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STATE CONVENTION. in his opinion, three committees would have been
enough; one for the Judiciary, one for the Executive, THE JUDICIARY.
and one for the Finances. By means of the labors of
these we would immediately have gone to work, and SPEECH OF THE HON. JAMES TALLMADGE, the leaks in the great vessel of State would have been
OF DUTCHESS, IN THE CONSTITUTIONAL soldered up as the public had demanded. The CouCONVENTION, AUGUST 20, 1846, ON THE vention, in its wisdom, had spent six weeks of the NEW JUDICIARY SYSTEM.
session in the reception and discussion of resolutions, MR. TallMadGE rose to address the Committee. revolutionary in their principles and tendencies and He said that the gentleman from Chautauque (Mr.
not one of which would ever be brought to maturity. Patterson) had referred a day or two since, in this de
This it was that he had disapproved and early probate, to a bill of charges by a county judge. In that tested against; and now at the end of twelve weeks bill he had charged $78 for one days' service, and in we find ourselves in this position, about to cut off deanother he had charged upwards of $140 for two or bate for want of time. For one he was proud to see three days' services. All these charges were legal; it was now understood. To stop debate-the previous and many others, much worse, that have been made question—to cut off amendments—a reference to a at different times, were also legal. He had risen, not select committee to report complete—are all contrito allude merely to this point in the abstract, but to vances, not well suited to the consideration of this say this much to the Convention, in order to show Convention, and the discreet formation of the articles them the necessity for more discreet legislation here. of a new Constitution. after. When he (Gen. T.) spoke of these charges as
He, however, thanked the committee for many legal, he meant that they were lawfully made accord- points which they had presented, and which would ing to existing laws; and that there were many more be beneficial ; at the same time they could not be much worse cases than those which had been present- expected to have acted with any great unanimity. ed by the gentleman from Chautauque (Mr. Patterson). It was a by-word in the country, that if you want to Why, so recently as the year 1835, an act was passed get a body that can never agree upon any possible by the legislature of this state, entitled “ An act to subject, get a jury lawyers! (laughter,) and here reduce the number of town officers, and to facilitate we had a jury of twelve or thirteen lawyers; and the the auditing of their accounts." This act, in its 21st proud result at last has been, that after many weeks section, takes from the District Attorney the discretion of discussion two of them have been brought to agree which he had hitherto held, and for the due exercise upon a report !-(much laughter.) That a prophecy of which, he had been responsible to the supervisors should have brought about a result of such unity, and the public, and makes it mandatory that when a almost made him fearful of a prosecution for witchcriminal cause is put off, the District Attorney, the craft! (laughter.) We have seen these minority disprosecuting officer, shall recognize all the witnesses senting reports, as grand sprouts springing up from to appear at the ensuing court; by which there was the roots ; all so diverse in character and form that the at once a Pandora's box opened for the commission most skilful botanist in the world could not attempt of great wrongs, amongst which might be, and fre- to classify them. quently was, the increase of fees and the unnecessary We are still interchanging ideas, and when we have imprisonment of witnesses that could not give security. finished this discussion ; when each point is fully canAnother abuse was opened, growing out of the busi- vassed—we shall then go to voting, and as he hoped ness of the Attorney's office; and multiplying the with the best results. That we may not be mystified fees of subaltern officers and police magistrates. He in our work, let us commence it in regular order, and alluded to this in charity to the legislature, which pass- begin at the foundation ; that is, with the justices' ed such a law-under such a title; but he thought it
He bowed with great commendation to the afforded sufficient evidence that it was a trick or fraud wisdom of the gentleman from New-York, (Mr. Morou that legislature, which, perhaps, was busy with ris,) who the other day proposed a modification of something else, than merely thinking: (laughter,) justice's courts, to one justice and a clerk, and limitsome of them probably, absent occassionally to some ing their jurisdiction to one town, It did not seem place for refreshments (much laughter). By looking to have occurred to that gentleman that there were at the 19th section of the same act, geutlemen would towns of at least twenty miles in extent in some parts see that it helped to swell the mass of fees, and opened of the State. Go to the county of Dutchess—there the door for corruption, fraud, and a train of evils, was the town of Fishkill, about twenty miles in length which it was not necessary now to enquire into. one way, and many other towns of nearly as great an
That we must all have offices, looks too much like extent in that county. These courts must be multithe English system of primogeniture, and by pro- plied for local convenience in the several neighborviding for the younger sons of the nobility, in the hoods, and were even more essential to the new than army, navy, &c.: This system of our judiciary, with to the older countries. No one court of general juristhe numerous judges, clerkships, and other officers diction, with a clerk and other officers, can supply provides a like result. In England all that class of the local convenience of these tribunals of an indipersons are thus amply provided for; but our more vidual magistrate. The county courts were required, economical and prudent republican system will not and he would make them the best kinds of courts allow that plan to be attempted here. We must con- that they could possibly be made, but he would still form our institutions to the new state of society into preserve them for local convenience. His attention which we are placed by our new form of governinent. in early life, had been turned to practising in the
Too many of us preter office,-dislike labor, and Courts of Common Pleas, and his feelings were very intend to live by our wits, where some are liable to early interested in favor of these courts. He looked be short in capital. The report of the Judiciary Com. back with admiration, love and delight, to the good old miltee, is a well contrived hospital for this class of plain, honest, business doing, common pleas court of political invalids. The tax-payers will murmur at the Dutchess county. On the bench of thatcourt had satable increase of these pensioners of party to subsist on lawyers, witlulrawn from business ; retired merchants, salaries and fees.
and men of ample talents and liberal education; and The debate which had arisen on this judiciary ques. all of them proud to be judges of the common pleas tion he regarded as one of the proudest and inost of the courity of Dutchess. We never wanted a court valuable that had yet taken place upon this floor; and of the highest possible compensation ; for in those he commended it most heartily for the talent, the times of simplicity, the court received honor from all, spirit, the learning, the good feeling, and the assiduity and few appeals were made from their decisions. It by which it had been characterized, He regretted was quite possible that in new counties this may be that the gentleman from Cayuga (Mr. Shaw,) should different-he could not say; he took gentlemen at have felt
it necessary to offer a resolution to limit this their word, although dark in description, My scheme debate ; and he (Gen. T.) hoped, that resolution would be, not to destroy them, but to elevate the would be laid to sleep on the table.
court; to improve it, and perfect it. The system of In the commencement of this Convention, be had justices' courts, common pleas and king's bench or forewarned members against the bad policy of ap- supreme court, is one derived from antiquity. You pointing nineteen standing committees. He said then can draw an outline of the plan and leave the legislaihat it would lead to difficulty, and the result had ture to fill up the details. He would be willing, and verified the truth of his predictions.
he advised to leave to each court original jurisdicHe had urged then, that they ought, at the most to tion; it was necessary for local convenience. Let the have had no more than eight standing committees, supervisors be made a local legislature to fix the comone for each article of the Constitution; and indeed, li pensation, and perhaps many other useful regulations.
