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Gentlemen of the Senate
and House of Representatives : Assembling again for the discharge of the high trusts delegated to us by our fellow citizens, let us, while gratefully remembering past favors, look to the Dispenser of all good for a continuance of blessings, and for that wisdom, prudence and energy which should ever characterize the course of public
In proceeding to the discharge of the duty enjoined by the Constitution of giving the Legislature information of the condition of the State, and recommending to their consideration such measures as may be judged expedient, permit me in the first place to call your attention to the condition of our finances, referring you however, for particular and detailed information upon the subject, to the Report of the Treasurer.
It will be perceived that there has been a considerable augmentation within the past year, of the State debt. This, as you must be aware, has arisen from the extraordinary occurrences upon our northeastern frontier, and was provided for in the very liberal appropriations of the last Legislature. Whether the expenditure was a judicious and profitable one, regarding the whole affair, as a matter of mere dollars and cents, is a consideration that few, I presume, will be disposed to entertain. The honor as well as interests of the State was involved; and the promptness, spirit and unanimity with which the case was met by the Legislature and by the people, was such, to say the least, as to command a warm and generous approval throughout the Union; and may I not add, can never cause a regret in the bosom of any rightminded and truehearted citizen.
A large portion of the expenses incurred in the border difficulties during the last year, will undoubtedly be refunded by the General Government; provision for which, I trust, will be made at the present session of Congress. This sum, together with about ninety thousand dollars, the proportion belonging to this State, of “the Massachusetts claim,” which, it is believed, has been allowed by the accounting officers of government, and is now awaiting an appropriation by Congress, will reduce the State debt to a small amount, and leave our financial affairs in an easy condition.
Though the difficulties in the way of procuring the State loan to be taken up abroad, have proved to be insurmountable, without paying an extravagant rate of interest, which I am persuaded would not have met your approval, the Treasurer, nevertheless, informs me that he has been able, by means of loans from the Banks and individuals of our own State, to pay promptly the interest on the public debt and to provide generally for the necessities of the Treasury, with the exception of monies due to the towns and the temporary loans of the Banks. That something however, should now be done to defray the expenses of government and to answer the legitimate calls upon the Treasury, beside borrowing, is manifest. Longer to depend upon this resource, would be as inconsistent with the true dignity of the State, as it would be impolitic in regard to ourselves and unjust to those who are to succeed us. I have therefore, no hesitation in recommending a renewal of the State tax. This was suspended at a time when extravagant notions prevailed in regard to the value and anticipated income of the public lands, and is now generally admitted to have been a mistaken and unwise policy. Let us repair the error so far as we can. Let a State tax now be assessed for an amount sufficient, at least, to defray the expenses of government, and to pay
the interest on the State debt, after it shall have been reduced as before suggested.
I am aware that an objection may be, as it heretofore has been, urged, that great changes have taken place since the valuation of 1830, and that therefore, a tax based upon that valuation would be unequal and unjust. A proposition for a tax may always be met with objections of this sort, in a young and rapidly growing State, and subject, as all property is to constant fluctuation and change. Precise and perfect equality is at no time attainable. If you approach as near it as is practicable under existing circumstances, it is all that can reasonably be required of you.
Our constituents, I am persuaded, will submit to it cheerfully. If they are too just to be unwilling to support a government instituted by themselves, and administered for their benefit, so are they too patriotic not to be willing to submit to far greater sacrifices than the assessment of this tax, unequal to some extent though it might be, when the good of the State requires it. Besides, is it not worthy of consideration, that if a tax based upon the last valuation would operate more favorably to one portion of the State than to others, it would be to the younger and newly settled portion; and this class of our population it has always been the policy of the State to foster and encourage. And still further, may not some offset for this inequality be found in the excess of representation in the Legislature which the older portions of the State enjoy over the younger.
The difficulty presented in this case, will very naturally suggest the expediency of avoiding it in future, by causing the valuation to be taken oftener than the periods now fixed by law. Once in five, instead of once in ten years, it seems to me, would be preferable, while the State is rapidly advancing in wealth and population.
The appropriation for the Insane Hospital made at the last session of the Legislature being exhausted, the work has consequently been suspended. The cost of finishing the south wing and the centre, agreeably to the apparent design of the last Legislature, is estimated by the Superintendent, at five thousand four hundred dollars—and for finishing the north wing, three thousand six hundred dollars. If an appropriation be made for either object, another appropriation, perhaps, will be needed to furnish suitably the part thus completed, and to defray the expenses incident to getting the institution into operation. In this event, also, it will be necessary to make some provision for the appointment of officers, and to adopt some permanent system of government for the institution.
The omission to make an appropriation at the last session for a continuance of the geological survey of the State, I trust may be regarded rather as a temporary suspension of the survey, than a final