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political rights, or to promote their welfare, which we, exercising only the limited power delegated to the legislative branch of this government by congress, can enact. There are, doubtless, mary individual cases in which relief may be granted from the effects of previous erroneous or inadequate legislation; but, in my opinion, the people only, in the exercise of their sovereign power as an independent state, can correct the evils which appear to be incidental to this colonial form of government, in its judicial, legislative and executive departments.
The appropriation by Congress for the fiscal year of 1844, founded upon the estimates of the secretary of the treasury of the amount required to defray the expenses of the assembly, will not, according to the act of congress, allow a session to be held the usual term of seventy-five days. So far as I have learned the opinions or wishes of the people, they are decidedly in favor of shorier sessions than have heretofore been held; for it is generally believed that they have been prolonged without any apparent benefit to the territory. These are my own opinions also; and, there, fore, you will allow me to express the hope that your present ses. sion may be as short as the public interest will permit.
Your earliest attention, it is presumed, will be given to the subject of the indebtedness of the territory for legislative and other expenses, heretofore incurred. The amount ought to be ascertained, and provision made for its payment. If debts have been created on the faith of the territory, the people ought to be informed of their character and extent; but the opportunity should no longer be given to the public creditors to say, that Wisconsin will not pay her debts.
A revision of the statutes, and especially of those establishing the system of taxation, reducing the number and the amount of the taxes, would be more useful, and, in my judgment, more acceptable to the people, than the passage of many new laws.
The complaint continues to be justly made that the country is burthened with numerous laws and heavy taxation. A code of laws with but few provisions, and those plainly drawn and seldom changed, is the best evidence of a good government. But when the laws are uncertain, incongruous and inappropriate, or written with many words and vague sentences, or when they contain numerous and conflicting provisions on the same subject, a weak, ignorant or corrupt judge may destroy the rights of the citizens by
his interpretation and administration of them. And when, in addition, the limitations and restrictions imposed by the acts of congress are wholly disregarded, there can no longer be any security for personal liberty, or, as we have seen, to the right of property; neither have the people any protection against increased taxation or an accumulation of the public debt.
The experience of previous years forbids the hope that such evils can be remedied under the present form of government. For this reason, and believing as I do that the happiness of the people and the prosperity of the country will be advanced by the adoption of a state government, I respectfully recommend the passage of a law appointing a day for the free inhabitants of this dis: trict to vote upon the question whether a permanent government shall be formed according to the articles of compact of 1787, And I would recommend that a day be selected on which no other election is to be held, that the opinion to be expressed may be, if possible, uninfluenced by the local or political parties by which the elections are usually controlled.
There are now it is admitted by every person acquainted with our settlements, more than sixty thousand inhabitants within the limits of this territory; and within the limits fixed by the ordinance and subsequent acts of congress for the fifth state in the northwestern territory, there is estimated to be over one hundred and twenty thousand.
If there shall be a majority in favor of state government, I propose that a law be passed requiring the governor to make that fact known by proclamation, and authorizing the sheriffs of the several counties within this district thereupon to cause an enumeration of the inhabitants to be made and returned to the legislature at its next session.
The pecuniary and other advantages to be obtained by the people by a change of government, have been heretofore so fully presented by me to the assembly, that I shall not trouble you again with their repetition. As arguments in its favor, they have daily increased in strength and importance; and they remain unanswered.
The ordinance of 1787 grants to the people the right to form states within certain districts, and to congress the right to admit such states into the union. The constitutions of the states of Tennessee and Michigan were formed under this provision, the
right cannot therefore now be questioned. The north-western states were created by the ordinance and by the people, and not by the acts of admission.
The course pursued by the citizens of Tennessee is entitled to great weight, as it was taken soon after the ordinance and the constitution of the United States were adopted; when the language and the intention of the provisions for the formation of new states could not have been misunderstood either by the citizens of Tennessee or the public men of the United States. Washington was then at the head of the government, and it may be useful for us to advert to some facts in the history of that state.
The territory of Tenressee was ceded by North Carolina to the United States in February, 1790. The act of cession provided "that the territory should be laid out into a state or states, containing a suitable extent, the inhabitants of which should enjoy all the privileges, benefits and advantages set forth in the ordinance for the government of the north-western territory.” Under this authority congress established a government for the territory of Tennessee for temporary purposes, and extended to her the provisions ‘of the ordinance.
