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may, therefore, be necessary for me, having undertaken the task of replying to him in the morning, that I should rid myself of that burden as I best may this afternoon. As I now understand, the delegate has, for the present, abandoned the Constitutional ground which he assumed this morning, and placed the act, in question, on the ground of expediency.This, sir, is the only and true ground on which to place this question 'Tis true, it is not the legitimate question now before the committee ; yet, all who have preceded me, have assumed great latitude, but, as my more immediate object is to assail the positions taken by the delegate from Northampton, I will content myself with endeavoring to effect that object. Sir, the delegate has told us, that, by the registry act, an elector may be absent for a few weeks from Philadelphia, and return on the eve of an election, and, his name not being in the registry, he is deprived of a vote. It is very possible that such a case may occur—nay, admit that it has occured-concede to the delegate all he asks, and what is the result ?Has the absent elector not a greater chance still under the registry act, than he had before it, to secure his vote? Under this act, the list of voters are published for some time previous to the election. The crowded county of Philadelphia abounds, as we are all aware, with active and busy politicians, who know every voter, and their names in their respective blocks and wards. It is first the sworn duty of the assessors, to hunt up and ferret out every taxable inhabitant in their respective wards, and then, it is the especial business of the busy ward and block politicians, to look into the published registry, and search for the names of their political friends. No one will, I presume, deny that this is done? Then, in the case put by the delegate, of an absent elector, there is an additional safeguard for the security of the right of suffrage? The delegate does not even pretend to deny, that an elector not absent, can, by any possibility (short of toial blindness) lose his vote. Such elector has no excuse, except his own remissness, and that of his friends, to urge, if he should forego his right, as he may first examine the registry himself, or should he fail to do so, his friends may do so for him. Cases of omission, whereby the elector loses his right to vote, are (as they necessarily must be few and far between". The hostility to this law must arise from some other cause than those suggested here. Permit me now, sir, to examine how the law stood, formerly, in the county of Philadelphia, previous to this obnoxious law, and how it stands now. In all other parts of Pennsylvania, the assessor does not publish any printed list of the taxable inhabitants of his district; it is no where exposed to public view, but is deposited in the office of the County Commissioners, or in the pocket of the assessor.Have the people of the interior, as the law now stands, the same facilities of ascertaining their right to vote as the people of that district? It cannot be pretended that they have. But, the delegate from Northampton, has charged one party of his fellow citizens with having always endeavored to restrain the right of suffrage, and has sung the praises of another for their repeated attempts to enlarge that right; but, as this charge is vague and very indefinite, it is scarcely possible to answer it. Does he mean the whigs or the tories of the Revolution ? Does he mean the old constitutionalists or anti-constitutionalists ? Or, does he mean the old federal or demoeratic parties ? [Here Mr. PORTER explained, and said, thet he charged the old federal party with having entertained these views]. Mr. R. then
up the registry act introduced by PEALE, the high tory champion of England, we shall find ours, verbatim et literatum, a copy of that act, introduced here to abridge the elective franchise. No conservative, here or there, could have devised a more ingenious scheme to defeat the expression of the public voice. Such was the origin of the act.
It had been said that this law did not operate to exclude any resident and qualified citizen from the polls, and that it did not limit the right of suffrage. But he said that it did; and that it was framed for the purpose of restricting the power of the democracy in the city and county of Philadelphia. The law required a!l to be registered, the rich and the poor. But was it the duty of the assessor to see that all were registered ? It was said that the law required the assessor to go round twice and register all the individuals in the city and county, and it thus afforded an opportunity for each man to go and see that his name was registered. How did this operate in fact? When the assessors went round, the laboring men were necessarily and of course absent from their homes, enaged in providing subsistence for themselves and their families; and not finding the men at home, they did not go again. When the election came on, these men appeared to vote, and were spurned from the ballot boxes. They were told their names were not on the register, and that, therefore, they had no right to vote. These poor men were thus compelled to return to their families in shame and contempt. But how was it with the rich man? The gold and silver door plate, with name, was enough, and there was no danger that the assessor would overlook that. This was the effect of the law in the county of Philadelphia. How was it in the city he would not undertake to say. He would not meddle with its concerns. In the county, if the poor and laboring man was not at home, when the assessor called, he lost his vote. Men who had been residents of the county, and paid a county tax for forty or fifty years, were thus deprived of the right of voting] He had known instances also in which soldiers of the revolution, and of the late war, men who had gallantly fought for their country, were rejected and refused the privilege of voting, because the assessors had wilfully neglected to register them. What was its effect in regard to its other professed objects ? Did it prevent illegal votes from being received ? Not at all. It excluded more legal than it did illegal votes.Many illegal votes were received under it. Persons who had neither resided six months in the county nor paid a tax, were registered, and voted. Again, he had heard gentlemen say that the law was made to prevent riots at the polls, and that it had produced this effect; that it had restored peace to the windows, and enabled the aged and in firm to vote; all this he denied. In Philadelphia county it was no such thing. If the elections were now conducted more peaceably there, it was because additional windows had been opened, and free access given to the polls. This was the cause of the quiet and peace which now attended the elections there. For. merly, there were two windows only, and as all the votes were to be polled within a certain time, the polls could not be reached without peril of life and limb. An act was passed with the concurrence of all parties, opening four windows, iwo on the eastern and two on the western side, No man had ever pretended, heretofore, to say, that the calm which now prevails at the polls was owing to the registry. That could have no effect upon the matter. Every one knows that it was entirely owing to the act which made the polls easier of access.
