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contrary is true. The letter of the Constitution provides for both ; and I most respectfully insist that the terms of that Constitution must be complied with.
I do not think it requires any preambles, bills or acts of assembly to satisfy us that the life of the State must be preserved, and that in and on it are involved and based every question and every interest. In it the public creditor ftads his only hope of justice ; for it he trusted. The public free school upon its bosom rests, and without it would have neither local habitation nor name. The State must live, or the hopes of the creditor and the free schools both perish. This is so plain that whilst I write it, I feel as if I were simply writing a trueism.
And yet talk, quite vague and hard to understand, is heard about rohbery, misapplication, misappropriation, diversion of the school fund. I am sure those who use these ugly terms do not intend them in a criminal sense, yet they are calculated to deceive the ignorant, but cannot possibly mislead those who look at the revenues and expenditures of the State. When those revenues are applied according to established rule, both of the General Assembly and the highest courts, to preserve that organism in which cohere the rights of life, liberty and property, which are the fruit of civilization, and which could not survive one moment the reign of Law, and without which everything would resolve itself into chaos-public free schools and all--and if there is a deficit, it does not prove robbery or any other base crime, it simply proves that there is a deficiency of money in the treasury to meet the requirements. I therefore do not suppose any reasoning or reasonable man ought to be mislead by these harsh and to say the least, not very decorous terms. If such has been the impression of any one hitherto, I am sure a very slight examination will undeceive him. I think the friends of the schools will do much more for their promotion and success by avowing at once that there is not revenue sufficient to carry them on properly, and urging increased taxation for the purpose, rather than charging innocent men with grave offences. I am very sure that no member of the General Assembly, and no true friend of the public free schools would deserve it, yet an illibcral and cynical posterity might pronounce the same judgment that it has done on Demetrius the Silversmith, and his fellow-craftsmen, that when they cried so lustily, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians,” they were not thinking so much of the interests and honor of the Goddess as of the sales of their own merchandise.
The time will very soon come, if not already at hand, when the friends of the public free school system will not be regarded as those who in their zeal would force it into and over obstacles, regardless of necessities of State, or rights of individuals ; but rather those who would found it in justice and equity and charity, so that instead of being a standing reproof to the State, and the victorious enemy of others' rights, it will be, as it ought, the perpetual glory of the beneficence of a great Commonwealth and the promise to future generations of an unswerving and abiding devotion to plighted faith and untårnished honor.
These are statements, conclusions and principles which I am sure no onewill deny; with them in hand, let us advance and meet the issue presented, with the resolve that it shall be settled. To say that a question between debtor and creditor, a pure question of business, whether between State and individual, or individual and individual, cannot be settled, is simply to deny what is occurring every day, To say that a Legislature composed of what is, or ought to be, the best material in the State, is not equal to such a question when acting within their Constitutional limits, is an unworthy refleotion upon them and upon the whole system of Constitutial and Representative Government. I am not of those who think so. I have always said that it was purely a business transaction, with which parties and politics had nothing to do, and that this General Assembly, looking at it as practical men, was fully able to deal with and close it.
The First Auditor has furnished me the following statement, which shows
FROM WIIAT SOURCES REVENUE IS DERIVED. Value of real estate as assessed with taxes, $246,391,193.56; tax on
same at 50 cents on the $100 value, is $1.231,955,96, and back taxes assessed of $1,260.22, making............
................ Value of personal property assessed with taxes, $76,178,438.00; tax
on same at 50 cents in the $100 value ......... Valne of incomes as assessed with taxes, $3,457,715.40; tax on same
at l per cent ......... Capitation tax-white, 174,561; colored, 110,954; total tax at $1
per capita....... Licenses, tax on. Taxes derived from banks, railroads, insurance companies, clerks,
notaries, &c..... Revenne derived from other sources, not and other than extraordinary ............
285,815 00 600,000 00
Deduct commissions for collecting, &c....
Deduct insolvent capitation and property and delinquent land tax...
Deduct current expenses of government ...........
$2,414,020 44 1,000,000 00
Deduct amount due to public free schools.................................
Vet revenue applicable to payment of interest ................
Amount of interest on debt of $29,350, 826.38, at 6 per cent.............
