Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

at the time the new Constitution was being framed, broke all records. It was a veritable bargain sale rush. The local acts and resolutions for that year cover eight hundred and seventeen pages, and include forty charters and amendments of charters of insurance companies; sixty-six charters and amendments of charters of plank roads; seventy-four charters and amendments of charters of turnpikes; and eighty-nine acts relating to railroads. It was well for them that they took advantage of their opportunities, for the first General Assembly under the Constitution of 1851 passed a total of only twenty-four local acts on all subjects.

The fourth period of the state's constitutional history may be considered as ending in the year 1874; yet in a stricter sense it extends from 1851 to the present time; for the history of the state as a political unit dates from 1851. Since that time there has been a degree of social, economic, and political solidarity previously quite unknown. The leading characteristics of the period extending from 1851 to 1874 were: first, the efforts of the people to adapt themselves to the new Constitution and to utilize its provisions in reforming the evils that had grown up under the old Constitution; and second, the efforts of corporate, vested, and special interests to retain as many of the old advantages as possible and to acquire such new privileges as would, to a degree, counterbalance those they had lost.

The most important changes made in the Constitution were such as affected private and municipal corporations, the powers of the legislature, banks and banking, judicial procedure, the judicial system, and taxation. All of these, with the possible exception of the judicial system, were closely allied; and when corporations and vested interests found themselves checked by the provisions of the Constitution under some one of these heads, they at once turned for assistance to the provisions included under some other head. No longer could corporate and special interests raid the state treasury under the guise of securing loans and aids, as they did in the thirties. They could and did, however, secure from the General Assembly laws of a general nature and with provisions so liberal in character that, when administered by subservient officials, they became scarcely less monopolistic and privileged than the laws of the first two decades of the state's history, when any man, who could think of a scheme by which to forcibly take tribute from his fellow citizens, could secure the legal right to do so by applying to the legislature. More especially was this true with reference to the constitutional provision relative to taxation, and this is the one provision favorable to vested and special interests that has resisted all attempts at change even to the present day.

The people who framed the Constitution of 1802, fearing the executive and having no clear conception of the relation which the judicial department of government should bear to the other departments, had placed nearly all the power in the hands of the legislature. Before the convention of 1851, the people had learned that the legislature could not always be trusted, so an effort was made to take away its powers and have a selfacting Constitution take its place so far as possible. The people of the state desired single legislative districts. Three times since 1851, the question of single legislative districts has been submitted to the electors in the form of a proposed constitutional amendment, and three times it has been defeated because of the unsatisfactory plan by which it was offered to the voters. Much as they desired the single legislative district, they sacrificed it rather than allow the legislature or some other body, liable to be influenced by improper motives, to apportion the districts when the population should have increased so as to make a new apportionment necessary. Along this line it is interesting to note that at one time during the convention, before any automatic method of apportionment had been devised, the delegates seriously considered abolishing the bi-cameral plan because of the difficulty involved in planning an apportionment of senators by any self-acting plan.

Distrust of the legislature forced into the Constitution of 1851 a provision for biennial sessions of the General Assembly; but that body, dissatisfied with the lack of opportunity thus afforded for the exercise of power, ignored the provisions of the Constitution and held an adjourned session in 1857 and proposed an amendment providing for annual sessions. It was defeated at the polls; but the next General Assembly also held an adjourned session. It, too, submitted to the voters an annual session amendment in 1859, which was likewise defeated. After that the General Assembly did not bother about securing constitutional authority for the second, or “adjourned," session in each two-year term. Every year, for a period of thirty-nine years, there was a session of the legislature, although it was a clear violation of the spirit and intention of the Constitution, which provides for a "biennial" session. In 1895, for the first time since 1855, there was no session, regular or “adjourned.”

The provision in the Constitution of 1851 relative to corporations was quite effective so far as it related to private and quasi-public corporations. The provision that they should be organized under general laws held them in check as they never had been by the legislature previous to that time. They soon learned, however, as before mentioned, to take advantage of certain other provisions of the Constitution in such a way as to render nugatory, at times, the constitutional provision directly relating to corporations; and in recent years they have made distinct advance in the way of privilege through the adoption of the amendment providing for single liability for stockholders.

Another important change contained in the new Constitution was the one relating to banks. It was fairly effective and served its purpose well until the national banking system brought about a condition that largely destroyed the importance of the question as a state issue.

There were, however, two distinct blunders in the Constitution. They were the provisions relating to taxation and to the judicial system. The latter was early recognized as a blunder and an attempt was made to correct it by constitutional amendment as early as 1857. It failed of adoption at that time, and was submitted time after time but never received the required constitutional majority until 1883. The other blunder still remains. No less than seven times has a taxation amendment been submitted to the voters of the state; and seven times it has been defeated, although the popular sentiment during the whole period seemed overwhelmingly in favor of a change which would permit the levying of tax on many things not now permitted by the “uniform, "true value in money' rule of the Constitution of 1851. Only one time out of the seven did it fail to receive more votes than were cast against it.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

That an amendment to the Constitution could be defeated, when a great majority of the voters favored the amendment is explained as follows: previous to 1891 when the modified Australian ballot was first used in Ohio, tickets to be used at elections might be furnished by party managers. They could put on the ticket “Constitutional Amendment - Yes," or “Constitutional Amendment - No," or it could be left off entirely. Sometimes interests that would be affected by the adoption of the amendment would see to it that the tickets that were most easily accessible had on them “No;" oftentimes when both “Yes” and “No” were on the ballot the voter, in the hurry of voting, would neglect to mark off the "No," and in that case his vote counted as much against the amendment as if he had voted "No;" for in order to carry, it was necessary for the amendment to have an affirmative majority of the votes cast.

When in 1891 the Australian ballot came into use the difficulty was even greater, for there was no chance then for party managers or organizations interested in the success of an amendment to have the “Yes” made a part of the

More votes than ever were voted "straight," and the marking of the amendment was overlooked by the great majority. When in 1902 the election law was changed so as to permit the state party convention to indorse an amendment and allow all “straight” tickets to count for the amendment, it became very easy for a majority party to carry an amendment if the party managers thought it desirable to have it carried; and when both parties endorsed it, the figures show that eighty or ninety per cent of the voters would vote for almost any amendment. In 1903 and 1905 several important amendments were adopted while this provi

party ticket.

« AnteriorContinuar »