Self government ought thius to be confided to the people. He knew that in the county of Dutchess it could and would all be carried into effect and meet with gsneral and public commendation.
He would now allude to the supreme court and to the contemplated reorganization of that court. It was indispensable to continue a county court with criminal jurisdiction to a certain extent, as evidently necessary for its local business. It had been thus continued, and with civil jurisdiction, for seventy years, and since the foundation of our government. We derived our justices, county and supreme courts, from the experience of several centuries in England. There could be no other reason, to take the civil jurisdiction from the county courts, than to increase the business in the supreme court, and thus justify an increase of the number of the judges of the supreme court, and augment the patronage of party politics, by giving such an increased number of judges to popular election, and which must come to the lawyers only. If the civil jurisdiction of the county courts must be destroy. ed to justify the enlargement of the supreme court, yet he would urge that even this ruinous supremo conrt could not so well perform the small local busi
It might please the lawyers and judges to be all elevated in their business to the grade of the supreme court-yet he was confidont it would lead to the establishment of numerous minor and local officers, and the increase of fees. He would form the supreme court upon that consideration which would require a less number of judges and a diminu. tion of expense.
The committee proposed thirty-two judges; and to the city of New-York four more, for extra business ; and four others for the court of appeals and to hold circuits. Although my worthy friend who sits near me was greatly excited the other day, when it was argued, that the judges would require to have $3000 each as an annual salary; yet, he said that it was indispensably necessary that these judges should be all kept on an equality. And in order to call for the talent requisite they must have liberal and appropriate compensation. Will $3000 answer? Certainly not less than that sum. And when you send them travelling on circuits, they must have a liberal allowance for their travel fees and expenses. He was certain, therefore, that it would not be less than $3000, and confident that the liberality of the party, would
swell it to $4000. He would make no objection to it. But when we ask the people to take the constitution, my word for it, they will begin to calculate the cost. Forty judges with $4000 each, is 160,000 to start with, as a judiciary, besides the many minor officers. The people would begin to count the cost as compared with the present system. It is said the clerks fees are over $60,000. For his own part, his preferences were for a smaller supreme court with a well organized county court and with original jurisdiction; which he (Mr. T.) thought would suit the whole people much better and be more economical.
Having thus intimated, in order that I might not be misunderstood in any part of my remarks, my preferences for keeping the justices' courts substantially as they are, a court subject to legislation, and which can be amended, changed, or altered, by that powerhaving done that, and having constituted, as he would suggest, these county courts,—he would leave the legislature to make such judicious arrangeinents as were deemed desirable with regard to the criminal business which these courts have to transact. He would prefer a supreme court of twelve judges; the state to be divided into four districts with three judges to each, to hold circuits, and one of them from each district to constitute a supreme court over all. It would be very easily arranged, then, that they could come together in Banc for the supreme court; and that mode would satisfy him, and be one of economy and local convenience. It should be remembered that a court of five judges can hear and decide causes no fister than a court of three judges. A division of the judges to hold courts in the four districts, in addition to the circuit courts in the counties, is equal in effect to a four-fold increase of the present judicial strengthe of the state. It will be entirely adequate to do the whole business of the state ; including that of the court of chancery, when simplified and brought to trial as common causes before a jury. He should not object to elect their judges. He would prefer their appointment, by the Governor and Senate. He would differ on this point, if a proper mode of election, or
if an approved appointing power can be provided. tain quarters and in certain political circles. Opposi- material-new men, not committed or prejudiced by But if the judges are to be elected, he had no hesi- tion to these measures of prevention to judicial in- a former opinion. tation to say, it was inadmissable to connect them on trigue, and seeking for other appointments, was but If you will provide such a court of appeal, then you the same ticket with the officers of the state prisons too apparent. It was a notice that judges nominated will have that kind of justice which will not only be -the Governor, shorn of all power and respect ; and by a party would continue with party feeling and right; but in which the public will believe and place the other state officers, and all to be selected as party ambition for some other place, and open to party
implicit confidence. If you take a contrary course, bantlings of party, and for their service and fitness influences.
it will inevitably lead to contrary results and public
dissatisfaction. as instruments of party strifes. The judges cannot be It had been said in debate, that the great central separated in the feelings incident to such elections.
I hope I will not be understood as making personal power of politics in Albany, was to be broken up. This objection is still of greater force, against the He feared a greater power was to be made a consti
remarks, or intending anything unkind to the honoraelection on such a ticket, of the judges of the Court tutional fixture.
ble gentlemen who have advocated this plan. It is of Appeals.
not my purpose to do so. Yet I must allude to some The election of the Judges of the Court of Appeals,
Before going any further he would briefly allude to practical lessons adduced from the history of this state,
the Court of Errors. Look for a moment at this court. ought to be kept separate, and the election of the
to impress more fully upon the committee the utter It was established in the constitution of 1777, to conJustices of the Supreme Court-ought to be in the
inutility and impropriety of such court of appeals. sist of the senators of the state and the chancellor, or several senate districts, they being thirty-two, and cor
About 1840, or a little before that time, there were responding with the number of the proposed judges. the judges, according as the appeal was from either
cases in legislation and business that aroused public To create eight judicial districts, and unite the elec
He eulogized the operations of this court from
feeling ; and here I do not hesitate to say that the tion of four judges in each, will not bring the election
its commencement, and said that it stood at the con- abolishment of imprisonment for debt, by the act of home to the electors, and a personal acquaintance with
vention in 1800 in good order with the people, and 1831, aided to create a new state of society-opened
which had been continued from that day to the present, the candidate ; nor produce so sure a scrutiny into
new causes for adjudication—tore asunder existing sustained by public approbation, and was respected his fitness and character. I urge the election of the
society, and brought a new classification of litigation, for its integrity. Its decisions would compare in judges in the single senate districts, as a much better
and I fear a change of moral sentiment. test of his character and adaptation to the duties
wisdom and legal principles with any other tribunal In your old tribunals, if you had a debt against a of the office ; combined on a general ticket with in our language. Thus it stood also in 1821—half a
mun and prosecuted him and recovered judgment, the others; less scrutiny will be had, and less fit men will century after its foundation; and it was left untouch
ordinary course of proceeding was, you had a right ed by that convention. This was the highest eulogy get on a ticket, and may be elected.
to imprison him, the debtor. It was his business and that could have been pronounced. It is not the sys- interest to satisfy the creditor of the integrity of his The objection has been made that an election by tem, but the admiuistration of the system, which has
transaction, and to show that misfortune had led to his single districts may bring the election of a judge withbeen a matter of rempark and reproach.
insolvency, and in that way he was often able to induce in the influence of popular excitement in some local districts; of abolition-anti-mason-anti-rent, or some
After 1821, and 1846, in the latter part of this history, his creditors to compound the debt, and where he other ism. This is is no objection. One or two out
its reputation has changed, and the interests of the could not pay the whole of it, for him to pay half or state have been made to give way for personal and
two-thirds; to sign off, or to submit to imprisonment of thirty-two will produce no evil. I hold, (said Mr.
