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PUBLISHBD BY THE ANTI-ASSESSMENT COMMITTEE AND DISTRIBUTED' GRATUITOUSLY.
EDITED BY E. MERIAM.]
NEW-YORK, JANUARY 12, 1847.
[Vol. I.....No. 45.
THE CONSTITUTION OF 1847.
COUNTY OF NEW-YORK TAXES. The first day of January, 1847, the Constitution
MONDAY, August 24. The corporation comptroller, Mr. Ewen, has pubframed by the State Convention on the 9th of October,
lished in a printed sheet a statement setting forth the 1846, and ratified and adopted by the people of this *Mr. Allen submitted the following minority report, aggregate of the valuation of both real and personal grcat Cominonwealth on the third day of November he having been absent when the majority of Com. mittee No. 14 reported :
property in the several wards as returned hy the ward of the same year, became the fundamental law of
ý 1. No special act for incorporating any city or
assessors in 1845 and 1846. We have copied from the State of New-York-a Commonwealth of such village shall be granted; but the legislature shall pass this document the tables below. vast geographic extent that the people residing at its general laws for incorporating, organizing and de
The population of the wards as set forth in Mr. fining the duties and powers of cities and villages, extreme eastern boundary actually became subject including the following provisions:
David T. Valentine's City Manual, was in 1845 as to its provisions thirty-one minutes before that import- § 2. For the opening, widening or altering streets
follows: ant instrument became operative at its extreme wesand avenues, in incorporated cities and villages, the
1st Ward consent of a majority of persons to be assessed for
20,993 tern boundary. each opening, widening or altering, shall be necessary;
27,259 The members of the Senate and Assembly elected and the assessment for such improvemeut shall be
13,378 to office under the Constitution of 1821 succeed those confined to the streetor avenue to be opened, widened
5th or alterel: and no such assessment shall exceed fifty
21,103 whose terms of office expired with the last moment of
6th per cent. of the value of the land assessed.
19,522 the year 1846. The term of office of the new
7th ♡ 3. No city or village corporation shall borrow
40,350 members commenced with the first moment of the money on the credit or liability of such city or village.
9th or lend their credit to others, except to repel invasion
30,907 18th included in 18th. year 1847, and will expire with the last moment of
Total, 361,223. the 31st of December of this same year.
or suppress insurrection, and for other purposes, ex
cept by the unanimous consent of every member lative term in 1847 commenced on the first day of elected to the common council of cities, or ot every
In 1844, the valuation of personal property in the January, and after this year, on the first day of Jauuary member elected to the board of trustees of villages;
11th ward was 99,200; in 1843 but 87,400; in 1842, annually, and the Legislature to convene on the second
and also, unless by an act of the Legislature, on proof 145,400, and in 1841, 95.600. These returns show
of such unanimous consent, which act shall specify Tuesday in January, or such other day as the Legis- the object of such law: and shall provide the ways
great inequality of assessing. lature shall hereafter provide. and means, by directing a pro. rata. amount of the prin
ASSESSMENT OF 1845. cipal of such debt to be annually assessed on and Ward. Real Estate.
Personal Estate. THE CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF NEWcollected from the estates, real and personal, in such
1,367,430.00 of such debt or liability ; but such corporations may The Constitution adopted in 1821, ceased with the
5,495,145.52 nevertheless make temporary loans in anticipation of last moment of the year 1846. This fundamental
4th their annual revenue, not exceeding, in any one year,
1,973,088.00 code has been in existence twenty-five years, or ex
1,598,319.00 twenty-five per cent. of such revenue, or for a longer actly one-fourth of a century, during which time the
1,082,138.00 period than six months. population of this great State has increased from 1,372,
3,234,535.00 It was read and referred to the appropriate com810 to 2,604,495. Many, very many of those who
1,591,685.00 mittee of the whole. adopted the Constitution in 1821, have ceased their
1,341,037.59 earthly labors—others have removed from this State,
THURSDAY, Oct. 8.
631,150.00 and others still remain-probably, the last the least
CITIES AND VILLAGES.
171,585.71 in number. *Mr. Murphy moved instructions to the committee
1,762.550.00 13th 4,139,300.00
1,838,307.54 It shall be the duty of the Legislature to proThe new Constitution, section 8, of article 1. pro
8,751,210 76 vide for the organization of cities and incorporated hibits the judges of the Supreme Court from holding villages, and especially to restrict their power of tax
1,000,600.00 any other office or public trust, and also from exercis
1,916,459.57 ation, assessment, borrowing money, contracting debts ing any power of appointment to public office. and loaning their credit, so as to prevent abuses in
18th By section 16, of Article 3, no local or private bill, assessments and in contracting debt by such muniwhich may be passed by the legislature, shall embrace
$62,787,527.91 cipal corporations. more than one subject which shall be expressed in Mr. VAN SCHOONHOVEN moved to add to the section,
ASSESSMENT FOR 1846. the title. the following:
Ward. Real Estate.
Personal Estate. By section 9 of article 8, it is made the duty of the “ But, shall not affect any existing legislative pro
1st, Legislature, in the organization of cities and villages,
24,887,696.76 visions respecting liabilities heretofore incurred by
2d to l'estrict the power of taxation and assessment, con
1,487,396.00 any city or village corporation." tracting debts, and loaning their credit, so as to pre
4,503,295 38 Mr. Nicholas moved the previous question and the
11,97 4,849.00 vent abuses in assessments, and in contracting debiby
1,982,337.00 amendment of Mr. V. S. was negatived-37 to 39.
2,346,327.00 Mr. Harris now moved to strike out the three last municipal corporations. By section 1, of article 6, the court of impeach
7,274,750 00 7th 10,851,215.00
3,036,635.00 ments is distinctly required to be composed of a Mr. MURPHY opposed the motion. He said he inmajor part of two classes instead of a majority of the
3,357,355.50 seried those lines that there might be some signification
11,295,100.00 9th 9,893,500.00
1,660,380.83 persons. given to the resolution, which he proceeded to explain.
