The Convention was opened with prayer by Rev. James G. West, member of the legislature from Wetzel county.
THE PRESIDENT. When the Convention adjourned, it had under consideration the report of the Committee on Education, and the question was on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Ohio (Battelle) to the motion of the gentleman from Wood (Van Winkle) to strike out.
MR. BATTELLE. Before the gentleman from Wood, who I believe is entitled to the floor, proceeds with his remarks, I wish to suggest an amendment that will, I think, meet the requirements of the Convention. I suppose it is not strictly in order for me to offer an amendment.
THE PRESIDENT. A third amendment would not be in order.
MR. SINSEL. He can modify his amendment.
MR. BATTELLE. I may indicate it merely for the information of members. I will indicate it.
MR. STEVENSON of Wood. You might modify your present amendment.
MR. BATTELLE. If the Convention do not object. If my present amendment should prevail, it would leave the clause to read: "the proceeds of any taxes that may be levied on the revenues of any corporation." I would propose to add to that simply the words "hereafter created." It would then read "the proceeds of any taxes levied on the revenues of any corporation hereafter created."
There being no objection, Mr. Battelle's amendment was so modified.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. I believe I offered the amendment that was amended by the gentleman from Ohio, which amendment he now modifies.
THE PRESIDENT. If that be the case, we have got the journal wrong.
THE SECRETARY. The journal says Mr. Van Winkle. I see my notes say Mr. Brown of Kanawha. Mr. Brown of Kanawha moved to strike out the whole clause, instead of Mr. Van Winkle. The vote adopting the journal was reconsidered and the correction made.
THE CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Ohio to the motion of the gentleman from Kanawha.
MR. STEVENSON of Wood. Mr. President, when the Convention adjourned last evening, I desired to make a few remarks in reply to some of the arguments of gentlemen who had spoken against the amendment in reply to some remarks which I had made myself before that in favor of it. As the amendment is now modified, I do not know whether there will be any serious objection to it. I suppose there will be from the indications that were given last evening. I wish to state here that it was a very difficult matter in the Committee on Education to devise proper means of raising revenues for school purposes. We found this difficulty at every step on our progress, and I believe the Convention will find the same difficulty in every step towards progress in the consideration of this report. I think, therefore, we should meet this question as we do every other in a friendly and, if possible, dispassionate, spirit. I intend to do so if I can. I sometimes speak a little warmly, probably more so than I ought. It is because I cannot help it, or because I don't try to help it as often as I should do. Now, the difficulty met by the committee was this: that to raise these revenues by direct taxes on persons and property would be impracticable, at least at the present time. In fact, it seems to me it would be impossible without rendering the system itself unpopular and oppressive to the taxpayer. If we get the new State into operation, we will be taxed, of course, to build courthouses, or at least its public buildings and for all the other moneys that will be necessary to put the machinery of the new State into operation at first; will be taxed to pay interest on the debt which we will owe at that time and the moneys for these purposes, it seems to me, must be raised either by loans or by direct taxation, or both. Now, in addition to this, we are to lay a tax directly on persons and property for the purpose of establishing and carrying on a system of free schools. That tax will be oppressive and it will render the school system itself unpopular with taxpayers. The committee therefore had to look for some other source of revenue besides this, and in doing this they have reported in favor of using some of these sources of revenue - some of which the Convention have agreed to, some others they have stricken out. Now, if we are to depend on what the Convention has agreed to as a source of revenue - forfeited, waste and unappropriated lands - the fines which come into the treasury, and if you please to add to these a portion of the capitation tax - we are by no means certain the Convention will give us that, for it has not yet been considered - with all these you have a very insignificant, uncertain and unreliable school fund. Now, then, the alternative left us is to find some other sources from which you can raise these school moneys, or else it seems to me the question resolves itself into this, that you must either do that or you must abandon the hope of establishing this free school system at the present time. Because even the sources which we have already agreed upon, from which we are to derive a portion of this school fund is utterly insufficient in itself to carry on the school system, or even give it a start in a single county in the State.
Well, now, if you are to resort to the principle that has been proclaimed here, that taxation should be direct on persons and property, why you run into another difficulty, you antagonize a large and influential class of men in the new State - large property holders - who will become the public enemies of this school system if the tax is levied in that way. The class I mean would be willing to bear a moderate tax; I believe they would be willing at first to bear even a high tax, if they could see that the burdens of taxation were at some future time to be shared by other interests in the State. But if the tax goes directly on them, the great den of the taxes, to support this free school system which we all want, then, sir, it is calculated to offend these men, who would be friends of this school system antagonized and made its enemies. So you will find difficulties to be encountered here at every step.
I say the true principle, the most correct one, whether under all circumstances or not, I am not prepared to say - but it seems to me the true principle which we must have in supporting this free school system is this one hit upon by the committee; that is, to divide, as far as possible, the responsibility of supporting this school system among the different interests of the State, to divide among them the burden of taxes which will be necessary to start the system and get it into successful operation. One of the objects of taxation which the committee have sought for here is the revenues of corporations. We are met at once with the objection that it is wrong to tax the revenues of these corporations. Why is it wrong? You say we tax their property already and why levy a special tax on the revenue? Well, I will tell you one reason. I told you yesterday evening, they have special privileges; exclusive advantages these corporations have which no individual has, that no set of individuals in the State has. They have a monopoly, probably, of some particular business, a monopoly of some great interest in the State; and this special tax is the price which they pay and ought to pay for these exclusive privileges, exclusive advantages and special interests given to them by the law which brings them into being. Is there anything wrong in that? It seems to me not. I think though if any such arrangement is entered into between them and the state they owe that tax just as fairly and justly as any other man owes a tax on the property which he has.
Again, it is said, sir, that we must tax here on the ad valorem principle - tax everything according to its value I suppose it means. That was the argument yesterday evening, tax all kind of property according to its value. Well, I suppose the principle is a correct one. Well, now are not the revenues of a railroad company property; the dividend of a bank, the profits declared by a manufacturing company, property? They are just as much property as the acre of land which you own or the watch which you carry in your pocket; and if that principle is the correct one, it ought to be applied to all property if you can find it. But if you cannot get these dividends as they are made by the regulations of the corporation, or these profits as they are declared, and fix the tax on them then and there, they will slip through your fingers and you will never get them taxed at all.
A good deal was said about the importance of these corporations in developing the natural resources of this State. I agree to every word of that. I believe they are very important for that purpose, and therefore concede that they should be encouraged in this new State in every way in which it is possible to encourage them as long as you do not infringe on the rights of any other interest. But, sir, I hold that there are other interests to be protected and that they are just as important to the growth and prosperity of this new State as corporations are; and we must be very careful here that we do not discriminate in favor of corporations in such way as to inflict injury on private enterprise or on the private industry of this new State. One is just as important to the development of the great natural resources of this new State as the other is. I am in favor of encouraging both; but in the burdens which are to be borne in this State, now and in the time to come, I am in favor of taxing them both. There is such a thing, air, as corporations which may be of great public advantage under some circumstances becoming a great public nuisance under other circumstances. And here let me say that this amendment, as I understand it, does not make it obligatory on the legislature to tax corporations. This is wisely left with the legislature. It may discriminate where it sees discrimination is proper and will be profitable. There may be cases where a corporation may undertake some great public improvement which would be more for the public advantage than they profit from the corporation by taxing it. In such case, the legislature would no doubt wisely discriminate and would put no tax on its revenues nor bonus for the privilege of entering into the undertaking whatever it might be; but in such other cases as the legislature in its wisdom may find the public interests demand that a tax should be placed upon a corporation, or a tax of any kind on its revenues, wherever that is thought necessary, then I say it is highly proper. It seems to me we should say here in this Constitution that tax shall take and what particular purpose it shall be appropriated to carry out in the State. We say it shall go to the school fund. I contend that this will be an inducement itself to these corporations to carry on their particular business, whatever it may be, amongst us. If they know when they enter into this arrangement that the tax which they pay will not be squandered by the State, will not be appropriated, probably, to some rival improvement, some competing interest and that it will be sacredly devoted to the purposes of public education, it will strong inducement for these corporations to submit to the tax pay it - much stronger than if these revenues were determined any other direction than that of education. Now, that is just as important for the development and growth of this State to have people here as it is to have corporations. The first thing you want in this new State is more people. The first, I have said more than once. We have got good people now, but not enough of them. We want an industrious people, a moral people, a people who not only have the labor of their hands but have some means, some capital, to come amongst us and give shape and value to the vast material of wealth which is to be found everywhere within the limits of this new State. Well, now, sir, you may call upon those people till Gabriel blows his trumpet unless you have a system of instruction such as will induce them to come with their families, and they will never come. As long as this government has fourteen millions of acres of land unappropriated, unsettled, fertile as any that was ever turned up by the plow share, at $1.25 an acre, with ample public lands set apart to establish and continue perpetually a system of free public education, people will not come to any state that does not afford them advantages at least in some respects like these. If we desire to fill up this new State with the class of people to which I have alluded - the only class that can make us a thrifty, enterprising and wealthy State - we must hold out inducements such as are held out in the older states of the Union, in the newer states and even in the unsettled public domain, if we expect to bring these people amongst us.
Now, upon these things I believe we all agree. The only difference that appears, it seems to me, to prevail here is in regard to how we shall establish and start this system. Still I say we must meet that problem candidly and in the best of spirit, for it will require all that and investigation to determine what the solution is to be. I have endeavored to show that you cannot effect the object by direct taxation. I think it can only be done by looking to such objects of taxation, different objects, as will distribute the burden amongst the different interests, different corporations, different people, and different kinds of property and privileges conferred by the State, to an amount that when combined will be sufficient to carry this free school system into operation. If you go on and strike out this provision here you have precluded the legislature by that act from having the power of raising a tax for that purpose, or at least you have done this much, that if a tax should be levied upon these revenues, or upon these profits, it may be appropriated for other purposes, and not go into the school fund. Our object here is to fix a certain number of objects of taxation so that the revenues derived from taxation upon these shall be set apart exclusively for a school fund and for no other purpose whatever. If it is designed to leave this whole matter to the legislature, then we had better abandon everything here in regard to a school system and just say the legislature shall when it may be convenient or practicable adopt a system of free schools throughout this new State. Unless we intend to set apart a sufficient number of objects of taxation and of such a character as will raise a revenue sufficient to put that system upon its feet and maintain it for a certain number of months in the year in successful operation, we had better give up the attempt, and leave these gentlemen who insist that we must not touch the corporations or other sources of revenue to come forward and show us how they propose to establish and maintain such a system of free education as they all protest they are heart and soul devoted to. If they are not willing to tax any of the things that we propose to tax, let them show us what they are willing to tax.
MR. SINSEL. For one, I prefer the sentence in its present form; and looking at it in that light I shall vote against the amendment proposed by the gentleman from Ohio, and I shall also vote against striking it out. Now many of these corporations, for instance the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, before it was constructed - it went very slow - the state derived a very small revenue from those lines. Well, the simple construction of that railroad through the territory of Virginia enhanced the value of lands along and contiguous to it and thereby increased the revenue of the state considerably outside of the improvements made by the company itself. Well, now, in the construction of one of these tunnels, for instance the tunnel in Preston county, I suppose the company expended at least a million of dollars there. Well, in valuing the property of that corporation it is valued at what it cost the company to make it, so many thousand dollars a mile. Well, on this division, according to the ad valorem, principle of taxation, we would receive a large revenue in addition to what the state had previously received from the lands and property lying along the line of that road. Well, now this revenue is easily set apart for the benefit of the school fund; no trouble at all to keep the account. It is the taxes collected from the corporation. Well, if you carry out the principle, other corporations may come in and buy a small piece of land and probably not pay more than a hundred dollars for it; they may establish a factory; may make buildings and all worth two or three hundred thousand dollars. Well, the state is getting just as much revenue for her lands after that as before, and this will simply be an increase of taxation which is brought in on account of that corporation. Well, now, could there be any objection to setting that revenue apart to the benefit of the school fund? The State is getting as much or more than before because of the very simple fact that that railroad will enhance the value of property all around and the State will get an increased revenue even if she gets nothing from this corporation. The corporation itself being there will increase the revenues of the State because we have to require this corporation to pay the same revenues on its property as other property is taxed; so there will be a considerable fund raised for the school fund. So I am opposed to the amendment of the gentleman from Ohio and opposed to striking it out.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. I do not wish to exhaust my privilege in this question, still I think it is time we were beginning to enforce the rule or we will never reach an end, and hope therefore that if I do offend I shall be called to order. Still, sir, I desire to say a word in. reply to the gentlemen on the other side. I understand the gentleman from Wood to give us some considerations that operated upon the committee in introducing this section. We are told that while this doctrine of ad valorem taxation is all right and proper that the fair and honest way is that if we determine this proposition is right we should levy a tax for the amount necessary, but that will not do in this case. We are told that if you put a tax on the people requisite to attain the end proposed the people are going to repudiate; that they will be dissatisfied with it; that they will writhe under these burdens and reject it. Now, sir, I wish to see if this is an indirect way of putting that burden on the people. I confess if it is a burden the people are going to repudiate. I prefer to go out honestly and say face to face what is the fact. If they choose to repudiate, let them do it. If this is an attempt to accomplish the same thing with the same burthen precisely but in a sort of round-the-corner way then I must repudiate it. I prefer to deal honestly and fairly with the people. I regard the people so virtuous and intelligent that they in general will see and have integrity to do it. Now, let us see what this proposition proposes. In the first place to tax the property and the revenues of corporations. Gentlemen now abandon that proposition on this amendment; but then the proposition shows what was proposed, to tax the property and the revenues. Now is that just? Can any system of education commend itself to the popular approval that proposes to single out any class of citizens, tax their property first to the extent of its value as it taxes every other man's property and then turn in and double the taxes by taxing the revenues derived from the property, and this proposition is neither more nor less.
