Imágenes de páginas

expense seems a mere trifle. Mr. Chairman, con- favorably by the committee, and the gentleman sidering that in the report that a week since was from Westchester [Mr. Greeley] shall propose a passed, we voted with only a few dissenting plan of that kind, I see no objection to it. The voices to incur the expense of increased salaries gentleman from Westchester [Mr. Greeley] sugfor members of the Legislature, amounting to gested that the veto would not form an efficient some one hundred and thirty odd thousand dol-check for two reasons. First, that it does not lars, or the interest at five per cent on nearly two provide for a two-thirds vote to pass an and one-half million of dollars of the State debt, act over the veto; that the provision is for a it seems to me to be a beggarly economy to come majority vote instead of two-thirds. I have here now and say we will not create an office no objection to two-thirds if the Convention which may cost the people of the county, at the shall think that would be more efficient. It is best, some five dollars a day for an average ser- also suggested by him that these corrupt schemes vice throughout all the counties of the State, at are arranged outside. I know they often are, but best, from thirty to forty days in each. The rea- does that afford any good reason why we should sons which are given by the chairman of this not give all the protection possible—that we should committee and his associates, seem to me to be not provide laws and all the checks possible to good and substantial reasons why this office prevent corruption? I apprehend not. Suppose should be created. If the local boards are now you take the city of New York; the board of to be invested with new power of legislation, if supervisors of that city, it is said — I cannot say the creation of new rates and the adoption of with how much truth is sometimes used for new measures that are of local interest corrupt purposes, that schemes not very creditto the people, is to be taken away from able are passed through that body. Suppose the the central authority at Albany, and transferred gentleman from Westchester [Mr. Greeley] should to the centers at home, there seems to me to be sit as the chairman or president of that board very good and sufficient reason why the people of with the veto power, and that a corrupt scheme the whole county should be represented, as well should pass, would he not at once veto it? And as that the whole people of the State be repre- would not that veto form a check to the board? sented in a chief executive office. The power of Would it not prevent that board from voting the veto residing in a supreme executive magis-away money at night, and putting their action trate is just as essential to the liberties of the people in this age as it was in the days of the Roman Republic, when the Tribune of the people sat at the door of the Roman Senate, and though he sat on a bench, his simple voice, raised with the word "veto," annulled all hasty, crude, and unfair legislation. So it would be here; if you desire to give the county boards increased facilities and increased power for legislating over the local affairs of the county, you should have some one person, I do not care who he is, or what his name is, who should be vested with plenary authority, representing in his person all the power of the people of the county against the combinations of those who represent towns and subordinate interests. Nevertheless, I should like to know whether I am in error in supposing that the expense of this office, if created, would be a mere bagatelle in the annual budget of the county.

beyond the reach of an injunction by appropriating the money before morning? It seems to me it would afford a very efficient check, and the expense, which is the only objection made to it, must be nothing in comparison to the expense that would be saved to the people by the creation of this office. I desire to say, further, that as much as I feel the necessity of transferring this local legislation from the Legislature to the board, I would not dare to transfer it without providing some check upon hasty and corrupt legislation. I shall feel compelled, if this is stricken out, to vote against any transfer of this local legislation, because it is dangerous-it is giving legislative power to boards which they do not possess at present, except in a very limited extent, and provides no check upon their power. If the gentleman from Westchester [Mr. Greeley] casts his eye over the section providing for the transfer of this power, he will see that it is proMr. SMITH-With the indulgence of the com-posed to give boards very extensive power, and I mittee I would like to make a suggestion. In would not dare to devolve it upon them without reply to the gentleman from Rockland [Mr. Con- providing some check. It seems to me, therefore, ger] I would say that the provision is that the that the whole plan must fall unless this or someLegislature shall fix the compensation, and as thing similar to it shall be provided. those boards will sit but a few times, probably, Mr. REYNOLDS - If this Convention shall in the course of the year, the expense adopt the principle proposed by the committee, could not amount to much, and it must neces- for transferring the local legislation from the sarily be a very small matter. I wish to Legislature to the county; it seems to me some make a suggestion or two in relation to the such othicer as that proposed by the committee remarks of the gentleman from Westchester [Mr. is absolutely necessary. In our county we have Greeley]. He thinks that by giving publicity to thirty-three supervisors, fourteen of whom are the acts that are to be passed by the boards of elected from the city, and the balance from the supervisors, it would serve as an efficient check country. The strife with us always is to control upon improvident and corrupt legislation. Now the president of the board, who has the appointI certainly have no objection to a provision of ing of the committees, and you will find the county that kind, and indeed I do rot know but it might be a very good one. It can be added, however; it is not in conflict with this provision which is now under consideration, and if this be considered