10th Mr. Skidmore's memorial in the Bloomingdale road
711.044.00 Mr. Nicoll movel the previous question on the matter, is granted by section 8 of article 6-and the
2.25,771.35 whole section.
4,612,950.00 William Street matter is also guarded against-ihe
666,350.00 The amendment of M:. Harris was rejected, and
321,912.87 'possum wharf bill, by section 16 of article 3-assess- the section offered by Mr. Murphy adopted, ayes 14.
14th ment abuses, by sectioa 9, of article 8-and the organi
1,999,175.40 Nays. Messrs. Dodd and Townseni-2.
1.5th zation of the Court of Impeachments by section 1 of
10,058,815.85 Mr. Harris, from the committee on revision, report
255,114.20 article 6. ed back the section presented by Mr. Murphy, and
1,754,898.57 *Mr. Alles was for several years Mayor of the it was agreed to.
18th 10,67 1.215.00
1,272,330.00 City of New-York, and Mr. Murphy was formerly
The above provision forms Sec. 9 of Art. 8, of the
10th 11th 12th
Referred to the select committee heretofore TUESDAY, July 14th. appointed on this subject, consisting of Messrs. TownEQUALIZATION OF STATE ASSESSMENTS.
send, Ayrault, Jones, W. B. Wright and Swackliamer. Mr. TOWNSEND moved an enquiry as to the estab
WEDNESDAY, Sept. 30. lishment of a State Board of Assessors with power to
Mr. Townsend presented a memorial from Brown, equitably adjust the relative appraisement of the real
Brothers & Co., of New-York, for an equalization of and personal estate in the several counties, with refer- taxes, and a state board of assessors. Referred. ence to a just and uniform levy of the State or National
THURSDAY, Oct. 1. direct taxation. Agreed to.
EQUALIZATION OF TAXATION.
Mr. TOWNSEND, from the select committee on the
equalization of state taxation, reported the following Mr. Townsend moved a resolution of enquiry as
section: to the propriety of adopting the following as a section ý 1. The legislature shall at its next annual session of the Constitution :
after the adoption of this constitution, providle by law Resolved, That the committee appointed to revise for equalizing the valuation of property for the purarticles passed upon by the Convention be requested
poses of taxation as made by the assessors and superto cousider the propriety of placing the following visors in the respective counties of this state: so that section in the articles respecting the creation and du- each county shall contribute its proportionate share to ties of the state ofiicers :
the support of government. Ø —. The comptroller, treasurer, surveyor and Laid on the table to be printed. aitorney general shall constitute a board to adjust the
WEDNESDAY, Oct. 7. appraisement of the assessors of the several conties, of the valuation of the realand personal estate therein,
Mr. Tow send moved the following as an additional and to provide for an equitable imposition of state or
section, being the unanimous report of the committee
of five on the subject: national district taxation.
ý. The Legislature shall, at its next session after Mr. TallmadGE said this was a lofty principle, but he hoped the committee on enrollment would not be
the adoption of this Constitution, provide by law for
equalizing the valuation of property for the allowed to put any articles into the Constitution ou
of taxation, as made by the assessors and supervisors this subject.
in the respective counties of this State, so that each Mr. Townsend stated that he had seen the inel
comty shall contribute its proportionate share to the fectual attempts made by the legislature to enforce by
support of government. salutary laws provisions to equalize the imposition of
Mr. T. in view of the fact that this measure had the State tax, and he now hoped we should be enabled to establish the principle in the Constitution we were
received the unanimous approvalof a cominittee selectmaking. While the facts existed as exhibited in the
ed from every section of the State, would not occupy
but a brief period in his remarks upon the subject. returns before us, of the inequality of the Assessors'
From the investigations that he had made into the appraisement, with reference to the true value of property returned by them, he hoped no one would
nature of the returns to the State, exhibiting the
amount of the State tax in the various counties, he oppose the reference of this resolution. In the coun
felt authorised to assert, that whilst in most of the ties of New York and Kings, the full value of the real
westeru counties real estate was computed nearly at estate (though not of the personal) was returned, whereas in the county of Albany but about one-half
its cash valuation, in the counties of Kings and New
York, often above its cash value by the assessors, inof the real value of property was taxed, and he be
terinediate counties, and others in the northern and lieved in the county of Rensselaer even a smaller pro
southern sections of our State, escaped with the pay. portional estimate was made. The principle of equal taxation was a just one, and he hoped that we should
ment of sums less than one quarter of what should not be prevented from inserting it in the Constitution,
be their proportionate contribution to the State tax. He did not care how the board of State Assessors or
This was affected by an open and understood fraud revisors should be constituted; in this respect he
(he would almost say) in the valuation of both real would yield to the best suggestions of gentlemen.
and personal property. Mr. "Crooker: Does the gentleman suppose that
(Mr. Graham here made some observation not un
derstood.) all the personal property in his own city is returned ?