political conflicts. T.) that minorities had better be represented in all
The causes of this change he
until he could take the benefit of the act. And when would not here allude to.
he came to take the act, he was called upon the stand our elections, and even among the judges. While party formerly elected the three inspectors of elections In suits between individuals its integrity and its in
and there he stood in the presence of all his accusing from one side the other side made complaints of un- telligence had never been doubted ; in cases of party
creditors :—there he stood the test of a searching in
vestigation of the combined wisdom of the courtfairness in decisions. But now, since the law pro- contlicts and political controversies, its liability to vides for a ticket to contain the names of only two of swerve had latterly been sometimes questioned. He
the sharpened intellect of the deeply interested crowd the three inspectors, one of the minority must be here alluded to cases in relation to election laws, banks,
around him—and if he sustained the truth, and showed elected. It is thus represented in the board, and en- &c., as instances of the weakness of that court at
that misfortune-not improvidence or dishonesty-had tire satisfaction has been the result. If the election present and for the last few years, and as the causes
led to his present condition, then he was absolved in of the judges was in single districts, and if any should for an opposition which had been got up against it.
the face of the court and the world, and went forth
to society again a new and yet an honest man! be elected by any local excitement, it would not im
Sir, we trust we have purity in this tribunal. It is What was the result when they abolished imprisonpair the court, while all partaking in the local excite
not only necessary to have justice done, but to believe ment for debt? It let loose a wild spirit of speculaments, feeling their views were represented in the
that it is justice, and make the people believe so. The tion. It increased the litigation in the state threetribunal, would have confidence, and more readily community at large must be made to believe that the fourths; and it opened that Pandora's box of a creditor's yield to its decisions. It is important that our judicial adjudications of the courts are to be taken for truth, bill in chancery for disclosures and discovery of proptribunals shall not only administer justice, but that it and for the reason of their absolute purity.
erty hidden. be done under such circumstances that the parties and the public believe it is justice.
To do this we must have a tribunal free from doubt,
This turned an immense mass of business on the formed in a manner free from suspicion. And here
chancery jurisdiction. Before this time the supreme May we not say that the impending downfall of the let me remark, that I differ from the provisions of the
court and the other courts were able to do all their present courts has grea:ly arisen from the entire committee widely in the manner in which they have
business. There were but five judges as a supreme monopoly, for several years past, of judicial appointconstituted the court of appeals, and in requiring four
court, and with but one chancellor. Soon your calenments from party actors and agents; and also of all
judges of the supreme court to form part of the tribu- ders were blocked up by this mighty accumulation of the clerkships and officers of the courts, with receivers nal, with four to be elected, and who could never hold
business; you had opeued new inducements to bad of the fees and perquisites; and all has been dependan affirmative against the four judges of the supreme
morals in the debtor with no accountability, and a ent on, and coming from the courts. One-half the
He (Mr. T.) would have no judge who tried
course of profligatc expenditure, and leading to vast community have thus been embodied in their feel
a cause at a circuit, or in a court below, to sit on an and disastrous consequences. Mr. T. made no objecings against the courts. Clients often believe and say
appeal from his own decision. It destroyed confidence. tion to this thing; if you please, he agreed with it all. they must and do employ party lawyers to gain a fair It awakened a doubt. Their minds, from the fallibili.
But such were some of the mighty causes and results hearing of their cause, before a court of party judges ty of human nature, would naturally be biassed, hav
by which our judiciary system was overwhelmed ; -judges arising from and sustained by party politics ing prejudged ; and even if they were not, the people
and the calender of causes which averaged from 125 Incongruities in the scale of counsellors have been would never give them credit for being disinterested
to 150, soon afterwards rose to 700 or 900 causesthus exhibited, and business and courts have experiand impartial. A calm review by a new set of men
such was the alteration and sudden course of business enced influences arising from collateral causes. Ambi- is essential to a submission in feeling.
in our courts of justice. It had been productive of tion has heretofore showed itself willing to gain the place of a judge, as a stepping-stone, to gain some
He would be told that we should have four judges,
important consequences and curious results, especially
in the transfer of property. other promotion-governor, or president, &c. Ineli
to be elected by the people, to operate as a check on
What next took place? The court then decided gibility to any other appointment during the term,
" that possession must ever accompany a bill of sale with a compensation not to be varied by increase or ple must be lawyers, to be able to hold circuits. Their
of property," which gave rise to and adopted the disdiminution, must be unalterably fixed, to secure the judgments would, beyond doubt, be influenced by
tinction between “ traud in law and fraud in fact;" independence and the integrity of the judges. These their deference to the superior legal attainments and
the one to be determined by the court—the other to fixtures have been prevented, and are not provided in experience in legal matters of the four from the Su
be left to the decision of the jury. This was fatal to the articies of the new constitution. The judges will preme Court bench. Why have them to endorse only?
the interest of wild speculation, irresponsible advenremain to be selected from party politics, to continue Better have eight new and impartial inen as the court
turers, and of men in commercial pursuits, with a lax to have party feelings, in elections, and will be open of appeals, and thus lave entire confidence-all to be
state of morals. It ended by “ lobbying” arrangeto ambitious desires for further party promotion. Party free from suspicion.
ments, procuring a law from the legislature that there nominations will ever make judges with party feel. To such court of appeals—ove.half from the Su- should be no “fraud in law and fraud in fact;" but ings, and will impair public confidence in the impar- preme Court he would never for a moment acquiesce. that all should be left to the jury to be decided beyond tiality and integrity of their judicial decisions. Ineli- It would be better, and he would prefer, to have the the control of the court. This led to perplexity and gibility to any other place during their term, could decisions of the Supreme Court final, and there let confusion, and unsettled the commercial dealings and only prevent this evil, and make them impartial. It judgment stop. This, therefore, he considered to be the integrity of the country. The supreme court would admonish and instruct them to abstain from a radical defect in the report of the committee, in would not conform and did not bow to this course of party politics during their judicial term of office, by fixing this court of appeals, with one-half not impar- legislation. Collisions thus arose, and insubordination the inutility and impossibility to gain any other place tial. Therefore I most respectfully urge, that the existed between the court and the legislature. It is during the term of their judicial election, and its ac- public will command that you give them either no not necessary to say which was right, or who was to ceptance by a judge. Mr. T. regretted to see all appeal, or constitute this highest tribunal so that it shall blame. My purpose is only to show such collisions these prudent precautions against management and be kept entirely distinct from the Supreme Court- have always and will often arise between the judiciintrigue on the bench, were not well received in cer- free from suspicion, constituted of free and original ary and the legislature.
