New Hampshire General Court. Senate.

Journal of the Senate and House online

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Fellow citizens of the Senate

and of the House of Rq^resentaHves :

Haying now taken the oaths prescribed by our constitu-
tion, as preliminary to my entrance upon the discharge of
the public duties of chief executive magistrate, to which
office I have again been elected by the freemen of New
Hampshire, I desire to make known to the people the deep
sense of gratitude, I feel for this reiterated expression of
their confidence.

The peculiar circumstances which have attended the re-
cent elections in this State, cannot fail to impress our minds
that there is a much greater cause for joy, than that result*-
ing from mere individual success. It is for the triumph of
those great principles, which are as dear to freemen as liber-
ty herself, that renders the result of the late election matter
of deep and abiding gratulation to the friends of equal rights
and of equal privileges.

On this interesting occasion, it is assuredly fit that we
should render to the Author of every good the homage of
grateful hearts for His paternal care over us for the past year,
for His goodness in having sustained the diversified interests
of this Commonwealth, and for securing to the people the
unimpaired continuance of social, religious and civil liberty.

What an impressive illustration is here presented of the
character of our free and happy government! We assemble
at stated periods, as the representatives of an intelligent and
patriotic peopIe,to enact laws for their as well as for our own
guidance. A great change in that representation annually
occurs : around me I observe men whom I did not meet in

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this place at the commencement of the last political year :
and many were then assembled here who did not belong
to either branch of the government the year preceding —
affording evidence of the truth of that saying, which lies
at the foundation of all our institutions, ^Hhat political
power emanates from the people^^ — that they are emphatical-
ly the true sovereigns of this free representative government
— that we are all here as their public servants, to carry out
their will and to become the exponents of their opinions.
It is this great and invaluable principle which makes the
distinguishing feature in our government — the one which
elevates it high and baove all forms and political compacts
which have hitherto been devised.

In my address to the Legislature at the commencement
of the last political year, I recommended sundry alterations
and amendments in the then existing statutes. I regarded
them all as essentially connected with the true interests of
the people. Notwithstanding the convictions impressed upon
my own mind as to the importance of the changes then sug-
gested, I shall not at this time call your attention to those
subjects, as I do not intend to propose on the present occa-
sion any special alterations in our system of laws. I shall
commit the whole subject to your discrimination and good
judgment. If any amendments in our statutes are in your
opinion necessary for the promotion of the public good,
your own observation will readily suggest them. I prefer to
leave the whole matter to your discretion, rather than to re-
commend particular changes.

Correct principles of legislation must always in a govern-
ment founded upon law, be of engrossing interest to the
representatives of the people. The first object of an intel-
ligent community is to ascertain and establish the principles
on which the government should be founded. In the writ-
ten constitution of the various states of the Union and of
the United States, the attempt is made with greater or less
success to define with precision the general rights and duties

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which belong to individuals in their relation to each other,
and to the public. That these attempts in the absence of
experience should always be successful, was not to be ex-
pected by liberal and reflecting men. That timid reasoners,
feerful even of improvement if it involved the necessity of
a change, should sometimes mistake the form for the sub-
stance, must have been anticipated. That a prejudice should
sometimes have been elevated into a principle,cherished with
sacred care and embalmed in the chosen repositories of po-
litical truth, cannot surprise those who remember that it is
with nations as it is with individuals; each must reach man-
hood before the crude notions of youth can be corrected.
That superficial thinkers should adopt ill-digested plans
upon partial and narrow views — that sanguine and intole-
rant men should strive to make the opinions of others
assume the shape in which alone they could see truth-—
was less to be wondered at, than an unsettled state of
society in which there should be neither shallowness
nor intolerance. But the traces of the timid and the pre-
judiced, the superficial and the intolerant are not sufficient
to destroy the harmony of a constitution formed by men
sincerely anxious to attain to the knowledge of political
truth. With all their defects the principles of our constitu-
tions are expansive and comprehensive enough to admit of
a legislation adapted to the daily increasing wants and re-
finements of civilized life, and to our keener appreciation oi
the true objects of all human society, the improvement of in-
dividuals in physical comfort and intellectual independence^
and their progress in moral and religious attainments.

