Ratcliffe Hicks.

Speeches and public correspondence of Ratcliffe Hicks .. online

. (page 5 of 18)
Online LibraryRatcliffe HicksSpeeches and public correspondence of Ratcliffe Hicks .. → online text (page 5 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


This system makes the ballot-box a fraud, and
the elections a cheat.

If there were a similar state of affairs in any
State south of Mason and Dixon's line, there is not
a Republican orator or a Republican newspaper
from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but that would
denounce it as a Democratic crime and a Demo-
cratic shame.

Now, I shall vote for this bill with all its incon-
sistencies, for I believe, and it is my faith, that
any political party that undertakes to take an
unfair and an unjust advantage of its opponent,


in the end will suffer thereby; otherwise, life
would be hopeless, and the future dark.

I believe, with the same organization, and the
same means to work with, that this State is Demo-
cratic, except possibly in such a land-slide as we
had last fall ; and I read in a Republican news-
paper (I think the "Bridgeport Standard") that
they hoped there would never be another land-
slide, " for never did so much political drift-wood,"
they said, " come to the surface in this State."

Now, the composition of this commission is not
remarkable so much for what it contains as for
what it does not contain. I do not know, person-
ally, many of this commission, but so far as I can
learn — so far as my knowledge goes — there is not
a single clergyman on this commission. These col-
onies of Hartford and New Haven were founded
by clergymen, and no class has done more in the
last two hundred and fifty years to make our his-
tory glorious. I appeal to the member from
Guilford, Rev. Mr. Range, if I am not right.

I do not find a single physician, and I know of
no class in the community more intelligent, more
liberal in their views, and better fitted to advise in
all matters relative to the welfare and the well-
being of society. I appeal to my good friend from
Manchester, Dr. Whiton, if I am not right. But
the framers of this bill will have none of you.
They prefer politics to statesmanship, and the
good men of all parties understand it. There are


men on that commission who sit up nights and
travel miles to beat the Democratic party, by fair
means or foul, unless they are awfully misjudged.
This commission, the way it is made up, is a trav-
esty on justice ; it is a burlesque affair. It is a
misnomer to call it a constitutional commission, —
a better name would be a "Judson's Political
Menagerie Combination."

I do not find a single person interested in the
great charities of the State, — institutions which have
been born since this Constitution was framed, and
for whose protection and maintenance certain car-
dinal amendments ought to be made to our present

I do not find on this commission a single farmer
— any man representing the great agricultural in-
terests, which is one-half the wealth of the State.
I do not find a single one of the learned professors
of your colleges, or any one connected with the
great educational or common-school systems of the

I do not find on this commission a single man
who ever soils his hands with daily work.

I do not find any representatives of the great
working, toiling masses of this State, — the hope
and the pride and the salvation of Connecticut.
Eight-tenths of the voting population of the State
are entirely unrepresented in this commission.

I do not find a single representative of that
class of our citizens who are German born, who


number a hundred thousand people, and who
are our best and most thrifty and inteUigent

I do not find in this commission a single repre-
sentative of that great element which is trying to
reform the pohtics, to enforce the administration
of justice, and to elevate the moral standing of

But what I do find is this. I find scattered all
through that commission representatives of the
great corporate interests of the State ; the very
interests that might possibly be reached and re-
formed by an amendment to the Constitution,
and I find politics in the commission from the
beginning to the end.

I find some good men on this commission, but I
shall await with amazement the result of this Con-
stitutional Commission.

I had hoped that this committee on Constitu-
tional Amendments would have risen to the height
of this great occasion, and would have given us
a commission which would have commanded the
support of all the broad, generous, good-thinking
people of this State.

I had hoped, but I have hoped in vain, that this
committee would have reported a commission
which we could feel assured would make a report
that would be of great and permanent value to the
people of this State ; and I had hoped that the
joint standing committee of this General Assembly
6 8i


would have taken for its motto those well-remem-
bered lines of Shakespeare, —

" Let all the ends thou aim'st at be thy country's,
Thy God's, and truth's."

