Ratcliffe Hicks.

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the foundations of this favored Commonwealth,
never dreamed that the day would come when
four hundred and thirty-one inhabitants in the
town of Union would have an equal voice with
eighty-six thousand inhabitants in the town of New
Haven, in making laws, in spending money, and in
governing the State. If that doctrine had been
proclaimed three hundred years ago, you would
have no Commonwealth of Connecticut to-day, but
every town would have remained an independency.
Those old Puritans would have torn King Charles's
Charter into a thousand fragments if it had con-
tained any such vicious doctrine, for they were men
cast in a heroic mould, and made no compromises
with their intelligence or their conscience.

I ask the opponents of this bill : What do you
propose to do with this question ? Do you propose
to fight the inevitable, to oppose the spirit of
the age, to contend like the Tories of England
against an outraged people, to trample upon the
doctrines proclaimed in the cabin of the May-
flower, and which have made the name of the
Puritan immortal in history?

All arguments drawn from the formation of the
national government are not in this question. It
is a compromise. It is based upon no just prin-
ciples, and is the one weak thing in your govern-
ment, that may — that will, some day — wreck it,
if it be not changed.



That the rotten mining-camp of Nevada with
its sixty thousand inhabitants has an equal voice in
the Senate of the United States with the great
Empire State of New York with its five millions of
inhabitants and its untold aggregate of wealth and
of commercial importance, almost makes the bronze
statue of the Goddess of Freedom which crowns the
dome of the Capitol at Washington weep ; yea, it
makes respectable the most tyrannical monarchy on
the face of the earth to-day ; for all this is done in
America, hypocritically, under the name of Liberty,
Equality, and Freedom.

This is a question purely and simply for the
State of Connecticut, for Rhode Island, for Massa-
chusetts, for Virginia, for South Carolina, for Cali-
fornia : Shall not the people have an equal voice
in the management of their State affairs, — no
representatives from rotten boroughs, no shoestring
districts, but representatives elected by equal pop-
ulation and contiguous territory ? Any other claim
is the merest twaddle, and any other position is
the repudiation of the principles upon which your
government is founded. It cannot stand the test
of reason, or the approval of the good men of all

Some selfish political plotters are all the time
appealing to the small towns to beware of the
growing power of the cities, yet they are not able
to point to a single instance since the formation of
the State when the cities have tried to legislate


against the interests of the small towns. The in-
terests of the towns of Hartford and New Haven
are identical with those of Union and Prospect, and
the legislation of the State affects each alike ; the
laws that are good for one are good for the other.

Other claims are the specious arguments of
demagogues ; they have no warrant in fact.

In every State in the Union, except Connecti-
cut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, the idea
of town representatives has been long since
abandoned, and the members of the House of
Representatives are elected by districts of equal
population and adjacent territory, and these same
demagogues who are opposed to this change will
be the most blatant of reformers if the Democrats
should happen to get permanent control in these
three States. Consistency is a jewel of which they
know nothing, and statesmanship they reduce to
political trickery.

Now, I am not strenuous about this convention
bill. I have read and re-read the arguments of
Hon. Henry C. Robinson. The first time I read
them I admired their beautiful diction, and the
second time, their powerful logic. The constitu-
tion of this State is practically correct, except so
far as it relates to the election of State officers,
and the election and composition of the Senate
and the House of Representatives. But if you
put me in the alternative of nothing or a constitu-
tional convention, I shall vote for a constitutional


convention ; and so I hope, and so I believe, will a
large majority of this House.

A single word more, and I have done : The
political advantages to be gained or lost by an
amendment to the Constitution of this State are
not of a feather's weight. Connecticut has been a
close State, politically, for one hundred years, and
will continue to be close for one hundred years
longer. No man can prophesy two years ahead
what will be the political complexion of this State.
The result of the election (I own it with shame)
is determined frequently, as every sensible man
knows, by the size of the bank account of the
several State committees.

