has been shifted to different hands, and organized on a new and untried plan. Other important alterations, of a miscellaneous nature, have been recommended; and an almost entirely new constitution will be submitted, for the adoption or rejection of the citizens of this state, on the third Tuesday of January next.
In the discussion of these amendments, all the principles of a free government, and the interests of a great and free people, have passed in review. The political history of the state has been retraced, and its vicissitudes examined, from the days of its colonial vassalage, to its present proud and enviable condition. The gradual changes of the state, in its government, its laws, its civil, political, and religious institutions, have all undergone a rigid examination. In a word, there is scarcely a topic, connected with the past history, the present situation, or future prospects of our state, which has not been introduced, in the course of these debates. Frequent reference has also been made to the governments of other states and other countries, exhibiting a comparative and analogical view in relation to our own institutions. From
these considerations it must be evident, that in this volume will be found a great body of historical facts, and much political information, which it is important to preserve.
Of the character of the Convention; of the wisdom or indiscretion of its proceedings; and of the expediency or inexpediency of the proposed amendments, this is neither the time nor the place for discussion. The Reporters commenced their labours with a full determination, that whatever might be their own political sentiments and feelings, they should not be permitted to mingle in their duties, or give the slightest tinge of partiality to their reports; nor will any opinion on the result of the Convention be now expressed.
Whatever may be the event of the conflicting sentiments of the community, with regard to the amended constitution, it cannot materially affect the value of this volume. The act of calling a Convention, of electing delegates with unlimited powers, and the proceedings of that body, constitute a great POLITICAL REVOLUTION, in which the people of this state, in a silent and peaceable manner, resumed for a time their delegated power, and original sovereignty; and claimed the privilege of revising and amending, by their representatives, the constitution, which forms the basis of their government, and the guarantee of their rights and liberties. Whether the amended constitution shall be adopted or not, an authentic record of the events, connected with this revolution, will be valuable, both as preparatory to the ultimate decision of the people, and as matter of history.
It is important that the people, previous to the adoption or rejection of the constitution, which will in a few weeks be submitted for their consideration, should have a full view of the whole ground, and be made acquainted with the arguments, which have been advanced by their representatives, for and against the several amendments. The question which is about to be taken will be final; and the constitution which shall be adopted, on the last Tuesday of January next, will probably endure for ages. Before a decision of such magnitude, and so momentous in its consequences, shall be made, it is important that authentic and correct information should be extensively diffused through the community.
It is believed this volume contains a more full and accurate exposition of the views of the Convention, on the great variety of subjects, which were discussed and acted on by that body, than can be obtained from any other source. The official journal kept by the secretaries, however accurate, will contain little more than the outlines of the proceedings, and will furnish none of the reasons, or principles, on which the amendments are grounded. Five thousand copies of the amended constitution, are the only official documents, which will go forth to the people, to guide and direct them in the decision they are about to make. These naked copies, blended as the amendments are with the provisions of the existing constitution, will afford no opportunity of contrasting the alterations with other propositions, on the same subjects, or of the arguments, which were urged in favour and against their adoption.
In the volume now presented to the public, the reader will find a copy of the old constitution; the amendments recommended, in a distinct form; and the amended constitution, as proposed to the people. He will also be able