I am disappointed, but I submit gracefully to
the inevitable.



Delivered May 29, 1895, on the Plurality

Mr, Speaker :

I DID not think there would be any occasion for
my addressing this House again during this session,
and I do not now intend to make any set speech.

There are some things which you cannot discuss ;
there is no right or wrong to them. There is no
right or wrong to the Lord's Prayer, to the Sermon
on the Mount, to the multiplication table, or to a
problem in Euclid.

Some of us, when we were boys, stumbled and
stuttered over the Pons Asinorum, and could
hardly understand it ; but the problem was right
all the same. This Plurality Amendment may be
the Pons Asinorum to many Republicans, and they
may stumble and stutter over the solution ; but the
Plurality Amendment is right all the time.

I heard a member on the other side ask another
worthy member the other day when the Republi-
can party was ever committed to this amendment.
I reply, it was committed to it when it was born
into this world ; it was committed to it by every


victory that it has ever won, by every platform that
it has ever promulgated, and by every statesman
that it has ever produced,. — that the people shall
rule. It is the doctrine of every Republican State
in the Union ; it is the doctrine that is applied to
the election of every other officer in the United
States, and in this State, except to the State ticket.

No man can doubt how Abraham Lincoln would
vote if he were here to-day ; no one can doubt
how Ulysses S. Grant would vote if he were here.
These men did not hesitate to do right for fear of
political consequences. They mapped out a cer-
tain political course which they knew was right,
and let the consequences take care of themselves.
They never crooked the pregnant hinges of the
knee, that thrift might follow fawning.

Again, let me tell the gentleman when the Re-
publican party was committed to this amendment.
It was committed to it in the session of 1893. I
was talking only a day or so ago with the Hon.
O. R. Wood ; and never has the Republican party
had a more able or more conscientious leader in
this branch of the General Assembly in the last ten
years than that gentleman. He said it would be a
political crime for the Republican party to kill this
amendment. He said he stood up in the Republi-
can caucus in 1893, and spoke for this amendment
and pledged the party to it, and there were enough
Republicans there who notified him that if the
Republican party did not commit itself to this


Plurality Amendment, they would vote with the
Democrats in favor of a Constitutional Convention,
and their votes would carry it. Then you would
have reaped a whirlwind.

I am astonished to hear the honorable gentle-
man from Norwich appeal to the members on his
side of the House to vote against this amendment,
because the Democrats are in favor of it. If it is
death to any public measure to have Democrats
favor it, then it is better that the Democrats retire
absolutely from this Assembly Chamber.

If such narrow, unreasonable statements (I will
not dignify them with the name of arguments) are
to influence members in their votes here, then the
forty-six men who are so unfortunate as to have been
sent here by their constituents, had better retire
immediately. This is the same spirit, a little more
modernized perhaps, but the same spirit which in-
spired the Catholics to burn heretics at the stake
many centuries ago ; that inspired the Puritans
when they drove Roger Williams from the Massa-
chusetts Colony, and that inspired the Know-
Nothings when they burned Roman Catholic
Asylums, — in other words, to hate and to vote
against everything that your opponent favors, and to
set yourself up as the paragon of political wisdom.

There is not a member in this General Assembly,

on either side of the House or in either branch,

except possibly the gentleman who graces the

Speaker's chair, who has any political future worth



worrying about. Nine-tenths of us will never be
here again, and nine-tenths of us never want to be
here again, and therefore most of us can afford to
do what is right.

If you wish to see how happy a man can look
when he is politically dead, look at me ; but I agree
with the member from Guilford, and we both
think, as Socrates taught, that if there is another
world, and we think there is, it is better than this ;
but if there is no other world, then we think still,
as Socrates taught, there is nothing so blessed as
physical or political sleep.

We want no more crowbar Governors in this
State. They are only an injury to the party they
try to serve. The last one cost the State $250,000
for nothing, and resulted in giving Connecticut
overwhelmingly to the Democrats.