MR. SINSEL. Does the proposition as it now stands before the Convention propose to tax both property and the revenue from it?
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. The proposition of the gentleman from Ohio is to strike out property and lay taxes on revenues. But we will have another principle adopted in this Constitution, I imagine. If it is not, I shall fight it to the end, and then I will fight the Constitution afterwards, that taxation shall be equal and uniform in this State. If it is equal and uniform, then you have got to tax property like everybody else's; and if you include in this clause a separate provision that the legislature may tax the revenues, then you have doubled it. That is the very thing I am contending against: that this is inserting a clause here which will authorize a double taxation on this property, when the general rule is that it shall be equal and uniform. It is founded in injustice, and for what? We want to derive a revenue that the people will not bear if you tell them out plain and straightforward what it is. But gentlemen say this is not to tax it twice, it is only taxing it once. If you tax the revenue, you cannot tax the property at all. That must be an inevitable consequence, although a violation, on the other hand, of the other principle that property shall be taxed all alike. What is the result, then, to the county? Here you say you want ten thousand dollars to be raised in any county. Take Kanawha county, for the school fund. You select a dozen companies doing business and owning property in that county and ask what are their revenues and you raise the ten thousand dollars. Now what is the difference between just taxing them and taking ten thousand dollars out of the treasury and giving it to the school fund? Why, if you take out the revenues by taxing these specific companies, don't you have to raise that much more on the rest of the people to make up the same? Do you suppose the people of Kanawha are such ignoramuses that they will not know it, that they will not find out if you take a half dozen of the most important and best-paying companies in the county and credit it to the school fund that they will not know that they have to make it up by taxing the residue of that fund on the other sources of taxation to support the State government and pay your debt? If they were such stupid creatures they would find it out when the sheriff visited them. But they will not be so easy to blind. But if it is the object of the gentleman in this manner to deceive and delude the people in getting them to endorse a proposition to raise the school fund so they would not face the music by direct taxation which all has to come out of the treasury, then you misconceive both the virtue and intelligence of the people of Virginia. I tell you gentlemen when you deal with the people of Virginia you had better deal openly and fairly and tell them the worst and they will prepare themselves to meet or reject it, for you cannot deceive or delude them. You cannot blind or fool them. They will understand this matter as thoroughly as you do and they will know when the property is taken out of one pocket and put in the other.
Now, we have a school system in Kanawha and have had for many years. We did pay an annual revenue of 25 per cent on state taxes, and our state revenue is $25,000. I doubt whether a single county in the state pays a larger school fund than Kanawha. And they have stood by it. They have faced the music.
But there is another thing. This striking out the identical feature I objected to in the 61st line. The proposition was to give the bank stock and the stocks of other corporations. That and all the 56th and 57th lines are stricken out. Now, this is the identically same thing in another way; if not identically the same, the same in effect. If it is not giving stocks to it, it is giving taxes on the revenues. I say this is a stroke to accomplish in this line just what the Convention repudiated in the 6th line. Will they now eat their own words, recede from the principle they have asserted and adopted? What is the effect of it? "All corporations" will embrace the internal improvement companies that may be created in the State. Adopt that principle and all the proceeds of taxes to be derived - because this power to tax revenues are to go into the school fund. Let us suppose the capitol of the new State should be situated in the county of Braxton, in the center of the State. Suppose the people required a railroad from Clarksburg to Charleston, to connect both places with the capitol in Braxton; that such a road is essential to the future welfare and prosperity of the State. Suppose there is not a man, or a half dozen men in the State who have the money to build it. But, say the people, it must be done; and we combined with this State government have the power to do it and we intend it shall be done. Borrow the money and build the road and put it into operation, and we will appropriate the revenues to repay the debt. Now, if when you embark in this scheme, after you have assumed that debt, you say that every dollar as fast as the road returns it shall be transferred to the school fund, you cannot repay your debt; you lay an embargo on the people and prohibit them from putting forth their energies and improving their State, because they are to incur a debt and transfer its proceeds to a school fund they have already provided for and by the unalterable law of the State this is to go there too. It is an embargo on every system of internal improvement; it is prohibiting them from appropriating the proceeds of internal improvements to refund the debts the improvement has incurred and therefore is a complete destruction of the whole system. For this reason .1 oppose it; and if that doctrine is adopted, instead of your attempting to improve your State by educating your children you will have failed of that object and impoverished your people.
Well, now, gentlemen, act on that principle, that we must establish a grand school fund. Why? To enlighten our people, and to bring in other people to be enlightened. Why, sir, let them enlighten themselves. I am not legislating for them. If they see fit to come in and take "pot-luck" I shall not object. But I will never change my system of education in order to bring them here when they will not come otherwise. The gentleman from Ohio told us yesterday large numbers of our people were leaving our state and going to other states. Oh, he cannot have the free school system here and he goes elsewhere to enjoy the advantages of it! I have known a great many persons to go to the western states, but not for that purpose. I always found them lured by the cheap lands of the western prairies. I confess I could not feel kindly inclined when I heard my friend from Boone the other day describing the ignorance and degradation of the children of that noble county, named after the old pioneer hunter of the West. I have practised law in Boone since it was a county, intimately associated with a large number of that people; I know a great many of them very well; and while they have not had all the advantages of education they are not so far behind their neighbors of my county, and there are some shrewd people in Boone as anywhere else in Virginia. I never saw in the county of Boone as many degraded children, and I have traveled all over it, as I have seen in one week in the county of Ohio in Wheeling. I never yet saw there a child or girl who could not tell me in what state she lived. I have seen that in Wheeling. Sir, all the ignorance doesn't live in Boone county or elsewhere in Virginia, and it is not where the free schools flourish altogether that all the intelligence is. My humble opinion is that take the people and children of Virginia when and where you will and compare them with whom you will they need never blush by the comparison.
I hope it will be the pleasure of the Convention to strike out this proposition, and that when we march to the principle of a free school system we will do so openly and fairly. I have no objection to the proposition. I have no objection to strike out this whole proposition and say to the legislature it shall be their duty as soon as their wisdom shall tell them to do it to establish a free school system, and leave the whole balance of the plan to them, that they may go up instructed and know properly how to act in this matter. Do that and I believe you will have accomplished more for it than attempting here in our ignorance to establish and pile up a thing which when presented to the people may be found not to suit them and result in the rejection of the Constitution which they don't either properly understand, or do not appreciate but repudiate.
MR. HAGAR. Either I or the gentleman from Kanawha, one or t'other, have misunderstood ourselves. If he understood me to indicate that the children were all natural fools in Logan and Boone, why, then the gentleman didn't understand me as the rest of the Convention did. I think I aimed to show that the people there, speaking of their natural ability, using a figurative notion, might be represented by a fertile soil that was uncultivated. I do not think that was saying they were fools naturally.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. I did not say you did.
MR. HAGAR. I said I had entered many houses, and I think usefully, as for many years a Methodist preacher, who according to the economy of our church was in duty bound to visit the houses of members of our church and pray with them and talk to them on the subject of religion. I know my friend knows a great deal more of the people in Boone and Logan than I do. I don't want word to go back to my county that I called them all fools, in substance, at all. I said their heads were right, that is naturally so; that their mother wit perhaps would compare with any anywhere; but for want of education many of them ten or twelve or fifteen years old, didn't know a letter of the alphabet; many of their parents did not know their letters and could not write their names. They have all got the natural ability to compare with any of the children of Virginia. And that is why I thought it was a pity that such a fertile soil should lie so long without being cultivated; and as the people have the notion of the cultivation of it, from the bone and sinew of the country, I am in favor of the free school system; and it liked to have leaked out from my friend from Kan- awha that he didn't like to have it. It liked to have got out in the conclusion of his remarks, and I infer that that is his object in opposing all the plans of the committee.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. On the contrary, I have advocated the free school system and fought it through and defended it in the county of Kanawha from its beginning to the end, and never flinched. Paid my taxes all the time, too.
MR. HAGAR. That is all right, sir. But, again, to further illustrate - as preachers sometimes say - if that rich and fertile soil that has been so long uncultivated was cleared, the timber cut off and the grubs dug out, the precious seed sown and properly cultivated, under the blessing of heaven, it will produce a great deal and bring forth a hundred fold or more. There is as much natural ability where I live as anywhere in the State. That is the reason why I urge strongly that some system should be adopted under which we might have a general free school system.
Now, my zeal, with others of the committee may have run us into error. I think the amendment offered by the chairman, the gentleman from Ohio only means that if there should be a tax laid by the legislature upon the revenues of corporations that it might go to this fund, to the free school system, to encourage it and support it. Not that it is proposed to require the legislature to lay such a tax. Gentlemen talk as if we were about to compel the legislature to lay the tax. We only say that if, in their discretion, they do lay it, then it is to go to the schools. But if we make a free school system by taxes laid on the people, you will find that the square tax will have its influence and as I said very likely they will vote it down. I do not think that I understood myself, and the committee understood themselves, that we wished to smuggle and cheat and place a deception on the people. We wished the Convention to say in the organic law that something should be taken from other sources besides direct taxation to assist the people in supporting the free school system. We did not intend to steal anything from the corporations nor to make the legislature do it; but that if the legislature should see fit to make them pay something for the extra privileges they got that it might go to help establish free schools.
I am in favor of the amendment as modified. It doesn't say the legislature shall make such a contract with these companies to secure this tax; but if they do think under all the circumstances, giving them privileges above what other citizens have, that they should pay something extra as a tax, or whatever name they please to call it, that that should go into the school treasury. Why, the way the gentleman from Kanawha argues, you must claim so much off each corporation as a tax and convert it to the free school system. No such thing. The modification doesn't call for any such thing. I think not in the least. If it did that - if we were compelling the legislature to steal from these corporations to give to the poor laboring class, ignorant folks that have no education - steal from them to give to others - 1 think it would be wrong. I would go against it. I am as much against dishonesty as any other man. We were anxious that some other provision should be made; that we should, some way or other, from different sources, have tributaries centering in a fund that would assist the people in raising money sufficient to have a general free school throughout the State, at least three months in a year. People do need education - need it very much. I don't know it would be any special good to discourse about myself, but I am willing to say that five days and a half is all the schooling ever I had; and that was divided between two sessions six years apart (Laughter). I stand as others here. I don't know whether God has given me any more natural ability than to the average of the people where I live, but I am thankful for what little I have; and with great difficulty I have learned myself to read and write a little. I would like to see those who will fill place and many others of my age, their children who are now growing up, that when they get into the presence of the lawyers they do not feel that they are in the august presence almost of the Almighty (Laughter). In such a presence, I cannot speak as well as I could among my friends. Here is the learned, the college-bred, the educated, the wise. I feel embarrassed; I cannot tell what I know (Laughter). But one thing I know: that the free school system, established on a fair and honest platform affords advantages to every man.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. If we had a general corporation law, or, I might say, a general banking law, which authorized everybody to enter into this business that chose to, there might be then some appropriateness in. the remarks of the gentleman from Kanawha. But look how this principle would operate. Here is a company asking for special privileges - for banking privileges, for instance. They get a banking charter, with a capital, say of $100,000. As a matter of course, the capital is taxed; but, recollect, they get a privilege and have the privilege of issuing $500,000 for the $100,000 they may have in their vaults of their bank. Now there are important privileges, which enable this banking corporation to pay enormous salaries to their officers and declare large dividends. Now I see nothing improper in requiring a bonus of men who ask such enormous privileges and gains as this.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. It is not a bonus; it is just a tax.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. Very well; we understand a tax to be but a bonus when you come to ask for a special charter. Is it anything but right? Anything but what you ought to pay? A tax on the dividends you derive from the enormous profit you receive. If you do not make this "principle" of yours more compromising and yielding it will operate unequally. It does not really make it obligatory to impose this tax or bonus; but if it should be the pleasure of the legislature to do so - entirely at their own discretion - then, sir, parties coming forward and asking these privileges and getting them, it is nothing but right and fair that the legislature should require them to pay a certain tax on their dividends, and otherwise the principle that you advocate will be violated.
MR. BATTELLE. Lest it be thought the committee have introduced a very strange novelty here in their report, I wish to call attention to a provision in the constitution of another state. I presume others could be found if I had leisure to look for them. The Constitution of Indiana, adopted in 1857, (by the book here) which has a very flourishing school system, as we all know, provides that the common school fund shall consist of the Congressional township fund and the lands belonging thereto; "a banking tax fund"; and down further they provide further sources of revenue for this fund: taxes on the property of corporations that may be assessed for common school purposes. We only propose by our amendment to tax revenues - and, by the way, we don't propose that, as has been said over and over again here, but the fact ignored by the opponents of this measure. We only propose to say that should such a tax be imposed by the legislature, in their discretion, the product shall go to the schools. We give the power and discretion to the legislature, to be exercised or not as they deem best. The gentleman from Kanawha has been the champion - I was going to say the peculiar champion - all along, sir, during the discussions here - a very able champion - for legislative powers, legislative discretion; and I do hope, Mr. President, that his ability and zeal in that direction will not break down just now when we come to our report and propose the very thing he has been all along insisting upon, what is precisely the principle which our report contains here, committing this to the legislature, that should they impose any taxes on the revenues of any corporation hereafter to be created, waiving still further the objection that was urged last night in reference to interference with vested rights - that should such taxation be imposed we merely provide for the direction it shall take.
