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PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES
CONVENTION HELD AT PHILADELPHIA.
SATURDAY, January 27, 1838.
Mr. Mann, of Montgomery, presented a memorial from citizens of Bucks county, praying that the constitution may be so amended, as to prohibit negroes from exercising the right of suffrage.
On motion of Mr. Mann,
The said memorial was laid on the table.
Mr. Pennypaceer, of Chester, presented a memorial from citizens of Chester county, praying that no alteration may be made in the constitution, having a tendency to create distinctions in the rights and privleges of citizenship based upon complexion
On motion of Mr. Penwypacker,
The said memorial was laid on the table.
Mr. Bidele presented a memoihl, from citizens of the city and county of Philadelphia, praying that constitutional provision may be made for the more effectual security of freedom of speech, of the press, and of peaceably assembling for public discussion, as well as preventing violence by mobs and riots, and for compensating those, or their heirs, who may be injured in person or estate thereby.
On motion of Mr. Biddle,
The said memorial was laid on the table.
Mr. Chandler, of Philadelphia, presented a memoiial of like import.
And on motion of Mr. Chandler,
The same was laid on the table.
A motion was made by Mr. Miller, of Fayette, and read as follows,
"Rtiolvtd, That the minutes of the committee of the whole, of the 18th of October, page one hundred and thirty-seven, be corrected by striking the name of Mr. Millie from the list of yeas, the said Miller being then absent:
And on motion of Mr. M., the said resolution was read a second time.
Mr. Miller explained briefly that his name was recorded as voting in the affirmative, on a certain proposition, in relation to the justices of the peace, whereas he was not in the convention at the time. He asked at an act of justice to himself that the error might be corrected; and he would, he said, have called the attention of the convention to it at a much earlier period, but he was only recently made aware of the fact that such a mistake was on the journals.
And the question was then taken and decided in the affirmative without a division.
So the resolution was adopted.
That the convention proceed to the second reading and consideration of the resolution read on the 11th instant, as follows, viz:
"Resolved, That the amendments to th.; constitution agreed to by this convention, ought not to be submitted to the people as a single proposition, to be approved or diaappioved, but the same ought to be classified according to the subject matter, and submitted as several and distinct propositions, so that an opportunity may be given to approve aomc and disapprove others, if a majority of the people see fit; and that a committee be appointed, to report to the convention a classification of the amendments, and the manner in which the same si iail be submitted to the citizens of the commonwealth."
Which was disagreed to.
The Prksident said, he would take this opportunity to mention, that, in consequence of an inquiry made yesterday by the gentleman from Chester, (Mr. Bell) the Chair had investigated the proceedings in committee of the whole, upon the article now under consideration, in reference to.the third section of the constitution, and he found it difficult to say whether that section had, or had not been disposed of. The state of the matter appeared to be this.
The standing committee on this article, reported a new article, consisting of a new set of sections, having no immediate reference to corresponding sections in the constitution. The committee of the whole took up that article, as reported, and made certain amendments, rejecting some of the sections, and altering others; but it did not appear that there was any direct vote of the committee taken, on the third article of the existing constitution. It was printed as if stricken out. But the Chair would not •ay that this was correct He believed it was not.
With this statement, it would be for the convention to say what ordor should be taken in reference to that section.
After some desultory conversation, growing out of the statement made by the Chair, the convention passed to the
oRDERs OF THE DAY.
The convention resumed the second reading of the report of the committee to whom was referred the sixth article of the constitution as reported by the committee of the whole.
The amendment to the sixth section of the said report as modified, being again under consideration :—
Mr. Banks, of Miiflin, suggested to the mover of the amendment, (Mr. Chambers) the propriety of inserting the words of the said amendment, after the word " thereof" in the fourth line, instead of inserting them after the word "aldermen" in the first line, as they stood at present.
Mr. Chamaers said, he did not see that that would make any difference. There would, no doubt, be other amendments offered to the section, and he thought that it would be better to retain the words in their present position.
