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member operates as a negative upon the law, which, in many instances, may be only temporary and affecting the rights of only a few people; but in fixing the fundamental law of the state, it only required the majority of the voices of those who might choose to speak to control the destinies of millions. It is not my object to write a political treatise, and I therefore forbear further remark. I have aimed to give a true statement of the events of this period, and believe I have done it.
At the succeeding annual election, in 1847, the county performed a complete political somerset. James Feeter, in the first district, and Lawrence L. Merry, in the second, whigs, were elected to the assembly by considerable majorities, and Thomas Burch, whig, was chosen senator in the senate district. The defeated candidates were two radical democrats and one hunker. This was preparatory to the canvass for the presidency in 1848. Hitherto, for a period of about forty years, the people of the county had not been represented in the congress of the United States, by a man who was not known and recognized as a republican or democrat, but Henry P. Alexander, a highly respectable whig, was this year elected to congress from the district composed of Herkimer and Montgomery, and was not very badly beaten when again a candidate in 1850.
I hardly need say, in this connection, that the whig party has not obtained any ascendency in the county since 1847, except in the election of Mr. Alexander.
It is now, 1855, sixty-four years since this county was erected, and it may not be uninteresting to some to take a brief view of the state of political parties in it during that period. It is in no respect of any moment, except to show the current of public feeling at home in regard to the political questions which have agitated the country since the foundation of the national government and the formation of political parties, consequent upon the diversity of opinions not only in respect to the federal constitution of 1787, but also in regard to what was esteemed the true principles and proper form of government to be adopted by the American states, as well as the fair and just interpretation of that instrument. The subject of American politics and American political parties, derives all its interest and importance from the fact that the state and national governments are administered conformably to the popular will, enunciated in the form prescribed by written fundamental rules. Since the county was organized, the representatives in the popular branch of the legislature, the assembly, have been elected wholly, or in part, by the anti-federal, republican and democratic parties fifty-four years. I use these names to designate the same political party in succession at different periods of time. I should add here a word of explanation; the above period embraces every year when the candidate elected was nominated by the political party above designated. Of the twelve state senators elected from the county at different times, two were federalists, nine were republicans and one was a whig. There have been three state conventions to modify, alter and change the state constitution, and republican delegates were chosen to each, except Richard Van Horne, in 1821. Six republican electors of president and vice-president, have been selected in the county, and one whig. In respect to the members of congress sent from the county, I have had some difficulty in ascertaining the whole number. From the best information within my reach, there were twelve in all; and of these, one was a federalist, nine were republicans or democrats, one was an independent, chosen in opposition to the regularly nominated candidate, although he claimed to be a republican, and one was a whig.
There are but few counties in the state, if any, in which the population has shown such steady and uniform adherence to the republican or democratic party, and where the political men of that party have been so frequently elected to office by the people. And I am proud as a citizen of the county, to record the fact, that hitherto there has not been a single instance, save one, of corruption and malconduct charged against our public men, and those who have "gone to that bourne from whence no traveler returns," now "rest from the labors of life's toilsome pilgrimage," leaving behind them fame and characters untainted and untarnished. The financial article of the constitution of 1846 has been . recently modified so as to allow the legislature to contract a debt to a limited amount to complete the state canals. A majority of the electors in the county who voted on this modification, were in favor of the amendment. The vote was a small one, and affords no evidence of a change of opinion in the county favorable to an unlimited grant of power to the legislature over the credit and finances of the state. This review closes with the year 1854, and will not be resumed by the author of this work.
Note.—The reader, I doubt not, will excuse a brief allusion to a subject which has, on more than one occasion, attracted public attention.
The governor, in his annual message to the legislature in 1831, had directed attention to the accumulating surplus revenue of the United States, under the operation of the tariff laws, and the senate of this state raised a select committee consisting of Mr. Benton, Mr. Mather and Mr. Deits, to whom that part of the message was committed. The members of the committee gave the subject their early and earnest attention, made up their minds to present a report to the senate, and designated Mr. Benton to prepare it. In the mean time, as Mr. Hammond states, the assembly, on the 10th of March, passed a concurrent resolution, without a division, declaring that the surplus revenue ought to be annually distributed among the several states, without alluding to the constitutional incompetency of congress to act on the subject. I transcribe what Mr. Hammond says in vol. II, of the Political History of New York, page 353. "It [the resolution] was sent to the senate, but was by that body referred to a select committee, of which Mr. Benton was chairman, who, on the 4th of April, made a long and able report, in which they discussed the constitutional question in relation to the powers of congress to make the proposed division without decidedly expressing their views on the question." [Senate Documents of 1831, No. 79.] Mr. Hammond seems to infer that because the committee withheld a decided expression of opinion as to the constitutional power of congress to make the distribution under the power then vested, that the committee entertained doubts on that subject. This conclusion does great injustice to two of that committee, Messrs. Benton and Deits, at any rate. The whole argument of the report on this point, which Mr. Hammond says was an able one, went to show that congress had no more power to create a surplus for the purpose of distribution, than it would have to build a church,
school house or an academy within the territorial limits of one of the states. The committee could not fail to see that they were discussing B subject submitted to their consideration by the executive department of the government, and which had been acted upon by a coordinate branch of the legislature, without any allusion to the constitutional question; and they felt unwilling to meet the difficulties which seemed to them insurmountable, other than by presenting the argument against the exertion of the power by congress in the best possible light and in the most forcible manner they could, and leave the subject without any other expression of opinion. Had the committee entertained any other views, or no decided views at all on the subject under consideration, would they have elaborated an argument in support of principles they repudiated or about which they felt indifferent t There is no subject of constitutional power or legislation, over which the people of this country should be more watchful or guarded than the "money power," wherever it may be exerted, whether by the state or United States.
CHAPTER XL i
1791 To 1855.
William Orendorff, Aaron R. Clark, John Bowman, Samuel Bennett, Samuel Perry, Nathaniel Foster, John Allen.
The catalogue of crime of the higher grades is quite brief. It is believed there was no trial or conviction from 1791 to 1798, when Oneida county was set off. I have gleaned from criminal records of the county only six trials which resulted in convictions and acquittals.
On the 31st of May, 1809, William Orendorff was tried and convicted upon an indictment for a rape, and sentenced to the state prison during his natural life.
On the 5th of June, 1811, Aaron R. Clark was tried and convicted before Mr. Justice Van Ness of the supreme court upon an indictment for manslaughter, and sentenced to the state prison for three years and three months.
On the 15th of September, 1812, John Bowman, who had been previously indicted for murder, was arraigned before Justice Van Ness of the supreme court, D. V. W. Golden, Walter Fish and George Rosecrants county judges, and J. Ingham, assistant justice, and plead not guilty. The following are the names of the jurors empanneled to try the case: Augustus Carpenter, Lucius Wetherby, Benjamin Benjamin, Jr., Jabez D. Wolf, Oliver Miner, James Alexander, Daniel I. Petry, Jost I. Perry, Ezra Mallory, Gibson J., Stranahan, Joseph Pooler and Sheldon Harvey. There were nine witnesses sworn on the part of the prosecution, and examined. Not any witnesses were called and sworn on the part of the prisoner.