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Mr. STERIGERE made some remarks on the saine side. The gentleman in his opinion, was clearly entitled to have the amendment received.
Mr. Read expressed his opinion that the motion was in order, and gave his reasons in support of this opinion.
The PRESIDENT further explained the grounds of the decision, and, without taking the question,
On motion of Mr. CHAMBERS,
The convention adjourned.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 5, 1838.
The convention resumed the consideration of the memorial presented from twenty-three citizens of Berks county, constituting the grand jury of that county, at the present court of quarter sessions, praying that the convention do adjourn forth with, sine die.
The question being on the motion of Mr. PurviANCE, of Butler, that the said memorial be rejected.
Mr. Dickey, of Beaver, resumed his remarks. In looking over the petition, he saw that it purported to be from citizens of Berks county. If hese citizens are acting in the capacity of grand inquest of the county, or not, he did not know. This had nothing to do with the endorsement. The signers came from the body of the inhabitants, and had a right, noi to be disputed, to petition for the redress of grievances. There was no just ground, if the allegations are true, for the rejection of the memorial. It was only yesterday ihat he had seen a notice which had been published by the secretary calling on all those persons who had accounts against the convention to send them in for examination. So extravagant had been the expenditures of this body, that the disbursing officer no longer knew who had claiins against it. And what will our labours amount to? We see one unrighteous proposition submitted after another, until the whole will be so unpalatable, that when the amendments come before the people, they will be rejected on account of the radical character of the propositions inserted by this convention-propositions which are brought forward here, clothed with the authority of a caucus recommendation. After the gentleman from Susquehanna had discussed the subject of the banks, and the propositions he brought forward, with a view to political and party effect, he sent his speech throughout the state in English and German. And after they had been the subject of debate for five or six weeks here,—he has
finally withdrawn, after previously modifying, them so as completely to change their character. The petitioners have a right to think, because the whole country thinks, that our course of proceedings will have a deleterious effecion the business interests of Pennsylvania. They say—“the res olution which has been adopted, there is reason to expect may be rescinded.
They have a right to say so, because there has been already an attempt to rescind it.
They have a right to tell us to adjourn, and we have a right to reject their petition. If their language is respectful, they have a right to send their petition here: and he would call on the gentleman from Berks, (Mr. Keim) to say if the petitioners are not respectable, or of what complexion they are. It was suggested by that gentleman that this was a packed jury.
Mr. Keim begged leave to explain. He denied that he had applied the phrase to this jury. He found that there was a fraud on the face of the petition. It purported to be from the grand inquest of the county: yet he found, on reference, that it had not the names of those persons who were on the grand jury. He was not bound to defend such a paper.
Mr. Dickey resumed. If he was in error in designating that the gentleman had applied this language to the grand jury, he had erred with many others, and with the reporters for the daily newspapers. How do gentlemen desire this petition to be treated ? Is the record on the journal to be expunged, after the fashion of the United States Senate ? Is it to be circumscribed by black lines, and written across ? Because to reject the petition would be useless. Gentlemen ask us to reject the petition, in order to sustain the dignity of the convention. The best mode would be to receive the petition. Its language is more respectful than that of the people of Pittsburg which was received; and will you treat the respectable citizens of Berks worse than you treated the people of Pittsburg ?
Mr. M'Dowell, of Bucks, said he felt no great difficulty about this petition, or to any thing which was contained in the paper : and he did not know why the convention should be so sensitive in receiving, or disposing of, a paper said to reflect on this body. He had heard the petition read twice, and it did not appear to himto be one-fortieth so bad in its language as that which members use daily on this floor, in reference to each other. It becomes a matter of dignity if we slander each other, but the people are not to be permitted to send back an echo to it. Even the gentleman from Beaver (and I suspect, said Mr. M'D. he suggested their paper !) finds here the same language which he addressed to the convention some six weeks ago, and no wonder he is in favor of the petition. This is a bill of indietment sent by the grand inquest and all we have to do is to answer it--he was not bound to point out how we should answer. The gentleman from Beaver need not be so anxious to receive the petition, for he will be the first to be convicted. But there was a difficulty arising out of the explanation of the gentleman from Berks, and which might make it proper that the petition should not be received. Are these persons not the grand inquest of the county ?
Mr. Kelm replied that there were names attached to it which were not in the list of the grand jury.
Mr. M’Dowell. Then it is a fraud, and intended as such, and ought not to be received.