Nothing has done so much to make this State
corrupt as those small towns where a few hundred
dollars determines the election of a United States
senator or the State officers, and the control of
the political patronage of the State.

I have one appeal to make to the members of
this House. To most of the members it does not
make a straw's difference who carries this State
politically two years from now. The sun will shine,
the grass will grow, and business will go on the
same whichever political party triumphs. This
country is lost and saved regularly every four
years. Let us do right, let us make a record that
we can live by and die by, that merits the ap-
proval of our own consciences, and of the intelli-
gent future historian who will some day write up


the record of this General Assembly. No party
has permanently triumphed politically in this coun-
try. The party that is down to-day is up to-mor-
row. The political caldron of American politics is
like the ebb and the flow of the ocean ; but there
is one thing it is always safe to do, and then,
whether success or defeat awaits you, you have the
consciousness of having done the right thing, and
in the end history will vindicate your action.

The best men of both parties are practically
agreed in this matter, and there can be but one
issue to this contest. "The mills of God grind
slowly, yet they grind exceeding small."

No man and no combination of men is power-
ful enough to lead successfully any political party
against this mighty reform movement. The intel-
ligent young Republican voters in the great cities
of New Haven, Hartford, Meriden, New Britain,
Bridgeport, Middletown, Waterbury, Rockville,
New London, feel the injustice of this present sys-
tem as much, if not more, than the Democratic
party, for it disfranchises them for a lifetime from
any part or voice in the management of the State
affairs. I know full well that if this General As- .
sembly fails in its duty, another General Assembly
will assemble in these courtly legislative halls, on
January, 1895, which will do the people's bidding,
and right the crying shame of the hour.

At the opening session of this General Assembly
I introduced a constitutional amendment that


secured to every town one representative, and
an additional representative for every five thousand
inhabitants, beheving this would be a great im-
provement on the present system. You have
rejected that proposition. We asked for " bread "
and you have given us a " stone."

A few men would rather throw this Constitu-
tion and the whole system of our government into
the maelstrom of political warfare, than yield to
the demands of the majority of the people of this
State. This is a strange position. It has only one
parallel, — the man who hoped to go through the
whirlpool of Niagara in a barrel. But he was
smart enough to send his dog in the barrel first ;
and so you send your plurality amendment through
ahead, hoping thereby to quiet the demands of an
incensed people for a constitutional revision.

The burning question of our State to-day is not
the rights of the colored man, or the repeal of the
Sherman Act or of the McKinley Bill, but it is
whether Republican principles shall triumph, or
whether two hundred American citizens in New
Haven shall not have any more political power
than one citizen in Union, While we live under
a government that is Republican and Democratic
in principles, it is practically the most abomi-
nable oligarchy in existence to-day the wide world
over ; and while we profess Republican principles,
we are the biggest political hypocrites recorded in



Democrats and Republicans alike are respon-
sible for the present state of affairs. There have
been times when the Democrats have had full
authority in the General Assembly and could have
righted these wrongs, but we have been cursed, as
you have been, with a lot of men with about as
much political sagacity as a mule. They did not
dare to do right for fear it would hurt the party.
Most of these men, thank God, are in heaven
to-day ; the rest are still occasionally seen in
Democratic conventions.

If you can succeed much longer in defeating
this honest uprising of the people, if the majority
are not to rule in this State, then I await with
pleasure the hour when, under the leadership of
another Parnell, the thwarted and checkmated
majority shall stop the whole wheels of legislation,
and paralyze the public business, as happened in
England, when the proud English nation stood at
bay, and were obliged to give an unwilling ear to
the wrongs of Ireland.

This will be my final message to the General
Assembly of 1893, for never again do I intend to
intrude upon your deliberations, and I want to
thank you, one and all, for the kindness you have
extended to me.

