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local legislatures, if I may so call them; and if there is any part of our public business well done, it is that done in town meetings. Is not this a strong practical lesson of the beneficial operation of this principle? This scheme has been proposed by a majority of the committee; they think it safe and beneficial, founded in just and rational principles, and in the experience of this and neighbouring states. The committee have no attachinent, however, to this particular scheme, and are willing to see it amended or altered, if it shall be judged for the interest of the people.

MR. Ross. Mr. Chairman-In assigning the reasons which influenced the select committee in making the report now under consideration, I shall rely much on the honourable gentlemen, with whom I had the pleasure to be associated on that committee. But, sir, feeling a responsibility in common with the members of that committee, I may perhaps be permitted to state, as concisely as I can, in addition to the views just subinitted by the honourable chairman of that committee (Mr. N. Sanford)some of the motives which led to the provisions contained in that report. The subject now submitted, may be viewed as one of deep and interesting importance; inasmuch as it discriminates who among our fellow citizens shall be allowed to exercise the high privilege of designating, by their votes, who shall represent them in their wants and their wishes, in the various and multiplied concerns of legislation and civil government. In every free state, the electors ought to form the basis, the soil from which every thing is to spring, relating to the administration of their political concerns. Otherwise it could not be denominated a government of the people. This results from the immutable principle, that civil government is instituted for the benefit of the governed. Consequently all, at least, who contribute to the support or defence of the state, have a just claim to exercise the elective privilege, if consistent with the safety and welfare of the citizens. It is immaterial whether that support or defence of the state be by the payment of money, or by personal service, which are precisely one and the same thing, that of taxation. Assuming this, then,as the basis, as being the least objectionable of any other, we are furnished with certain data by which the right to vote can be determined. By entering them in a register, we are able to test the qualification of electors, without resorting to the multiplication of oaths, which under the present constitution had grown into a most corrupting and alarming evil. After the most full and attentive consideration of the subject, the committee were led to the conclusion, that this would be the most simple and practical mode of ascertaining, with certainty, who are entitled to the privilege of electors. At the same time, it gives a liberal extension to that privilege, which, unquestionably, a vast majority of our constituents will demand at our hands, and which we can have no wish to withhold, unless to perpetuate those odious distinctions which have hitherto so long and so justly been complained of.-This is one of the crying evils for which we were sent here to provide a remedy. It is not to be expected, sir, that any general rules can be devised, that will extend to every possible case that it would be desirable to include, nor is it possible to exclude all who might abuse the privilege. Where evils must necessarily exist, the great object of this Convention, I trust, will be to choose the least-to settle down on such general principles as will result in conferring on the people of this state, the greatest possihle sum of happiness and prosperity.

That all men are free and equal, according to the usual declarations, applies to them only in a state of nature, and not after the institution of civil government; for then many rights, flowing from a natural equality, are necessarily abridged, with a view to produce the greatest amount of security and happiness to the whole community. On this principle the right of suffrage is extended to white men only. But why, it will probably be asked, are blacks to be excluded? I answer, because they are seldom, if ever, required to share in the common burthens or defence of the state. There are also additional reasons; they are a peculiar people. incapable, in my judgment, of exercising that privilege with any sort of discretion, prudence, or independence. They have no just conceptions of civil liberty. They know not how to appreciate it, and are consequently indifferent to its preservation.

Under such circumstances, it would hardly be compatible with the safety of the state, to entrust such a people with this right. It is not thought advisable to permit aliens to vote, neither would it be safe to extend it to the blacks. We deny to minors this right, and why? Because they are deemed incapable of exercising it discreetly, and therefore not safely, for the good of the whole community. Even the better part of creation, as my honourable friend from Oneida, (Mr. N. Williams,) stiles them, are not permitted to participate in this light. No sympathies seemed to be awakened in their behalf, nor in behalf of the aborigines, the original and only rightful proprietors of our soil--a people altogether more acute and discerning, and in whose judicious exercise of the right I should repose far more confidence, than in the African race. In nearly all the western and southern states, indeed many others, even in Connecticut, where steady habits and correct principles prevail, the blacks are excluded. And gentlemen have been frequently in the habit of citing the precedents of our sister states for our guide; and would it not be well to listen to the decisive weight of precedents furnished in this case also? It is true that in many of the states the black population is more numerous than in ours. Then, sir, if the exclusion be unjust or improper, that injustice would be of so much greater extent. The truth is, this exclusion invades no inherent rights, nor has it any connection at all with the question of slavery. The practice of every state in the union, is to make such exceptions, limitations, and provisions in relation to the elective privilege, under their respective constitutions, as are deemed to be necessary or consistent with public good-varied in cach according to the existing circunstances under which they are made. It must therefore necessarily rest on the ground of expediency. And, sir, I fear that an extension to the blacks would serve to invite that kind of population to this state, an occurrence which I should most sincerely deplore. The petition presented in their behalf, now on your table, in all probability has been instigated by gentlemen of a different colour, who expect to control their votes. But whether this be so or not, next the blacks will claim to be represented by persons of their own colour, in your halls of legislation. And can you consistently refuse them? It would be well to be prepared for such a claim.

