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iWnev he sucli as I have descrihed, we are clearly justified in aholishing it. It mar he, sir, that the lessons of experience, to a certain extent, accord with, and confirm the results of speculation; hut this is a question, not properly hefore as, aad from the discussion of which there are numerous reasons that should lead us to ahstain.
It is plain, Mr. Chairman, that the amendment which the committee have reported, is clearly free from the ohjections that I have endeavoured to urge acauwt the council of revision. It is ohvious that there is no comparison nor analogy whatever, hetween the qualified uegative of an elective magistrate, resigning his power periodically into the hands of the people from whom it was denveti, and the ahsolute or qualified veto, either of hereditary or elective monarehs. We may therefore with perfect consistency, aholish the council of revision, and adopt the suhstitute, which the committee have reported. The council may he a very unsafe depositary of the power of the negative, and jet it may he proper, and even necessary to retam the power itself. The propricty of estahlishmg such a check upon the proceedmgs of your legislature, is duuoctlv admitted hy the honourahle gentleman from Dutehess. It is admitted in the very suhstitute that he has proposed. The question, therefore, property hefore us, is not whether such a power ought to he intrusted, hut to what extent it is to he confined, and in what manner it ought to he qualified. To this question, many of the precedents which the gentleman has cited, most of the arguments which he lias urged, are quite inapplicahle; since, if their anthority or foree are allowed, it would follow that a negative in any shape ought not to he retained; hut as an odious relic of monarehy, should he struck out entirely from our plan of government. This opinion 1 cannot deem it necessary to comhat. It has not heen advanced in terms hy the gentleman himself, nor can those who entertain it, consistently vote even for the suhstitute that he has otSered. I shall take it for granted that we all agree in the opinion, that a revisory power, involving a negative on the acts of the legislature, ought to he vested ia the executive, and that the sole ohject of our deliherations is to ascertain the extent and nature of the power thus to he created. Shall it he merely the naked right of returning hills to the legislature for reconsideration? or the power of defeating them, unless two-thirds of the legislature concur in fo^ung them, notwithstanding the ohjections of the executive. To enahle us to resolve these questions, it is necessary to advert to the ohjects, in conterafiation of which, the negative is given. That the power ought to he effectual, that it ought to he so-constituted as to secure the prohahle attainment of the ends proposed, will he admitted hy all. It would he worse than mockery to Test a negative in the executive, the exereise of which, if exereised at all, would he fruitless and nugatory, and would tend te expose his character and efree to puhlic contempt, or puhlic odinm.
It is for these purposes principally that a negative ought to he vested in the executive. 1st. To prevent the passage of hasty and unadvised laws. 2d. To preserv e the independence of the several departments of government, hy protecting the executive and judiciary against legislative encroachment. And 3d. Toprotect the rights and interests of the majority of the people against the usurpation of a minority, hy whom, as had heen shewn at an early stage of the dehate hy an honourahle gentleman from New-York (Mr. Edwards,) a majority 10 the legislature might frequently he elected.
Mr. D. then entered on a detailed argument to prove that in the two last cases, the interposition of such a negative as was proposed hy the gentleman from batehess, would tend only to provoke ridicule, and ensure defeat, though even such a negative he admitted, might frequently have the effect of preventing the passage of hasty and unadvised laws. Where the defects of laws were accidental and unintentional, it might fairlv he presumed that they would he cornrctedassoon as they were discovered and pointed out to the legislature; hut that a legislative majority should ahandon a formed plan, a preconcerted design sf encroachment and usurpation, out of deference to the anthority of an executive, in hostility to whom it had heen prohahly conceived, it was ahsurd and irrational to expect.
That the danger of legislative usurpation was hy no means imaginary, Mr. D. next proceeded to show.
Experience had proved that where legislative power was unchecked, cither hy the open or silent operation of a veto, it was certain to overleap all constitutional harriers,—to ahsorh in itself, and to claim and exereise the whole anthority of government. The same feelings that had so strongly displayed themselves in the Convention, in the course of the dehate, would frequently predominate in a legislature, and control its proceedings.
The helief that they only were the true representatives of the wishes—the proper guardians of the interests of the people; and that every accession of power to themselves was an increase of puhlic liherty—an extreme jealousy and distrust of the executive and other departments of the government—and a constant desire to strip them of their privileges, narrow the exereise of their power, and reduce them to a slate of feehle dependence.
