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ANNUAL MESSAGE TO THE LEGISLATURE,
JANUARY 1, 1839.
FELLOW-CITIZENS, OF THE SENATE AND ASSEMBLY:
In the annals of our country, no year has been more signally distinguished by unmerited blessings than that which has just reached its close. The seasons have been genially tempered for the health of man, and the earth has abundantly rewarded his labors. Relations of peace, of reciprocal advantage and of benevolent intercourse, have been maintained with foreign states. The sway of the laws has been uninterrupted; and all the cir cumstances affecting our social condition have been auspicious. Our state has abundantly participated in the general prosperity and happiness. Our schools and other seminaries have discharged their beneficent functions with increased efficiency. The worship and instructions of the Christian religion have been enjoyed by our citizens with freedom of conscience as to faith and forms, and without compulsory support. The gloom which had spread over our country, in a period of commercial embarrassment, has passed away; and the enterprise of our people is resuming suspended employments in every department of social industry. The angry passions which availed themselves of that disastrous time to subvert public confidence in some of our institutions; to disseminate pernicious opinions, and to bring forward measures of
rash and intemperate legislation, have subsided, under a prevalent conviction that it is wiser to preserve than to destroy-and better to cherish a spirit of conciliation, harmony, and generous emulation, than to indulge jealousies and contentions. The zeal and patriotism manifested in our elections, prove that vigilance, the guardian of liberty, is yet unsleeping; while the peaceful and discriminating vindication of right principles, has given renewed confirmation of the excellence of republican institutions. These manifestations of favor imperatively demand our gratitude to Almighty God. Happy will it be for our country, and thrice happy for us, upon whom the responsibilities of legislation have fallen, if they shall inspire us with submissive obedience to his will, and a sense of constant dependence upon his protection and support.
The scrupulous good faith which the federal government owes to the several states, and the mutual confidence necessary to secure the successful operation of our complex system, alike demand the reimbursement to this state of the funds advanced to our citizens, upon a pledge which that government, with unlimited resources and credit, for reasons most inconclusive, refused to redeem. And the occasion seems proper to assert and maintain, temperately but firmly, that the return to the people of the surplus funds drawn from them by indirect taxation, and accumulated from the sale of lands, of which the national government was their trustee, ought to be immediately deprived of the character of a loan, and be declared an absolute distribution. No policy can be more unsound than to relieve that government of direct responsibility in regard to its finances. It has disclaimed the power, as well as the policy, of internal improvements. It will have abundant ability to provide for any exigency of public defence which may occur. It is unnecessary and dangerous to the liberties of the people to allow the national government to retain a lien on the states for forty millions as a contingent resource, stimulating to extravagant expenditure and improvident legislation.
The aggregate of tolls, including rents of surplus water, collected on all the canals during the last fiscal year, was $1,481,602 41. The cost of repairs and of the collection of tolls on all the canals was $639,714 32, which, deducted from the receipts, leaves the
net proceeds from tolls, for the year, $841,888 09. The cost of repairs and collection during the last year exceeds that of the previous year $30,806 59. The net revenue of the last fiscal year exceeds that of the preceding $128,085 25. The income of the Erie and Champlain canal fund from all sources, including the interest on $2,259,834 65 (the sum set apart to pay the remainder of the debt contracted on account of the Erie and Champlain canals), is $1,553,136 84. Of this amount there have been expended as follows: For repairs of the canals $449,058 64; of which were expended by superintendents of repairs $365,661 95, and by the canal commissioners, $83,396 69; for interest on the debt $129,374 05, and sundry payments, $26,892 65, leaving the surplus revenue of the canal fund for the last year $947,811 50. The canal commissioners have expended in the last fiscal year for the enlargement of the Erie canal, $1,161,001 80. They borrowed, under authority of the act of April 18, 1838, including the premium, $1,005,050; leaving an excess of expenditure over the amount loaned of $155,951 80, which was paid from the surplus, and leaves the net surplus of the Erie and Champlain canal fund, after paying all charges, $791,859 70.
The amount of tolls collected on all the lateral canals is $58,264 76. This amount exceeds the aggregate of the preceding fiscal year, $12,979 58, and falls short of that of the year which ended on the 30th September, 1836, before the navigation of the Chenango canal, $2,531 42. The deficiency of the income of all the auxiliary canals to meet the expenses of repairs and of collection of tolls, and the payment of interest on the debt contracted for their construction, is $229,160 59; which amount deducted from the net revenue of the Erie and Champlain canal fund, leaves the net revenue of that fund, after paying all charges upon it, and the deficiencies of all the auxiliary canals, $562,699 11.
