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his intention to submit it as an amendment, so soon as an opportunity of fered. This amendment, which he proposed submiting, provided for all county officers, and he had merely risen to call the attention of gentlemen to it.
Mr. MEREDITH said, the amendment, as introduced, contemplates the election of one sheriff, in the place of two, as is the present practice, and leaving it with the Governor to commission one of these persons. As to this part of it, he did not know that he would have any particular objection, but he could not now say, whether he would vote for it, as he considered it a matter of very little importance whether there was an alteration made in the Constitution in this respect or not, because it was generally understood, that the Governor will appoint the person who stands highest as to the number of votes received. He had done so in almost every instance since the adoption of the Constitution, and he could see no evil to result from it. But it appeared to him that the committee had gone to an unnecessary extent in carrying out this principle, when they provided for the abolition of the commission of the Governor. Now, he liked the idea of having the certificate of the return judges, but, at the same time, he would not dispense with the commission of the Governor. It appeared to him to be highly proper that a record of the appointment of these officers should be kept in different parts of the State, so that persons at a distance may have the opportunity of enquiry, at the proper office, to ascertain to whom a process was to be sent, or on whom it was to be served, in case the officer did not discharge his duty faithfully. This record would be preserved by having the commission of the sheriff recorded in the Secretary's office here, and in the clerk's office of the county to which he belonged; and access could easily be had to these records, whereas, if persons had to hunt after the certificates of return judges, some three or four years after the election was held, it might lead to great difficulty. The matter, too, of the sheriff's giving security, was of the highest importance to the people. It was a matter which should receive the closest scrutiny of the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas, who were to pass upon the security, because it frequently happened that those securities were called upon for the payment of money which came into the sheriff's hands, and which he is unable to pay. We know, now, that a sheriff cannot receive a commission, and enter upon the discharge of the duties of his office, until he has complied with the provisions of the law, and given security which is satisfactory to the Judges of the court of his county, and the Governor of the State. But when you employ the certificate of the return judges of the election, in lieu of a commissio: by the Governor, it may be a question whether that certificate is not the crowning operation--and fixes him in office from that moment, without any regard to the security he may be able to give. We all know that the Governor refuses to give a commission until bond and security are given, and he is satisfied that it is good and sufficient. We trusted that part of the old Constitution, at least, would be permitted to remain, so that we might have the additional guard of a cominission, duly recorded, and the check of the Governor in issuing it. There was another objection which he had to this amendment, Suppose the case of a contested election of a sheriit, were the people to be bound by the mere certificate of the return judges? Or suppose that the return judges make a mistake, what means will you have of correcting the error ? Are
you to trust to them alone to re-examine the ballot boxes and make up a decision which is to be binding on the freemen of the county? Is their certificate to be final and conclusive, whether there may have been a mistake in counting the ballots, or illegal votes received at the election, or not? He did not believe that this inatter had occurred to the committee at the time they made their report, as he had no doubt it was not their intention to introduce into the Constitution a clause calculated to produce embarrasse ment and confusion. He trusted that the gentleman from Chester would at least so modify his amendment, as to leave the commissioning of these officers with the Governor.
Mr. Bell then withdrew his amendment, and moved to strike out of the report of the committee all after the word "aforesaid”, in the eighth line, which is that part of the report in relation to the certificates of return judges confering all the powers heretofore confered by commissions issued by the Governor.
Mr. MERRILL would request some members of the committee to state some of the reasons which induced the committee to make these changes in the Constitution.
Mr. Read said, he would answer the gentleman from Union in a very few words. His reason for inserting this clause in the report, which the gentleman from Chester had just moved to strike out, were these. It was a pretty good general rule, that when the reason for a thing ceased to exist, the thing itself should cease to exist. Now, the only reason why the Governor, under the present Constitution, issues a commission to a sheriff, was, that two pe ons were to be elected by the people, and the Governor had the option of appointing either. To be sure, in practice, he has generally conformed to the public sentiment, and appointed the person highest on the return, but he was under no obligation to do so, and in some instances he had not done so. Having taken the appointment of sheriff from the Governor, and having given his election to the people entirely, he could see no more reason why the Governor should issue a commission to him, than to the county commissioners, or any other county officers. Was there any reason why he should issue a commission to a county commissioner? No sir: and why? Because there was but one elected, and he is the officer, and the certificate of the return judges is all that is necessary to make him the officer. As to the evidence of his being the officer, which the gentleman from the city had spoken of, it would be an easy matter for the Legislature to provide, by law, that a record of the certificate of the return judges should be sent to the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, which would answer every purpose of the record of the commission of the sheriff. This would save the sheriffs considerable trouble and expense in coming to Harrisburg, from a distance, to get their commissions : and, when they were got, they gave the officers no more power than would be confered upon them by the more simple, easy, and cheap mode of adopting the certificates of the return judges, as a substitute for commissions. To be leaving with the Governor the commissioning of these officers, would be confering upon him the prisilege of issuing commissions to officers over whom he had no power; and, this matter of allowing the Governor to select between two persons, to fill the office of sheriff, should be blotted from our
ancient principle, that the sheriff was the representative in fact of the king. Now, it seemed to him, that these reasons were sufficient for adopting this clause in preference to the old section in the Constitution ; and, he hoped, as a matter of convenience to the public, and economy to the candidates, and justice to the citizens of the Commonwealth, that it would be adopted.
