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Samuel J. (Samuel Jones) Tilden.

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or local advantage, real or imaginary. They are usually in places
which have been already largely benefited by the construction
of the canal. They impose on the State a large extra cost, and
charge it with an annual expense for operating each one equal to
the interest on about twenty-five thousand dollars. There are
1,318 bridges over the canals, and the erection and operation on
this plan of one sixth of this number would probably cost the
State as much as the original outlay for the Erie Canal. The
fashion is full of danger."



1876.] BILLS NOT APPROVED. 325

I object also to the following items contained in Section 4
of this Bill :

" For rebuilding the bridge over the Erie Canal on Main Street,
in the village of Fultonville, the sum of three thousand dollars,
or so much thereof as may be necessary."

"For rebuilding bridges over the State ditch on Main and
Delaware streets, in the village of Tonawanda, and for building
a bridge over said ditch on Fletcher Street, the sum of two thou-
sand dollars, or so much thereof as may be necessary."

" For building a farm bridge over the Champlain Canal, on the
farm of Jerry Brown, in the town of Whitehall, the sum of six
hundred dollars, or so much thereof as may be necessary."

" For the completion of the bridge over the Glens Falls feeder,
east of and near Green & Richard's steam-mill, the sum of eight
hundred dollars, or so much thereof as may be necessary."

" For the construction of three bridges over the State ditch in
the village of Tonawanda, in Niagara County, at Marion Street,
Oliver Street, and Van Vort Street, the sum of two thousand
dollars, or so much thereof as may be necessary."

"For the construction of a foot-bridge over the Erie Canal
at Mud Lock, at the junction of the Cayuga and Seneca Canal,
the sum of five hundred dollars, or so much thereof as may be
necessary."

"For the construction of an iron bridge over the Erie Canal
at the south end of Prospect Street in the city of Lockport, the
sum of three thousand dollars, or so much thereof as may be
necessary."

" For repairing and reconstructing the docking on the Main
and Hamburg Canal, in front of Hubbell Brothers' foundry in
the city of Buffalo, the sum of two thousand dollars, or so much
thereof as may be necessary."

"For the construction of approaches to the bridge over the Erie
Canal at Averill Street in the city of Eochester, twenty-five hun-
dred dollars, or so much thereof as may be necessary."

" For continuing the work on the breakwater in the harbor of
Buffalo known as the Bird Island pier, including the amount
already owing and to be paid by the State, the sum of thirty
thousand dollars."

If these items or any of them shall be found proper and ne-
cessary, ample provision is made for them in Section 3 of this
Act. It will be within the authority of the Canal Board, under



326 THE WORKS OF SAMUEL J. T1LDEN. [iS 7 6.

that section and other provisions of law, to do this work if, in
their judgment, the interests of the State or its obligations
toward individuals or localities should so require ; and ade-
quate appropriations exist to carry out their decisions.
I object also to an item in Section 4, which is as follows :

"For the payment of interest to E. H. French or his assigns on
an amount as adjusted by the Canal Board under Chapter 879 of
the Laws of 187.1, and also under Chapter 850 of the Laws of 1872,
the sum of $1,748.22."

This appears to be an appropriation for a gratuitous payment
of interest on a sum which was a mere extra allowance to the
contractor, and which purported to be in itself a final adjust-
ment. By the first Act the Canal Board was authorized to
award to E. H. French such sum as they may find him entitled
to, " if said Board shall find that said work was not embraced
in the special notice of letting under which he entered into a
contract with the State, nor contemplated at the time of the
letting." On Dec. 9, 1871, the Canal Board, having made an
examination of the matter pursuant to the said Act, found that
the work for which French claimed an award " was contem-
plated at the time of the letting." A resolution to that effect
was passed, but rescinded the same day, and the matter laid
upon the table. On Dec. 28, 1871, the Canal Board resolved
that French had " made expenditures greater than his contract
price by the sum of fifteen thousand dollars, but that under
said Act no allowance can be made," thus affirming the first
resolution adopted so far as it found that the work was con-
templated in the letting. Chapter 850, Laws of 1872, made an
appropriation of fifteen thousand dollars " For payment of Ed-
ward H. French the amount as adjusted by the Canal Board
for work on Section Five, Erie Canal, greater than his contract
price." As under the first Act no allowance could be made, it
would appear that French should not have been paid the fif-
teen thousand dollars under the second or Appropriation Act.
Whether this was erroneously or wrongfully or gratuitously



1876.] BILLS NOT APPROVED. 327

paid him, he can have no claim to interest. These items
amount to 896,448.22.

