Abbildungen der Seite

fcrrmly and constantly hound to afford support and protection, in peace and in, war, to your government—in times of peace hy contrihutions in money; and in war hy their personal services also ; while the first description of persons never afford either. Whenever their situation can he improved, they emigrate to some other state, or evade the operation of your laws: as mere mereenaries they sometimes enter your armies and tight your hattles, hut seldom, if ever, from any higher motive than the mere pecuniary consideration they receive— While the farmer, whose property is always visihle, always hound to contrihuto according to the value, to the support of government, is fastened to the soil almost as much as the oak, whose roots have penetrated it—and in the proportion as the measures of your administration are had arid injurious, the more is an difficulty of escaping their effects increased. The effect and operation of this widely extended suffrage,would he hut partially felt, were the whole popur lation of the state composed of farmers and ordinary mechanies, as the influence of the parent would he exereised over the son, and all would feel an immediate interest in the prosperity, and welfare of their country. But the case of this state is wisely different from this. Already have we in the city ofNewYork, ahout one tenth of the whole population of the state. And the argument that hecanse (his relative proportion has heen maintained for the last thirty years, it will he continued through all time, is altogether fallacious and erroneous. At that period, the foot of the white man had scareely trodden the soil more than thirty or forty miles west of the Hudson, except on the hanks of the Mohawk, and in a very few small settlements in its vicinity. The western parts of this state, vast in extent, and fertile almost without a parallel, has within that period heen settled hy emigrants from New-England, from other sections of the union, and from Europe; and that portion of the state, then a wilderness, now contains one half of its present population. That district of country is already so much peopled, that its relative progressive increase must necessarily diminish, while that of the cities, towns, and villages, must as certainly increase. Aud, it is nqt indulging too much in prophecy to state with confidence, that these within half a century, will contain a full moiety of our wholepopulation. The growth of a commereial city must always depend heyond its foreign commeree, upon the country with which it is connected in the purehase ol"its products and the satu of foreign commodities. New-York now enjoys a greater portion of the foreign commeree of the United States, than any other city of the uaion. Its coastwise commeree is constantly increasing. It is emphatically the ware-house of the union. Formerly its internal commeree was confined to portions of the adjoining states, and that part of our own which horders on the Hudson. Already, hy means of the northern canal is that commeree extended to the whole of Vermont, and a portion of the Canadas; and whenever a water communication shall he opened hetween Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence, all the husiness of Quehec will he transferred to NewYorit.exccpt only the direct intereourse hetween the former and the West India Islands. i

But, great as is, and will he the accession of husiness and of wealth, from thetc sourees, they dwindle into perfect insignificance, and are scareely worth noticing, when compared with the etfects which will he produced hy a compjetion of the western canal. There a direct communication will he opened with Ohio, part of Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, and all the upper part of the province of Upper Canada, and her increase will he proportioned, not the population of this state alone, hut in a great degree to the whole of that territory, which, in all prohahility, and in the course of human events, will in little more than half a century, contain from 12 to 15,000,000 of souls.

The population of the city of i\*cw-York, compared with the old settled parts ef the state, has, within the last seven years, heen in the proportion of seven to four, or nearly two to one; and the effect of allowing every male citizen of twenty-one years of age to vote, hy the introduction of universal suffrage, will he to increase her relative political importance in the ratio of ahout six to one. In the rear 1014,the whole freehold population of the southern district of thin State, comprising the counties of Suffolk, Queens, Kings, Richmond, New-York. We't-ihester, Putoam, and Rutland, amounted to 16,935. of which 13,79$ were in the country coudties; and 3141 in the city of New-York, heing in favottri of the country as four to one. The whole free male adult population, amounted to 45,542, of whioh 27,542 were in the country, and ahout 18,000 in the city—and the total population was '2l6,557— l4l,0o8 in the country, and 95,519 in the city; leaving a halance in favour of the country of 45,519. In 11120, the total population of the same district was 29ti,177. The country 162,471,. and New-York 123,700—difference 3i!,765. The whole male population over twenty-one years, ahout 58,782—of which ahout 31,782 are in the countrj, ami ahout 27,000 in the city—while the country part of that district has increased in the ratio of ahout one to seven. New-York lias increased as one to four, and were the enquiry carried to every portion of the old settled part of the state, the same result would appear; and lience the manifest injustice of estahlishing any rule which will' produce sa material and so manifest a disproportion^ increase of political power.

