Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

The following proclamation was laid before the IIouse by the SPEAKER and read by the clerk:

GOVERNOR'S OFFICE, RICHMOND, VA., December 30, 1878.

To the Clerk of the House of Delegates of Virginia :

Whereas grave doubts have been suggested whether the general assembly of Virginia about to convene will be a constitutional body, and the interest of the commonwealth requires their meeting : Now, therefore, I, Fred. W. M. Holliday, Governor of Virginia, do issue this my proclamation, convening the said general assembly on Wednesday, December 4th, 1878, at 12 o'clock ., in the capitol at Richmond.

Given under my hand as Governor, and under the seal of the commonwealth at Richinond, this 3d day of December, 1878.

FRED. W. M. JOLLIDAY. By the Govervior.

JAS. VCDONALI),

Secretary of the Commonwealth.

Mr. Bocock offered the following joint resolution :

Resolved (the Senate concurring), That a joint committee be appointed, to consist of seven members on the part of the House and five on the part of the Senate, to enquire and report what, under the constitution and laws, and in view of all the facts in the case, is the true status of the present session of the general assembly of VirginiaWhich was agreed to.

Mr. Bocock moved to reconsider the vote by which the joint resolution was agreed to; which motion was rejected.

Ordered, That Mr. Bocock carry the joint resolution to the Senate and request their concurrence.

A message was received from the Senate by Mr. KOINER, who informed the Ilouse that the Senate had agreed to the joint resolution of the House, with an amendment, in which they respectfully request the concurrence of the blouse.

The SPEAKER laid the joint resolution before the House.

The amendment of the Senate, as follows: . Add at the end of the resolution the words—«as to the authority under which it has assembled and organized for the transaction of business” — Was agreed to.

Mr. Bocock moved to reconsider the vote by which the amendment of the Senate was agreed to; which motion was rejected.

Ordered, That Mr. Bocock inform the Senate that the House had agreed to the amendment of the Senate.

The SPEAKER appointed Messrs. BoCOCK, LACY, IIANGER, DANCE, JOHNSTON of Giles, CoghiLL and BARBOUR the committee on the part of the Ilouse. .

Mr. BARBOUR asked to be excused from service on the committee; which was refused by the IIouse.

Mr. COGHILL offered the following joint resolution : Resolved, That a committee of three on the part of the House and two on the part of the Senate be appointed to wait upon the governor and inform him that the general assembly is in session and ready to receive any communication he may have to makeWhich was agreed to.

Mr. COGHILL Moved to reconsider the vote by which the joint resolution was agreed to; which motion was rejected.

Ordered, That Mr. Coghill carry the joint resolution to the Senate and request their concurrence.

A message was received from the Senate by Mr. PHLEGAR, who informed the House that the Senate had agreed to the joint resolution of the House.

The SPEAKER appointer Messrs. COGHILL, FICKLIN and VANLEAR the committee on the part of the Ilouse.

The committee subsequently, by their chairman, reported that they led waited on the governor, and he would communicate in writing to the general assemblr.

The annual message of the governor was received and read by the clerk as follows:

COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA,

GOVERNOR'S OFFICE,

RICHMOND, December 4th, 1878. Grutlemen of the Senate

and House of Delegates :

In entering upon the duties and responsibilities of legislation, the same great question rises, that confronted you at the beginning of your last session, and occupied you in one form or another, during its rotire term. It is the question of questions for Virginia, involving every cher. There is not a Department of the Government it does not reach: there is not an operation, however apparently remote or small its detail, that is not directly or indirectly affected by its existence or discussion. As long s the State Debt continues unsettled, there is an incubus upon the spirit sud a clog upon the movements of Virginia ; when it is settled honorably tod finally, she will start upon a career that will not be unworthy of her history.

Every day I feel the heavy pressure of this incubus and clog, and fully preciate how they impede the growth and prosperity of the State. Men coming from abroad, seeking homes and investments in our midst, are pleased with our country, but are driven away by the constant clamor of excessive taxation on the one hand, or charges of threatened repudiation on the other. The question of the State Debt has been taken, in the excitement of debate, from the field of business where it properly belongs, and dragged into the arena of politics—as if such an issue was to be decided by mutual crimination and recrimination, and by the discussion, I mar he, aspersion of private character.

