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· PUBLISHBD BY THE ANTI-ASSESSMENT COMMITTEE AND DISTRIBUTED' GRATUITOUSLY.
EDITED BY E. MERIAM.]
NEW-YORK, JANUARY 12, 1847.
(Vol. I.....No. 45.
THE CONSTITUTION OF 1847.
STATE CONVENTION. The first day of January, 1847, the Constitution
MONDAY, August 24. framed by the State Convention on the 9th of October,
MUNICIPAL CORPORATIONS. 1846, and ratified and adopted by the people of this *Mr. Alles submitted the following minority report, grcat Commonwealth on the third day of November he having been absent when the majority of Com.
mittee No. 14 reported : of the same year, became the fundamental law of
1. No special act for incorporating any city or the State of New-York-a Commonwealth of such village shall be granted ; but the legislature shall pass vast geographic extent that the people residing at its general laws for incorporating, organizing and de
fining the duties and powers of cities and villages, extreme eastern boundary actually became subject
including the following provisions: to its provisions thirty-one minutes before that import 2. For the opening, widening or altering streets ant instrument became operative at its extreme wes
and avenues, in incorporated cities and villages, the tern boundary.
consent of a majority of persons to be assessed for
each opening, widening or altering, shall be necessary; The members of the Senate and Assembly elected
and the assessment for such improvement shall be to office under the Constitution of 1821 succeed those confined to the streetor avenue to be opened, widened whose terms of office expired with the last moment of
or altered : and no such assessment shall exceed fifty
per cent. of the value of the land assessed. the year 1846. The term of office of the new
03. No city or village corporation shall borrow members commenced with the first moment of the money on the credit or liability of such city or village. year 1847, and will expire with the last moment of
or lend their credit to others, except to repel invasion
or suppress insurrection, and for other purposes, exthe 31st of December of this same year. The Legis
cept by the unanimous consent of every member lative term in 1847 commenced on the first day of elected to the common council of cities, or ot every January, and after this year, on the first day of January
member elected to the board of trustees of villages;
and also, unless by an act of the Legislature, on proof annually, and the Legislature to convene on the second
of such unanimous consent, which act shall specify Tuesday in January, or such other day as the Legis. the object of such law: and shall provide the ways lature shall hereafter provide.
and means, by directing a pro rata. amount of the prin
cipal of such debt to be annually assessed on and THE CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF NEW.
collected from the estates, real and personal, in such YORK OF 1821.
city or village, as a sinking fund for the redemption
of such debt or liability ; but such corporations may The Constitution adopted in 1821, ceased with the
nevertheless make temporary loans in anticipation of last moment of the year 1846. This fundamental
their annual revenue, not exceeding, in any one year, code has been in existence twenty-five years, or ex
twenty-five per cent. of such revenue, or for a longer actly one-fourth of a century, during which time thie
period than six months. population of this great State has increased from 1,372,
It was read and referred to the appropriate com810 to 2,604,495. Many, very many of those who
mittee of the whole. adopted the Constitution in 1821, have ceased their earthly labors—others have removed from this State,
THURSDAY, Oct. 8. and others still remain-probably, the last the least
CITIES AND VILLAGES. in number.
*Mr. MURPHY moved instructions to the committee
on revision to report the following section : THE NEW CONSTITUTION.
Ø -. It shall be the duty of the Legislature to proThe new Constitution, section 8, of article 1. pro
vide for the organization of cities and incorporated hibits the judges of the Supreme Court from holding villages, and especially to restrict their power of taxany other office or public trust, and also from exercis
ation, assessment, borrowing money, contracting debts ing any power of appointment to public oflice.
and loaning their credit, so as to prevent abuses in By section 16, of Article 3, no local or private bill, assessments and in contracting debt by such muniwhich may be passed by the legislature, shall embrace
cipal corporations. more than one subject which shall be expressed in Mr. VAN SCHOONHOVEN moved to add to the section, the title.
the following: By section 9 of article 8, it is made the duty of the “But, shall not affect any existing legislative proLegislature, in the organization of cities and villages, visions respecting liabilities heretofore incurred by to restrict the power of taxation and assessment, con
any city or village corporation." tracting debts, and loaning their credit, so as to pre Mr. Nicholas moved the previous question and the vent abuses in assessments, and in contracting debiby amendment of Mr. V. S. was negatived-37 to 39. municipal corporations.
Mr. Harris now movel to strike out the three last By section 1, of article 6, the court of impeach-|| ments is distinctly required to be composed of a Mr. MURPHY opposed the motion. He said he inmajor part of two classes instead of a majority of the serted those lines that there might be some signification persons.
given to the resolution, which he proceeded to explain. Mr. Skidmore's memorial in the Bloomingdale road
Mr. Nicoll move the previous question on the matter, is granted by section 8 of article 6-aud the whole section. Williain Street matter is also guarded against-the The amendment of M:. Harris was rejected, and 'possum wharf bill, by section 16 of article 3-assess the section offered by Mr. Murphy adopted, ayes 94. ment abuses, by section 9, of article 8-and the organi Nays, Messrs. Dodd and Townsend-2. zation of the Court of Impeachments by section 1 of Mr. Harris, from the committee on revision, reportarticle 6.
ed back the section presented by Mr. Murphy, and * Mr. Alles was for several years Mayor of the
it was agreed to. City of New-York, and Mr. Murphy was formerly
The above provision forms Sec. 9 of Art. 8, of the Mayor of the City of Brooklyn.
COUNTY OF NEW-YORK TAXES. The corporation comptroller, Mr. Ewen, has published in a printed sheet a statement setting forth the aggregate of the valuation of both real and personal property in the several wards as returned by the ward assessors in 1845 and 1846. We have copied from this document the tables below.
