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DEATH OF STEPHEN VAN RENSSELAER.
ALBANY, JANUARY 28, 1839.
To THE LEGISLATURE:
I ANNOUNCE the death of STEPHEN VAN RENSSELAER, formerly lieutenant-governor, and, at the time of his death, chancellor of the university, president of the canal board, and senior major-general in the militia of this state.
Besides having occupied these important stations, the deceased was, at different periods, a member of the convention which framed the constitution of this state, a representative in each house of the legislature, and also a representative in the Congress of the United States.
His various and eminent public services, and the universal esteem which he secured by the blamelessness and benevolence of his life, render it proper that I should communicate the mournful event to the legislature, that they may adopt such measures as the occasion requires.
NOTE-Stephen Van Rensselaer died at the Manor house, in Albany, on the 26th of January, 1839, aged 74 years. Although, in compliance with his request, his funeral obsequies were without any pageant, the legislature, and the officers of the state attended his funeral.-Ed.
THE COLONIAL HISTORY OF THE STATE.
ALBANY, FEBRUARY 5, 1839.
TO THE ASSEMBLY:
GENTLEMEN.-I have the honor to transmit a memorial from the New York Historical Society, praying for the passage of a law authorizing the appointment of an agent to visit Europe, to transcribe documents remaining in the public offices of England and Holland, which may serve to illustrate the colonial history of this state.
While it is due to ourselves, to the memory of our predecessors, and to a just regard for the respect of posterity, that every important circumstance connected with the rise and progress of our free institutions should be recorded and illustrated, such a proceeding might advance the cause of free government throughout the world.
It is believed that we have hitherto manifested a singular indifference in regard to this object. The English government has made a munificent gift to our state library, of records illustrating the early history of that nation. Massachusetts has taken care to preserve the resources for her history during the Revolutionary contest, by causing to be published the journals of her colonial congress. The state of Georgia has an agent in London, engaged in taking copies of the records relating to that state. New York certainly has no less interest in rescuing and preserving the memorials of her colonial condition.
I respectfully commend the petition of the New York Historical Society to the favorable consideration of the legislature.
NOTE-A law was passed May 2, 1839, in accordance with the suggestion of the Historical Society, and John Romeyn Brodhead, Esq., was appointed an agent to visit the European capitals.-Ed.
GREAT BRITAIN AND THE NORTHERN BOUNDARY.
ALBANY, MARCH 7, 1839.
To THE LEGISLATURE:
THE Congress of the United States having had under consideration the serious misunderstanding which had arisen between the state of Maine, and the province of New Brunswick, immediately previous to their adjournment, passed an act giving to the president of the United States additional powers for the public defence against invasion, and for other purposes. By this act, the president is authorized to resist any attempt on the part of Great Britain to enforce by arms her claims to exclusive jurisdiction over that part of the state of Maine which is in dispute between the United States and Great Britain; and for that purpose to employ the naval and military forces of the United States, and such portions of the militia as he may deem it advisable to call into service, and to increase the military and naval forces of the Union in the event of invasion, or imminent danger of invasion. Provision is also made for sending a special minister to Great Britain, to treat with the government of that country upon an amicable adjustment of the matters in difference between the two nations.
While the several state governments should carefully abstain from any act that might in any degree interfere with the constitutional duties of the federal government, it is obvious that occasions may arise in which they ought to make known to that government, to foreign nations, and to any aggrieved sister-state, that we are a united people, jealous of our sovereignty, and determined to resist aggressions upon the rights or territory of the Union. The act of Congress, to which I have referred, provisionally contemplates that the country may, during the recess of that body, be compelled to assume an attitude of defence
against a foreign power, and seems, therefore, to present one of those occasions which call for such an expression on the part of the several states. The measures adopted by Congress, seem to me wisely designed to preserve the existing inestimable relations of peace between this country and Great Britain, as well as to vindicate the rights of the state of Maine, and to maintain the honor and dignity of the nation. It can scarcely be believed that enlightened and Christian nations, bound to each other in peculiar relations of feeling and of interest, will unnecessarily suffer the harmony existing between them to be interrupted. The governments of both as well as their individual citizens, are under the strongest obligations to cultivate every disposition to amity, and to repress all tendencies to hostile action. At the same time. peace is seldom the lot of any nation which does not on all proper occasions manifest that it knows its rights, and will at all hazards maintain them. I respectfully call your attention to the subject, under the expectation that an expression on our part of concur rence in the policy of the general government, will contribute to avert the calamities of war, and secure the speedy and honorable adjustment of the existing differences between this country and Great Britain.
NOTE-The assembly unanimously responded to these sentiments, and communicated similar opinions to the president of the United States.-Ed.
ABUSES IN THE STATE-PRISON AT SING-SING.
ALBANY, APRIL 16, 1839.
TO THE SENATE:
GENTLEMEN: I recommend that Richard R. Voris, Walker Todd, John Fisher, Joseph Hunt, and Henry Romer, be removed from the offices of inspectors of stateprison at Mount Pleasant. The grounds of this recommendation will be found in a report of the committee of the assembly upon stateprisons, submitted to the assembly on the 30th day of March, 1839-Assembly Documents, No. 335.
By that report it appears, that "the inspectors," "instead of taking upon themselves the discharge of the duties required by law," "have, in effect, surrendered their principal duties, and have committed the entire management and control of the prison, its offices and affairs, to the agent."
Among the duties which have thus been surrendered to the agent are, "the appointment of the assistants," and even the regulation of their salaries, and the "removal of such assistants," together with all the "responsibilities of providing for, treating, and punishing the convicts."
The inspectors have also "committed to the agent the duty of furnishing, at his discretion, all articles for the use of the prison, including provisions for the convicts, as well as the sale of all the wares and other articles produced at the prison."
The committee further report that the inspectors "have been deficient in vigilant and persevering attention to, and supervision over, the details of the affairs of the prison."
It is manifest that this surrender by the inspectors of their proper powers and duties to the agent, can in no degree excuse them from full responsibility to the public, for a just and wise administration of the prison. The agent of the prison, and all the