Whilst this is going on in private life or upon the hustings, the State is suffering. The ignorant or misinformed of our own citizens are forming their estimate of the real condition of our affairs—not from facts, but

from prejudices, and whilst they want their State to do what is right, from the declarations of partisans they infer that she is poorer or more careless than the truth would justify. It can readily be imagined that the stranger, without the same means of information, would form similar, if not inore detrimental conclusions.

Virginia wants capital and labor. She invites it cordially from beyond her lines. . She offers a climate and soil and resources unsurpassed. She extends the hand of hospitality and welcome, and shows the stranger how he can find a home, with whatever that word implies, within her borders. This he aclmits, but offsets it with the statement of the troubles and objections to which I have referred, resolved into the single, but powerful argument of the unsettled condition of our financial affairs.

This is prevailing. Capital is timid, and Labor is anxious for the security of its reward. Neither is going where either is threatened threatened by the heavy hand of taxation, or by the stronger hand of violence.

Our State might increase in wealth and power by the normal growth of her population and capital. But this would require generations—when brought in competition with her sister states, drawing from the resources of the world, and striding with giant steps. But let us have equal chances ; take away the impediments to the advent of Capital and Labor, and they will soon flow in upon us from abroad, and restoring our shattered fortunes, place Virginia where of right she ought to be, and where she has always been, among the foremost in moral influence and material power.

Thus recognizing the importance of the settlement of this vexed and vexing question for the present and future of the State, I feel equally sure that it is not and cannot be settled in the field of angry political dis. cussion Figures and facts are in no way illuminated by passion and prejudice; nor are great moral and political problems solved by personal abuse. Whilst the day of settlement by such courses is postponed, and loss incalculable inflicted, in the end the fumes pass away and the trouble is composed, just as it ought to have been in the beginning, by calm and quiet and honest judgment.

So let it be now with us in this day of great responsibility and of Virginia's travail. Forgetting personal considerations and personal preju. dices, let us, with single eye, determine that nothing shall stand in the way of every honorable effort to harmonize views ; thus securing a conclu. sion which will re-establish credit and prosperity and give a solid and lasting peace.

No future Legislature can reach this end better, if so well, as this. We will not perhaps have one shortly of superior personelle or of greater devotion to the public interests. At its last session, it is true, there was much angry discussion and personal bitterness. This probably is unavoidable in such bodies when engaged in the consideration of profound and heartfelt questions of public fame and public policy, however much we may disapprove of like courses in our more quiet moments. But I have no more reason to bring the charge of selfishness and want of patriotism against those who differed with me, than I feel that they have to bring the same charge against me. On the great and sometimes far-reaching questions that arose, I doubt not they formed their conclusions after deep study-conclusions free from the odor of any mean or unworthy motive. I have a right to demand the same charity and expect it.

But in addition to the character of this General Assembly, collective and individual, no future one ought to be expected to have larger or more ucurate information. Not only were they elected with a view to its discussion, elucidation and settlement, but the whole of the last session, lasting for over three months, was entirely consumed in the consideration, directly or indirectly, of the State Debt. Not a single subject of any pubir importance engaged its attention that did not tend towards or centre upon that one vital issue. I hence infer, and have a right, that no body of ben that can be convened in Virginia ought to secure more or be able to wcomplish more towards the end in view.

I infer this, not only from the facts elicited, but from the questions of copstitutional and legal principles that have been mooted, argued and decided, thus clearing the field for the full view of the central spirit and fnal issue of the controversy.

It has appeared that the General Assembly is not the Government of the State of Virginia. There are two other Departments whose duties are as solemn and whose responsibilities are as profound. The same oath holds them within the sphere of their respective operations as bounded and defined by the Constitution. No one of the departments has a right to shuffle its duties upon another, thinking thereby to evade or avoid responsibility. Each has taken an oath, which is quite as sacred, and so to be kept, as that of any other, when the time for the performance of duty comes.

