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discussion, were in accordance with his preexisting and expressed opinions. He was opposed to all projects of internal improvements, such as the Chenango canal, whose eventualities were the entailment of a certain debt upon the state, without the slightest prospect of reimbursement from income, even to the extent of the ordinary expenses of repairs. He was one of those statesmen who did not esteem it prudent to contract a debt to develop the resources of a section of country, whose trade and business was not sufficient to maintain and superintend the work constructed; and on this question he agreed in opinion, not only with a large majority of the people of the county, but with many distinguished men in the state. This, it is true, is a subject which has afforded, and always will, a wide range of discussion, and even fair-minded men might possibly entertain antagonistic views in regard to particular projects, and even the general proposition as above stated j but that generation on whom the burthen of canceling the debt might be cast, would not be likely to disagree in regard to the wisdom or prudence of measures that submerged their country in debt. It is difficult to limit the powers of commerce, or even to define the extent of taxation or burthen a highly commercial people can bear, without materially affecting the healthful action of trade. Our own experience as a nation shows the paralysing effects and the ruinous consequences of an overshadowing and crushing public and private indebtedness; and it shows, too, that an animated but steady application to industrial pursuits, aided by extensive commercial relations, how soon a people can wipe out and even forget financial embarrassments. We have only to look at a kindred nation, whose annual revenues exceed our own five fold, and whose public debt, set down in figures, would seem ponderous enough "to crush out" seventeen millions of people; yet we see that nation adding millions to the annual burthens of its subjects, and fitting out naval armaments sufficiently extensive to blockade the approaches by sea of a power whose boundaries circumscribe a large portion of two continents, and some portion of a third, and whose ambition reaches to grasp at a fourth, and this mighty effort is sustained by the power of commerce and trade, domestic and foreign, without seeming to disturb in the least the general prosperity of the country. But here we must pause. The people of the most powerful nations on the continent of Europe, with the exception of France, and she is sustained by internal and external trade, are literally groaning under the burthen of taxation, much of it being required to pay the interest on public debt; and so little credit have many of their governments with the money kings of the day, that they can not negotiate a loan except at a ruinous discount of fifteen or twenty per cent. The credit of an impoverished country, or whose subjects are ripe for rebellion, will not command a premium with modern money lenders.
There are but few men in the walks of civil life, and especially those whose minds have been embellished with nothing more than a common school education, who burst forth like meteors, blaze for a moment, attract universal attention, and then become as suddenly extinguished and forgotten. This, however, was the brief course of Mr. Wright in this county. He came from Vermont, and settled within the limits of the present town of Russia, about the year 1793, where he engaged in the business of farming, which, in a new country, consists, for the first few years, in opening roads, clearing up lands, and erecting such buildings as may be required for family purposes.
So soon as the country around him had become pretty well filled up with population, he opened a country store, and traded in "West India and dry goods," not neglecting the "cod fish," a very needful article to a full assortment for the country trade in those days. Having made successful progress in farming and merchandising, Mr. Wright next turned his attention to politics, in which he prospered remarkably well for a time. He was elected member of assembly in 1802, and the four following years. He appears to have been the standing candidate of his party, with General Widrig, for a long time, but his popularity could not always last. Dr. Westel Willoughby, Jr., was a townsman of Mr. Wright, all the northern part of the county then being embraced in Norway, a rising man, and competed vigorously with him for popular favor. Notwithstanding his extraordinary native talents and indomitable Yankee perseverance, Mr. Wright was compelled to yield the palm of victory to his rival. At the election, in 1806, his vote was the lowest of three members who obtained certificates of election, and even then was defeated by the popular votes. Willoughby's official canvass was only 43 below Wright's, and this after 63 votes, intended for the former, had been rejected for informality.
In the winter of 1805, the Merchant's Bank, of the city of New York, was chartered, after being strongly opposed, but not without strong suspicions and direct charges of bribery and corruption; and Ebenezer Purdy, a senator, "who introduced in the senate the bill to incorporate the company, finally was compelled to resign his seat, to avoid expulsion for bribery." On the 16th of March, 1805, Luke Metcalf, a member of assembly, made a statement under oath, which was laid before the house, to the effect that Mr. Wright told him, there were fifteen shares of the stock for each member who would favor or vote for the bill incorporating the bank, which would be worth twenty-five per cent on the nominal price of the stock. That Wright afterwards asked Metcalf if he remained opposed to the bank, and being answered in the affirmative, Wright then said, the same provision would be made for those members who would absent themselves, when the vote was taken on the bill, as for those who should be present and vote for it.
Wr. Wright was twice elected to the assembly after his vote on the bank bill, and after this expose; it was not, however, generally known to his constituents, in April, 1805, that he was suspected of improper practices in regard to the incorporation of this bank. His two colleagues in the assembly also voted for the bill, but were not charged with foul conduct, in procuring its passage. The republican party at this time was hostile to the granting of bank charters, the leading men of the party fearing the influence their managers, who were generally federalists, would be able to exert at the elections, by the influence they would give. Governor Lewis, however, favored the incorporation of this bank; and gave an approving vote for it in the council of revision, when it was objected to by Ambrose Spencer, a judge of the supreme court, on the ground that the passage of the bill was procured in both houses by bribery of the members.
This chapter has been arranged into nineteen sections, that being the number of towns in the county. I have endeavored to make the annexed table useful as a reference. The reader will remark a loss of population, in eleven of the towns, in a time of prosperity as great and healthful as any during the present century. These losses have not arisen from a depression in any branch of husbandry. The increase of population in the river towns and villages, along the canal and rail road, and in the towns having wild lands to settle, overbalances these losses, and gives a small addition in the aggregate, for the last ten years; but not equal to the percentage of births over deaths, in the same period.
For the amusement of the curious, I will remark that, four of the towns in the county, commemorate the names of revolutionary generals; the names of three, are derived from Germany; four, from New England; one, is called after a state in the union, and another, after a county in this state; one, bears the name of an empire, and another, a kingdom in Europe; three, are descriptive of the localities which are embraced within their limits, and one, seems an emanation of fancy.
The county is now divided into the following towns, which are given, with the dates of organization, and the population of each town, in 1845, and 1855: