Samuel J. (Samuel Jones) Tilden.

The writings and speeches (Volume 1) online

. (page 12 of 52)
Online LibrarySamuel J. (Samuel Jones) TildenThe writings and speeches (Volume 1) → online text (page 12 of 52)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

fundamental change in the laws which define the relations
of kindred, and their rights in respect to property.

The rules of our customary jurisprudence which regulate
these relations and the rights of property incident to them are
the gradual growth of many centuries, and have become a
refined and complicated system, adapted by the best intellects
to the wants of our society in the infinite diversity of conditions
which experience has developed. Such a change as is proposed
by this Bill would be likely to produce many consequences not
foreseen by its projectors, and should not be adopted without
a consideration and discussion to which it has not been sub-
mitted. The people have become acquainted with the laws
which have existed from time immemorial, and are accustomed
to act with reference to them. A deviation to meet a special
and peculiar instance may be worked out by affirmative acts.
It would be unwise, in order to accommodate such a case, to
enact a revolution of legal rules which would require a series
of affirmative acts to produce the results which the people are
accustomed to regard as a matter of course.

To the Assembly.

I return herewith, without my approval, Assembly Bill No.
262, entitled, " An Act supplementary to Chapter 200, Laws of
1874, entitled an Act to authorize the appraisal and sale of
leased fine salt lots on the Onondaga Salt Springs Reservation
by the Commissioners of the Land Office, and authorizing the

VOL. II. 10


Commissioners of the Land Office to exchange lands on said

The constitutional provision regulating the lands owned by
the State contiguous to the salt springs is as follows :

" The Legislature shall never sell or dispose of the salt springs
belonging to this State. The lands contiguous thereto, and which
may be necessary and convenient for the use of the salt springs,
may be sold by authority of law and under the direction of the
commissioners of the land office, for the purpose of investing the
moneys arising therefrom in other lands alike convenient ; but by
such sale and purchase the aggregate quantity of these lands shall
not be diminished."

The first section of this Bill reads thus :

" If any lands heretofore acquired by the State on the Onondaga
Salt Springs Reservation as lots on which to manufacture fine salt,
shall have been so acquired by gift or grant, without compensation
to the original owner or owners thereof by the State, and if the
commissioners of the land office and the superintendent of the
Onondaga Salt Springs shall at any time determine and officially
certify that any of said lots are no longer necessary for the purpose
of manufacturing fine or boiled salt thereon, the commissioners of
the land office shall not sell the same, but may in their discretion
reconvey, without cost to the State, such lot or lots to the original
owner or owners, their heirs or assigns, without cost or expense to
the State, and discharged from all obligation, expressed or implied,
on the part of the State to furnish said lot or lots with salt water
from the public pumps."

The words " gift or grant without compensation " will be
construed to mean a conveyance for which no money has been
paid by the State. The lands may, however, have been con-
veyed in consideration of advantages to the grantors other than
the receipt of money. It may have been greatly for their
interest to convey these lands to the State, and to take back
leases with " the obligation on the part of the State to furnish
said lot or lots with salt water from the public pumps." It
can hardly be believed that the lands were given to the State
in pure generosity, with a view simply to increase the public
domain. Their former owners converted them from private

iS75-l VETO-MESSAGES IN 1875. 147

lands into State lands in order to reap some benefit from this
change of title ; and this benefit they have no doubt enjoyed.
There is probably no more reason why the State should give
away these lands to their former owners than to any one else ;
nor any more reason why it should give them away at all, than
any other property it owns.

The Constitution provides that these lands may be sold, not
given away ; that they may be sold only for the purpose of invest-
ing the proceeds in other lands ; and that the aggregate of these
salt lands shall not be diminished. The Bill provides that the
lands shall not be sold, but may be given away ; there will be
no proceeds to be re-invested, and so the aggregate of lands
will be diminished.