I wish to say a word in reference to a very grave charge that has been incidentally made in the remarks of the gentleman also: that indirectly this report deceives the people. Well, now, for the life of me -
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. I did not intend to make any such charge. I only argued that this was the purport of the argument of the gentleman from Wood as put by himself.
MR. BATTELLE. I understood the gentleman to apply that objection to the provisions contained in the first part of this report, that if we wanted a free school system why not come out and say so frankly and march square up to direct taxation to support it. Well, now, for the life of me, I can see no deception in the report. It is open, frank and fair and above board in the whole transaction; and I beg gentlemen not to be deceived or allow themselves to become prejudiced against the principles of our report by any such cry.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. I hope the gentleman will beg the gentleman from Wood not to make that argument.
MR. BATTELLE. I am replying to the charge in reference to the provisions of this report itself. We want a free school system, and we say so frankly and there is no deception in the case. In reference to the deception the gentleman alleges this will produce on the minds of the people, and he takes his own county for illustration, I fail to see how there can be any deception because the companies or the people of Kanawha will find in the Constitution a provision that for these unusual privileges the revenues of these corporations may be taxed by the legislature and that if so taxed the taxation as provided there shall go to this purpose. Well, how are the people of Kanawha affected by that. They may have in their bounds some corporation or corporations perhaps - and, by the way, not fifty of the citizens of that county are directly interested in these corporations. They are most usually gotten up by strangers, capitalists, from the large cities, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, or elsewhere, who come in here for the purpose of claiming exclusive privileges. The people of Kanawha find in the Constitution this provision and they cannot fail to understand it. I beg, again, to know what the people of Kanawha have to complain of? A provision which provides that if these corporations are taxed, those revenues shall go to the benefit of educating their children. If the gentleman expects to find arguments among the people for fighting against our Constitution, or if it shall be as free from objection from every other source as this is, I will guarantee its safe passage.
There is another remark I wish to make. Now only so far as I know, nobody here designed to deceive the people, but, in reply to another branch of the gentleman's argument, I wish to say that so far as I know, nobody has undertaken to disparage the people. I have heard not a syllable of that. The people of West Virginia want a system of free schools. Is it any disparagement of them to say that they want that system of free schools? Unless the gentleman claims that they have instinctively or intuitively the knowledge and attainments which other people have to come to by long laborious study, is it any disparagement of the people of West Virginia to say that they will not educate their children? The gentleman says the people of West Virginia are shrewd, are of vigorous mind, and I heartily agree with him. The result of my observation among them for many years is that there is, as was said by one of the other gentlemen, no people on earth with more native vigor of intellect and more native shrewdness. And one thing I will tell you: the people of West Virginia are too shrewd not to see, not to be satisfied when they demand at our hands a good and sufficient provision for free schools, they are too shrewd not to see the deception we would practice on them by turning them away with a few flatteries and blandishments instead. The gentleman tells us he would be content simply to strike out all of this, and to put in the Constitution merely a provision that the legislature might, when they please, raise a common school system. Well, now, sir, have not the legislature of Virginia always had that power and that liberty? And what would they do more than they have always done? What would that be but a mere "tub to the whale?"
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. The gentleman did not understand me. I said a provision in the Constitution that they shall do it. There never was any such provision as that in the Constitution.
MR. BATTELLE. No, sir; I did not misunderstand the gentleman. I understood him to assert that we may grant the power to the legislature, and let it go at that. That is the very thing we wish to avoid. We have not attempted in this report to work out all the details. The committee nor any member of it professed to have the wisdom. They wished to avoid the objection raised heretofore in this Convention in reference to inserting mere legislative provisions in the Constitution, leaving that to the wisdom and discretion of the legislature and to the circumstances and emergencies that may arise. For one, let me say that I shall not be satisfied, nor do I believe the people of this State will be satisfied with anything short of the clear authority and requirement to procure and establish and provide the ways and means as far as we can do so of a system which will be adequate to the instruction of the children of our people.
The gentleman made another remark which he will pardon me for alluding to; and I do it in the kindest spirit - and perhaps I ought not to do it. He tells us - and I think this is not the first intimation of what he will do and will not do in reference to this Constitution, provided certain provisions are or are not in it. In passing, let me suggest that the best thing for us as a Convention, as I humbly conceive, is to go to work here, in the first place and make according to the dictates of our best judgment the best Constitution we know how I beg, gentlemen, to let us attend to one thing at a time; and I am very certain the gentleman from Kanawha does not intend by a remark of that kind to hold in terrorem over this Convention a rod which is to sway or bias one jot or tittle the dictates of any member's judgment.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. Such a thought never entered my mind; but the form of expression - I do not remember how I made the remark, unless indicative of my determined opposition to the proposition I was discussing.
MR. BATTELLE. I understood the gentleman to say that if certain provisions were inserted in the Constitution, he would not only oppose it here but fight it elsewhere.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. Yes, sir; against the ad valorem system; and I am satisfied he would too. I do not think there is any man here or in West Virginia who would vote for the Constitution without the ad valorem taxation in it.
MR. STEVENSON of Wood. A single word of explanation, and would not have offered that but the gentleman from Kanawha has asserted twice that the purport of my argument was that because the committee had singled out certain objects of taxation for school revenue, the committee designed thereby to hoodwink or deceive the people. Now, sir, I wish to say that I made no such an argument, nor I do not think the gentlemen of the Convention understood that the purport of my argument meant anything of the kind. I do say, simply, that if you make these different objects of taxation, do not tax them at all - these corporations which show revenues, profits and dividends - and put the whole tax on property and the people of the State outside of these corporations, that it would be unjust and arouse an opposition among the people to the system itself. And I want further to say that this ad valorem principle of taxation which the gentleman seemed to advocate so eloquently here ought not to stop at the taxation of some kinds of property and except others. I stated distinctly, and it was not denied, that the revenues of a railroad company are property, the dividends of a bank are property, the profits of a manufacturing company, just as much as any other property; and if you are going to tax other property on this ad valorem principle, why not tax this on the same principle? That was my argument, sir.
MR. VAN WINKLE. I wish to say a few words for fear what I said yesterday has been forgotten (Laughter). I do not believe there is any intention on the part of the committee to deceive us. I have an apprehension that they are deceiving themselves.
MR. BATTELLE. Will the gentleman please repeat the allusion.
MR. VAN WINKLE. I am afraid they are deceiving themselves, sir. I wish simply to state the grounds of opposition to this matter. In the first place, I oppose it because I do not think we can afford to take one cent of the State ordinary revenue and appropriate to special purposes. We shall want every dollar we can raise, and perhaps more than we can raise, in order to meet the ordinary expenses of government and interest on such debt as shall be assigned to us. There can be no question about that. In the second place, there is provision in this for raising money specially for school purposes, if the legislature shall deem it proper; and there is abundant power vested and left in the legislature to appropriate any portion of the revenue after it is collected to the aid of the school fund. I want gentlemen to discriminate between these two things. One is only maintenance of the schools; the other the accumulation of a school fund. Although these seem to be had in view by this report both proper and desirable, I think they are continually blended here. Then, sir, there is considerable objection in the consideration that we have not the money to spare; if money is to be raised in part from taxation to be appropriated to the schools, we shall only have to turn round and raise the tax that much on all other property. If we levy 50 cents on the $100 on all the property in the State, we could meet our engagements and then we take the corporation property, which might be supposed to be one-fifth of the whole; all we have to do is to raise the tax on property to 62 1/2 cents. Now, all this inevitably follows. Now, in reference to this ad valorem taxation. What we propose is to lay taxes on property and nothing else and to make it equal on all property. It is the only fair way; the only way by which taxation can be equalized throughout the community. In the third place, we propose - and that so far as I am concerned most decidedly - to take away from the legislature the power of discrimin- ating between different objects of taxation. It has been the great source of corrupt and unfair legislation. All sorts of interests and schemes go to the legislature for legislation to authorize things done or taxes laid for their particular interests. The legislature, believing, or pretending to believe, it will promote the public welfare, grants the legislation. It is a constant struggle of contending interests to do by authority of the legislature things that ought not to be done. Let this tax be a lawful one, and then the legislature have nothing to do in their best wisdom but to apply it. Why, it would seem from the statements of the gentleman from Logan, and corroborated by the gentleman from Kanawha, that all the great interests in the southern part of the state are held by corporations and must necessarily be so. It is the same way in reference to these great business enterprises as it is with opening up the country with roads. Our country is so rugged that neither the labor of our citizens nor the property or wealth of our own citizens is equal to opening up the country as it should be, that is, if applied as individuals or by tax. For these purposes these companies are created, by which the united wealth of the world is enabled to do that which individuals never could do. And so it is in regard to the development of the riches which are lying beneath our soil. Perhaps no private fortune is equal to entering on such an enterprise. No individual is able to risk what is necessary to be risked in the infancy of these businesses. Whenever one of these corporations does go to work risking its capital, what is the result? It is an immediate improvement in the value of all the property around it; it is giving employment to the people; developing from the earth wealth that would be valueless while it remained there. That is brought out as an export and returns in many of the things we want and keeps the balance of trade in our favor instead of against us. Our country has been prosperous for many years, but we have been in such a necessity for improvement, constantly going on, which if we lack money becomes instantly dead instead of active, that without outside capital we never could do the business we are doing. But, sir, not to dilate on these things, which, however, I think are entirely pertinent to the issue, and when an amendment of this kind is offered it necessarily does bring up the whole subject; when a thing is to be amended we want to know as well the condition of the thing on which it is to act as what the amendment is. I think, therefore, sir, that if members will reflect they will see that the amendment proposed in every shape it has assumed so far, is improper. And I will add here again that they are proposing to do by implication - for fear it will be thought I am saying anything personal, I will say the written proposition, does it not - I do not accuse the gentleman who made it of any such intention - they are proposing to do indirectly what has been pronounced unconstitutional - what certainly be pronounced improper; what certainly anybody familiar with the subject will pronounce to be unfair: that is, proposing not only to tax property in common with all other property but to tax the revenues derived from that property. How would you gentlemen farmers like it? Suppose we put a tax not only on your land but then make you give in a return showing how much you made off of it. That is precisely what you are proposing to do with these corporations - not only make them pay their fair share of taxes on property, the value of which they have enhanced as well as that of the property around it, but then a tax on the revenues derived from that property. I think the mere statement of the case shows the unfairness of it; and when we put in the Constitution a provision that the amount derived from the taxation of corporate revenues are to go to the school fund, the legislature would be justified in inferring from it that they have the right to tax revenues when the property yielding it is also taxed. If we are to have a state that is to be prosperous and successful, we should remember that a great many elements will enter into it. This of a system of schools is only one of them. Another is a fair system of taxation; a tax that is not higher than circumstances compel it to be. Another would be the settling of our land titles. Another is what we have already accomplished in making citizens equal throughout the commonwealth and giving them to a great extent the right to handle and arrange their own affairs. All these are elements in this prosperity we are looking for; but to aggrandize one at the expense of another is rather to defeat the whole than to favor it. If this school fund cannot be raised in one or two years, or at the end of twenty years, without doing an injustice, without injuring another of those elements of prosperity, why, it had better wait. The accretion of this school fund will necessarily, under almost all circumstances, be slow but it will be sure. At the end of a period more or less remote we shall be in the enjoyment of all the advantages an ample school fund can confer. In the meantime - and that question is to come up here, what steps we shall take to insure the immediate establishment of schools throughout the State, is to be considered. My understanding of the matter is that the proper way to proceed in this case would be to leave it to the people of each township, until there is a fund that can be afforded from the State in some way, to raise what money for the purpose each township shall please. Where there is a desire for education, the amount unquestionably will be liberal, and vice versa. But each small district of this kind will be able to suit itself. If the people of one township raise good school funds, it will be seen by others; and in every township which sees its neighbors are making fair provisions for schools, there will be interest and emulation which will stimulate like action on their part.
I am not in favor of forcing anything. Forced growth is always unhealthy growth. You cannot get ahead of nature in anything you can do. You may leave these things to the operation of the convenience of the people. It will not do to force these schools by laying a premature tax, to force people to raise money for schools when they are not disposed to do it. Unless your measures proceed with the conviction of their own minds, you are certainly doing them an injury instead of a benefit; raising in their minds a prejudice against the whole thing which will postpone the results you desire.
