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than any to which it can hereafter be exposed; and experience has demonstrated that its cohesion and strength depend, not on the pleasure or caprice of individual States or of geographical sections, but on the collective will of the people. That will has been declared in the forms prescribed by the Constitution. It has been maintained in war. It has been reasserted by the representatives of the People and of the State. It has prescribed its own guarantees for the future, and confirmed those guarantees by the reaffirmance at the polls of the popular will. There is no loyal man, who has not a clear and abiding confidence in the perpetuity of a government thus sustained, in peace as in war, by the sovereign power of the People. There is no foreign nation which does not recognize these as the achieved results of the conflict, and unite in respect for a people so true to the traditions of their early history, and to the liberties committed to them by the fathers; and who, having proved faithful and heroic amid carnage and battle, which filled the land with anguish; in victory seek only, yet firmly, the security of the Republic, and the supremacy of well-ordered and equal freedom.
It will be your high privilege, in the name of the people of this State, to ratify the proposed constitutional amendment, which I have the honor to transmit upon this opening day of your session. I cannot too earnestly recommend your prompt action, in order that the judgment of New York on a proposition so moderate and so just, may be submitted at the earliest day to the unreconstructed States, and that, on our part, there may be no delay in anchoring those fraternal guarantees in the Federal Constitution. I need not discuss the features of this amendment; they have undergone the ordeal of public consideration since the adjournment of Congress in July last, and they are understood, appreciated and approved. Never before in the history of the Government, upon any great question affecting our national interests, has there been such unanimity in the expression of the popular will. The proposed amendment seems to contain just the conditions of safety and justice indispensable to a permanent settlement. It spans the chasm which the rebellion opened between the loyal and the insurgent States; and if it shall be accepted in good faith, as frankly as it is tendered, the way is already opened for reconciliation and lasting peace.
There is no other plan before the people, and the verdict of the ballotbox implies that no other plan is desired. The claim that the revolting States could by their own act, and without the consent of Congress, restore their former relations to the Government against which they rebelled, and that an Executive officer of the Government could exercise the prerogative of Congress, and legalize illegal governments organized by armed and unpardoned rebels-have both been rejected and condemned.
On full and deliberate consideration, the people have pronounced in favor of the authority of Congress over the whole subject of reconstruction, and have declared their purpose, that the rebel States shall not be restored to their former participation in the Government until suitable constitutional guarantees are provided for security against present disloyalty and future rebellion.
I am not insensible of the obstacles to a cheerful acceptance of the amendment, by those who retain much of the bitternesss which they cherished towards us through four years of wasting war; and who are still imbued with prejudice against equality of right for those whom they recently held in bondage, and who fought to uphold the government, while they fought to destroy it. It takes time to work out changes and organic reforms in the structure of political institutions
Progress in human affairs is of slow growth, except in periods of violent convulsions in society which form epochs in history. I need not say that the work of reconstruction is retarded by the illusory hope held out to the insurgent States, of reconstruction on terms less favorable than this amendment, to the future security and repose of the government; but this error cannot last. Moderate, yet firm in our purpose, consistent and uniform in what we propose, we tender an amendment to which we trust these States will accede, in the same spirit of frankness and good faith in which we offer it for their acceptance. If, to our disappointment and regret, they shall manifest a spirit of continued hostility, and by rejecting a proposition so liberal and just, evince a settled purpose to continue to oppress those whom we are bound in honor to protect, and at the same time to represent them in the councils of the Federal Government, it will then be the duty of Congress, by more stringent measures, to give effect to the popular will. There can be no reaction; the nation has no purpose of turning back. The powers of Congress are ample under the Constitution; and those powers will be exercised, so far as the public safety may demand, with the firmness worthy of a great people.
Under a wise provision of the existing Constitution, the question whether there shall be a convention for revision and amendment, was submitted to the people for decision at the recent general election. The large majority by which such a convention was ordered, is an emphatic expression of the public judgment that some modification of the organic law is essential to the general welfare. The constitutional duty devolves upon the Legislature, at its present session, of providing for the election of delegates, and giving effect to the popular will. It is due to those we represent, that a prompt response be made to their call for a convention of revision, and that there should be no delay which can properly be avoided, in a matter of such general and vital interest.
