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meeting and adopting resolutions. A business men's convention in Philadelphia, composed of delegates from different parts of the country, passed a set of resolutions attributing the depressed conditions of business to the recent craze for speculation and consequent withdrawal of money from the usual channels of business; excessive issues of bank paper; extensive and rash speculation in public lands, city lots, and stocks in which men of limited resources had engaged in their zeal "to make haste to be rich”; neglect of agriculture; idleness, luxury, extravagance and intense political excitement involving the monied institutions of the country and the ordinary pursuits of business men.
At this time a special session of Congress was convened by Martin Van Buren, then president of the United States, because of the great financial stress of this nation then existing, and a special message was sent it by the President. This message was dated September 4th, 1837, and was addressed to the Senate, House of Representatives, and people of the nation. It first stated that the country was in a serious financial condition; that some action on the part of Congress was especially desired; that among other causes of the then existing depressed conditions in the United States were the following: “The extension to traders in the interior of our coun. try of credits for supplies greatly beyond the wants of the people; the investment of $39,500,000.00 in unproductive public lands in the years 1835 and 1836, whilst in the preceeding years the sales amounts to only four and a half million; the creation of debts to an almost countless amount for real estate in existing or anticipated cities and villages equally unproductive, and at prices now seen to have been greatly disproportionate to their real value; the expenditure of sums of money in improvements which in many cases have been found to be ruinously improvident; the diversion to other pursuits of much of the labor that should have been applied to agriculture; finally, without enumerating other injurious results, the rapid growth among all classes, and especially in our great commercial towns, of luxurious habits founded too often on merely fancied wealth, and detrimental alike to the industry and resources and the morals of our people.”
Yet, after all these troublous times which our nation went through in those years, we re-adjusted our affairs, went ahead and as we all know our nation's progress has been greater since 1837 than any other nation in the world during that or any other time. It can readily be seen that we are now going through what almost seems to be a necessary and regular change in certain ways, and such as we have gone through in the past, and it behooves us all to sit tight and not be carried away with any rain of law or so-called reform movements, but instead enact a few, if any, new laws, live within our means and use common sense, and the storm will soon be over.
The lawyers should help with all the power at their command to accomplish this end, not by rushing in and adding fuel to the fire by unwise agitation and by demagogic action and words, but by active work in quenching and retarding unwise agitation and demagogic action, sometimes by constructive and sometimes by obstructive work. We, as lawyers, have an important duty to perform in this respect and I have no doubt that as the time for such work on our part has arrived no lawyer will be found shirking his duty, but that all will put their shoulders to the wheel to adjust our state and nation's affairs, so that those who are here seventy-five years from now may look back and see as great or a greater progress in our nation, state and individual affairs as we can see by looking back for the past seventy-five years.
I have not written a thesis upon some branch of the law, but have attempted in this paper to, among other things, call your attention to the fact that the popular idea at the present time is that there should be, among others, many new laws enacted relating to the bench and bar; that judges should be subject to a recall practically at the hands of the mob; that lawyers should have every privilege greatly curtailed; that the present methods of legal procedure should be radically changed. Now, if you, like myself, are interested in seeing that any laws which may be enacted along this line are reasonable and just, it is time for you to wake up and give the suggestions I have made in this paper some attention; other. wise, sit idly by and let those who do not belong to or understand the profession of law amend or enact laws on the subject which will in the end almost ruin our profession and cause chaos in its adminis. stration, and great injury to our people.
In conclusion I beg to suggest that I believe it will be well hereafter for it to be generally understood that the State Bar Association will pay the expenses of its annual meeting out of its treasury, and that the city or town in which the meeting is held will not be called on to-go to any expense in the way of entertainment, etc., unless they desire to add something to the regular routine, but that such additional entertainment will not be expected. I say this because smaller towns in the state feel that they would sometimes like to entertain the association if it were not for the heavy expense entailed. The executive committee in selecting a place of meeting on this account usually waits for invitations from towns or cities desiring to have the meeting in their midst. If it is generally understood that no expense will be imposed on the bar where the meeting is held, the executive committee will feel free to designate the place most suitable regardless of invitations or contributions.