The population of the wards as set forth in Mr. David T. Valentine's City Manual, was in 1845 as follows: 1st Ward 12,230 10th
20.993 2d 6,952 11th
27,259 11,900 12th
13,378 21,000 13th
22,411 5th 20,362 141h
21,103 6th 19,343 15th
19,522 7th 25,556 16th
40,350 8th 30,907 17th
30,907 18th included in 18th.
ASSESSMENT OF 1845.
Personal Estate. 1st, 26 441,800.00
28,671,384.98 2d 13,524,200.00
5,495,145.52 4th 7,819,100.00
1,973,088.00 5th 9,095,200.00
1,598,319.00 6th 7,240,600.00
1,082,138.00 7th 10.784,767.00
3,234,535.00 8th 11,156,350.00
1,591,635.00 9th 9,594,600.00
171,585.71 12th 5,623,810.00
1,762.550.00 13th 4,139,300.00
310,902.24 14th 6,801,800.00
8,751,210 76 16th 16,778,175.00
1,000,600.00 17th 10,369,038.00
$62,787,5.27.91 ASSESSMENT FOR 1846. Real Estate.
Personal Estate. 29,046,350.00
1,982,337.00 9,171 300.00
2,346,327.00 7,274,750 00
939,635.00 10,85 1,215.00
1,754,898.57 10,67 1.215.00
assessors. Referred to the select committee heretofore || felt it peculiarly the duty of this Convention-seeing
TUESDAY, July 14th. appointed on this subject, consisting of Messrs. Town that legislative efforts to effect this object have EQUALIZATION OF STATE ASSESSMENTS.
send, Ayrault, Jones, W. B. Wright and Swackliamer. heretofore been defeated by the representatives of de
WEDNESDAY. Sept. 30. linquent localities, to provide means for an equitable Mr. TOWNSEND moved an enquiry as to the estab
imposition of the national tax, which will soon by its lishment of a State Board of Assessors with power to
Mr. Townsend presented a memorial from Brown, |
large addition to our present half inill State tax, make equitably adjust the relative appraisement of the real Brothers & Co., of New York, for an equalization of ||
the present inequal mode of valuation a still greater and personal estate in the several counties, with refer taxes, and a state board of assessors. Referred.
enormity upon his own county, (New-York,) which ence to a just and uniform levy of the State or National
THURSDAY, Oct. 1. for some years had borne nearly two-thirds of the direct taxation. Agreed to.
EQUALIZATION OF TAXATION.
State tax. Mr. T. would leave to other gentlemen,
whose counties suffered as his own, the farther advo-
cacy of the measure, and hoped that under the favor
with which the Convention apparently received the Mr. Townsend moved a resolution of enquiry as section:
suggestion, it would be speedily adopted. He would to the propriety of adopting the following as a section
ý 1. The legislature shall at its next annual session of the Constitution:
after the adoption of this constitution, provide by law
i only state in addition that numerous memorials had
been presented to us on the subject from some of Resolved, That the committee appointed to revise for equalizing the valuation of property for the pure the most intelligent and respectable citizens of the articles passed upon by the Convention be requested poses of taxation as made by the assessors and super- |
State. to cousider the propriety of placing the following visors in the respective counties of this state: so that
Mr. GRAHAM considered this to be mere matter of section in the articles respecting the creation and du- \ each county shall contribute its proportionate share to Il each county shall contribute its proportionate share to legislation-and therefore moved to lay the proposition
je ties of the state officers : the support of government.
on the table. - The comptroller, treasurer, surveyor and Laid on the table to be printed.
The motion was rejected, ayes 37, nays 55. attorney general shall constitute a board to adjust the
WEDNESDAY, Oct. 7. Mr. R. CAMPBELL, Jr., hoped the section would be appraisement of the assessors of the several counties,
Mr. Towssasd moved the following as an additional adopted or some other, by which the legislature should of the valuation of the real and personal estate therein,
section, being the unanimous report of the committee
l be directed to revise our tax laws. and to provide for an equitable imposition of state or of five on the subject:
Mr. Bascom moved to strike out“ at its next session national district taxation.
Ø. Mr. TallmaDGE said this was a lofty principle, but
The Legislature shall, at its next session after
after the adoption of this Constitution," and to strike the adoption of this Constitution, provide by law for out“ proportionate," and insert “ equitable.” he hoped the committee on enrollment would not be equalizing the valuation of property for the purpose il
Mi. TOWNSEND assented. allowed to put any articles into the Constitution on of taxation, as made by the assessors and supervisors
Mr. Loomis moved to add as follows: this subject. in the respective couniies of this State, so that each
* And also to secure the equalization of taxation acMr. TOWNSEND stated that he had seen the inefcouty shall contribute its proportionate share to the
cording to property, without regard to the distiuction fectual attempts made by the legislature to enforce by support of government.
of real and personal estate." salutary laws provisions to equalize the imposition of
Mr. T. in view of the fact that this measure had |
Mr. Perkins said the effect would be to compel the State tax, and he now hoped we should be enabled received the unanimous approvalof a comunittee select
the assessment of personal property without regard to establish the principle in the Constitution we were ed from every section of the State, wonld not occupy
to its indebtedness. He was not prepared to assent to making. While the facts existed as exhibited in the but a brief period in his remarks upon the subject.