Let us go one step further. In 1836-7, the spirit of speculation pervaded us all. We were all getting hastily rich. Millions of capital were invested here and there ; even the state itself entered into it, by the issue of its stocks for its works of internal improvement and various public measures ; sometimes wise and sometimes otherwise. What followed then? The iegislature had to extend all its power and resources to save the banking system, or else to submit to the disgrace and stain of repudiation.
What did the senate then agree to do? The assembly had passed a bill in 1838, appropriating a million of dollars, notwithstanding the bankrupt credit of the state-and the senate passed the bill extending it to four millions instead of one million. Then came a special message from Gov. Marcy, recommending an issue of state stocks " for the canal purposes," to the amount of six or eight millions of dollars, and which sum thus obtained on the credit of the canal was to be loaned to the banks, to sustain them from ruin ; upon which the act was actually passed, providing for an issue of state stocks, for seven and a half millions of dollars for such purpose, (see message, Senate Journals, 1838, page 416 aud page 459.) The Journals of 1838 show all this.
This state of things continued until the public liabilities amounted to eleven and a half millions. It then became necessary to arrest this mad career, in order to save the country from disgrace if not from ruin. He then alluded to the policy under the law of 1842 ; how they called in capital, made a change in the entire business of the state, and as a consequence, increasing litigation to such a degree as to overwhelm and bury your courts.
He would not enter into the discussion as to whether this or that course of policy was wright or wrong, He proposed only to allude to the facts as history had presented them, and as showing the causes which had led to the call for a reform in our jndiciary.
The legislature, to relieve the public from this real, yet artificial distress, passed the act for privATE BANKING. The plan was to call forth capitalists and induce them to restore a circulating medium to the country, and thus to regain public confidence. The measure aided the object in a degree, and a change soon after took place in the pressure on public credit. The abuses of the past were thus charged on the banking system, and the tone of public sentiment was made to call for their destruction. To aid in this object, was the brigh road to popularity, into which many rushed forward.
Your supreme court then, in conformity with public clamor, decided this law for private banking to be unconstitutional. The question was carried to the ourt of errors, the senate ; and they reversed that decision. It was then objected and said, that they were the identical senate that passed the law, and
hat their determination must be disregarded. They having pronounced the decision, it was the law for the time being, and the subordinate tribunals were bound to have assented to it as the law of the land. The supreme court then disobeyed-they refused to acquiesce-they combatted—they would not yield to the decision of the court of errors—what followed ?
The private banking act required the bills of the banks to be issued by the comptroller, on deposit of security, and which was done accordingly—the issue of the bill being thus founded on consideration received. If it was void, as an act of incorporation(which it never claimed to be)-assuredly it was good as a law. It justified the comptroller for the issue of the bills as a public officer, and held him and the state accountable for the consideration for which it had been issued, and to all but the supreme court, it would seem to be a criminal act to counterfeit the bills. A man was tried before one of the judges of your supreme court for counterfeiting these bills so issued by the comptroller on consideration. He was convicted by the jury, after a fair trial; but the learned judge of the supreme court decided, in disregard of the court of errors, the private banking act to be unconstitutional and void ; and that therefore to counterfeit the bills thus issued by the comptroller of the state, was no legal offence; the convict was thus discharged—and the villain gathering up the tools and implements of his business, walked in triumph out of your courts of justice, and stood under the law of the day an honest man in community. The court of errors (a second time) repeated their decision of the legality and the coustítutionality of the act for private
banking; and yet their decision is not regarded as the law of the land by certain other tribunals of the
Such is now the harmony of our judicial proceedings.
This conflict of decision is now ascribed by somo to the fact that the court of errors, the court of appeals in that case, being called on to decide as to the constitutionality of their own acts as members of the legislature. And for this reason and radical defect in its organization, it is now urged to abolish the senate as a court of appeals; and in the same breath and by the same speakers, and from the report of the same committee, this Convention is gravely called upon to make a new court of appeals, including in its organization the same radical defect of one half of the judges, to consider and reverse as members of the court of appeals, their own decisions as members of the supreme court.
He insisted that it presented a farce tvo ludicrous to be entertained. And especially as a justification for giving such extraordinary powers both of original jurisdiction as a supreme court, and final power as a court of appeal. With such double auihority as a supreme court and a court of appeal, this supreme court would stand not only independent, but would command and control both the executive and the legislative departments of the government. It cannot but lead to abuse.
The court of appeals without any original jurisdiction, and only a power of determination on an appeal, and to be composed of new men elected by the state, would be salutary in all its tendencies; affording satisfaction to suitors and an harmonizing influence to the other branches of the government-and it would be indifferent and able to check all the collisions, to arise between the various departments. Such a court of appeal, made independent by a fixed compensation, and impartial by ineligibility to any other appointment during the term of their office, would command public confidence. But these cautions and preventives are all opposed in this Convention. They
too rigid for young ambition. These fact strengthened him in his objections to the court of appeals, as proposcd by the committee. He would have no man on an appeal to sit in judgment on his own acts. My purpose is not to say that all this is wrong; but that it was unworthy of the dignity of the state, the purity of our judicial system, and the character of our legislature ; and that we ought not to adopt it. He again urged his objections to the court of appeals as proposed by the committee, and therefore had no hesitation in saying that he would prefer that the decision of the new supreme court should be final. It was not worth while to impose upon the parties the expense of the farce of an appeal, before the same judges that had pronounced the first decision. If we were to have a court of appeal, he desired to have one that would not be influenced by legislative cabals or executive influence. He would have them come from different regions of the state, selected solely for their capacity aud private worth.
The cases in legislation, in the supreme court, and in the court for the correction of errors, and especial. ly on the great question of fraud in law and fraud in fact, with mandatory laws, and the disregard of the decision of the highest court for the correction of errors, abundantly showed that collisions must arise in the progress of the government, between its different branches—the one unwilling to be commanded by the other; and abundantly demontrates, the necessity for the ullimate tribunal or court of appeals being held separate from either department of the government, and made independent of either, executive, judicial, or legislative power and authority. They would then stand firm and isolated, to hold the scales of justice, not only between suitors, but also to determine any conflicts that may arise between these three great branches of our government. To secure their independence to perform this high duty, they should be made ineligible to any approach either by executive patronage, legislative bounties, or judicial iufluence. To secure such objects the members of the court of appeals should be made ineligible to any other appointment, during the term of office, from the executive ;-to any increase or diminution of salary from the legislature-and all possible approach from the feelings and influence nf other judicial tribunals.
(Concluded in No. 46.)
EDUCATION. Speech of the Hon. Solomon Townsend of New-York.
