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agencies, to the Legislative and Executive wants of their respective localities,* the belief seeming daily to increase that the people are the safest repositories of power—having no sinister objects to advance, no sons to make clerks of courts, and no brothers to make registers in Chancery. Should each town and county legislate for itself in what concerns its local interests, and the State confine its legislation to only what effects the interest of all, our State Government would assimilate to that of the United States; our towns and counties occupying somewhat the same relation to the General Legislature as the States occupy to Congress. Possibly, also, our Assembly may be improved by making its members no longer the representatives of counties, but of election districts, t into which each county may be separated, so that every member will be known personally to all his constituents, and being dependent on them for his political consequence, represent them more truly than when his elevation depends, as often at present, on the intrigue of a party tactician, who expects in return some special subserviency to his personal ambition.
But, finally, were we disposed to doubt the capacity of the people to revise our Constitution, we possess no shield to the danger, except the wisdom of the same people in a negative of the proposed Convention; and hence arises a dilemma, which seems conclusive in favor of the measure; for if the people negative a Convention, from mere possibility of an injurious result of its deliberations, the negative will prove that they might have been safely trusted to pass a verdict upon the results, after the Convention had adopted them. And the negative will prove further, that we, "like the eye of childhood which fears a painted devil,”
* These improvements were partially adopted.
needlessly lost the social improvements which possibly a Convention might have originated, composed as it must be of delegates known to the people for sagacity, and convened to deliberate expressly on existing evils and prospective benefits. The converse also of the above argument will not impair its cogency; for, admit that a sanction of the Convention by the people will not, like a negative vote, prove that the State is safe from all injurious amendments, how is this admission to help us ? The Legislature has placed us in the hands of the people, and we cannot escape from the consequences; or rather, the Legislature has left us where God has placed us, for God, in giving the major. ity of physical strength to the numerical majority of men, has placed the smaller number at the disposal of the greater; and when this standard of natural power, which we have made the standard also of political power, shall prove itself to be an unsafe conservative of moral rights and intellectual propriety, it will prove likewise, that our theory of government is wrong, our Republican institutions but a pleasing dream, and that, like the races of men who have preceded us, we must choose whether we will give up our equality of rights or our social well-being. And, perhaps, no period for such an experiment is more favorable than the present; for we had better make it in this our day of national youth and consequent virtue, when the equality of rights we possess and which we would fain make entire in a new Constitution) is not vastly different from the equality of condition that we enjoy by fortune, than wait till time shall have matured in us the vices of a dense population, and divided it into the unwholesome extremes of great poverty and great wealth, great learning and great ignorance. And that these dangerous extremes may be delayed, or happily never come, let us, as far as Providence
will permit, eradicate their sources, by prohibiting all special privileges, which only make the rich ‘richer, and, by removing all special disabilities, that only, make the poor poorer, the debased haser; and, forgetting for a moment all personal considerations, seize the present opportunity, and make our New-York, which we fondly call the Empire State, a model Republic.
THE DELEGATES WHICH SHOULD BE SELECTED TO FORM A
STATE CONSTITUTION.* The State Convention having been overwhelmingly adopted, the question which most demands present atten. tion is, what reforms are desirable, and how the attainment of them can be best secured; for we must not conceal from ourselves that what the people are to gain, somebody is to lose ; and the losers will resist the loss with an energy to be feared, because its motive will be disguised. The conscious vulnerability of existing chartered monopolies makes an election to the legislature, of both their known and secret beneficiaries, an object which the interested usu. ally pursue with success; and the same principle, aug. mented by a new danger, will crowd such persons into the Convention, where they will be but too willing to favor any project that will leave them in possession of special privileges, at the expense of some change in the mode by which the privileges are to be perpetuated. The danger from this source is peculiarly great, because public attention has been directed more to a reform of the terms on which special privileges are granted than to a discontinuance of all such
• Published in 1845.
privileges. But equality is our boast, and shall we not practice it? It is our right, and shall we not perfect it? Liberty is enjoyed in England, and many other countries, as fully as we enjoy it. We excel all nations in only equality of privileges; and the great question for the Convention to decide is whether all privileges granted by law to any one association of men shall not be common to every other set of men who choose to associate and possess them.
Another class of reforms, against which we ought to apprehend danger, are those that increase the political powers of the people; as, for instance, that all offices shall be elective; that the State shall be divided into single representative districts; and that the right to call Conventions shall never he again abandoned to the Legislature, but retained by the people, as a practical guarantee of their sovereignty. These argumentations of the popular influence will ratably diminish the influence of partisan leaders, who now control all nominations for elective offices, and dictate all executive appointments; and who will therefore employ every accustomed intrigue, and arouse every possible prejudice, to secure seats in the Convention for persons friendly to the control and dictation that are sought to be abrogated.
Alarming as are the foregoing dangers, lest the lamb should be delivered to the care of the wolf, no preventive exists but to obtain from the people decidedly-expressed feelings in favor of the desired reforms ; for our managing politicians of every creed will rarely outrage unequivocal expressions of the public will. We shall obtain an amended judiciary, and of equal value, whoever may be chosen as delegates ; but the reforms to which the preceding observations refer, and kindred measures, are favored by only a
portion of our citizens. To obtain these reforms the Convention was principally advocated; and to prevent their obtainment, the Convention was mainly opposed. To de. liver it up now to those who thus opposed it, would be equivalent to the old adage of yielding a pail full of milk, and then upsetting it. We are not forced to adopt the recommendations of the Convention; and hence we need not fear should the most radical reformers control it. A Convention which will not submit reforms to the option of the people, is more to be deplored than a Convention which will submit too much; for the people possess the power to reject, but not to add. When the Legislature submits any subject to a committee, a majority thereof is always selected from persons who favor the referred subject, because an unfriendly majority would render a reference nugatory; so we may as well have voted against a Convention, as vote for delegates who are hostile to changes, and especially to those which the Convention was called to effect.
STATE DEBT AND TAX LIABILITY.
That the new Constitution should restrain the Legisla ture, in the creation of debt and the imposition of taxes, was originally called the People's Resolution, to characterize its alleged importance to the political influence and pecuniary security of the people. When a city wishes to improve its streets, the persons at whose expense, and for whose ostensible benefit, the improvement is to be made, are always consulted preliminarily, and their decision is equitably the only justification for the expenditure. So