Mr. T. continued and said the restlessness of the Mr. Townsend: Certainly not. Nordo I for a moment suppose that 110,000,000 returned as the whole amount
gentleman might be explained from the fact that his of personal property in the State--including the capitals
county (Ulster) happened to be one which on the face of all our business incorporations and associations-rep
of the returns, appeared as obnoxious to the censure
that he had just uttered. He did not know but if the resents a one-fourth part of what actually exists—it is to remedy this difficulty that I propose some constitutional
systein of assessing personal property was continued, action as well as the more palpable fraud of estima
that in the salutary operation of some provision of the sing real estate, in such a manner as not to bear its
character now moved, a large amount of personal fair portion of taxes for other than for local and county
property might find its way to the tax books in his
own city. He cared not how this might be so long purposes.
as a fair and equitable estimate was secured throughMr. TallMADGE protested against this committee
out the State. As at present computed we had about of engrossment having the power to do what the reso
one hundred and fifteen millions of personal property lution contemplated. It would unsettle all they had
reported in the whole State, including all our incorpodone so well, and set everything they had finished, all afloat again.
rated and associated public capital--which two items
alone should nearly cover that sum. At an early period Mr. Stetson said the Legislature had the power to
of the session he had noticed this evasion of personal and regulate this matter at present. He hoped no new questions would be introduced at this late stage of
unfair valuation of real property, and had then stated
his concurrence in the views of a distinguished gentleproceedings. Mr. CAMBRELENG hoped no more time would be man, (S. B. Ruggles,) who, in an official report, had
several years recommended real estate alone as the lost on this. He hoped Mr. TOWNSEND) would with
best basis for equal and effectual taxation. Those draw it.
who would answer that thus personal property would Mr. TOWNSEND: It being important, and the prin
entirely escape, forget that personal property is repreciple a correct one, I must press it, Sir.
sented by articles either living or inanimate, and as Mr. CAMBLELENG moved the previous question. Mr. STETSON would not give this central power
all such inust rest or abide in some locality of land,
by storage, rents, &c., they would be called upon to authority to go 250 miles or any where to fix the value
bear their share of the burthen at first for convenience of property:
enforced upon fast property. We have provided for The previous question was not seconded; ayes 47,
a term of years a continnance of a small State tax. noes 7-54. No quorum.
Under the heavy expenditures of the general governMr- TOWNSEND (by consent) moved to refer the
ment, the revenues from customs, even with duties resolution to a select committee of five. Carricd.
upon the present free articles, will render a large Tuesday, Sept. 29th. patioual debt or direct taxation for the national exMr. Townsend presented a memorial signed by chequer unavoidable. Preferring that the governJonathan Thompson and others, citizens of the city of ment should pay as they go, and believing that the New-York, for the organization of a state board of people would require this mode of proceeding, he had
felt it peculiarly the duty of this Convention-seeing that legislative efforts to effect this object have heretofore been defeated by the representatives of delinquent localities, to providle means for an equitable imposition of the national tax, which will soon by its large addition to our present half mill State tax, make the present unequal mode of valuation a still greater enormity upon liis own county, (New-York,) which for some years had borne nearly two-thirds of the State tax. Mr. T. would leave to other gentlemen, whose counties suffered as his own, the farther advocacy of the measure, and hoped that under the favor with which the Convention apparenily received the suggestion, it would be speedily adopted. He would only state in addition that numerous memorials had been presented to us on the snbject—from some of the most intelligent and respectable citizens of the State.
Mr. GRAHAM considered this to be mere matter of legislation—and therefore moved to lay the proposition on the table.
The motion was rejected, ayes 37, nays 55.
Mr. R. CAMPDELL, Jr., hoped the seciion would be adopted or some other, by which the legislature should be directed to revise our tax laws.
Mr. Bascom moved to strike out“ at its next session after the adoption of this Constitution,” and to strike out“ proportiorate," and insert "eqnitable."
Mr. TOWNSEND assented.
" And also to secure the equalization of taxation according to property, without regard to the distinction of real and personal estate."
Mr. Perkins said the effect would be to compel the assessment of personal property without regard to its indebtedness. He was not prepared to assent to that.
Mr. MURPHY moved to add " and such property shall be taxed at the place of domicil of the owner."
Mr. TOWNSEND suggested to Mr. L. that he should withilraw his amendment, and offer it as a distinct section.
Mr. Loomis assented and withdrew his amendment, (carrying with it Mr. Murphy's).
Mr. PERKIN3 opposed the proposition as vague and indefinite.
Mr. Harris urged the importance of equalizing taxation, so that all should be burdened alike. This all concedeil did not exist now. He therefore proposed the following substitute for the proposition :
♡ - All property subject to taxation shall be taxed according to its actual value, to be ascertained in such manner as the Legislature shall direct, making the same equal and uniform throughout the State. No one species of property from which a tax may be collected, shall be taxed higher than another species of property of equal value.
Mr. White moved to lay the whole subject on the table. Carried, ayes 62, nays 44.
Ayes.-Messrs. Allen. Angel, Bowdish, Brayton, Bruce, Cambreleng, Candee, Chamberlain, Clyde, Cook, Crooker, Cuddeback, Dana, Dodd, Dorlon, Forsyth, Graham, Hart, Hoftian, Hotchkiss, A. Hunting, ton, E. Huntington, Hyde, Kemble, Kingsley, Kirkland, Mann, Marvin, Miller, Nellis, Nicholas, O'Conor, Parish, Patterson, Perkins, President, Rhoades, Riker, Ruggles, Russell, Salisbury, Sanford, Sears, Shaver, Shaw, Shelden, E. Spencer, W. H. Spencer, Stanton, Stetson, Strong, Taggart, J. J. Taylor, W. Taylor, Van Schoonhoven, Warren, White, Wood, Worden, A. Wright and Yawger.–61.
Noes.---Messrs. Archer, Ayrault, F. F. Backus, H. Backus, Baker, Bascom, Bergen, Biur, R. Campbell, Jr., Concly, Cornell, Dubois, Flanders, Gebhard, Harris, Harrison, Hunt, Hutchinson, Jones, Kennedy, Kernan, Loomis, McNiel, Morris, Murphy, Munro, Porter, Powers, Richmond, Shepard, Stephens, Swackhamer, Taft, Townsend, Tuthill, Waterbury, Willard, W. B. Wright, Young and Youngs.-40.