The object of this Bill was to stop the wastes and frauds of
the system of extraordinary repairs as it has General observa-
hitherto been practised, to enable the Canal tions -
Board to terminate all the existing contracts except the few
which in their judgment might be necessary to the beneficial
use of the canals, and to apply the 81,600,000 of money which
the measures of last year had reclaimed into the treasury, and
the further sums which should be recovered, to real and sub-
stantial improvement of the main trunk water-ways. It was
believed that by restoring the Erie Canal to its lawful depth of
seven feet, and gradually increasing the volume of the water on
the levels, the speed of the boats could be increased and the
use of steam motive power facilitated. It was not intended to
increase the draft of the boat, but merely to give it an easier
traction and a swifter motion by lessening the retarding influ-
ence of the water confined in a channel having fixed physical
boundaries. It is not doubted that a reduction in the cost of
transportation could have been thereby effected more important
than was attained by the recent reduction of tolls. The plan
was sanctioned by the best engineering and scientific abilities
and skill, and by ample practical experience.

But the interests which fatten on the abuses of the system of
" extraordinary repairs ' were vigilant in devising imaginary
objections and in stimulating opposition. In the closing days
of the session Mr. Burleigh, chairman of the Canal Committee
of the Assembly, communicated to me the opinion that while
the three hundred thousand dollars appropriated for the im-
provement of the Champlain Canal and the four hundred
thousand dollars appropriated to bottoming out the Erie Canal
could be maintained, the further appropriation of eight hun-
dred thousand dollars for deepening the water-way of the Erie
Canal was hopeless of passing the Senate. On consultation
with him, as it was unwise to have that surplus remain idle
in the treasury exposed to the risk of being frittered away



328 THE WORKS OF SAMUEL J. TILDEN. [1876.

in jobs without any real utility, it was thought best to apply it
to paying the deficiency in the Canal Sinking Fund, thereby
enabling so much of the taxes to be remitted. That was
accordingly done.

The items heretofore specified are objected to; the other
portions of this Bill are

Approved, May 25, 1876.

Assembly Bill No. 102, entitled, " An Act to provide for the crea-
tion of a Board of Charities and for a better administration
of the public charities in the County of Kings."

Not approved.

This Bill creates a novel and eccentric appointing power, in
which it vests the authority to appoint a commission of twelve
persons who shall be governors of the charities of Kings County.
The county judge and the sheriff of the county are to meet at
the sheriff's office and to agree on twelve persons who are to
constitute such commission ; and if they do not agree within ten
days, the county judge is to appoint six, and the sheriff is to
appoint six of the governors ; and if either fails for twenty
days to appoint his share, the governors appointed are to fill
the vacancies.

These provisions in effect divide the appointments between
the judge and the sheriff. These officers have no motive to
make any sacrifice of preference for the purpose of effecting an
agreement. The only consequence of not agreeing is that each
of these officers will have the absolute power to appoint one
half the governors. In practice, six governors will be named
by the county judge, and six will be named by the sheriff.

The practice which has grown up in administrative boards
of dividing public trusts among the individual

Legalizes an abuse,

members, as if there were a private property in
the patronage involved in them, is itself an abuse of power and
a breach of duty. This Bill commands such a distribution
between two public officers for the purpose of effecting such



1876.] BILLS NOT APPROVED. 329

distribution between two political parties. It assumes that the
main consideration is that the spoils of office should be fairly
divided, and ignores the rights and interests of the public
in the administration of official trusts.