treasurer, and the sheriff and the county clerk all combining to get committees appointed to examine their several accounts, that would look with as favorable an eye as possible upon them-and

Mr. VEEDER-I move to amend section one
of this article by substituting section 1 of article
The SECRETARY proceeded to read the sec-
10 of the present Constitution.
tion, as follows:

their effort is to control the appointment of commit-Jercised by an officer chosen as this county superThere is no visor is to be chosen, that there will not always tees in the interest of these officers. veto power, nothing to prevent persons exercising be a judicious exercise of the veto power. He is the power of appointing committees, and the result necessarily a politician. Supervisors of towns are of it has been very disastrous to our county. In not now elected so much from their activity in more than one instance, the county treasurer has political affairs as from the fact that they will But when you come to elect a county succeeded in covering up defalcations by securing best represent the interests of the respective the appointment of committees favorable to his towns. interests, by that sort of combination, which has supervisor upon the county ticket, he will be brought our county into heavy losses. The county nominated with respect to some political question, treasurer preceding the present iucumbent was and he will always be an active partisan on the a defaulter to a large amount of money, some one side or the other, just as the political majority forty or fifty thousand dollars, I believe, which happens to predominate in the county. I trust, of legislation could not have possibly occurred if there had Mr. Chairman, that this constitutional provision, been a committee appointed to examine his which cannot be repealed by the Legislature, accounts who really did their duty. It seems to conferring this large power that this provision in I trust also of a county me that if this plan is to be adopted, some officer upon the board of supervisors will not preelection to the should be provided by law or by the Constitution vail. who shall have a veto power, and stand outside of relation all the town influences and cliques that may be supervisor will fail. Now gentlemen have said, got up in the boards of supervisors of our State. that so far as we had any indication of the Mr. WICKHAM-It seems to me to be con- wishes of our constituents it was to take away ceded that the necessity for creating the office from the State Legislature all this power of local of county supervisor depends upon the question legislation. I do not so understand the indication whether this power of legislation is conferred of the popular will. My own impressions are 'upon the board of supervisors. I trust before we that it was the desire of the people that the powget through with this report these increased ers of the Legislature should be restricted to powers which are enumerated in the report will the enactment of general laws, and when it is not be thus conferred. We have already adopted thus restricted I think we shall have accoman article declaring that all legislative power plished everything we are desired to accomplish shall be vested in the Senate and Assembly, in that direction. me that if any local legisand it seems to lation is devolved upon the respective boards of supervisors it should be confined to those subjects and to those matters to which the power "SEC. 1. Sheriffs, clerks of counties, including may be conferred by the Legislature, as provided in the present Constitution. It seems to me that when we adopt this system for the purpose of the register and clerk of the city aid county of avoiding the evil of excessive legislation by New York, coroners, and district attorneys, shall our State Legislature, we are in great danger be chosen by the electors of the respective counof multiplying the evil of local legislation ties once in every three years, and as often as when we confer the exclusive power upon vacancies shall happen. Sheriffs shall hold no a larger number of local bodies. There is another other office, and be ineligible for the next three objection to this provision. The State Legislature years after the termination of their offices. They is organized with relation to a fair representation may be required by law to renew their security of the inhabitants. Each county is represented in proportion to the number of its inhabitants. If you look over the tables of the population of the towns in the different counties, you will find there is a very great disparity in that respect. In my own county there is one town that contains a little over five hundred inhabitants, and there is another town which contains a population of some Mr. BARKER-If the gentleman from Kings move to strike out ten thousand. It is true there is a section contained in this article which provides for equalizing the representation, but how can it be equalized [Mr. Veeder] will permit me, with such an inequality of population in the re-all after the words "county clerk," in the third spective towns? I find that in the county of line, and insert in lieu thereof section 1 of article Ulster there is one town which has about five 10 of the Constitution, after the word "coroners." hundred inhabitants, or something like that, Then it will read substantially as this section does, Mr. VEEDER-I accept that amendment, and another town which has some seventeen and will be debatable. thousand. How can you equalize the representation without creating boards which will be quite which virtually brings in the present article of the too large for the purposes for which they are Constitution. I have looked over somewhat hasrequired? There is another objection to the cre-tily the article as reported by the committee, and ation of this office of county supervisor. It is I find in it, to my mind, several objections. The contended that it is necessary we should have this committee will observe the section provides, as over the power reported by the committee, for the removal of all officer to exercise the veto of the board. I fear, if this power is ex-officers enumerated therein by the Governor, upon