On the whole, sir, let your constitution, at a proper period, declare their emancipation; exempt them from military service as the United States government directs, and from other burthens as heretofore; give them the full benefits of protection; and there, in mercy to themselves, and to us, let us stay our hands,

Sir, as to the propriety and justice of extending the elective privilege to all who perform military duty, and render services upon the public highways, I apprehend that it can easily be shewn that public policy, as well as justice, require this extension. In fact, those who have no other qualification to entitle them to vote, contribute more in proportion to their ability to pay, towards the defence and improvement of the state, than the wealthy. They are required to be at the expense of equipping themselves, and to serve three or four days in the year, and for what? Why to be ready to defend the lives and property of the wealthy. And this must be done, however oppressive their poverty, or urgent their business. If not, they must be subject to fine, and to imprisonment too, if they happen to be destitute of money to pay it. In time of war, the burthen is still more unequal; they must be shoved into the front of the battle; no money to procure them a substitute; their families, if they have any, must be left unprotected and unprovided for; themselves exposed to disease, slaughter. and death; and this too, in defence of a country which now denies them the only true badge of freemen, the right of suffrage. Deprive them of this badge, and where is the pledge that ensures their fidelity in defence of the state?

Does not true policy, then, enforce the propriety of strengthening their attachment to their country, by clothing them with the habiliments of freemen? I know, sir, the venerable gentleman from Albany (Gen. S. Van Rensselaer) with whom I had the honour to be associated on that committee, is apprehensive that by extending the right of suffrage to all who perform these services, that we extend it to too many, who will not exercise it with independence and judgment. Sir, many of this description may be found among all orders of men,

rich as well as poor. However trifling he may suppose the burthen imposed on persons living in the cities, to comply with military requisitions, he may be assured, that in the country it amounts to a very serious burthen.

I have a deference and respect for that gentleman's opinions, his virtues, and his philanthropy, to which all bear testimony. And, sir, I am the more surprised that he should be averse to conferring this privilege on men he has once led on to battle, as he himself must have witnessed their privations and their sufferings. In his operations upon the Niagara frontier during the late war, a great part of the forcus under his command were composed of men who, with the provisions here reported, would be excluded from the right of suffrage. I have no wish, sir, to endanger the rights of property, by advocating the extension of this privilege. On the contrary, I am anxious those rights should be guaranteed by every necessary precaution. Let them be made amply secure ; require, if you please, that persons to be elected to office shall possess a certain amount of freehold estate. At the same time extend the right of suffrage to every citizen who is compelled to bear arms; for remember, that we are not always to be in a state of peace, and let us estimate the rights of the militia accordingly. During the late war, frequent were the calls on the militia, and as often were they promptly obeyed. They subjected themselves to immense sacrifices; exposed themselves to every hardship and danger incident to the vicissitudes of war, for the protection and defence of the state, and for the preservation of that privilege which they now claim a right to enjoy, Let me ask, sir, what would have been the fate of the brave army of Gen. Brown when pent up in Fort Eric, had not the militia fled to their relief, and averted their impending ruin? Enclosed by a superior force of the enemy, whose incessant and destructive fire from his batterics continually thinned their ranks, and wasted away our veteran little army, unable to secure a retreat, and too much weakened to advance. In this perilous crisis, the militia, without waiting to receive orders, but on appealing to their patriotism, instantly hurried to their protection. They crossed the Niagara in opposition to the pressing advice of their disaffected, but more wealthy neighbours; and, under the command of Gen. Porter, they rescued the remains of that army which had survived the glorious conflict at Bridgewater from inevitabled estruction. The militia, on that occasion, achieved what would have given lustre to the best disciplined troops. They met, and drove the enemy from his strong intrenchments; liberated our army, and saved the western part of the state from plunder and conflagration. It has since been well said, in allusion to that event, that the militia of NewOrleans have done much; the militia of other places have done much: but it remained for the militia of Genesee, and the Niagara frontier, to successfully storm and take possession of the enemy's batteries.