that. returns before us, of the inequality of the Assessors' From the investigations that he had made into the
Mr. MURPHY moved to add " and such property appraisement, with reference to the true value of nature of the returns to the State, exhibiting the
shall be taxed at the place of domicil of the owner.” property returned by them, he hoped no one would amount of the State tax in the various counties, he
Mr. TOWNSEND suggested to Mr. L. that he should oppose the reference of this resolution. In the counfelt authorised to assert, that whilst in most of the
withdraw his amendment, and offer it as a distinct ties of New-York and Kings, the full value of the real western counties real estate was computed nearly at
section. estate (though not of the personal) was returned, its cash valuation, in the counties of Kings and New
Mr. Loomis assented and withdrew his amendment, whereas in the county of Albany but about one-half York, often above its cash value by the assessors, in
(carrying with it Mr. Murphy's). of the real value of property was taxed, and he beterinediate counties, and others in the northern and
Mr. PERKINS opposed the proposition as vague and lieved in the county of Rensselaer even a smaller prosouthern sections of our State, escaped with the pay
indefinite. portional estimate was made. The principle of equal ment of sums less than one quarter of what should
Mr. Harris urged the importance of equalizing taxtaxation was a just one, and he hoped that we should be their proportionate contribution to the State tax.
ation, so that all should be burdened alike. This not be prevented from inserting it in the Constitution, This was affected by an open and understood fraud
all concedeil did not exist now. He therefore propoHe did not care how the board of State Assessor's or (he would almost say) in the valuation of both real
sed the following substitute for the proposition : revisors should be constituted; in this respect he and personal property.
$ -. All property subject to taxation shall be taxed would yield to the best suggestions of gentlemen.
(Mr. Graham here made some observation not un according to its actual value, to be ascertained in such Mr. CROOKER: Does the gentleman suppose that derstood.)
manner as the Legislature shall direct, making the all the personal property in his own city is returned ?
Mr. T. continued and said the restlessness of the
same equal and uniformn throughout the State. No Mr. TOWNSEND: Certainly not. Nordo I for a moment gentleman might be explained from the fact that his
one species of property from which a tax may be colsuppose that 110,000,000 returned as the whole amount county (Ulster) happened to be one which on the face
lected, shall be taxed higher than another species of of personal property in the State--including the capitals of the returns, appeared as obnoxious to the censure
property of equal value. of all our business incorporations and associations-repthat he had just uttered. He did not know but if the
Mr. White inoved to lay the whole subject on the resents a one-fourth part of what actually exists—it is to systein of assessing personal property was continued,
table. Carried, ayes 62, nays 44. remedy this difficulty that I propose some constitutional that in the salutary operation of some provision of the
Ayes.-Messrs. Allen. Angel, Bowdish, Brayton, action as well as the more palpable fraud of estimacharacter now moved, a large amount of personal
Bruce, Cambreleng, Candee, Chamberlain, Clyde, sing real estate, in such a manner as not to bear its property might find its way to the tax books in his
Cook, Crooker, Cuddeback, Dana, Dodd, Dorlon, Forfair portion of taxes for other than for local and county own city. He cared not how this might be so long
syth, Graham, Hart, Hoffman, Hotchkiss, A. Huntingpurposes. as a fair and equitable estimate was secured through
ton, E. Huntington, Hyde, Kemble, Kingsley, Kirkland, Mr. TALLMADGE protested against this committee out the State. As at present computed we had about
Mann, Marvin, Miller, Nellis, Nicholas, o Conor, of engrossment having the power to do what the resoone hundred and fifteen millions of personal property
Parish, Patterson, Perkins, President, Rhoades, Riker, lution contemplated. It would unsettle all they had reported in the whole State, including all our incorpo
Ruggles, Riissell, Salisbury, Sanford, Sears, Shaver, done so well, and set everything they had finished, rated and associated public capital--which two items
Shaw, Shelden, E. Spencer, W. H. Spencer, Stanton, all afloat again. alone should nearly cover that sum. At an early period
Stetson, Strong, Taggart, J. J. Taylor, W. Taylor, Mr. STETSON said the Legislature had the power to of the session he had noticed this evasion of personal and
Van Schoonhoven, Warren, White,' Wood, Worden, regulate this matter at present. He hoped no new unfair valuation of real property, and had then stated
A. Wright and Yawger.–61. questions would be introduced at this late stage of his concurrence in the wiews of a distinguished gentle
Noes.-Messrs. Archer, Ayrault, F. F. Backus, proceedings, man, (8. B. Ruggles,) who, in an official report, had
H. Backus, Baker, Bascom, Bergen, Birr, R. CampMr. CAMBRELENG hoped no more time would be several years recommended real estate alone as the
bell, Jr., Concly, Cornell, Dubois, Flanders, Gebhard, lost on this. He hoped Mr. TOWNSEND would with. best basis for equal and effectual taxation. Those li
Harris, Harrisov, Hunt, Hutchinson, Jones, Kennedy, draw it. who would answer that thus personal property would
Kernan, Loomis, Mic Niel, Morris, Murphy, Munro, Mr. TOWNSEND: It being important, and the prinentirely escape, forget that personal property is repre
Porter, Powers, Richmond, Shepard, Stephens, Swacka ciple a correct one, I must press it, Sir. sented by articles either living or inanimate, and as
hamer, Taft, Tounsend, Tuthill, Waterbury, Willard, Mr. CAMBLELENG moved the previous question. all such must rest or abide in some locality of land,
W. B. Wright, Young and Youngs.-40. Mr. STETSON would not give this central power by storage, rents, &c., they would be called upon to
REMARKS. authority to go 250 miles or any where to fix the value
bear their share of the burthen at first for convenience of property.
This is a very important matter, and the Legislature enforced upon fast property. We have provided for The previous question was not seconded; ayes 47,
should take up this subject and organize a state board a term of years a continnance of a small State tax. noes 7-54. No quorum.
to equalize the valuation of real and personal property. Under the heavy expenditures of the general governMr- TOWNSEND (by consent) moved to refer the
The system is now very defective. In New York ment, the revenues from customs, even with duties resolution to a select committee of five. Carricd.
and Kings county, real estate is assessed at its full value, upon the present free articles, will render a large
while in the other counties of the State real estate is Tuesday, Sept. 291h. national debt or direct taxation for the national ex
often assessed at less than one fourth its value, notwithMr. Townsend presented a memorial signed by chequer unavoidable. Preferring that the govern
standing all the assessments are made under one Jonathan Thompson and others, citizens of the city of ment should pay as they go, and believing that the l and the same general state law. A strict compliance New-York, for the organization of a state board of people would require this mode of proceeding, he had with this law would remedy the evil.
worst evils of the feudal system, which they served centrate the experience and wisdom of a greater numWe present to our readers the able remarks made
to break up. He wished to tell his friend from Albany, || ber of persons for the common benefit, by wise laws.
