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mature and duration of the resistance complained of appeared to me to require the adoption of immediate measures for restoring the supremacy of the laws. Unwilling, however, to resort to the extreme remedy until every other measure had failed, I deemed it proper for the sheriff to sue out process in the name of the people against the resisters, and to make a further effort to perform his duty with the aid of the armed power of his county. Measures were taken at the same time to have in readiness a sufficient force to support the sheriff, if the efforts thus to be made should prove ineffectual. Information was subsequently communicated to me by him, that he had proceeded with the armed power of his county, and had been met by a large concourse of persons, sufficient in number to overpower him, and assembled with the obvious purpose of obstructing him in the performance of his duty. This information was accompanied by a renewed application for a military force. Still desirous to prevent, if possible, a resort to such force, I issued a proclamation, setting before the resisters the nature of their conduct, and the unhappy, but inevitable consequences of persisting in it, enjoining them to disperse, and appealing to all good citizens to assist in maintaining the supremacy of the laws. In order, however, to secure this result in any event, I directed, as required by law, a military force to proceed to the scene of resistance, and provided for a reinforcement, should it be found necessary. It is creditable to the citizens who had inconsiderately become involved in unlawful proceedings, that they dispersed very soon after these measures had been adopted, and the sheriff proceeded without additional military aid to execute the process of the law. It soon became manifest that no further organized resistance would be offered, and the militia were thereupon immediately withdrawn. Although the occasion was one to be deeply regretted, yet it is a source of satisfaction that a very large proportion of those engaged in the resistance were immediately convinced of the error of their proceedings, relinquished their designs, and manifested a cheerful and patriotic submission to the laws. It is also gratifying that this desirable end was attained with little public inconvenience, and without destruction of property or loss of life. To this result, the militia, by their alacrity, prudence, and good conduct, contributed in an eminent degree.
The resistance to the sheriff arose out of a controversy between the tenants of the manor of Rensselaerwyck and its proprietor, The lands in that manor are held under ancient leases, by which mines and hydraulic privileges, rents payable in kind, personal services, and quarter sales, are reserved. Such tenures, intro duced before the Revolution, are regarded as inconsistent with existing institutions, and have become odious to those who hold under them. They are unfavorable to agricultural improvement, and inconsistent with the prosperity of the districts where they exist, and are opposed to sound policy and the genius of our institutions. The extent of territory covered by the tenures involved in the present controversy, and the great numbers of our fellow-citizens interested in the questions which have grown out of them, render the subject worthy of the consideration of the legislature. While full force is allowed to the circumstance that the tenants enter voluntarily into such stipulations, the state hus always recognised its obligation to promote the general welfare, and guard individuals against oppression. The legislature has the same power over the remedies upon contracts between landlord and tenant as over all other forms of legal redress. Nor is the subject altogether new in the legislation of the state. It was brought under consideration in 1812, by a bill reported by three jurists of distinguished eminence and ability. I trust, therefore, that some measure may be adopted, which, without violation of contracts, or injustice to either party, will assimilate the tenures in question to those which experience has proved to be more accordant with the principles of republican government, and more conducive to the general prosperity and the peace and harmony of society.*
A requisition was made upon me in July last, by the executive of Virginia, for the delivery of three persons as fugitives from justice, charged with having feloniously stolen a negro slave in that state. I declined to comply with the requisition, upon the grounds that the right to demand, and the reciprocal obligation to surrender, fugitives from justice, between sovereign and independent nations, as defined by the law of nations, included only those cases in which the acts constituting the offence charged were recognised as crimes by the universal laws of all civilized countries; that the object of the provision contained in the constitution of the United States, authorizing the demand and surrender of fugitives charged with treason, felony, or other crime, was to recognise and establish this principle of the law of nations in the mutual relations of the states as independent, equal, and sovereign communities; that the acts charged upon the persons demanded, were not recognised as criminal by the laws of this state, or by the universal laws of all civilized countries; and that consequently the case did not fall within the provision of the constitution of the United States.
* A law was passed May 13, 1840, to provide for the settlement of these difficulties. Under it, terms of adjustment of all the disputes between the landlord and tenants were proposed; but the proposition was declined by the landlord.-Ed.
The governor of Virginia, in his last annual message, referred the subject to the consideration of the legislature of that state, and declared that my construction of the constitution of the United States could not be acquiesced in or submitted to. He added that, if it were allowed to prevail, and if no relief could be obtained against what he designated as a flagrant invasion of the rights of Virginia, either by an amendment of the constitution of the United States, or by the action of the legisiature of Virginia, it might ultimately become the important and solemn duty of Virginia to appeal from the cancelled obligations of the national compact, to original rights and the law of self-preservation.