A constitutional theory admitted to be erroneous and upon
which no legislation is ever founded, although it may injure
the symmetry of the instrument as a work of art, may not
lessen its value, on the whole, as a summary of political
truth,and as each year, it is to be hoped, adds to our stock of
political knowledge, we are less liableto Confound accidental
defects with principles of acknowledged truth. No wise con*-
stitution ever embodied in itself,as a principle to be acted upon.

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any intolerant theory of government, of religion or morals.
No educated and thoughtful people ever acted upon any such
theory, and no people whatever ever practised it without
sooner or later becoming the victims of their own blindness.
We learn to tolerate a theoretical defect in a constitution, as
we learn to becur with the follies and vices of our race. And
these mankind are beginning to perceive, can better be cor-
rected by time and patience than .expelled by violent reme-
dies. In legislation experience teaches us that, except in
extreme cases, it is better to pause, until the operation of a
system can be understood, than, because we may think it
theoretically wrong, suddenly to introduce another on which
experience has thrown as little light.

Since the adjournment, of the last session the Revised
Statutes of New Hampshire have been published and laid
before the people. In the month of March last in pursuance
of the duty imposed upon me by the resolution adopted at
the last session of the Legislature, I made a careful exami-
nation of the manner in which the public printers of the
State had performed their contract. The result of that in-
vestigation was that their duties had been scrupulously ful-
filled. The volume is well bound and printed upon paper
and with type fully equal to the terms of their agreement.
The work is remarkably free from typographical errors. In
several instances errors and omissions in the copy furnished
them by the Legislature, are noticed in the book in such a
way as to draw your attention to them and enable you to
legislate upon such particulars as may seem to require it.

The publication of the laws of the State in this revised
form is undoubtedly a great improvement upon the former
system. The cumbersome and ungrammatical phraseology
of many of the statutes has been corrected. The involved
and obscure meaning of many sections has been elicited and
enunciated in distinct and intelligible propositions : provis-
ions upon the same subject, but separated from each other
by wide intervals of years and pages, have been brought to-

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gether and classified. Repealed statutes have been omitted
and a general character of compactness and simplicity has
been given to the whole. All persons of reflection and all
those whose duty it is either to ex^ine or expound the
laws, can readily perceive that the labor and expense devo^
ted to this object, have met with a satisfactory reward. It
would be difficult to find two gentlemen who, in the very
short period allowed them to complete so laborious a task,
would have performed it so well and so thoroughly as Messrs.
Bell and Fox, the commissioners appointed by my predeces^
sor to perform that duty. That there are defects and omis^
sions in the book as now published, which a longer time for
examination would have enabled the Legislature to discov-
er, and which would have been remedied by greater cau-
tion, is not improbable. It would be wonderful indeed, if
from the haste and carelessness which have disfigured many
of our statutes for the last fifty years, we had at once been
awakened to the necessity of bestowing upon the enact-
ment of the laws that patient care and studious diligence
which are requisite to the perfection of every other intellec-
tual effort. The improvement already made is a great and
essential one and will undoubtedly be valuable both in its
immediate and practical effects, and as an example. It is
singular that, compared with other subjects of human inter-
est, the business of careful legislation should have occupied
so little of the attention of the community. It is not, sure-
ly, that the subject is one that requires but little intellectual
effort. There is in truth no matter of temporal concern that
requires so much. A good system of laws founded upon
and in harmony with the principles of a free government,
adapted to the wants of the people, comprehensive enough
to embrace within its range all their essential rights and du-
ties, but not sufficiently minute in its details to become op-
jHressive in its operations, is one of the most difficult, as it
is one of the rarest, achievements of human skill. The
names of great lawgivers have been handed down to pos-