(Mr. Harris,) that these charters are essentially feudal Special legislation defeats this design. Localities for by the Hon. Henry C. Murphy, in the State Con
instruments. The prerogative of granting them which which this legislation is made, do not derive the benefit vention, in relation to Municipal Corporations.
was at first only exercised by the lords, came to be of the wisdom of the whole legislative body. A CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTIOX.
exercised by the king. This was, however, only a charter as now granted is for the most part a piece of
change of the creating power; and there it has con empiricism by ihe wiseacres of the place where it is THURSDAY, Sept. 24.
tinued ever since in Europe. These charters have to be put in force. After being prepared at home, it Prayer by the Rev. Mr. Wilkins.
always since been granted by the king, or prescribed, is sent to the legislature to be passed. When it reaches The President presented a report from the register which presumes such a grant. The powers conferred that body, no one except the representatives from the in chancery of ihe amount of money's in that court.
have been:he saneas were exercised by the misnamed localily cares what it contains. It is thus left in charge Referred.
free cities. In the same form the system was trans of the same interest as that which prepared it. He CORPORATIONS OTHER THAN BANKING AND
ferred to this country. The charters of New-York would appeal to every memberofine Convention who
and Albany will turnish a sufficient illustration of this had been a member of the legislature, if that was not MUNICIPAL
remark. They were granted by the Colonial Governor the course pursued in reference to all local bills. They The Convention resumed the consideration of the in the name of the king. That of New-York, granted are passed without examination becalise they affect report of committee No. 17, on incorporations other by Montgomerie, provides that no person, not being ouly a particular community. In this way opposite than muuicipal and banking.
a free citizen of the city, shall at any time hereafter and dangerous principles are put into the statute book ; The 1st section read as follows:
use any trade or occupation within the city and its and the wholesome and beneficient provisions of an 0 l. Special laws creating incorporations or associa- || precincts, or shall sell or expose to sale any goods or united action on the part of the legislature for a long tions, or grauting to the:n exclusive privileges, shall commodities by retail, in any lionse or place, except
period are oftentimes lost. Ii would only be necessanot be passed. But the Legislature may pass yeneral in the times of public fairs. Ridiculous as this pro ry for him to show how this inode of legislation had laws by which my persons may become incorporated,
vision is, it may be remarked, that there are those | operated in regard to cities to present to the mind of on complying witi, the provisions to be contained in who still maintain that it is not only in full force yet, every candid man the manifest inapropricty of it. He such laws. And all Corporations shall be salvject to but also that it is beyond the control of the state. For had examiued for this purpose the charters of the five och general laws as the Louislature may, froin time in a communication made by the comptroller to the largest cities of the state, and the powers conferred to time enaci, not inconsistent with ile provisions of li common council in 1841, he says that ihe charter of upon their corporations. He would selectone subject this constitution.
New York is a constitution of a body politic, erecting --that of opening streets; and by a comparison of the Mr. MURPHY said that he hoped the gentleman from the city of New-York into a free city of itself. Her different provisions in those cities in regard to it, furHerkiner (Mr. Loomis) who was the chairman of the independent sovereignty in her local matters, is older uish an illustration of the contradictions in principle committee which Imd reported this section, prohibit than that of the state itself. Thut charter sull stands
which existed among them--contradictious so direct ing the passage of special acts of incorporation in any as much a protection to hercitizens from stilte encroach that if some provisions were right, the others must case, anıl requiring the enactment of general laws ments, as it was before the revolution, from the exas. be wrong. under which corporations might be formed, would lot, tiods of the British: crown." This charter was obtain [Mr. M. was here interrupted by the expiration of as he had just intimated, amead it by excepting mui el like the charters of the free cities of the feudal the time allowed by the rule for having the floor.) cipal corporations from its operation. It was true that tines, by the payment of money-one thousand pounds Mr. RICHMOND thought it was time that something he (Mr. XI.) had reported as a ininority of the coin having been pail the goveruor for it. Such pretensions should be done io prevent corporations over-riding mittee on municipal corporations a provision of that as here set up for that instrument, of course cannot and running down the people. He referred to a character in regard to them, yet, as there was a possi be tolerated. [Mr. Morris said that no such claims message of Gov. Tompkins and legislative proceedbility that the subject would not again be reached, he
were advances in this Convention, 1 Mr. M. pro ings on this subject, and said that half of the time the believed it would be best to meet the whole question ceeded :-He knew that; he merely alluded to the legislature was consumed with that class of legislation, now. Iu fact, there was no necessity for distinct prop
New-York charter to show how we had borrowed Mr. SHEPARD opposed the amendment of Mr. Stow. ositions of the same character for different corporations. from Europe. He knew that the members of this Mr. Stow briefly continued the debate in explanaIf there were to be a provision on the subject at all house from that city and the great body of its enlight tion. in the constitution, it should extend to all the corpo ened citizens, repndiated the doctrines to which be Mr. MURPHY again addressed the Convention until rations to which it might be deemed advisable to ap alluder, and he doubted not that he would have their 2 o'clock when the Convention took a recess. ply the principle of the section before us. At all support on this question. The form of city organiza Conclusion of Mr. Murphy's Remarks, in the Conevents, he wished the gentleman to hear before he tion thus introduced in the colony, has been kept up vention, on Thursday, Sept. 24, on “Incorporations proposed his amendment. He regarded this as the | by the legislature; and though that bodly bas not been other than Banking and Municipal.” contest against privileges conferred by law. We were I guilty of granting privileges so absurd as the colonial