To my Democratic friends who expect to reap
some political advantages from this proposed con-
stitutional convention, and to my Republican
friends, who fear disaster to their party from such a


convention, — to one and all I say, I beg of you to
remember that while " man proposes, God dis-
poses." It is as true of nations as of individuals,

" There 's a divinity that shapes our ends.
Rough-hew them how we will."

All history, ancient and modern, is studded and
blazoned with events showing the short-sightedness
of the vast majority of political schemes and
actions ; for in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred
the evil that was foretold never really happened,
and the good that was expected was never fully

When the French arms went down on that fated
battlefield of Sedan in the Franco-German War,
and apparently the Germans triumphed, it was, in
fact, the greatest victory ever won by Frenchmen.
It was the death-knell to Napoleonism. Over its
ashes the French people have been enabled to
erect a republic ; and never were they so strong,
so prosperous, and so much a menace to Germany
as they are to-day.

What the Frenchmen could not do, Bismarck
and King William, in the hands of an overruling
Providence, did for them.

The Republican party contended for negro suf-
frage, and won, and without it they would not be in
supreme control in the national government to-day.
Neither do all the foreigners remember when they


cast their ballots how the Democratic party fought
and went through the slough of political despon-
dency in its struggle against Knownothingism. The
greatest victory won by the South in that awful
war of the Rebellion, and the greatest blessing
ever conferred on them was when they surrendered
at Appomattox, and returned to help rule the
government they had once hoped to destroy.

The Republican party carried through trium-
phantly the McKinley bill; but the manufacturer
forgot his benefactor, and the Republican party
passed into a minority.

I shall vote for this bill, not because I think it
will benefit the Democratic party, for I do not
think either political party will reap any permanent
political advantages from a constitutional conven-
tion, but I shall vote for this bill because it is

This question rises above all party politics. The
State is greater than any political party. Your
children and your children's children have an
abiding interest in your action to-day.

I prefer to stand where the old Roman stood,
and " to do right, though the heavens fall."



Delivered January i6, 1895, ^n regard to the
East Hartford Bridge.

I TOOK the liberty to introduce this resolution
on the opening day of this session of the General

The guns were then just announcing the inaugu-
ration of the present distinguished Governor ''of
this State, and I have since regretted my intrusion
upon the happy hours of that, to many of you
festive day. '

But the boom of that cannon is now slowly
reverberating and dying out down among the hills
of Middlesex County, and it is time that we enter
upon the serious business of this session ; and I
know of no business more serious than the matter
embraced in this resolution.

It is not the object of this resolution to investi-
gate any scandal connected with the passage of
the law under discussion.

That was the business of the Legislature of

1893; and when Luzon B. Morris declined to call

that General Assembly together, the acts of its

members passed beyond the paJe of legislative

4 49


investigation, and are only amenable to tlie bar
of criminal justice and to the forum of public

To Luzon B. Morris fell an opportunity which
falls to but few men in this world ; for by one
stroke of the pen he could have summoned the
Legislature of 1893, and in one day they would
have wiped out this law. They would have blotted
from history, and largely from memory, the awful
scandal that surrounds the passage of this law, and
they would have saved the State of Connecticut
several hundred thousand dollars, and, in the end,
perhaps several millions.

But that day has gone. That golden oppor-
tunity has slipped away, and we have only to do
with the present.

Now I ask your attention to the law itself. A
more crude, incomplete, and unsatisfactory law
can nowhere be found in legislative annals.

Here are two men, under no bonds, under
no obligation to make any report to the Gen-
eral Assembly or any one of their doings, with
unlimited power (as they say) to expend the
money of the State to any amount they may see

Such powers, I venture to say, were never before
conferred upon two men by any legislative body
in the great sisterhood of States. If they can
build an iron bridge, they can build a stone
bridge; if they can build a bridge with a forty-


foot driveway, they can build one with a hundred-
foot driveway ; if they can spend three hundred
thousand dollars, they can spend a million dollars,
and nobody can ask them, "Why do you thus?"
Again, there is no limit in this bill to the amount
they shall charge for their services, either past,
present, or future, and they can draw from the
treasury of the State ^500 or ^5,000 a year, as
they see fit.