REMARKS. This is a very important matter, and the Legislature should take up this subject and organize a state board to equalize the valuation of real and personal property. The system is now very defective. In New-York and Kings county, real estate is assessed at its full value, while in the other counties of the State real estate is often assessed at less than one fourth its value, notwithstanding all the assessments are made under one and the same general state law. A strict compliance with this law would remedy the evil.
worst evils of the feudal system, which they served centrate the experience and wisdom of a greater numWe present to our readers the able remarks made to break up. He wished to tell his friend from Albany, ber of persons for the common benefit, by wise laws.
(Mr. Harris,) that these charters are essentially feudal Special legislation defeats this design. Localities for by the Hon. HENRY C. Murphy, in the State Con
instruments. The prerogative of granting them which which this legislation is made, do not derive the benefit vention, in relation to Municipal Corporations. was at first only exercised by the lords, came to be of the wisdom of the whole legislative body. A CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTIOX.
exercised by the king. This was, however, only a charter as now granted is for the most part a piece of
change of the creating power; and there it has con- empiricism by ihe wiseacres of the place where it is THURSDAY, Sept. 24.
tinuerl ever since in Europe. These charters have to be put in force. After being prepared at home, it Prayer by the Rev. Mr. Wilkins.
always since been granted by the king, or prescribed, is sent to the legislature to be passed. When it reaches The PRESIDENT presented a report from the register which presumes such a grant. The powers conferred that body, no one except the representatives from the in chancery of the amount of moneys in that court. have beenthe sune as were exercised by the misnamed locality cares what it contains. It is thus left in charge Referrcd. free cities. In the same form the system was trans
of the same interest as that which prepared it. He CORPORATIONS OTHER THAN BANKING AND
ferred to this country. The charters of New York would appeal to every member of the Convention who
and Albany will turnish a sufficient illustration of this had been a member of the legislature, if that was not MUNICIPAL.
remark. They were granted by the Colonial Governor the course pursued in reference to all local bills. They The Convention resumed the consideration of the in the name of the king. That of New-York, granted are passed without examination becalise they affect report of committee No. 17, on incorporations other by Montgomerie, provides that no person, not being
only a particular com?nunity. In this way opposite than muuicipal and banking.
a free citizen of the city, shall at any time hereafter and dangerous principles are put into the statute book ; The 1st section read as follows:
use any trade or occupation within ihe city and its and the wholesome and beneficient provisions of an ý 1. Special laws creating incorporations or associa- precincts, or shall sell or expose to sale any goods or united action on the part of the legislature for a long tions, or granting to them exclusive privileges, shall commodities by retail, in any lionse or place, except
periori are oftentimes lost. Ii would only be necessanot be passed. But the Legislature may pass general in the times of public tairs. Ridiculous as this pro- ry for him to show how this mode of legislation bad laws by which my persons may become incorporated, vision is, it may be remarked, that there are those operated in regard to cities to present to the mind of on complying with the provisions to be contained in who still maintain that it is not only in full force yet, every candid man the manifest impropriety of it. He such laws. And all Corporations siiall be subject to but also that it is beyond the control of the state. For had examined for this purpose the charters of the five sich general laws as the Louislature may, froin time in a communication mule by the comptroller to the
largest cities of the state, and the powers conferred to time evaci, not inconsistent withi ihe provisions of Common council in 1841, he says that ihe charter of upon their corporations. He would selectone subject this constitution.
New-Jork is a constitution of a body politic, erecting --that of opening streets; and by a comparison of the Mr. Murphy said that he hoped the gentleman from the city of New York into a free city of itself. Her different provisions in those cities in regard to it, furHerkiner (Mr. Loomis) who was the chairman of the independent sovereignty in lier local matters, is older uish an illustration of the contradictions in principle comunittee which Ind reported this section, prohibit
than that of the state itself. That charter sull stands which existed among them--contradictious so direct ing the passage of special acts of incorporation in any as much a protection to hercitizens from stiute encroach- that if some provisions were right, the others must case, and requiring the enactment of general laws ments, as it was before the revolution, from the exas
be wrong. under which corporations might be formed, would not, tious of the British crown." This charter was obtain- [Jr. M. was here interrupted by the expiration of as he had just intimated, anend it by excepting mui. ed like the charters of the free cities of the feudal the time allowed by the rule for having the floor. ] cipal corporations from its operation. It was true that tines, by the payment of money--one thousand pounds Mr. RICHMOND thought it was time that something he (Mr. 31.) had reported as a minority of the com- having been pail the goveruor for it. Such pretensions should be done io prevent corporations over-riding mitiee on municipal corporations a provision of that as here set up for that instrument, of course cannot and running down the people. He referred to a character in regard to them, yet, as there was a possi- be tolerated. [Mr. Morris said that no such claims message of Gov. Tompkins and legislative proceedbility that the suhject would not again be reacheil, le were advanced in this Convention,] Mr. M. pro
ings on this subject, and said that half of the time the believed it would be best to meet the whole question ceeded :-He knew that; he merely alluued to the legislature was consumed with that class of legislation, now. In fact, there was no necessity for distinct prop- New-York charter to show how we had borrowed Mr. SHEPARD opposed the amendment of Mr. Stow. ositions of the same character for ditterent corporations. from Europe. He knew that the members of this Mr. Stow briefly continued the debate in explanaIf there were to be a provision on the subject at all house from that city and the great body of its enlight
tion. in the constitution, it should extend to all the corpo. ened citizens, repudiated the doctrines to which be Mr. Murphy again addressed the Convention until rations to which it might deemed advisable to ap
alluderl, and he doubted not that he would hav their 2 o'clock when the Convention took a recess. ply the principle of the section before us. At all support on this question. The form of city organiza- Conclusion of Mr. Murphy's Remarks, in the Conevents, he wished the gentleman to hear before he tion thus introduced in the colony, has been kept up vention, on Thursday, Sept. 24, on “ Incorporations proposed his amendment. He regarded this as the by the legislature; and though that body bas not been other than Banking and Municipal.” contest against privileges conferred by law.