It was commonly assumed by the framers of the earlier Constitutions in this and other States, that their work would serve the purpose of all after time, without occasion for general revision, or even for material change. The practical result, however, was at variance with the theory. Unforeseen defects were developed by time; and provisions, framed with reference to the existing condition of affairs, became inappropriate under a change of circumstances. Revision followed revision, each being an improvement upon the past, but each proving in its turn inadequate to meet the demands of the future.
The present Constitution of this State is, in many respects, in advance of those which preceded it; but it may well be questioned whether its framers, in correcting pre-existing defects, were not led into errors in an opposite direction unfavorable to efficiency in the public service.
The experience of twenty years has produced a general conviction that some of the provisions of that instrument could be modified with great advantage to the State. The intermediate period has been marked by memorable events, which have furnished new problems for solution by the framers of constitutional law. Heavy obligations have been incurred by the people, in the course of the recent war, for the maintenance of the General Government. Great changes have been wrought in the financial system of the country, materially affecting our sources of internal revenue and our system of State taxation. The depreciation of the currency, and the enhancement of prices, have resulted through the unforeseen operation of constitutional provisions, in practically
reversing the established policy of the State, which was to secure faithful and able service, by providing adequate compensation for the performance of public duties. Grave questions are likely to arise in connection with our commercial and material interest, which were not anticipated or provided for by the framers of the organic law.
It is generally conceded that there are serious imperfections in the judiciary system as it exists under the present Constitution. It was new in many of its prominent features, and it is not singular that the difficulties which have since been developed by experience, were not foreseen by its authors. An ample judicial force was provided to dispose of the amount of business which then devolved upon the courts of original jurisdiction. Appeals were facilitated by the institution of independent appellate tribunals, holding concurrent sessions in the various judicial districts of the State. A court of appeals was organized to review the decisions of these, and of other appellate courts established for the convenience of the larger cities. It was to be a body consisting of eight judges, of whom four only were to be continuing members of the court, the other four being judges of the Supreme Court, who were to serve only for a single year. Six members of the court constituted a quorum, and the concurrence of five was deemed essential to a judgment either of affirmance or reversal.
It soon became apparent that with a court thus organized, and with an unrestricted right of appeal to the higher tribunal at the discretion of the parties in almost every civil and criminal proceeding instituted in the various courts of record, it would be impossible that decision should keep pace with litigation. The determination of each cause involved a comparison of views by all the judges. The number was too great for consultation in open court. The sessions were occupied in hearing successive arguments, and the intervals between them in examining and preparing written opinions in cases, the decision of which was unavoidably postponed for future conference. These and other defects incident to the system were felt at an early period, in the accumulation of undecided cases. The amount of legitimate business was rapidly increasing, from causes connected with our commercial growth and prosperity, and the courts were powerless to prevent the blocking of the calendars, which resulted from the operation of laws they were bound to obey.
The court of last resort was rendered even more unstable than the framers of the Constitution designed, by the resignation of some of the permanent judges, who appreciated the difficulties of a system involving the discharge, without adequate compensation, of arduous and responsible duties, and with no hope of clearing the calendars. As early as 1857, the eight judges, none of whom were original members of the court, and none of whom are now upon the bench, united in a clear and able presentation to the Legislature of the faults in the organization of the courts, and recommended the adoption of amendments deemed important to its efficiency. The subject has since been considered at several sessions of the Legislature; but all measures of relief have failed, from the conviction that the only effectual remedy would be found in a convention for the revision of the Constitution.
Our present population largely exceeds that of all the original States at the time the Federal Constitution was framed; and from the extent of our commercial relations, and the magnitude of our diversified interests, the amount of the business devolving on our courts is much greater than that of the Supreme Court of the United States and all the subordinate [SENATE JOURNAL.]
Federal tribunals. It is of great moment to the people that our judicial system should be adequate to its work, and that effectual means should be taken to secure the prompt and thorough administration of justice. Every citizen is concerned in this department of the government, on which largely depends the security of our persons, our property and our rights. It is essential to the general welfare that there should be an open avenue to the courts, and an enlightened and upright bench to administer impartial justice, and to maintain the authority and stability of the laws. In another place I have referred to one or two subjects of scarcely inferior importance, and others will doubtless be considered in the convention, which will call for careful deliberation, sound judgment and wise statesmanship.