This is the very essence of Constitutional Government as han led down to as by men wiser than ourselves. It is, as they conceived, the only form in which the germ and spirit of liberty can be preserved. The man who holds office, holds it under the Constitution with its grants and limitations. If any such is willing to surrender to another a single duty, he has already foresworn himself and is unworthy the trust he has assumed, I care not to what department of the government he may belong. Over us bolding office high or low, is the Constitution, in which is expressed the symbol of order and harmony and safety and peace; and no man is a worse enemy to it than he who holds office under it and can be driven from the performance of its duties by clamor and abuse.

Indeed I can imagine no greater want of worldly wisdom than such a course would indicate, however plausible in a cursory view might seem the elvantages. Vor can I conceive of any greater want of decorum and taste, to use no stronger language, than for those who hold office in one department of the government to mistake abuse for argument, and think by such means to gain an end. Public opinion always ultimately weighs these in an even balance. Hence I give others filling public office credit for honesty and patriotism, as I do to this General Assembly of my State, and am not willing to believe that any future one can more ably and honorably set. ile this difficult problem which now so embarrasses and cramps her growth. As they are bold and honest in their views of policy, I am very sure they will, like bold and honest men, give credit to those who are compelled to different views from motives just as high and pure, and under obligations just as binding.

The General Assembly at its last session performed its work according to its views of the Constitution and justice. I will not assail, or even in the remotest way impugn, its motives or any of its members, whatever may have been their action. I have no right, and would take no pleasure in doing so. But acknowledging their faithfulness, honesty and energy in the discharge of their legislative functions, I think it is no disparagement

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

to them to say that the same tribute may be paid to the co-ordinate departments of the government. They had no selfish interests to serve, could we suppose them susceptible to such influences, and had only, like your own honorable bodies, the weal of the Commonwealth at heart.

Whilst I admit that legislation must be begun in the General Assembly, and that such a matter as the State Debt properly belongs to it for settlement, yet examining the extent of its authority as defined in the Constitution, which is the maker both of it and its authority, it would be a contradiction in terms to say that its edicts are to have the force of organic laws and in effect wipe out the duties and responsibilities of co-ordinate departments. A bill passed by the General Assembly is not a Law, however much its wisdom, learning and patriotism may be respected : and the Executive and Judiciary Departments of the Government cannot so regard it, however much it might afford them temporary relief from trouble and annoyance by the base surrender of their conscience and judgment and thence the breach of their solemn oaths of office. If the makers of the Constitution intended that the action of the legislative department of the government should be law, binding upon every individual and every department, without further formality, they would have so written it in the chart. Then no man would have disputed it, but all would have bowed in cheerful obedience. But they did not, in their wisdom, see fit so to ordain : and it would be far from becoming, to use no stronger language, for those who assume office, and bind themselves by constitutional obligations to discharge its duties, to miserably and faithlessly forego responsi. bility, and by their very action or non-action, overthrow the Constitution they were sworn and appointed to defend. And when those duties are performed fearlessly, however much I may differ, or however differently I would in similar case have acted, I must have very strong proof before I will ruthlessly assail the actors, thus doing gross injustice to worthy men and unloosing the bonds of good goverment. I give the General Assembly credit for having been honest and faithful, as I know they have been diligent and laborious.

Rendering this tribute to the General Assembly, I am none the less willing to signify my respect for the Judiciary. They derive their powers from the same source. Composed of men chosen by your predecessors for their learning in their profession, and exalted worth of private character, they are filling the most sacred office in the Commonwealth. Constitutions and Laws are general; the Decrees of Courts are specific, and go with searching force to every fireside. If they are composed of good men, they ought to be sustained by all good men, whatever diversity of opinion there may be with regard to the correctness of their decisions. When acting within the purview of their defined powers, they must be the judges in fact as well as name, and we cannot make ourselves judges without constitutional or legal authority. Chief-Justice Marshall said, among his last utterances, near the end of a long, useful and glorious life, in this city, and before one of the most august assemblies that ever met in this or any other country, that “he always thought from his earliest youth that the greatest scourge an angry Ileaven ever inflicted upon an ungrateful and a sinning people was an ignorant, corrupt, or a dependent judiciary." Next in fearfulness, is to undermine its authority and weaken its influence, judicial and inoral, among the people, by groundless aspersions l'on its character or ignorant attacks upon its judgments.

« ZurückWeiter »