What he asked, was, the object of the act. He was not going to mince matters. He was here as the representative of the people, and he intended to express his opinion freely. He was not to be deceived with the idea that this gerrymandering act was intended to extend and guard the right of suffrage. There were men here who would say, in sincerity, that it was designed for the protection of the aged and infirm, and to allow them to vote in quiet. But the real object of the act was, to preserve the political power of the State in the hands of the minority, where accident had then placed it. It was a party measure. All the democrats, he was happy to say, voted against it. It was got up by the minority members of the lower House, with the assistance of the Senate, and for the purpose of preserving the power of that minority. All know this. The people know it. It was not intended to benefit the dear people, but it was concocted by wily and cunning politicians, for the purpose of maintaining themselves in power. He would like to see the man here who would say that he would support such a law, in reference to the whole State ; or that the act was intended to have any effect generally, and any where else than in the city and county of Philadelphia. Would the gentleman from Lancaster, or the gentleman from Adams, say that they voted for the law in reference to their own counties, or that they would vote for such a law in regard to them? If they did, it would nullify them forever, as public men, at home.
The farmers would say that it was a pretty thing that, before they could have the right of voting, they should be obliged to go and hunt up an assessor, and see that their names were registered.
He had not intended to say any thing on this subject, and, for some time, he had taken little part in the debates ; but, when an attack, which had no foundation in truth, was made, through the registry act, upon the county of Philadelphia, he could no longer hold his peace: and, though the matter was a digression from the subject properly before the committee, he felt bound to rise and repel the charge, as he had done, but in a manner temperate and respectful to the committee.
Mr. Dickey said he was a member of the Legislature when the registry act, which had been so much complained of, was passed. He was one of those members of the Legislature who twice voted for the act, and he thought he understood its object and effect. The gentleman from Northampton did great injustice to the Legislature, when he said that they passed this act to disfranchise any portion of the citizens of the State. That gentleman certainly did not remember the provisions of the law, or he would not so much misrepresent its character and objects. He recommended it to the gentleman again to read the act, for the
purpose of refreshing his memory. So far from disfranchising any one was that law, that it extended, secured, and promoted the exercise of the right of suffrage. While it guarded the right from fraud, and closed the door to spurious votes, it extended the franchise to all who were entitled to exercise it, and even provided measures for bringing all resident citizens within the franchise. The act made it the duty of the assessors to go around, before the election, and see that all who were entitled to vote were placed upon the tax lists. Did not this measure tend to increase the number of voters, and to secure the right to all, even to those who, themselves, might be neglectful of it? It provides that the register shall be furnished with the tax lists of the assessors, and that afterwards, the register shall go around again and see that every man's name is placed
upon the registry. Was not this an extension of the right of suffrage? It provided against any omissions which might occur through the neglect of the assessors ; and did not this tend to promote the exercise of the rights of suffrage? The act further provides that the assessors, with their double lists, shall go round again, and see that every man has been assessed, and that they shall give notice, in all places, of the assessment, so that every poor man may have the opportunity to be assessed, or that a friend may do it for him. Was not this a great advantage? and did it not tend to increase the number of voters ? Was all this done, in any other county, to guard against the omission of any names on the tax lists? Public notice was given in the most public places that the inspectors and judges would meet to correct the lists so made out, and these lists are printed and pasted up in all public places, and then any names which have been omitted may still be received. Could any thing be more fully equal and impartial ? Could any better system be devised for securing and promoting the exer. cise of the right of suffrage? What right, then, has the gentleman from Northampton to say that the registry law was intended to disfranchise persons entitled to vote ? All these provisions of the act went to show that it had a very different object. Its object was to secure from corruption and fraud the elective franchise.
