Ratcliffe Hicks.

Speeches and public correspondence of Ratcliffe Hicks .. online

. (page 7 of 18)
Online LibraryRatcliffe HicksSpeeches and public correspondence of Ratcliffe Hicks .. → online text (page 7 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


expenditure of money requisite to build the bridge.
Then, gentlemen, there is not business or necessity
enough to warrant this Legislature in chartering
their road at all. But I apprehend that the suspen-
sion bridge is not a fatal obstacle to the building of
the Air- Line road. One of the principal witnesses
before the committee, Mr. Hubbard, a petitioner
and resident of Middletown, admitted frankly that
they wanted a railroad, with a drawbridge, if pos-
sible, — if not, with a suspension bridge. Grant the
petition of the Air- Line road, let that drawbridge be
built, and it will be the stepping-stone to the erec-
tion of other bridges. Pressing closely upon the
heels of this Air- Line petition comes the petition
of the Shore Line for a bridge at the mouth of the
river; and no legislator can with much consis-
tency vote for the bridge at Middletown, and not
for one at the mouth of the river ; and by building
these bridges you drive every timber of shipping
from the Connecticut River, the noblest river in
New England.

The friends of the bridge, in their enthusiastic

moments, claim that the draw can be so managed

as not to interfere with the navigation of the river.

If one draw can be so managed, so can a hundred ;

ii.S



RATCLIFFE HICKS

and you might roof the river over with bridges
without affecting its navigation ! Now, is any man
so big a fool as to believe it? Do they beUeve it
themselves, when they say that this bridge will
make Middletown and Portland the head of river
navigation? Prominent among the petitioners are
men from the city of Middletown, who in the last
session of the Legislature strongly opposed the
erection of a bridge at the mouth of the river,
because of its disastrous consequences to the navi-
gation of the river. Mark you, gentlemen, the
bridge was to be located below Middletown then,
above it now. Can any sane man say in the face
of the irresistible and overwhelming proof on this
subject before the committee, that a drawbridge
is not fatal to the navigation of the river? If
drawbridges are not ruinous to navigation, why
does the Steamboat Company, year after year,
when this project of bridging the river is brought
before the Legislature, make such herculean efforts
in opposition to it? Why do the owners of every
vessel upon the river that will have to pass through
this draw, and why does this city of Hartford, make
similar exertions ? Why do petitions from towns
throughout the interior and northern sections of the
State come deluging this Legislature remonstrating
against the bridging of the river? Is it because
they are hostile to the Air- Line road ? Not so.

Nearly all the witnesses before the Committee
introduced by the petitioners have themselves ad-
ii6



CONNECTICUT RIVER NAVIGATION

mitted that the draw will be an impediment to the
navigation of the river. Some of them admit that
it might be a serious obstacle. On the other hand,
a large number of captains and masters of sailing-
vessels, men who have learned from a life-long
experience something of the difficulties and em-
barrassments incident to river navigation ; men
who are behind no other class of men in the
improvements of the age, and whom practical
legislators will prefer to listen to on this subject
rather than to railroad managers or lobbyists or
manufacturers who know nothing of navigation, —
these men have come here and sworn that this
draw will be a serious if not a fatal obstacle to the
navigation of the river. Many thousand passages
are to be made through this draw every year,
some of them in the night season, some of them in
storms and floods. The vessel must feel its way
along, oftentimes lie by until morning, or until the
storm has abated and the floods have ceased, and
then a sailing-vessel must beat its way up and
down through this draw. Why all this delay, this
extra hazard, this expense? Because, gentlemen,
at the city of Middletown the station will be
located a mile nearer the centre of the town by
the drawbridge route than it would be by the
route of the suspension bridge ! The friends of the
drawbridge try to excuse this monstrous scheme
by showing that there are already obstructions to
navigation in the river, — that there are narrow
117



RATCLIFFE HICKS

channels, short curves, and bends ; and still they
have the hardihood and audacity to come here and
ask this General Assembly to add another and far
more formidable barrier to the river navigation !