Permit me to ask, sir, whether the fear tlrat with the provisions contained in the article under consideration, in limes of strong party excitement, men may he found who will exteud the right of suffrage to this vast mass of comhustihle matter in the city of New-York, is altogether chimerical? We have heard a gentleman holding a high and dignified station in this country, openly on the floor of this assemhly, avow, that during the seventeen years he was a memher of the council of revision, and governor, (alluding to the president of Convention) he was actuated hy parly motives and considerations in the discharge of his official duties, and can we then douht that men of less consideration, and in more humhle walks of life, will he influenced hy like motives and considerations? [Here the President interrupted Air. V. 15. and denied having said tliat he ever in the discharge of his official duties, was governed or influenced hy party motives, or considerations—hut that as he was suhject to the frailties and infirmities of human nature, he might unconsciously have heen under their influence.] Mr. V. Rensselaer said, thai if tlie President had heard him out, he would have discovered that he did nut intend to impute to him corrupt motives.

His argument would he strengthened hy admitting, that, acting under the influence of these considerations, he still felt himself honest—still retained the approhation of his own conscience. Cases had frequently occurred when honest men, iit the discharge of their puhlic duties, considered themselves hound to suhserve the party views of the day, as the means necessarv for the protection and promotion of the hest interests of their country ; and he would only mention one case, which had heen referred to in dehate. Ho alluded to the late war, when the dominaney of the repuhlican party was, hy that gentleman, deemed essential to the salvation of his country; and he would, therefore, of course, dti every thing in his power to preserve the ascendancy of that party. The time may, therefore, and prohahly will arrive, when party assessors will place on the tax lists that population which possesses neither property, independence, virtue, nor political intrgrity, merely to suhserve the views of party; that kind of population, thus formed and condensed, always has heen, and ever wUl he, under the control and the influence of the artful, the cunning, the aspiring, and amhitious demagogue.

The experience of all countries has proved, that as cities grow in numhers, and in wealth, and luxury, as population hecomes dense, and the difficulty of procuring the means of snhsistencc^ucreases^loes the proportion of the poor.the wretehed, and the vicious, compared with their opposites, also increase ; and it would he unwise in us to caleulate on a different course of things here. It is certain, that wlitle the city of New-Y'ork contains in a certain portion of her citizens as much virtue and more wealth, more talent, more refinement, and literary acquirements, than any other part of the state of equal numhers; she also contains a greater portion of ignorance, wretehedness, misery, and vice. All great cities are places of refuge for the idle and vicious. They are there more effectually screened from detection in their favourite pursuits than elsewhere. This state is destined hy nature to he great in her commereial and manufacturing interests. As the latter increase, so also will increase the numher of those dependant on their employeri.

It has heen ohserved, that property will always retain its influence, and tha: *ne wealth of the manufacturer will he as much a suhject of solicitude, and of ■protection, as that of the farmer. It is this influence of property which 1 dread, as the souree of great evil to the state. The distvihution of property in small portions among the citizens generally, and the uniform and equal influence of property thus distrihuted, is the very hasis upon which our repuhlican institutions rest. Its possessors are moral in their hahits, moderate in their desires, free from personal amhition, and a desire of political elevation. In humhle and persevering industry, they endeavour to provide for the support of their families and government, and are alike incapahle and unfitted for political intrigue or comhinations. Suppose a manufactory estahlished, with a capital of J 100,000,—it is prohahly fair-to presume, that each •sJlOOO will give employ to one man, each of whom constantly and uniformly dependant for his suhsistence on the owner of the estahlishment, soon looses all independence of mind, and yields himself to the views, the wishes, and desires of the individual from whom he receives his hread. This property-then hecomes in reality the representative of one hundred and one votes, and then suppose twenty farmers in the vicinity, each worth in real and personal property §5000, and that each has one rnan constantly and hahitually dependant on him, and suppose, further, that they all entertain the same -views hostile to the manufacturer—they possess only two-fifths of the political power and influence of the manufacturer, and thus it will appear, that it will require a comhination of fifty such farmers, to meet and paralize his -views and' efforts. Sir, no government, emhracing considerahle extent of territory, with a numerous and dense population, ever enjoyed the hlessings of government with universal suffrage. The property of the rich hras always heen, and always will he, an ohject of desire on the part of the poor, and whenever they possess the power they will gratify their desires hy its distrihution. We have heen told, that the governments of France and Great Britain, containing vastly greater portions of the idle, the vicious, and the profligate, than ours, are ahle to protect property, to suppress insurrections, and keep the moh in awe; and hence it is inferred, that those governments might safely intrust the whole people with political power. But the proper inference is precisely the reverse. Were either of those governments to extend the right of suffrage to all her suhjects and make it universal, rely upon it, n very short period of time would only elapse, hefore they would he possessed-of the tword and the purse of the nation, and their power would he used for the destruction, not the preservation, of those rights deemed essential to puhlic and private prosperity, and happiness. A gentlMnan from Dutehess, (Mr, Livingston) has informed you that at the commencement of the French revolution, two-thirds of the property of that nation was in the possession of the nohility and clergy,—that that revolution, hy procuring the confiscation of all that property, and its distrihution among thosewho previously had none, was one of the most fortunate events—one of the greatest political hlessings which ever visited any nation. That revolution was produced hy violent commotion and hlood—hy an hostile array of power against law and government. Can any man douht, Siat if that moh, which violated all law, and the dictates of humanity—which hathed their hands in pure, in virtuous, and innocent hlood for the attainment of their ohject—would not under the form of law—-if they had possessed the reins of government, have produced the same result. And can any one, at all experienced in the knowledge of man, helieve, that the same canses will not produce the same effects here, as in Europe. Man has heen, and prohahly always will he, suhject to the same passions and feelings; and,.under like cireumstances, the future will strongly resemhle the past. And it is, therefore,the province of prudenceand of wisdom, hy some slight property qualification for electors, to exclude those from a participation in the political power of this government, who have nothing to lose hy the enactment of had law s, and who may feel perhaps too strong a desire to violate private rights for the gratification of their cupidity.

