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Unwilling to leave any ground for an expectation in regard to the executive of this state, that convictions of duty which have prevailed, notwithstanding the very elaborate arguments presented by the executive and legislature of Virginia, can be removed by any injurious measures adopted by that state, I deem it proper to repeat, in the most solemn manner, that the humble individuals who are pursued by the governor of Virginia as felons, for the offence of being seamen on board a ship in which a negro had secreted himself in order to escape from slavery, if they yet remain in this state, are under the protection of its constitution and laws, and can not be surrendered to the state of Virginia by executive authority, on the pretence set up for that purpose, without a deliberate violation of both, and that this con viction, adopted after most mature and impartial deliberation, and strengthened by subsequent reflection, is in no degree affected by the recent proceedings of the authorities of Virginia.
Without intending any disrespect to the state of Virginia, and cheerfully leaving its authorities to adopt all such proceedings as may seem to them right and proper in regard to the subject, I avail myself of the occasion to declare that measures of retaliation, injury and reprisal, are deemed equally unworthy the dignity of this state and inconsistent with its federal relations. The executive of this state, therefore, will not, although such a course has the sanction of the example of his excellency the governor of Virginia, offer large rewards to induce persons to seize, within the jurisdiction, and in violation of the laws of Virginia, fugitives from the justice of this state, whose delivery to the authorities of this state has been refused by the executive of Virginia, but will be content to put forth the legal powers with which the chief magistrate is intrusted. The executive of this state will not appeal to supposed interests and sympathies in other states, and attempt to combine one portion of the Union against another, but will cheerfully abide for his cause the test of time and free investigation. The constitutional demands of the executive of Virginia, upon the executive of this state will in all cases be allowed as fully as if the governor of Virginia had met his own obligations in the same manner, nor will measures of retaliatory legislation be recommended. On the contrary, the executive of this state, confiding in the constitution and laws of the United States, as affording ample remedies for any injuries the citizens of this state may suffer from unconstitutional proceedings on the part of the state of Virginia, is satisfied that it may be safely left to the magnanimity of Virginia, and her own experience of the injurious consequences of those proceedings, to secure an early relinquishment of them, and a due acknowledgment and performance of all her constitutional obligations.
NOTE—This case is further discussed in several letters from Governor Seward to his excellency the governor of Virginia.See “Official Correspondence,” page 449 of this volume.
DEATH OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.
ALBANY, APRIL 6, 1841.
TO THE LEGISLATURE:
It has become my painful duty to announce to the legislature the death of William Henry Harrison, the president of the United States.
This event brings a form of trial through which our constitution has not yet passed. It would at any time have been a national calamity, and under the circumstances now attending the sad event, it can not but be regarded as a fearful visitation of Divine Providence. The chief-magistrate has been removed at the very commencement of his constitutional term of public service, at a moment when he was preparing to meet the Congress of the United States, at a session called in an extraordinary exigency of public affairs, and in a crisis which demands all the wisdom, firmness, and patriotism of our rulers.
It becomes us as a people to humble ourselves before Him in whose hands are the destinies of the nations of the earth, to acknowledge the justice, although we can not comprehend the wisdom, of his providence, and to implore him that the favor and protection we have hitherto enjoyed may not now be withdrawn.
The legislature will, it is presumed, adopt some form for the expression of the sympathy of the public authorities of this state with their fellow-citizens, and their respect for the deceased; although all must feel that public honors are as unavailing to assuage a nation's grief, as they are superfluous to perpetuate the wisdom and the virtue of the great and the good.
NOTE.—William Henry Harrison, president of the United States, died at the city of Washington, on 4th of April, 1841. The legislature paid all proper honors to the memory of the deceased.-Ed.
JUDICIAL ABUSES OF THE NATURALIZATION LAWS.
ALBANY, APRIL 19, 1841.
TO THE LEGISLATURE :
An application has been made by citizens of Madison and Onondaga counties for the removal of the honorable Edward Rogers, first judge, and Joseph Clark and Epenetus Holmes, judges of the county courts of Madison county.
The petitioners allege, as causes for removal, that the judges at the last October term of the court of common pleas, illegally and with knowledge, naturalized forty aliens who went to the court from Onondaga county. They state that, by the laws of Congress, it is required that the applicant for naturalization shall have declared, on oath or affirmation, before a court of record, two years at least previously to his application, that it was his intention to become a citizen of the United States and to renounce his allegiance to all other governments, and that such a preliminary declaration is required in all cases, except that where an alien applicant arrived in the United States before the 18th of June, 1812, and has continued to reside therein, and where, being a free white person, he shall have resided in the United States three years next preceding his arrival at the age of twentyone years, and five years, including the three years of his minority, he may, under certain regulations specified in the acts of Congress be admitted without having made the declaration required by the act of 1802.
The petitioners represent that none of the forty individuals came within the exceptions; that they had never made a previous declaration of their intentions, nor was any proof of that kind given by them or required by the court; that they produced no evidence of any kind, except an affidavit of five years' previous residence in the United States, and one year in this state; that even this proof was, in some instances, dispensed with; and that, although the act of Congress requires that the evidence produced shall be satisfactory to the court, they did not, in much the largest portion of the cases, if any of them, look into the evidence, but left the whole matter to be managed and disposed of by the clerk.
The petitioners by way of showing that the judges knew the law, and acted wilfully and corruptly in the premises, allege that before the forty persons referred to applied, the court had already without objection, admitted one hundred persons to citizenship in the same improper manner; that after those one hundred persons had been thus admitted, and when application was made by the forty persons who came from Onondaga, a letter from James R. Lawrence, esquire, counsellor at law, was shown to the judges, referring to the various acts of Congress, and distinctly showing them that their mode of proceeding was in violation of law; that Talcott Backus, one of the judges, after receiving the letter, expressed to his associates a decided conviction that the letter contained a true exposition of the law; and that three counsellors then in attendance, declared to the court that their proceedings in naturalization were illegal, and produced and offered to read the various acts of Congress on that subject, but that the judges refused to read the acts or hear them read, These charges were sustained by depositions annexed to the petition.
A copy of the petition and of the depositions was transmitted by the executive to each of the judges, with a request that their replies to the charges might be received at their earliest conveni
Answers to the charges have been submitted. The answers are evasive, imperfect, and inconclusive. The judges do not maintain that by the laws of Congress aliens can be admitted to naturalization (except in the cases specified by the petitioners), without proof of their having made a declaration of their intention two years before their application for admission to citizenship, nor do they controvert the construction of the statutes assumed in the charges. If the parties accused were not judges, and if the accusation did not necessarily involve the legality of their proceedings, there might be some excuse for this extraordinary evasion.
The acts of Congress are explicit. The court was bound to