Mr. Townsend regretted that his friend from Herkimer (Mr. Loomis) should feel called upon to change the position in which this morning the Convention had left the subject. He regretted it the more, as he did not see at the moment any of the committee charged with the subject of education, in their seats. This principle of entire freedom from charge for the instruction of the children who attend the public schools, was not by any means a new idea in his own part of the state, and it had been found to work with eminent success. When, in 1841, important modifications were made in the general school law of the state, it was conceded by most of the gentlemen from the country, that with respect to the entire equality with which the children who availed themselves of public education, in the city of New-York--met upon the benches of their schools—the system of the ciiy was far more preferable to the mode of rating, (as it was called,) pursued in the interior of the state ; thus dis criminating between the parents of scholars, in the matter of contribution, in place of sustaining the school by a general tax upon the property of the district. It was urged with force then that the children were made unavoidably sensible of the fact that there was an inequality in their position, and that this feel. ing was detrimental to that buoyancy and happiness in their associations with their schoolmates, su essential to their progress in the acquisition of useful instruction. Every incentive should exist to make the school attractive to the scholar, and nothing in the system should compel them to feel that others were there by any better right than themselves.
There was no time then to show, what was perfectly apparent to all but the contracted and prejudiced that the benefits of a well educated community reacted directly upon the property of the neighborhood, by rendering that more secure frorn depredations, and more desirable from the better society and morality that followed as the attendants upon knowledge. The farseeing man of wealth paid no taxes more cheerfully than such as went to promote knowledge in his neighborhood. and with it à capacity for self-support and good government.
The city of New-York now paid near half a million of dollars, annually, for the free instruction of all children between five and sixteen years of age, that presented themselves to the city schools. This included all books, stationery, &c.; so that the whole expense of education was borne by the city treasury. Notwithstanding this heavy charge upon property, it was met with more cheerfulness than almost any other, as its living benefits were constantly before us. There were many who deemed the matter of instruction not a government concern-saying that when you have once commenced, you might, upon the same principle, give every child a trade or profession, as a matter of public care. However well sustained these views may be, upon full investigation-and there was undoubtedly great difficulty in refuting them when government undertakes to effect an object, it should be thoroughly and completely done. For years, the question of public instruction has occupied the solicitude of the leading statesmen of this state, and it has been deemed proper to vest large funds permanently for the benefit of education. We had this day constitutionalized a progressive increase to our already large fund for that purpose, and we ought to feel disposed to give the system the greater efficiency, even in the most sequestered and remote regions of our
From the habit of thus viewing and reflecting upon the subject, he had seen with surprise the opposition exhibited this morning to tho section establishing, after a popular vote, the principles of universal and gratuitous instruction; and he earnestly hoped that the Convention were not about to imitate their conduct on the question of the “rights of women," by a sudden change of opinion from previously, and, in his belief, a properly formed one. He now observed the members of the committee charged with this matter, in their places, and he would leave in their hands any further opposition to the motion now pending of reconsideration-upon which, however, he asked the ayes and nays.
Mr. Towsend since the adjournment of the State Convention has been appointed School Commissioner of the 7th Ward of the City of New-York, by the Common Council.
ARBITRARY, INQUISITORIAL TAXATION.
A Special Committee, appointed by the Board of Assistants, composed of Messrs. James Robertson of the 8th Ward, Isaac B. Smith of the 9th Ward, and James D. Oliver of the 15th Ward, have made a lengthy report, which has been printed by order of the Board, and is known as Ducminent No. 18, a copy of which is here presented, together with the drafts of three several bills, which they propose to have presented to the present Legislature, to be passed in. to laws.
This subject has been before the Legislature frequently, and that body has refused the application for extending the operation of the tax laws. The same subject was before the State Couvention for amend. ing the Constitution ; and that body, in Sec. 9, of Art. 8, provided that tho Legislature shall restrict the power of taxation by incorporated cities and villages; and by Sec. 14, of Art. 7, that very act which imposes, continues or revives a tax, or creates a debt or charge, or makes, continues or revives any appropriation of public or trust money or property, &c., shall, on its final passage, be passed, on the calling of the ayes and noes; and three-fifths of the members elected must be present, to form a quorum—that is, 20 members in the Senate, and 77 members in the House; and by the preceding section, “Every law which imposes, continues or revives a tax, shall distinctly state the tax, and the object to which it is to be applied ; and it shall not be sufficient to refer to any other law, to fix such tax or object.” By Sec. 16, of Art. 3, it is provided as follows:-" No private or local bill, which may be passed by the Legislature, shall embrace more thau one subject, and that shall be expressed on the title." By Sec. 17, of Art. 3, it is provided that “ The Legislature may confer upon the Boards of Supervisors of the several counties of the State, such further powers of local legislation and administration, as they shall from time to prescrive." By Sec. 9, of Art. 4, it is provided that no bill shall be a law of this State, unless passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, as therein provided.
The State Legislature, therefore, cannot delegate legislative power to incorporated Cities and Villages. We refer the Committee to the assessed value of real estate in 1836 and 1846: 1836...
DOCUMENT No. 18.
DECEMBER 14th, 1846. Report of the Special Committee, to whom was referred the resolution of enquiry as to the propriety of making application to the Legislature of this State, at its next Session, to authorize the Common Council to equalize the system of Taxation, by assessing all property in the city, whether real or personal, &c. &c.Presented by Mr. Robertson. Laid on the table and three times the usual number of copies ordered to be printed.
0. S. BARTLES, Clerk.
taxation, in consequence of our illy considered law requiring per-
The great and continually increasiug facilities for cheap and
The principle contended for is so palpably just, that it needs only
York; but, only for a legislative sanction of a just principle ; i. e.
That the City and County of New-York happens to be benefitted
The Committee are also of opinion, that the time of taking the assessment should be altered to, so as to allow it to be done in the winter season, when many residents are in town, and accessible to the assessors; but, who are always absent in the summer season, and thus escape taxation. Many of them board at Hotels and Boardi. ing-houses, with their families, and have po fixed place of residence, which greatly embarrasses the assessors in making a proper assessinent. A law requiring all keepers of hotels and boarsling bouses to report to the Assessors the names and places of business all of their resident boarders, would, in the opinion of the Committee, prove bighly beneticial.
The difficulty of ascertaing the annount of each individual's personal estate has been otten made the subject of complaint, but no satisfactory remedy appears to have been suggested. The Coinmittee are of opinion that honest tax-payers will readily submit to such legal rigidity as may be necessary, to ensure a fair assessinent of all the property liable to taxation; and that there should be required of each individual a report to the Assessors, of the amount of his personal estate, over and above his debts, under the penalty of the addition of dilly per cent upon the amount assessed to such person, froin the best information the Assessor can obtain..
The Committee are also of' opinion, that the Assessors should not berequired to reduce any assessment on the affidavit of the person assessed, nor to receive the aifidavit of such person as to such value, unless accompanied with an oral examination of such person on oath by the Assessors, and, on such attidavit and examination, they should correct the assessment, either by increasing or diminishing it, as they should be satisfied was just.
This would be of great benetii, even if no report of property by persons should be required. It appears to be just and reasonable ihat the Assessors should hear the statements on oath of those who complain of their assessments, but they sbould have the right to ask questions and be satisfied of the truth of the statement, before altering the amount; and to increase it, if they should think proper.