In 1794 her legislature ordered a census of the inhabitants of the entire territory to be taken, a majority of the people having voted in favor of a state government. It appearing by the census that her population amounted to sixty-six thousand two hundred and sixty-two souls (excluding slaves] a convention was called, and in February, 1796, a constitution was formed for the state. All this was done without the interference of congress, or any application to divide the territory or to permit a state government to be formed for the whole.
In April, of the same year, Tennessee, by her senators and representative, (Andrew Jackson having been elected her representative,) presented themselves with a new constitution in their hands, and demanded her admission by themselves, as her delegates, into the congress of the United States, as a sovereign and independent state. Gen. Washington, in his message to congress on the subject, observed, that among the advantages secured to the inhabitants of Tennessee by the ordinance of 1787, was "the right of forming a permanent constitution and state government, and of admission as a state, by its delegates, into the congress of the United States on an equal footing with the original states, in
áll respects whatever, when it shall have sixty thousand free inhábitants therein; provided, the constitution and government so formed shall be republican, and in conformity to the principles contained in the ordinance."
In pursuance of this recommendation, Tennessee, with her constitution thus formed, was admitted into the union on the first of June, 1796, within four months after the change of government was commenced.
Michigan adopted the same course as Tennessee, and asserted it as her right and privilege,” under the ordinance and the act of congress of 1805. It was granted to her--although the authorily had been reserved to congress (as in the case of Tennessee) to form one or two states out of the territory then subject to her territorial government.
I submit a copy of the act passed by the territorial legislature of Michigan on the 26th of December, 1834, to enable the people of that territory to form a constitution and state government. The preamble fully asserts the right; and the act apportions delegates for that part of the territory lying north of a line drawn due east froin the southerly extreme of Lake Michigan which had been embraced within the limits of the state of Indiana on her admission in the year 1916.
She was admitted into the union with the constitution she had adopted, by an act of congress passed on the 15th of June, 1836, the second section of which provides that the constitution and state government which the people of Michigan have formed for themselves be, and the same is hereby, accepted, ratified and confirmed; and that the said state of Michigan shall be, and is hereby, declared to be one of the United States of America, and is hereby admitted into the union upon an equal footing with the original states in all respects whatever."
This section also declares, that “this admission is upon the express condition that the said state shall consist of, and kave jurisdiction over, all the territory included within the following boundaries, and none other,” &c. By these new boundaries thus proposed by congress, the country claimed by Ohio and Indiana is given to those states; and in lieu thereof a district lying between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, and west of a line drawn north from the northern extremity of Lake Michigan to the line dividing the United States and Canada—which was the line established by the
act of congress of 1805, and by the people of Michigan, in their constitution, as the western boundary of the state was declared to be within the boundaries and jurisdiction of the state of Michigan.
The people inhabiting the portion thus annexed neither participated in the formation of the constitution, nor voted for the change; and it may well be doubted whether congress did not exceed its powers by this act enlarging the boundaries of Michigan, and establishing a state government for these people.
But the act of admission establishes the right of the free inhabilants to form a government for themselves, and to designate the boundaries of the state. In relation to the right of a state to enter the union with a contested boundary, there were several instances of unsettled boundaries between the thirteen original states when they joined the union, some of which are yet undetermined, and it is not perceived why a new state has noi the privilege to adjust her boundaries or have them settled in the same manner as an old state, It
may be taken for granted, therefore, froin the example of those states, as well as that of Michigan, that this state has the right to be admitted, although her boundaries may be contested by other states. A state out of the union has as good a right to her established boundaries as a state in it. The form of governo ment to which she may at any period of her existence be subject neither increases nor diminishes this right. It cannot be conceded that the right to admit can control the right to form a constitution farther than to require that the “constitution is republican, and in conformity to the principles contained in the articles of com
The 12th section of the act to establish the territorial government of Wisconsin declares that the inhabitants of the territory shall enjoy the rights, privileges, and advantages granted and secured to the people of the territory north-west of the river Ohio, by the articles of compact contained in the ordinance of 1787.” It provides that “ the said inhabitants shall also be entitled to all the rights, privileges and immunities heretofore granted and secured to the territory of Michigan, and to its inhabitants." The 5th article of compact declares that “whenever any of the said states shall have sixty thousand inhabitants therein, such state shall be admitted by its delegates into the congress of the United States on an equal footing with the original states in all respects what