It was stated and not denied in the legislative halls, and it would not be denied here, that frauds innumerable had been committed on the franchise, both in the city and the county of Philadelphia. It was asserted that the ballots were carried off and withheld, and that the inspectors and judges of the elections, where numbers were deficient, either supplied what was wanting on one side, or abstracted the excess on the other side. It was stated on the floor of the Legislature that voters were imported from other districts, and even from other States, to carry the election. The registry act prevented this importation of voters, and that was the cause of the clamor against it. That was the secret of this opposition to the registry act, that it prevented the importation of voters, and the introduction of spurious and fradulent votes. "Why, sir, it was but the other day, that in conversing with a gentleman about the probable result of the election for Congress in the third district, which is soon to take place, I was told, that as the registry law was not applicable to the election in the third district and as it had been decided that it was inapplicable to a special election, the result was very doubtful, for it depended upon the number of voters that each party might import. The party that succeeded in importing the greatest number of voters would probably carry their candidate. Was it not the duty of the Legislature to correct this abuse ? Was it not their duty to make the elections free and equal ? Was it proper to use frauds at the polls, and through fraudulent elections of representatives, and of Governor, and President, to defeat the will of the majority of the qualified electors ? The registry act was necessary not only to preserve the rights of honest men and legal voters in the city and county of Philadelphia, but the rights of every man in the Commonwealth, which, at every general election, were hazarded by the number of illegal votes taken in the city and county. The object of the registry act was to render the elections free, pure and equal. It gave every man in the districts an opportunity of registering himself, and it gave to every one a chance to see that he himself and every one else was duly qualified as an elector, by be,
ing placed either upon the registry or the tax lists. The assessors were sworn to perform their duty faithfully, and they could not, as had been alleged, deprive any one of a right to vote. It required double lists to be carefully made out and published, and it obliged the assessors to go around, and see that every one was duly registered and assessed. He did not believe that any person entitled to vote had been disfranchised through this act, but he did believe that some foreign imported voters lost their opportunity of voting in consequence of it.
The act had in view the prevention of fraud by the inspectors, and the exclusion of imported voters. The New Jerseymen, brought down in crowds, by the railroad, at every election, and the New Yorkers, and others, were prevented from voting, and from carrying
an election, in opposition to the will of the freemen of Pennsylvania. This was the object of the law, and it had this effect. What honest man was there, in the whole Commonwealth, who did not wish to keep out voters from abroad? As a further means of securing the purity and peace of elections, this law provided penalties for fraud at the polls, and for opening an additional window for the accommodation of voters. At the last election, no old men, nor invalids, were prevented from giving their votes by a disorderly and riotous crowds. Much bloodshed had been prevented, and the elections were conducted with quiet and order, in consequence of the registry act. He voted for that law, and he was proud of it. He felt proud in having had the opportunity to give a vote, which had prevented so much corruption. The gentleman from Northampton said, that the repeal of this law, at the last session, was prevented by a Spartan band in the Senate. He would predict to the gentleman, and he called upon him to mark, that this Spartan band would prevent the repeal of that law for seven years to come. That Spartan band would retain the field in triumph, long after the great VAN BUREN democratic party, of which the gentleman was once the victim, and had now become the big gun, had #windled away into utter insignificance. That Spartan band would be sustained by the people of this Commonwealth, and would be the rallying point of freemen, in the approaching struggles with the great, but now decaying party to which the gentleman had so recently become attached, and which it was not in the power even of his ability to sustain. That great democratic party, with the great Magician at his head, would, at another election, be in the minority. [Mr. PORTER. Doubtful).Parties were changing. The popular will had prepared the way for a hero—not him of New Orleans, but for another hero, who would carry through the principles which he brought with him into the Presidential office. Even, at the last election, the boasted democratic party came off with the meagre majority of four thousand, and four years more would bring it, and those who follow its fortunes, into utter insignificance.
Mr. PORTER, of Northampton, rose to reply to the delegate from Beaver. He said it was fortunate, as the gentleman from Beaver operated on the high-pressure principle, that an opportunity had been afforded him. to let off a little of his spare steam, or there might have been danger of an explosion. The democratic party ought to be very thankful, if the gentleman is correct in calling me the big gun, that they have succeeded in getting so large a gun in exchange for the gun, big or little, which they lost in the person of the delegate from Beaver; for it so happened, that