Mr. PORTER of Northampton, said he would read the letter inclosing the petition, which he had already shown to the two delegates of Berks, who had stated that it was from a respectable source. [Mr. Porter then read the letter.] He was told that the writer of this letter was a respectable citizen of Reading, and a member of the grand jury. That it was no hoax, he had satisfied himself. But he had not seen any list of the grand jury.
Mr. DARLINGTON, of Chester. The question was, if the petition should be rejected ? His vote would depend on certain facts which he wished to understand. It purported to be from the grand jury. The delegate from Berks had said they are not all names of persons on the grand jury. He would be glad if that gentleman would point out such names as are on the grand jury. He had not been able to discover any thing disrespectful in the language of the petition. Why should the gentleman from Butler, (Mr. Purviance,) and the gentleman from Susquehanna (Mr. Read) wish to reject the petition, and thus to show to the people that we are testy and ill-tempered? We should better sustain our dignity by pursuing a different course. He did not desire to occupy the time of the convention. Would the gentleman from Berks say what names are not on the grand jury?
Mr. Cox, of Somerset, said he did not know if gentlemen signed this petition who are not members of the grand jury: There was a gentleman, who was a near relation of the gentleman from Berks, here yesterday, who had said these were the names of the grand inquest, and that it spoke the sense of a majority of the citizens of the respectable county of Berks. The petition said nothing about grand jurors. The body of the petition is all he cared about. If the signers are freemen of Berks and American citizens, they had a right to memoralize the convention. They had a constitutional right to do what was essential to the rights of the people; and if we despise their petition, would it not be assuming constitutional right on the subject of dignity? Are we to reject a petition because it is not pleasing to every body? No man will assume that there is any thing untrue in the petition—that time has not been uselessly expended on the bank question—that tens of thousands have not been wasted on what the movers knew would be rejected. Will any gentleman say it is undignified to receive this petition because it contains solemn truths ? Shall we reject it, because the endorsement on the back states that it is from the grand inquest of the county, when there is not a word in the body of the petition that indicates such to be the fact? He agreed with the gentleman from Chester, that to reject the petition would be to set ourselves up as masters of the people. He would not consent to receive any memorial which was disrespectful in its language, but this was not obnoxious to any such objection.
Mr. HIESTER, of Lancaster, could not, he said, but prise at the motion of the gentleman from Butler, (Mr. Purviance) to reject the memorial, and the motion of the gentleman from the county of Phila. delphia, (Mr. Martin) to throw it under the table. The right of petition was a sacred and inviolable right, and had been so held by the people of this commonwealth. The people were secured in the right of peaceably assembling together and addressing petitions and memorials to their constituted bodies. As long as those petitions were couched in decorous language! we were compelled to receive them and treat them with consideration and
respect. The right of petition was granted both by the constitution of the United States and of the state of Pennsylvania. Under the constitution of this state the people have a right to apply to those invested with the power of government for redress of grievances or other proper purposes, by petition address, or remonstrance ; and for the convention, while revis ing this constitution, to treat a right so sacred with contempt, would be very extraordinary. The members of this convention have exerted their very right as citizens since they assembled here.
He had seen some petitions to congress signed by members of this body. While we claimed the right for ourselves, we ought to allow it, in its proper extent, to others. It is said that the petition does not come from a responsible and respectable quarter, and that it is disrespectful to the convention. What is the fact? It is said that there is nothing in the body of the petition indicating the source from which it comes. But that is not strictly the case, because it purports to come from the grand jury of Berks county. On the back of the paper is an endorsement stating that the paper is the petition of the grand jury of the county of Berks, in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The reason that the petition came not from a responsible and known source, therefore failed altogether. We know the men who signed it as holding the responsible situation of a grand jury in an intelligent and respectable county in this state, and unless we had some other reason for rejecting the petition or treating it with contempt, it was incumbent upon us to receive it and give it a proper consideration. Again, it is charged that the memorial is couched in disrespectful terms. What there is disrespectful in it towards this body I cannot see. If there is any thing disrespectful in it, I request the gentlemen who make the objection, to point it out, as I have not been able to find it. It appears to me that the memorial is objeetionable to gentlemen on account of its truth. That is probably the true reason why it is so offensive to this body. This is generally the case with those who refuse to receive petitions. The idea of rejecting or contemptuously treating a petition was never heard of in this country till lately, and it first came from some of our hightoned southern friends, who heard through'some memorials addressed to congress, truths which were offensive to their ears. They took the ground that the petitioners had no right to argue upon the subject, or make any statements about it. But such a doctrine is a very novel one for Pennsylvania. I took the memorial to the gentleman from Berks, who had knowledge of the facts concerning it, and ascertained from him that twenty-two of the signers of the memorial are members of the grand jury, and iwo are not. It had been said that there was something fraudulent in the manner of getting up and addressing the petition, but it does not appear
that this is a fact. It is a fact that twenty-two grand jurors signed the paper, according to its purport. In regard to the responsibility of the signers, I have the pleasure of knowing the majority of them, and can safely assure the convention of their entire respectability. Some of them are doctors, other merchants, iron-makers, and farmers. As to the political complexion of the signers, when analyzed, it would be found, that twelve of the signers were in favor of the election of governor Ritner, and that eight were for Van Buren. The politics of the other three were not known here. Can gentlemen then call them a packed jury,—are they party men or men unknown or irresponsible ? No. They are the most respectable men of the county and are made up of all parties. I can see no reason, therefore, why their petition should not receive all that respect and attention which the constitution guaranties to petitions, addresses, and remonstrances sent from citizens to their constituted authorities, for the redress of grievances, or upon any proper subject.