I confess my surprise that it should, in any part of the Union, be regarded as a new and startling doctrine that the constitutional power of the executive of any other state to demand the surrender of a citizen of this state, to be carried to the former and tried for an offence committed there, is limited to cases in which the offence charged is recognised as criminal by the statute-laws of this state, by the common law, or by the universal laws of mankind. Nor can I withhold the expression of my sincere regret that a construction of the constitution, manifestly necessary to maintain the sovereignty of this state and the personal rights of her citizens, should be regarded by the executive of Virginia as justifying, in any contingency, a menace of secession from the Union.
The subject is one which appertains to the executive department. The duties of that department in such cases are prescribed by the constitution of the United States, and not by the constitution or laws of this state. Nevertheless, the respect I entertain for the executive of Virginia, as well as the deference I owe to the legislature of this state, induce me to transmit herewith the correspondence which has taken place.*
Our fellow-citizens in various parts of the state will very justly call your attention to the condition of the currency.
We are a commercial people. We are rendered so by the location of our country, its physical formation, its variety of climate and productions, and its internal communications by land and water; by the operation of republican institutions and equal laws; by our wants; by our resources; by our enterprise; by the mutual confidence arising from moral and intellectual cultivation; by the intercourse existing among the citizens of the several states, and by our relations with foreign nations. The federal government has heretofore encouraged commerce by entering into commercial treaties, by establishing a navy, by reducing imposts, and by improving rivers and harbors on our lakes, as well as on the seaboard. The legislatures of the several states have seconded this policy by increasing the facilities for trade. The promotion of commerce in all its branches affords the most effectual encouragements to agriculture and manufactures, because commerce is only an exchange of productions. The wants of one region are supplied by the labor of another, and thus the industry of all is rewarded. Our internal commerce knows no political or geographical lines. It pervades every region, seeking and exchanging the surplus productions of every department of industry. To effect this exchange, a currency or medium is indispensable, and it should everywhere have the highest attainable uniformity of value. A mixed currency, composed of coin and paper redeemable in coin, has unavoidably resulted from the condition of our country and our intercourse with foreign nations. That such a currency is far better than one exclusively metallic, is proved by contrasting the general prosperity of the countries in which the former is employed with the condition of those which use only the precious metals. But a mixed currency attended by the disadvantage of a liability to expansion beyond the legitimate wants of trade, and in order to prevent such expansions as far as possible, and mitigate their evils, must be subjected to regulation. It is a consequence of the independent action of the legislatures of the several states that the paper
* See Official Correspondence, “Virginia Controversy," p. 449, Vol. II.
money issued under their authority must, in the absence of adequate regulation, be unequal in security and in convertibility, and that the amount issued must often be disproportioned to the exigencies of trade. Heretofore the federal government has discharged the responsibility of such regulation; but, for some time past, Congress has made no provision for that important purpose, and the currency of the country has been supplied by papermoney issued under the authority of twenty-six different states, in amounts limited by other wants than those of trade, and regulated upon other considerations than those which regard the general interests of the whole country. The exchange of productions between distant parts of the country is burdened with ruinous expenses, and the prompt collection of debts is rendered impossible. Internal commerce has suffered a check, and derangement is felt in every department of business. The expense, losses, and sacrifices, resulting from the embarrassments of trade, fall ultimately upon those engaged in productive industry, and cause a depreciation in the value of labor, of the fruits of the earth, and of the soil itself. In the present instance, the evils have been aggravated by a long and severe derangement of our foreign commerce. As if the neglect of its appropriate and important functions were not enough, the federal government has contributed to increase the general embarrassment, by manifesting a persevering hostility to the institutions of the states, and has disturbed the general confidence by efforts to introduce a metallic currency. The introduction of such a currency is impracticable, and would be unjust if it were practicable, because it would require our citizens, in the absence of necessity or adequate motive, to reduce the value of labor and property to the depreciated standard of a specie circulation. To the people of this state, and to all who resort to her great commercial market, the measures adopted by the federal government to carry this project into effect have been productive of unmitigated evil, while the earnestness with which our fellow-citizens in some portions of the Union sustain those measures, proves that they endure the same evils with a fallacious hope of being able to transfer to themselves a considerable portion of the commerce which is now enjoyed by New York. I trust, therefore, that these measures will receive no support from us, but that whatever influence the sanction of the legislature may have, will be exerted