Page images

tions of the State were palpably disgruntled; and the adoption of the provision was alleged to be an unwarranted usurpation of power.59 Moreover, the location of the capital on the extreme southern periphery of the new commonwealth had decided geographical disadvantages, while the spread of population northward constantly accentuated the prevalent discontent. It was inevitable, therefore, that a legislative contest would arise over this irrepressible and perplexing question and it is not surprising that the first attempt to secure a modification of the Constitution was inspired by a determination to modify or repeal this section. This contest, which was imminent from the date when the provisions of the Constitution had become generally known, was precipitated in 1817, at the second annual session of the General Assembly. It will be recalled that the Constitution had not been submitted to the people for ratification; hence the sentiments of the electorate on the question of the location of the seat of Government, as well as on the other provisions of the Constitution, were problematical and conjectural. It was now determined to employ the referendum; to submit the proposition to a direct vote of the people; to obtain an undoubted plebiscite on an isolated question; and, apparently, if sanctioned by popular approbation, to delete or modify this objectionable constitutional provision, and thus abridge the period which must elapse before moving the capital northward to a more convenient and strategic location. Accordingly, on December 19, the House adopted a resolution providing for the appointment of a committee to take into consideration the propriety of taking the sense of the people of this State, on that part of the Constitution which fixes the seat of Government at Corydon until the year 1825, with leave to report by bill or otherwise.''60 The speaker immediately appointed a committee of 9 representatives.61 This committee, impressed with the propriety of submitting the question to the people, returned a favorable report and a joint resolution on December 26. Sentiment in the House crystallized slowly. On January 9, an attempt to indefinitely postpone the measure was lost by a vote of 7 to 21, and it was immediately thereafter considered at length in the Committee of the Whole. Three days later, on January 12, the consideration of the measure was resumed and with little apparent ceremony it was indefinitely postponed by a vote of 18-10.62 Obviously, in this issue, the question turned on the expediency, political and otherwise, of removing the seat of Government from Corydon prior to 1825; the necessity of amending the Constitution within two years from the date of its adoption, which was implied in and essential to the successful achievement of this object, was apparently of subsidiary importance; while the employment of the referendum to ascertain the popular sentiment on this question, while not an unknown political device, seems to have challenged least attention.63

59. See page xxii.
60. The resolution was presented by Mr. Beggs of Clark county.

This committee consisted of three representatives from Clark county, and one each from Jefferson, Washington, Harrison, Jackson, Knox and Franklin.


No subsequent attempt was made to modify or delete this provision of the Constitution. The General Assembly had evidently determined to abide the nine year waiting period, and thereafter to effect a removal of the capital in accordance with the provision of the Constitution. At all events, the question fell completely into abeyance until January 11, 1820, when an act was passed appointing ten commissioners to select and locate a site for the permanent seat of Government of the State of Indiana."64 This commission selected a site and reported their findings to the 5th General Assembly. Thereupon, an act was adopted on January 6, 1821, by the terms of which the site selected by these commissioners was established as a permanent seat of Government of the State of Indiana,'' and provision was made for the appointment of three commissioners to lay out a town.65 Finally, by an act of January 20, 1824, Indianapolis in Marion county was "adopted and established, as the permanent seat of Government of this State, upon, from and after the second Monday in January, in the year one thousand eight hundred and twenty-five.">66

Method of Voting-Ballot vs. Viva Voce.--Section 2 of Article VI, of the Constitution provided that “All elections shall be by ballot: Provided, That the General Assembly may, if they deem it more expedient, at their session in eighteen hundred and twenty-one, change the mode so as to vote viva voce, after which time it shall remain unalterable." This provision of the Constitution represented a compromise between the advocates of the method of voting by ballot and the method of voting viva voce. As originally reported from committee, the section provided that all voting should be viva voce.67 The section was amended in Committee of the Whole on June 14th by a vote of 22-21 to provide that all votes should be given by ballot for a period of four years, and thereafter the method was subject to regulation by the legislature.68 A subsequent alteration left the section in the form in which it was finally incorporated in the Constitution.69 By virtue of the provisions of this section as finally adopted, the method of voting was to be by ballot for a period of five years; the General Assembly was authorized to change the method so as to vote viva voce at the session of 1821; if they failed to make the change at that time, the method was thereafter to remain unalterable.” Public opinion on this question in the Convention," the General Assembly and the State at large was pretty evenly divided. No attempt was made to secure a change in this provision prior to the date fixed by the Constitution as had been done in the case of the seat of Government provision. Obviously, the General Assembly was unwilling to assume the responsibility of making a change in this provision without express instructions from the electors. Accordingly, a joint resolution, authorizing the qualified electors of the State to vote at the general election of August, 1821, on the question whether they were in favor of voting by ballot or viva voce was adopted on December 23, 1820.71

62. The geographical distribution of the vote on this resolution is not especially significant; Harrison county voted solidly in opposition to the resolution; Franklin and Knox divided; Clark, Jefferson, Jackson and Washington voted in favor; and all the other counties were opposed.

63. House Journal, 2d Session, 66, 94, 115, 153 and 163. The joint resolution itself is not in existence and its provisions can only be conjectured from the character of the instructions submitted to the committee. A proposed resolution of condemnation introduced in the House at the 6th Session, on December 27, 1821, spoke of the referendum vote on the method of voting, then under consideration, as one of the "clear correct and immutable principles of republicanism." House Journal, 6th Session, 306.