from time to time; and in default of giving such new security, their offices shall be deemed vacant. But the county shall never be made responsible for the acts of the sheriff. The Governor may remove any officer in this section mentioned, within the term for which he shall have been elected, giving to such officer a copy of the charges against him, and an opportunity of being heard in his defense."

[merged small][ocr errors]


to select their officers. I cannot understand that we are extending the elective franchise when we are endeavoring to take from the people the privilege of electing their officials. Does universal suffrage mean the giving of the right to vote to all citizens regardless of color, and after you have extended to them this privilege to take from them the right of choosing their officers? Can it be advantageous to the public to allow them to vote, but when they come to the polls to cast that vote they find there is hardly any officer to vote for. I cannot agree with those gentlemen who are determined to make so many radical changes to the present Constitution. It would, in my judgment, be much better for us to confine ourselves to apparent defects in the present Constitution and at the same time preserve as much of the old instrument as may be possible.


certain charges being preferred and sustained, and provides for the appointment by the Governor of a person to perform the duties of the position during the vacancy. It nowhere provides for the election of an officer to fill the unexpired term. Under the present Constitution, although the Governor may remove this class of officers, his appointments only extend until after the next general election. The people elected a new officer to fill the unexpired term. For that reason I much prefer the language of the section as it now stands in the present Constitution. These officers, it says, shall be chosen by the electors of the respective counties once in every three years, or as often as vacancies shall happen. Now we may suppose a case of this kind. A person may be elected to the office of county clerk. He may enter upon the discharge of its duties for the period of a week. He may, from sickness or dis- Mr. BARKER-I desire to see section one of ease, die, and the office becomes vacant. If such article ten in the present Constitution substituted a case should occur, the Governor is required by for the one referred to by this committee. the proposed article to fill the office for the unex-committee recommends some three or four pired term. The Governor is now, by the exist changes, neither of which can I support. The ing Constitution, empowered to fill the vacancy chief objection that I have to the section and sysuntil the next general election. I submit that is tem, as reported by the committee, is, so far as it quite sufficient. At the next general election the takes from the people the right to choose their people now have the power to elect an district attorney, and gives that power to the Exofficer to fill the unexpired term. Iecutive of the State without the concurrence of am also opposed to the article pro- the Senate. I am opposed to concentrating and posed, because it excludes the people from the aggregating in the executive department of this right to select a register for the city and county State the appointing power. There is a disposiof New York, also a register for the county of tion on the part of many members of this ConvenKings. I shall at another time ask leave to offer tion, to aggregate in the Executive higher funean amendment so as to provide for the election of tions than he now enjoys. It is true the office a register in the county of Kings. It is very of district attorney is not a separate and distinct necessary that those offices should be distinct and department of the government to such an extent separate offices, and that a register in the county that it is a violation of principle to appoint him. of New York and a register in the county The workings of twenty years have been satisfacof Kings should be elected. Under the article tory to the people and to the courts, and has reported by the committee, you would be confined demonstrated that the district attorney should be to the election of a county clerk. But beyond elected as a county officer. Again, it is apparent that I am not willing to admit the propriety of that wisdom and necessity will confer upon the taking from the people the right to select a dis- Executive and the Senate the appointment of certain trict attorney in the several counties of the State. other officers of the State whose duties are more local In my judgment it is quite as safe to leave it in and more specific than those of the district