Mr. MURPHY continned the remarks which he was now to determine whether we would preserve that government, yet it has retained the form of special
interrupted in making before. He would first, howsame equality of rights as well between corporations legislation in regard to such organization. Eaclı city themselves as between corporations and individuals, as still has its separate charter, and no uniformity exists
ever, notice an observation of the genileman from
Erie (Mr. Stow), who had just taken his seat. is said to exist under our institutions between individu- in the powers conferred upon them, such as prevails als. On this point he believed the grossest violations in regard to the towns and counties of the state. It
gentleman said he would at a proper time show that of personal rights were to be found in our municipal is to this practice of the olden time that we must at
the cities created by the fendal lords were free cities, corporations; and that however important the subject tribute the idea of special charters which has come
and that they were the cause of the civilization of might be in reference to other corporations, it was still to be considered so necessary for them. It might well
Europe. He (Mr. M.) did not intend to dispute about
What he had said, and would now repeat, was more so in regard to them. These innovations upon
be asked why a city, more than a town or a county, the rights of individuals resulted almost altogeiler should have a particular organization of its own dis
that those cities were free only in the sense that they from the form of legislation by special charters. He tinct from other cities. The gentleman from St. Law.
were made independent of their lords by the charters did not charge a wanton disregard of those rights upon rence, (Mr. Perkins,) said this morning that a popu
which were granted to them. So far as regarded the
liberties of the inhabitants, they were not so. The the legislature ; but the evil resulted necessarily from lation of 10,000 individuals :night need more local the mode of creating those corporations and investing powers than one of 1000. This may be true; but it
corporate body exercised the same tyranny over the
trades and occupations and other natural rights of the them with their power by single and separate acts. is not more true in regard to cities than in regard to He would therefore endeavor to shew the mischief towns. Towns, whatever their population may be, are
people as did the baron before he exempted them from
his control. He would not dispute as to their being of this practice and the propriety of an uniforın organi- under the same general lair. The difficulty of the zation for every other species of municipalities. The gentleman from St. Lawrence consists in supposing
the canse of civilization of Europe. A hiylı state of gentleman from Herkimer had given a sketch of the that all the power conferred by a general law inust
refinement might exist, as it has often existed, and history of corporations generally, but had not referred be exercised, when in fact the town or the city may
now exists, in despotic governments. When he was to those cities and towns. He (Mr. M.) would refer exercise it or not as its circumstances require. When
interrupted, he was proceeding to show the incongrui
ties and inconsistencies of the charters of the cities of to some points in the history of the latter for the
not used it is briant. Thus the right of taking pose of showing how the evil of which he complained wharfage, if conferred upon all the cities of the state,
New-York, Brooklyn, Albany, Rochester and Buffalo
—the five largest cities in the state. It was to these had grown up in this country, where we had adopted would be used only by such as had a water front. An
variations that he traced the cause of the evils under the saine form of legislation for the government of
interior city would have no occasion to use it. But cities as was in use in Europe, without having regard there woull be no objection to conferring that power
which our cities were suffering, as would appear from to the difference between the fundamental institutions upon all cities generally. A general law might pro
an examination of one single subject, that of opening of the two countries. Charters of cities were originally vide different organizations for different amounts of
of streets; for from one power we might learn the
character of all. It is well known that streets in our nothing but grants of immunities and privileges by population in the same manner as the law in regard
towns are opened upon one uniform plan, that is, the virtue of baronial prerogative. They were intended to religious incorporations now in force, provides for to exempt the inhabitants from personal service to the the organization of liiterent religions denominations
saine proceedings are had in one town as are had for lord, and were usually purchased by payments of in different ways. The great object to be obtained by
that purpose in any other. All pursue the same course ;
and an alteration of the general law affects all equally money. They conferred the power of local govern- a general law is to secure the wisdom of the whole
alike. In cities this power is now generally containment, and the corporations thus created, exercised state, or at least of all the parts of the state interested the same absolute power within the territory that the in it, for the formation of that w; and to prevent
ed in the acts of incorporation, though it is not in the lord had done before.
charters of the old cities, but is conferred upon them Hence grew up in them
those incongruities which special legislation presents, customs against common right, forbidding the practice and which are the causes of many of the evils under
by subsequent legislation. When, however, he spoko
of a charter of a city he meant that law or body of of any trade, except by certain individuals, and directly which our cities are laboring in regard to debt and
laws which conferred upon it not only its corporato contravening the rights of the many. Thus the free assessments. The design of state government is not cities, as they were called, became the refuge of the only to protect from powerful neighbors, but to con
character, but also the powers which it exercised for the governmeut of its inhabitants, and for their accom
modation and convenience. In conferring the power of opening streets, reference must be had to the cases in which the power may be exercised, to the tribunal which is to appraise the property necessary to be taken, to the mode of assessing the means necessary to pay the appraisement, and to enforcing the collection of the assessments, as well as to other particulars. He spoke of these points because he proposed to refer to each of them in detail in regard to each of the cities which he had nained, in order to show the irreconcilable character of many, if not all of them.