Mn. Batons. We have come to universal suffrage,sir, and I want we should fix it in the face of the instrument; sir. Gentlemen wish to get away from it. they endeavour to evade it, sir. This distinction will help to weaken the "tacach. When we get to have such a population, as the gentlemen have shj

scribed, our constitution will be good for nothing, sir. We most carry instrong arm of the law to the cradle, sir, and let the rising generation know that we have established the principle of universal suffrage, sir, that they ma; prepare themselves accordingly, and qualify themselves to live under it, sir.

Mr. Faihlie was not in favour of universal suffrage, bat he thought the committee had gone so far, that it was hardly worth while to attempt to save Urf remnant. He had been greatly edified by the excellent discourne of the gentleman from Columbia (Mr. Van Rensselaer) although he feared the gentleman had mistaken the brief he intended to use, as his observations appeared to apply to a question that had been fully settled several days ago.

The city of New-York he thought was not quite so bad as the gentleman represented. As it was larger than other places, so it contained more vice, in the same proportion. In like manner, it was probable that the city of Hudson contained more vice than the village of Kindcrhook.

Gen. Root wished to know the views of the mover in relation to filling the blank.

Gen. Van Rensselaer proposed to fill it with the sum of fifty dollars.

Col. Young opposed the motion. He Observed that when our present constitution was formed, the mass of real estate in this state was much more unequally divided than at present. These subdivisions continue to increase. Was it expedient, then, to admit the man to vote who possesses ^50 worth of property, and to refuse the man who Has only g49? He thought that property was not a correct standard for the limitation of the right of suffrage.

After further observations on the subject, by Messrs. Van Buren, Faiife .!. R. Van Rensselaer, Sharpe, and Starkweather, the question was. put and lost.

Mr. Birdskye then moved to ametrd the first line of the section, by inserting after the word " every," the word " free." Lost.

Mr. Briugs moved to amend in the same place, by inserting the wort "white." He said that it had been substantially decided by the Convention, that property was not the standard of qualification for a vote. Of course it •ought not to be so, with respect to the blacks, any more than the wliites. He was therefore opposed to the proviso, and wished to insert this provision in it! stead.

Col. Young was in favour of the motion.

Chancellor Kent was opposed to the motion of the gentleman from Scbo1 liarie, and in favour of the proviso reported by the committee. He had already expressed his Sentiments on this subject, and he should not trouble the committee with a repetition of them. It was true, that the blacks were in some respects a degraded portion of the community, but he was unwilling to see them disfranchised, and the door eternally barred against them. The proviso would not cut them off from all hope, and might in some degree alleviate the wronp we had done them. It would have a tendency to make them industrious and frugal, witli the prospect of participating in the right of suffrage.

Mr. Vax Buren was in favour of the plan proposed by the select committee, and opposed to the amendment.

