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"I prefer, therefore, a representation by towns, even though it should necessarily be somewhat
PUBLISHED BY REQUEST.
SOUTH WALPOLE, Oct. 31, 1853. DEAR SIR :
I have the pleasure of handing to you a copy of the following vote passed on Saturday evening :
Voted, That the thanks of the meeting be tendered to Hon. F. W. BIRD, for the instructive Address delivered by him this evening, and that he be requested to furnish a copy of the same for publication.
Yours very truly,
BAINBRIDGE MOWRY. Hon. F. W. BIRD.
East WALPOLE, Nov. 5, 1853. Dear SIR:
I place the enclosed at your disposal. Having no notes, I have written out my remarks from memory.
I should have been glad to publish the remarks of Mr. Carpenter, and my reply; but have not found time to write out so much.
F. W. BIRD. BAINBRIDGE MOWRY, Esq.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN - Fellow Citizens:-At the request of quite a number of my constituents, I appear before you to give some ac. count of the doings of the Convention to “ Revise or alter the Constitution of Government of this Commonwealth." The partiality of the citizens of Walpole selected me as their delegate to that Convention; to the extent of my poor abilities, I helped to contribute to the result which is before the people as the New Constitution. I voted for every proposition, with perhaps a single exception; I shall vote for every one on the Fourteenth of November, and I am ready to defend my acts and my vote against all forthcomers.
I have received many tokens of confidence at the hands of my fellow citizens of Walpole. For each and all I am now, and shall be forever, profoundly grateful. But never have you conferred upon me so high an honor, never have you placed me under so grave a responsibility, as when you sent me to a Convention to “revise or alter” the organic law of the Commonwealth. The embodiment of the collected will of a million of people in an ordinary legislative act, is an important matter; the adoption of an organic law for that million of people, above all executive and all legis. lative power,-for the time being a limitation of the sovereign power of the people themselves,--to control the legislation of the Commonwealth for å generation, and mould its institutions for all coming time, is a work of higher, more solemn responsibility. I can never cease to regard it as the crowning glory of my humble life to have been delegated by you to a work which engaged the talents of Adams, PARKER, STORY, WEBSTER, and other great names of the Commonwealth in 1820, and of others in 1853 whom posterity will regard as not less illustrious.
The Constitution of Massachusetts was adopted in 1780. In 1820 the formation of the Province of Maine into a State rendered so many alterations of the Constitution necessary, that a Convention was held for the purpose. Nine of the amendments adopted by that Convention were ratified by the people. Since that date some amendments have been made in the manner provided for in the Constitution ; that is, by the votes of twothirds of two successive Houses, and by the majority of two successive Senates, and ratified by the people. These amendments have been attached to, and dovetailed into the old Constitution in such manner as best suited the taste or judgment of each reader; and even now our Constitution is so complicated that no common man can understand which of its provisions stand, and which have been superseded by amendments. Read the old Constitution as circulated by order of the last Legislature, and I defy any man to tell me what is now valid and what has been struck out by amend.
ments; and instead of having a clean draft for every-body to understand, the copy printed by the Legislature is one compiled by Judge Cushing, and actually copyrighted by him, and published by the Legislature only " with his consent.” It is a well known fact, that the ablest lawyers in the Convention differed irreconcilably as to the requirements of the present Constitution for qualifications of members of the House of Representatives.
There is not a single State in the Union which has not had a new Constitution long since the adoption of ours, and nearly all of them have had two or three new Constitutions since that time. The Constitution of New Hampshire alone, of all the free States, dates back to the last century.
For years the feeling has been gaining strength in Massachusetts that our organic law needed revision. So long as the Whig party held undisputed preponderance in the State, the injustice of the old Constitution excit. cd less attention ; but within half a dozen years public attention has been awakened to the absurdities of a political system which allowed a party in the minority to have the entire control of every department of the State Government. The three provisions of our Constitution which contributed mainly to this anomalous state of things were: the general ticket system of large cities, the sliding scale system of representation which continually disfranchised small towns and increased the power of cities, and the filling of the vacancies in the Senate by the Legislature.
The Convention was ordered by the people. Four hundred and twenty delegates, representing every town and city but twelve, were elected. The result is before the people.
