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the judge of what will promote the welfare of liis child, and endows him with the patience, the assiduity, and the affection necessary for the right discharge of his trust. Human legislation must always fail in efforts to excel Divine institutions.

How can the chancellor determine whether a removal of the child to the country of its forefathers will promote its welfare, but by evidence of the comparative advantages to be enjoyed in both countries? The alien father knows the advantages of both; the chancellor can not know them better, nor decide between them with half the anxious solicitude for the child's welfare.

But it is not necessary to insist upon these objections. There is another which seems to me conclusive against this bill. If the principle of the bill be right in regard to foreigners, it must be equally so in regard to native citizens. Yet, who would not revolt at the idea that the chancellor should have the power to enter the family circles of our citizens, and, without convicting the father of neglect or omission of duty, overturn paternal authority, and separate helpless children from unoffending parents upon the arbitrary pretext of promoting the children's welfare? Would it not be an intolerable evil, if the chancellor, having thus separated the father from his child, should at his pleasure exercise his power over the property of the parent, and, in the language of the bill before me, “ make such order in regard to the custody, property and maintenance of such minor, as may be made in cases of incompetency, or disqualification of a father to have the charge of the person, property, or education of his minor child."

It is both right and natural that the legislature should extend its protection to American women who have intermarried with aliens. But it does not seem necessary to extend to them greater privileges than those enjoyed by their countrywomen, who are wives of our own citizens. Alien husbands and fathers ought to be subjected while residing here, to the control of our laws. But it is inconsistent with the spirit of the age, and the genius of our institutions, to have one system of laws for our own citizens, and, like the Chinese, a different and more severe code for foreigners. On the other hand, enlightened policy and national magnanimity alike dictate that, in regard to the laws which govern the domestic relations, there should be equal justice and equal favor shown to our own citizens, and to foreigners sojourning among us. In

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the marriage contract, if made in this country, the American wife of an alien submits herself to the existing laws, and her rights are the same as are enjoyed by her countrywomen. If the marriage contract is formed in another country, it is unjust and discourteous to the nation to which the husband belongs to deprive him, because he is an alien, of rights which follow the marriage contract in his country, as well as in our own.

It has not been without much solicitude that I have thus submitted to the senate my objections to the bill. They are such as arise upon the face of the bill itself. I have looked without success among the legislative documents of both houses for any report, petition, or other paper, which might show a necessity for the passage of the law, or explain the views of the legislature on the subject.

Entertaining habitually a profound respect and deference for the opinions of the legislature, and deprecating the exercise of the prohibitory power of the executive, except upon most grave occasions, I can not now exercise that power without assuring the

I senate, that, distrusting my opinions where they differ from those of others, I shall not permit myself to doubt the wisdom of the decision of the legislature, when it shall have reviewed the subject, whatever that decision may be.



ALBANY, MARCH 27, 1840.


I RETURN with objections a bill, which originated in the senate and has passed both houses of the legislature, entitled “An act to prevent illegal voting in the city of New York, and to promote the convenience of legal voters."

No one deplores more sincerely than I do the frequent abuses of the elective franchise. It was my fortune to come to the executive magistracy by an election when loud complaints of that evil were made. At the same time, alleged violations of the franchise in Pennsylvania threatened to involve that commonwealth in civil commotion, and abuses of the same right had recently occurred in New Jersey, which have resulted, during the present session of Congress, in a memorable infraction of the constitution of the United States. Alarmed by these events, I called the attention of the legislature, in my first annual message, to the necessity of guarding the elective franchise. I signed with great pleasure the act passed at the last session, in pursuance of that suggestion, entitled “ An act to preserve the purity of elections.” Beneficial as that law was, it nevertheless is, or is supposed to be, inadequate; and under that belief I submitted the subject again to the consideration of the legislature at the present session.

Under such circumstances, I could not but deeply regret that there should be occasion for dissent from that body concerning the remedy for the evil in question.

I highly approve those parts of the bill which direct a division of the wards into election districts, and prescribe regulations for conducting elections. My objections are to those provisions which direct a registry of voters. My opinions concerning the principle of a registry have not been suppressed, but were early made known to a committee who visited the capital to solicit the adoption of such a measure.

The bill would devolve the duty of registering the names of electors on commissioners, while those officers would not be required to take the constitutional oath of office.

The bill provides that the commissioners may insert at pleasure the names of voters at a public meeting to be held in September. Omissions may be afterward supplied, if the electors shall demand to be registered and shall take the oath of qualification prescribed by law. But, on the other hand, if the commissioners insert improper names, there is no provision for challenge until October, when the list shall be completed. Challenges may then be interposed indiscriminately to all the names on the registry, as well to those entered on demand and oath as to those recorded at the pleasure of the commissioners. This right of challenge might be exercised with a view to harass and embarrass the voters and defeat an election; and in that manner all the voters in the city might be challenged. There must be delays to procure witnesses and try issues on the constitutional rights of the many who would be challenged. No record of the proofs on these issues is to be kept, nor of the adjudications by the commissioners thereon, although their decisions would be final. Thus the bill would encumber the right of suffrage with a semi-judicial process, regulated by no forms, and subject to no review.

The 10th section prescribes that the commissioners shall, during the days of the election and the previous day, grant a certificate of registry to any person who shall prove, by at least one known voter of the ward, that such person is a legal voter, and has become a voter in such ward since the registry was completed, or has been prevented from applying to be registered by prolonged illness or absence. It is probable that when the register should have been made and published, the tendency of the public mind could be easily ascertained. Parties would then strive to maintain or recover ascendency by including new residents of the ward, and sick and absent voters; and an approver of qualifications could be easily obtained when the value of the vote offered should be thus fully understood.

By the 10th section, an undefined and unregulated power would be vested in the commissioners to revise the register during three weeks prior to the charter election, and to make such erasures, alterations, and additions, as might become necessary. In regard to this proceeding, the bill requires no oaths, no proofs, nor even publicity, while no appeal is allowed. Such an enactment would put the charter election in the hands of the commissioners. These objections relate to the details, not to the principle of the bill.

I am well aware that it is a difficult task to frame a law for regulating elections. Our present system has been matured during the history of the state, and yet it has many imperfections.

The title of the bill manifests a legislative intention to promote the convenience of voters. The inconveniences to be remedied are understood to be difficulties of access to the polls, hinderance in voting, and exposure to insult and violence. It seems to me that these inconveniences would be effectually removed by subdividing the wards and holding the elections on one and the same day; while the bill under consideration would subject voters to unnecessary difficulties, hinderance, and exposure, preparatory to the registry. These inconveniences would fall most heavily upon

those least able to bear them. The time lost by the poor man is measured by a diminution of wages, or perhaps by a subtraction from the comfort of his family.

The present constitution rests upon the basis of free, uncontrolled, and universal suffrage. Colonial restraint and relations, prejudice, and the influence of power, retarded this principle until the convention of 1821, and it was then established imperfectly, though not without conflict. But the few limitations of the right left in the constitution were removed by amendments in 1826. The state has been as wisely governed, the rights of every citizen have been as safely enjoyed, and the people have been as prosperous and happy, since that time, as when none but freeholders and tenants of a certain class exercised exclusive suffrage for a portion of those intrusted with the responsibilities of government. In adopting this principle of universal suffrage, the attention of the convention was directed to the question how the right of the elector should be ascertained. From time immemorial, the test had been the elector's oath, administered on

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