The gentleman from Delaware (Mr. Root ) Mr. Duer proceeded to ohserve, has truly said that our government is a democracy. The will of the people is its origin, and to carry that will into effect, is the aim of all its institutions. But in all our speculations we were hound to recollect that it is not a pure, hut a. representative democracy—that the anthority of government is not exereised collectively, hut hy various classes of delegated agents. The intent of the constitution that we are framing, and of every constitution, is to distrihute to these agents the power thus derived from the people:—to mark the limits of their anthority, and provide the means of restraining them in its exereise, within their appropriate sphere. The practical excellence of such a government consists in the fidelity of the representatives in their faithful execution of the trust that the people have confided, and the ohject of the checks and halances, of which the gentleman from Delaware has expressed such a singular dread, is to insure this fidelity in the agents of the people, hy preventing them from exceeding their powers, and compelling them to act within those hounds and limits, which the will of the people, expressed in the constitution, prescrihes and defines. They are necessary uot to strengthen the puhlic functionaries against the foree or the change of puhlic opinion, hut to guard the people themselves against tlic misconduct of their agents, hy effecting and maintaining that separation hetween the various departments, of government which is essential to its perfect administration.
But it is said, sir, that the power proposed to he vested in the executive may he ahused; that it may he exerted to prevent the passage of salutary and even uccrssary laws. That it may he so ahused I do not deny, nor is it difficult to imagine cases of possihle ahuse far stronger than any that have yet heen stated. But when we are to determine on the expediency of making a grant of power, the question evidently is uot whether it may, hut whether in nil prohahility it wilt, he ahused, and whether the evils that may flow from its possihle ahuse, are not far more than counterhalanced hy the henefits certain to result from its salutary exereise.
But what then, it may he asked, is our security against the ahuse of this power hy the executive? The same security, sir, that you have against the misconduct of all elective officers—his accountahility to the people. The certainty that hy ahusing his trust, he will lose their confidence and favour. We may surely assume that he will act with common prudence—with ordinary discretion, He will not, therefore, enter into a contest with the legislature—a contest in which they would possess every advantage, except in those cases in which the fctrong conviction in the rectitude of his conduct will lead him to a confident reliance on the suplwirt of puhlic opiaion.
But, sir, an argument has heen attempted to he drawn, hy the honourahle gentleman from Dutehess, from the conduct of some of the governors of the eastern states during the late war. But did those governors take the attitude they assumed unsupported hy puhlic sentiment? No, sir, they would not have darrd to risk the responsihility of such a violation of duty, had they not heen sustained hy the immediate representatives of the people.
Much apprehension has heen expressed in relation to the alarming power, which this transfer would enahle the executive to assume. Really, sir, these fancied dangers are preposterous—they are inconsistent with each other. What are the powers already confided to your executive? Has he not tho enormous cower of prorogation ?—a power from the exereise of wlitch he is suhject to no legal responsihility, and which enahles him hy a single act to dissolve and overWar the collected energies of the people.
Has he not the control of all the physical strength of the state, as captain general and commander in chief of the militia ?—a power, the ahuse of which would enahle him to withdraw from your frontiers, in time of war, the foree that joicht he necessary for their protection.
1s it not strange, sir, that this power of the negative should he contested with to much vehemence, when other powers far more extensive, far more liahle to ahase, are conferred upon the executive without difficulty? What power indeed can we grant that is not equally liahle to ahuse - If the argument he purtoed to its legitimate consequences, it must end in stripping the executive of all the privileges and rights that have heen hitherto annexed to his office. The suhstance of anthority w ill he taken from him, and the name, the title, only, will remain. And indeed, sir. if this argument is to he admitted here, where shall we stop? If a remote, naked possihility of the ahuse of power, is to he urged asainst its grant, to what extent shall the ohjection he carried? If allowed to prevail here, let us he consistent with ourselves, and let it prevail throughout. Let us then shorten our lahours—demolish at one hlow the constitution that we are called to amend—resolve society into its elements—throw off the restraints, of order and civilization—rush again into the woods—hecome savages—trusting for our protection and security, not to laws that may he violated, and power that may he ahused, hut to the untamed cruelty of our hearts, and the native Vigour of our arms.
Ma. Rvnlit. hriefly assigned the reasons which would induce him to vote against the amendment offered hy the gentleman from Dutehess (Mr. Livingston.)
Me. Ssu&pe rose, not to enter into the dehate, which had heen so eloquently and ahlr conducted; hut he would ask the indulgence of the Convention while he esplained the reasons wlitch would govern his vote on this question. He had a few days ago voted for aholishing the council of revision. For the last «i rears out of seven, he had had the honour of a seat in this legislative hall; and hy you, sir, and other gentlemen who have heen memhers of this house, and have seen the quantity of husiness hefore it, it would he acknowledged that he had had some experience in legislation.
