Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

other remedy for the evils of our legislation and the harm they call forth than first to recall our prohibition of special legislation and to abandon the idea of biennial 'legislatures, as twin progenies of Dr. Sangrado's brain, and then earnestly to set to work to secure the adoption of a series of constitutional amendments which shall prescribe,

1st. A division of local and special laws from general laws, treating the former as private petitions to be tried before enactment, and attach to the preservation and amendment of the latter the safeguard of party responsibility.

2d. The carrying out of this latter purpose, either by instituting cabinet or ministerial responsibility, or raising a permanent board of revision as a bar to further mischievous innovations to subserve private interests.

3d. That all bills which create or extend corporate powers, which change municipal or local laws other than by general law, which grant any special privilege, or which involve the exercise of the right of eminent domain, shall be filed in a proper public office sixty days before the beginning of the session, and that in all cases notice by publication must be given of such filing, and personal notice before the beginning of the session to all property owners whose fee or easements are proposed to be taken in invitum.

4th. That the petitioners in every case of an improvement, the creation of which involves legislative sanction, shall deposit a percentage of the amount of the cost as evidence of good faith, and to prevent speculation in public franchises.

5th. The establishment of a schedule of legislative fees to be paid to the comptroller, and to be subject to the joint drafts of the presiding officers of the legislative bodies to pay the expenses for the consideration and trial of private and local bills, and to that end the committees are authorized to employ experts and counsel as aids to inform them. This sum should be sufficiently large to deter frivolous applications to the legislature, and to enable the legislature to secure ability of the highest order.

6th. The enactment of a simple code of legislative procedure for private and local bills to secure a fair trial, examination of witnesses, and argument of counsel before these committees, and to allow committees to call in as associates, to sit with them, but not to vote on final determination, experts who are not members of the legislature.

7th. The creation of a legislative bill of costs to indemnify successful and punish unsuccessful litigants before legislative committees.

Sth. An absolute prohibition of all local and private legislation (except under circumstances of great public exigency, which can easily be provided for) which has not passed through the ordeal of this improved method of legislative procedure.

9th. A complete remodelling of the organization of committees, and the rules of the legislature to conform them to the new system of orderly trial of bills instead of the prevailing irresponsible and haphazard method.

Many of these suggestions may be embodied in a law instead of being incorporated in the constitution.

Enough should go into the constitution to make the change imperative. It is not to be expected that all the smaller details of a statute should be imbedded in the constitution ; but experience has taught us, however, that constitutional directions to the legislature may be of too general and vague a character to enforce obedience. Since 1848 the constitution of the State of New York contained a provision that the legislature shall restrict the powers of municipalities to create indebtedness, but until recently it has failed to do so. A New York constitutional amendment of 1874 required the legislature to pass a general street railway bill. It failed

to do so from 1875 until 1884; and many other instances may be cited to the same effect.

When there shall have been introduced into our lawmaking bodies something like scientific procedure a great step forward will have been made to abolish that noxious and corrupting element known as the lobby.

When every measure involving private interests must stand a fair trial, the same change will probably take place in the United States that has already taken place in that country whence we derive our laws. The adoption of the parliamentary standing orders substituted for the lobby agent the parliamentary bar, as honorable a body of men in our profession as is to be found at the common law bar or in the equity courts. Preferment to the bench is not so frequent an honor to the silk gowns of St. Stephens, as to those of our brethren of the Supreme Court of Judicature, but the emoluments of the parliamentary bar are somewhat higher. Much, of course, remains to be done by the destruction of party machinery and liberating constituencies so as to raise the personnel of the law makers. I do not share the popular conviction of the widespread corruption of legislatures; it is the inability of the average legislator to know the truth, which gives to the corrupt few their great opportunity. The great remedies for the evils of our institutions are publicity, and investigation of a judicial nature. The test of merit, to my own mind, of the recommendations that I have made this evening, lies in the fact that they secure both these elements. And as the first creative act was the divine ordinance “let there be light,” so through all time, more and more light is the first condition of progress in every department of human activity.

OBITUARIES.

ILLINOIS.

ISAAC NEWTON ARNOLD. Isaac N. Arnold, for many years one of the most prominent and distinguished members of the Illinois bar, ex-Representative in Congress from the state of Illinois, and President of the Chicago Historical Society, died at his residence in Chicago, on the 24th day of April, 1884, aged seventy years.

Mr. Arnold was born in the town of Hartwick, Otsego County, New York. His father was a country physician, who, while conscientiously attending to the demands of his profession, added something to his limited income by cultivating a small farm. Thrown

his own resources at an early age, by diligent study under adverse circumstances, young Arnold prepared himself for the study of law, at Cooperstown, in the office of the Hon. E. B. Morehouse. Having been admitted to the bar, he took up his residence in Chicago in 1836, then an unpromising and forbidding village of a few thousand inhabitants. His course from that time was one of honorable and well-earned success, and at the time of his death, no citizen of Chicago was more widely known, and more highly honored, respected, and esteemed. Entering with great zeal on the practice of law, he soon took a high rank in his profession, which he maintained as long as he remained at the bar.

upon

« AnteriorContinuar »