WHAT IS THE ISSUE? It is this. Shall the New Constitution be adopted, or shall the old one be retained? This is the only question. If the New Constitution is rejected, no new Convention will be held to make another attempt at revision for a generation. If this fails, the people will never vote for another Convention at a cost of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. It will be quite enough, they will say, to have wasted that sum once.
But our Whig friends tell us, that if we will reject this Constitution they will go
for calling another Convention. Don't trust them; this new born zeal for reform is suspicious. Remember, that those who promise this are the very men who, previous to the seventh of March last, denounced the proposition to hold a Convention as unnecessary, unconstitutional, and revolutionary. But when the sun of that seventh of March, with its majority of over a hundred delegates in favor of reform, set, it spread terror through the ranks of fogiedom, and they waked up the next morning the most radical reformers. If they are sincere in their professions, why did they not give us these reforms when they had the power? Year after year the Whig party had from two-thirds to four-fifths of the House, and every member of the Senate. They could have carried any amendments they pleased by the constitutional majority of two-thirds of the House and a majority of the Senate. And yet during all that time no Whig lifted a finger or wagged a tongue for one of these reforms.
If the district system is so perfect, why did they not then adopt it? If the plurality rule is so beautiful, why did they not propose it? Because the old system worked well so long as it gave the control of the State to them, being in a minority.
Year after year previous to 1851, attempts were made by Democrats to . adopt the plurality rule, to a greater or less extent, in elections ; and the Whigs, in both Houses, almost as one man, opposed then. In 1850, a proposition was made to elect Representatives to the General Court by
plurality, and every Whig member from Boston, and many, if not quite every Whig member of the House, voted Nay, and it was not until 1851 that a Coalition Legislature applied the plurality rule to the election of members of Congress.
We will not trust such friends of reform. They know that if the New Constitution is rejected, the old one stands; and this leaves the State in the hands of State Street; and this is just all they want.
The only question for an honest voter to settle is—Is the New Constitu. tion better than the old? Do we, on the whole, gain or lose, by adopting the New Constitution ? And, upon the matter of representation, does our town or our county gain or lose ? And, upon the whole, does the New Constitution better protect the rights of the people than does the old ? What, then, do we gain by the New Constitution ? We secure
THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE BALLOT. Upon this the verdict of the people has been already rendered, and it is unequivocal. Party madness repealed it in the last Legislature, but the elections of the seventh of March revealed the popular indignation against the accidental majority who presumed thus to trifle with a cherished right. of the people. We mean to place this sacred right of independent suffrage beyond the reach of partisan folly ; the people will incorporate it in the organic law, that no spy shall stand between the voter and the ballotbox; that no eye but that of the All-seeing One shall read the ballot.
We have provided that “ no compensation shall be allowed for the attendance of members of the Legislature, at any one session, for a longer time than one hundred days.” The effect of this will be to
LIMIT THE LENGTH OF THE SESSIONS to that time. At the same time, we have provided that
NO LEGISLATURE SHALL INCREASE THEIR OWN PAY, by declaring that “the compensation of members shall be established by standing laws ; but no act increasing the compensation shall apply to the General Court which passes the Act.” We have
ABOLISHED THE PROPERTY QUALIFICATION for the office of Governor and Lieutenant-Governor. The present Constitution requires that no man can hold the office of Governor unless he owns real estate “ of the value of one thousand pounds." This relic of feudalism the New Constitution sweeps away, and the only qualification hereafter to be required for Governor is, that he shall be " A CITIZEN OF MASSACHUSETTS.” He may be a lawyer, a store-keeper, or a “cobbler," but he need not be worth “ a thousand pounds."
Another change in accordance with the spirit of the age, is the ABOLITION OF THE TAX QUALIFICATION FOR VOTING.
The Democratic doctrine is, that the elective suffrage is a right belong. ing to every freeman, and not a privilege to be bought by the payment of one dollar or a hundred. Time was when no man could vote without owning a certain amount of real estate ; gradually it has been reduced to the payment of a tax; now, we declare that a man votes as a man, and not by the accident of property.
The statement has been made, and I am told in Walpole, that the New Constitution abolishes the poll-tax, and compels property holders to pay all