Now, sir, my opinion is that if our circumstances should be more successful than at present; if the revenues of the State shall be greater in proportion to the call upon them than we have reason to expect, there may be no hesitation at the present time in imposing a tax or turning the elements of revenue that can be spared into this school fund. Because I think we will all, when we find we are maintaining the schools necessarily in our townships by a tax assessed on property, at which of course we cannot grumble, for we do it ourselves - why, sir, we will all, the whole people, will call as with one voice on the legislature to take measures to increase this school fund more rapidly if this is the case. Now it is only the increase of this fund that is to be distributed and it is not to be expected every year. Whenever it yields an interest that is worth while, one that will afford even a small sum to each township, then, and not till then, will it be distributed. Let us see then that we enact proper provisions to produce the slow but sure accumulation of this school fund, and then perhaps in time we may be among the states that rejoice in the benefits of established and permanent school systems. I know in the State where I used to live, the school fund was an accumulation, and not a dollar of it - increase or anything else - was spent for many years. It was usually fixed so that it should not be spent till the capital of the fund amounted to so much; and I remember the time when the fund having reached the amount, the first distribution of it was made. There had been schools maintained always from the foundation in that section of the State, a habit my ancestors brought with them from Holland, which had been a free country before they left there. The township system was in existence, and I was at the first township meeting when it was proposed to raise money for schools. I remember the day when the State would give one-half of what any township would raise or distribute - what it had to distribute - in that proportion. I was a mere boy and attended the township meeting out of curiosity, simply fo witness what the big folks were doing. I remember well the first proposition was to raise $400 for schools. The second proposition was $600; the third $1000. They voted just by dividing and counting. The people were all assembled out of doors with a presiding officer; and these three sums having been named, the question was put: shall it be $1000. Those who were in favor were requested to go to the right; those opposed to the left. A very large majority stepped to the right. I state this partly to show how these things have been done elsewhere and to show the feeling of the people was in favor of the matter when it was brought to them, as they will undoubtedly be with us when they come to understand it; and to show how in that state they did not distribute the state fund before it amounted to something worth while. But I make these remarks principally to bring to the notice of members that there must be a distinction and discrimination between the school fund which is to accumulate and the annual expenditure for the support of schools. But great as these objects are they ought not to be attained at the expense of objects equally desirable. I apprehend, when gentlemen talk about attracting others to this State, there may be other causes besides the want of schools that have hindered them; and I reckon among them our system of taxation, or want of townships; and, more than anything else, I would not hesitate if I was in the habit of such things, to wager something handsome on it, that the greatest hindrance we have had to inducing good citizens to come among us is the unsettled state of our land titles. So that we may by establishing our taxation on fair principles, as soon as we have seen its operation everybody will be satisfied with it. Now, I want as well to give the school system a fair trial as to give this system of taxation a fair trial. But this proposition now made is inconsistent with giving to the system of taxation proposed a fair trial; because it does propose to allow the legislature to discriminate between different species of property in reference to taxation against every principle on which the committee on taxation have made their report.
Now, I wish to disclaim again, and I apprehend that every gentleman who has spoken on this side of the question disclaims as truly as I do, any want of friendship for the school system. For myself, I have been devoted to it and anxious for it to be established everywhere, for years and years past; and I have always had great difficulty until now in devising in my own mind any scheme that would satisfy this country with its low values in property and sparseness of population. I believe now that that evil, although it must be continued to exist is greatly removed by the township system, and it was one object I had in view, for I believe in nearly every township the people will be willing by their own act to tax themselves for schools. Now, it is not desirable, if gentlemen view this matter as I do, to do evil that good may come; to do injustice to one great interest in order that another great interest may be benefited. I am very certain that if gentlemen hold the views I do, I should not apprehend any danger of this provision being retained in here. But I am aware - 1 am always willing to allow my opponents that much - that they view the thing in a different light and are just as honest in their opinions as I am.
I have said more than I intended when I rose, out of my great solicitude to keep everything even and do no injustice anywhere, in my anxiety to maintain one great principle, or one great system that is as beneficial to our people as any other; that whenever two of these come in contact we must decide between them on the principles of right and justice. However desirable it may then seem to accumulate this school fund more rapidly - for it is only a question of time in reference to that - we will do an injury in another quarter, and hence I think we ought not to insist on this particular provision.
The question was taken on Mr. Battelle's amendment and it was adopted by ayes, 20; noes, 14.
The question recurring on Mr. Brown's motion to strike out the clause as now amended, it was rejected by the following vote:
YEAS - Messrs. Brown of Preston, Brown of Kanawha, Brooks, Chapman, Carskadon, Dolly, Hall of Marion, Hubbs, Lamb, Montague, McCutchen, O'Brien, Robinson, Ruffner, Sinsel, Stephenson of Clay, Soper, Taylor, Van Winkle - 19.
NAYS - Messrs. Brumfield, Battelle, Caldwell, Dille, Hansley, Haymond, Harrison, Hagar, Hoback, Irvine, Lauck, Mahon, Parsons, Powell, Parker, Pomeroy, Simmons, Stevenson of Wood, Stewart of Wirt, Stuart of Doddridge, Sheets, Trainer, Walker, Warder, Wilson - 25.
The Secretary reported the next clause:
"And all moneys that may be paid as an equivalent for exemption from military duty."
MR. STUART of Doddridge. I move to amend by inserting after the word "duty" in the 13th line the words "and all fines and forfeitures."
MR. BATTELLE. The gentleman will observe, by turning to the 27th line of the report, that the committee have provided for that in another place and in another way. (Reads)
"2. The legislature shall provide by all suitable means for the establishment, within three years from the adoption of this Constitution, of a thorough and efficient system of free schools. They shall annually appropriate for the support of such schools the increase from the invested school funds; the clear proceeds of all forfeitures, recoveries, confiscations, and fines accruing to the State, etc."
They shall only appropriate for the support of such schools the increase. The difference between the proposition of the gentleman and that of the committee is just this. He proposes to take these fines and forfeitures and put them in the capital of the school fund. We propose to use them as part of the annual appropriation by the legislature, just as they are now used, by the laws of Virginia. Our school fund is made up to a considerable extent by these very fines, as I understand it, that is to say, the fines that accrue from year to year and go to the fund for educational purposes; not the increase of those fines, not the interest on them as the gentleman proposes, but the fines themselves. The committee had this very question under discussion and it was proposed at one time to give them just the direction intimated by the gentleman from Doddridge; but it was thought, on further reflection, judicious to give them the direction proposed here in the report; for the reason that our people have been accustomed to that use of them and for the further reason that, as the gentleman from Wood on my left (Mr. Stevenson) this morning very properly said, the great difficulty of providing the ways and means, especially the great necessity of having those ways and means in starting the system - it was thought injudicious to divert that revenue coming from fines from the direction it has been accustomed all along to take and lock it up in a capital where the interest of it only could go from year to year to the people. I hope the Convention will not change the arrangement. If the gentleman from Doddridge desires it, and if he will allow me the suggestion, to insert at the close of this section a clause that after the lapse of a certain number of years the money coming from fines shall be by the legislature applied to the capital of the school fund, after we have gotten under way a little - I do not know that the committee would have any serious objection to it.
MR. HAGAR. I spoke of that and thought that would be best.
MR. BATTELLE. Yes; but for the present I beg leave to suggest to the Convention whether it is not wisest and best to leave the provision as it is. It is about the only revenue we shall have aside from direct taxation. As I said yesterday, we have aimed not to disturb the habits of people any more than was indispensable in our judgment for the perfection of this system; and if we take that away from the annual appropriation and put it into the capital of the fund, we will leave ourselves very lean and poor, with nothing except what comes from direct taxation. I hope the Convention will let it stand as it is.
MR. BROWN of Preston. I would inquire of the gentleman from Doddridge how he expects to maintain a military system within the State. It is known perhaps to all the members of this Convention that the military fine fund has never yet sustained the expenses of the militia that is now established by law within the limits of this State, and it is only taking out of one pocket and putting into another. It is only taking away from the military fund - a fund that has hitherto been used to support it - and diverting it to another; by taking out of the treasury so much money hitherto used for the military system, you will have to make other provision for that, if we are to have a military.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. The gentleman will observe that my amendment does not at all interfere with the disposition of the military fund. It is all there. My amendment simply proposes to divert the fines and forfeitures which have always gone to the literary fund heretofore. The moneys paid for military exemption have not heretofore gone in that direction; but the funds referred to in the amendment I propose here have always heretofore gone in that way. The gentleman may not object to the amendment. The only difficulty is that it seems to come in where the committee do not desire it.
Now, I do not make this motion to amend because I am not as great a friend and as warm an advocate of a free school system as any man can be, but it is simply as to the policy or mode by which it will be carried out. I think, sir, the great object of the gentleman is to get a sufficient fund. At present it will be like a drop in the bucket. These fines and forfeitures are irregular, uncertain; and even if you appropriate them yearly, you don't know whether you have one dollar or a thousand. It may not be anything; it may be a considerable amount. Let it go to the general fund, and when it gets there, then the revenues arising from that will be definite and certain, regular and uniform, and we will know what we are likely to get and can make calculations on it.
I think, sir, it should come in here. Our object should be an accumulation of a sufficient school fund as fast as possible, that the interest growing out of that fund may be sufficient to keep up a free school system within our State. We look to that object. That is the reason I have offered this amendment, and I think it should come in where I have proposed. The military matter is a question that does not come up on my amendment.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. The motion of the gentleman from Doddridge seems to me to defeat the end we have in view in having a school fund. Or in other words, that it is to keep the present generation from having any benefits from that fund and give it all to their great grandchildren. Now under the law of Virginia the people benefit every year from these fines and forfeitures arising from offences all over the commonwealth, which go to the state educational fund and are appropriated to the schools annually. If you put that all into a fund and use only the interest on the investment of it, the fund will accumulate rapidly and in a few years it may grow into a very large fund and the interest arising from the investment of it would go back to the people in some such form as would render it sufficient to distribute. But the interest derived from it for a number of years would be so small that distributing it into such small proportions would be like dividing a cent. I would use this annual fund at once and not deprive the people of what they have been heretofore enjoying, in order to give it to our grandchildren. It is a stab in the dark, in my mind, to the school system. Now, I don't know the amount of this school fund, but the fines and forfeitures that result every year in the State must be a considerable sum. If you wait until you accumulate a fund, the interest of which will be equal to your annual needs, you will wait a good while. I imagine, however, that at present, as the chairman of the committee has remarked, one very important consideration - and I confess the same idea occurred to me in looking over this report that one very important consideration is that in entering on a common school system to have something to start with. It is a great advantage if you can appropriate a fund the people have been accustomed to receive to the same purpose to aid and assist this school system. They had that, and to deprive them of it is to at once make the whole subject odious to them, because they will look upon it as rather a deprivation. But, again, the funds that will ordinarily arise for a few years to come from fines, forfeitures and confiscation and the like will be very considerable; some much larger hereafter than heretofore. It cannot be questioned that from the present state of facts that there must be more convictions, and a great many more fines - and from the nature of the offences heavier fines, confiscations, a thing that was almost unheard of heretofore - but there must be an immense amount of confiscations that must take place under operation of the laws recently and will continue to. Besides all this property would go directly into this fund, to be distributed annually and will, to no small degree supply the immediate funds for present wants. Now to place all that into the permanent fund and call upon the people to wait three or four years until the interest is sufficient to distribute, is to destroy your system, for you will have to supply this deficiency by direct taxation. I think therefore the committee has very wisely and properly placed this annual fund where they have and left the permanent fund to be made up of a different character of means.
There is one thing the gentleman has called my attention to. I do not see that it does any harm or good; but the moneys that may be paid as an equivalent for exemption from military duty are to go into the permanent fund. I don't understand what that exemption means. I supposed at first view that it meant that if a man was drafted and did not choose to go and furnished a substitute that the amount he paid the substitute would go to this fund; but then, at the first thought, what he paid is paid to the substitute.
MR. BATTELLE. There is a wrong punctuation; there ought to be a semi-colon (;) there after "duty." The clause following has reference to the series of provisions preceding separated by semicolons. The effect is that all of these are set apart as a separate fund.
In reference to the inquiry of the gentleman from Kanawha, I will state in regard to this provision that the committee found in several constitutions reference to military fines in the ordinary sense of that word. That there are in every community - and in some states I think laws are made for the accommodations of such persons - those who are willing beforehand to pay as an exemption from the performance of military duty, some of them perhaps on conscientious grounds, some of the very best people - not very many of them in this State or any other. I don't know that a majority of our legislature will ever pass such a provision but it is possible they may. This does authorize them to do it. But if a law of that kind should be passed, this merely provides the direction the fund should take. It is not the understanding, however, that that includes military fines in the ordinary sense of that word. As the gentleman has very pertinently said, it may not do much good, but, as the committee think, it will do no harm.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. The gentleman from Kanawha has the faculty of presenting things he does not like in the worst possible aspect. He seems to think the amendment I proposed would benefit our great grandchildren perhaps but the present generation not at all. Why, sir, if the fines that may accrue next year are put into your school fund, the amount will double itself in 16 years and that increase can then be applied to the education of the children of your State. That is only half a generation away. And doesn't the same principle apply to our other amount that is raised? Will not the argument be just as strong to say that should be applied annually as well as the fines? I suppose the increase there too will be only for the benefit of our great grandchildren.
MR. BATTELLE. I was just going to remark, however, but the gentleman from Kanawha has so well stated it - better than I could that it is perhaps not necessary to recall attention to it. The committee had this purpose in the position of this provision, that it being a regular source of revenue it should be put with the regular annual appropriation; and we put these other things - everything - to go to the capital because they are irregular. We don't want irregular supplies to the schools from year to year; for a large supply this year and almost none the next would be doing more injury than good; and because these funds are to a great extent a regular supply, as well as for the other reason they have all along been so directed, and for the additional reason that in the beginning the people will need this as almost the only resource except direct taxation in starting the system. For these reasons the committee put it where it is.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. I have no further remarks to make. I might simply ask the question: if these are regular state supplies, I would like some gentleman to state what the amount is.
MR. BATTELLE. We made one inquiry at the auditor's office in reference to that point, and the reply was that he did not know and could not guess; that the sole information on that subject was locked up at Richmond and inaccessible; that perhaps it might be in the private library of some legal gentleman in the shape of auditors' reports or something of that sort; but I have not been able to get at it.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. It strikes me it is a very indefinite amount. The legislature would not know how much to appropriate; could find no basis to calculate on. It is indefinite and uncertain.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. I happened to turn to the code last night. It was - 60 and gives the last distribution. I noticed there the law requires the officers to distribute $80,000 a year, and unless it is limited that would be the distribution. It is inside of $80,000 annually. I don't know how much of it is of one thing or another.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. I understand the State of Virginia had a school fund of over two millions of dollars, and the interest on that is, I believe, some $60,000 or $70,000 annually.
