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There should be no hesitation in providing at the present session of the Legislature, not only against the further issues of each denomination of these small bills, but also for the withdrawal of those now in circulation, at a proper time. The withdrawal should be made at a successive period for each denomination, with the view to secure an effectual substitution of the coins for the paper money withdrawn, and to prevent a sudden and injurious contraction of the circulating medium.
In relation to fixing these periods, it should be borne in mind that we have now an unusual quantity of the precious metals. This circumstance will facilitate the operation of substituting coin for the paper to be called in, and allow it to be conveniently done at an earlier period than that which could be prudently selected for executing this measure if there was a scarcity, or no more than the ordinary quantity of specie in the country. It is also proper that you should consider the inconvenience which might resuli from a too sudden withdrawal of the small bills from circulation, in connection with the unfavorable effects which the continuance of their circulation has upon our currency and business, and the advantages which their withdrawal will sccure to the public at large. To ensure success to the measure proposed, it will be indispensably necessary to make effectual provision for preventing the circulation, in this State, of the small bills issued by the banks of other States.
I conceive it to be my duty to repeat the recommendation which was made to your predecessors in relation to reducing the amount of circulation now allowed to the banks. It should not, in my judgment, be permitted, in any case, to exceed the amount of their respective capitals, nor should their credits be allowed to exceed twice that amount.
Charters of banks are applied for, and granted upon the alledged ground that they are required for the public good; but it is the nature of such institutions to be less regardful of this consideration than of their own pecuniary interests: their conduct is therefore very properly an object of constant scrutiny. Any contrivances which they may resort to, with a design to enhance their profits, should be promptly suppressed. I have reason to believe that in this respect, the public have had just grounds of complaint against some of our banks.
Instead of discounting notes according to the usual course of business, they have required drafts of their customers payable at some distant place, knowing that the drawers had not and did not expect to have funds at such place to pay them. When these drafts arrived at maturity, others were offered to the same banks, and taken in payment of the former. A discount of one per cent beyond the legal rate of interest has been exacted on these successive drafts; and by this mode of doing business, those who have been under the necessity of applying for accommodations to the banks which have resorted to this practice, have been subjected to pay an exorbitant sum for the use of the money thus obtained. Such a mode of oppressive extortion did not long escape the vigi
lance of the Bank Commissioners, and I have reason to believe they
While on the one hand you should act with promptness and vigor in keeping all banks within the sphere of action allowed to them, and in guarding the public against the mischievous perversion or misapplication of their powers and privileges, by restraints, and, if necessary, by annuiling their charters; good faith requires, on the other, that such as use their powers and privileges in strict subservience to the purposes for which they were bèstowed, should be protected in the enjoyment of them, without any diminution or modification other than may be necessary to give effect to measures of general policy for the public good.
I ought not to pass from this subject without alluding to the conduct of the State banks during the late period of panic and distress. That they, in most instances, exerted their best abilities 10 administer to the necessities of a suffering community will not, I presume, be questioned; and as little can it be questioned that they would have done this effectually, in spite of the assaults made upon them and upon public credit, with a view to subserve the interests of a greai monied monopoly, and to effectuate the purposes of a political party, had not a large portion of that class of our citizeris, most interested in sustaining public confidence in our currency, and most exposed to losses by its derangement, been led, by a strange infatuation, to concur in these mischievous designs, and to lend their active efforts to increase the panic, and spread far and wide its ruinous effects.
It is exceedingly difficult to confer particular privileges on a few without derogating from the equal rights of all others. Public opinion requires of you more caution in relation to granting corporate privileges than has been heretofore observed. The right of the Legislature to create corporations is recognized by the constitution, and it may be exercised in many instances harmlessly and even beneficially in regard to the people at large; but in no inconsiderable number of cases, corporate powers and privileges are sought for as furnishing means not allowed to all for acquir
ing property, or for managing it in a profitable manner without the hazards to which it is exposed in individual hands.
Among the various applications usually presented to the Legislature for acts of incorporation, those for banks have been urged with the greatest earnestness, and it is highly probable several of this kind will be made to you at the present session. One of the strongest arguments that will be offered to you in behalf of them, will be, that banks are attended with many local advantages; that the sections of the State which have none, or not so many as there are in others, and which present better considerations in favor of their particular applications than those that have been successfully urged in other cases, are entitled, on the principle of equality of rights, to a participation in these advantages; and that a departure from the course heretofore pursued on this subject, will be an act of partial legislation and unjust towards them. This argument, which is alike opposed to any temporary suspension and to a permanent change of the course heretofore pursued on this subject, will not be less cogent at any time hereafter than it is now, and, if it is permitted to prevail, the Legislature will still go on as heretofore, multiplying banking institutions, whatever may be the effects upon our present system, or upon our currency. It must be conceded, I think, that banks have been , heretofore too freely granted, and that we have enough of them for all the legitimate uses for which they are now wanted; you will, therefore, in my opinion, best promote the public good by refusing to add to their number.
Recent occurrences have tended to restore the militia system to the public estimation which it justly deserves in our government. It has been necessary to resort, more than once within the last year, to the military force to aid the civil magistrates in the city of New York, in protecting the persons and property of our citizens, and in preserving the public peace. The alacrity with which the several corps performed the duty required of them on these occasions, and the efficient support they afforded the civil authority, in arresting the progress of lawless violence, and maintaining the supremacy of the laws, reflects credit on them, and vindicates the wisdom which regarded and provided for a well-organized militia as an essential part of our political system.