Mr. Fuller, of Fayette, said he would suggest to the gentleman from Franklin, (Mr. Chambers) to withdraw his amendment, in its present form, and to propose something like that which he (Mr. F.) had drawn up, and which he would read for the information of the convention. It wag as follows:
Add to the end of the amendment made in committee of the whole, the words, " but the legislature shall not direct more than two to be elected in any township, ward, or borough, without the consent of the people of such township, ward or borough."
Mr. F. thought that a condition of this nature, if attached to the section, would render it more perfect and. probably, much more acceptable to the people. He would be pleased if the gentleman from Franklin would accept his suggestion.
Mr. Chamaers said, that, if he did accept the suggestion of the gentleman from Fayette, he was feaiful he would only embarrass the section, and render the action of the convention more difficult. He must, therefore, decline to do so.
On further reflection, however, he was willing to accept the suggestion which had been matle by the gentleman from Mifflin, (Mr. Banks.)
And the amendment was then modified by inserting after the word "thereof in the fourth line, the words "in such numbers as shall be directed by law," instead of inserting the same words after the word "aldermen" in the first line.
And the amendment, as thus modified, being again under consideration ;..
Mr. Fuller said, that as the gentleman from Franklin had declined to. accept his modification, he would ask that it be laid on the table, and would briefly explain the reasons why he could not give his support to amendment now before the convention.
In the first place, said Mr. F., the amendment leaves the whole subject of fixing the number of justices of the peace, in each ward, borough and township, to the legislature. I am opposed to it on account of the great evil which already exists, from the fact, that there are now too many of these officers. We know that this has been a matter of just complaint among the people, and we know that it is one of ihos'e evils which they were most desirous that we should remedy. If the subject should be left entirely open to the legislature, as is here proposed, 1 have not a doubt, that in many of the districts the legislature will be harrassed, from session to session, to appoint justices of the peace or aldermen, where they are absolutely not at all wanted, and where a majority of the people of the district do not desire them. From the best consideration which I have given to this question, I believe that this is one great cause of the complaints which have been so loud and general against this class of officeis in tiie state of Pennsylvania ;—that is to say, that we have too many of them, that their numbers are swelled to an extent which is neither called for by the people, nor in any manner desired by the people. I give this as the result of my own observation and experience. Many districts, I know, are burdened with more justices than they want—more by one half or upwards—and they have been obtained against the wishes of the majority of the people. An additional number, which may be a useless number, must depend upon the single voice of the representative of any particular district; because the legislature, as a body, know nothing, and can know nothing, of the necessity of increasing the number either in one district or another, and they must, therefore, act upon what the representative of any particular district may say. Thus additional officers may be wanted, or may not; the one is as likely to be the case as the other, and how is the legislature to know? Then, as 1 have said, the increase of the number of the justices of the peace, which increase may be absolutely necessary or which may not he at all necessary, is to depend on the feelings and the wishes of the member from the district. This would bo a state of things from which great and growing evils would continue to arise, and it is with a view of preventing those evils that 1 asked the gentleman from Franklin to offer, in lieu of his amendment, such a proposition as 1 have brought to the notire of the convention—that is to say, that not more than two of these officers should be elected in any one township, ward, or borough, without the consent of the taxable inhabitants of such township, ward or borough. The people are fully as capable of fixing the number, as any member of the legislature from the district can be; I should *ay, much more so. They are fully competent to elect an alderman, or a justice of the peace, and they are fully competent to tell how many are requisite for each particular place.
I am opposed to the adoption of the amendment of the gentleman from Franklin, and shall vote against it. I hope that I shall yet be able to secure the support of the convention to the restriction which I propose, and which I regard as one of the most important amendments that has claimed, or can claim, the consideration of this body.
There is also another difficulty which ought to be met. Some boroughs are counted by townships, &c., and contain probably from fifty to a hundred inhabitants. There is no provision made for this distinction. My proposition provides for that case as well as for all others, that is to say, the qualified electors shall be the judges how many of these officers are requisite.