« AnteriorContinuar »
and cultivate sentiments of good will between the different sections of the Union.” This article was no political expedient of the hour. It embodies the sentiments of honorable men, and binds by the obligations of good faith and justice. It pledges such liberal support as may be consistent with our principles and justified by the developments of the future. I recommend its reaffirmation by the general assembly, if no untoward event occur to forbid such action.
Let none suppose that we attach importance to the dispensation of the official patronage of the Federal government in Virginia, or take interest in it beyond desiring to see appointments conferred upon honest and capable men. If any imagine our people can be influenced by such paltry considerations, they fail to comprehend the moral and political level on which we stand.
In a period of declining political partisanship, when national parties seem to be in process of transition and transformation, Virginia stands upon her own firm ground of catholic patriotism, of constitutional justice and equality, of universal peace and reconciliation; ground broad enough and fit, if not destined, to be occupied by all good men of all parties.
The United States and the Debt of Virginia.
While resolutely rendering full justice to all others, we seek with confidence that justice for want of which our State suffers. Virginia has just claims upon the United States, the consideration of which ought not longer to be postponed. In time of war, and as one of a series of war measures, the United States dismembered our State, making no provision in respect to her previously contracted debt, for the payment of which both the now dissevered parts had united in pledging the faith of the whole. The responsibility of the debt was left between Virginia and West Virginia, with no arrangement for its equitable distribution between them, and with such conflict of claims as renders any voluntary settlement or compromise on the part of the two States plainly impossible; while neither has such remedy as the exigency demands for enforcing an adjustment.
The United States, in controlling the dismemberment of Virginia, failed to adjust necessary terms of separation, failed to make any provision against the grave and perplexing difficulties which have resulted, and such failure has postponed and seriously interfered with the rights of public creditors, has left the seeds of alienation between States and between the people and the government, has imposed upon us unjust burthens which repress the energies of our people, restrict our means of providing for public education, and hinder the material recovery of the State. The government of the United States by its action prevented the State from fulfilling its obligations: it intervened disastrously between Virginia and her creditors, and cut the body of the debtor in twain with the sword.
In asking the United States to assume and discharge our State debt, or at least to so readjust its own work as to relieve us of unfair burthens, we are not involved in any discussion of the power of the Federal
government, under ordinary circumstances, to assume debts of the States. We are invoking that government to perform a duty incident to war, and to exercise authority inherent in war-making power, by adjusting the incomplete acts and unrectified results of war, and by adjusting them in accordance with indisputable principles and precedents of equity and public law. If the government of the United States should now, in the plenitude of its wealth and power, restore prosperity to our State by assuming her debt, a paltry burthen on the national treasury, but grievous to us in our poverty, it would only in small measure make return for the vast donation with which the munificence of Virginia endowed the Union in its weakness and infancy.
The United States and the Education of the Colored Population. Another unadjusted result of the war is made manifest in the new and enormous burthens imposed by the peculiar circumstances under which Virginia assumes the task of educating her colored population and administering justice among them. Before their emancipation, the cost of governing and administering justice among the colored population, and of maintaining paupers of that class, was mainly and directly borne by the slave-holder. Yet now not only that charge, but the far greater charge of educating the colored race, is imposed upon the public treasury, so that our burthens are enormously increased at the time of our greatest impoverishment and depression. At the date of the destruction of a large proportion of our taxable resources, we are entrusted with the care and education of more than a half million of the “wards of the nation,” without being provided with the indispensable means for executing the trust.
Let us not be misunderstood. Deplorable consequences must result from such ouster of State authority, as would be involved in any interference with the administration of our public schools by the Federal government. The enforced application of civil rights, as commonly understood, to our State schools, would prove quickly destructive of the educational system, arrest the enlightenment of the colored race, produce continual irritation between the races, counteract the pacification and development now happily progressing, repel immigration, greatly augment emigration, re-open wounds now almost healed, engender new political asperities, and paralyze the power and influence of the State government for duly controlling and promoting domestic interests and preserving internal harmony.
Nevertheless, justice, humanity and the best interests of the colored race and of the country at large, invoke the common government to enable us to effectuate its policy of educating and elevating our newlyenfranchised population, by supplying to the State the necessary means to that end.
Inequalities in the Distribution of National Currency. The financial panic, or money famine, productive of such distress
JOURNAL OF THE HOUSE.
throughout the country, is not new here. It has with greater or less severity prevailed in this State for years past, in consequence of the inequitable distribution of the national currency. While some of the States have allotted to them several times their due proportion of currency, Virginia is allowed less than one-third of the amount to which she is justly entitled. Prior to the war, Virginia had within her present geographical limits more than three times the amount of her present banking capital and currency; and yet, instead of this abrupt and alarming diminution, a large increase of both was obviously demanded by the revolution in business relations resulting from the emancipation of the colored It is too much to expect the full recuperation of our business interests, or our continued ability to yield required Federal and State revenues, unless these enormous inequalities are corrected. Upon every consideration of justice and interest, the Federal government should either cause the State to be supplied with its due proportion of national currency, or repeal the existing tax on State bank notes, and thus empower us to provide a circulating medium for ourselves.