I am inclined to think favorably of the suggestion which has been made in various quarters, that it may be advisable to secure a more numerous convention than the last by providing for the election of the usual number of delegates from the Assembly districts or counties, and thirty-two additional delegates from the State at large, each elector voting for only sixteen of that number. The practical effect of such a provision would be to give to each of the political parties the selection of half of the additional delegates at large; and it is believed that such nominations would be made by each in a spirit of common regard for the welfare and honor of the State, as to contribute to the strength of a deliberative body, charged with duties of such interest and magnitude. No objections to the proposition have occurred to me which do not seem to be outweighed by its advantages; and I therefore submit the suggestion to the judgment of the Legislature.
During the past year considerable progress has been made in the work of retiring the circulation of the few remaining banks doing business. under the laws of the State. The labors of the department upon which this duty devolves have been performed with fidelity.
The able report of the Comptroller, to which your attention is invited, contains the following exhibit:
Deficiency in the revenue, September 30, 1865
Deficiency of the revenue, September 30, 1866.....
$1,179,394 06 8,934,659 38
NOTE.-There was due at the close of the fiscal year from the city of New York, $2,433,903.09, applicable to the reduction of the above deficiency of $2,623,637.68.
Payments of the year on account of all the funds except
the Canal Fund...
Balance in the treasury September 30,
Receipts of the year....
Amount overdrawn September 30, 1866..........
The State tax levied in 1866 was 5 9-16 mills, for the following purposes: For schools, of a mill; for general purposes, 13 mills; for canals, 15-16 of a mill, and for the bounty debt, 24 mills. The direct tax, levied in 1865, and payable during the last fiscal year, amounted to $6,033,817.34, exclusive of the mill tax for school purposes and county treasurers' fees.
In my last annual message, brief allusion was made to the importance of adopting a mode of assessments that should impose upon personal property its due share of the public burdens. Efforts were subsequently made in the Senate to relieve the existing system of its prominent defects. The bill introduced for this purpose elicited intelligent and instructive discussion, and the necessity of amending the present law seemed to be generally conceded. In the course of the debate, differences arose in regard to the proper method of attaining the end in view, and the measure was lost. The vast volume of currency, the continued advance in personal wealth, and the large State and national debt, and consequent heavy taxes, must serve to increase the interest felt in this subject. The burdens of taxation should bear equally as may be upon the two great classes of property, real and personal, and I recommend a renewal of the effort to secure a modification of our imperfect and unequal plan.
It is hardly necessary to suggest to you the importance of most practical retrenchment and economy in every department of public expenditure. Our State debt is hardly short of fifty millions, and if to this is added the county, town and municipal indebtedness, the sum is more than doubled. The period of declining prices and lessened profits has been deferred, but that it is not far remote, the experience of the past, and the indications of the present, furnish ample proof. The currency of paper and the currency of specie must gradually approximate a common level. The policy of the general government will doubtless tend to unite and equalize the two currencies, and this involves a reduction, resulting in stringency in money and depression of business.
It is respectfully suggested that the General Government could wisely diminish the impost on the productions and capital of the people, and by so doing mitigate the severity of the burdens which have resulted from the extraordinary period through which we have passed. It would not embarrass the credit of the nation, while it would assure to the State the ability to meet all the demands upon it with promptness, and engage still further in improvement and development of resources. The theory of the General Government is to impose a tax on home industry and capital, and a duty on imports, equal to the ordinary expenses of gov ernment, the interest on the national debt, and an annual sinking fund sufficient for the discharge of the whole obligation in a reasonable time. The report of the Secretary of the Treasury, December, 1865, shows that the extinction of the public debt can be effected in twenty-eight -years; but the returns of the year just closed exhibit a gain in receipts over the estimates; and so far as this is drawn from the productions of the country, the increase will continue in the ratio of the gain in production. About twenty-eight millions of our present State debt was created in aid of the national cause, during the period of war, which