As regards ihe cases in which streets may be opened, they may, in the city of New-York, be made at the discretion of a majority of the common council, whenever they may deem it necessary or convenient; or, on petition of three-fourths of the owners of the land fronting on the street; in Albany, at the discretion of two-thirds of the common council ; in Brooklyn, only upon petition, and then at the discretion of the common council, but not if a majority of those to be assessed, remonstrate against the improvement; in Buffalo at the discretion of the common council, but in no case where any building exceeding $1500 in value shall be taken unless with the consent of the owner; in Rochester in no case, where the value of the building shall exceed $1500. Now it is very evident that these plans differ in principle so radically that they cannot all be right. If it be just to prevent the opening of a street in Rochester without the consent of the owner of every building exceeding one thousand dollars in value, then it is unjust to allow it to be done without such consent in Albany; or if it be right to reqnire the vote of two-thirds of the common council of Albany to authorize such improvement, it is not right to permit a similar improvement in Buffalo by a mere majority vote. The propriety or impropriety of these provisions cannot depend upon localities. The law is intended to meet the public wants and at the same time to regard private rights; and these are the same in all communities. So, in regard to the tribunal to which the duties of appraising the damage and assessing the benefit are entrusted. There is, in New-York, three commissioners appointed by the Supreme Court; in Albany, a jury of threo freeholders chosen from a panel of twelve summoned by the mayor; in Buffalo, five freeholders chosen by the common council : in Brooklyn three commissioners appointed by the first judge of the county or by the county court. The diversity in principle here is extreme. In some cities it is left to three commissioners selected by the court in the nomination of the local authority, and in others to a jury of three freeholders to determine the damages sustained.There is as much difference between them, as between having a suit tried before a jury or before three men selected for the purpose. Thus, the whole question of trial by jury in civil cases is involved. No one will deny that this is a material distinction in principle. He would hereafter have occasion to show that it is a difference fraught with great evil; but as he was considering this question merely as one of form, it was unnecessary now to do more than allude to the difference of principle.
The means of paying for these improvements are levied in the city of New-York, by assessing the lots fronting on the street, and lots lying within half the distance of the next street, on each side of that proposed to be opened, and by imposing one-third of the value of the buildings taken, as a charge upon the city treasury, at the discretion of the commissioners. In Albany and Buffalo, by assessments upon property which the jury may deem benefitted. In Brooklyn, by assessments only upon property within an assessment district, previously determined by the common council. Thus, in Brooklyn the law undertakes to designate specific property in all cases, as benefitted ; while in New York, it declares that in some cases a portion of the expense may be put upon the general treasury. In other words, local assessments only are considered proper for one part of the state, and assessments partly local and partly general for another. Could any thing be more inconsistent? Then, as regards local assessments, there is still a further division. In New York the benefit is limited to one-half the block; while in Albany the whole matter is left to the three jurymen, who may assess the whole block, or as many blocks as they may deem proper. The Assessments are enforced also in different ways. In New-York, by distress warrant against the owner or occupant, and by suit against the parties assessed;
and in default of payment to the collector, by sale of land, redeemable within two years. In Albany, by sale of land without any previous demand. In Buffalo the assessments are made a lien upon the lands for one year only, within which time they must be sold; and when sold, may be redeemed the same as lands sold under execution. In Brooklyn, they are collected by distress warrant; and in default by sale of lands, subject to redemption within two years. Here again are contradictions. In Buffalo, assessments are a lien upon the land for one year only ; in other cities, they are a lien indefinitely. In Brooklyn, lands cannot be sold until the personal property of the person assessed is exhausted: while in Albany they may be sold, even without a demand of payment, except by advertisement.
From this brief analysis of the provisions of the charters and laws relating to one single subject, we fiud no two alike in principle. The saine want of uniformity may be traced throughout in relation to almost every other power. Every city may be said to be a law unto itself; and the sovereignty of the state, instead of being exercised in its behalt, is absolutely surrendered to it, to be used at its own discretion. As I have alreaay said the practice of the legislature has been to conter upon cities just such powers as they asked for. These powers affecting the locality only, the rest of the state has felt indifferent to them. Thus our present incongruous system has grown up, the work of different hands in different parts, without any attempt to produce uniformity; The consequences have been great injustice oftentimes to individuals, damage to the cities, and much trouble to the judicial tribunals of the state, arising from the adoption of wrong principles---from the consequent mistakes of the corporate authorities—and from the necessity of giving each charter its own judicial interpretation. The only remedy for this is an uniform or geueral law defining the powers of cities.
It is objected by some that the attempt to bring all the cities to the same form of government would interfere with the franchises which were granted to some of them. In answer to this, it may be remarked that in principle there should be no privileges or immunities exercised by one city which should not be enjoyed if required by the others. But a more satisfactory answer probably is, that so far as those franchises have a permanency of profits and thus partake of the character of private property, this provision would not interfere with them; and so far as they may be political and therefore public, and relate to the exercise of the sovereign power, they are and should be revocable at pleasure. It must be the law in this country, that while the rights of private property are sacred, politi. cal power, on the other hand, conferred by the legislature, is a public trust resumable by it at pleasure. There is no novelty in this proposition for general laws for incorporations. We have such laws for the incorporation of libraries, passed as long ago as 1796, and also for religious societies and manufacturing companies. These laws have operated well, and hundreds of companies organized under them are now in being; The principle is not new even as regards municipal corporations. As has already been stated, our towns all exercise their corporatic powers under one and the same law, though they are separately erected by special act. But in many of the new states of the Union, as in Indiana, Illinois and Arkansas, even the incorporation of towns takes place under a general law. The simplicity of this plan is most admirable ; and he would, for the information of the Convention, read one of these statutes. (Mr. M. here read and commented upon the general laws for creating municipal corporations in Arkansas and Indiana.) He hoped now that no one would be startled at the proposition on the ground that it was an untried experiment; and that the gentleman from Erie would see that the different circumstances of different places did not present obstacles to an uniform organization. Before he concluded, he wished to say that he would, at the proper time, when the subject of municipal corporations should be under consideration, endeavor to point out the mistakes of legislation in regard to them, and the abuses which they had given rise to, contenting himself for the present with these observations upon the immediate proposition before the Convention, that of the mode of creating corporations.