The Constitution (Article X., Section 2) declares that all
officers of the description of these governors shall Evasion of the
be elected by the people or appointed by such
local authority as the Legislature may direct. The intent of
the Constitution undoubtedly is that such officers shall not be
in effect appointed by the Legislature through a circuitous
device, but that they shall either be chosen by the people of
the locality, or appointed by some natural and appropriate organ
of the people of the locality.

It cannot be supposed that the people voted for the county

judge or the sheriff in contemplation of the ap- Novel and eccen-
tric appointing

pointment by those officers ot persons to govern power.
the charities of the great County of Kings. The authority
created by this Bill is conferred on them after they were in
office. There is nothing in the nature or functions of their
offices to suggest the propriety of such a device.

There is no example in our laws of an act conferring the
appointing power of a county officer on a sher-

Unfitness of sheriff.

iff ; still less of an act conferring on a sheriff an

appointing power which is exercised over half a million of

people, comprising the second city of the State.

The present Bill embraces all kinds and degrees of unfitness.
It is wholly novel. It was totally unexpected to the people
when they elected the sheriff to his office. That office is lucra-
tive ; it is the sport of partisan contests. Its duties are of a
nature which do not lead to the selection of persons having the
elevation of character which the people usually require in high
judicial or high administrative functionaries. It could not
ordinarily be anticipated that a very good selection .of gover-
nors of charities would emanate from such an appointing
power. The present case is attended with incidents still more
discouraging and repulsive. I am informed by Judge John A.



330 THE WORKS OF SAMUEL J. TILDEN. [1876.

Lott, who was the chairman of a committee of citizens to whom
the consideration of this matter was intrusted, that it was
unanimously agreed to vest the appointing power in the county
judge alone, and that the sheriff was afterward interpolated.
Without meaning to express any opinion on the measure as it
originally stood in its general character, or to sanction the
policy investing judicial officers with administrative or political
functions tending to demoralize the judicial office, the change,
and the circumstances under which that change was made,
increases the distrust of the expectation that practical good
will flow from the violation of sound principles which the Bill
involves.

Nearly all the evils of misgovernment in the city of New
Experience of York during the last twenty-five years have been
such legislation. i n fli c ted by just such legislation as is proposed
by this Bill. Abuses or wrongs of local administration some-
times spring from defects of the governmental system, and
sometimes from the frailties of human society. Existing evils
naturally absorb public attention. Sometimes they are the
motive to change, and sometimes the pretext for change.

The new expedient, even if intended in good faith as a re-
form, may be prolific of still greater evils than those which call
for a remedy. But the mischiefs which always result from the
violation of established principles of responsible government
as it has grown up in centuries of experience, from a depart-
ure from the settled methods by which official accountability
is created and made effective, are not usually foreseen by
the unthinking contrivers of novel devices for instant change
induced by impatience of present evils.

A still greater danger results from the fact that the occasions
of such change are the opportunities for the worst designs of
selfish cliques, factions, and partisans, and their schemes of
ambition or plunder. As early as 1857 was instituted the non-
partisan Board of Supervisors of the County of New York. It
was a monstrosity in governmental science and governmental
experience. It was practically irresponsible ; it every year



1876.] BILLS NOT APPROVED. 331

absorbed new powers ; until at last were generated the frauds
and crimes which have become notorious in our public history.

The promoters of the dishonest trick of agreeing in the
Legislature or the lobbies on a change in city officers and city
patronage, and then creating a new appointing power to carry
out the bargain, by conferring the authority on some existing
official who had stipulated to make the desired removals and
appointments, rapidly grew in audacity and in corrupt meth-
ods and corrupt means. In 1870, when a Bill was about
to be passed, earlier than the Tweed Charter, it has been
credibly stated that the officer to nominate and the officers
to confirm were each sworn, in private, to select the desig-
nated persons.