MR. BATTELLE. We have provided elsewhere for our share of that.
The question was taken on the amendment and it was rejected.
MR. LAMB. I would offer the following amendment, to come in after "duty" in the 13th line.
"And such sums as may from time to time be appropriated by the legislature for the purpose."
I suppose it is necessary to have some clause of that kind in this part of the report.
MR. SOPER. I offer the following as a further addition:
"one-twentieth of one per cent on the taxable property of this State and such other moneys as may be provided by law."
MR. LAMB. I would suggest to the gentleman from Tyler to let the vote be taken on the amendment I have offered.
MR. SOPER. This is sequentional, for one-twentieth of one per cent.
MR. LAMB. I would accomplish my object by asking a division of the gentleman's amendment and dividing mine.
MR. BATTELLE. That is the amendment is it?
MR. LAMB. "And such other moneys as may be provided by law."
I withdraw the motion asking a division upon it.
MR. BATTELLE. All I wish to say to the Convention is this, that they should distinctly understand what is the effect of this vote. I presume they do perhaps. The committee have made no provision for increasing this capital fund by taxation. The amendment offered first by the gentleman from Ohio and that offered by the gentleman from Tyler contemplate increasing the capital of the school fund by taxation. The committee had provided for annual taxation for the support of schools both of person and property; and they also provide for the several townships, cities and towns taxing themselves for local school purposes; but they do not provide that the legislature may impose taxes for the capital fund. My object in making these remarks is that we may all distinctly understand the bearing of this. I confess I cannot very well claim to know what is best in the case. I am fearful, however, that we are complicating this business of taxation - the very thing the committee have endeavored to avoid. The committee sought to make this scheme as simple as possible. I do not undertake to say they have done this, but that was the endeavor. We confined taxation simply to the annual support of schools, except in one exceptional instance, in reference to revenues of corporations; but general taxation we confined to the annual support of schools. Now, I would like to know the effect upon the scheme of providing here for taxation - two separate taxations: one for the capital, the other for the annual supplies.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. In looking over this report of the committee, I see that in the 30th line it is provided: "and such an additional sum derived from taxation on property as shall, with the sums raised for school purposes, etc." Now, then, if you add to the school fund by a direct tax on the people and also tax them annually for state distribution of another fund, and then in the township as provided, it will make three distinct school taxes. This would be killing the school system. You cannot make it more odious than by charging three distinct taxes for school funds. You had better make it all in one. The people will stand double the amount in one tax than if you deal it out in three. While rendering it odious, it adds too little to the school fund in my humble opinion; it results in another account to be kept by your auditor; there will be another expenditure, and this increase in needless detail is only increasing the expense. I have heard the auditor complain of the annoyance and difficulties that grow out of our present system - the second auditor, who keeps the school fund. Now, if you tax people annually and if it is right, we are obliged to meet that, to levy an annual tax on the people to provide in part the revenues for this school fund; then do not render it odious by adding another little tax at the same time to add to the big fund. The annual fund is what we are seeking. You do not want to require that entirely by taxation; and all these other sources of revenue are irregular and can so be placed in any fund and put at interest and the interest distributed annually. I am satisfied it is impolitic. I think it will cost the system a great deal more than it will ever pay to the system when you try it.
MR. SOPER. It appears desirable, sir, to obtain a permanent school fund and have that fund constantly increasing. From the items from which that fund is to be derived there appears to be an uncertainty about the annual amount of its accumulation. Now, the object I have in view is to present the question directly to the people by way of direct taxation for the annual accumulation to this fund. I mentioned one-twentieth of one per cent. It is a small sum, it is true, sir, it will be $5 on every $1000 of the valuation of the property throughout this State; and when that amount is collected annually, the sum will not be so very small, but it must be continued until there is an alteration of the Constitution. This amount will be constantly accumulating. Now, the gentleman objects to it because we are presenting other taxations for school purposes. I want, sir, to have but two taxations presented for school purposes. I want one to go into the general fund to be put in that every year. I want another taxation to be voted and carried by the people of the townships, and the amount of that taxation to be regulated very much by the amount of money that will be distributed from the general fund. Then, sir, your system is very simple and easily understood. We all agree that this general fund ought to increase somewhat rapidly; but as I before remarked with the sources thus far designated it will accumulate very slowly. I have suggested a very small sum which the legislature can increase if they see fit.
MR. LAMB. The proposition I have made seems to have been entirely misunderstood. I proposed to insert after the word "duty"; "and such sums as may from time to time be appropriated by the legislature for the purpose." That proposition does not provide for the levying of an additional tax for the purpose of increasing the school fund; but if inserted it would authorize the legislature whenever the case occurred that they had funds they could spare it would authorize them to apply those funds to the increase of the capital of the school fund if they should deem it proper to do so. That, it struck me, was an authority which ought to be vested in the legislature. Occasionally, accidentally, receipts will accrue in the course of state finances. I am not referring to the large amount which was received by the State of Virginia from the distribution of the public revenue, but that may render my idea in regard to the matter. That money was appropriated at the time to the capital of the banks. In cases of this kind, and such will be occasionally recurring, in the history of the State, or the State may by some accident become possessed of some unappropriated property or money, I think you might leave it to the discretion of the legislature to judge under the circumstances of the time, if they can do so with propriety, to apply that to the capital fund. This was all that was contemplated by the amendment as proposed by me. The amendment of the gentleman from Tyler goes further and probably would be liable to the objections referred to by the gentleman from Kanawha.
MR. SOPER. One word. I think the sum I propose is a very small sum. I am confident the people throughout the State will not object to it. If we leave this thing entirely to the legislature; and if we are to be met with enormous sums for taxation mentioned by gentlemen who spoke yesterday, why, sir, whenever the legislature becomes satisfied that those enormous sums are to be met by taxation throughout this State, they will lose sight of this school fund. I think the accumulation of this school fund so important that I want to start with a small sum to commence with but which when it is paid into the treasury you will find will make considerable of an increase every year. I think the friends of this system will see the necessity, from the legislature losing sight of the school fund that we make this provision as a precaution against such contingencies.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. Not that I am going to vote against the amendment offered by the gentleman from Tyler, but I want to show the operation of it. One-twentieth of one per cent is 50 cents on the $1000. Now, where property is assessed to the amount of two millions, the taxes collected at this rate would be $1000, from that county. Although it may look small, let me tell you it is a very large item. I suppose many counties would pay some $2000 every year into the school fund at that rate.
MR. BATTELLE. I just wish to say that since the explanation of the gentleman from Ohio, my colleague, and having examined the amendment offered by him, I am inclined to approve of it. It is simply permissive to the legislature; it does not provide for having any separate tax; it only provides for the contingent case which he has suggested and which I need not repeat; and it avoids especially that point suggested by myself and fully explained by the gentleman from Kanawha. It avoids that point of imposing a separate tax. I hope the Convention will adopt the amendment of the gentleman from Ohio, and I think that will be sufficient.
The vote was taken on Mr. Soper's amendment and it was rejected.
Mr. Lamb's amendment was then adopted, and also the clause as amended.
The next clause was reported by the Secretary:
"Shall be set apart as a separate fund, to be called the school fund, and invested under such regulations as may be prescribed by law, in the interest bearing securities of the United States or of this State, and the annual increase thereof shall be sacredly devoted and applied to the support of free schools throughout the State, and to no other purpose whatever. But any portion of said increase remaining unexpended at the close of a fiscal year shall be added to and remain a part of the capital of the school fund."
MR. SOPER. If I understand it, only the increase is to be distributed annually. The capital ought to accumulate until the dividend would amount to something. It may be very small if it is to be distributed the first year.
MR. BATTELLE. The first year perhaps ia the very time they want it worst, whatever it is. As already stated, the schools will be starting then, the people will need all the help they can get. I don't think any very great good is to be achieved by passing it. We had better go to work at once and advance to maturity as far as possible.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. I want to understand: the annual increase thereof shall be sacredly devoted and applied to the support of free schools. I don't know whether we understand this word increase right. That is the "annual increase" that it will apply.
MR. BATTELLE. What the committee meant is interest.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. I would rather you would use that word.
MR. BATTELLE. I believe I prefer that word myself.
THE PRESIDENT. I would suggest "proceeds."
MR. VAN WINKLE. "Interest" expresses it best.
MR. LAMB. If gentlemen will refer to the construction of the preceding sentence, they will see it refers to stocks and securities. It is annual interest on securities.
MR. BATTELLE. Very well; let it be "interest."
MR. SOPER. Strike out the words: "sacredly devoted." I don't think they make it any stronger - has no force.
MR. BATTELLE. I am not tenacious, sir. I confess some little attachment to that word "sacred." I did want to keep that idea before the legislature all the time. But let it come out.
MR. VAN WINKLE. I wish to offer an amendment: to insert in the 17th line, after "thereof" the words "and the annual interest thereof, after the fund amounts to one hundred thousand dollars." After it amounts to one hundred thousand dollars the interest will probably be about $6000. It will give about $2000 to a county, and that in the large counties of ten townships would be but $160 to a township. We had better let it accumulate without interruption till it amounts to a hundred thousand dollars; then the first distribution made might be perhaps $180 to $200 to the township. And it will continue to a greater amount afterwards.
MR. BATTELLE. I hope that amendment will not obtain. I have a very great respect for posterity. I yield to no gentleman in regard for them. But I have great respect for my own times and my own people; and, as already stated, the present time is precisely the time when the people will need help from this fund, and though it may be little it will be something. That little will be a nucleus around which future fruits are to be gathered. It would be a very fine thing, I know, to let this go on and accumulate -
MR. VAN WINKLE. I stated the capital fund would be $150 to $200, I meant to say the interest would be from twelve dollars to twenty. I doubt if it is worth dividing before it gets to that.
MR. BATTELLE. I have not stopped to calculate. No man here can calculate, with the data now before us, as to the amount of distributable avails, the first, or second or third year. But it will be something and that something will be a benefit to the people and serve to call out something from the people themselves, even a greater amount than they receive from the legislature. It will be an encouragement to them and it will be one of the most potent instruments for the organization of this scheme. If we want to take away the present interest of the people in this thing, it seems to me precisely the way to do it to provide that it shall be looked for five, ten or twenty years to come.
MR. VAN WINKLE. Permit me to finish the calculation. I only want to say that there should be, averaging the inhabitants at dozen each, there would be 300 townships; and on the first distribution it would be $20 to the township; and I simply asked whether it is worth while to distribute it before there is $20 to the township.
I move to insert, after "thereof" in the 17th line: "after it amounts to $100,000."
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. Then with a view of getting the English of the sentence as well as expressing my idea, instead of that of the gentleman from Wood, in regard to distribution of the fund, I move an amendment to the amendment to strike out "annual increase" and insert "interests" in the place of "increase" and "annually" in place of "sacredly devoted and." I want to express the idea that the interest shall be annually applied, and not that the annual increase shall be applied. That increase would not be annual and it might be applied once in twenty years.
MR. BATTELLE. We precisely agree in that respect and make specific provision in another place that it shall be annually applied by the legislature.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. The amendment makes the sentence read good English: the interest thereof shall be annually applied to the support of free schools - expresses the simple idea I have in view.
Then, in reply to the remark of the gentleman from Wood: you can make that amendment afterwards as a subsequent amendment. It only confuses the vote on it. I am opposed to the amendment of the gentleman from Wood, and I want to get it in shape that I can vote for it. The very idea that he includes in his amendment is what I dislike. We are entering on a free school system for the support of which we are providing revenues which shall operate at the same time. Take the calculation of the gentleman from Wood. Suppose the fund shall be able to pay only $20 to a township: is there any difficulty in applying that $20? Why every sheriff has his accounts to render at the capital and he knows precisely the amount of the school fund that is to go to his county and township, and he has to pay at the treasury of the capital so much money from his county. He just takes in that fund and receives credit for it at the capital. It is all transacted, without any change to make. No inconvenience about it. He can divide the figures as easy at $20 as at $20,000. That will go to the township in addition to its own fund to aid in carrying on the schools. If you hold this up, deprive them of that for 20 years, why they are just deprived of that much more. You hold out a benefit in the distance but it would seem far remote.
MR. BATTELLE. I prefer the phrase as it stands. It seems to me there is a difference between "the annual interest thereof shall be applied" and "the interest shall be annually applied." The difference may be a slight one; but it specifically reads that it is the interest that is to be applied. It is the annual interest arising from the school fund; and we elsewhere provide that that shall be applied annually.
But I wish to make the remark in reference to the proposition of the gentleman from Wood; the effect of it is to hold this whole school system in abeyance, bearing out precisely what the gentleman has advocated all through this report, that this school system is to be held in abeyance, put out of the way, until there was a large accumulation of interest; and that will be precisely the effect. It postpones all action on this subject for ten, twenty or thirty years. Other interests I know ought not to be overlooked; but as I remarked yesterday I hold the best interests of the State will be promoted by keeping this interest where it can be used as fast as it accrues. There is no more potent or all pervading instrumentality in the State for its growth and prosperity than a system of education for the children of the State and no instrumentality of which there is greater immediate need. The crying wrong and evil of our past was the neglect of this instrumentality. It is the first, the foremost and most urgent want that addresses itself to the founders of this new commonwealth. What we need is the speediest possible and most energetic action; not postponement and discouragement. Whatever resources are possible, we need them as soon as they can be reached. As I have said before, the dividends from this fund at first will be small, but it will be something; and something is always better than nothing. They will be the beginning around which greater and more successful efforts may cluster.