64. Laws, 4th Session, 18. 65. Laws, 5th Session, 44. 66. Laws, 8th Session, 370.

The determination of this question was now transferred to the people, and aroused sufficient interest to secure a tolerably fair expression of opinion on the question. The Western Sun carried notices of the introduction and adventures of the resolution and printed it in full in the issue of May 12, 1821, with the noncommittal comment that "it will be a consideration of the utmost importance with the people and should be maturely and carefully examined before giving their decision." The Indiana Centinel was in favor of retaining the method of voting by ballot as "the safest, purest, and most correct and reasonable mode which can possibly be devised.” They admitted, however, that there was "much difference of opinion.'73 The general election of 1821 was held on August 6, but according to the report of the House Committee on Elections, the Secretary of State received returns from only 15 of the 39 counties. 74 Although none of these returns are available, except those from Knox county, we know from other sources that the sentiment of the electors was rather evenly divided with perhaps a slight preponderance in favor of voting by ballot.

67. Convention Journal pp. 22-3.
68. Ibid.
69. Ibid.

70. The vote in the Convention on the substitution of the method of voting by ballot for the method of voting viva voce was 22-21.

71. Laws, 5th Session, 136. For proceedings on the measure see Senate Journal 40, 54, 58, 92, 93, 112, 114, 115, 120 and 129; and House Journal 86, 110, 124, 129, 149 and 158. The resolution was introduced by Elisha Harrison. One other measure was presented on this same subject. On December 7, 1820, Samuel Milroy introduced a resolution in the House instructing the Committee on Elections to inquire into the expediency of providing by law for taking the votes of the electors at the general election in August, 1821, to ascertain whether they were favorable to a change in the mode of voting as prescribed in the Constitution. The substance of this resolution, as we have seen, was already before the Senate in Mr. Harrison's resolution, and hence no further action was taken. House Journal, 78.

The failure of more than half of the county clerks to certify the official returns on the referendum vote to the Secretary of State, and the inadequacy of the returns available on which to base a trustworthy conclusion, again devolved on the General Assembly the responsibility of solving the problem of the future method of voting. Moreover, it was necessary to take definite action on this question at the session of 1821 or the method of voting prescribed in the Constitution would thereafter remain unalterable. The imperative necessity of dealing with this question and the even division of sentiment in both Houses of the Sixth General Assembly,75 precipitated an animated parliamentary contest which continued for a fortnight and was attended by hostile and retaliatory demonstrations between the two chambers. Before a conclusion could be reached, the General Assembly had adjourned and the method of voting by ballot was allowed to stand unimpaired. Basing our conclusions on the test vote taken in each House, the representatives favored viva voce voting by a majority of four and the senators favored voting by ballot by a majority of one.

72. Unfortunately only a fraction of the county clerks submitted certified returns to the Secretary of State. In Knox county, more than six-sevenths of the electors voted on this question.

73. Issue of June 30, 1821. The Centinel was published at Vincennes.

74. The on ly election returns available are those from Knox county which are given in the Western Sun of August 11, 1821. In that county, 387 votes were polled in favor of voting by ballot and 250 in favor of voting viva voce. The total vote for senator was 723. On December 5, in response to a Senate resolution, the Secretary of State laid the election returns before that body. Senate Journal, 6th Session, 92 and 101. The investigation of the election returns was made for the House by the Committee on Elections. House Journal, 6th Session, 11 and 326. In a protest against the passage of the House Bill designed to change the method of voting from ballot to viva voce, signed by 15 representatives (see infra), the assertion was made that "from the best information obtained, a majority of the qualified electors in the State, who expressed their opinion upon that subject at the last election, decided in favor of ballot

.". The protest charged, moreover, that the report of the Committee on Elections made to the House was "partial, containing only 15 counties when there were 39 in the State."

On December 14, 1821, in response to a resolution of instruction, the House Committee on Elections reported a bill which was designed to substitute the method of voting viva voce for voting by ballot.76 The opponents of this measure fought its passage with such skill and determination that it was not brought to a final vote until December 29. On December 17, an attempt was made to indefinitely postpone the bill, but the motion was lost by a vote of 10-23; the opponents of the measure then attempted to effect a compromise by the incorporation of a provision authorizing electors to vote either by ballot or viva voce, but this proposition was so unsatisfactory that it was promptly rejected by a vote of 15-27;77 at this juncture the consideration of the bill was deferred for a period of about ten days, when, on December 26, it was taken up for consideration by a vote of 24-16; on the following day the House refused to continue the consideration of the bill by a vote of 20-20.78 An inspection of the four test votes given discloses the fact that the friends of the bill were in a majority of approximately 2 to 1 from December 17, the date of the first adverse action, up to and including December 26. By the following day, December 27, the partisans of the meas

75. In a review of pending legislation, written for his constituents and printed in the Western Sun of January 5. 1822, General W. Johnston, a member of the House from Knox county, observed that the question as to the method of voting was under consideration, and that the sentiment was pretty evenly divided. The senate adopted two resolutions opposing a change in the method of voting by the close margin of 8 to 7 in both cases. The final vote on the passage of the House Bill substituting viva voce voting for voting by ballot is not given, but in the protest signed by 15 members of the House enumerating their objections to the measure, it is alleged that the "friends" of viva voce voting consisted of "a majority of four of the whole House

76. On November 20, the Committee on Elections was instructed to ascertain the vote cast at the August election on the method of voting and to report by bill or otherwise, but only a statistical report was made. House Journal, 11, 326.

77. In the protest objecting to the passage of this bill, signed by 15 members of the House (see infra), the measure was adversely criticised because it made "no provision for receiving votes in any other way than by ballot," a manifest unfairness, "inasmuch as its friends

refused to have amended or committed for amendment so as to provide for the change contemplated in the Constitution,"

78. House Journal, 6th Session, 196, 209, 224, 291 and 298.

« PreviousContinue »