The petitioners come here and ask this Legisla-
ture for the privilege of bridging the Connecticut
River, which from time immemorial has never been
bridged below the head of navigation ; to sacrifice
the interests of one section of this State to benefit
the interests of another and far lesser section. On
the other hand, the opponents of this draw do not
come here to oppose the building of this road, or
to ask this Legislature to enact any law to bene-
fit them to the detriment of any other section of
this State. They simply ask that those rights
which they and their fathers before them for more
than two hundred years have enjoyed shall not be
taken from them.

The navigation of this river has regulated and
cheapened the price of freight for miles in every
direction from it. Add another and an almost
impassable obstruction to its navigation, — increase
the price of freights, if you please, — and you have
put another lever in the hands of the railroad
interests, and dealt a serious blow to the manufac-
turing, the trading, and the agricultural interests of
the State. You may think it a very pleasant thing
to vote away the prosperity and the privileges of
this section of the State ; but some day or other
there will appear some other great grasping cor-
ii8



CONNECTICUT RIVER NAVIGATION

poration that will seek to suck the life-blood out of
your section of the State. The Shore- Line road,
now joining hands with the Air-Line road in this
attempt to build a draw at Middletown, may receive
the aid of the Air- Line in return, and by like bar-
gaining secure the co-operation of other roads, and
ask of this Legislature permission to bridge the
Thames.

If this General Assembly shall decide in favor of
bridging the Connecticut River at Middletown,
and that bridge shall ever be built, and then it
shall be shown by unfortunate experience to be a
mighty impediment to the navigation of the river,
and shall drive from it every vestige of its once glo-
rious commerce, there will be no remedy. It will
have to stand there, a monument of the folly and
wickedness of the General Assembly of 1867.

It is for you to say, gentlemen, whether that
bridge shall be built or not. From your decision
the people whose rights and interests are at stake
have no appeal. If you shall have sacrificed them,
gentlemen, then they can only pray Almighty God
to send a raging, roaring flood, which shall carry
off in its seething bosom every relic of the Golgotha
erected by the General Assembly of Connecticut
to mark the limit of the free navigation of the
Connecticut River.



119



AGE OF CONSENT

Mr. Speaker :

I HESITATE to Say anything in this matter. This
is a question which a woman hke Mrs. Isabella
Hooker — daughter of a New England clergyman
of world-wide fame, sister of one of America's
most illustrious sons, and wife of one of Hartford's
first citizens — can talk to you about better than
any member of this General Assembly. But she is
not here, and no woman is here to voice the senti-
ments of her sex. So I will briefly explain why I
am in favor of raising the age of consent to
eighteen years.

If you will take the pains to ask any clergyman,
Protestant or Catholic, or any physician, — those
men who go down where sorrow and sadness and
sickness dwell, — he will tell you that in ninety-
nine cases out of a hundred, where the first wrong
has been committed, the woman is the innocent
party.

I know no sight more sad, no fate more heart-
rending, than to see a young man or a young
woman who has sacrificed and thrown away all
prospects of an honorable future life. A prominent



AGE OF CONSENT

clergyman of this' city remarked to me only a day
or so ago that he hardly ever knew an instance
where the persons were of nearly equal age but
that the man was willing to redress the wrong by
marrying the woman, and thereby saving her honor
and her self-respect.

I was talking on this subject only a day or so ago
with the editor of the " Hartford Times," who has
crowned eighty years of a useful and honorable life
largely devoted to the discussion of matters of
public interest ; and he remarked that a woman of
fourteen hardly knew her own mind ; that eighteen
was better as the age of consent, and that it ought
in his opinion to be twenty-one years. It is pretty
safe in Connecticut, be you Republican or Demo-
crat, to listen to the advice on matters relating to
the improvement and elevation of society of that
noble citizen and good man, Hon, Alfred E. Burr.

Since making our report, the Legislature of
Massachusetts has passed a bill making eighteen
years the age of consent. That age now is the
prevailing one in most of the progressive and en-
lightened States of the Union. I hope Connec-
ticut will not be behind her sister States.

We have been here four long months, passing
laws for the benefit of the men of Connecticut ;
but not one Act have we passed for the benefit
of the woman of this State. I beg of you to pass
this bill in the interests of innocent womanhood,
and I promise you that you shall never regret your
action. 121



RATCLIFFE HICKS

Minority Report from 'judiciary Committee on
House Bill No. 315.