MR. HERVEY. Perhaps it would be well enough to say a word on the proposed amendment of the gentleman from Wood. If the fund to be distributed should be $20,000 only, it would be some $4 or $5 to a township by the calculation of the gentleman from Wood. Forty-four counties, 264 townships; there will be about $14 to each township. The gentleman from Ohio has thought that we would propose to be putting back the fund of the State for some future purpose. That cannot be done, sir. This money is to be held for that specific purpose; not a dollar lost. The question is when the proper time should arrive to distribute this fund - commence distributing it. It seems to me to commence distributing it before there is a fund at all would certainly be premature.
MR. PARKER. I am unable to see what application the amendment of the gentleman from Wood can have at this time. I take it to be a settled fact that the literary fund of the state now amounts to $2,500,000. It is also conceded that our fair proportion coming to the new State must amount to near a half million. I understand by the clause we have already adopted that that just proportion goes into that fund. That I understand to be the effect of what we have already done; so that from that fund alone, the literary fund, which is now fixed, the school fund of the new State is to have at least a half million and on the books of the new State the school fund will be entitled to a credit for that amount. Of course, that will give an annual interest of $30,000 which, of course, the State is to pay. If she has not the money in the treasury, she will raise the money by taxation. So that we have a fund which will yield an annual interest of $30,000, principal a half million, fixed, if anything is fixed. This doesn't leave any doubt what the intention of the Convention was in relation to these stocks where it says moneys received from the mother state by this State for educational purposes, which struck me as a little vague when we passed it. But it seems to me it will throw about that, and the question vdll be where this half amillion of the literary fund is to go. Really, whether it is the intention of the Convention, taking the whole together with this amendment, if adopted, whether it was the intention of the Convention to place that just proportion of the literary fund to our school fund or not, it seems to me certain it would raise a doubt. Therefore, I cannot see any - not the least - application that that can have at the present time; and it might raise that doubt on the construction of this clause, in relation to where our just share of the literary fund is to be applied.
Mr. Brown's amendment was reported by the Secretary:
Strike out "annual increase" and insert "interest"; strike out "sacredly devoted and" and insert "annually."
MR. VAN WINKLE. I will withdraw my amendment till the vote can be taken on this.
The vote was taken on Mr. Brown's amendment, and it was adopted.
MR. VAN WINKLE. I now offer my amendment again.
The Secretary reported it:
To insert after the word "thereof" in the 17th line, the words: "after it amounts to $100,000."
The vote was taken, and the amendment rejected; and the clause as amended was adopted.
The Secretary reported the closing sentence of the section:
"But any portion of said increase remaining unexpended at the close of a fiscal year shall be added to and remain a part of the capital of the school fund."
MR. VAN WINKLE. I move to strike that out, sir.
MR. BATTELLE. With consent of the Convention, I would like to make the same change there as before - substitute "interest" for "increase."
There being no objection, the substitution was made; and the vote was taken on Mr. Van Winkle's motion, and it was rejected.
MR. BATTELLE. Before we pass on that section, I wish to offer an amendment to come in the place of the clause stricken out yesterday, in the 5th line ending with the 7th, between "specified" and "any." We have not yet taken the vote on the section, and before doing so I propose to insert in the place indicated the following:
"The revenues accruing from any stock not pledged to the sinking fund hereafter acquired by this State in any bank or corporation and the proceeds of the sale of such stock if the same be sold."
THE PRESIDENT. The Chair is under the impression that the vote was taken and that clause adopted.
SEVERAL MEMBERS. The clause was stricken out.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. It seems to me that subject cannot be raised again, as I understand we have passed over this section now and have adopted or rejected everything in it. Now, the question simply recurs on the adoption or rejection of the section as amended.
MR. BATTELLE. I will modify the amendment by taking out the words "or other corporations."
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. The question I raise is whether we can take it up again.
MR. BATTELLE. It is an entirely different provision from the one we had before us.
THE PRESIDENT. Would not the purpose of the gentleman be effected without going back of this portion of the report?
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. If I understand, sir, we can do nothing but adopt or reject this section as it is after having gone through and taken it by part.
THE PRESIDENT. The Chair understands that that portion of the report to which this amendment is now proposed has been either absolutely stricken out or adopted.
MR. HALL of Marion. The proposition in the precise form proposed to be added we acted on and rejected. It was a specific proposition to strike out the "other corporations," and the other was to strike out the whole matter proposed to be inserted.
MR. BATTELLE. If the gentleman please, he is most certainly mistaken. This proposition was not before the Convention. If the Clerk will read the record he will see it does differ. The gentleman from Marion will perceive a wide distinction between the two propositions; but the difficulty is the return back to a portion of the work which we passed upon.
MR. BATTELLE. Will the Chair indulge me a moment on that question of order.
MR. HALL of Marion. It may be my stupidity, sir, but the proposition - they read precisely, on my paper - that part of it was acted upon and rejected.
MR. VAN WINKLE. One refers to existing stock, and one to stock hereafter to be acquired; that is the difference.
MR. HALL of Marion. My understanding is the thing was before us in both forms.
MR. BATTELLE. One is for existing stock under the new State and is that hereafter to be acquired; but the proposition now before the Convention now also excepts the stock that may be pledged to the sinking fund, as was carried yesterday.
In reference to the question of order, sir, if the Chair please, it seems to me what is proposed now is only what we have been doing all along. We pass through a section, sentence by sentence until we get to the close, but before taking the final vote on the section, we have offered other amendments, unless my memory is wrong, to perfect the section before finally disposing of it. It is only reasonable, to effect the object of the Convention, that at any stage before a section has been finally acted on it should be open to amendment, whether this is asked by a committee, the chairman of the committee or by any member.
THE PRESIDENT. The impression of the Chair is that when we have voted on a clause and sentence, we have not passed back to amend. However, the Chair may be mistaken in that.
MR. HERVEY. I desire to call attention to the fact that every report made by a standing committee shall in its turn be considered open to amendment section by section. Now if this section had been voted on, it would be clear that it would not be open to amendment; but there having been no vote on the section as a section -
THE PRESIDENT. The Chair however, would remind the gentleman that we voted to pass on the section by clauses, and that any lack of passing the section entire would not make any difference.
MR. VAN WINKLE. If the President will pardon me one moment. I am opposed to this amendment, but I think the gentleman has a right to offer it. When we have got through a case, additions to a section have been made. It is better to reserve it, of course. It is of no consequence where this comes in. It could be offered as an addition to the section and the Committee on Revision would put it in its proper place. If it was an entirely new proposition the gentleman would certainly have the right to offer it. But I hope we are not going to stand out whether it gets in the middle or at the end. I think the true objection to this is that it was included in the one voted out. The clause applied to all bank stock, and this is a part of it.
THE PRESIDENT. I think the proposition is right itself. It does vary from the original one. In reference to the action here, the adopting by clauses is really a violation of the rule established in the matter of considering reports by section.
MR. VAN WINKLE. I did not mean to raise a point of order but merely threw out the suggestions that while the original clause included the bank stock this wants to let in a particular kind, such as is not pledged. I don't think it is exactly right to force this on us in a different shape. But I simply state that the proposition should be voted on although I am opposed to it.
MR. STEVENSON of Wood. I think the reason many gentlemen voted to strike out that clause was not because it applied that principle to the stock which the State should hereafter acquire but because it applied to stock the state now holds; but they would have voted for this principle if it had applied only to stock which might be acquired hereafter. I think a majority of the Convention are in favor of that principle applied in that way.
MR. LAMB. It strikes me the proposition is a very distinct one from the one which was voted against by the Convention yesterday. At least to my mind it is so. I voted against the proposition of yesterday because it included stocks which I regarded as simply pledged to the sinking fund. This proposition is not liable to that objection. I have no doubt other members of the Convention voted against that proposition on this same ground that I did; that if a proposition had been made not liable to that objection, the vote might have been entirely different. It is proper at least that the chairman of the committee should have the opportunity of trying the proposition in a form which is likely not to meet the objection, as I considered it, to the proposition rejected yesterday.
MR. VAN WINKLE. As there is not the slightest probability that this State will ever have a dollar of bank stock, we may let it go; but I do not like to have a provision in the Constitution that would be forever inoperative.
The hour having arrived, the Convention took a recess.
The Convention reassembled.
THE PRESIDENT. The Chair would remark to the gentleman from Ohio that on consideration of that subject it is the opinion of the Chair that his motion would not be in order. He would feel very much disposed to permit the motion; but it will be recollected that on passing over the report the second time he will have the same opportunity to throw in the amendment. That consideration connected with the fact that if we passed by our rule and allowed ourselves to pass back over the same propositions, we might lose much time where the matter can be effected on the second reading. The Chair would have to rule against the gentleman at present.
MR. BATTELLE. I cheerfully acquiesce, sir, in the decision of the Chair. I believe the next thing is to vote on the whole section.
The section as amended was then adopted.
The second section was reported by the Secretary:
"2. The legislature shall provide, by all suitable means, for the establishment, within three years from the adoption of this Constitution, of a thorough and efficient system of free schools. They shall annually appropriate for the support of such schools the increase from the invested school fund; the clear proceeds of all forfeitures, recoveries, confiscations and fines accruing to this State under the laws thereof; not less than one- half of the amount derived from the State capitation tax, and such an additional sum derived from taxation on property as shall, with the sums raised for school purposes in the several townships, cities and towns, by the proper authorities thereof, be sufficient to provide primary instruction in free schools, during at least three months in each year, to the children, between the ages of six and twenty-one years, of all the citizens of this State."
MR. SOPER. In the first sentence, I move to strike out the words "by all suitable means." They are not necessary, only lengthen our Constitution so much.
MR. BATTELLE. I much prefer the retention of those words, sir. We give there a grant of power to the legislature to provide for the establishment of this system of common schools. The intention is that if the legislature find that this or the other instrumentality is necessary that there shall not be any quibble about the constitutionality of it if it is properly and on the merits a means to the end of establishing common schools I do not think the words are merely superfluous. Well, in this Constitution, we cannot, of course, pretend to mark out all the details, though we have specified some features of the common school system; and the intention of these words is that the men of the legislature may be clear as to their power so long as they keep within the scope of that end, namely, the establishment throughout the State of a system of free schools for the children of the State.
MR. SOPER. If the amendment prevails, it will then read: "The legislature shall provide for the establishment, etc." If you leave the words in "by all suitable means" - I suppose them to be unnecessary - but suppose if you retain them the legislature should undertake to lay a tax and when they come to enforce it an issue should be taken on their action by saying they had not adopted "suitable means" I think a difficulty might arise by captious objections from that source. But if we omit this, it is clear and direct giving the whole power to the legislature to do as they please in relation to the matter. I think it would be better to strike the words out.
The vote was taken and Mr. Soper's motion rejected, and the clause adopted.
The second sentence was reported.
MR. BATTELLE. If there is no objection, as I suppose there will be none, to keeping up the form of phrase, the word "increase" will be replaced by "interest."
With this modification, the first clause of the second sentence was adopted, and the next clause reported:
"The clear proceeds of all forfeitures, recoveries, confiscations and fines accruing to this State under the laws thereof."
MR. SOPER. Mr. President, a portion of the forfeitures have been applied to the general fund. There ought to be some qualifying term here, sir. "The forfeitures not otherwise appropriated in this article" would be proper I suppose, sir. I propose that as an amendment.
The amendment was adopted.
MR. HALL of Marion. I suggest in the 26th line that the word "net" in lieu of "clear" would be better.
MR. BATTELLE. I have no objections, sir. I copied that provision from several existing constitutions exactly as it is here. It occurs in many of them "the clear proceeds," but I have no objection.
MR. LAMB. I would inquire of the chairman of the committee what is the precise effect of "recoveries"? If the word was left out would not the sentence express more clearly what is intended than if it is retained?
MR. BATTELLE. No, sir; it was intended in reference to forfeitures of recognizance, appearance, and so on. The authorities whom I consulted on that subject did not seem to be precisely clear as to which was the proper word, and the committee were of opinion that both words would certainly cover the case.
MR. LAMB. It strikes me it is introducing an uncertainty into the construction of the clause and may perhaps make it mean what the committee mean what they did not mean.
MR. BATTELLE. If that be so, if the word "forfeitures" be applied in this State or has been heretofore applied, to cover all such cases, there is no necessity for the word "recoveries."
MR. LAMB. It certainly covers the forfeiture of recognizance. It is the proper word in that case.
THE PRESIDENT. Does the gentleman propose that as an amendment?
MR. LAMB. I merely suggest it to the committee. It strikes me the sentence would be better without it than with it; more clear perhaps.
MR. BATTELLE. I have no objection to its being stricken out.
MR. LAMB. That can be done by general consent.
There being no objection the word "recoveries" was stricken out, and the clause adopted.
The next clause was reported: "Not less than one-half of the amount derived from the State capitation tax."
The clause was adopted without discussion, and the next reported:
"and such an additional sum derived from taxation on property as shall, with the sums raised for school purposes in the several townships, cities and towns, by the proper authorities thereof, be sufficient to provide primary instruction in free schools, during at least three months in each year, to the children, between the ages of six and twenty-one years, of all the citizens of this State."
MR. SOPER. I don't comprehend the meaning, sir, of this portion of the section I will inquire, is it intended that the taxation shall only make up any deficiency in other quarters so as to enable the school to be held three months in each year in a district. Whether the committee understand it to mean that taxation shall only be resorted to make up deficiency from any other sources of revenue?
