網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

certain portion of the ladies ought to be allowed this majority and minority arrive at the same conclusion; and in

right. Man, however, being the “stronger vessel,” pos. sessing the power, physical and numerical, has deprived them of this privilege in every State of the Union. In a state of nature, every man is a sovereign. He is the sole regulator of his own actions. No man can bind him: no one has a right to interfere with him. But when he enters into society, he surrenders a portion of his natural rights, and submits himself, in a certain degree, to the control of others. The manner in which such control must be exercised, is pointed out with precision in the constitution and the laws; and, to be effective, it must conform, in every important particular, to the rules which are thus prescribed. If you attempt to exercise it in any other mode, your acts are void, and impose no obligation whatever. This proposition is persectly indisputable: it is as true as revelation itself. One gentleman [Mr. Mansh All] has informed us that it is sufficient, upon the present occasion, to advert to the constitution of Kentucky; that it alone furnishes a sufficient rule to guide this House in its determination. No proposition, in my opinion, could be more erroneous. We must first turn to the constitution of the United States; we may then examine the constitution of Ken. tucky; and, lastly, explore the laws of that commonwealth, From these three sources we can obtain the rules by which we should be governed. By the first, we are empowered to judge of the elections and qualifications of our own members. By the second and third, the qualifications of voters, and the time, place, and manner of holding elections, are particularly pointed out. Under the constitution of Kentucky alone, no election could be

held. The gentleman stated a case in which he sup- wholly undetermined.

posed the people of a district to meet, and, in some way, to manifest their choice (without any law) for a particular person, as a representative in this body; that individual arrives here with proof, by affidavits, or otherwise, of such choice, and demands his seat; and the gentleman declares it to be his opinion that we W. yield to the demand. But suppose that one-half, one-third, or even a less number of voters in that district should remonstrate against his right to a seat here; would this House disregard their complaint? I tell the gentleman that, under no circumstances, as I conceive, could such a title be recognised here. Sir, the constitution of the United States presents an insuperable objection to it. It declares (art. 1st, sec. 4th,) that “the times, places, and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof.” This constitution is the paramount law of the land; and no valid election can be held until the State Legislature has prescribed the rules by which it is to be governed. True, Congress have power to alter these rules; but it must be done by law. This House cannot do it. And until a law is passed by Congress upon the subject, the law of the State must prevaii. It is in vain to insist that, if the officers appointed by the constituted authorities refuse to serve, any unauthorized peron may take their places; that, if the law requires thirty days' notice, two days would be sufficient. It is in vain for gentlemen to say, in reply to the able argument of my friend from Georgia, who made this report, that he is adhering to the letter of the law, and disregarding its spirit; that this is an age of “liberal principles.” Sir, these Principles are truly liberal! They lead to the overthrow of all order; of all government. Instead of a Government of laws, which is the pride and the boast of every American, they offer us the most wild and lawless anarcay. They would prostrate the valued and established institutions of the country, and transform our whole system into a “mobocracy.”

In this contest two things are admitted, on all hands.