The minority of the Committee on the Judici-
ary submit the following reasons for their report in
favor of making the age of consent eighteen years :

1. The main object of all legislation should be
the protection of the young, the innocent, and the
weak. No average woman under the age of eigh-
teen years has either the knowledge or the power
of will that puts her on an equality with her
seducer, be he man or boy. But the boy will
marry her, and thereby save her honor ; while the
man will cast her off, regardless of her fate, and
of all the terrible consequences that await her
imprudence.

2. All legislation should be consistent; and
while it is a criminal offence for a clergyman to
marry a woman under the age of twenty-one years
without the consent of her parents, and while it is
impossible for any woman to deed her property or
to transact any lawful business under the age of
twenty-one years, how much less competent is she
to act in matters that involve her peace and happi-
ness for life, and, if she makes a mistake, where
disgrace and sorrow attend her to her dying day.

3. The legislation of the last fifty years both in
America and in Europe has been gradually raising
the age of consent, and we believe eventually it
will be twenty-one years in all Christian countries.

122



AGE OF CONSENT

In two States, Wyoming and Kansas, the age
now is eighteen years (and we understand that the
States of New York, Colorado, Delaware, New
Hampshire, and Missouri have this winter passed
laws making the age of consent eighteen years) ;
and below we give the list of States, showing the
limit at which legislators have placed the age at
which young girls may consent to their ruin, prior
to this year : —

Seven Years, — Delaware.

Ten Years, — Alabama, North Carolina, South
Carolina.

Twelve Years, — Kentucky, Louisiana, Texas,
Wisconsin, Virginia.

Thirteen Years, — Iowa, New Hampshire, Utah.

Fourteen Years, — Arizona, California, Connec-
ticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maine,
Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada,
New Mexico, North Dakota, ^Ohio, Oregon, Ver-
mont, West Virginia.

Fifteen Years, — Montana.

Sixteen Years, — Arkansas, Colorado, District of
Columbia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey,
New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South
Dakota, Tennessee, Washington.

Seventeen Years, — Florida.

We regret that Connecticut does not occupy a
better position in this list.

Respectfully submitted,

Ratcliffe Hicks.
123 Geo. H. CowELL.



A. P. A. RESOLUTION

Mr. Speaker :

I NOTICE in the Journal that the Resolution is on
the table by my motion. Now, I propose to move
to take that Resolution from the table, and then
will move to refer it to the Committee on Federal
Relations. I do this for the purpose of disposing
finally of this matter; and if the House see fit
indefinitely to postpone the Resolution, I cannot
seriously object to it. However, I should think
the proper reference to be to the Committee on
Federal Relations.

This Committee dates back as far as the origin
of the Constitution of the State, and was evidently
contemplated as a Committee to which should be
referred all matters having a political bearing. I
think there has been no matter of any kind re-
ferred to this Committee this year, and it would
seem as if it were almost a matter of respect to the
Committee that something should be referred to
them. It is no honor to put a man on a Com-
mittee which never meets once during the entire
session.

124



A. P. A. RESOLUTION

If this resolution does not agree with the sen-
timent of this House, this Committee can pre-
pare a suitable Resolution that will agree with
the sentiment of the majority of this General
Assembly.

Now, I did not introduce this Resolution, and I
am not the father of it ; but it was introduced by
a worthy member of this General Assembly, and I
believe that in the main it expresses the sentiment
of the vast majority of the people of the State of
Connecticut.

This Resolution, as I understand it, is aimed at
an organization whose almost sole object is to pre-
vent the election to any office of any man who
is unfortunate enough to belong to the Catholic
Church. Now, I take it that the members of this
General Assembly are opposed to all secret politi-
cal organizations, whether you call them Anarchists,
Ku-klux, Know-nothings, or A. P. A.'s. The wel-
fare and preservation of American institutions de-
pend upon a free and open discussion of all political
matters ; and the establishment, either in the North
or the South, in the East or in the West, of secret
political societies is dangerous to the perpetuation
of American institutions, and in my humble opin-
ion is the quickest way to sap the foundations of
the Republic.

I am determined not to become involved in any
discussion with any member of this General Assem-
bly upon matters of politics or religion. I respect
125



RATCLIFFE HICKS

the opinion of every member, and expect every
member to respect mine.