Monday, Oct. 5. Mr. KIRKLAND moved to add in addition to Sec. 6,
of Art. 1, as follows :(See Section 7, of Art. 1, of the Constitution of 1847.)
Mr. Forsyth moved to add as follows: “But such compensation shall in no case be reduced by any allowance for prospective benefit.” Mr. F. explained and defended his amendment.
Mr. MURPHY supported the amendment of the gentleman from Ulster (Mr. Forsyth)., He believed the practice of assessing in any form for special benefit for any public improvement, was unsound in priuciple, because it substitutes an arbitrary instead of a fixed rule of taxation. It submits to the judgment of commissioners or assessors to say how much a man shall pay for benefit to his property in consequence of the improvement; and thus leaves him at the mercy of mere opinion. It is taxation; and taxation, to be just, should be equal. It should bear equally upon the whole community interested in the object of the
It must be established by an uniform rule. The moment a departure from the principle of equality is allowed, and assessors are permitted to say how much or how little the person assessed is to pay, or how much shall be deducted from the compensation allowed him for his land, his property is taken from him and put at the disposal of the assessors. It is a tyranny of the most odious character. He therefore looked to this amendment as asserting a principle important in regard to our system of assessments, on which he would now offer a few remarks. That system is founded on the idea that there is a special local benefit resulting from a public improvement; and therefore that the burden should be thrown off of the public upon the private individuals benefitted.
The premises are true ; but the conclusion is false. No public improvement can be made without being of special advantage to some locality. The public buildings in this city,—the capital and state house, being located here, for the convenience of the whole state, contribute much to the benefit of Albany. The particular location of those buildings at this spot is a benefit to the lots in their vicinity; yet no one thinks of taxing Albany, much less these lots, for the expense of erecting these buildings. And why ?--because the object of erecting is to accommodate the public; and the benefit to the city and to the vicinity of the buildings is altogether accidental. It is a piece of good fortune perhaps, and may well deserve a contribution from the parties benefitted ; but there is no reason to compel such a contribution. If made, it should be voluntary:
Much of the difficulty in relation to this subject arises from a confusion of ideas in regard to what are public improvements ; upon which distinction is to be observed in order to act safely. One kind of public improvements is. where the wants of the public require them to be made, and where the benefit to individuals is incidental. Such as the erection of buildings for public purposes; or supposing a city to be shut off from all access to a particular point, or to have no outlet into the country, the opening of a street or road effecting these objects would be a public benefit, and the advantage to individuals whose lands had a front on the new thoroughfare would be subordinate and purely incidental. Another species of public improvements, so called, is where the principal object is to accomplish the interests of private individuals, and the public benefit is consequential. Thus an individ. ual owning a farm near a city, and wishing to bring his farm into market, as city lots, may open streets which will effect that object. The public of course will use them, and thus derive a benefit from them; though they were not opened for any other purpose than to advance the interest of the land-owner, and were not required for the public accommodation.
This distinction presents itself when we look at the right of property. When the public authorities undertake to make an improvement, which either requires the appropriation of private property or taxation to pay for it, they exercise the right of eminent domain. They are taking private property for public use. So the converse of this position is true ; that is, if it be not for a public use they have no right to appropriate it. Private property is sacred. It is a law of society paramount to the constitution of every civilized country, that the fruits of a man's labor belong to him to be disposed of as he may deem proper. Napoleon with all his power could not divest the
poor man of his freehold which he desired to have for his own pleasure and convenience; and that regard for natural right by that powerful monarch is a monument of the sacredness of private property. If all the members
of this Convention should require for their interests or which makes a stockholder individually liable beyond accommodation the house and lot on the opposite side the amount of capital contributed by him would be of the street, there is no power in this government to injurious to the business of the City and State, and give it to them without the consent of the owner if prejudicial to its prosperity, inasmuch as responsible they would pay him ten times the value. But if the individuals would not become stockholders, and to irpublic require it for its use, they may take it upon responsible stockholders no advantage would be just compensation, but not otherwise.
gained in the aulditional security contemplated by a It follows from this position that the state has no private responsibility clause. And your memorialists, right to delegate the power of taking private property &c. for private purposes without the owner's consent;
Jonathan Thompson, Henry Parish, and that the improvements which our corporations
Jonathan Goodhue, Burtis Skidmore, are continually making, involving the taking of prop- John I. Palmer,
George Griswold, erty and taxation, for the purpose of advancing the
John A. Stevens, interests of a few individuals, are not public improve
Samuel S. Howland, ments, and should not enter into the consideration of
Shephard Knapp, David Leavitt, this question. The cases which we are to regard are
Moses H. Grinnel, Abraham G. Thompson, those in which the public are primarily interested.
James D. P, Ogden, G. A. Worth, The sure test of an improvement being public is,
F. C. Tucker, that it may be paid for out of the public treasury. ; Walter R. Jones, Simeon Baldwin, that the necessity for it is such that the whole public
George Ireland, is willing to bear the expense of it. And to deter
Wm. H. Aspinwall, J. Smyth Rogers, mive this, the decision of the community from whose
F. W. Edmonds,
John J. Fisk, treasury it is to be paid for, through its organized agents,
F. Pentz, whether a common council or a board of trustees, is
Brown, Brothers & Co., Woolsey & Woolsey, sufficient.