I have heretofore adverted to some changes in the organization of the militia, which, in our present condition, might be made without diminishing its practical benefits, and by which the burdens consequent upon the performance of militia service might be greatly alleviated. These changes can be made only by the General Government; and whatever the Legislature could do to impress on Congress the importance of acting on this subject, has, I believe, been done already by your predecessors. There are, however, scme evils resulting from the present system, which it is believed the Legislature is fully competent to remedy. The present mode of punishing delinquents operates oppressively and unjustly in many cases. The number of regimental and battalion courts marrial annually organized in the State, is nearly four hundred; and
they have cognizance of ali delinquencies for the non-performance of duty, and for deficiencies in equipments. From the sentence of any such court, an appeal, if made within twenty days, is allowed to the officer organizing the court; but no other or further means of redress are prescribed or allowed, however great may be the injustice or error of the decision. Notices to delinquents to appear before these tribunals, may, in case of absence, be served by leav. ing copies thereof at their usual place of abodc; and it often happens
, that thuse who have good excuses for not performing military duty, are sentenced to pay fines and penalties without any actual knowledge of the proceedings against them. Before the parties aggrieved are apprised of the decisions of the courts, the right of appeal is frequently lost by the lapse of time. There are also some obvious objections to confining the appeal exclusively to the officers appointing the courts. Relief in cases of manifest hardship, has been formerly sought by applications to the commander-inchief; but I have denied them, from a conviction that the law does not confer upon him the power to reverse or modify the judgment of these courts. I recommend that the time allowed for an appeal should be extended to twenty days after actual notice that a fine or penalty has been imposed, in every case where the summons to attend the court had not been personally served on the delinquent; and that a further appeal in all cases should be allowed from the decision of the officer ordering the court, to the brigadiergeneral. To authorize an appeal in such cases to be carried to an officer higher in rank than a commandant of a brigade, might not be necessary for the purposes of justice, and would be attended with much inconvenience.
During the last charter election in the city of New York, the State arsenal was broken open, and forcible possession taken of the public arms by a mob. An act so flagitious in its character, and tending so directly to bloodshed, called public attention to the exposed situation and insecure condition of this establishment. The Executive was directed, by a resolution of the last Legislature, to enter into a correspondence or negotiation with the common council of that city for an exchange of the present site of the arsenal, together with the buildings thereon, for a more eligible one in the upper part of the city. Such a correspondence has been opened; and it is ascertained that the corporation have several pieces of land eligibly situated for the proposed object, any of which they would very willingly exchange, on terms advantageous to the State, for the site of the present arsenal. With reference to some measures regarding the police of the city, they desire that the exchange should be made as soon as practicable; I therefore recommend that you should consider this subject at an early period in the
I conceive it to be of the utmost importance that you should provide effectual means for executing with rigor the act passed in 1829, “ to preserve the purity of our elections.” The expenditure of money allowed by this act is confined to a few objects, and under no conceivable circumstances could it amount to but a small
part of the sums which there is reason to believe have been expended in the recent elections, The elective franchise is the source of all power in our political system; and next in importance to its enjoyment is the preservation of its purity. Power corrupted in its source disorders the whole government. The moral and political condition of the electors has hitherto been sufficiently healthful to counteract the corrupting influence of money, and I hope it may long continue so; but ihey ought to be shielded, as far as legislation can do it, from all assaults upon their purity. I am disposed to ascribe the increased efforts that appear of late to have been made to influence the elections, by the lavish use of money, to the nature of some of the questions involved in our political contests, rather than to any encouragements such a practice has derived from a supposed decrease of virtue in the electors: but from whatever cause it has arisen, it is dangerous to civil liberty, and ought to be repressed by the Legislature.
The constitution imposes on the Legislature the duty of preventing the sale of lottery tickets within this State. In defiance of the existing law on this subject, the buying and selling of these tickets is extensively carried on in various places. Not only the obligation created by the constitution, but the duty you owe to your constituents, to suppress public evils, requires you to provide more effectually for putting an end to this traffic.
An enumeration of the inhabitants of this State is to be taken this year, and if it should be deemed expedient to procure statistical information in relation to other matters than such as are now required by law, it will be necessary to provide therefor immediately, in order to enable the Secretary of State to prepare and distribute proper blanks within the period allowed for that purpose.
The recent and lamented death of our distinguished fellow citizen, Simeon De Witt, will devolve upon you the duty of electing a successor in the office of Surveyor-General, which be filled with great credit to himself and eminent usefulness to the State, for the long and uninterrupted period of fifty years. I deen it not inappropriate to avail myself of this occasion to pay a tribute of respect to the memory of a most faithful public servant, who devoted almost the whole of a long and active life to the service of this State. In the dawn of manhood he espoused the cause of liberty, and became eminent among our revolutionary patriots. He entered into the service of this State in the infancy of its government, and regarded its advancement with parental solicitude. He aided in founding and in building up most of our public institutions, and has left more, if not more enduring, memorials of his useful services, than any other of our numerous public benefactors. His many private virtues shed lustre upon his public character. A life thus commenced by services and sacrifices in the cause of civil liberty, and well sustained to its end by unremitting labors directed with singleness of purpose to the public good, should be held in just remembrance by those among whom it was spent, and presented as an encouraging example to posterity.
W. L. MARCY Albany: January 6, 1835.