When the Tweed Charter was pending, on the 4th of
April, 1870, I addressed the Senate committee, pointing out
the fact that the Bill had all its significance in a few clauses
which terminated all existing offices, gave to the mayor then
in office the power to make the new appointments, and de-
stroyed all the accountability of these new officers by removal
or by any supervising control by the people or their known
organs. That speech contained the following passage :

" I am not afraid of the stormy sea of popular liberty. I still
trust the people. We no doubt have fallen upon evil times ; we
no doubt have had many occasions for distrust and alarm : but I
still believe that in the activity generated by the effectual partici-
pation of the people in the administration of the government you
would have more purity and more safety than under the system
to which we have been accustomed. It is in the stagnation of
bureaus and commissions that evils and abuses are generated.
The storms that disturb the atmosphere, clear and purify it. It
will be so in politics and municipal administration if we will only
trust the people."

The immediate reply was made by the counsel of the Citi-
zens' Association. The Bill was advocated as a reform meas-
ure, framed on non-partisan ideas. It was supported by two
hundred eminent citizens. It was passed almost unanimously.
Mr. Tweed was hailed in a leading Republican journal as a



332 THE WORKS OF SAMUEL J. TILDEN. [1876.

reformer. It was avowed that the city offices were to be
divided between the two political parties, and it was scarcely
concealed that money had been used to obtain votes for the
Bill. One month and a day later on the 5th of May, 1870-
occurrcd the flagitious transaction known as the " special
audit," in which 86,312,500 of the proceeds of new bonds were
divided up, for not 10 per cent of which was there any pretence
of an equivalent.

This transaction, and other similar ones which followed, were
not the fruits of popular election or popular government ; they
were the direct results of immunity from discussion in the
newspapers and immunity from the voting power of the
people. No official would have dared to commit crimes which
required continuous secrecy if he had not been in office under
a law that sheltered him from removal and from accountability,
a law which could not be changed until a future session of
the Legislature, and then could not be changed except with the
concurrence of all the three branches of the legislative power.
All the established maxims of responsible government had to
be violated to make possible such enormous public wrongs.
These wrongs were the natural outgrowth of the svstem, and

< > t,

its corrupt objects and its corrupt means by which it was
brought into existence.

This is but one of many illustrations. The worst results
which sometimes come from elective systems of government
are small evils compared with those that flow from government
under secret bargains and corrupt arrangements made in the
lobbies at Albany.

These are no new opinions. They have matured during
My previous dec- twenty-five years of observation of municipal gov-

larations on this

subject. eminent in this State. Thev accord with the

tf

best deductions and best experience concerning human govern-
ment in civilized countries.

Annual Message ^he following observations are contained in
my first Annual Message, sent to the Legislature
in January, 1875 :



1876.] BILLS NOT APPROVED.

"All the invasions of the rights of the people of the city of
New York to choose their own rulers and to manage their own
affairs which have been a practical denial of self-government
for the last twenty years have been ventured upon in the name
of reform, under a public opinion created by abuses and wrongs
of local administration that found no redress. When the injured
taxpayer could discover no mode of removing a delinquent official,
and no way of holding him to account in the courts, he assented
to an appeal to the legislative power at Albany ; and an Act was
passed whereby one functionary was expelled, and by some device
the substitute selected was put in office. Differing in politics as
the city and State did, and with all the temptations to individual
selfishness and ambition to grasp patronage and power, the great
municipal trusts soon came to be the traffic of the lobbies. A new
disposition of the great municipal trusts has been generally worked
out by new legislation. The arrangements were made in secret.
Public opinion had no opportunity to act in discussion, and no
power to influence results. Inferior offices, contracts, and some-
times money, were means of a competition from which those who
could not use these weapons were excluded. Whatever defects
may sometimes have been visible in a system of local self-govern-
ment under elections by the people, they are infinitely less than
the evils of such a system, which insures bad government of the
city and tends to corrupt the legislative bodies of the State. A
popular election invokes publicity, discussion by the contending
parties, opportunity for new party combinations, and all the
methods in which public opinion works out results."