Now, I am not here to dispute their right to do
anything. Everybody in Connecticut, however,
outside of some insane asylum, did suppose that,
before they attempted such a large expenditure of
the public money, they would come to the Legis-
lature and state the facts about the bridge, and
show their plans and ask for an appropriation.

But, for once, the people got left. It is said that
the two have obtained the opinion of some law-
yer indorsing their right to go on and build this
bridge. If they have paid anything for an opinion
on their powers and rights under that law, I can
only say, in the words of an old adage, " the fool
and his money are soon parted."

If there is any doubt about the construction of
a law, there is only one opinion worth having, and
that is the opinion of the Supreme Court. All
other opinions are only guesswork, leaps in the
dark ; and the more of them you have the less you

Some years ago five men, the flowers of the bar


of Connecticut, gave a written opinion about an
Act of the General Assembly of Connecticut, and
the Supreme Court said to the unfortunate litigant,
" You paid your money for nothing, and the opin-
ion they gave is not worth the paper it is written
on." Even to-day the bar of Connecticut looks
to those same lawyers as oracles of law, just as a
Mussulman looks to Mecca for his religion.

If it is the settled policy of the State to build
this bridge at East Hartford, how are you going
to refuse the member from Enfield when he asks
for a bridge for Enfield, and the same for the
member from Windsor Locks, and the member
from Middletown, and the member from Haddam,
and the member from Saybrook ? And when you
have gotten all these bridges built, how can you
refuse to build bridges over the Housatonic, the
Naugatuck, the Thames; and where is this thing
to end? Instead of spending $300,000, you will,
in the end, spend somewhere from five to ten
million dollars. I think it would be wise to go to
the people of this State, the fountain of all author-
ity, and learn their wishes, and for that reason I
have introduced a constitutional amendment rela-
tive to the care and maintenance of bridges over
navigable streams ; and if the people wish to
assume this extraordinary burden, and revolu-
tionize the whole course of legislation in this State
for two hundred years, let them say so.

How are you going to pay for the East Hartford


Bridge and any other bridges you may build?
Are you going to restore the State tax and com-
pel the farmers over in Tolland, Windham, and
Litchfield counties, and other portions of the State,
to pay the savings of a whole year — ^lo, $20,
^40, $100 — for a bridge that they will not even
once see, perhaps, in all their lives, and that is of
no more use to them than the celebrated Bridge
of Sighs in mediseval Venice? If not, are you
going to lay this burden on the railroads, the life
insurance companies, and the savings-banks of
Connecticut ? If you are, a hundred such bills as
my friend Mr. Judson has introduced will be use-
less to protect you from the hordes that will pour
into this Capitol building. Every member will
need a Catling gun and a corps of trained physi-
cians to resist the onslaught, and keep himself in
fighting trim.

What are you going to do, if you are determined
to build these bridges?

I see but two things to do. Appoint a commis-
sion and assess the expenses of building these
bridges partly on the town benefited and, possibly,
partly on the State of Connecticut. Or issue a
low three per cent bond and charge enough toll
to parties using these bridges to pay the interest
and the actual expenses, as is done at the Brook-
lyn Bridge.

Now, I appeal to every member of this House to
do his own thinking, and, if he does not know how


to vote, to go home and ask his constituents how
they want him to vote.

One of the most distinguished, most reputable,
and most popular citizens of the city of Hartford
has said to me within forty-eight hours that he
hoped this horrid, barn-like architectural blot
would never span the Connecticut River ; and he
said that if it were left to the citizens of Hartford,
they would cheerfully contribute towards the con-
struction of a bridge over this popular driveway
without crucifying the gocd taste of every citizen
of this world-renowned, aesthetic city of Hartford.
And he said, furthermore, that the building of this
bridge is not the work of the citizens of Hartford ;
for they realize that if this becomes the settled
policy of the State, they will eventually pay into the
treasury of the State in taxes far more than enough
to build three such bridges.