attor the hands of the people to select a district attorney. This will be an aggregating of the power ney as it will be to appoint him. I have heard of the Executive which will be unwise. What no argument presented here showing why this may have led this learned committee, whom I change should be made. No petition or memorial respect so much, to make this report I cannot has been presented to the Convention asking for understand, for, if my memory serves me right, any such change. And why the people should each and every one of these learned gentlemen be deprived of the right to select an official of that less than a week ago voted against large senaimportance I am at a loss to understand. I have torial districts, and urged as the very reason that not heard any complaint made here against a it was building up an Albany junta which they single district attorney, neither have any charges opposed. And now they recommend the taking been preferred against any one of the present away from the people an office which is now elecincumbents. It will be further observed tive and putting it upon the Executive without that the Governor has absolute authority consulting the Senate. I would like to have had conferred upon him by this article to some reason assigned by the committee for their appoint the several district attorneys. It does not provide that the Governor shall nominate, and, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint, but it gives the absolute power to the Governor to appoint them. I am not in favor of I am in favor of all officers who are for the present elected by the people continuing to be so elected. It seems to me very inconsistent for us to advocate the extension of the right of suffrage and at the same time take from the people the right


Mr. KINNEY-I would like to call the attehtion of the gentleman to the fact that I and some other gentlemen on this committee, were opposed to the appointment of district attorneys.

Mr. BAKER-I am very glad to hear that my learned friend who sits so near me, is altogether right on that proposition. Now it is also recommended in the report, that the sheriff shall not be eligible to hold office of deputy or under

amendment will be adopted which leaves the office of district attorney elective.

sheriff for the term succeeding the expiration of his incumbency. I know of no good reason why he should be excluded from taking that office Mr. LARREMORE-I differ with the gentlefrom his successors. It in no wise interferes man who last addressed the Chair in opposition to with the discharge of the unexecuted business the amendment offered by the gentleman from that has come into his hands during the whole Kings [Mr. Veeder]. I think he entirely misterm. I think it gives him opportunity to favor apprehends the wishes of the people in this the execution of his own processes. The priv-respect. If there is any one office in the ilege to take the appointment from his successors county in which the people feel a peculiar intershould be continued. Then, again this section est, it is that of the office of district attorney. recommends that the Governor shall only have The committee have told us, in the remarks which the power of removal of the county officers men- they have added to their report, that the reason tioned in the section, in certain specific cases. I for changing the existing law in this respect, and think he should have unlimited power for every making it an appointive instead of an elective good cause, as it shall appear to be sustained, to office, was that the district attorney is not a remove these county officers, first giving the de- representative officer. Mr. Chairman, if the lawrelict person a copy of the charges, and an oppor-yer is ever the representative of his client, then is tunity of being heard in his defense.

the district attorney the representative of the people of the county. The gentleman has said that he cannot discharge his duty as fearlessly in prosecuting a defendant to the full extent of the law without jeopardizing his chances for re-election. That is virtually saying that the majority of the electors of the county sympathize with crime. I

believe the district attorney should be elected by the people because he is a representative of the people. He is their law-officer; he represents them by virtue of his office. I think we show too little confidence in the source from which all confidence is derived. Will not the question of partisanship arise in an office, even if the holder of that office be an appointee? The same may be said of the sheriff. How can he fearlessly discharge his duty without making enemies? I trust the amendment of the gentleman from Kings [Mr. Veeder]