In my Special Message of May 11, 1875, recommending a
commission to consider the problem of municipal Special Message

, -, . . , , , on municipal gov-

government, the same principles are asserted. emment.

"The abuses and wrongs of the local administration which
found no redress generated a public opinion under interference with
which appeal was made, in the name of reform, local government,
for relief to the legislative power at Albany ; and it was found
that an Act could be easily contrived whereby one official could be
expelled from office and by some device a substitute put in his
place. It was found, likewise, that the powers of an office could
be withdrawn and vested in a different officer or in a commission,
the selection of which could be dictated from the State capitol.

"It is the experience of human government that abuses of
power follow power wherever it goes. What was at first done,



334 THE WORKS OF SAMUEL J. TILDEN. [1876.

apparently at least, to protect the rights of the minority or of
individuals, what was at first done for the sake of good govern-
ment, came in a little time to be done for the purposes of inter-
ested individuals or cliques. . . .

" These were the fruits, not of a popular election, not of local
self-government, but of the culmination of a svstein under which

o ' v

the governing officials had been practically appointed by legislative
acts of the State. The device of creating a special appointing
power to do what was desired by a clique or party, or was agreed
upon beforehand, was not perfectly new. It had been frequently
used in a smaller way.

"The contagion of such practices threatens to extend to other
cities. If public opinion and the state of the Constitution and
laws allow it, the temptation to transfer the contest for offices
from the local elections to the legislative halls will arise as often
as aspirants are defeated and can expect to recover there what they
have lost at home. There is no remedy except in the refusal to give
to such devices the sanction of law, until constitutional provision
shall give permanency to the methods of appointment and removal
in municipal governments."

The commission appointed to consider the subject of muni-
Commission on cipal government had their period of service

municipal govern-
ment, extended at the late session with a view of pre-
paring amendments to the Constitution. No doubt the most
important provision will be one regulating the appointing power
in cities, and prohibiting the incessant interference of the
Legislature, creating new dispositions of the local offices, which
have been so prolific of abuses, wrongs, and frauds. Under
such provisions the present Bill would become impossible.
It happened last year that Mayor Hunter and the Common
Council of Brooklyn disagreed about important

Precedents. . "

appointments. A Bill was passed to remove the
deadlock, if it should continue for thirty days, by creating a
new power of nomination, consisting of three officers of the
city government, of which the mayor was one, but was liable
to be in a minority. I deemed it my duty to refuse my sanc-
tion to that Bill. At the same session, as at the present, the
incessant local conflicts within the city of New York were
prolific of similar expedients, alternately attempted by opposite



1876.] BILLS NOT APPROVED. 335

parties and by rival factions. None of them received any
countenance or favor from me.

Without entering on the inquiry whether a clear or com-
manding public benefit or necessity might create

,. ,. . ,, . . Conclusion.

an exception to the application 01 these princi-
ples, it is enough to say that no such question is raised by this
Bill. Two of the five commissioners of the present Board of
Charities are to be elected by the people of Kings County in
less than six months. I see no reason to doubt that their
choice will be as likely to be good as the arbitrary selection or
private agreements of the sheriff as to six of the twelve pro-
posed new governors. At any rate, the public will have some
chance to know about them ; they will be submitted to the
test of an open and public discussion.

If an appointive method be preferred to an elective method,
organs of the popular will more fit than the sheriff, or even the
county judge, can be found by separating the charity system of
the city of Brooklyn from that of the County of Kings. A better
machinery than the twelve governors of the charities of Kings
County can be devised. The experience of the ten governors
of the charities of the city of New York was disastrous, and
they were abolished with universal applause. The appoint-
ments by the county judge and sheriff, if the proposed Bill
should become a law, are for one, two, three, and four years ;
and no change could be made without the concurrence of all

o

three branches of the legislative power. The remedy for error
or wrong in the selection would be much more difficult than at
present ; and if the new expedient should fail of realizing any
improvement on the present system, it would greatly delay the



Online LibrarySamuel J. (Samuel Jones) TildenThe writings and speeches (Volume 1) → online text (page 26 of 52)