The Constitution speaks of the " lands contiguous thereto
and which may be necessary and convenient for the use of the
salt springs." This Bill, in providing for an official determina-
tion which is to precede and to be relied on to justify the pro-
posed reconveyance by the State, requires a certificate only to
the effect that " said lots are no longer necessary for the pur-
pose of manufacturing fine or boiled salt thereon." The lands
may, notwithstanding, be necessary and convenient for coarse
salt or for other purposes connected with the manufacture of
salt. A reference to Section 44 of Chapter 346 of the Laws
of 1859 will show that if the State provide for vacating any
leases before their expiration, as it must do if it reconveys the
lands and is discharged from all obligation to furnish the lots
with salt water, claims are likely to arise against the State for
the value of any salt manufactories erected by the lessees
thereon. For protection against such claims the Bill makes
no provision.

This Bill is open to the objection that if its purposes are car-
ried out, wrong is likely to be done to the rights and interests
of the State. Moreover it conflicts, in my judgment, with
the spirit and intent, if not with the letter, of Section 7 of
Article VII. of the Constitution.


To the Assembly.

I return, without my approval, Assembly Bill No. 199, enti-
tled " An Act to provide for the recording of certain decrees
in partition suits now remaining on file in the office of the
Clerk of Onondaga County, and for the alphabetical indexing
of certain records of deeds and mortgages in the office of said

The first section directs that all decrees making partition of
real estate, now on file in the Clerk's office of Onondaga
County, shall be recorded. The provision is a very proper one,
but it ought obviously to be extended so as to cover as well
decrees of partition which may hereafter be filed, as those
already filed. The provision, moreover, ought to be general,
applying alike to all the counties of the State.

The second section directs a general alphabetical index to be
made of the grantors and grantees in all instruments now
recorded in said office affecting real estate. Of the necessity
for this work the local authorities are the best judges, and the
expense is a charge upon the county. Assuming that the
Board of Supervisors have not already, under Section 7 of
Chapter 855 of the Laws of 1869, full authority in the prem-
ises, any law now made on the subject ought to leave it to
their discretion to order the work.

The Legislature now have under consideration a general
Bill conferring further powers on the Boards of Supervisors.
It would be better in that Bill to give all the authority neces-
sary in such instances as this, so that matters so obviously
of local interest and of local expenditure as this is may not
be pressed upon the attention of the Legislature, taking up
time which should be given to the general business of the

I feel confident that on reconsideration the Legislature will
agree with me in these views.

i87S-] VETO-MESSAGES IN 1875. 149

To the Assembly.

I return herewith, without my signature, Assembly Bill
No. 100, entitled "An Act to enable married women to
release and to confirm releases of dower and inchoate rights
of dower in certain cases."

The second section of this Bill confirms every release of an
inchoate right of dower heretofore made by a married woman
during coverture to a person in possession of real property
under title derived from the husband, although the husband
has not joined in such release ; and the Bill contains no clause
saving existing rights, even where an action is actually
pending. It is well settled that such a release is absolutely
void, in the present state of the law in this State.

This Bill, therefore, is intended to validate conveyances
which are now invalid, and to make releases effectual which
are now ineffectual. It is therefore certainly improper, and
probably unconstitutional.

To the Assembly.

I return, without my approval, Assembly Bill No. 470, enti-
tled " An Act to reorganize the Village of Canajoharie." This
Bill expressly constitutes the inhabitants of a particular terri-
tory a body politic and corporate, and is a complete village
charter. Although there is at present a municipal corporation
covering the same territory and bearing the same name, it
seems to me doubtful whether this Bill does not contravene the
spirit, if not the letter, of the provision of the Constitution
which forbids the passage of a local act incorporating a

It differs in many important respects from the present char-
ter, and contains some provisions which seem to me objection-


able. I think these changes should not be made without the
approval of the electors of the village, to whom, as I am
informed, the Bill has never been submitted.

To the Senate.