...... $1,742,865 82 Deduet net revenue applicable to payment of interest... 972,262 49
This $1,742,865.82 does not include the annual interest due on bonds held by the Literary Fund, full interest on which would be $84,349.64, as shown by the report of the Second Auditor. If this item be added to the first statement of interest as above, the total annual deficit would be $854,952.97.
This is, every one will admit, a very large deficit, which must be met and must be met honorably by the State. It cannot be said before the General Assembley, however unreflecting men may at large talk, that this debt is without consideration or has any other defect actual or technical. Happily that matter is closed, and I hope forever, by the repeated declarations of your respected body; nor have we the pretext, shallow though it would
be, that the consideration was lost by the war. That consideration stands to-day ; and could it by some magic process be lifted out of the State, in-stead of abstracting its mere sum, it would take away many times its amount from the values of the Commonwealth. Indeed it would leave Virginia, with all her endowments and resources, equal to those of any other area, a vast wilderness. In any direction we may travel on its surface, we see how that consideration has gone before us and strengthened and beautified the whole fabric of the State.
But whilst this purely material view is based in fact and cannot be controverted, I regard it as small, if not insignificant, in comparison with that higher view which ought to impel us, as the representatives of the State, to uphold her integrity because it is right. I will not insult you by asserting that a single member of the General Assembly would be so faithless to the history of Virginia, as well as to his own obligations, as to knowingly vote for any measure that would cast a shadow even of discredit upon her name. Yet the ear is offended constantly by reflections or insinuations that there may be some other things more desirable than honor, and that they who uphold it are impelled either by selfish motives or flimsy senti. mentality.
I know that the profoundest and holiest emotions may be undermined by the wily demagogue. I know that the deepest and most sacred of those emotions is that love of country founded upon its history and the noble works of our fathers in the old time before us. It is worth more than material wealth. Such wealth can be rapidly accumulated and as rapidly lost, and the powers educed in amassing it are not of the highest order. But the fame of a State is the outgrowth of the experience, sufferings and blood of generations of men ; and their words and deeds are the richest heritage. The people ought to value it above any other earthly possession, for it is the monument of their glory which will survive the material works of the generation which wrought it and be an example and guide to their descendants and promise of the greatness of the coming race. The man who murders his fellow, suffers the penalty of death. What shall be done with the man who, for selfish, ignoble purposes, strikes a blow at the heart of the State ?-a State, too, which, when you consider the short course of its life, has not been surpassed by any other in the whole range of the world's history.
I do not regard these references as empty words. I think in such active, materialistic times as these, they contain the weightiest considerations that can engage the attention of those who fill high office. And when we meet with one who treats them lightly, we may be assured he is unworthy of them, and needs to be watched. And were we mean enough to fall below them and forget the exalted sentiment they ever carry, we ought to remember they bear a practical value worth far more than pecuniary wealth, and which money cannot buy. A man or State may have money and have no credit:-either State or individual that has credit can command money. This I have occasion to know and feel since I have occupied the Executive office. Though Virginia has not repudiated, and does not intend to repudiate ; though I know, and you know, that the people are honest and will not 'tarnish her reputation by so base an act, yet the very discussion of this question of the State Debt, and the bitterness it has engendered among the people, has begotten an alarm that has prevented the advent of capital and labor to our borders and thrown a cloud over our heretofore bright name.
If any class of men in the Commonwealth could, or would, from selfish motives, advocate repudiation, it would be the friends of the public free schools, or those who occupy official positions in, or derive their support from them; for by reason of the deficiency of the revenues, their existence is now threatened. Yet I know of none such. How could there be, when daily they teach the pupils who throng them, how they ought to emulate the works of those of whom they read, and who were ever in life's highest aims guided by truth and patriotism? The Superintendent of the public free schools, who, I am sure will not be offended, if I say has a belief in their efficacy for good which amonnts to enthusiasm, and who, whilst laboring for their support and improvement with the energy of a devotee, sees them now crippled, if not endangered, for the want of funds, can yet not be diverted by these pressing considerations from what he believes the profonn lest interest of both State and schools, and says with the same energy and force with which he protects and argues for their benefits in his Report, which I herewith transmit to the General Assembly, that* Repudiation is moral death-it is worse, it is eternal damnation." This is stronger language than have used, and more incisive, probably, than I was able to use, but none too strong to show, that the ardent mind of the Super itendent can see how the most far-reaching benefits of the public school system go hand in hand with the preservation of the honor and renown of the Commonwealth.