I am anxious to have this matter taken from the
table, and disposed of in some orderly way ; and
therefore I make this motion, and leave it to the
members of the General Assembly to decide what
action they wish to take.



126



A QUESTION OF PRIVILEGE

Mr. Speaker :

I RISE to a matter of personal privilege.

I read in the " Hartford Courant " this morning
what purports to be an abstract of a debate which
took place in this House yesterday. In it I am
made to say that certain lawyers, whose names are
given, are disreputable lawyers.

The House will bear me witness that what I did
say, and all that I said, was that " I do not believe
there is a reputable lawyer in Connecticut, except-
ing the member from Putnam, who favors the
Moiety system in dealing with criminals." I be-
lieved then, and I believe now, that in opposing
that section of the bill establishing the Law and
Order League, I was voicing the nearly unanimous
sentiment of the legal fraternity of this State. For
my action here yesterday I have been repeatedly
thanked by the officers of this League ; and I am
sure that this obnoxious provision would, in the
end, have brought the League into public contempt
and disgrace.

I have ever accorded to the member from Put-
nam and to the reporter of the " Hartford Courant "
127



RATCLIFFE HICKS

that kind and courteous treatment which one
gentleman should extend to another.

I regret that such an unfair and unjust represen-
tation — or more properly such a misrepresenta-
tion — of what I did say should go forth to the
people of this State, and I can do no less than
humbly to protest against the same.



128



ON THE DEATH OF FRED-
ERICK DOUGLAS

Mr. Speaker :

It seems fitting that this General Assembly,
representing as it does the sovereign State of Con-
necticut, should pause for a moment, and pay this
tribute of respect to the memory of a good and
great man who has passed away. It seems also
not altogether inappropriate that it should be rep-
resented by a member of a party to which he
never belonged.

Frederick Douglas, however, was always of an
honorable opinion, and was too great a man to
wear with patience the shackles of any party.
Whenever the acts of his own party did not accord
with his conscience and judgment, he had the
courage and the manhood to say so ; and when-
ever the acts of the Democratic party accorded
with his judgment, he had also the courage and
the manhood to give them his approval.

Since the earliest settlement of this country, no

man has ever arisen whose life and career are

a greater incentive to all young men struggling for

a position in the world. Born in slavery and

9 129



RATCLIFFE HICKS

abject poverty, and of a hated race, he rose by his
own untiring efforts and commanding genius. He
became a leader among leaders, and the represen-
tative man of his race for all ages. He filled two
Continents with his greatness. Presidents and
nobles vied with one another in doing him honor,
and were proud of his acquaintance and friend-
ship.

Brass may corrode, and marble may mould, but
the name of Frederick Douglas will live forever
in American history, — a heroic man in a heroic
age.



130



EXTRACTS FROM A SPEECH

Delivered before the Cojmnittee of the Legislature
in New Haven, in 1875, in favor of the Char-
ter of the Dime Savings-Bank of Meriden.

But the city of Meriden is only in the gristle of
its youth, not having yet grown into the bone and
muscle of its manhood. It is not an old man
tottering to his grave; it is but an infant just
learning to walk.

Meriden has a glorious future before it. If
Providence shall spare your lives for five, ten, or
fifteen years, you will see that the progress of Meri-
den in the past will be as nothing compared with its
progress in the future now just dawning upon us ;
and among the institutions which the best interests
of Meriden to-day demand, and which its future
growth will imperatively call for, is that institution
which these petitioners pray for at your hands, a
Dime Savings-Bank, — an institution which if char-
tered will be one more stream of business which,
with a hundred other streams, will make that great
river of business on which Meriden is to float on
to its future prosperity,

131



LAST SPEECH IN THE
ASSEMBLY

Mr. Speaker :

It is a great pleasure that I am permitted to be
present at the closing hours of this General Assem-
bly, and to contribute my mite of praise for the
able and courteous manner with which you have
presided over the proceedings of this House during
this session. You have won for yourself the praise
and the commendation of political friends and
foes alike, and well may you be proud of your
extraordinary success.