Considering, sir, the perilous situation of our country at this momentous period, the general government literally destitute of men and of money, pressed by a veteran foe on every side, a part of the union yielding to the contaminating spirit of disaffection-in this direful dilemma, the nation turned its last hope upon the militia, particularly of New-York. That hope, sir, was not disappointed. The then governor or commander in chief, by his patriotic and unexampled exertions, infused a universal spirit of emulation, and twenty thousand hardy champions of liberty rushed into the field at once from this single state. It was the militia, sir. that snatched the trembling liberties of the nation from the malignant grasp of the enemy. But for them, we might all of us at this moment have been compelled to deplore the loss of that high privilege, the right of suffrage. And what do they now ask? Simply to be allowed to participate with you in the rights of self-government. And shall they be denied? I trust not, sir. If their services are duly appreciated, I indulge the hope that no honourable gentleman of this Convention will resist the justice of their claims.

GEN. S. VAN RENSSELAER felt called upon, as dissenting from the opinion of the committee, and as particularly pointed at by the gentleman last up, to state his motives for that dissent. He was willing to permit all who contributed in money to the state, or county, or town, who have residence in the towns, or a legal settlement, to vote; but he was not willing to give a wandering population, men who are no where to be found when the enemy, or the tax gatherer,

comes, the same privileges as those who actually contribute to the support and the defence of the government. The gentleman bas referred to the services of the militia which I had the honour to command-does the gentleman suppose that that militia was composed of this wandering population? No, sir; they were farmers and farmers' sons. I am not anxious to discuss this subject at large, but beg to submit a substitute for the first clause, which goes as far as I think it safe or proper to go. To extend the right of suffrage beyond this, would, in my judgment, at some future time, when the number of inhabitants in this state not owning land, will be vastly greater than that of the land owners, subject the rights of landed property to imminent danger. Mr. Van Rensselaer then submitted the following substitute:

"Every male citizen, of the age of 21 years, who shall have resided in the state one year, and in the city or county where he may claim to vote six months preceding an election; and within the last two years shall have been assessed and paid a state, county, or town tax, together with the sons of citizens qualified as aforesaid, above the age of 21 years, and not exceeding years, who may nei. ther have been assessed nor paid any such tax, shall be entitled to vote for go. vernor, lieutenant-governor, senators, members of assembly, and for every other officer to be elected by the people."

MR. FAIRLIE felt himself called upon by the unusual and improper reference of the gentleman from Genesee, (Mr. Ross,) to the views of the minority in the select committee, and particularly to those of the honourable gentleman from Albany, (Mr. S. Van Rensselaer) to state, that the gentleman from Albany was not alone in that committee in his opposition to the admission to the right of suffrage of militiamen, and persons working on the roads. He had concurred in that opposition, though he did not mean to be understood as saying, that, after a full discussion of the question, he might not feel himself at liberty to vote for the clause as reported.

CO. YOUNG moved to amend the substitute offered by the gentleman from Albany, by inserting the word "white" before citizens.

