Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

said, I rejoice that the delegate has not dared to charge the great democratic anti-masonic party of Pennsylvania with entertaining these views. They contend for equal rights and equal privileges--the rights of freemen against a many headed monster, even in the opinion of the delegate himself, rise superior to such base charges. It is most grievous, indeed,

that the delegate should have thought proper to have arraigned the motives of the old federal party in this way. They have no representation as such here: as a party they have long since gone to the tomb of the Capulets, and it was unkind in that delegate to have raked up the ashes of the dead. But it was particularly unkind. But it was more particularly unkind in that delegate to disturb the ashes of the poor old federal party, as the self styled great democratic family of Pennsylvania are led on by those once the most distinguished leaders of the poor old federal party. This small attack is, however, justifiable in one respect, as it may go to prove the sincerity of a new convert, and to obtain him a more immediate admission into the bosom of the great democratic family, without which it might have been difficult to have obtained that resting place.

But the delegate has told us that the registry, act was passed to exclude the poor from the right of voting. This is a grave and serious charge, gravely made in a deliberative body, and the delegate should be called on to produce his proof, and if he cannot produce such proof, he should sink under the weight of it. I, however, see myself surrounded by men, older, abler, and, perhaps, better men than myself, who were members of the different branches of that Legislature who enacted that most odious law of all laws. To them I leave the task of defending themselves against this odious charge.

But, sir, this charge, I apprehend, was not made in sober earnestness; it is that kind of argument which is intended to tickle the fancy of the sweet fellows, the dear, lovely, and beloved people. It is intended to show them how much they are beloved here, and how far we will go to serve the dear sovereign people. The members of the Legislature need not tremble with apprehension at the denunciation of the delegate; he does not intend to follow the charge by proof. It is made that is quite enough, and will answer the purpose equally well. Allow me, sir, to inform the committee (if they are not already aware) of some of the reasons which, 1 understand, induced that Legislature to pass this law. It will be recollected that, a few years ago, at the election polls in the county of Philadelphia, were enacted scenes disgraceful, not only to the citizens there, but discreditable to the State. That fair portion of our State was desolated by murder, bloodshed, conflagration and ruin. Enfeebled and respectable men were openly prevented by hired bullies and emancipated convicts from depositing their votes. The infirm were held in dread by this villanous rabble from exercising their Constitutional rights. The Legislature of the State, sir, were importuned for indemnity by those who had lost their all by the conflagrations perpetrated by a blackguard, villanous crew of scoundrels and convicts, who delight in reducing the respectable portion of the community to beggary, as they cannot hope to reduce them as low as themselves in the scale of morality and virtue. The highest commentary, sir, on the utility of the present law, is, that during the time it has been in operation, we have heard of no murders at the polls, no conflagrations,

ble exercise of that right so inestimable to freemen. Would that the Legisture had extended the provisions of this law to every city and incorporated borough in this Commonwealth.

The delegate has told us, that this most odious of all odious laws was repealed last session by the popular branch of the Legislature, almost by acclamation ; but the Spartan Senators had withstood its repeal. He has said so truly, most truly said. 'Tis also true, sir, that invincible body on more occasions than one, during the last session, arrested the mad, headlong career of the popular branch. Yes, sir, on more occasions than one have that Spartan band stood between the rights of the people and the mad infuriated zeal of the infatuated party zealots of the lower branch; and for which they deserve the thanks of every true friend of civil liberty, and of every friend of law and order. Yes, sir, and the delegate has told us, too, that the Legislature of 1835–6 made use of their short-lived power, and that it had departed, never to return. On that point, sir, let me say to that delegate, that the time has now arrived when the healthful intelligence of truth has diffused itself among the hills and the valleys of this glorious Commonwealth. When an intelligent people are aware of the great political results which have been obtained, and are still to be obtained, by an adherence to the pure principles of liberty and equality, and that the time is passed away when the diadems, sceptres, mitres, and all the insignia of speculative free masonry can dazzle an emancipated people.

Mr. Doran, of Philadelphia, said he had listened to a great deal which had been said concerning the Constitutionality of the registry act, but in all the wide range which the debate had taken, he had heard no gentleman give an opinion as to its origin. One gentleman had regarded it as a Massachusetts invention; and one had stated that it originated with the President of the United States; while another insisted that it was the duty of all those gentlemen who were of the same party as Mr. VAN BUREN, to support it. He did not think the registry act was of American invention. It neither owed its origin to Massachusetts nor New York. If his memory did not deceive him, it was of English invention, got up by the Duke of WELLINGTON, to put down the forty shilling freeholders, because it was the policy of the dominant party to break down the strength of the poor men. It was the invention of WELLINGTON and PEALE, intended to operate on the forty shilling freelıolders of Ireland, who were too patriotic to be swayed into a subserviency to the Government. You know, sir, or may have heard, how matters have been carried on in Ireland, and what measures have been on the tapis to prevent the honest expression of public opinion. By an act passed some twenty or thirty years ago, it was in the power of any forty shilling freeholder to vote, and when DANIEL O'CONNELL was a candidate, there was not one of these forty shilling freeholders who did not vote for that gentleman, to carry out the principles which he has since so ably discussed. The minority then thought it politic to hack down these freeholders; and how did they go to work to effect their object? By concocting this very registry act, which was to take place, a limited period before the elections, that the landlords might have time to goround to endeavor to work by bribery or persuasion. That was the history of the registry act, as introduced by the tories in Great Britain, and that is the act which was introducd here. He was not afraid to stand up on this floor, in relation to his history of this act. If we take

[graphic]

presery.

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 ing 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 fran.chise 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

[graphic]
« ZurückWeiter »