The session which is about to close will mark an
epoch in the history of this State. Never within
my knowledge has so much wise and beneficent
legislation been adopted at one session of the
General Assembly since this State first took its
position among and linked its destinies with the
great sisterhood of States. Some errors may have
been made, some mistakes that time and experi-
ence will modify or eradicate ; some things have
been done that ought not to have been done, and
some things have been left undone that ought to
have been done. I fear, sir, there has been a
132



LAST SPEECH IN THE ASSEMBLY

wild and wanton expenditure of the public money ;
that we have not cut our garment to our cloth;
and that when in two years another General Assem-
bly shall meet in these halls, instead of finding, as
we did, a surplus of $500,000, they will find the
surplus has vanished, and that a State tax can be
no longer evaded even for political reasons.

I rejoice to think that much more could have
been accomplished for the welfare and the honor
of this State had it not been for the other branch
of this Legislature. The slogan of future political
contests in Connecticut is to be the reform and
remodelling of that unrepresentative political oli-
garchy that sits in the Senate Chamber, — the
pride and the hope, as now constituted, of the
corporate interests of this State, and the enemy of
the welfare and progress of the Commonwealth we
all love so much. I have not the time, and this is
not the place, to describe and enumerate the wise
and healthful legislation which has been either
mutilated or strangled in that Chamber. Another
time and another place we will try to find for this
work. Yet I am not disheartened. This great
constitutional wrong will be righted by the people
of Connecticut, and soon righted, sir. I have faith
in the intelligence of the American voter.

At a gathering of the most illustrious literary

men of the British Empire a few years ago, held

in the city of London, a renowned French savant

was asked to give a toast. He rose, and in the

^33



RATCLIFFE HICKS

presence of that brilliant assembly, in the presence
of lords and nobles, an hereditary aristocracy, and
in that monarchical country, he gave this toast :
" I ask you to drink to human intelligence, the
sovereign of the world ! " Much more, I repeat,
is human intelligence a sovereign in this Ameri-
can Republic than in any other land on which the
sun shines.

Now, gentlemen, pardon me for having taken so
much of your time. I carry away with me from
this gathering some of the pleasantest memories of
my life. The acquaintances and friendships formed
here during this session of the General Assembly
will be cherished by me until my dying day. To
you, sir, especially and to all the members of this
House, I return my most sincere and heartfelt
thanks for all the kindness and courtesy extended
to me during this session ; and I now bid you, one
and all, a most affectionate farewell.



134



MISCELLANEOUS ADDRESSES



SPEECH

Of Ratdiffe Hicks in reply to Geti. Joseph R. Haw-
ley, delivered at Meriden, October 2, 1880.

I HOLD in my hand a Republican paper which
contains the speech that Hon. Joseph R.
Hawley is dehvering in the various towns in this
State in the pending canvass. The Republican
party in Connecticut is proud of Joseph R. Hawley,
and justly so, I think ; for to my thhiking he is by
far the ablest representative of that party in the
State.

In times past General Hawley has done some
things which endear him to all inteUigent voters.
During the administration of Ulysses Grant, when
crime held high carnival in Washington, he dared
to stand up, alone and unfriended, on the floor of
the American Congress, sacrificing every personal
and political ambition and association of his life,
and say, " I am coming to a time, now, when I
must seriously consider whether I shall go on with
some of my radical friends." Further on he said
that the proposed legislation of the Republican
party would end in ''creating a centralized gov-
137



RATCLIFFE HICKS

ernment upon the ruins of the original theory of
the republic ; and it might be in the end, I fear,
the destruction, the final failure of this experiment
of free government."

After the election of 1876, Ulysses Grant, in
order to effect the Presidential steal and rob the
Democratic party of their victory, sent into the
Southern States a large number of active and un-
scrupulous Republican leaders ; but he did not
send General Hawley, for he dared not trust him
in the nasty work that was to be done.

In the following year, when Mr. Hayes was con-
fronted with two governments in Louisiana, and
was desirous of knowing which he ought to recog-
nize, he sent a commission to that State, of which
General Hawley was a member. That commis-
sion, after fully investigating all the facts in the
case, unanimously reported in favor of recognizing
the Nichols (or the Democratic) government.
Nichols was voted for at the Presidential election
of 1876, and had really about seven hundred votes
less than the Democratic Presidential electors. No


1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryRatcliffe HicksSpeeches and public correspondence of Ratcliffe Hicks .. → online text (page 7 of 18)