I know that that same Governor is here to-day,
that Machiavelli of Connecticut politics, engineer-
ing the defeat of this amendment ; but every
Republican member of this General Assembly will
serve his party much better to ignore that man's
advice, to keep clear of his schemes, and to carry
out that verse in the Bible which, much better
than any other verse ever written by man, inspired
or uninspired, points out the wise course for every
person, be he politician or not, to follow in all his
doings ; to wit, " To do justly, love mercy, and
walk humbly with thy God."



Delivered May 22, 1895, on the Building and
Control of the Hartford Bridge.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of
Representatives :

I STAisTD here solitary and alone. Mr. Judson
and myself agreed upon a report placing this
bridge on Hartford County, but since signing the
report he has concluded to support the bill as
adopted by the Senate.

It is urged that unless this bill is to pass this
House exactly as it passed the Senate, there is
danger that upon its return to the Senate the
whole measure will be defeated. That argument
has no weight with me. This matter is too serious,
and the principles we seek to establish are too
important, to be traded off on account of any fear
of what the Senate will do.

For my part I never knew what the Senate was
here for. They have always seemed to me largely
like the feather on a woman's hat, — more orna-
mental than useful. Individually I have a great
respect for them, but collectively I have no use for



If you wish to live happily, die peacefully, and
have some good minister say a kind word for you
over your open grave when you cannot speak for
yourself, in my humble opinion you should vote
against this law proposed by the Senate, and gen-
erally against every law proposed by the Senate.

This bill., as it comes from the Senate, placing
this bridge back upon the five towns, is a most
wicked and unjust act, and any tax-payer in the
towns of East Hartford, Glastonbury, Manchester,
and South Windsor is almost warranted in standing
with his gun in his hands when the tax-collector
comes round to collect his portion of the tax for
building these bridges over the Connecticut River
under the provisions of this Bridge Bill.

There is not a member of this Legislature, no
matter from what part of the State he comes, but
would feel the same way if he were a resident of
these four towns.

There is but one good name for this bill, imper-
fectly drawn, inaptly expressed, unreasonable in
its provisions, and cruel in its exaction, — and I
name it " Crazy Quilt Legislation."

This bill, as it has passed the Senate, settles
nothing, establishes no policy, and is a model for
no legislation in the future. The majority of the
Committee have abandoned every argument that
they advanced, have stamped upon nearly every
provision of the law which they reported, and
have accepted this wicked substitute, born and


created, in my humble opinion, in the mind of
one man, — ex-Governor Morgan G. Bulkeley ;
and I trust he is proud of his work.

This question will keep coming here and haunt-
ing these legislative halls until you have settled
it right and established a policy that shall be
uniform and permanent throughout the entire

The bill reported by Mr. Judson and myself is
the only bill that will settle this matter satisfactorily
to the State of Connecticut, and the only bill that
will forever end this controversy. It is the only
business plan that has ever been suggested or
talked about.

If you have been permitted to see the beauties
of this open spring by a kind Providence, or to
continue to enjoy the love and affection of your
family and friends up to the present hour; if your
life has been spared for any good purpose, — it is
that you should be here and vote to take this
bridge forever off the Treasury of the State of
Connecticut, and to vote that the State of Connec-
ticut shall forever go out of bridge-building.

I will not weary this House by rehearsing the
arguments which I advanced almost at the open-
ing of this General Assembly, when I took occa-
sion to speak on the resolution I had the honor
to introduce instructing the Judiciary Committee
to inquire and report what action if any was ne-
cessary to protect the interests of the State of


Connecticut in the East Hartford Bridge matter.
What I said then, time and reflection have only
strengthened in my mind.

I thought then, but I know now, that I echo
the sentiments of more than ninety-five per cent
of all the voters of this State, of all the manufac-
turers, of all the business and professional men,
and of all the tax-payers, when I say that Connec-
ticut is irrevocably opposed to the building of
bridges over navigable streams, either here or in
any other portion of this State. Such a wild and
fanciful scheme means in the end only the bank-
ruptcy of your State treasury and the creation of
a great and powerful cabal, which, with its vast
expenditures of money and its numerous em-
ployees, will be forever a menace to the political
integrity of the State.