He voted for the aholilion of the council of revision, hecanse he had long seen me evils of the judiciary heing associated with that department of the government. He had long thought it ought to he an independent hranch. But, sir, «aid Mr. Sharpe, during my short experience in legislation, I have seen much good done hy the council of revision. I have seen hills hastily and unadvisedly pasted—I have seen these hills ohjected to hy this council of revision, and returned to this house, and when the ohjections were read, I have seen memhers stand astonished, that they had voted for a hill that was in the very face of that ccnnitolinn which they had just sworn to support. I have seen that council ohject, and ohject again, to a hill, and after all, 1 have seen that hill pass hy twothirds of hoth houses; and it now remains a foul hlot 0pon the journals of our legislature. I have seen that council of revision come down from their council chamher, and advise memhers to make alterations, rather than to send them hack with those ohjections; and such alterations have heen made. But, sir, I have seen the evils of that hody too—1 have heen herein high party times—I have heen here in peace and in war; and as the gentleman from Delaware remarked, it was in that dark day when the clonus of an awful war were lowering over oar country; and at that period, when, if at any time, the constitution «oght to have heen made to hend, I have seen hills returned hy that council of revision with frivolous ohjections. 1 have seen hills repeatedly returned to this hunse, which were hy the council of revision considered inexpedient.
Sir. where is there an evil in the state that has worked more mischief than the mqltitude of hanks. Have they ohjected to those hills? IS'o, sir. Every gentleman within the sound of my voice will rememher the speech of the governor, m which he shewed the impropriety of making more new hnnkt—that they were great evils, and that they had done more injury to agriculture in this state Omn any other canse; ami in which lie cantioned the legislature against passing any laws for increasing the.se institutions. What was the result that year? Two country hanks, and one in the city of New-York were ohtained. And how.t The country hanks were passed, and sent to the council of revision—The Franklin liank hill was rejected hy the house, and sent hack to the senate—The legislature had passed a resolution to adjourn—The country hank hills were not returned from thr council—A rumor was set afloat the night hefore the legislature was tu adjourn, that if the Franklin Bank hill did not pass, no hank hills would pass during that session. What was the consequence? All the forees were then rallied, and the friends of the country hanks found that they had hut one alternative, and that was to pass the Franklin Hank. Next morning a motion was made for a reconsideration of the vote rejecting that hill; hut as the hill had heen sent hack to the senate, this motion was not in order. A resolution, however, was passed, directing the clerk to request the senate to return it to this house—It was returned, reconsidered, and out of all rule and order, passed. The country hank hills were thai returned from the council—and the Franklin Bank hill hefore midnight hecame a law of the state. But, sir, there is another ohjection. The council have a right to retain hills ten days; and every one knows, that as the session of the legislature progresses, so husiness increases. Petitions are received till the last day of the session. It is a right that every man has, to petition the legislature, and they are hound to hear him. Thus husiness passes at the close of the session; and I have seen laws not passed unadvisedly, hung up for a year, and the people of the state deprived of the henefit of that law for that period; yet the law was returned at the commencement of the next session, without ohjections. There is now hung up in that council, a hill affecting the rights and property of individuals; and I douht not that after suffering it to remain there for a whole year, it will he returned to the next legislature without ohjections.
But, sir, I have still a stronger ohjection. I have seen the executive of this state recommend to the legislature a measure as heing all important to the welfare of the state; and 1 have seen the legislature accordingly pass the hill with promptitude. Sir, I have seen that council of revision and the governor reject that hill, which had, as it were, heen recommended hut the day hefore. —That hill did not pass.
It was this that excited the indignation of the people of this state; and the voire of seventy thousand freemen has told me, that that feature in the constitution ought to he destroyed. I am aware, sir, that a veto ought to he placed somewhere. Legislative husiness at the commencement of a session is generally well done. 1 have rarely seen a hill rejected hy the council of revision, that had heen passed early in the session; hut not so at the close. I could quote many instances. In 18-20, the inhahitants of Canandaigua petitioned to have that village incorporated; the hill was presented to this house, and I think it cannot he said that it was unadvisedly passed, for one of its memhers presided over this house, a man distinguished for his talents and industry. Sir, that hill passed tinder the eye of the representative of that county. It went to the senate and passed there. It was sent to the council of revision, and thus hecame a law. One of the memhers took that hill home to his constituents. And, strange to U II, a clanse in the hill provided that the trustees of the village should he impounded instead of their hogs!