*

that conclusion all the gentlemen who have addressed the House concur, without hesitation. The first is, that there has been an election; and the second, that a part of the votes given are to be stricken from the polls. Upon these two points we all agree. But when we come to judge of the particular votes to be rejected, then we disagree. And in determining the various points which arise, it has been well remarked by a gentleman from Kentucky [Mr. Hanois) that this is a case sui generis; that it ought to be decided by the constitution and laws of Kentucky, and the practice under them, and not by precedent. If to these he had added the constitution of the United States, I should have been satisfied with the rule he proposed. Notwithstanding the merits of the whole controversy are properly before the House, yet the votes more immediately under consideration are those given at Lancaster, in the county-of Garrard, whilst Moses V. Grant, Esq. was presiding as judge on Monday morning, and the votes given at the same place on Tuesday, in the absence of the sheriff. Here I must be allowed to notice a position advanced in the minority report, and in the arguments of several gentlemen who have discussed this subject. It is said that the majority of the committee admit that the votes given on Monday morning, before ten o'clock, would have been good, if Mr. Grant had remained upon the bench throughout the election. Now, sir, the report of the committee contains no such admission, nor have 1 heard a single member of the committee advocate that doctrine. In the report it is, in so many words, left undecided. It is remarked that the committee might not have rejected the votes, if Grant had continued to act, thus leaving it For my own part, I expressly disclaim having made any such admission. With respect to the legality of the votes taken on Monday morning, it has been repeatedly asserted that the true question is, Has a sheriff the right to open the polls before ten o'clock? Upon this hinge, it is insisted, the whole case turns. In this matter, I am compelled to dis. sent altogether from the gentlemen. Whether a sheriff could, or could not, under ordinary circumstances, all the officers appointed by the county court being present, proceed to open the polls before ten o'clock, is not the true issue. In fact, it has little or nothing to do with the point under consideration. The true issue is, Can a sheriff, before ten o'clock, which is the usual hour of opening the polls throughout the State of Kentucky, declare the office of a judge vacant, and appoint whom he pleases to fill the vacancy, when the judge himself is on his way to the place of holding the election—is in sight of the town, if you please—and actually arrives there before ten o’clock? Or, in other words, can the sheriff create a vacancy, by his own arbitrary will, where there is none, either in fact or in law, and thereby thrust from the bench the judge appointed by the court, filling the place with an individual of his own selection? Can this judge occupy the seat for an hour, until the usual time of opening the polls, and then give place to the true judge? and shall the acts of the former be deemed legal, and receive our approbation? 'The constitution says that the election shall be held on the first Monday in August; the law provides that the county court shall appoint two judges, and a clerk of the election, and that the sheriff shall open the polls by ten o'clock. If the judges or clerk do not attend, the sheriff is required to fill the vacancy. They are each to take an oath of office, and to attend to receiving the votes, until the election is completed, and a fair statement made of the whole amount thereof. The practice under this law, in Garrard, is proven to be, to open the polls at ten o'clock; and this construction, it is believed, has been given to the law throughout the whole State. But, as the phrase “by ten o’clock” is used, the gentlemen contend

Tuere is no difference of opinion with regard to them. The

that the sheriff may open the polls at any time between

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

midnight and that hour. Here they are strict constructionists. They would hold us to the very letter itself. Upon another branch of the subject, we were told by the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. BAN Ks] that the powers of the sheriff must not be enlarged “by construction.” Let us apply that principle here. Let us look a little to the consequences that flow legitimately from the argument. It will not be denied that the law, in requiring the county court to select two of their own body to act as judges of the election, intended that, under all ordinary circumstances, the judges who presided should be individuals selected by that respectable body of men; and that it was only in the event of certain contingencies that the sheriff should be permitted to select either judges or clerk. The practice under the law has been in entire conformity to this supposition. But if, as gentlemen contend, the sheriff can, at any time before the hour of ten, open the

valid and deserves our unqualifical sanction. So bold did this position appear to the gentleman from Kentucky, [Mr. HAnd IN, ) who last addressed the House, that he endeavored to avoid it by a more circuitous route. He contended that Mr. Spillman, who cried the votes in the absence of the sheriff, was a deputy, and his acts were therefore legal.

Let us examine this ground. How was he appointed a deputy? Had be a warrant, or certificate of appointment? None, whatever. Was he sworn ? Not at all; yet the law requires that he should be. Was he requested to do an official act? No; the gentleman informs us that the law does not require votes to be cried; that it is only a practice that has grown up in the State. The only act which the sheriff asked Spillman to perform was, to cry the votes. Yet the gentleman says that he was a deputy. No certificate--no oath—not even required to do an official act; and yet a deputy sheriff of Garrard county! Sir,

polls, and fill all the vacancies that exist at the time of the gentleman complained of the “sophistical reasoning”

opening them; and if the mere fact of the judge and clerk not being present at the moment constitutes a vacancy, then is the whole object of the law defeated. The sherisi may, at every election, supersede the officers appointed by the court, by his own friends, or the friends and creatures of one of the candidates. He can attend at any inoment after midnight—open the polls, and, having the persons he wishes on the spot, proceed to fill all the offices! It is said they may resign. True. But suppose they do not choose to resign, as they would not in party times, or when a particular object was to be accomplished by their appointment: the judges and clerk appointed in pursuance of the law might attend at the usual hour, and demand their seats; but it would be mere mockery to do so. The individuals selected by the sheriff, and who, probably, would never have been chosen for any purpose by the court, will remain upon the bench, and control and manage the people of the county, in open defiance of their will, and of the plain and palpable meaning of the law. Sir, this doctrine constitutes the sheriff of the county a monarch! It clothes him with the most alarming powers-powers that were never designed to be given him, and which can only be claimed by a most labored and farfetched construction of the law. When gentlemen talk of absurd consequences resulting from the construction which the committee have given to the statute, it would be well for them to follow out the consequences of their own principles. For what do we contend? Why, that as ten o’clock is