Mr. Murphy continued the remarks which he was now to determine whether we would preserve that government, yet it has retained the form of special
legislation in regard to such organization. Each city same equality of rights as well between corporations
interrupted in making before. He would first, how
ever, notice an observation of the gentleman from themselves as between corporations and individuals, as still has its separate charter, and no uniformity exists
Erie (Mr. Stow), who had just taken his seat. That is said to exist under our institutions between individu- || in the powers conferred upon them, such as prevails
gentleman said he would at a proper time show that als. On this point he believed the grossest violations in regard to the towns and counties of the state. It
the cizies created by the fendal lords were free cities, of personal rights were to be found in our municipal is to this practice of the olden time that we must atcorporations; and that however important the subject
and that they were the cause of the civilization of tribute the idea of special charters which has come might be in reference to other corporations, it was still to be considered so necessary for them. It might well
Europe. He (Mr. M.) did not intend to dispute about more so in regard to them. These innovations upon be asked why a city, more than a town or a county,
terms. What he had said, and would now repeat, was the rights of individuals resulted almost altogeler
that those cities were free only in the sense that they should have a particular organization of its own dis
were made independent of their lords by the charters from the form of legislation by special charters. He tinct from other cities. The gentleman from St. Law
which were granted to them. So far as regarded the did not charge a wanton disregard of those rights upon rence, (Mr. PERKINS,) said this morning that a popu
liberties of the inhabitants, they were not so. The the legislature ; but the evil resulted necessarily from lation of 10,000 individuals might need more local
corporate body exercised the same tyranny over the the mode of creating those corporations and investing powers than one of 1000. This may be true ; but it
trades and occupations and other natural rights of the them with their power by single and separate acts. is not more true in regard to cities than in regard to
people as did the baron before he exempted them from He would therefore endeavor to shew the mischief towns. Towns, whatever their population may be, are
his control. He would not dispute as to their being of this practice and the propriety of an uniforin oraui under the same general lair. The difficulty of the
the cause of civilization of Europe. A high state of zation for every other species of municipalities. The gentlemin from St. Lawrence consists in supposing
refinement might exist, as it has often existed, and gentleman from Herkimer had given a sketch of the that all the power conferred by a general law inust
now exists, in despotic governments. When he was history of corporations generally, but had not referred be exercised, when in fact the town or the city may
interrupted, he was proceeding to show the incongruito those cities and towns. He (Mr. M.) would refer exercise it or not as its circumstances require. When
not used it is dormant. to some points in the history of the latter for the pur
ties and inconsistencies of the charters of the cities of Thus the right of taking
New-York, Brooklyn, Albany, Rochester and Buffalo pose of showing how the evil of which he complained wharfage, if conferred upon all the cities of the state,
—the five largest cities in the state. It was to these had grown up in this country, where we had acloped | would be used only by such as had a water frout. An
variations that he traced the cause of the evils under the saine form of legislation for the government of 1 interior city would have no occasion to use it. But
which our cities were suffering, as would appear from cities as was in use in Europe, without having reward there would be no objection to conferring that power
an examination of one single subject, that of opening to the difference between the fundamental institutions | upon all cities generally. A general law might pro
of streets ; for from one power we might learn the of the two countries. Charters of cities were originally vide dilterent organizations for different amounts of
character of all. It is well known that streets in our nothing but grants of immunities and privileges by population in the same manner as the law in regard virtue of baronial prerogative. They were iniended to religious incorporationis now in force, provides for
towns are opened upon one uniform plan, that is, the
same proceedings are had in one town as are had for to exempt the inhabitants from personal service to the the organization of different religious denominations
that purpose in any other. All pursue the same course ; lord, and were usually purchased by payments of in different ways. The great object to be obtained by
and an alteration of the general law affects all equally money. They conferred the power of local govern- a general law is to secure the wisdom of the whole
alike. In cities this power is now generally containment, and the corporations thus created, exercised state, or at least of all the parts of the state interested
ed in the acts of incorporation, though it is not in the the same absolute power within the territory that the in it, for the formation of that law; and to prevent lord had done before.
charters of the old cities, but is conferred upon them those incongruities which special legislation presents, Hence grew up in them
by subsequent legislation. When, however, he spoke customs against common right, forbidding the practice and which are the causes of many of the evils under
of a charter of a city he meant that law or body of · cities are la
laws which conferred upon it not only its corporate contravening the rights of the many. Thus the free assessments. The design of state government is not
character, but also the powers which it exercised for cities, as they were called, became the refuge of the only to protect from powerful neighbors, but to con
the government of its inhabitants, and for their accom
modation and convenience. In conferring the power of opening streets, reference must be had to the cases in which the power may be exercised, to the tribunal which is to appraise the property necessary to be taken, to the mode of assessing the means necessary to pay the appraisement, and to enforcing the collection of the assessments, as well as to other particulars. He spoke of these points because he proposed to refer to each of them in detail in regard to each of the cities which he had nained, in order to show the irreconcilable character of many, if not all of them.