MR. JAY. The chairman of the select committee has given a fair and candid exposition of the reasons that induced them to make the report now under consideration, and of the motives by which they were governed. He has clearly stated why they were desirous of extending the right of suffrage to some who did not at present enjoy it, but he has wholly omitted to explain why they deny it to others who actually possess it. The omission, however, has been supplied by one of his colleagues, who informed us that all who were not white ought to be excluded from political rights, because such persons were incapable of exercising them discreetly, and because they were peculiarly liable to be influenved and corrupted. These reasons, sir, I shall notice presently. When this Convention was first assembled, it was generally understood that provisions would be made to extend the right of suffrage, and some were apprehensive that it might be extended to a degree which they could not approve. But, sir, it was not expected that this right was in any instance to be restricted, much less was it anticipated, or desired, that a single person was to be disfranchised. Why, sir, are these men to be excluded from rights which they possess in common with their countrymen? What crime have they committed for which they are to be punished? Why are they, who were born as free as ourselves, natives of the same country, and deriving from nature and our political institutions, the same rights and privileges which we have, now to be deprived of all those rights, and doomed to remain forever as aliens among us? We are told, in reply, that other states have set us the example. It is true that other states treat this race of men with cruelty and injustice, and that we have hitherto manifested towards them a disposition to be just and liberal. Yet even in Virginia and North-Carolina, free people of colour are permitted to vote, and if I am correctly informed, exercise that privilege. In Pennsylvania, they are much more numerous than they are here, and there they are not disfranchised, nor has any inconvenience been felt from extending to all men the rights which ought to be common to all. In Connecticut, it is true, they have, for the last three years,

adopted a new constitution which prevents people of colour from acquiring the right of suffrage in future, yet even there they have preserved the right to all those who previously possessed it.

Mr. Chairman, I would submit to the consideration of the committee, whether the proposition of the gentleman from Saratoga is consistent with the constitution of the United States. That instrument provides that "citizens of cach state shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states." No longer ago than last November, the legislature of this state almost unanimously resolved, that "if the provisions contained in any proposed constitution of a new state, deny to any citizens of the existing states the privileges and immunities of citizens of such new state, that such proposed constitution should not be accepted or confirmed; the same in the opinion of this legislature being void by the constitution of the United States." Now, sir, is not the right of suffrage a privilege? And can you deny it to a citizen of Pennsylvania who comes here and complies with your laws, merely because he is not six feet high, or because he is of a dark complexion?

But we are told by one of the select committee, that people of colour are incapable of exercising the right of suffrage. I may have misunderstood that gentleman; but I thought he meant to say, that they laboured under a physical disability. It is true that some philosophers have held that the intellect of a black man, is naturally inferior to that of a white one; but this idea has been so completely refuted, and is now so universally exploded, that I did not expect to have heard of it in an assembly so enlightened as this, nor do I now think it necessary to disprove it. That in general the people of colour are inferior to the whites in knowledge and in industry, I shall not deny. You made them slaves, and nothing is more true than the ancient saying, "The day you make a man a slave takes half his worth away." Unaccustomed to provide for themselves, and habituated to regard labour as an evil, it is no wonder that when set free, they should be improvident and idle, and that their children should be brought up without education, and without prudence or forethought. But will you punish the children for your own crimes; for the injuries which you have inflicted upon their parents? Besides, sir, this state of things is fast passing away. Schools have been opened for them, and it will, I am sure, give pleasure to this committee to know, that in these schools there is discovered a thirst for instruction, and a progress in learning, seldom to be seen in the other schools of the state. They have also churches of their own, and clergymen of their own colour, who conduct their public worship with perfect decency and order, and not without ability.

This state, Mr. Chairman, has taken high ground against slavery, and all its degrading consequences and accompaniments. There are gentlemen on this floor, who, to their immortal honour, have defended the cause of this oppressed people in congress, and I trust they will not now desert them. Adopt the amendment now proposed, and you will bear a shout of triumph and a hiss of scorn from the southern part of the union, which I confess will mortify me-I shall shrink at the sound, because I fear it will be deserved. But it has been said that this measure is necessary to preserve the purity of your elections. I do not deny that necessity has no law, and that self-preservation may justify in states, as well as in individuals, an infringement of the rights of others. Were I a citizen of one of the southern states, I would not (much as I abhor slavery) advise an immediate and universal emancipation. But where is the necessity in the present instance? The whole number of coloured people in the state, whether free or in bondage, amounts to less than a fortieth part of the whole population. When your numbers are to theirs as forty to one, do you still fear them? To assert this, would be to pay them a compliment which, I am sure, you do not think they deserve. But there are a greater number in the city of New-York. How many? Sir, in even that city, the whites are to the blacks as ten to one. And even of the tenth which is composed of the black population, how few are there that are entitled to vote? It has also been said that their numbers are rapidly increasing. The very reverse is the fact. During the last ten years, in which the white population has advanced with astonishing rapidity, the coloured population of the state has been stationary. This fact

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