the usual hour of opening the polls—the only time named in the law—and as the court have the power to appoint the judges and a clerk, and the sheriff only a power to fill vacancies, the manifest intention of all this is, that the sheriff shall wait until ten before he declares the offi

ces vacant, and proceeds to fill them by new appoint

ments. This is no labored construction. It is a fair, a reasonable construction. It establishes a safe rule, that

will protect the rights of all concerned. It gives effect to all the provisions of the law, and so construes the various clauses as that the whole statute may stand unimpaired.

It is amusing, sir, to hear the gently men who call this

a labored construction, and who insist so strenuously

upon our adherence to the language, to the plain letter

of the law, in this instance, when they arrive at another

point, attempt to show that the presence of the sheriff is not necessary during the progress of the election. They

admit that the law says the votes shall be given in the

presence of the judges and the sheriff, and yet contend

that the sheriff need not be present; that he may leave

the town, and call some one of the neighbors to cry the

votes and discharge the various duties of the presiding

officer. He may ride through the county electioneering

for one of the candidates, or employ himself in any man

of those who differed with him in opinion; but if this be lound reasoning, then I confess that all the rules which I have been taught, for the purpose of distinguishing true from false reasoning, are utterly delusive and erroneous. Mr. Speaker, there is but one safe ground to occupy, in relation to this whole subject. The constitution and laws of society have prescribed certain rules by which elections shall be conducted. To these we must look in every contest: by these we must abide in all our decisions. An election which has not been held in accordance with them is absolutely void. What is the object of these rules? Is it not to secure to us a good Government? to give order, stability, and security to the body politic? It is, sir. Those who soamed them intended to protect us equally from the iron tyranny of a despot, and from the uncertain, capri|cious sway of an uncontrollable mob. This can never be accomplished, but by adhering to the rules, as they have been established. Yet gentlemen contend that the people are not bound to know the rules; they are not required to know the law! Is not this a strange doctrine to be advocated by legal gentlemen; to be advocated by lawyers of long practice, and of high eminence in their profession? Sir, one of the first lessons taught in the legal science— one of the fundamental principles upon which all judicial proceedings are predicated—is, that every man is bound to know the law. What would be thought of an individual, arraigned in court for an offence, who should plead that he did not know the law, and was not bound to know it? What would be said to a party, in a civil case, who would attempt to set up such a defence? They would both be silenced by the court; and that, too, with the approbation of every lawyer in the country. Again, we are told that we ought to decide this question upon principles of cquity; that we must not be technical, but must be guided by the justice of the case. I have more than once heard very much such arguments in court. An advocate, finding all the principles of law against him, appeals to what he calls equity and justice. He implores the court and jury to remember that it is a hard case, and that it is their duty to do what is right between the parties. Do we not all know to what this argument leads? It has been well remarked by an eminent writer, that if even a court of equity should disregard certain general rules and principles, all our rights would depend upon the arbitrary will of the court; upon the notions entertained by the judge of what was right and what was wrong. One judge would decide a cause one way, and another would decide a similar cause differently. We should have no rule but the dictates of the chancellor's conscience, or the length of his foot! The laws furnish a certain criterion by which all our rights can be determined. Disregard these, and you set up in their place the opinions, notions, and feelings of the court and jury,

mer he pleases; and yet, all that is done in his absence is

in every case that comes before them. Are gentlemen May 22, 1834.]