Mr. HALE-I hope the amendment proposed by the gentleman from Kings [Mr. Veeder] will not prevail, for the reason that it proposes to leave the office of district attorney an elective office. If the experience of the last twenty years has taught us anything, Mr. Chairman, I think it is the folly of making that, of all others, an elec-am not prepared to accept such a conclusion. I tive office. The duties of the district attorney are such as ought to make him a terror to evil doers. His duties are such that, if faithfully performed, it is frequently a matter of necessity with him to offend many men who are influential in politics, many men who control votes. The district attorney now, in the performance of the duties of his office, is often tempted to hesitate whether he shall do his duty, and do it faithfully and well, because he will thus forfeit or prejudice his chances for re-election. I would remove from him the necessity of choosing between such alter-will prevail. I think it would be most acceptable natives. I would put him in a position where there shall be no consideration to swerve him from the path of duty. I would put him in a position where, if a man is indicted for riot or assault and battery, or in violation of the excise law, he will not be obliged or be tempted to con-distrust of them in depriving them of the right to sider, as very many district attorneys now do, whether by prosecuting this man faithfully and diligently he will forfeit his chances for re-election. Members of this Convention talk about taking away the rights of the people. The right of the people is, and their demand is, that the duties of that office shall be performed faithfully; that the laws shall be enforced; that crime shall be punished. The people do not care for the privilege of voting for district attorney. The people, whose wishes we should consider, want a district attorney who will perform all his duties, who shall have no temptation held out to him by the laws Mr. GOULD-I was in hopes that the Conof the State to swerve from the line of his duty.vention would be willing to leave for the present If the people can secure that, they will be satis- the consideration of this question of the appointfied. It makes very little difference with them ment of the district attorney. The Committee whether they vote directly for this officer, or on the subject of the Prevention and Punishment whether the Governor of their choice appoint of Crime have already had that matter under conhim. Perhaps it would have been better if in sideration. I shall be very glad if the discussion the second section of this article it had been pro- of this matter is left until the coming in of the vided that the appointment by the Governor be report of that committee. Now I do not suppose by and with the advice of the Senate. But that the committee on that subject have the power of section can easily be amended, if thought best, elucidating the question in a superior manner to when we reach it. But for the reasons which I the very able committee who has already made bave given, reasons which I am sure we have all a report. I desire it should be left for this reason: felt and know to be substantial, I trust nol Under a resolution of this Convention inquiry was

to the people; they are fully qualified to say who shall represent them in all local matters. If the district attorney of any county fails to discharge his duty, the people of that county are the first to realize and suffer from the neglect. We show a select their own legal adviser This officer is not a State officer! Why, then, should he be appointed by the Executive of the State? His duties and jurisdiction are local, and, while representing the people of the State, he is restricted in the discharge of that duty to the limits of a particular county. I think the experience of the past has clearly shown us that no change is necessary in reference to this officer, and that the interests of the public will be best subserved by retaining the existing provision of the present Constitution.

made of the different county treasurers and coun-1 They look to their personal ends. If no party ty clerks, in relation to matters which will very presents a candidate to suit them they will nomifully illustrate the operation of our laws, in rela-nate one, and they can thus choose their man, tion to district attorneys. Very curious answers whether from one party or the other. I think it is are already coming in. These investigations are not necessary to have new facts submitted to us. not yet completed. I think the Convention will Mr. Chairman, you know there have been several be in a much better condition to decide this mat- indictments found for corruption in this hall while ter of the appointment of district attorneys after you were a member of the Legislature-gross, they shall have been fully informed on the sub-flagrant corruption. Not one of those indicted ject by the coming in of this report. I would was brought to trial by these elected district be glad, therefore, when we come to this section, attorneys. I think indictments were found not if the Convention strike it out for the time. I only here but in Greene and Rensselaer. Why suggest to the gentleman from Kings [Mr. Veed- they were not tried I can guess, and so can you. er], whether he will not withdraw so much of his Mr. M. I. TOWNSEND - Will the gentleman amendment as applies to district attorneys, in allow me to ask him a question. It is only to order that the Convention may consider it in the vindicate the character of our district attorneys, lights which will be afforded by the information who might possibly be elected. No indictment coming in. has ever been found in Rensselaer. One was transferred from Albany to Rensselaer. A New York judge came here; there was some whispering one morning, and nobody has ever heard of it since-not a word.