The want of a State Board to equalize assessments in difierent counties bas been repeatedly pointed out by the Governor of the State, in his Messages, and others; but, tbouglı no one has been found bold enougli to deny the great inequality in the collection of the State taxes, in consequence of unequal assessments, strange as it may seem, no remedy has yet been applied by the Legislature. Some counties assess one-third, some one-half and some two-thirds of the fair value of property, while the City of New York always assess the full value, according to the Statute. As long as there was no Slate tax, the Assessor's of each Town considered ihemselves at liberty to assess as they saw fit, the County Supervisors equali. zing the assessments in different lowns, as they had the power to do by law. Since the imposition of a State tax, however, these different valuations have worked the greatest injustice. Out of the City of New York it is believed that the assessments, on an average, do not exceed one-half, and certainly not two-thirds, of the fair value of the property: The amount of State lax paid by the City, from 1812 to 1816, inclusive, is $1,018, 133.53, which on an assessment of the same proportion of the value of property as County lassess. ments will average, would bave been less, by about Four Hundred Thousand Dollurs. It may be said, that the City was done no more than its duty and therefore has nothing to complain of, if other counties have done less than their's; but this is fallacious; as, it all the State hail paid in the same proportion, the tax would have been sooner discontinued or diminished, and thus the city would have been relieved from the corresponding proportion it has actually paid. The city of New York, is therefore, as much entitled to have the same refunded by the State, as the holterof our State Stocks are, to payment of the principal and interest of tbe State debt. The claim is founded in justice ani goou conscience, and must be met and satisfied; and when that is done, there will be no difticulty in procuring a law to prevent the recurrence of such injustice. The City has submiued to unequal and burthensome taxation, till endurance has ceased to be a viriue; and they cannot and they will not longer endure in patience or in silence, but will put forth their claim for redress
with tbat zeal and firmness, which those only can assu!ne, who demand their rights in the name of justice.
WHARFAGE TAX. of the propriety and expediency of levying a Wharfage tax on all merchandise lin let or shipped over the Wharves and Piers in the city, the committee entertain no doubt. Instead of being under the necessity of procuring a grant of this right from the Legislature as a fundamental principle of government, the Constitution of the State should have secured and guaranteed to all cities or other local governments, who should construct Wharves, Piers and Slips, or other similar improvements, for the use and convenience of commerce, which they were under no obligation to the State to construct, the absolute right, to impose such taxes upon the use of them, as would fully remunerate for the cost of their construction, and expense of keeping them in repair.
In principle, ihere can be no difference between the right to receive whartage from vessels while lying at wbarves, landing or discharging, and the right to levy a rate of wharfage on goods landed or shipped over such wharves. The goods could be reached through the vessel, or, vree versa, the vessel through the goods; provided there was a discretion lett as the rale of duly, in either case. It appears to the committee, however, that it would operate unjustly and unequally upon parties interested, to collect ibe whole ainount required, by an arbitrary per diem charge upon vessels.
Soine vessels lie at the wharves without doing any considerable injury to the same for several months continuously, while others, within the same time, perhaps, discharge several cargoes, from voyages accomplished, at less whartage, but with greater wear to ihe wharves. The Act of the Legislature of April 9th, 1813, in relation to whartage and cranage, allows the owners of wharves in the City of New York, to receive certain rates of wharfage on vessels while using wharves, i. e. fifty cents per day for a vessel of fifty tons or uuder, and twelve and a hall cents, in addition, for each additional tilty tons of burthen. Another Act of the saine date, in relatian to wharves, piers and slips, gave the Common Council the right to construct wharves for themselves, paying for the property taken, to require owuers to make them, or iii detault of such owners making them, lo make the same at their own expense, and receive the whartage; or jointly with the individual owners, to make the same, and divide the wbartage. It seems to bave been supposed at that time, that tbe wharves would inostly be owned by indi. viduals; and hence the rales of wharfage were fixed by law, to preveut unjust impositions.upon commerce, for the emolument of individual owners.
From some cause or other, however, more than two-thirds of the wharves have become vested in the Corporation; and, as the City itself would be more directly and seriously eflected, than the State at large, by an imposition upon commerce, which would diminisha ils amount, the regulation and amount of wharfage tax, whether on vessels or goods, most justly belongs to, and could be most sately contided in the Cominon Council of the City, instead of the Legis lature of the State.
The city bas invested in these wharves, piers and slips, about $2,000,000, and at the low rates of wharfage established by the law above referred to, they are able to realize, over and above the expenses of repairs only about two per cent per annum upon the amount of the investment. As these works have been erected, not for the exclusive benetic of the city, but for the advantage and pros perity of commerce in general, those interested in such commerce, many of whom are foreigners and non-residents of the State, anii not ibe inhabitants of the City, should defray the expenses of their construction. The City is justly entitled to receive a fair interest on the investment, say seven per cent. over all deductions. With proper discrimination, the Committee believe, revenue may be realized from a tax on goods so light as not to divert a single article froin this commercial mart, and scarcely to be realized by the payer, sufficient not only to yield such income on the capital, but also to enable the Corporation to greatly improve their wbarves, piers and slips; and, in a short time to erect sheds over those most frequented, to the great facility of commerce and convenience, comfort and pecuniary gain of the numerous cartmen and laborers employed upon them. It would certainly be wise and expedient, to allow the Common Council the power to extend every facility to commerce, without burthening our citizens with taxation ; rely. ing upon their own interest, as a guaranty against impositions, which would in the least obstruct the steady flow of commerce to this great commercial emporium. Instead of realizing, as beretofore, about $38,000 per annum, over expenses, from this source, by the change proposed, the City would receive about $ 150,000 per arinum, which would in some degree alleviate the burthens of taxation.
In Boston and Baltimore wharfage taxes are levied upon goods at such raies as to procure from ten to twelve per cent on the cost of such works, and much higher than would ever be found neces sary here ; and, as far as your Cominittee are advised, without the least detrunent to commerce, or complaint from any source.
As it is proposed to leave the regulation of the rate of such tas, upon different articles, to the Cominon Council, it is not deemed necessary to enter into detail. The Committee think a very simple rule of levying such tax should be prescribed, say, so much per barrel, cask or hogshead, per ton on iron, metals, inarble, &c. per hundred feet of luinber, per thousand bricks, and per cubic foot on boxes, &c. not exceeding the proportion of about one cent for a barrel, which is less than one-third of the rate of charges in Boston.