prepared for this? Are they willing to set aside the election laws of the States, and be governed by the opinions of the honorable members of this House? For my part, I can never sanction such a state of things; nor can I countenance principles that must inevitably lead to such a revolution. In the language of the Pittsburg memorial, read here the other day, 1 go “for the supremacy of the laws and constitution of my country.” Nearly allied to the argument which I have just considered, is another one equally fallacious, when applied to this election. The gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. Bax ks] insists that Grant was acting under color of authority, and that his acts were therefore good; that he sat in the place of a judge; that he had all the emblems of authority about him, and the people were not bound to inquire whether he was legally authorized to receive votes or not. Apply this doctrine to the practical concerns of life. Suppose a person comes to your house claiming to be the tax-gatherer of the county; he has a book containing the names of yourself and neighbors, with an amount of chattel and land tax against each one; he is a decent, gentlemanly looking personage, and you have no reason to doubt his being fully authorized to receive your taxes; you pay him, and take his receipt. But, to your utter astonishment, on the next day the proper officer appointed by the Government to collect the revenue appears at your door and demands the payment of your quota of the public levy Will your receipt protect you?--will it do to talk about the stranger's having the color of authority or of office? Why, we all know it would not. Suppose, again, that there is a judgment against you in court for a sum of money; an individual, professing to be a sheriff or deputy sheriff, but who is not so, calls upon you and demands payment of the amount; you discharge the debt, and take a receipt; will it protect you when the true officer appears? Sir, it would be worse than idle to talk to him about the color of office or authority. The money would have to be paid again. The answer to all that has been advanced upon this point is, that there is a wide difference between acts that are toid, and those that are only voidable. Every lawyer is aware of this. When a man undertakes to discharge the duties of a public officer by virtue of an appointment or authority that is merely defective, or informal in some particular, but which has been conferred by the proper tribunal, then his acts are not to prejudice third persons. Individuals are allowed to recognise him as a public officer, without inquiring into all the merits of his title to such distinction. As, for instance, if an office becomes vacant, and the persons authorized to fill the vacancy make an appointment, which is not made, however, in exact conformity to law—which is defective in its form-here individuals might be protected by his acts. But when an appointment is wholly nugatory in its inception; when it is void in the first instance, as in the case of this judge; when it is made to fill a vacancy that has not happened—that does not exist—then all his acts are totally void; they neither protect himself nor any one else. Tiley can neither be recognised in a court of justice, nor before any other tribunal that pretends to be governed by law. Throughout this discussion, as well as in the report of the minority, there is one point to which our attention is earnestly called. It is said, sir, that the chief, if not the only inquiry should be, were the persons who voted properly qualified to do so, according to the constitution? if so, it is but of little consequence who presided. To this proposition we are constantly referred. Of its pecuHarly important character we are perpetually reminded. It seems, from the arguments of honorable members, to possess a paramount interest over every other considera

[merged small][ocr errors]

ments that the most fertile imagination can bestow. They cling to it with the violence of a shipwrecked mariner who feels that his only hope is the plank in his grasp, and that some more powerful arm is tearing even that plank from his possession. We are urged to concede the point, with a degree of earnestness and eloquence that requires the utmost strength and resolution to resist the overpowering influence. For one, sir, I beg to be excused. The position itself is wholly defenceless; and I cannot but believe that gentlemen will find it so upon a closer examination. What is an election? One gentleman [Mr. MAnshAll] informed us that it was an expression of the choice of a majority of the voters. This is a sound definition, so far as it goes. It is the truth; but it is not the whole truth. An election is an expression of the will of a majority of the voters, manifested according to the provisions of the constitution and laws. Unless their choice is made known in the mode prescribed by these, the act is void; it is no election; it binds no one; it confers no privilege whatever. What do these instruments require? They not only define, particularly, who may vote, but they point out, specifically, the time, place, and manner of voting. They not only declare who may give votes, but they are equally precise in declaring who shall receive the votes so given. There must be both givers and receivers. We can no more have an election without some tribunal to receive and record the votes, than we can without some person to give the votes which the law requires to be recorded. Is there a doubt about this? Is not one as necessary, both by the law, and from the very nature of things, as the other? Does not the truth of this proposition strike every mind with irresistible force? It does, sir. And you might as well wage war with the tempest in its mad career, as undertake to combat a principle so far beyond the reach of refutation. By an election, a part of the community appoint public agents or servants, whose acts are obligatory upon all. Yes, sir, I repeat it, they appoint public servants; for, democrats as we are, republicans as we may profess to be, or “whigs” as we may have recently become, we are too apt to forget “the rock from which we have been hewn;” and it is well for us to be reminded that we are but servants to the great mass of our fellow-citizens, bound by their will, and responsible to them for all our conduct. But the acts of the agents are not, and ought not to be, binding upon all, unless made according to law. A more obvious truism could scarcely be presented to the human understanding. Yet the minority of the committee boldly avow the doctrine, and are sustained by the arguments advanced upon this floor, that if persons, having no authority whatever, should drag the judges from the bench, and usurp the authority to preside over the election, their acts would be legal, the election would be valid, and the candidate having a majority of votes, thus bestowed, would be entitled to a seat in this House. I confess, sir, that I am startled when I hear such principles avowed in the House of Representatives of the United States. I am the more amazed, when these disorganizing theories are put forth by honorable members, who have been so loud and so vehement against the President and the Secretary of the Treasury, for alleged usurpations and violations of law with regard to the United States Bank and the public revenues of the country. Why have they so suddenly become the advocates of “usurpers?” Is not usurpation the same in every department, of the Government? Sir, I am against it, let it come in what shape, or from what quarter it may. I oppose it in judges of an election; I oppose it in this House; I denounce it in the Senate; and convince me that the Executive has been guilty of it, and I will condemn him as freely and cordially as I now support him. The gentleman from