Mr. Sharpe remarked that the report of the select committee proposed to make the blacks a privileged order, inasmuch as they were not'liable to pa.v (axes, in certain cases, and were exempted from the performance of jury anil military service. It was, therefore, but fair that some privileges should te withheld as an equivalent for these exemptions.

Mr. Briggs wished to make the constitution consistent in all its parts. The black man was a degraded member of society, and would, therefore, be alwaj* ready to sell his vote; nor would real estate make him a better man. The whites can never take them to their bosoms.

Gen. Tallmadce was opposed to the motion. He was prepared to yole for the proviso which the committee had reported, because he considered it as a compromise of conflicting opinions. He also thought it held out inducements to that unfortunate class of our population to become industrious and valuable members of the community.

Mr. Jay said, this subject had already been fully discussed, and oocc <u»

^iosed of hy the Convention; and ho had hoped that it would not again he made ■a question for dehate. It was not his intention to revive the discussion of it; and he rose merely to make some reply to the remarks which had fallen, from the gentleman from Schoharie, (Mr. Briggs.) He could wish that gentleman had assigned some reasons why persons of colour might not he as intelligent and virtuous as white persons. Had nature interposed any harriers to prevent them from the acquisition of knowledge, or the pursuit of virtue? It was true they were now in some measure a degraded race; hut how came they so? Was it not hy our fanlt, and the fanlt of our fathers? And hecanse they had heen degraded, the gentleman from Schoharie was for visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children, and for condemning them to eternal degradation. He could not hut think there were too many unfounded prejudices; too much pride of democracy on this suhject. However we may scorn, and insult, and trample upon this unfortunate race now, the day was fast approaching when we must lie down with them in that narrow hed appointed for all the living. Then, if not hefore, the pride of distinction would cease. There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor. The small and the great are there; and the servant is free from his master. In commingled and undistinguished dust we must all repose, and rise together at the last day. God has ccc'ated us all equal; and why should we estahlish distinctions? We are all the offspring of one common Father, and redeemed hy one common Saviour— the gates of paradise are open alike to the hond and the free. He hoped the committee would never consent to incorporate into the constitution a provision which contravened the spirit of our institutions, and which was so repulsive to the dictates of justice and humanity.

Mr. Buel said it was not correct, as had heen suggested on a former day hy the honourahle gentleman from Saratoga, (Mr. Young,) that no provision for the exclusion of the hlacks had heen made hy the framers of our constitution, hecanse they were then so few and inconsiderahle as to have heen overlooked hy them. It would he found that as long ago as 17 lO, a special law of this state was-enacted to prevent the concealing of slaves. Statutes had heen made on the same suhject down to the time of the revolution, which evinced that the people of this state were not ignorant of the tendency or extent of the effect and progress of emancipation. In the period of the revolutionary war, a statute had heen passed for the encouragement of enlisting hlacks into the -ervice, which provided that at the expiration of three years the slave should be entitled to his freedom, and the master to the military hounty.

He had previously suggested the difficulty of discrimination which would arise from such a provision. Philosophers had distinguished the human race hy five colours, the white, hlack, hrown, olive, and red. By the amendment, four of the races would he excluded. In the West Indies a man hecame white according to law, when only one sixteenth part of African hlood ran in his veins. These questions might lead to uupleasant elucidations of family history, and ought to he avoided.

Col. Young replied to the ohservations of Mr. Buel, and admitted that the theory of philosophers might he correct; hut he contended that in forming a constitution, reference was to he had, not to speculation, hut to the common sense of mankind. Thats would sufficiently direct, who .were to he admitted, and who were to he excluded, hy such a general provision.

Mr. Bsicot made three unsuccessful efforts to take the floor.

Messrs. Ross and R. Clarke addressed the committee on the suhject, when

Mr. Broigs replied to the ohjections that had heen raided hy the honourahle gentleman from Westehester, (Mr. Jay.) That gentleman had remarked that we must all ultimately lie down in the same hed together. Hut lie would ask that honourahle gentleman whether he would consent to lie down, in li!;-, in the same feather hed with a negro? But it was said that the rig1,' r,f -•iffmrv would elevate them. He would ask whether it would elevate a l r.n't \ or _. hahoon to allow them to vote? No, it would he to sport, and trifle. .., ,',: thein, to say they might he candidates for the office of president of liv I i.!i d .States. But gentlemen whose opinions he respected, had advise J him to ,. :thdraw his motion, and therefore he withdrtw it.

« ZurückWeiter »