But, sir, it is said, that to give this veto to the governor, is dangerous, unless a hare majority of the legislature may pass a hill which has heen rejected. Sir. it is will known to every gentleman that this state has heen in the hahit of changing her representatives too frequently. Men come here with the hest of feelings and motives; hut ere they are here many days, they are not only asrailed hy older memhers of this house, hut have a throng of memhers from the lohhy harassing them, and they are many times committed upon a hill hefore they hear the arguments. When they have heard the arguments, they will sa\ they have promised to vote so and so on that hill, and that one vole will not make much dillerence. Sir, if memhers will commit themselves hefore thev have heard the arguments, it is not strange to suppose, that they w ill vote for any hiil n, "n which they may have heen thus committed, notwithstanding any ejections. We hare heen told that it will he difficult to ohtain the passage of any hill that may not exactly suit the views of the governor; hut my fears are, that he will not ohject to enough hills, hecanse the more he ohjects to of tins description, the hetter it will he for the interests of the state.
When seventy thousand people told us to hreak away tins partoftheconstitution, they did not tell us to erect nothing in its stead. I am well satisfied with the rote 1 have given for separating the judiciary from this part of the government; faqt 1 am for suhstituting in its stead a controling power, with which the peoplo will he satisfied, and which will he an efficient check upon imprudent legislation.
Cbw Jcstice Spencer. I ohserved to the committee yesterday, Mr. f tuirman. that the suhjects of discussion on the proposed amendment, were exhausted; if the remark was then true, how much more so is it true now. I do not rise to discuss the question generally.
W lten, sir. I found myself elected a memher of this Convention, I held a solemn communion with my own heart and understanding. I considered that a 'enrention of the sages of the state, the immediate representatives of the peoM was soon to take place, to deliherate on and settle the fundamental principles of social order; to amend, to improve, and to ameliorate a constitution, wtach had heen founded hy a hand of patriots—a constitution which had trinm^mtlr carried us through a sanguinary revolution, and conducted us to liherty sad mdependence—a constitution which had for nearly half a century, secured to us the hlessings of good government, and wholesome and salutary laws. I 'ietermined in such a Convention, met to deliherate on principles of government which were to secure to the present age, and to future generations, to our chil,!ren and our children's children, the inestimahle rights of life, liherty, and property, to repress in myself every feeling caleulated to disturh the grave and l—rmonious consideration of the suhjects to come under discussion. I asked myself how I ought to act if any intemperate individuals, regardless of what was dae to such an assemhly, and to such an occasion, should endeavour to excite party feelings—to stir up prejudices, and for the purpose of carrying a favourite point, to produce excitements against individuals? My answer was, rhat it was my solemn duty to forhear recrimination; to confide in the good sense of tiita angust hody; to resist all attempts to induce a division from angry, revensrefal, and party animosities. I helieved that even those who, to gratify ::.e iceimgs of the moment, should so far forget their duty, as to endeavour to rime prejudices here, would themselves eventually deplore the employment of w.rh means; and tliat this Convention would rise superior to the passions and liinrsof the day, in contemplating the ohjects of the meeting, and the sacredVnrssof the trust reposed in them. Our constitution has endured for forty-four snn—how few an- now living of those who gave us this nohle monument of wtadum! Yes, sir, 1 unite with the honourahle gentleman from Dutehess, (Mr. Livmgston) in expressing my profound astonishment, that at so early a period the principles of civil liherty, and of repuhlican governments, were so well understood. What a solemn consideration is it, that few, very few of us, can expect to survive for so long a period as has elapsed since the formation of the ronsxitution we are now endeavouring to amend. This should he deeply impressed on our minds, and it will solemnize our feelings. On mv part, I came here determined to forhear, resolved to suppress every motion unfriendly to cool, calm, and patient investigation. I have no prejudices to indulge. I feel myself the immediate representative of the people, called upon to maintain and estahlish their dearest rights.
This Convention Ivive heen told from one quartcr, that the proceedings of the <-.... oril of revision during the late war, laid the foundation of their own destruct.on . from another quarter, that their conduct in relation to certain hills at an mtir-;or period, had sealed their ruin; and from another quarter, that on the rr-icction of the hill recommending a Convention, during the extra session in Novemher last, the sentence of condemnation went forth against the council. I Ju not feel mvself called upon to defend my conduct or opinions elsewhere hefore this Convention; hut it is due to that hody, it is due to myself, to explain tl,- frunads whvthat hill wa' sent hack with ohjections; and I think it will he