Now, therefore, there are but two questions
here for you to discuss and to decide to-day.

You are, one and all, directors in the great
corporation of this State, and you will treat this
matter as you would treat a similar one in any
private corporation to which you might or may
belong. I come to you, a plain business man,
and I talk to you as business men. Pay no atten-
tion to any man who attempts to make you believe
that the affairs of this State are to be treated in
any diff'erent manner or governed by any different
principles than those that apply to every-day busi-
ness life. The same moral and legal principles


that govern you in the management of your pri-
vate affairs, of the railroads, of the manufactories,
of the banks, and of the insurance companies in
which you are interested, may safely guide and
govern your conduct in transacting the public
business of the State.

Now, the two questions to be settled are
these : —

First — Who ought to build, manage, and con-
trol the three East Hartford bridges and the
causeways connecting therewith, for all time?

Second — What disposition, if any, is to be
made towards settling the contract with the Berlin
Iron Bridge Company?

As to who should build, maintain, and control
these bridges, I cannot consider any longer an
open question in Connecticut. The Legislature
of this State has imposed the bridges over the
Housatonic River on the counties of New Haven
and Fairfield ; and those counties have cheer-
fully acquiesced, and have already spent nearly
$200,000 in rebuilding and maintaining such
bridges, and there are others which they must build
in the near future.

I appeal with confidence to the member from
North Branford, and the member from Guilford,
and the member from the hills of Prospect, and to
all the members of New Haven and Fairfield
counties, — many of them residing far remote
from the bridges already constructed over the


Housatonic River, and who have cheerfully been
paying for bridges they rarely, if ever, use, — to
say whether the policy that is correct in your
counties does not apply with equal force to all the
other counties of the State, including the great
County of Hartford? Is it not almost poetic
justice for you to-day to vote to apply to the
County of Hartford the same principles and laws
which they were so ready to impose upon your
own counties?

But they say that you must not apply to the
Connecticut River the same laws and rules which
you apply to all the other navigable streams of this
State, — an argument which, in my humble opin-
ion, is worthy of the genius of a modern Dombey.
That this sacred stream, this modern Ganges, is
an exception to all the other rivers of this State
is the merest bosh ; and the men or the clientage
who undertake to build an argument upon such a
flimsy and unsubstantial basis might just as well
try to climb the fleeting mountains of the fleecy
skies. They have not been able to produce a
single instance in the legislation of the past one
hundred years throughout the entire sisterhood of
States, where any State has ever attempted or
undertaken the building of a bridge over a navi-
gable stream. The proposition is so monstrous
and absurd that good men throughout the entire
confines of the Republic have frowned upon it and
strangled it even before its birth. If you go home


to-night with my friend Mr. Middleton of En-
field, in one step you cross into Hampden County,
through which this same strange river runs, and you
will learn how the intelHgent business men of
Springfield and the honest yeomanry of Hampden
County have bridged this river. These are the
facts : —

The north-end bridge at Springfield cost . $170,904

Springfield paid $145,124

West Springfield paid .... 25,780


The south-end bridge at Springfield cost . $ii6,i8S
Hampden County paid . . . .$11,000

Springfield paid 75>522

Agawam paid 29,666


The old wooden bridge cost $30,000

Hampden County paid .... $15,000

West Springfield paid 4,000

Springfield paid 10,000

Agawam paid 1,000 •


You will see how differently from the city of
Hartford the city of Springfield has treated the
matter of this bridge which pours into its lap the
traffic of nearly one-half this rich and populous
County of Hartford. The city of Springfield alone
has paid, as you will notice, towards the construc-
tion of these bridges nearly one-quarter of a million
of dollars.