As regards i he cases in which streets may be opened, they miy, in the city of New York, be made at the discretion of a majority of the common council, whenever they may deem it necessary or convenient; or, on petition of three-fourths of the owners of the land fronting on the street; in Albany, at the discretion of two-thirds of the common council ; in Brooklyn, only upon petition, and then at the discretion of the common council, but not if a majority of those to be assessed, remonstrate against the improvement ; in Buffalo at the discretion of the common council, but in no case where any building exceeding $1500 in value shall be taken unless with the consent of the owner; in Rochester in no case, where the value of the building shall exceed $1500. Now it is very evi. dent that these plans differ in principle so radically that they cannot all be right. If it be just to prevent the opening of a street in Rochester without the consent of the owner of every building exceeding one thousand dollars in value, then it is unjust to allow it to be done without such consent in Albany; or if it be right to reqnire the vote of two-thirds of the common council of Albany to authorize such improvement, it is not right to permit a similar improvement in Buffalo by a mere majority vote. The propriety or impropriety of these provisions cannot depend upon localities. The law is intended to meet the public wants and at the same time to regard private rights; and these are the same in all communities. So, in regard to the tribunal to which the duties of appraising the damage and assessing the benefit are entrusted. There is, in New-York, three commissioners appointed by the Supreme Court; in Albany, a jury of threo freeholders chosen from a panel of twelve siimmoned by the mayor; in Buffalo, five freeholders chosen by the common council; in Brooklyn three commissioners appointed by the first judge of the county or by the county court. The diversity in principle here is extreme. In some cities it is left to three commissioners selected by the court in the nomination of the local authority, and in others to a jury of three freeholders to determine the damages sustained.There is as much difference between them, as between having a suit tried before a jury or before three men selected for the purpose. Thus, the whole question of trial by jury in civil cases is involved. No one will deny that this is a material distinction in principle. He would hereafter have occasion to show that it is a difference fraught with great evil; but as he was considering this question merely as one of form, it was unnecessary now to do more than allude to the difference of principle.
The means of paying for these improvements are levied in the city of New York, by assessing the lots fronting on the street, and lots lying within half the distance of the next street, on each side of that proposed to be opened, and by imposing one-third of the value of the buildings taken, as a charge upon the city treasury, at the discretion of the commissioners. In Albany and Buffalo, by assessments upon property which the jury may deem benefitted. In Brooklyn, by assessments only upon property within an assessment district, previously determined by the common council. Thus, in Brooklyn the law undertakes to designate specific property in all cases, as benefitted ; while in New York, it declares that in some cases a portion of the expense may be put upon the general treasury. In other words, local assessments only are considered proper for one part of the state, and assessments partly local and partly general for another. Could any thing be more inconsistent? Then, as regards local assessments, there is still a further divis. ion. In New York the benefit is limited to one-half the block; while in Albany the whole matter is left to the three jurymen, who may assess the whole block, or as many blocks as they may deem proper. The assessments are enforced also in different ways. In New-York, by distress warrant against the owner or occupant, and by suit against the parties assessed;
and in default of payment to the collector, by sale of of Art. 1, as follows: (See Section 7, of Art. 1, of the land, redeemable within two years. In Albany, by Constitution of 1847.) sale of land without any previous demand. In Buffalo
Mr. Forsyth moved to add as follows: “But such the assessments are made a lien upon the lands for
compensation shall in no case be reduced by any alone year only, within which time they must be sold ; lowance for prospective benefit." Mr. F. explained and when sold, may be redeemed the same as lands
and defended his amendment. sold under execution. In Brooklyn, they are collected
Mr. MURPHY supported the ainendment of the genby distress warrant; and in default by sale of lands,
lleinan from Ulster (Mr. Forsytii). He believed the subject to redemption within two years. Here again
practice of assessing in any forın for special benefit are contradictions. In Buffalo, assessments are a lien
for any public inprovement, was unsound in princiupon the land for one year only; in other cities, they
ple, because it substitutes an arbitrary instead of a are a lien indefinitely. In Brooklyn, lands cannot be
fixed rule of taxation. It submits to the judgment of sold until the personal property of the person assess
commissioners or assessors to say how much a man ed is exhausted: while in Albany they may be sold.
shall pay for benefit to his property in consequence of even without a demand of payınent, except by ad. the improvement; and thus leaves him at the mercy vertisement.
of mere opinion. It is taxation; and taxation, to be From this brief analysis of the provisions of the just, should be equal. It should bear equally upon charters and laws relating to one single subject, we the whole community interested in the object of the find no two alike in principle. The same want of || tax. It must be established by an uniform rule. The uniformity may be traced throughout in relation to moment a departure from the principle of equality is almost every other power. Every city may be said allowed, and assessors are permitted to say how much to be a law unto itself; and the sovereignty of the or how litile the person assessed is to pay, or how much state, instead of being exercised in its behalt, is abso shall be deducted from the compensation allowed him lutely surrendered to it, to be used at its own discre for his land, his property is taken from him and put tion. As I have already said the practice of the legis at the disposal of the assessors. It is a tyranny of ihe lature has been to conter upon cities just such powers most odious character. He therefore looked to this as they asked for. These powers affecting the locality amendment as asserting a principle important in reonly, the rest of the state has felt indifferent to them. gard to our system of assessments, on which he would Thus our present incongruous system has grown up, now offer a few remarks. That system is founded on the work of different hands in different parts, without the idea that there is a special local benefit resulting any attempt to produce uniformity. The consequen from a public improvement; and therefore that the ces have been great injustice oftentimes to individuals, burden should be thrown off of the public upon the damage to the cities, and much trouble to the judicial private individuals benefitted. The premises are tribunals of the state, arising from the adoption of true ; but the conclusion is false. No public improvewrong principles---from the consequent mistakes of ment can be made without being of special advantage the corporate authorities—and from the necessity of to some locality. The public buildings in this city,-the giving each charter its own judicial interpretation. capital and state house, being located here, for the conThe only remedy for this is an uniform or general law venience of the whole state, contribute much to the defining the powers of cities.