Mr. WOODWARD thought, that the reason given by ihe gentleman from Susquehanna, in support of the report of the committee, were the very best reasons why the amendment of the gentleman from Chester ought to prevail. It seemed to him, that the only practical evil which existed under the old Constitution, in this particular, was the Governor having the choice between the two persons who were returned to him, thus giving him the power of defeating the public will, by the appointment of the minority candidate. Now, the amendment proposed by the committee provides, that there shall be but one person elected to this office, so that there would be no means left with the Governor of defeating the public will, and the commissioning of the officer could now be left in his hands, without any of the dangerous consequences which heretofore have existed. It was, in fact, necessary that the Governor should commission these officers, so that a record might be preserved as official evidence of their holding and exercising the office. Some kind of a record was indispensably necessary, and he did not know of any one which would be more convenient than the record of the commission given by the Governor, which would be on record in the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, and in the office of the Clerk of the court of the county in which the sheriff resided. He would have the sheriff's commissioned precisely for the same reason for which the militia officers were commissioned, not because the Governor had any voice in their selection, but because he wished to have an authentic record of their commissions in some place, to which the public could have access.
He concured entirely in the suggestions of the gentleman from Philadelphia, (Mr. MEREDITH) as to the necessity of commissions being issued by the Governor to sheriff's, and he believed, if the amendment on this subject prevailed, that no evil would result from it. He was in favor of resigning to the Governor the cominissioning of sheriffs, and if the 11th section, providing for the security of these officers be adopted, as he had no doubt it would be, these commissions will be an evidence that this security is given, and that it is sufficient. Thus, all the advantages of the old Constitution will be retained, and all the disadvantages he had ever understood to result from it, avoided. He knew there had been evils experienced under the old Constitution in this respect. In the county of Luzerne, they had an instance of two persons being returned to the Governor for the office of sheriff, and the Governor commissioned the one who had the smallest number of votes of the two, thus defeating the express will of the people; and, this may have been the case in other counties, and he believed he had heard of similar instances to this in some of the counties of the State. Now, he believed, this to be a great and serious evil, because he held that, when the people have deliberately chosen a sheriff for a particular county, they have the right to the services of that individual ; and, he never would consent to give the Governor the power to defeat the public will, and give to the people an officer which was not their choice. Then, he would retain
the commission of the sheriffs, for the purpose of having official evidence of the existence of such officer, to which the people could, at any time, and on all occasions, refer, when they thought necessary so to do. He trusted the amendment would be agreed to, and that the Executive com. mission will be retained.
Mr. MERRILL was opposed to making changes in the Constitution, upon mere guess work. It was true, as the gentleman from Susquehanna said, he could see no evils to arise from this change, nor did he know, that any one now, could point out any evil, which would probably result from it; but, he knew of no evil results, which had arisen from the old Constitution, in this respect, and therefore, he would not change an old, and well established principle, for a new, and untried one. He then, objected to this, because it was a new principle, and there was no telling how it would work in practice; and any principle, the correctness of which could not already be demonstrated, he thought, ought not to be adopted. In looking through this report, he found the commissions of the Governor to the sheriffs, were to be dispensed with. Then the Legislature would have to provide some means, by which the evidence of the existence of such officers was to be preserved, in some office in the Coinmonwealth; and he could not see the necessity, of throwing away the highest evidence
, which can be obtained, for some other, which may, or may not be, equal. ly satisfactory. We do not know, that the certificate of the return judges, will answer as good a purpose, as the commission of the Governor. The commission of the Governor is recorded in the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, and in the office of the clerk of the court of the county in which the sheriff resides. Now, he knew of an instance, which came under his own notice, where the record, in the office of the clerk of the court, varied from the original record, which made it entirely useless; and the consequence was, that he could not sustain a suit, which he had brought, until he sent to the office of the secretary of the Commonwealth, and obtained a certifie:l copy, from the original record. There cannot, then, be too much care taken, in matters of this kind, so that the public may not be made to suffer by it; and he would retain all the checks and guards, which he could. 'l'hese officers ought to give the best security, and the evidence of their having done so, ought to be retained. If the practice of commissioning sheriffs should be dispensed with, men might get in to be sheriffs, who would not be able to obtain the necessary security, and if they did not conduct themselves properly, the community at large would be the sufferers by it. He hoped the amendment to strike out this provision would prevail, and that all these officers should receive commissions from the Governor.
Mr. Brown had heard it suggested by some gentlemen, that the return judges might commit an error, in making out their returns, or that fraud might be practiced in the elections, and that there ought to be a power somewhere, to correct this. Now, he would ask the gentleman, who advanced tha
idea, whether it was intended to make the Governor a judge, in matters of this kind ? Was it the certificate of the return judges, which was to be the evidence of the election of the officers, or was it the commission of the Governor, which was to be the evidence of his election? If the Governor was to take the certificate of the judges, as evidence of