tion that has been named. They present it in every variety of shape and surface; it is decorated with all the orna

Kentucky [Mr. Mansh AiL) insisted that the sheriff could

[ocr errors]

make a temporary appointment of judges. This he inferred from the facts, that the judges and clerk hold their offices for a year; and as there might be more than one election during that period, and they might be absent from one and present at the others, it would be necessary for the sheriff to appoint officers to serve during their absence. Suppose this to be so, does it legalize Grant’s appointment? Clearly not. For he was appointed before the vacancy occurred; and he left the bench at ten o’clock; when the law declares that the judges and clerk appointed shall attend to receiving votes until the election is completed, and shall then certify the same. Here the judge leaves the bench before the election is closed; he does not count the votes taken whilst he was presiding; and he makes no certificate at all of what was done during the time he officiated. Mr. Wheeler, who succeeded him, could not certify to what was done before he came to town; and so far as his certificate purports to cover Grant's doings, it is a nullity. If, therefore, the sheriff could appoint a judge to preside during one election in the year, it by no means follows that he can appoint one to officiate for an hour or two, and then absent himself without leaving behind him the slightest traces of his official existence. We have heard, sir, that Mr. Grant was sworn as a judge. By reference to the depositions, it will be seen that this is very doubtful. The sheriff testifies that he believes Mr. Grant was sworn, and that H. McKee, Esq. administered the oath. But in another part of his deposition, he states that he appointed Grant, because there was no other justice in town. How, then, could Esquire McKee be there to swear the persons appointed? It is extremely probable that the sheriff is mistaken, and that they were not sworn at all. Somewhat akin to this, is another argument of a gentleman from Kentucky, [Mr. HAnd IN,) who, in order to connect and legalize the acts of Grant and Whceler, contended that Grant resigned at ten o'clock. Yes, sir, the sheriff appointed Grant at nine o'clock, to fill the vacancy occasioned by the absence of Wheeler; Grant took his seat; he had no written appointment; there is no record or entry made of it; it is uncertain whether he, was even sworn. He remains at the bench till ten, the usual hour of opening the polls, when Mr. Wheeler arrives and takes Grant's place; or, according to the gentleman, Grant “resigns,” and, I suppose, Wheeler was appointed to fill the vacancy occasioned by Grant's resignation. No entry is made of the resignation; none of the new appointment of Wheeler. Yet we are told that this is all legal; and that, too, by an honorable member who charges others with resorting to “sophistical” reasoning and “cob-web technicalities.” Such arguments as these may be very cogent and conclusive. To me, however, they appear but bubbles, floating upon the surface of the stream. Gilded by the sunbeams, they reflect all the gaudy color. ing of the rainbow; touched by the spear of truth, they burst without either noise or resistance. Having shown, I trust, that the votes taken on Monday before ten o'clock, whilst Moses Grant acted as judge, were not received according to law, that the whole procedure was illegal and void, and that the votes so taken must be rejected, I shall now ask the attention of the House whilst I submit a few observations relative to the votes taken in the absence of the sheriff on Tuesday. These, I am satisfied, are illegal also, and ought not to be counted in deciding upon the claims of the candidates. The sheriff in Kentucky possesses very important powers with respect to the elections, but they are not quite so extensive as the gentlemen have supposed. He is required by law to open the polls; he presides and keeps order; he scrutinizes the qualifications of the chectors; unless the individual is known to him, or to one