benefit of Albany. The particular location of those It is objected by some that the attempt to bring all
buildings at this spot is a benefit to the lots in their vicinthe cities to the same form of government would in
ity; yet no one thinks of taxing Albany, much less these terfere with the franchises which were granted to some
lots, for the expense of erecting these buildings. of them. In answer to this, it may be remarked that
And why ?-because the object of erecting is to acin principle there should be no privileges or immuni
cominodate the public; and the benefit to the city ties exercised by one city which should not be enjoy
and to the vicinity of the buildings is altogether accied if required by the others. But a more satisfactory
dental. It is a piece of good fortune perhaps, and answer probably is, that so far as those franchises have
may well deserve a contribution from the parties benea permanency of profits and thus partake of the char fitted ; but there is no reason to compel such a conacter of private property, this provision would not
tribution. If made, it should be voluntary. interfere with them; and so far as they may be politi
Much of the difficulty in relation to this subject cal and therefore public, and relate to the exercise of
arises from a confusion of ideas in regard to what are the sovereign power, they are and should be revocable
public improvements ; upon which distinction is to be at pleasure. It must be the law in this country, that
observed in order to act safely. One kind of public while the rights of private property are sacred, politi.
improvements is, where the wants of the public require cal power, on the other hand, conferred by the legis.
them to be made, and where the benefit to individulature, is a public trust resumable by it at pleasure.
als is incidental. Such as the erection of buildings There is no novelty in this proposition for general laws
for public purposes; or supposing a city to be shut for incorporations. We have such laws for the incor
off from all access to a particular point, or to have no poration of libraries, passed as long ago as 1796, and outlet into the country, the opening of a street or road also for religious societies and manufacturing compa
effecting these objects would be a public benefit, and nies. These laws have operated well, and hundreds
the advantage to individuals whose lands had a front of companies organized under them are now in being. on the new thoroughfare would be subordinate and The principle is not new even as regards municipal
purely incidental. Another species of public improvecorporations. As has already been stated, our towns
ments, so called, is where the principal object is to all exercise their corporatic powers under one and the
accomplish the interests of private individuals, and same law, though they are separately erected by
the public benefit is consequential. Thus an individ. special act. But in many of the new states of the
ual owning a farm near a city, and wishing to bring Union, as in Indiana, Illinois and Arkansas, even the
his farm into market, as city lots, may open streets incorporation of towns takes place under a general
which will effect that object. The public of course law." The simplicity of this plan is most admirable ;
will use them, and thus derive a benefit from them; and he would, for the information of the Convention,
though they were not opened for any other purpose read one of these statutes. (Mr. M. here read and
than to advance the interest of the land-owner, and commented upon the general laws for creating muni
were not required for the public accommodation. cipal corporations in Arkansas and Indiana.) He
This distinction presents itself when we look at the hoped now that no one would be startled at the prop
right of property. When the public authorities underosition on the ground that it was an untried experiment;
take to make an improvement, which either requires and that the gentleman from Erie would see that the
the appropriation of private property or laxation to different circumstances of different places did not pre
pay for it, they exercise the right of eminent domain. sent obstacles to an uniform organization. Before he They are taking private property for public use. So concluded, he wished to say that he would, at the
the converse of this position is true ; that is, if it be proper time, when the subject of municipal corpora
not for a public use they have no right to appropriate tions should be under consideration, endeavor to point
it. Private property is sacred. It is a law of society out the mistakes of legislation in regard to them, and
paramount to the constitution of every civilized counthe abuses which they had given rise to, contenting
try, that the fruits of a man's labor belong to him to himself for the present with these observations upon
be disposed of as he may deem proper. Napoleon the immediate proposition before the Convention, that
with all his power could not divest the poor man of of the mode of creating corporations.
his freehold which he desired to have for his own
pleasure and convenience; and that regard for natural Monday, Oct. 5.
right by that powerful monarch is a monument of the Mr. KIRKLAND moved to add in addition to Sec. 6, sacredness of private property. If all the members
ary responsibility beyond their stock, would afford no
And your memorialists, &c.
William W. Fox, Joseph Walker,
Abraham Ogden, Peter Lorrilard, Jr., Japhet Bishop, John Rankin,
C. H. Marshall,
John A. King,
James Van Nostrand,
R. Ogden Glover.
W. J. Lane,
P. G. Arcularius,
N. G. Ogden,
E. T. H. Gibson,
P. M. Bryson,
A. A. Low,
S. Draper, Jr.,
John C. Green,
M. B. Edgar,
0. H. Jones,
Thomas H. Mills,
W. B. Cozzens.
W. C. Rhinlander,
Fisher, Howe & Co., Paul Spofford,
John Newhouse, J. R. Murray,
W. A. Hadden.
elaer Haroe co..
of this Convention should require for their interests or which makes a stockholder individually liable beyond accommodation the house and lot on the opposite side the amount of capital contributed by him would be of the street, there is no power in this government to injurious to the business of the City and State, and give it to them without the consent of the owner if prejudicial to its prosperity, inasmuch as responsible they would pay him ten times the value. But if the individuals would not become stockholders, and to irpublic require it for its use, they may take it upon responsible stockholders no advantage would be just compensation, but not otherwise.
gained in the aditional security contemplated by a It follows from this position that the state has no private responsibility clause. And your memorialists, right to delegate the power of taking private property &c. for private purposes without the owner's consent;
Jonathan Thompson, Henry Parish, and that the improvements which our corporations
Jonathan Goodhue, Burtis Skidmore, are continually making, involving the taking of prop
John I. Palmer,
George Griswold, erty and taxation, for the purpose of advancing the
John A. Stevens, interests of a few individuals, are not public improve
Samuel S. Howland. ments, and should not enter into the consideration of
Shephard Knapp, David Leavitt, this question. The cases which we are to regard are
Moses H. Grinnel, Abraham G. Thompson, those in which the public are primarily interested.
James D. P, Ogden, G. A. Worth, The sure test of an improvement being public is,
F. C. Tucker, that it may be paid for out of the public treasury ;
Walter R. Jones,
Simeon Baldwin, that the necessity for it is such that the whole public
Anthony Lamb, is willing to bear the expense of it. And to deter
Wm. H. Aspinwall, J. Smyth Rogers, mine this, the decision of the community from whose
F. W. Edmonds,
John J. Fisk, treasury it is to be paid for, through its organized agents,
F. Pentz, whether a common council or a board of trustees, is
Brown, Brothers & Co., Woolsey & Woolsey, sufficient.