[ocr errors]

Mr. E. BROOKS-I would like to ask the gentleman if he believes these district attorneys would be any better, any more moral men, if they were appointed by the Governor, than if they were elected by the people?

Mr. GREELEY-I certainly do believe that the Governor, being directly responsible for every one of these district attorneys, would use great care in their selection, and scrutinize their actions closely. If there was any blame we would lay it right on his shoulders. I do not want any Senate confirmations. I want to hold the Governor responsible for every one of these district attorneys. "Why, sir! your district attorney in this county does not try these criminals! We call you to account!" That is what I want.

Mr. GREELEY-I do not believe this Convention needs any additional light on this subject. The gentleman who proposed to strike out, and those who opposed the proposition, understand this matter perfectly well. The State has very important, and in my judgment, very beneficent laws, which forbid gambling, brothel keeping, and illegal rum selling. Now, the effect-I will not say the purpose-of this amendment is to allow these laws to be disregarded and openly defied in the city of New York and the county of Kings: to allow the keepers of brothels, the blacklegs and law-defying rumsellers, to elect their own district attorney, and then they will openly defy the law. The facts which the gentleman from Columbia [Mr. Gould] proposes to give us will abundantly indicate this-will show this a little more clearly than some of us now know it, but will only confirm what is in every man's mind at this hour. We all know that there is a local public sentiment in those counties Mr. GERRY-I would like to ask the gentleadverse to the enforcement of laws, and in favor man whether, under the present system, if the of general license and profitable pandering to Attorney-General has reason to believe in the popular vice. If you make this office an elective corruption of any local district attorney, if he one, and so choose the district attorney, everybody has not the right and the power to come into will do what he has a mind to, so far as he does court and to prosecute the case before the jury not cut anybody's throat nor absolutely and himself. directly pick anybody's pocket. Those who vote Mr. GREELEY-I cannot say what the power here should understand it. The gentleman who of the Attorney-General would be: but this I now holds the office of district attorney in New mean to say, that there are thousands of good York was elected when he was called a republican. indictments that have lain untried for ten or I opposed him then, although he had the reg- twelve years, and that not more than half ular republican nomination. But the influences of the indictments found in New York are were all potent to elect him in defiance of the ever brought to trial. It seems very clear regular democratic nomination, and despite of the that those who have friends and money are reform city nomination given to a most estimable not half so likely to be brought to justice member of this preseut Convention, who was as those who have none. This state of things strongly supported but defeated. He was a I wish to put an end to. I wish to look candidate of the potent influences which control right at the man in that [Executive] chamin the politics of the city of New York. And so, ber whenever there is a flagrant case of delinbeing a democrat or a republican had nothing to quency, on the part of the district attorney. I do with his election. Those influences prevailed, wish to hold up the Governor, whoever he may and they will prevail. I do not believe the people be, before the people, when I see this flagrant of New York are corrupt generally, but there is violation of duty on the part of the district attoran enormous influence there, composed of and ney. I cannot do it now. I can do nothing but directed by men who make their money out of submit. One word as to the original proposition popular vices, one way and another, and who which I have made here. I have objected that want a lax and easy administration of law. Let this county supervisor amounts to nothing, district attorneys be chosen by the people, and practically. But we are told he may be thieves and profligates will choose their own dis- made to amount to something. Now, trict attorney. They care nothing for politics. I object again, if this county supervisor happens

« AnteriorContinuar »