Mr. FULLER regretted, he said, to see so much of the valuable time of this body spent upon so profitless a subject as this, at this late period of the session of this convention, and he hoped the discussion would be brought to a speedy close. Inasmuch as the petition has been received by this body, and niade the subject of consideration, it cannot be now rejected. Though the doubts entertained as to the genuineness of the petition were proved to be well founded, yet if it appeared that the petitioners were citizens, their petition must be received." Whether they are actually what they represent themselves to be, the members of the grand jury of Berks county or not, we are well assured that they are citizens of Berks county, and, as such, they have a right to address any public body constituted by the citizens. The petition ought not to be rejected nor treated with contempt, as some have proposed to do, whether its sentiments were agreeable to us as a body or not.
He regretted that the gentleman from Beaver, (Mr. Dickey) who had always expressed a strong disposition to terminate the labor of this body, had contributed to prolong this discussion, at the expense of the time of the convention, by the introduction into it of the subject of politics. If every individual matter brought before us is to be discussed as a party question, there can be no end to unnecessary and protracted debate.
The gentle. man from Beaver is no doubt in earnest when he expresses a strong desire 10 bring the session to a close, but he must be sensible that his course tends strongly to the unnecessary protraction of the session. We must vote more and speak less, if we wish to hasten the day of adjournment. I move, sir, the indefinite postponement of the whole subject.
Mr. Read moved the previous question, and the main question was ordered to be put.
The main question, “shall the petition be rejected," was then put, and decided in the negative, yeas 9, nays 103, as follow :
YEAS— Messrs. Bell, Bigelow, Cummin, Magee, Mann, Meredith, Purviance, Read, Sturdevant-9.
Nays-Messrs. Agnew, Baldwin, Banks, Barclay, Barndollar, Bedford, Biddle, Bonham, Brown, of Lancaster, Brown, of Northampton, Brown, of Philadelphia, Carey, Chambers, Chandler, of Chester, Chandler, of Philadelphia, Chauncey, Clarke, of Beaver, Clark, of Dauphin, Clarke, of Indiana, Cleavinger, Cline, Coates, Cope, Cox, Craig, Crain, Crawford, Crum, Cunningham, Curll, Darlington, Darrah, Denny, Dickey, Dickerson, Dillinger, Donagan, Donnell, Earle, Forward, Foulkrod, Fry, Fuller, Gamble, Gearhart, Grenell, Harris, Hastings, Hayhurst, Hays, Helffenstein, Henderson, of Allegheny, Henderson, of Dauphin, Hiester, High, Hopkinson, Houpt, Hyde, Ingersoll, Jenks, Keim, Kennedy, Kerr, Konigmacher, Krebs, Long, Lyons, Maclay, M'Cahen, M'Call, M'Dowell, M'Sherry, Merkel, Miller, Montgomery, Penny packer, Pollock, Porter, of Lancaster, Porter, of Northampton, Riter, Ritter, Royer, Russell, Saeger, Scott, Sellers, Seltzer, Serrill, Shellito, Sill, Smith, of Columbia, Smyth, of Centre, Snively, Sterigere, Stickel, Taggart, Thomas, Todd, Weaver, Weidman, Woodward, Young, Sergeant, President-103.
So the question was determined in the negative.