State Debt and Expenses. While I recommend earnest efforts to carry into effect the views and to obtain correction of the grievances set out in this message, it will not become us to depend solely or mainly upon assistance and relief from the general government. The surest way to obtain help from others is first to help ourselves. Obligations to public creditors, binding the honor and good faith of the Commonwealth, should be fulfilled to the utmost of her ability in any event and under all circumstances. No other calamity could inflict greater detriment, either moral or pecuniary, upon the whole body of the people than a deliberate breach of public honor. It is believed that a proper scrutiny of all appropriations of public money, the correction of every abuse, the abolishment of every unnecessary office, the enforcement of the strictest accountability on the part of all revenue officers, and the application of just principles of retrenchment to all branches of the public service, will lead to a reduction of expenditures, corresponding with the eontraction of the limits of the State and the diminution in the means of the people, and, together with the taxing of such legitimate subjects of taxation as may have been unwisely or inadvertently exempted in the past, will enable us to meet all present demands upon the treasury without increasing existing rates of taxation. Such changes of our organic law as I shall at an early day recommend, would, in my opinion, lead to a reduction of present rates of taxation, without impairing any of the rights of creditors.
While enforcing a rigorous system of retrenchment throughout the entire public service, let us remember that there are cases in which a wise liberality is the truest economy. The care of our public institutions, educational and eleemosynary, must be generous to be prudent.
The efficiency of our high schools, colleges and universities is no less essential to the future progress and power of the State than a wisely ordered system of common schools. The higher institutions of learning established and controlled by the State, as well as public schools of a lower grade, are entitled to the most liberal legislation compatible with the embarrassed condition of the treasury. Especially should the University of Virginia, the favorite legacy of Jefferson to his country, be provided with such aids and encouragements as will largely dispense its benefits among the meritorious poor of our youth, enlarge its means and facilities for instruction, so as to keep it abreast of the rapid advancement of the world in knowledge and science, and maintain its true position among the foremost similar institutions on the continent.
At a time when the popular mind and energies are concentrated upon the work of repairing our shattered material interests; in a period of increasing utilitarian tendencies, let us not forget the wisdom contained in the noble words of a living statesman, that “it is not true that physical happiness is a principle on which you can build up a flourishing and enduring Commonwealth. A civilized community must rest on a large realized capital of thought and sentiment. There must be a reserved fund of public morality to draw upon in the exigencies of national life. Society has a soul as well as a body. The traditions of a State are part of its existence. Its valor and its discipline, its religious faith, its venerable laws, its science and erudition, its poetry, its art, its eloquence and its scholarship, are as much portions of its existence as its agriculture, its commerce, and its engineering skill.”
I most earnestly recommend the renewal of every timely effort, and the use of all available means, to further the construction of the central water line, the great conception of Washington, the consummation of which is destined to signalize the present period in our history. The proposition, already submitted to congress to adopt it as a national highway, to be constructed by the general government and to be maintained and operated under its supervision, in the interest of the whole country, will receive the most effective aid at my command.
The great want of the country, adequate transportation between the points of production and consumption, has become a vital question of the day, affecting on the one hand the profits of the western producer and involving on the other the more serious question of food to the eastern operative. It is a lamentable fact that while the want of cheap and abundant food is oppressively felt in many eastern sections, corn is yearly consumed as fuel in some of the grain-growing States of the Mississippi valley.
The improvement of the natural water-ways of the country and their connections with each other and with the Atlantic seaboard by artificial water-ways, is not only necessary as supplemental to the transportation facilities afforded by railroads, but to secure that healthful competition which the interests of internal commerce demands. The
natural water-ways are controlled by the general government, and it is equally and obviously proper that their connections with each other and with the Atlantic seaboard, especially when extending through two or more States, should be controlled by the same government for the whole people.
The water-line, from the capes of Virginia to the mouth of the Ohio river, is located by parallels of latitude very nearly on the central line of the United States, and is as free from all injurious climatic influences as any existing or projected avenue of trade. The feasibility of the central water-line has been so often demonstrated by engineers of the highest reputation and skill; the colossal benefits to be derived from its completion have been made so apparent by years of careful and extended investigation, that it would seem the only question remaining to be decided by the general government is, whether it will complete the work on national account and control it in the interest of the whole country, or remit it to the States to be constructed by other means. While it might be of greater advantage to us that the work should be constructed by private capital, securing to the States of Virginia and West Virginia special benefits in return for the privilege granted, yet it is clear that its maintenance as a national water-way, free to all the people, would be incalculably more beneficial to the common country.
Various and Special Recommendations. I respectfully invite your early attention to the following recommendations : That the law for obtaining revenue from the oyster interest be revised and so modified that the taxes upon that interest shall be the same imposed upon other legitimate subjects of taxation-conforming to the same principles, and discriminating neither to its prejudice nor in its favor; that the legal rate of interest on money be fixed and regulated in accordance with the plainly indicated will of the people: That speedy provision be made for payment of the semi-annual interest now due to public creditors, and that a permanent financial policy be matured and adopted which will obviate the necessity for special legislation in this respect in future; that the immigration system be thoroughly revised and rendered efficient, so as not only the better to induce immigration, but provide for the reception, care and protection of immigrants, their cheap and speedy distribution, and satisfactory location in all parts of the State ; that the existing volunteer military organization, exerting a wholesome influence to prevent disorders, and constituting the indispensable means for suppressing them, should they unhappily occur, be liberally sustained, and its extension encouraged; that such moderate appropriation be made for the State board of health as will give efficiency to its important operations; that the existing penitentiary system be so changed and reformed as to be made certainly self-sustaining -avoiding, however, by all practicable means, competition between the labor of convicts and that of deserving mechanics and artisans, whose interests should be carefully considered and fostered; that the inappropriate and needlessly expensive office of salaried aid-de-camp, constitu