I return herewith, without my approval, Senate Bill No. 160,
entitled " An Act to incorporate the Rescue Hook and Ladder
Company of Tonawanda, Erie County, New York."

If the members of this Company wish to become incorporated,
they should avail themselves of the provisions of Chapter 397
of the Laws of 1878, which provides fully for the incorporation
of fire, hose, and hook and ladder companies.

To the Assembly.

I return herewith, without my approval, Assembly Bill
No. 388, entitled " An Act to regulate coroner's inquests in
the City and County of New York, and to provide for the pay-
ment of services rendered by scientific persons as experts."

This Bill is so loosely drawn as to open the door to unneces-
sary and extravagant expenditure, and to the recovery of stale,
doubtful, and excessive claims. Some legislation on the sub-
ject is doubtless desirable ; but a bill providing for the settle-
ment and payment of demands so indefinite in their nature
should contain guards which this Bill does not provide.

To the Senate.

I return herewith, without my approval, Senate Bill No. 262,
entitled " An Act to confirm and legalize certain acts of the
Common Council of the City of Elmira." The Bill enacts that
a resolution of the common council of the city of Elmira
ordering the paving of a street with a special patent pavement,
the contract of the mayor under such resolution, and the reso-


lution of the common council assessing for the expense of the
work " are hereby declared valid and legal, and in full force
and effect." It then adds that " all official acts of the said
common council and mayor," under the said resolutions, " the
contract made pursuant thereto, and all acts relative to the
ordering and paving" of the street, and "the assessment for
the cost and expense thereof," shall be held " valid and legal
and in full force and effect." The last clause does not specify
what acts it legalizes; it does not confine its operations to
acts of the mayor and common council, or of any public offi-
cer. No part of the Bill specifies the nature of the illegalities
which it cures ; it is not limited to informalities or irregulari-
ties which involve no substantial wrong to individuals and no
violation of public policy. If there were surprise, fraud, or
corruption ; if there were a total want of jurisdiction ; if there
were a breach of a sound public policy which established
guards for the protection of private rights against abuses in
assessments ; if there were substantial injury and injustice to
individuals ; if there were every conceivable wrong possible to
occur in such a matter, this Bill, in as sweeping terms as
human language can supply, adopts them on the part of the
legislative power of the State, strikes out of existence the pri-
vate rights which have been disregarded, and annuls all judi-
cial remedies by which they can be asserted or defended. In
a similar case, where the language of the Bill was certainly no
broader, and where the defects were not alleged to be more
than technical or formal, the mayor and other officers of one
of our principal cities attended in person to show the great
evils that would result if the defects were not cured; but I
felt it to be a clear duty to withhold my sanction from a bill
expressed in language of dangerous generality. Such loose
legislation is of evil example upon the statute-book, even if it
works no actual injustice in the case which is the first prece-
dent. Those who seek these bills are anxious, to be sure, to
make them broad enough for their own present object, and are
not concerned as to the possible injury and injustice to others,


or the evil policy that may inadvertently result. The loosest
precedents arc most likely to be copied. A bad practice in
a few cases grows into an authority. Healing statutes are
enacted where public policy Vould sustain official acts that
arc invalid by reason of oversight or inadvertence, and some
private rights are benefited and none harmed by the confirma-
tion. On the same principle, instruments executed by private
persons are sometimes aided. Out of such precedents has
arisen a disposition on the part of municipalities to apply for
statutes curing informalities or irregularities in the acts of
their officers in respect to local assessments. A natural incli-
nation to favor their own powers and to fall in with expedi-
ents which increase the fund at their disposal for expenditure
out of the same taxes, tends to enlarge the scope of such bills.
Questions between the municipality and particular taxpayers
become frequent. Hearings before the governor are asked for.
In a recent instance numerous parties and several counsel
attended. In the present instance, nine suits were pending
when the Bill passed. In such cases, every variety of conflict-
ing rights and conflicting equities are presented. It is quite
clear that such bills, if tolerated at all in cases that are dis-
puted or in the process of litigation, should show on their face
that they are carefully limited in their operation ; that they will
not contravene the policy which imposes reasonable restraints
for the protection of individual and personal rights of innocent
third parties. It is a sufficient objection to the present Bill
that it contains none of these qualifications, but is expressed
in the broadest terms. But to this objection is added the fact
that the several remonstrances of the taxpayers of Elmira
allege that substantial wrongs were committed in the assess-
ment, that jurisdiction was never acquired, that the proceed-
ings were tainted by fraud and bribery, and that aldermen
were interested in the contract, which was thereby rendered
void by an express provision of the charter of Elmira. I do
not assume that these allegations are true in fact, but I cannot
see that those who make them should be cut off from the right