Il might be proper, on imposing suct tax, to exempt vessels from the ordinary whartave, for a sufficient time to load or discharge, and to allow goods to lie on the wharves a certain specified time, and require storage on such as remain longer, which would accom. plish the double purpose of raising revenue, and clearing the wharves of goods which now often encumber them for months,
In Boston, Masters of vessels are allowed a certain per centage for collecting the whartage tax, and the consequence is that they invariably collect it with their freight bills, and pay it to the Receiver of Taxes. If the same rule should be adopted here, the Committee do not believe it would be necessary to create any con. siderable number of Otcers to collect such taxes, (with the ex ception of four Receivers of Taxes), as Police Oificers sufficien. for the purpose could be detailed on such duty by turns, at sucb, hours as their services might not be required elsewhere.' Masters should be required to report to the Receiver of the tax the arrival and clearance of each vessel, and pay over the tax, according to the entry in the Custom llouse or ibeir bills of lading where no entry or clearance is required.
On this subject, 100, your Committee believe a geveral law will be more advisable and popular than one specially applicable to the City of New York. Other cities and villages have similar interests and similar rights. The Committee would recominend, that application be made for the passage of a law declaring that the Corpo ration of any City, or Town or Village, inay authorize the owners of any wharves, piers or slips, within suct. City or Village, opon any of the navigable waters of this State, to levy such rates of whar. age on goods landed or shipped over the same, as such CorporaLion shall prescribe, not exceeding such sum in the aggregate as will amount to seven per ceat. per annum, upon the capital invest ed in such wharves, piers or slips, over and above the expense of repairs. Against the passage of such a law, your Committee believe no good objection can be urged ; and with such a law in force
The Special Committee, to whom it was referred to take into consideration and report upon the propriety of making application to the Legislature of this Slate, at its next session, to authorize the Common Council to equalize the system of taxation by assessing all property in the city, whether real or personal, and also for permission to levy a wharfage tax, and for power to abolish the present system of bonding foreign emigrants and substituting such other system as shall besi subserve the interests of the city, respectfully
REPORT, That they have bestowed upon the several subjects referred to then the aitention which their great importance demands, deeply impressed with the urgent necessity of arousing the Common Council and our fellow-citizens at large, to a most vigorous and deterinineu effort to obtain froin the Legislature of the State, vot a grant of special privileges, as matter of grace and favor, but redress for the grievances and a remedy for the evils so long endured, which upon every principle of justice and propriety liey have a right to demand.
ASSESSMENT OF NON-RESIDENTS. For several years past, the evasion of taxation on the part of those engaged in business in the city, and enjoying the protection and benefits of its municipal government and its great public improvements, by nominal non-residence, has engayed the attention of the city authorities, called forth reports of Committees and caused application to the Legislature for relief, but the demands of justice and the dictates of sound policy have hitherto been entirely unbeeded. Our rich nierchants and heavy capitalists, finding the city burthened with a debt created for their benefit, and subjected to heavy taxes for expenses of Streets, City Police and Crotou Water for their use and protection, find excuses to remove their families lo Staten Island, Long Island, West Chester, and other counties on the North River, and many of them to the States of New-Jersey and Connecticut; and thus escape, not only the increased amount of taxes to which they would be subjected here, for the causes above mentioned, but also all taxation whatever, except for the premises they occupy; as they are really and truly strangers in the places of their nominal residence, and their property is only known here in their place of business,
From the best information your Committee have been able to obtain, they believe, that there are more than 2,000 firms engaged in mercantile and other branches of business, and whose capital is invested and used in this city, possessing from $500 to $150,000, and averaging about $15,000 eacb, inaking an aggregate of about $39,000,000 of personal property, under the protection, and realizing the benefits of our laws and goverment, but beyond the reach of
177,207,980 Here is a great contrast.
In 1837, the amount of real estate was assessed at $196,450,109, and this last sum was forty or fifty millions too much.
and each city and village in the enjoyment of its right to regulate the price of using the works of its own construction, the Commitee are fully persuaded, that the interests of each will be found to harmonize with, and greatly promote those of the whole Stale at large.
COMMUTATION OF ALIEN PASSENGERS. As to the substitution of a commutation for the bonding of Alien Passengers, the Committee fully concur in the opinion of the Comptroller, expressed in his coinmunication to the Conuon Counciloo the 2d of February, 1846, that it would prove highly beneficial to the city. They can scarcely add anything to the sound and able argument by which that opinion was sustained, and respectfully refer to the same, as contained in their own views.
Al experience has shown, that the bondiug system is almost an entire failure in its design to indemnify the City from the support of the great and constantly increasing influx of foreign paupers. Under ihe present law, the Mayor might, perhaps, by exacting bonds to the largest amount allowed, i.e. Three Hundred Dollars for each passenger, induce the owners of most vessels to commute, if he had the power to exact a justification of the sureties, or an oral examination under oath, and to reject all who should not show to his salissaction, that they were worth double the amount of the sums in which they were to be bound, over and above all debts, inclurling the full amount of the penalties of all other bonds execu. led by suel surelies. Whether he possesses this right, under the provision that he shall approve of the sureties or not, such right has not been exercised; but on the contrary bonds have often been taken of persons who make it a business to become security for such passengers, at One Dollar each, and whose liabilities on similar bonds greatly exceed the amount of their property. Hence, the attempts to collect any thing on such bonds have, in a large proportion of cases proved ineffectual, aud involved the city in costs of the preceedings.
The rapid annual increase in the number of such passengers, and small amounts realized from commutations and forfeited bonds, demaod the most vigorous exertions on the part of the Common Council and people of the City, to procure such an alteration of the law, as shall authorize the exaction of Oue Dollar from every such passenger, in lieu of the bonds now required, which will in pari in. demnify the City, for the support of alien paupers. This will prove no hardship to einigrants, as they will pay the same amount now, to the persons who will become their sureties.
The number of such persons annually arriving has increased from 37,000 in 1843, to 101,980, in eleven months of 1846 ; and the number commuted for has areraged about one-tenth. The other nino-tenths of the commutation money paid, bave gone into the hands of private speculators, and but a small part of it has been collected on bonds.
For three years next preceding 1846, about Six Thousand Dollars per annum was collected on such bonds; but during eleven months of this year, not one dollar has been received from that source.
This year, down to November 28th, the number of such passcogers is 101,930, and the amount of coin mutation money received is $9,229. By the proposed change the city would have sared about One Hundred Thousand Dollars this year.
As the new City Charter, embraciug the proposed change, has been rejected, the Committee recommend an application to the Legislature for the necessary amendment of the Statute in question, so as to accomplish the desired object.
In this iustance the City will be asking for a law for their own particular relief, and not applicable to any other part of the State ; but the peculiar circumstances of their situation, exposed to such swarms of foreign paupers, entitle them to thə aid pod protection of the Legislature.
The three subjects which the Committeo have thus briefly and imperfectly presented to the consideration of tho Board, are, each and all of the deepest interest to overy tax payer, and the accomplishment of the Committee's recommendations in regard to all of thom, woold relieve the City of about Half a Million of Dollars taxation annually, and each citizen of about one-quarter of his present annual taxes. Surely the accomplish. ment of so great an object is worthy of the anited oxeriis, not only of the Common Council, but of each and all of our lax-paying fellow citizens; and, in so just a cause, those exertions cannot fail to prove successful.
