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That every person of adult age, being a legal voter in any town or parish, shall be considered as of the religious opinion and sentiment of such society, as is mentioned in said act, and be liable to be taxed for the purposes mentioned in said act, unless he shally previous to any vote, authorized in and by said act, deliver to the clerk of said town or parish, a declaration in writing, with his name thereto subscribed, in the following words, to wit:
"I do not agree in religious opinion, with a “majority of the inhabitants of this town.”
This, it was supposed, would remove all objections and silence all complaints against the Ministerial act, but it was soon found that the number of those opposed to the act was increasing. At every session of the Legislature, efforts were made to repeal the act, until the year 1807, when the Legislature repealed the offensive parts of it, divesting the towns of all power, to act or pass any vote for the building of meeting-houses or the support of ministers, leaving every individual to decide for himself whether he would contribute anything for the promotion of those objects. It was well that this act was continued so long under various modifications. It has taught us a valuable lesson, that all laws must be made in the spirit of our free institutions, or they will be neither satisfactory, useful or permanent.
It was for some time supposed that the dissatisfaction of the people with the Ministerial act, arose from their objections to its details, and they were modified. But this appeared to have no other effect than to increase the opposition to the act.
And at length the people spoke to the Legislature in a language which could not be misunderstood, -we will not permit the Legislature to interfere in any manner with our religious concerns. When this act was repealed, great fears were entertained that the cause of religion would suffer, that public worship could not be supported without the aid of the law, that ministers would be driven from their profession for want of a support, but the condition of the clergy was improved by the repeal of the act. And now after the experience of more than forty years, it is evident that the time had arrived for setting aside that system of supporting public worship by taxation, which was adopted by our puritan fathers, and which was so necessary in that age for the support of a pious and learned clergy, and which had been so beneficial in the first settlement of this State. But useful as that system had been, while those in the minor sects were few in number, it proved otherwise when their numbers had greatly increased.
As none but the Congregationalists taxed them for the support of the gospel, they naturally imbibed a strong prejudice against that order, but since the cause has been removed, since all the christian sects have been placed on an equal footing, that prejudice is wearing off, and there is a fair prospect that all the christian sects will treat each other in a true christian spirit.
The next section in the Constitution of Pennsylvania, which attracted attention was the 15th section in the frame of government, which was amended and made the 16th section of our constitution. It has been seen that by the Constitution of Pennsylvania, the supreme legislative power was vested in the Assembly, and the supreme exccutive power was vested in the Governor and Council. The latter was vested with no legislative power, nor had they the slightest connexion with the Assembly in legislation. This was not satisfactory to the framers of our Constitution,and they so amended it, as to require all bills of public nature to be first laid before the Governor and Council for their perusal and proposals of amendment, before they should be read in General Assembly for the last time of debate and amendment.
This amendment, at first view, will appear to be of no importance, as it conferred on the Governor and Council no power in legislation, and yet in practice it proved to be of great importance, -it affected the whole course of legislation, rendering the Governor and Council nearly a co-ordinate branch of the legislature.
No one who personally knew Gov. Chittenden, would hesitate to say that he was the author of this amendment, his sagacity and his experience enabled him to foresee the importance of it. He had been President of the Council of Safety from its first organization. He knew the men who composed that Council, and he foresaw that many of them would be members of the Council under the Constitution. He had also been a member of several Conventions, and was acquainted with the members, and knew that many of them would be members of the House of Representatives. And his good sense and experience taught him that they would need the advice and direction of the Governor and Council. And there is very little doubt that he contemplated the very mode of legislation which was pursued at the first session, as the result of this slight connexion between the two Houses in legislation. And that it would en
able the Governor and Council to exert an influence upon the House of Representatives. Accordingly we find that at the first session, as all bills originating in the Assembly were to be laid before the Governor and Council for amendment, the assembly in several instances requested the Governor and Council to lay bills before them, doubtless because they considered them more capable of drafting bills, and that it would save them the trouble of amending the bill if sent from the House. But another practice was introduced and continued through the Septennary of far greater importance. Whenever the Governor and Council proposed amendments to a bill from the House, and the House could not concur in the amendments, the two Houses joined in Grand Committee to discuss the subject and report their opinion to the Assembly. And this mode of proceeding was pursued, in all cases when any important subject was debated in the Assembly, they re quested the Governor and Council to join in grand Committee.
Gov. Chittenden of course presided and usually took a leading part in the debate. He never made a set speech, but would seize on some prominent point, and by a few sensible and forcible