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ad the result of the labors of the Con- disgrace. To realize the depth of the vention soon to sit in this state, will present popular movement, therefore, be rather a new than an amended and the extent of the grievances of which Constitution, unless the wishes of the the people of New-York complain, it is
* Democratic Review, April, 1846.
HISTORY OF CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM IN THE UNITED
The present Constitution of the State people are grievously misrepresented of New-York was adopted at a time by the delegates they have commiswhen the subject of Constitutional Sci- sioned. ence was very imperfectly understood, In reviewing the history of the late and when but few of our public men had Reform movement in the State of Newsufficient confidence in the theory of York, however, it is worthy to be borne popular sovereignty to abandon them- in mind, that it originated in one single selves freely to the policy which it dic- cause--the improvidence of the Legisla tated. Since then, the political experi- ture in contracting debts on behalf of ence of this state has been exceedingly in- the state. Though the wretched inefstructive-more so than that of any other ficiency of the judiciary and the corruptin the confederacy-and all classes of ing influences of executive patronage had her people have become fully impressed for a long time been creating a public senwith the wisdom and entire practica- timent which, sooner or later, must have bility of a style of legislation, which in found expression in the fundamental 1821 was generally esteemed visionary law, and though their reform have since and disorganizing, which was apprecia- become paramount to every other in ted by very few of our public men, and importance, yet in connexion with those of these, scarcely one had enough faith abuses had no Constitutional Reform been in its adaptation to our society, to press suggested, until after the state had been its adoption.
threatened with bankruptcy, and the From these circumstances, and from people had been invoked in various quarthe multitude of reforms already pro- ters to provide by constitutional guaranjected, we have reason to presume that ties against the impending calamity and the result of the labors of the Con- disgrace. To realize the depth of the vention soon to sit in this state, will present popular movement, therefore, be rather a new than an amended and the extent of the grievances of which Constitution, unless the wishes of the the people of New-York complain, it is
* Democratic Review, April, 1846.
Decessary to look especially to the finan same body, Michael Hoffman, also a cial history of the state for the last ten Democratic delegate from Herkimer years.
County, presented an elaborate report The aggregate debt of the State of upon the financial condition and prosNew-York in 1842, amounted to $28,- pects of tbe state, which he accompa000,000 and upwards, most if not all of nied with a bill intended to protect the which was contracted subsequent to credit of the state, and providing, among 1836. This debt arose partly from ad. other things, for the suspension of the vances to banks—partly from imprović public works. This bill, with only dent loans of the state credit to railroad some slight modifications, became a companies, and partly from enormous law, during the following session of expenditures in building new and im- 1842. During the same session, the proving old canals. To meet this debt, “People's Resolution" was introduced, together with the other necessary ex and was lost by a vote of 55 in the afpenses of the state, required an annual firmative, to 49 in the negative—55 belevy of $10,500,000 to be made upon ing less than a majority of the whole body. 2,500,000 of people-a tax of $4.20 for The act suspending the public works, each man, woman and child in the and providing by taxation for the main. state. * While the state was borne tenance of the state credit, awakened down by this oppressive taxation, the unusual energy in both of the great pogovernment was urging on the appro- litical parties during the spring and priation of yet larger sums for kindred summer of 1842; and at an extra sespurposes, upon the plea that the returns sion of the Legislature, convened in Aufrom these works would sink their cost gust, for the sole purpose of districtbefore they were to be paid for, and ing the state for the choice of memultimately would prove a source of re bers of Congress, W. H. Seward, then venue to the state. The cost of the governor of the state, presented a public works in progress, with those special message to the Legislature, in which were in contemplation in 1842, which he called upon them to rescind would have raised the debt of the state the law of the preceding March, which inevitably to $75,000,000 and upwards, suspended the public works. This requiring the payment of an annual in- subject received an animated discussion terest of at least $4,500,000.
in the Assembly, and was the controllAs early as February, 1841, Mr. ing issue at the following fall election, Loomis, a Democratic member of As- which resulted in a Democratic majority sembly from Herkimer County, brought of more than 20,000. before the Legislature a proposition It was reasonably to have been exwhich had been agitated for some two pected, that so decisive a vote would years in his county, and which is now have secured for Mr. Loomis' amendgenerally known throughout the "statement, or for some provision similar to under the title of the People's Reso- it, prompt admission into the Constitulution.” This resolution provided for tion. It was not, however, so ordained. amending the Constitution in such man- It was when their failure for that ses. ner, as to require that every law crea- sion was apparent to the friends of roting a state debt, except in cases of in- form; and in the month of February, vasion or insurrection, should be sub- 1843, that the somewhat famous “Hermitted to the popular vote at a general kimer memorial” was addressed to the election. On the 19th of May, 1841, Legislature, which, after stating all the this resolution was first brought to a vote, grievances by which the people were and 53 voting in the affirmative, and 53 weighed down, or threatened from exin the negative, it could not be submit- cessive taxation, concluded with pray. ted to the succeeding Legislature for ra- ing for the passage of a constitutional tification, pursuant to the provisions of guaranty against the contraction of state the Constitution.
debts, corresponding in principle with During the same session, and in the the resolution of Mr. Loomis—"or,
• Herkimer County Metorial to the Legislature of New York, February, 1843.
"Act to Provide for Paying the Debt and Preserving the Credit of the State,” passed March 2, 1846. Session Laws, 1842, p. 79.