The deficiencies of the several lateral canals are as follow: Of the Cayuga and Seneca canal, $15,517 62; of the Crooked Lake, $10,037 55; of the Oswego, $54,460 70; of the Chemung, $29,833 11; and of the Chenango, $119,311 61. The aggregate of tolls collected on all the canals during the last fiscal year exceeds that of the previous year by the sum of $154,821 51, and falls short of that of the fiscal year which ended on the 30th of September, 1836, $120,178. But the tolls collected on all the
canals during the season of navigation in the year 1838, exceed those of the same season in 1837, by the sum of $297,555, or 23 per cent. Of this excess $130,788 97, or 44 per cent., is upon ascending, and $166,766 03, or 56 per cent., upon descending freight. This estimate is made upon data which may be assumed as substantially correct, although it is to be understood as not precisely accurate. This comparison while it demonstrates the severity of the pressure which has recently visited the state, not only furnishes cheering evidence of returning prosperity, but gives assurance of the constantly increasing productiveness of our system of internal improvements.
The aggregate loans made for the construction of canals now in progress, is $2,615,182 84, to wit, for the Black-River canal $613,076 29, and for the Genesee Valley canal $2,002,106 55. There have been paid on account for the construction of these canals $384,353 12, to wit, for that of the former $122,793 52; for that of the latter $261,559 60; and there remains on deposite in the banks, drawing an interest of 5 per cent. (equal to that on the loans), the balance $2,230,829 72.
It is respectfully submitted, that more perfect responsibility would be secured if the term of office of the canal commissioners should be limited so as to bring them periodically before the appointing power, retaining the provision for their removal at earlier periods if the public interests should require. Of the $1,481,602 canal tolls received, $104,645, about one fourteenth part, is expended in payment of inspectors, clerks, collectors, and tenders of locks. And the sum of $639,714, almost one half, is consumed in these payments and repairs. It scarcely admits of doubt, that the system is capable of such revision as would reduce these heavy expenses, and proportionally increase the net revenues of our canals. The compensation of the superintendents and collectors ought to be fixed by law, instead of being left to the pleasure or caprice of the canal commissioners, or the canal board.
With the extension of our internal improvements, there has been an immense and unlooked-for enlargement of the financial operations and of the official power and patronage of the canal commissioners and the canal board. These operations are conducted, and this power and patronage exercised and dispensed with few of those securities for accountability and publicity which are
maintained with scrupulous care in every other department of the government. So inconsistent and unequal are the best efforts to establish simplicity, uniformity, and accountability throughout the various departments, that a great, mysterious, and undefined power has thus grown up unobserved, while the public attention has exhausted itself in narrowly watching the action of more unimportant functionaries. It is a proposition worthy of consideration, whether greater economy and efficiency in the management of our present public works, would not be secured; a wiser direction would not be given to efforts for internal improvement throughout the state, and a more equal diffusion of its advantages would not be effected by constituting a Board of Internal Improvements, to consist of one member from each senate district. This board might be divided into two classes, the term of one of which should expire annually. It should discharge all the duties of the present canal board; should audit all accounts, should have the general superintendence of the canals, and of all other public works, with powers of investigation in regard to those in which the state has an interest by loan or otherwise; should report upon all special applications for surveys, or aid, and should annually submit a detailed statement of its proceedings to the legislature. It is the worst economy to devolve upon officers constituted for one department, duties appurtenant to others. Its universal results are diminished responsibility and diminished efficiency in both the principal and incidental departments.
The site of the Lunatic Asylum was well selected. It is an elevated plain of one hundred and twenty-four acres, susceptible of that ornamental cultivation which is a wonderful auxiliary in the treatment of the insane. The vicinity of the flourishing central city of Utica, affords many facilities for its construction, and promises those moral and social aids which such a public charity requires. A plan submitted by the commissioners, received the approbation of my predecessor. The plan contemplates four edifices, consisting of a basement and three stories, except the main building of the principal front, which will have an additional story. The four edifices are to be located at right angles to each other, fronting outward, and to be connected at the angles by verandas of open lattice-work, the whole to enclose an octagonal area of about thirteen acres. The buildings are to be constructed