And now, Mr. Speaker, I realize too well how
weak and powerless I am in this General Assembly
in all matters that have any political bearing; but,
sir, this is a question which rises above all party
lines, and concerns all alike. I am not here to
antagonize the interests of any section of the State,
but I am here to do my sworn duty to all the
people of the State of Connecticut.

Permit me, sir, to add that I have determined
to do all that lies within my feeble power to re-
move the opprobrium and censure that have at-
tached lately to the legislation of this State ; and


to do more, — to assist you, and the party you so
honorably represent, to add a golden page to the
history of the good old State of Connecticut.

And to you, sir, and the party to which you be-
long, will attach the greater part of the honor and
the glory of such wise and beneficent legislation.

I want such legislation that when, at the closing
hours of this General Assembly, we leave these
legislative halls, we can leave them amid the
plaudits of nearly a million grateful people.



Delivered March 6, 1895, in Favor of Retrench-
ment of Public Expenses.

Mr. Speaker :

When every successful business man, and even
every prosperous manufacturing company in Con-
necticut to-day, is obliged to examine carefully
into his or its expenses, reduce salaries and wages
where practicable, and exercise the greatest econ-
omy to meet the demoralized condition of the
business interests of this country, it would seem
proper that all the officers of the State of Connec-
ticut also should exercise similar economy in the
expenditure of the State money, and that this
General Assembly should take some action to
bring about the desired result. If there is any
member of this General Assembly who has acquired
a fortune, he has only acquired it by fnigality and
industry. It is not what a man or a State spends,
but what it saves, that makes both of them rich.
Let us introduce into affairs of the State of Con-
necticut some of the ordinary rules that govern
successful private concerns.


We are confronted with a dilemma ; for, accord-
ing to the reports of the Treasurer and making
a comparison with the usual expenses of the State,
we find that the State of Connecticut is daily run-
ning behind considerable over ^700, and if there
cannot be a saving or a retrenchment in public
expenditures, then, necessarily, we must have an
increase of taxation.

You will find, upon examination, that the annual
expenses of the State of Connecticut have in-
creased in the last eight years over $600,000, and
without having been contracted for or devoted to
any extraordinary work. Is it not time to cry halt
and pay as we go ?

The to\vns and cities in the State of Connecticut
owe now about $20,000,000, and they are gradu-
ally increasing that indebtedness yearly instead of
reducing it, so that it takes a miUion dollars an-
nually out of the pockets of the tax-payers of the
State of Connecticut to pay simply the interest on
what these towns and cities owe. This is $400,000
more than we pay for the entire support of the
unfortunate poor and indigent of the State,
and nearly as much as all our public schools cost

It is $10 to every man with a family of six, or,
to state it another way, $6 to every voter ; and as
in many cases people pay no taxes, the burden
only becomes more onerous upon those who do
pay them.



In the last twenty years there has grown up
in this State a system of largesses which has ahnost
become a law, and also there has been created a
large number of commissions or boards with almost
unlimited powers in the expenditure of the public

Their names are legion, and their demands for
additional money grow alarmingly with every pass-
ing year. They are the Shylocks of the State ;
and the highest qualification of a member of the
General Assembly is that he can say no to these
insatiate demands for public funds, and stick to it.
There is no one to call them to an account, there
is no one to question their expenditures, and the
only question they ever seem to ask is, " How
much will the people stand?"

Governors, treasurers, comptrollers come and
go, and, with one or two rare exceptions, they
never seem to worry themselves about the expen-
diture of the public money, or about the interests
of the tax-payers of the State.

I hold in my hand a letter from a former treas-
urer of this State, a Republican in politics, and a
financier of great ability, who has written to me

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Online LibraryRatcliffe HicksSpeeches and public correspondence of Ratcliffe Hicks .. → online text (page 3 of 18)