[blocks in formation]

of the judges, an oath is administered by the clerk as to his right of voting. If the judges are divided in opinion, the sheriff gives the casting voice, and settles the right of the voter. When the vote is given he cries it; when the election is over he closes the polls, takes charge of the poll-books, and carries them to the place of meeting, where all the sheriffs in the district convene to compare and add the whole number of votes, and give a certificate to the candidate elected. In addition to this, the law expressly requires that the votes shall be given in the presence of the judges and the sheriff. One would suppose that language could not well be made plainer, and that there could be but one opinion about the true construction of this law. Yet, strange to tell, our opinions differ as widely as the poles. The same gentlemen who are for conferring such alarming powers upon this officer, with regard to opening the polls, filling vacancies, &c., would have us believe, upon this branch of the subject, that his powers and duties are almost nominal. They inform us that he merely keeps order, that he only cries the votes by custom, that he gives all the information to the judges which he can, and has no voice, except as a witness, in controlling the rights of the electors!. In attempting to explain away the law, and make it wholly inoperative so far as it requires the sheriff to be present when the votes are given, the gentlemen have insisted that he is not a judge of the election; that he does not decide upon the rights of the voters, (although the proof is exactly the reverse in this case,) and that, therefore, his absence is an immaterial circumstance. To establish this position much stress has been laid upon the fact that the judges selected by the county court are compelled to take an oath of office, as judges of the election, but the sheriff is not. They are justices of the peace, selected from among the members of the county court; they have, of course, taken an oath of office before they are called upon to act as judges of the election. Yet the law requires them to be sworn again. So of the sheriff, he is a high officer, well known to the law. He too has taken an oath of office. But when he is called upon to preside at the election, he is not required to be sworn as a judge. Here the honorable gentlemen seemed to congratulate themselves upon the discovery of what they are pleased to call “a marked distinction” between the sheriff and the judges. They pause at this point and inquire, exultingly, why this “marked distinction” between the provisions of the law relating to these respective officers, if it were intended that he should perform, in any respect, the functions of a judge? Here they appear to think that the committee is completely hemmed up, without the possibility of escape. It is strange how we often dclude ourselves and others by looking only at one side of a question, or by deciding upon it without taking time for reflection. The difficulty which gentlemen have conjured up is readily removed. It is a problem that may be solved with the utmost facility. I will tell the honorable members why this distinction is made. The sheriff holds his office for two years; it is a part of his official duty to preside at every election which is held in the county during that period. Hence, when he takes an oath of office, the obligation to preside at elections is included in the oath, just as much so as any other part of his official duty. Nothing is clearer than this. But it is not so with the justices; a man may be a justice of the peace for fifty years, and never act as a judge of the election. The county court is composed of all the justices in the county, and meets monthly. At their annual meeting, preceding the August election, they are to select two members from their own body, to act as judges at the election. They may select the same two persons year after year, if they choose, for a quarter of a centurv.

a --

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

Where there are from twenty to a hundred justices in the county, many of them may never act as judges of an election during their lives. Still they are going on discharging all their duties as justices of the peace, both as single magistrates and as members of the county court. To ensure the faithful performance of these, an oath of office is administered to them when they are first commissioned. But should they, in the course of their lives, be appointed by the court as judges of the election, which is a separate and distinct office, then they are sworn faithfully to discharge the duties appertaining to their new appointment. Is not this a solution of the problem? It appears so to me; and I hope the gentlemen are satisfactorily answered. The law peremptorily requires the votes to be given in the presence of the sheriff. The fact is in proof that they were not so given. He was absent from the place of holding the election during the greater part of the day, and at the time these votes were given he had no deputy there. . The evidence upon these points is unquestiona. ble, unless we adopt the theory of the gentleman from Kentucky, [Mr. HARDIs,) that Spillman became a deputy by a bare request that he would cry the votes given. I