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terity as the greatest benefactors of mankind. Properly to
perform this duty requires not only great abilities, a well
disciplined mind and habits of accurate thought, but inde-
fatigable perseverance ; k clear perception of the object to
be attained ; its consistency with the general plan, and the
invaluable power of close and patient attention. It would
be unreasonable for us to repine at the absence of great
jurists, for they are seldom found among mankind. But if
the genius of a great lawgiver does not exist among us, we
are still unpardonable, if we regard legislation as an irksome
task which we may slight or evade without a violation of
our official oaths. The more unpresuming virtues of in-
dustry, caution and investigation, it is to be hoped, still ex*
ist among us. There can be no sufficient excuse for hasty
and careless legislation. We require of the advocate who
manages our causes^ the physician who prescribes for our
diseases, of the architect who constructs our buildings, that
each of them shall call into exercise his best efforts, and shall
apply the principles of his art to the conduct of our busi-
ness. We expect them to consider the object to be attained,
to perceive all the obstacles in the way of success, to view
the subject in all its bearings, and to take time enough to
assure themselves that the best mode is adopted. No less,
surely, ought to be required or expected of the legislator.
The man who enunciates a proposition in mathematicSt
without considering the result to which his principle will
lead him, or who promulgates a doctrine in nu>ral8, without
reflecting on its operation upon the happiness of the com-*
munity, we look upon as a pretender, and unworthy of our
confidence. And certain it is that there can be no duty
more responsible or more important, than that which we owe
to those who sent us here — no interests more momentous
than those confided to our keeping ; and yet legislation is too
often regarded not as a serious duty, involving the happiness
of the community and calling for self denial, labor and fore-
thought. Laws are too frequently passed without sufficient

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consideration, to answer a temporary purpose, and upon a
partial rieir of the subject. When such laws go into opera-
tion, they are found to be defective, and their defects beget
a necessity for the passage of other laws : these in their
turn soon require amendment, until the system becomes a
crude mass of contradictory provisions, almost defying anal-
ysis and discouraging the most faithful and diligent inquirer.
Changes are then proposed in the laws to remedy existing
defects, and alterations are from time to time made without
fuUy accomplishing the purpose designed. Evils exist,
much time and money are squandered in litigation, until the
public attention is aroused, and the people become convinc-
ed that a farther expenditure of time and money is necessa-
ry, to avoid the evils which should have been avoided in the
beginning. Such was the conviction growing out of the
state and condition of our system of laws, as it existed
anterior to the late revision. The interests and the happi-
ness of the people demanded a revision of our public stat-
utes. The work has been done, existing evils have been
remedied, a system has been arranged, with a precision, or-
der and method required by the wants of the people.

It should be our end and aim, and the end and aim of those
who come after us, not to mar this system by hasty legisla-
tion — if defects shall hereafter be discovered, to provide
for such defects in that plain, direct and intelligible manner,
as will add beauty and strength to the work.

Bat after all that has been done — after all the evils have
been remedied so far as human skill will avail — certain it
is that litigation will arise. It is idle to suppose that,
under the Revised Statutes or under any system of laws
which the wisdom of man ever devised, litigation will cease
or will ever be essentially diminished. We are no better
than those who have gone before us— have the same frail-
ties as those of olden time ; the same passions and prejudi-
ces, the same ambition and selfishness, that characterized th^

chosen people for whom, thousands of years ago, the A1-*


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mighty dictated a code of civil government, imposing pen-
alties for their offences and regulating their controversies.
The passions which, five hundred years since, placed men in
battle array against each other, now find vent in the peace-
ful arena of a court of justice; and judges and jurors in their
respective provinces, pass upon questions and determine
rights which were once adjudicated by the sword. Men are
made of the same clay and are agitated by the same pas-
sions as of old. Christianity, however, and a more accurate
view of the objects of human society^ have taught us that
reason and law are the best safeguards of human happi-
ness. Litigation will exist so long as men are the creatures
of impulse, so long as craft and cunning turn us away from
the right path, or pride and obstinacy render us callous to
our sense of duty. The imperceptible but sure changes
that are constantly going on in manners, in notions of gov-
ernment and in th^ appreciation of our rights, afford food for
discussion,which too frequently terminates in litigation. Apd
when we consider that no one case in all its particulars can
ever afford an exact precedent for another, and that in the
infinite variety of human circumstances no case was ever ex-
actly like another, we cease to wonder that n^n plunge into
controversies. The utmost that legislation can do, is to
adopt a system of general rules, within which all probable
eases may be included, in order that, if there must be litiga-
tion, the parties may reach the actual merits of their dis-
putes, without wasting their strength in vain endeavors to
ascertain the meaning of the lawgivers^ and to obtain a ju-
dicial construction of their acts.