Hicks & Co.,
Phelps, Dodge & Co., Under the operation of this test the number of
John H. Cornell, opening of streets by the corporate authorities would
L. & V. Kirby,
Adoniram Chandler, be very much reduced, perhaps there would not be
A. B. McDonald,
Nathaniel Richards, one out of twenty of those taking place under the
J. Van Norden,
Peter I. Bogert, practice of special assessments. The actual nuinber
James Harriot, of streets opened would perhaps be as large as it is
John A. Bunting, now; but the greater part of them would be opened
E. H. Herrick, as all private roads should be, by arrangements
Monday, Sept. 21. among the parties benefitted. Private enterprize will
Mr. TOWNSEND presented the remonstrance of always secure its objects ; and will do so in a much
Prime. Ward & King and others. against a provision cheaper and more expeditious way than can be done
to make the stockholders individually liable for more by the public. It will happen undoubtedly occasion
than the amount of their stocks. Laid on the table. ally that the consent of the owner of land cannot be obtained. If so, he has the right to hold on to his
To the Hon. THE STATE CONVENTION : lot, made sacred to him as his patrimony, or by asso The undersigned most respectfully remonstrate ciation and ties of a still more holy character. And against the incorporating in the Constitution of this if so, why should he be disturbed for purposes of State any provision which shall make the stockholders mere private emoluments. But it is not likely that in incorporated companies responsible in their individsuch cases will often arise. Few men are so attached ual capacity. to land that they will not part with it, especially for The undersigned believe that any provision which an extra compensation not so great as the additional should make a stockholder liable beyond the amount expense beyond a just compensation incurred by legal actuully contributed by him to the capital stock of an proceedings by the public authorities. In the case of incorporated company would be very injurious to the infants, power may be granted to the courts to give business of the City and State and detrimental to its their consent upon such compensation as made it to prosperity, inasmuch as men of capital would not betheir interest or advantage.
come stockholders, and any provision which should He had felt it his duty to say this much on the sub render stockholders responsible who have no pecuniary ject in view, as he had already observed, of a kindred responsbility beyond their stock would afford no secuproposition of his own in regard to cities, upon which rity to the public. it was now evident there would not be time for the And your memorialists, &c. Convontion to act.
Joseph Sampson, dressed to the State Convention and presented in that David Thompson,
R. B. Minturn, body by Messrs Allen & Townsend against any pro- || Joseph Kernochan, Daniel Parish, vision being made in the Constitution making stock
A. B. Neilson,
Abr. Schermerhorn, holders personally liable beyond the amount of their Alfred Pell,
Lambert Suydam, stock ;-following these remonstrances on the same W. Bradford,
T. W. Thorne,
Alfred Seton, page is the provision adopted by the Convention in
Wm. H. Russell, Walden Pell, the premises—and following those provisions are our
Prime, Ward & King, Nevins, Townsend & Co., remarks thereon.
Nelson & Greydon, Wollcott & Slade.
Jacob Little & Co.,
FRIDAY, Sept. 25th.
stockholders individually liable, beyond the amount hollers in banks, &c., liable to more than the amount of of their stocks. It was read and referred. their stocks. Referred to the appropriate committee To The Hon. The State Convention : of the whole.
The undersigned most respectfully remonstrate Mr. Allen moved that it be printed. Lost.
against the incorporating in the constitution of this To the Hon. The State CONVENTION :
State any provision which shall make the stockholders The undersigned, citizens of the city of New York, responsible in their individual capacity. inost respectfully remonstrate to your Honorable Body The undersigned believe that any provision which against any provision being inserted in the Constitution should make a stockholder liable beyond the amount of this state, that shall make the stockholder in any actually contributed by him to the capital stock of an incorporated company, chartered by the Legislature incorporated company, would be very injurious to the of this State, liable, as such stockholder, beyond the business of the City and State, and detrimental to its amount actually invested by him in the capital stock prosperity, inasmuch as men of capital would not bethereof.
come stockholders, and any provision which should The undersigued believe that any provision of law render stockholders responsible who have no pecuni
CONSTITUTION OF 1847.
Section 3. The term corporations, as used in this article, shall be constrned to include all associations and joint-stock companies having any of the powers or privileges of corporations not possessed by individuals or partnerships. And all corporations shall have the right to sue and shall be subject to be sued in all courts in like cases as natural persons.
Section 6. The Legislature shall provide by law for the registry of all bills or notes, issued or put in circulation as money, and shall require ample security for the redemption of the same in specie.
Section 7. The stockholders in every corporation and joint-stock association for banking purposes, issuing bank notes or any kind of paper credits to circulate as money, after the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and fifty, shall be individually responsible to the amount of their respective share or shares of stock in any such corporation or association, for all its debts and liabilities of every kind, contracted after the said first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and fifty.
Remarks --Persons subscribing for stock in a bank, by section 7, as above will be liable for their subscriptions in full, Stock is often subscribed for and only a small installment paid-in case of failure of the bank the creditors of the bank under section 7 will have the right to compel the payment of the residue of unpaid installments, or so much of such unpaid instalments as will satisfy the creditors demand. This is the common sense construction of this provision of the Constitution. It is not a responsibility in addition to, and over and above the amount of the stock in another sum equal to such stock, for that would be double the amount of the stock.
It is sometimes the case that bank stock is paid for in bonds, as for example Arkansas State bonds which have become of little valae. A stockholder paying up his stock in such bonds would be liable for the depreciation under sec. 7 to a creditor of the bank in case of failure of the bank, and so of a payment of stock by a mortgage on real estate.