Hicks & Co.,
Phelps, Dodge & Co., Under the operation of this test the number of
John H. Cornell, opening of streets by the corporate authorities would
L. & V. Kirby,
Adoniram Chandler, be very much reduced, perhaps there would not be
A. B. McDonald, Nathaniel Richards, one out of twenty of those taking place under the
J. Van Norden,
Peter I. Bogert, practice of special assessments. The actual nuinber
James Harriot, of streets opened would perhaps be as large as it is
John A. Bunting, E. H. Herrick, now; but the greater part of them would be opened as all private roads should be, by arrangements
Monday, Sept. 21. among the parties benefitted. Private enterprize will
Mr. Townsend presented the remonstrance of always secure its objects; and will do so in a much
Prime, Ward & King, and others, against a provision cheaper and more expeditious way than can be done
to make the stockholders individually liable for more by the public. It will happen undoubtedly occasion- than the amount of their stocks. Laid on the table. ally that the consent of the owner of land cannot be
To the Hon. THE STATE CONVENTION : obtained. If so, he has the right to hold on to his lot, made sacred to him as his patrimony, or by asso- The undersigned most respectfully remonstrate ciation and ties of a still more holy character. And against the incorporating in the Constitution of this if so, why should he be disturbed for purposes of State any provision which shall make the stockholders mere private emoluments. But it is not likely that in incorporated companies responsible in their individsuch cases will often arise. Few men are so attached ual capacity to land that they will not part with it, especially for The undersigned believe that any provision which an extra compensation not so great as the additional should make a stockholder liable beyond the amount expense beyond a just compensation incurred by legal actuully contributed by him to the capital stock of an proceedings by the public authorities. In the case of incorporated company would be very injurious to the infants, power may be granted to the courts to give business of the City and State and detrimental to its their consent upon such compensation as made it to prosperity, inasmuch as men of capital would not betheir interest or advantage.
come stockholders, and any provision which should He had felt it his duty to say this much on the sub- render stockholders responsible who have no pecuniary ject in view, as he had already observed, of a kindred responsbility beyond their stock would atford no secuproposition of his own in regard to cities, upon which rity to the public. it was now evident there would not be time for the And your memorialists, &c. Convention to act.
Jonathan Sturges, Joseph Sampson, dressed to the State Convention and presented in that David Thompson, R. B. Minturn, body by Messrs Allen & Townsend against any pro- Joseph Kernochan, Daniel Parish,
A. B. Neilson, vision being made in the Constitution making stock
Abr. Schermerhorn, holders personally liable beyond the amount of their Alfred Pell,
Lambert Suydam, stock ;-following these remonstrances on the same W. Bradford,
T. W. Thorne,
Alfred Seton, page is the provision adopted by the Convention in
Wm. H. Russell,
Walden Pell, the premises—and following those provisions are our Prime, Ward & King, Nevins, Townsend & Co., remarks thereon.
Nelson & Greydon, Wollcott & Slade.
Jacob Little & Co.,
Friday, Sept. 25th. SATURDAY, September 19. Mr. Allen presented a remonstrance from several Mr. AllEn presented a remonstrance from citizens citizens in New-York, against a provision to make of New-York against any provision to make stock. stockholders individually liable, beyond the amount holders in banks, &c., liable to more than the amount of
of their stocks. It was read and referred. their stocks. Referred to the appropriate committee TO THE Hox. The State CONVENTION : of the whole.
The undersigned most respectfully remonstrate Mr. Allen moved that it be printed. Lost.
against the incorporating in the constitution of this TO THE Hox. THE STATE CONVENTION :
State any provision which shall make the stockholders The undersigned, citizens of the city of New York, responsible in their individual capacity. inost respectfully remonstrate to your Honorable Body The undersigned believe that any provision which against any provision being inserted in the Constitution should make a stockholder liable beyond the amount of this State, that shall make the stockholder in any actually contributed by him to the capital stock of an incorporated company, chartered by the Legislature incorporated company, would be very injurious to the of this State, liable, as such stockholder, beyond the business of the City and State, and detrimental to its amount actually invested by him in the capital stock prosperity, inasmuch as men of capital would not bethereof.
come stockholders, and any provision which should The undersigued believe that any provision of law render stockholders responsible who have no pecuni
ary responsibility beyond their stock, would afford no
And your memorialists, &c.
William W. Fox, Joseph Walker,
C. H. Marshall,
John A. King.
James Van Nostrand,
R. Ogden Glover.
W. J. Lane,
N. G. Ogden.
E. T. H. Gibson,
P. M. Bryson,
A. A. Low,
S. Draper, Jr.,
John C. Green,
Olyphant & Son.
M. B. Edgar,
0. H. Jones,
Thomas H. Mills,
W. B. Cozzens.
W. C. Rhinlander,
Fisher, Howe & Co.,
W. A. Hadden.
CONSTITUTION OF 1847.
Section 3. The term corporations, as used in this article, shall be construed to include all associations and joint-stock companies having any of the powers or privileges of corporations nnt possessed by individuals or partnerships. And all corporations shall have the right to sue and shall be subject to be sued in all courts in like cases as natural persons.
Section 6. The Legislature shall provide by law for the registry of all bills or notes, issued or put in circulation as money, and shall require ample security for the redemption of the same in specie.
Section 7. The stockholders in every corporation and joint-stock association for banking purposes, issuing bank notes or any kind of paper credits to circulate as money, after the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and fifty, shall be individually responsible to the amount of their respective share or shares of stock in any such corporation or association, for all its debts and liabilities of every kind, contracted after the said first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and fifty.
Remarks.- Persons subscribing for stock in a bank, by section 7, as above will be liable for their subscriptions in full, Stock is often subscribed for and only a small installment paid-in case of failure of the bank the creditors of the bank under section 7 will have the right to compel the payment of the residue of unpaid installments, or so much of such unpaid instalnents as will satisfy the creditors demand. This is the common sense construction of this provision of the Constitution. It is not a responsibility in addition to, and over and above the amount of the stock in another sum equal to such stock, for that would be double the amount of the stock.
It is sometimes the case that bank stock is paid for in bonds, as for example Arkansas State bonds which have become of little value. A stockholder paying up his stock in such bonds would be liable for the depreciation under sec. 7 to a creditor of the bank in case of failure of the bank, and so of a payment of stock by a mortgage on real estate.