MR. BATTELLE. Yes, sir, that is about it. They mean that the legislature shall resort to taxation on property enough to raise a sufficient amount to provide that there shall be a school in each district at least three months in each year, and as much more as they see proper to do. The requirement contained in the clause, as the committee understand it is that they shall provide by taxation means sufficient to furnish a school at least three months and as much more as they please; but not less than that.
MR. SOPER. It says a tax on the townships.
MR. BATTELLE. A tax by the legislature on the whole people. "The legislature shall provide." They shall first appropriate the proceeds if the interest on the school fund; they shall next appropriate the net proceeds of all forfeitures, confiscations and fines; next, not less than one-half the amount derived from the State capitation tax; and last "such an additional sum as shall, with the foregoing and the township taxes, be sufficient to keep school three months at least. The sources of revenue are enumerated here.
MR. SOPER. It will admit of that construction, sir, I believe. I move to strike out "twenty-one" and insert "sixteen," in the 35th line.
MR. HAGAR. I propose to amend by saying "eighteen."
MR. SOPER. This common school education, sir, is intended mostly for small children. When a person gets to be sixteen years of age, they are capable usually of earning their living; and I believe it has been customary for young men of this age to work during the summer season and go to school in the winter, or go to night school if they are entirely without education. I think we had better confine this whole school system to children between six and sixteen years of age.
MR. BATTELLE. In this phrase, the committee follow exactly the language of the code of Virginia, in reference to specifying the beneficiaries of the school fund, fixing it at six to twenty-one years; and I think it is wisely fixed in reference to the present wants of our community. We have all through our country a great many young persons, men and women, over 16 years of age whose parents will desire to have them benefited by this school fund. There may be some in some localities who during this earlier age have not had opportunities of going to school who will now have opportunities of education after the commencement of these schools. It would cut out all such. If a child happened to be over 16, a youth, he might need and desire the benefits of education and a common school right in the neighborhood and the parents contributors to this school fund; yet the amendment of the gentleman from Tyler would cut off that child. I very much prefer it should stand as it is. It is what our people have been accustomed to, and I think especially in our circumstances there is wisdom in the provision.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. If we provide a school at the public charge, I am at a loss to see the propriety of excluding anybody from it simply because he or she is over 16. If the school is to be on the same expense what difference whether a few more or a few less get in and enjoy its benefits? Especially when those you propose to exclude help pay the tax to support it? It does seem to me this is a school for the children of the State, and as long as they are children, in need of its advantages, they should enjoy its benefits. My own opinion is that the education between 16 and 21 in the common school will be worth five times that amount to children of earlier ages. A person attending after that age studies in earnest and will accomplish as much in three months as a child of 10 or 12 in a whole year. Why, a young man of 18 or 20 in two years would accomplish a very considerable education. The propriety in my mind is in favor of retaining the section as it is.
MR. HAGAR. My amendment was offered because I was afraid, at first glance the amendment might be sustained. But as the chairman and the gentleman from Kanawha have said it would cut out a great many persons, young men, young women or girls who ought to have opportunity of education in their last days under their parents.
MR. PARKER. I am decidedly for the report as it stands and concur entirely with the remarks of the gentleman from Kanawha. I think the report should be allowed to stand as it is in that respect.
Mr. Hagar's amendment to the amendment was withdrawn, and Mr. Sopor's motion rejected.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. There is no limitation on the tax to be assessed on the property of the State, which is a sum additional to all the other sums here enumerated and may be greater or less as those other sums are greater or less. This provides for taxation by the township. There is one amount assessed on the people, and then a taxation by the legislature for another assessment. I think there ought to be some limitation here beyond which the legislature should not go, and I think in doing that there should be some limitation I cannot perceive here. Suppose a township fails to raise any money by tax. It has a prescribed amount to raise and fails to do it. The other funds having prescribed amounts you already devolve on the legislature the duty of raising the additional amount made necessary by this township default. I do not think, however, the school fund ought ever to bear to the revenues of the State a certain proportion. Whenever it becomes greater than that it will create a burthen, opposition and resistance and finally break down the system. I think we should have some limitation. Suppose we should say "shall not exceed fifteen per cent on the State revenue."
MR. BATTELLE. If the gentleman would turn to the 4th section, he will find in the last sentence of that this provision:
"Any township, city or town failing to raise such annual tax, or any school district failing to maintain a free school therein during at least three months in each year shall receive no part of the school appropriation from the State for the year during which such failure occurs."
That removes one difficulty suggested by the gentleman. In reference to the proposed limitation, I can see no necessity for it. As has been remarked in this Convention all along, and very properly, the legislature are not very likely to oppress the people with burdens of taxation - that is to say, the people are not very likely to oppress themselves. The legislature come fresh from the people year by year, and I would be willing to guarantee, though professing to be no prophet, there never will be any danger of oppressive taxation of this subject by the legislature. The apprehensions, I think, should be, reasonable, all the other way. And besides, sir, I see no reason for any extraordinary taxation on this subject any more than anything else. There may be some grave reason to apprehend that the legislature may inflict burdensome taxations in reference to some local purpose, some public building, for internal improvements (in which works, by the way, the debt of this State has accrued - not by special appropriation). These must always be local, more or less, in benefits. Gentlemen will bear it in mind constantly that this taxation is not for purposes of raising a fund that is to be ubiquitous, that is to go to every valley and come home to your house and almost directly come home to every individual. It is one in which the whole people have more direct interest than any other, and I think the legislature are to be trusted on this question as well as every other question, and that they will not be apt to overstep the bounds of propriety. My fear is that they will much more come under the mark than go over it. But I put the gentleman's own argument in reference to other questions, that we may safely trust the discretion of the legislature on this question, and having put in the power and the requirement in reference to these matters, we may in security leave it to their wisdom.
MR. HERVEY. I move to make the percent named in the amendment of the gentleman from Kanawha twenty-five in lieu of fifteen.
The vote on this motion was taken and it was rejected; as was also the motion of Mr. Brown proposing a limitation of ten per cent.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. I rise simply to make the inquiry whether any one has made any calculations as to what these schools are going to cost. My county has a population of over five thousand - sparsely settled; and this provides for education during three months of each year of all children between 6 and 21 years of age. I am inclined to think that at least one-half of that population is between those ages. Well, sir, if that be the case suppose our county is laid off into four townships. Just put it at a dozen each township. That would be 500 children between those ages. Take 30, which is the greatest you can possibly get together in my county; that would require 16 teachers. Those teachers would be worth I presume $50 a quarter. You could not employ competent men to teach for less than that. That would make for the four townships in my county not less than $3200. And it really does require that because you fix it here so: "sufficient to provide primary instruction in free schools during at least three months in each year." You make it obligatory. I want to know whether the gentlemen have made the calculations and can tell me what it is likely to cost. That would pretty much consume the revenue from my county. I am a great friend of education; but I want to be able to tell my people when I go home what is to be the result, and for this reason I make these inquiries. I am willing to pass this resolution and vote for it, but I want to know how much it is going to cost and where the money is to come from. You would assess in my county $1066 for township and the State would have to give $2132. Well, sir, this is going into it pretty strong; and I want to be prepared to enlighten my people.
MR. POMEROY. How many schools does the gentleman estimate in his county?
MR. STUART of Doddridge. I estimate in my county there will have to be at least 64 schools, I don't believe you can get any location where you can get more than 20 children together within any reasonable distance.
MR. BATTELLE. The gentleman knows a great deal more about his county, of course, Mr. President, than I do; but I know something about it, too. He very much over-estimates the number of schools that will be requisite to accommodate his population, and the number of children too. The number of children the gentleman estimates is very much over-estimated I should think. But I might answer the question, however, in a very general way, and what would perhaps be sufficient. It will cost much less than it costs now. That answer ought to be sufficient for the whole. There will be a cheapening of the whole work of education. The people educate their children now - at least try to. They desire to do it at least on the independent system. Where schools exist now, it is on the subscription plan; and the expense of keeping up the school and paying the teacher, so far as there are any schools now, are more, I take it, than they will be under the new system. Gentlemen must bear in mind as we go along that we are not proposing to lay an expense on the people for the first time in their lives. It is the very thing they have been doing all their lives only in a very irregular and insufficient way; and by this very opening not only are the benefits widely diffused but the whole thing is so systematized that the burdens heretofore onerous and oppressive, will become comparatively light.
But in reference to one or two details suggested by my friend from Doddridge, I may be permitted to suggest that suppose the district prefers to have their three months only, required by this regulation, in the summer, or possibly where the means of carrying on a school are not so ample - possibly in the beginning they may - you might say three months, summer time; for that time a female teacher will ordinarily be employed. Now, gentlemen know very well what they have been in the habit of paying female teachers for teaching a small school. It amounts to a mere trifle and when we come to look at expenses in this practical sort of way, there is nothing very enormous or frightful in it. I am not prepared to go into statistics in reference to the detail suggested by the gentleman but the point is this, that the free school system proposes in effect to cheapen education and improve it; to relieve us of burdens which we have heretofore been accustomed to bear.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. The gentleman should recollect that when he goes to tax people in their townships that every man will insist at least that he shall have a school sufficiently convenient to him to accommodate his children; otherwise you will have a difficulty there. No man will want to be taxed for a school entirely out of his reach. If you go into this general system, you must accommodate everybody; get it within reach of every man. Take the area of Doddridge, some 450 square miles. Now, how far would you have these children go to school? You must consider that the school system you are now proposing cannot be carried on under our free school system; cannot at all; because men will send their children and vote (?) them out. But if he pays for it, he wants the same accommodations with you and me, and it must be in reach of his family, otherwise it would be very unjust to tax him. You see this changes the matter very much. I think if you will take the number of schools I have indicated, you will find in my county you would be bound to have about that number. You cannot get it any short of that. I have taken one district and put it at a thousand when in fact it is 1250; and I have put the children at 500. I may be mistaken about it but it does strike me that I should recollect about this considerable. We have got to build school houses to accommodate these neighbors, every one of them, because if you tax a man, he must have the same accommodations as every other man has got, otherwise it will operate very unfairly. Now, we are not situated as many of these states that have adopted this system, where their country is all smooth and cultivated and thickly settled. That is not the case here. In many places the families are miles apart.
MR. BATTELLE. There is just one word I want to say and that is this; I beg the gentleman from Doddridge and all the rest here to get out of their minds the idea that all the mountains in the world are in West Virginia. That is not so. They have mountains elsewhere; and they have some mountains of the biggest and the highest where this school system has been and is in flourishing operation. I have seen as high hills over here in Ohio as I ever saw in Virginia. The system has been adapted to hill country elsewhere and I see no reason why it cannot be adapted to the hill country here. It is very clear, however, that complaining will never succeed in bringing it to every man's door.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. It ought to bring it within three miles.
MR. BATTELLE. We cannot provide that it shall build one on every man's farm. This system has been in operation in several of the counties. It has been in Kanawha; it is in Ohio; and I undertake to say that out of sight of the Kanawha river, the county of Kanawha is as rough and as hilly as perhaps almost any of the counties in West Virginia, save and except the immediate mountain range.
MR. DERING. I am a very warm friend of this system of free schools. I desire to see one put into operation in West Virginia as speedily as we can do it under the circumstances; but, sir, the calculations of the gentleman from Doddridge and my own thought upon the subject lead me to the conclusion after having heard what I have, thought as I have on the subject, that perhaps we are getting a little in advance of West Virginia in endeavoring to inaugurate speedily a free school system. Sir, I think the time ought to have been a little more distant when it should have been put into operation. When we take into consideration the sparseness of our population, the general condition of our country, that we are just starting as a State and that we will be burdened down with taxation, we may well pause and reflect before we adopt in the organic law of our new State a system which will be so full of trouble and mischief as it seems to me it will if we persist in putting these provisions as provided by this committee. The chairman of this committee has certainly taken a great deal of pains to clothe this pet of his with all the power and authority West Virginia possesses. He is disposed to tax everything to keep up the system, to put a tax on everything almost in western Virginia. I believe as much as the chairman of the committee or any members of it of the necessity of educating our children, of laying a basis of intelligence for the guidance and direction of our little State. While I believe it is all necessary for the perpetuity of our State, its well being and prosperity, I am not willing at this inauspicious period to put into operation a system that will bear down heavily on her people in taxation to the exclusion of almost everything else. Why, sir, as I said, before the chairman of this committee, that committee, is going to pile taxation on taxation in order to provide ways and means to keep up this system of free schools to the alarm of the people; although I do not say as some gentlemen have, that if this provision is incorporated in this Constitution we are going home to go against the Constitution, because I am willing to go for almost any kind of a constitution. But I fear that many of the people of Monongalia will vote against it if you incorporate these provisions. It seems to me it would be better to let the legislature provide for this system. Let them be guided and governed by the people in this matter. Let us not make it a fixed and organic law of the State as to all the ways and means that shall be inaugurated here for the purpose of carrying it out; but let the people think about it; let the legislative body be instructed by their constituents to see what they can bear; let the people mature this whole scheme in their own minds and at the proper time it can be inaugurated and we will finally have a free school system. I believe it would be wise to strike out this whole section; and just say in a few words that the legislature shall provide by law, making it mandatory, the ways and means for a general free school system in western Virginia at no very distant day. It seems to me that would avoid all the difficulties we have had today and leave in the future, and the people will regulate the matter through their delegates in the general assembly, and we will finally have all that gentlemen aak for in this report.