The Committee have procured drafts of suitable laws in pur. suance of the above recommendations, which are hereunto annexed ; and, in conclusion, they respectfully recommend the adoption of the following resolution :
Resolved, (if the Board of Aldermen concur), That the annexed drafts of laws be presented to the Legislature, at its next session, with a suitable memorial prepared by the counsel to the Board, under the seal of tho City, requesting the 'passago tbercof, together with the above report. All of which is respectfully submitted,
JAMES D. OLIVER. The drafts of three bills referred to in the report, will be found on page 658, with comments thereon.
THE TAX LAWS. The Tax laws of the State of New-York, compared with those of the State of Massachusetts, are vague ; hence arises much difficulty—and this difficulty is increased by the repeated application of the New York City Corporation for special enactments amending the Tax law of the State.
Iu 1841, the tiine of making the assessment in the City of New-York was changed. The Assessors, by the act of 1841, wero authorized to commence their assessments on or before the fifth day of June, and to complete it on or before the fifteenth day of August.
“On or before the fifth day of June,” is a loose provision, and we are therefore obliged to look for a restriction of the word “before," and this we find in the provision requiring the Assessors to be sworn into office on the second Tuesday of May.
The assessment may therefore be commenced on the second Tuesday of May.
The State law provides that persons shall be assessed for personal property in the town or ward where they reside at the time the assessment is made. An assessment is not made till it is completed. The commencement of the assessment is not the making of it.
Non-residents should not be assessed; for such a measure besides being unjust, would drive business from the City, and lessen the value of real estate therein.
The Croton, Watch, Lamp and Street taxes, are local assessments, and should be assessed separately from all other taxes, and must be so assessed under the present Constitution.
They are assessed on a portion of the City only.
These four assessments should be upon propertyhouses and merchandise--and not upon persons; and should be strictly an assessment for benefit and advantage, in proportion as the same is enjoyed.
As the Croton, Watch, Lamp and Street tax is now assessed, an individual owning a vacant lot worth ten thousand dollars, and mortgaged for the full value, must, if he owns no personal property, pay a Watch, Lamp, Croton, and Cleaning and Repairing Streets tax, although not benefitted; while a merchant, owning $10,000 worth of merchandise and owing for the whole, derives the full benefit, and is not laxed :this is unjust, and should be remedied.
The short way, however, is to retrench the public expenditures; and this could be done to the extent of a million of dollars a year.
The committee recommend a wharf tax and say that such a tax is collected in Boston. The city of Boston owns but two wharves, all the rest are private property.
In New-York the public wharves are not city, but county property, and have been paid for by a county tax, and are the same kind of property as county roads and county bridges.
The management of the public wharves is the difficulty. They should be built more economically, made better, kept cleaner and not rented to politicians in the shape of party patronage. tendence of an intelligent board.
The plan which the committee recommend of tax. ing every load of brick landed upon the wharves 18 altogether ont of the question. The people in the country are not willing to pay a wharf tax on every thing they send to New-York for sale.
The alien passenger tax is without doubt prohibited by the Constitution of the United States, and so is a wharf tax on foreign merchandize, or the products of other States.
The Committee say that the assessment should be made in the winter season, that many of the persons board in Hotels and in Boarding houses-it would follow that if the assessment is made in the winter and not collected until the next winter very many removals would take place, and if the time of collection is also altered then there would be two taxes in one year, for the present tax is now payablo on the 15th of February
The Corporation have made one attempt to slide the tax act and collect two taxes in one year, but the Legialature put a stopper on the measure as soon as the object was discovered.
The Committee say there is a difficulty in ascertaining the amount of each individual's personal property"—this is the fault of the assessors and not of the person assessed as every experienced intelligent assessor well knows.
The assessors, by the present law, are authorized to assess every individual for personal property as much as they believe he is worth, and he must pay a tax on such amount or reduce it by his aflidavit.
city where they reside on the first day of May.
The tax law of Massachusetts specifies the personal property to be assessed, and mentions ships at home or abroad.
The County annual tax act specifies estates real and personal of the freeholders and inhabitants, situate within the City and County of New York, or within a certain described district of the City; as for example, the Croton district. The New-York tax is upon the person, for the value of his personal estate, over and above his just debts. The Massachusetts tax is upou the personal property, without regard to indebtednoss; except that debts payable may be deducted from debts receivable, but from no other personal property.
Railroads and Telegraphs have come into use since the general tax laws were framed in our State ; and a question arises as to the liability of the owner of stock in a railroad made in another State, and owned by inhabitants of the City of New-York, to be taxed as for personal property ? Railroads are fixtures upon land, and therefore real estate; but the stock is transferable as personal property; and here arises a difficulty.
Public policy requires that railroads and railroadstock should not be taxed, for every dollar invested in making such roads is a public benefit, and adds to the value of other taxable property, and thereby increases the revenne.
Marine and Fire Insurance Companies should not be taxed. The catalogue of Storms and Fires which we present in this volume, shows the absolute necessity of these institutions ; and the statement of their dividends for a series of years, shows clearly that these institutions are not money-making concerns, but the community cannot do without them.
Savings Banks are exempted from taxation, for the reason that a tax upon their deposits would be against public policy.
ERRONEOUS PREMISES IN THE REPORT OF
THE SPECIAL COMMITTEE OF THE BOARD OF ASSISTANTS.
• The Committee impute the steady decline of the amount of assessed personal property, which in ten years has fallen from $75,000,000 to $62,000,000, to persons removing from the City to evade taxes."
We are greatly surprised that an intelligent Committee from the Board of Assistants should make such a statement.
The official documents of the City should have been consulted by the Committee.
In 1833, the assessed value of personal property was $52,365,526 ; in 1834, $63,299,231 ; in 1835, $74,991,278; 1836, $75,758,617—here ended the bubble speculations; and in 1837, the estimated value decreased to $67,797,241.
The assessed value of personal property ten years ago, is an improper comparison.
NON-RESIDENT TAXATION. The Committee have wholly overlooked the difficulty, which is in not having intelligent ward or district assessors elected for long terms, that experience may make them competent; and these should be under the direction of a board of permanent assessors, composed of three competent individuals, elected for five years. The permanent board should have the supervision of the assessments made by the assistant assessors, and the correction of all erroneous assessments.
As to assessing non-residents, that has been tried again and again, and always has been a failure.
PUBLIC STOCK OF THE UNITED STATES
EXEMPT FROM TAXES. Mr. Justice Story, in his Commentaries on the Constitution, in vol. 2, p. 495, says: “ In another
case, the question was raised, whether a State had a constitutional authority to tax stock issued for loans to tbe United States; and it was held by the Supreme Court that it had not."
Mr. Justice Story was one of the members of the Supreme Court of the United States at the time this decision was made.
Chief-Justice MARSHALL delivered the opinion of Court.
The Supervisors of the County of New-York have recently undertaken to reverse this decision of the Supreme Court of the United States.