FOLLY OF OUR TAX SYSTEM
HON. T. D. ROCKWELL, OLYMPIA, WASH. One speaking on the subject of taxation to a meeting of lawyers would feel some degree of trepidation, if he had not been a lawyer himself and knew how little attention is given this great subject by the members of the bar. The busy lawyer has no time to devote to a branch of the law with which he is liable to have no working acquaintance except at long intervals, so generally he turns the page of the tax case and reads about contracts or personal injuries. It is only the lawyer who is employed by some public service corporation, or charged by law with administration of some function of government involving taxation, that gives serious consideration to this subject. And yet it is important enough to engage one's attention quite regularly and interesting enough to make the work pleasant. In dealing with the question of taxation we are usually satisfied with the details and results, whereas to accomplish anything along the line of either knowledge or betterment we must delve deeper down to foundation and locate the real seat of the disease. We can in this way very often cure the trouble and always do a little to ease the pain.
Very much has been published lately along the lines of tax reform and a tax conference was held at the State University recently where members of our own tax commission as well as some from other states, and a most eminent authority from a celebrated Eastern college, discussed ways and means of handling the subject. But, what has been said publicly is not a respectable fraction of what has been said privately, for every man who has visited the treasurer's office to contribute his dues to government has come away in a frame of mind not conducive to peace. He blames every public official as the cause of his high taxes and then walks across the street to vote for more bonds or more elections. Few public officers have very much to do with raising or lowering taxes, notwithstanding the fact that all from constable to governor makes his leading platform plank economy and low taxes. He glibly tells what he will do if he is elected when the fact is, no matter how honest his intentions, he will not carry out his promises for two good rea
He has not the power to change the system and the people will vote away more money than the best administration will raise and save.
The average public officer and the great majority of voters believe that taxation is in the hands of some official whose duty it is to make the tax burden lighter, and that said officer is neglecting his duty when, as a matter of fact, public officials and especially
those charged with the duty of raising revenue are thoroughly alive to their duties and perfectly honest in its administration. So much cannot be said of our fault finding, tax paying, intelligent voter. He industriously makes the expenditure of public money necessary and damns the already much abused official for carrying out his commands. He demands all the fancy dishes of political freedom, and roars everlastingly when he has to pay more for them than soup house prices. He is, in fact, one of the prime factors in high taxation who is continually pointing the finger of accusation at some overworked and underpaid official.
There are two principle and controlling reasons for high taxes out of which grow many others, but if we only confine ourselves to the fundamentals, we will consume all the time at our command: First, the unnecessary expenditure of public money; second, our antiquated, obsolete and inflexible system. There can never be any reasonably unanimous idea of what is a necessary or unnecessary expenditure and therein lies a large part of the trouble. To some the expenditure of over a million dollars to give the people the privilege of voting on bills under the initiative and referendum is a most necessary thing, while to others it is a profligate waste of money.
To one part of our people the direct primary is a great comfort, while another only sees the public money going out and no better officers coming in. One crowd insists on a continuous performance of registration and voting for recalls, bonds, charters, amendments and initiative measures, while another does not feel able to take the time from his business to attend all these functions of the elite of political society.
One part of our people are willing to spend practically all the public funds on our schools and another thinks good roads should be the chief dumping ground, while a third believes retrenchment could well be made in both these laudable enterprises. So, seeing how hard it is to please all, we should try to find the middle ground of expenditure. For instance, we should not expect to have all the fine things of older states, and we should avail ourselves of these luxuries of government gradually rather than try to gulp them down at one meal, causing our political appetite to be gluttonous and our political stomachs to ache. Of course, if we are determined to throw the pilot overboard and run the ship of state on the rocks of profligacy there is nothing I can say or anyone else can say about our bad system of taxation that will make any difference, and we will go on with our wild revel of expenditure and waste, system or no system; but with the people's eyes opening more and more every day to the imperative necessity of retrenchment and an apparent determination to more closely scrutinize the use of public funds, we are getting in a better frame of mind to deal intelligently with the question of tax reform.