I875-] VETO-MESSAGES IN 1875. 153

of trying to prove them in the courts, or that the issues they
raise ought to be tried in the Executive Chamber. The saving
clause in the Bill saves nothing; for the nine suits existing
when the Bill was passed, being instituted by the city, have
been, as I am informed, or are about to be discontinued, for
the purpose of renewing them after the Bill should become
a law.

To the Assembly.

I return herewith, without my approval, Assembly Bill No.
345, entitled "An Act in relation to the Chautauqua Lake
Camp-Meeting Association of the Erie Conference of the
Methodist Episcopal Church." The corporation named in
the title of this Bill is the owner of a large tract of land, a
portion of which has been subdivided into lots and leased
for long terms to various persons who may or may not be
corporators, and who have erected cottages thereon. I am
informed that these leases contain no reservation of rent and
no provision authorizing any assessment to be made by the
corporation upon the leased property for any purpose. This
Bill provides that the corporation may levy a tax upon the
real and personal property within or upon its grounds for
the purpose of paying the salary of a janitor, and improving
and protecting the property, not exceeding five hundred dol-
lars in any one year, unless otherwise ordered by a vote of
two thirds of the property holders. It provides for the elec-
tion of an assessor and a collector ; and the mode of assessing
and collecting the tax corresponds generally with that pre-
scribed for the assessment and collection of town taxes. In
my opinion it would be a dangerous innovation for the State
to delegate any portion of its taxing power to a private
corporation. The object sought to be obtained by this Bill
can be better accomplished by an agreement between the
persons interested.


To the Senate.

I return, without my approval, Senate Bill Xo. 240, entitled
" An Act to authorize the Board of Police of the Citv of New


York to grant new trials." This Bill is objected to by every
member of the Board and by the experienced officers of the
police. Their unanimous judgment has been communicated to
me, that if it become a law, it will seriously impair the disci-
pline of the police force, on the efficiency of which the good
order of the metropolis depends. It is said to have been intro-
duced in the interest of two dismissed policemen who would
like to be restored, but whose hopes would be sure to prove
illusory. I have no doubt, in forming an independent con-
clusion, that the Bill ought not to become a law. Certainty
in the punishment for infractions of discipline, disobedience,
or neglect of duty is of far more importance than severity.
Celerity in the infliction of penalties and finality in the trial
are the essence of discipline. Such trials now consume an
afternoon session on about three days of each week. Every
person convicted will desire a re-trial, and will struggle to
make a case for restoration. Evidence will be lost, the fear
of punishment weakened, and the effect of punishment actually
imposed will be impaired by the continuing hope of eventual
escape. The Board will be overwhelmed by trials. If an
injustice to an individual does sometimes happen by a mis-
judgment, it is an insignificant evil compared with the intro-
duction of a new and potent element of disorganization and
demoralization to the whole service. The Act provides that,
in case of a decision in favor of the policeman on a new trial,
he shall be restored by operation of law. In the mean time
the office will have been filled, and this provision would pro-
duce two incumbents in one office, and would be prolific of
claims for back salaries.

i875-] VETO-MESSAGES IN 1875. 155

To the Assembly.