It is practically impossible for most adjacent
towns to build bridges over navigable streams, and
there is no better division of territory than county
lines. They have all the organization and all the
means to build and manage these bridges without
creating any new bureaus, commissions, or ofifices ;
and the argument that many of the towns reap no
immediate benefit from this bridge, or similar
bridges, would apply equally well to every court-
house, to every jail, and to every County Home
that has ever been, or will ever be, erected in this
State. Some towns must necessarily reap more
benefit than others.

The Connecticut River has made Hartford City
and Hartford County rich. It has for two hun-
dred years or more carried the produce of its
farms and the products of its factories to their
markets, and brought back in exchange the barter
of the world. Move this river over into Tolland
County and we will build this bridge for you for

This whole matter has been botched from the
start. For ten years the stock of this Bridge Com-
pany sold here in Hartford for $i6o a. share. The
day after the award, it was worth $320 a share,
and fortunes were made out of it. This great
franchise of running cars from Hartford to East
Hartford, lasting perhaps for one hundred or five
hundred years, has been frittered away for a song.
I have no doubt that the New York and New


England Railroad would cheerfully give $100,000
to keep horse and electric cars off this bridge ;
and I have no doubt, besides, that parties can be
found to build this bridge free of all expense for
the right to run cars for ninety-nine years over it.
No man can calculate the value of this franchise,
which includes the right to carry passengers, bag-
gage, mails, and freight.

Look back one hundred years at Manchester,
Rockville, and East Hartford, and look forward
one hundred years when all this portion of Con-
necticut will be alive and teeming with prosperous
cities and a vast aggregate of manufacturing and
industrial shops. Then see how far the honor of
the State of Connecticut is concerned in this con-
tract with the Berlin Iron Bridge Company.

The main and the only real reason advanced by
the friends of the law of 1893 (if it has any friends)

— namely, the plighted faith and honor of the State

— is, in my opinion, utterly without foundation.
With every leading newspaper in Connecticut, out-
side the city of Hartford, calling for the repeal of
this law, supported by an overwhelming and almost
unanimous sentiment of the entire State, either the
moral sentiment of Connecticut has become hope-
lessly daft and benumbed, or there is no moral
turpitude or sacrifice of public honor in the repeal
of this law. In fact, the passage of this unfortunate
law in the way it was accomplished would call for
its repeal, even without the convincing and satis-



factory reasons already advanced. If there was
ever a law conceived in sin and born in iniquitj^,
this is one. When any man, or set of men,
have it in their power to say that for so much
money they will secure the passage of any law in
this State, — and, above all, one so momentous in
its consequences, — then it is time to cry a halt,
and to teach these men and their poor deluded
victims that that is no way to secure honest legis-
lation in this State, and that " The mills of God
grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small."

The honor of the State has been twice imper-
illed, — first by the passage of the law in 1S93,
and second, when the contract was let to the
Berlin Iron Bridge Company at a price $75,000
above honest competition ; and the friends of this
bridge, it it has any, ought to hide their faces in
shame instead of coming here and talking about
the honor of the State. A distinguished member
of the Hartford County Bar came before the Legis-
lative Committee and talked about the virgin honor
of the State of Connecticut. But suppose you put
it another way. A woman has been ruined, and
her honor trampled in the dust. Is she still to
cling to her paramour in crime, or is she to assert
her womanhood and denounce the villain to all the
world, and say, " From this day onward I am a
woman : there is the man who ruined me ! "
There is where Connecticut stands to-day.

It passes my comprehension how any praying


man or woman in Hartford can ever cross this
bridge without a shudder; how any Christian
minister can stand up in his pulpit in this great
city of Hartford, and look his congregation in the
face without a heavy heart, when, despite all his
teachings, they have given their approval to prac-
tices which, if continued, mean only death and
disgrace to American institutions. How little did
Thomas Hooker think, as he threaded his path
across the New England wilderness, fighting his
way against wild beasts and wilder men, to found
here this Hartford Colony, that the day would ever

1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryRatcliffe HicksSpeeches and public correspondence of Ratcliffe Hicks .. → online text (page 5 of 18)