We thus see that evet interest, even the largest, demands an honorable settlement with the public creditors. This large deficit is due and justly due. It will not do to let it stand longer; it has been standing thus for several years, and accumulating with alarming rapidity. It onght to have been settled long ago. There is a responsibility upon us to settle it finally, that no after generation may say that we assumed a trust to which we were not equal, or were meanly faithless. We have no right to transmit it, with accumulating woes, to those who may occupy the places we now fill. The duty is on us; I believe we can discharge it-discharge it without infringing upon any constitutional provision, and without fighting over legal technicalities, and without assuming or imposing burdens too grievous to be borne. It is not right to postpone it, waiting for a better day; that day may never come, Indeed, the postponement is almost sure promise that the day will not come. The burden is constantly increasing, and that very increase is a warning away of aid which would otherwise come and help us lift its weight. All this time the heart of the people is growing faint, and their virtue is suffering in its own home, and wherever on the earth it is a power.
There are only two ways open to us for any honorable settlement-by increasing the taxes, or by fair and friendly adjustment with the creditors.
Between repudiation or any settlement by force on the one hand, and an increase of taxation on the other, I would not for one moment hesitate. The former would bring ruin ; the latter, however much suffering and privation it might cause for a time, would, in the end, bring prosperity and peace.
It would be wrong for us to shrink from a full and square view of this matter of increase of taxation. It is not the part of wisdom to unreflectingly announce our favor of increased taxation, without considering the amount to be raised or our ability to bear it. I think, in effect, this is quite as unwise as to declare our opposition to any increase whatever, without reflecting on the dreadful results that must follow.
To pay this large deficit, together with the back and accrueing interest, would not, as some quite lightly assert, require only a small increase of taxation. It would require no less than an increase of from thirty to forty cents on the one hundred dollars of property as at present assessed, or the finding of other subjects, for which of late so much diligent search has been made, and of which as yet so few can be found. We must also remember that a large amount of these assessed values are unproductive, and that they do not represent the actual wealth of the State upon which there is no other incumbrance than the Stat. Doht. In addition to this State Debt are local and individual indebtedness. The local often exceeds the State tax, and much property throughout the Commonwealth is mortgaged for the improvements upon its surface, and which yet shows upon the books as so much clear value. It is wise and right for those in office to consider these things in making up a calm and impartial judgment.
Sometimes we are referred to France as an instance of wonderful vitality and heroism, which since the war with Prussia bas not only paid off an enormous indemnity, but, by thrift and energy, is to-day the most prosperous of civilized countries. France is worthy of admiration, and is an example for us in integrity, energy and patriotism. But we must remember that she has forty millions of people, with but comparatively small part of her country devastated or taken from her, and the residue in the highest state of cultivation, with vast accumulations of capi. tal, and inhabited by skillful laborers and citizens, whose market is Christendom. Yet I give her praise for her heroic triumphs, and am not unwilling to recognize in her the strongest proofs of the true power of honesty and patriotism.
But I think it would be a mistake to contrast Virginia with her, to the disparagement of Virginia. Ours is a new country, thinly settled, much of it entirely uncultivated, or cultivated under greatest disadvantages for want of capital, a labor system in complete disorganization, the whole land for four years an immense battle-field, every square mile of which was pressed by the feet of contending armies, the surface of the country swept of well-nigh every vestige of the accumulations of generations in the shape of material wealth or evidences of higher culture and refinement. The people had to go to work again, and not simply repair, but restore, bearing at the same time the responsibility of a large debt, but none the less just because large.
Yet between the assumption and payment of that debt and its denial in any form, or repudiation, there is and can be no choice. Better for us as a people to deprive ourselves of the comforts of life and invite the debt into our houses to partake of our daily bread, than to ignore or renounce it. Even then we would do no more, nor so much, as our ancestors and brothers have done to give us the heritage of which we are so fond of boasting, The first Revolution closed after eight years' duration : those who fought through and endured its trials imposed upon themselves, in addition to other taxes, a tax of one dollar and fifty cents on the one hundred dollars in value of real estate, and dedicated it sacredly to the payment of the public debt of Virginia, incurred in the vindication of a principle, and afterwards protested against its assumption by the Federal Government under the present Constitution. I need not say to men who know it as well as I, and whose war records they would not tarnish for the world's temptations, that when the whole truth comes to be written,