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half of the wealth of the state is taxed. The other half of the children of the state are in hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of school districts, dependent largely upon the varying conditions of local taxation for their school facilities. Four times as much is spent for the education of a child in the tenement districts of New York city as for that of a child in the farm districts.
The state itself must equalize conditions which the growth and progress of municipal corporations have rendered unequal. The opportunities of city children must not be reduced, but those of country children must be greatly increased. This subject is so fundamental that it requires treatment in the organic law. There are other things having to do with agriculture, forestry, and the permanent prosperity of the great state of New York that claim careful attention. The city population has vastly outgrown that of the country, and yet in the long run the city will suffer if the rural life is allowed to decay. Good roads will help turn the tide, but there must be a vast development of schools and social institutions if New York's agriculture is to become-as it easily can be made to becometen times as intensive and as prosperous as it is at present.
A Scientific Revision
The work of our constitutional convention should be scientific and thoughtful. This will be the easier because there has been no great clamor, no popular passion involved in its election. The members were elected, indeed, upon party tickets, but they were as a rule selected because of supposed fitness, and they will have little if any partisan motive in the work that lies before them. It is true that the advocates of one reform and of another will urge their views upon the convention. But there would seem to be no movement for any particular reform that is likely to be pressed with such eagerness or intensity as to disturb the deliberative mind of the convention in dealing in a well-proportioned way with its task as a whole.
It is an awkward thing for an aspiring and growing family to live in a cramped and ill-arranged house. Yet experience
has shown that it is possible to live quite decently for a time in a hut or a log cabin; and we know that it makes more difference how the house is lived in than what its architecture may be. We know that the political capacity and social character of the people are more essential than the forms of their political institutions. Yet these forms are important, and in due time, if they are not made suitable, they become seriously detrimental.
The first constitutional convention of New York met in July, 1776, at White Plains, just after the Declaration of Independence at Philadelphia. Its work was completed at Kingston, in April of the following year. This constitution of 1777 was accepted by the legislature and went into effect without popular ratification. There have been several revisions of the instrument as a whole, and many changes and amendments. But in its outward forms the main structure of the government of New York has not been much altered for a hundred and thirty-seven years. The convention of 1801, presided over by Aaron Burr, merely rearranged the number of members of the two branches of the legislature and provided for apportionment. The constitution of 1821 gave the more modern form and expression to the fundamental law, without changing its real character in most essentials. It was ratified in February 1822, with about 75,000 votes favoring, and 41,000 opposing.
After twenty-four years came the next general revision of the constitution, in 1846. Ratification followed in November, with 221,500 votes in favor, and 92,400 votes against the new instrument. The next convention met in 1867, after the Civil War; and its work was submitted in such a way as to be voted upon in large sections, or parts. It was all rejected except section 6, which, however, was an elaborate one dealing with the entire organization of the state judiciary. This impels the remark that the best legal minds of the state are likely to bring before the convention of 1915 certain important proposals having to do with making the courts more efficient and speedy in dealing with the vast number of cases that our great population and complex interests are now bringing before them.
The next convention was held in 1873, and this offered numerous amendments that were ratified in the following year, while keeping the main form of the constitution of 1846. You are comparatively familiar with the work of the convention of 1894 and the amendments that have been made from time to time since then by the submission of particular subjects.
New Spirit of State Government
The preamble of the constitution of 1821 acknowledged "with gratitude the grace and beneficence of God in permitting us to make choice of our form of government." The preamble of the constitution of 1846 was as follows: "We the people of the state of New York, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure its blessings do establish this constitution."
Note that we were grateful for being “permitted to choose the form of our government." In that phrase is summed up much of the history of Anglo-Saxon constitutional progress from the time of King John. In 1846 we were appreciative of freedom and its blessings." We asked from the state the maintenance of order and justice, but beyond that, for the most part, we were sufficient unto ourselves, individualists, desiring to pursue our own ends without molestation.
The profound change that has taken place is not in the form of government, but in the constitution of society itself. We have immense growths of population, and radical re-groupings. We have ten millions of people, more than four-fifths of whom are living under urban conditions. A thousand applications of science and invention give us twentieth-century civilization with its new demands. The functions of government, rather than the forms, have become the important thing in the thoughts of most people. Freedom remains desirable, but the individual is no longer self-sufficing.
The state becomes more and more an agency for the working out of the purposes of corporate society. We lay tasks upon it to be performed for the common benefit. We demand that these things be done with efficiency. It is marvelous
that we should have been able to pass through such vast transitions, from the pioneer stage to our existing complex social life, with so little of constitutional change. The most important concrete thing that has come about is to be found in the life and the vitality of our municipal corporations. The state must to some extent reorganize itself in view of all this astounding development. It is no longer passive or negative in its functions.
Society proposes to use the organism of the state for purposes requiring not only the highest intelligence but a constant regard for social and ethical problems. This is especially true concerning the largest and the most complex of all our fortyeight commonwealths. I feel confident that the constitutional body of 1915 will endeavor, in so far as may seem feasible, to bring the organic law of the state into conformity with the needs and opportunities of our great period in the world's life. All that scientific groups, like this Academy of Political Science, can do to discuss the several subjects and problems that the convention should consider, will doubtless help to instruct public opinion at large; and it may be of some service to the members of the convention itself. It is in this spirit of scientific inquiry, rather than in the spirit of agitation, that the Academy in its sessions to-day and to-morrow will discuss a number of the more important of these constitutional topics.
THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION:
WALTER F. DODD
Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Illinois
HIS paper proceeds upon the assumption that a convention is to be assembled under constitutional provisions substantially similar to those now in force in New York, and deals primarily with problems which present themselves in connection with the work of the convention. The most essential characteristic of the convention clause of the constitution of New York is that which makes the assembling of a convention independent of further legislative action, after the people have declared by popular vote that they desire a convention.
Preliminary Work for a Constitutional Convention
Much of the work of constitutional conventions is ineffective because the members of such bodies have ordinarly not had presented to them in usable form necessary information regarding the problems with which they must deal. Committees are, of course, appointed by conventions, and these committees must do a great deal of independent work, but a convention is a temporary body which cannot remain in session long enough to accumulate all the materials and information needed in connection with its work. Convention committees are in a much less satisfactory position than committees of the legislature, for legislative bodies meet frequently, and many of their committees accumulate in time an important body of information. For a convention, which is to remain in session but a short time, the work of accumulating information and documents must, if it is to be done at all, be done mainly in advance of the meeting of the convention.
Persons interested in particular questions will, of course, be