have already expressed my opinion with regard to this

proposition, and do not think it possible to add any thing to the argument of my friend from Georgia [Mr. Jones] upon this subject. He totally demolished the whole superstructure. If, then, the law and the facts are as I have stated them to be, how can any one pretend that these votes are valid, and, ought to be counted upon the present occasion? Will any one insist, in this instance also, that it is a hard case; that the sheriff was necessarily absent; that this is a mere informality?, Sir, we must either conduct the election according to law, or not. If we can dispense with the sheriff, we can upon the same principle excuse one of the judges from attendance; if we can allow one to go, we can spare both, and the clerk with them! Where will it end? That is the question. Can you place bounds to this principle? If so, where are they to be found? The moment we abandon the law, we are afloat upon the broad ocean of uncertainty, where we shall be drifted by the wind and tide among the rocks and whirlpools where nothing, but the arm of Omnipotence can save us from destruction. I cannot see how any friend of State rights can think of adopting the doctrines contended for upon the other side. The States have the power to regulate the time, place, and manner of holding the elections. It is expressly recognised in the federal constitution, as I have already observed. The State of Kentucky, as well as all others in the Union, has exercised this right, and fixed the manner of holding the election. Without a substan. sial conformity to the rule she has adopted, the election is void just so far as it is contrary to the law. The cases of Jackson and Wayne, and Scott and Easton, both decided in this House, have settled that principle. To disregard the law of the State, and confirm an election merely upon our own ideas of justice, would be a most flagrant act of usurpation. We may talk of State rights as much ** we please; we may be friendly to the doctrine whilst it is our interest to be so; we may deprecate, in the most vehement and eloquent language, the tendency of this Federal Government to absorb all the reserved rights of the people and of the States; but if we disregard the laws of the States, enacted upon a subject expressly reserved for their legislation, and substitute our own will for their solemn statutes, I boldly assert that we shall have established a principle which will destroy the last vestige of liberty reserved to the members of this confederacy. Such a principle, carried out, must lead to the concentration of all power in the General Government. It would overleap the barriers erected between the authority of

the central Government and the rights and powers of the several States of this Union, and would in the end lead to a tyranny as odious as the most absolute despotism. Having shown, I think, that the twenty-five votes given at Lancaster on Monday, whilst M. Grant, Esq. was presiding, and the forty-five given on Tuesday at the same place, in the absence of the sheriff, ought not to be received, I will very briefly notice some other points that have been touched in this discussion. The gentleman last up [Mr. HARDIN] spoke of the students of Danville College, whose votes have been stricken from the polls. The constitution of Kentucky gives the right of suffrage to individuals who reside in the State two years, or in the county one year; and requires them to vote in the county or precinct where they actually reside at the time of the election. The majority of the committee believed that the constitution did not intend that residence alone, in the most unlimited sense of that word, should bestow the right of suffrage. If this were so, aliens who might reside a year in any one county would thereby entitle themselves to this high immunity. We believed that this clause deserved a fair and reasonable construction, and that the residence intended was a permanent residence for the time, an actual home or domicil in the State. In this view of the question we found ourselves sustained by a decision of the Senate of that Commonwealth, in a contested election between Williams and Mason. Upon that occasion it was determined that a citizen of Kentucky, who had been out of the State for five years, had not lost the right of suffrage. There was no proof that he left the State permanently to reside elsewhere. This was undoubtedly a correct decision. In ascertaining the home of an individual, almost the whole inquiry turns upon the intention of the voter. Did he leave the State with an intention not to return? Was he absent on a visit or on business, or did he abandon the country? Now, we have only to reverse this rule, that it may aid us in deciding the rights of students at a college, or transient persons of any description. What is their business in Danville, having come there from other States and counties, and remained in that place for two or three years? Is it to become citizens of that county or of the State? Is it to reside permanently, and to amalgamate with the people there; or is it to obtain an education, and then leave the place? Are they in the town as citizens, having selected it as a home; or are they only there for a temporary purpose, the time of their stay being necessarily limited? These were questions which the committee had to consider for themselves; and the conclusion at which they arrived was, that the residence of a young man at school or college, for the sole purpose of pursuing his studies, is not such a residence as confers the right of suffrage. In this opinion they were not only confirmed by the authorities which they consulted, but by the general understanding of the community. No father believes, when he sends his son from Ohio to Kentucky to obtain an education, that by such removal the son ceases to be an Ohioan, and becomes a citizen of Kentucky? Does the son expect that, when he returns to his former residence, he will be treated as a foreigner, and be compelled to undergo a quarantine in his native county before he can exercise the rights of citizenship? Surely this is not the doctrine which prevails among the citizens of the several states who send their sons from home to be educated. Yet to such results must we come if we permit students to exercise the right of suffrage merely on the ground of their residence at college. It will hardly be pretended that they possess this right in two or three States at the same time. Whilst upon this subject I will remark that we decided

two cases with great facility and unanimity. They were

« 上一頁繼續 »