I have thus alluded to the defects in our legislation^ be-
cause I think they are evils common to and increasing in
every part of America. The fatal facility of making laws
• in the thirty legislative assemblies of the United States, has
caused an accumulation of statutes embarrassing to the
courts and to the bar, and injurious to the people; and the
ease with which public law^ are passed in our own State,

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should not fail to excite a spirit of great vigilance and cau-
tion. In a single hour an important act may go through all
the forms of legislation and become the law of the land, at
the time believed to be harmless in its provisions, called
for by the interests of the State, and tending in no respect
to the injury of individuals. Yet, a short experience affords
proof that this legislation was tmcalled for, was unwise,
and in its effects prejudicial to the interests of the State and
disastrous to the rights of the citizen. It has occurred to
me from the best reflections which I have been able to give
to the subject, that no public act passed at one session of the
Legislature should take effect until thirty days at least after
the commencement of the next succeeding session, and that
the same limitation should be imposed upon all private acts
which can by possibility either affect the interests of the
State or of individuals. Such a provision would take away,
in all probability, the practical evils ordinarily resulting from
hasty legislation. It is an undeniable fact that the frequen-
cy of change in our public laws is an evil, and if such evils
occur, they should be commented on plainly and decidedly.
I speak decidedly,because I feel deeply the importance of the
subject. I speak with a confidence that my remarks- will
be taken in the same spirit which actuates me in making
them, and with an earnest hope that the representatives of
so orderly, so industrious and so religious a people as the
citizens of New Hampshire, will hereafter be ambitious not
to increase the number of the laws, but with patience and
forbearan<^e to ascertain the positive defects in the existing
legislation, and then to apply such correctives as the nature
of the case may require. Having so recently given to the
public our system of statute law, it is but the part of wis-
dom to suffer it to remain unchanged, until experience shall
suggest defects which the condition of society, the wants
of the people and a regard to their true interests require
should be remedied.
Our primary schools richly deserve at all times the pat-

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ronage and encouragement of the legislature. Our govern-
ment is based upon the virtue of the people : that virtue
is best preserved as knowledge shall be most diffused. As
the means of education, the nurseries of pure morals and
the sources of undefiled religion, these primary institutions
of our country have within the last twelve months excited
much of the public attention. A new impulse has been
given to the public mind, and a new spirit has been awak-
ened to the importance .of our common schools for the spread
of morality and religion, for the diffusion of intelligence
among the people and for the preservation of our republican

Those patriots who framed the constitution of our State,
incorporated into that instrument a sentiment worthy of
themselves, that knowledge and learning generally diffu-
sed through a community were essential to the preservation
of a free government, and that it was the bounden duty of
legislators and magistrates to cherish the interests of all sem-
inaries and public schools. This injunction of our politi-
cal fathers should never be forgotten or disregarded by the
friends of popular liberty. In my first address to the legis-
lature I alluded to the republican character of our free school
system. I then remarked that in those institutions are im-
parted to the youth of our State that ]ove of civil and reli-
gious liberty, that high devotion to the cause of human
rights, which lead to the unfailing exertion of their energies
and of their efforts for the security of individual and public
freedom. The constitution of our primary schools points
them out as especially meriting public confidence and pub-
lic support. The scholars in these seminaries must be on
terms of strict equality, and mingle together exclusively for
instruction. The children of the poor as well as of the
rich-^those emanating from the laboring classes, as well as
those from the independent portions of our community — en-
joy the same rights and the same privileges : they com-
mence their course of study — enter upon the acquisition of

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knowledge, under like influences and with like hopes. Our
primary sehools may well be denominated public institu-
tions, . They are sustained at the public charge, are dedica-

Online LibraryNew Hampshire General Court. SenateJournal of the Senate and House → online text (page 1 of 45)