I return herewith, without niy approval, Assembly Bill No.
322, entitled " An Act to regulate the course of proceedings
at a trial on a charge of felony after a previous conviction for
felony." This Bill provides that upon the trial of a person
charged with felony, after a previous conviction of that crime,
the offender shall first be arraigned on so much only of the in-
dictment as charges the subsequent offence ; that if a plea of
" not guilty " is entered, the jury shall first inquire whether he
is guilty of the subsequent offence ; that if he pleads guilty, that
then the jury shall inquire concerning the previous conviction.
There is no express provision for any inquiry as to the fact of
the previous conviction where the prisoner is found guilty of the
subsequent offence, after a trial on the merits ; and as penal
laws are to be construed strictly, it -is at least doubtful whether
such an inquiry could be had. Well-settled rules of the adminis-
tration of the criminal law should not be altered for light reasons,
nor without the exercise of great care to avoid the introduction
of new and doubtful questions of construction. This Bill is
loosely drawn, and does not fully provide for all the exigencies
which may arise under it. For instance, where the prisoner
pleads guilty of the subsequent offence, and the jury disagree
as to the fact of the previous conviction, it cannot, from the
language of this Bill, be gathered whether the prisoner is to be
sentenced for the lesser offence, or whether there must be a new
trial upon all the issues. The apparent purpose of the Bill is
to guard against the jury being prejudiced by the fact of the
previous conviction. With an intelligent jury, acting under
the guidance of an experienced and learned judge, there can
be no danger of serious injury to the rights of the prisoner at
all comparable to the evils which result from a hasty and ill-
considered change in the well-settled rules of conducting trials
of criminal cases. Besides, under this Bill, as amended in the
Senate, the jury might be informed of the previous conviction


by the reading of the indictment. So long as several different
misdemeanors can be charged in the same indictment and tried
at the same time, there can be no impropriety in trying at the
same time all the questions involved in the allegation of a
single crime, although they involve distinct issues.

To the Assembly.

I return herewith, without my approval, Assembly Bill No.
493, entitled " An Act to authorize the taking of certain lands
in the City of Buffalo for the purpose of the continuation of
Fillmore Avenue from its present southerly termination to the
westerly side of the Hamburg turnpike, and for improving and
embellishing the same."

This Bill authorizes the city of Buffalo to open a certain
avenue one hundred feet wide, and to enlarge an existing street
to the same width, and provides that the lands so taken shall
be one of the approaches or connections to said park, and may
be controlled, improved, and embellished in the same manner in
all respects as land heretofore taken under the Act of 1869.

Chapter 165 of the Laws of 1869, which is supposed to be
the Act referred to, provides that the expense of improving and
embellishing the lands taken thereunder for a park shall be
met by the issue of bonds of the city of Buffalo. The city now
has ample power to open and improve streets, assessing the
expense thereof upon the property benefited thereby. The only
object of this Bill, therefore, is to place the control of the
avenue to be opened in the hands of the park commissioners,
and to cast the expense of improving and embellishing the same
upon the city at large instead of upon the property benefited.

I am unwilling to assent to any Bill which, without urgent
necessity, shall increase the present heavy indebtedness of the
city of Buffalo, or shall add to the very heavy burdens which
now rest upon its taxpayers, especially where, as in this case,
it is not asked for by the municipal authorities.



Assembly Bill No. 287, entitled, " An Act making appro-
priations for certain expenses of government and supplying
deficiencies in former appropriations. '

I object to the following items in this Bill :

(1) " For Charles Simon, for expenses incurred by him in the
case of the contested election for member of Assembly for the
Third District of the County of Onondaga for the year 1874,
being a reappropriation of like amount in the Supply Bill of 1874
not paid, the sum of two hundred and fifty dollars."

The claim for which this item makes a new appropriation

Online LibrarySamuel J. (Samuel Jones) TildenThe writings and speeches (Volume 1) → online text (page 12 of 52)