MR. SOPER. I move to strike out the words "such additional sum derived from taxation on property as shall," in the 30th and 31st lines.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. I move to amend his motion by substituting "ten" for "fifteen."
MR. SOPER. Some other additional amendments. Then between the 31st and 32nd lines, I insert "school districts in the".
This is undoubtedly an untried system in this State. I apprehend gentlemen will find a great deal of difficulty in getting it properly established, and it is more than probable a great deal of litigation and other controversies will arise. It is necessary we should simplify it as much as possible. The amendment I have proposed will be to this effect; no appropriating of funds to be derived from the several items named in the section without a sufficient sum will be raised by taxation on the districts when divided according to the number of children or when it will be sufficient to maintain a school for three months in the district. That is the effect of the amendment I am proposing. Now that will be plain and perfectly understood. Here you give your district thirty dollars that they can do either by taxation or subscription if they raise the additional thirty dollars, and that sixty dollars if sufficient to pay a school three months. Then they have complied with everything that is required by law. That doesn't prevent the supervisors of the county on the request of the several districts paying a percentage yearly applicable for division among the several districts for school purposes.
Not to go into so much detail, I should very much prefer if we could in a few words set forth the object we wanted to attain and then leave it to the legislature. There is the difficulty I see in this whole report; it is too voluminous. I will prepare my amendment. I have stated its effect.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. I will be glad if before the gentleman sits down he will state his amendment precisely.
MR. SOPER. I propose to strike out after the word "tax" in the 29th line down to and including the word "ahall" in the 31st line.
MR. BATTELLE. Mr. President, it strikes me this takes away the one support, perhaps the most important support, of the whole system. It gives up the very principle which is of most value in this whole report. The gentleman leaves, as you will discover, "not less than one-half the capitation tax," which is a tax on persons, to be appropriated for the benefit of the school fund; but he strikes out the taxation on property and thereby very greatly defeats the whole design of the scheme. It seems to me it must have that inevitable effect. And I wish to make another remark here in answer to a suggestion of the gentleman. As I said in the beginning of the consideration of this report; if we were now making a constitution in a state that had a regular school system, a few very general provisions, very general and a few of them, would be necessary; but that is not the fact. We are seeking to inaugurate for the first time a free school system in the State here; and we may put in as many general provisions as you please and they will be treated in a general way and ten years hence we will end just where we began. That at least is my opinion, and the opinion of the committee on this subject.
The proposition to strike out, as I said, leaves, what it seems to me, the principle gentleman suggests ought to apply to striking out the capitation tax as well as the tax on property. But, as I was going on to remark before, I don't think that any gentleman can point out in this report as it now stands any restrictions or limitations that need necessarily embarrass the legislature in inaugurating this system. We purposely leave all the details to them. We do not even prescribe the dimensions of the district. That is particularly in the power of the legislature. They can make them large or small, as they and the people demand. We only do lay down the principle that when they receive money from the State for any particular locality, that locality or district must help itself; and we do also establish the other restriction that if any district or school is not kept at least three months in the year they shall not receive their distribution of part of the school fund.
MR. SOPER. How is the legislature to ascertain what that "additional sum" is to be?
MR. BATTELLE. The committee purposes leaving all these details to the legislature. That is one merit of the report. Of course, we cannot pretend, nor can the legislature just how many dollars or cents, to a mill the fund will require. We put in there the general indication of the principle and leave the legislature to work out the results. I cannot conceive how there can arise any controversy or embarrassment in reference to that. The very phrase, the very terms employed here, it seems to me, tend to relieve the question of embarrassment rather than create it. It is very true the legislature may not be able to come at exactly the amount any single town may raise the next year, but it will have to estimate the needs and will have at least some data in what was raised the year before. Legislative bodies often have to estimate the requirements of subjects for which appropriations are made, and they have the means of getting through the officers in immediate charge of any given department the information on which they can base intelligent estimates. But I insist upon it, we are not attempting to make a law for the legislature. We are simply putting in the Constitution the principles that they are to work out and conform to. And when the time comes and the occasion for doing it arrives, it is to be presumed, with these limitations and restrictions, the legislature will be abundantly competent to do it with the guides before them and all round them, to work out this problem. But if the gentleman's amendment prevails, I beg this Convention to observe that you will have nothing better than you have now as means of carrying on your school system. The present Constitution of Virginia provides that one-half the capitation tax shall go to the school fund, and so do we provide here; but the gentleman proposes to stop that -
MR. SOPER. Not at all; not at all. What I propose to get at is that the legislature shall provide by suitable means for the establishment within three years from the adoption of this Constitution for an efficient system of free schools; they shall only appropriate for any such schools the interest from the invested fund, the proceeds of forfeitures not otherwise appropriated, confiscations, and fines accruing to this State under the laws thereof.
MR. BATTELLE. They have all that now.
MR. SOPER. And then the balance required shall be raised in the several school districts. The legislature will direct that the money shall be distributed equitably among all the children within the State, and if it falls below $30 to a district the districts must raise the additional thirty dollars and that will maintain a school in the district three months.
MR. BATTELLE. Indulge me a moment. In other words the gentleman proposes to take just about the fund that we have now under the present laws of Virginia and then to couple with that the mandate to the people in all the districts and townships that they shall go to work and of themselves and for themselves get up a school. The difference between his plan and that of the report is just this: the report proposes the ways and means shall be provided by which the legislature shall extend an amount worth while to these people as an inducement to help themselves and each other; to receive on the condition that they do help themselves. The gentleman proposes simply to give out to them this pittance - for it will be nothing but a pittance; issue to them in the Constitution here a mandate to provide and keep going their schools themselves. In other words it is a constitutional requirement to the people in the various counties, the best way they can to establish common schools and support them the best way they can. It seems to me that is the result of the gentleman's suggestion; for the available means he leaves here for appropriation by the legislature are nothing but what has been appropriated all along - almost nothing more. I do hope the Convention will not adopt that.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. The gentleman from Tyler proposes to strike out "and such additional sum derived from taxation on property". I propose to amend that by inserting after property: "not to exceed ten per cent of the State revenue," and I wish to say a word or two on that subject. We are making a new system. It is not very well understood by any of us I think. We are striving in the dark for facts and figures to enable us to act discreetly; and I presume it can hardly be found in the compass of the United States a deliberative body acting on an organic law on so important a topic, to which they are strangers, with as little information as this body possesses. Now what ought we to have to act wisely? We ought to have schedules of the property of the State; the assessment of the State; ought to have the number of children and know the number of the square miles of the State, to know how you are going to raise the money off that property to carry on and conduct these schools. If I understand the gentleman from Ohio this report proposes a constitutional requirement on the legislature to do a certain thing, however well nigh impossible it may be to do it; that it is a positive and explicit requirement upon the legislature to raise such an additional sum derived from taxation on property as shall, with the sums raised from other sources for school purposes as necessary to establish and maintain schools. Well, now, we may all desire to do a great many things but the question is, have we the ability to do it? If we have not how near can we come to it? I have no experience to enable me to judge the operation of this thing all over the State. I have a little nucleus around home on which to predicate some notions respecting its operations elsewhere; and I can say very candidly that the gentleman from Tyier has stated but half the truth relative to the difficulties that will be found when you undertake practically to put this system in operation. The difficulties of every system are very great and of this peculiarly so. But then all these difficulties may be to some extent overcome, or what cannot be overcome may be borne in order to obtain a greater good. The question is here whether this constitutional requirement on the legislature to come up to the mark and levy on the people taxes sufficient and necessary to answer the demand here stated should be put in the Constitution. The State of Virginia with all the literary fund has some two millions dollars, and the annual distribution for the whole State of Virginia is $80,000.
MR. PARKER. I have conversed with Colonel Smith since dinner, and he says that in 1833 the interest of the literary fund was $72,000. He says it is now about double that sum.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. We, the code just appropriates the sum of $80,000. I looked at it last night. There may be some other provision, but if so I do not know where it is. But in the code of '60 there is the constitution of '52, and it has got up to $80,000. Take it at 15 per cent of the State revenue, you will have some $75,000 added to the sum raised from other sources. I imagine when you come to put this $75,000 on those people, they would bear this if you don't go into the townships and tax them 25 per cent. But what I am prescribing is this: if you require the legislature to levy a tax and also require them to make requisition on the townships to come up and make up the deficiencies, you will kill the goose that lays the egg.
I believe the very utmost the people will endure is a State tax in addition to this school fund; and this, mark you, is an addition of one-half to the old tax. I say therefore to the friends of this measure I believe it is the part of wisdom to go with me and vote of that mandate not exceeding ten per cent as the ultimatum that the legislature can be allowed to raise in addition to all the other funds that are to be raised in the country.
MR. BATTELLE. I would call the gentleman's attention to what I suggested before, that I think he has failed to show any reason why there should be a constitutional limit on the discretion of the legislature to determine the amount of this taxation. They will be better judges of what is required, of what is necessary for the schools and best for the people, than we are. The gentleman has failed to show that the judgment of the legislature is not as good in reference to the care of the common schools as any other of the objects entrusted to them. Of one thing we may all be assured, that the legislature will never lay a tax for a dollar which they are not driven to by their convictions of its absolute necessity. But they will be the best judges of what is best to the end we seek. We only propose to leave a discretion to the wisdom of the legislature, who are the representatives of the people. The same argument that they ought to be limited will apply with equal force to every other subject of taxation in the State.
The gentleman it seems has failed to observe another provision here in reference to this local taxation: "each township, city, or town shall be required by law to raise annually, by tax on persons and property for the support of free schools therein a sum not less than one-half" of the amount received from the legislature. Now, if the gentleman sees there is danger liable to grow out of the requirement of the legislature to appropriate the funds of the people to these townships; if we see there is about to be a disproportion between them, the proper course, it seems to me, at least, would be for them to propose to change this lowest limit in reference to taxation in the townships. But the legislature may provide for all that there is here to the contrary that the townships raise an equal amount with that they receive from the legislature. The provision is here that they be required to lay a tax "not less than one-half" that received from the legislature. The legislature will have it in its power to provide that this shall be equal instead of one-half the amount received; that they shall raise, in other words, an amount equal to what they receive from the legislature. It seems to me to accomplish the gentleman's object, that would be the way to get at it. But without pretending to say whether ten per cent on the revenues of the State is too much or too little I am opposed to the principle of fixing that limitation in reference to this particular fund. That is the point. I am willing to leave this to the discretion of the legislature and to the wisdom of the people themselves, whose wishes the legislature will be prompt to respond to. I do not share the gloomy apprehensions of some gentlemen that the people of West Virginia will not be willing to pay taxes for schools. I believe once they enter on the new career opening to them, they will be not only willing but eager to bear all the burdens that will be necessary to open to their children the new world of enlightenment which the public schools will bring to them. As I said once before, I see much more danger that the legislature is apt to make exorbitant appropriations in reference to merely local objects than in reference to this which is a general one. But we want to leave them free to respond to the wishes of the people if it should prove that the Jeremiahs of this Convention have been mistaken about the feeling of the people themselves.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. I wish to call attention to the fact that some of the heaviest inequality will fall on counties not represented here. Greenbrier pays more revenue than any county in this State and has a population of perhaps a third less than several. Preston has a population of twelve to thirteen thousand and pays a revenue of fifteen thousand dollars, while Greenbrier with a population of ten thousand pays a revenue of thirty thousand dollars, net revenue. You make a distribution between them and you see whether the inequalities will operate, that the more you increase the fund by State tax the more you throw this inequality over the people. Now I do not see that the revenues for the school system should be so raised as to make the distribution of the tax burden so unequal between counties of different classes.
MR. STEVENSON of Wood. I have listened very attentively to what has been said in favor of this amendment; but confess I am not able to see, although I admit the difficulties, how the adoption of this amendment will obviate these difficulties. If you leave the matter of taxation on property without any limit and leave that to the good sense of the people and the wisdom of the legislature, they will equalize it even better than this ten per cent limitation. I think I see there an argument against the amendment. As a matter of course, we have not the data here on which to make nice calculations, and this is another reason why I am opposed to saying the legislature shall not assess a tax beyond a certain per cent, because we do not know but to carry out the object of this Convention it may be necessary to go above that though it may not be necessary to go up to it. I do think it probable that in the course of a few years a much less amount will answer the purpose.
In regard to this inequality of taxation, since I heard the argument of the gentleman from Kanawha I have become a convert to his doctrine of ad valorem taxation. I have come to think now that is right (Laughter). And I think we should apply it in this case. If a man pays three dollars in the city of Wheeling on property which he has and another man in McDowell pays only one dollar on his property, I suppose that in the ad valorem principle, a tax on property according to value, and why shouldn't it be taxed on that democratic principle, to raise a school fund just as well as to raise funds for any other purpose? I only want to point out to my friends here that sometimes these principles do not apply exactly alike in different cases; not always just as we would like to have them. It does seem to me that is the ad valorem principle of taxation carried out precisely. Those parts of the country that are improved and have wealth, require more legislation; the State as a general thing has to do more for them; probably has done more for them, and they will expect it to do more; and therefore their property is worth a great deal more than parts that are unimproved. Now, why should not they pay more for it? That seems to be a correct principle although it may appear a hardship. Yet it is not, at all; because this is the principle on which you tax them for everything else that goes into the general treasury. I do not see that this amendment removes the difficulties suggested by the gentleman. I think it will not operate so justly as the present provision, because this leaves the matter almost entirely to the discretion of the legislature as they shall be instructed at the time by the people of the State. It may be it will be seen at some time that it will be for the general welfare; and you may rest assured the legislature will be a better expression of opinion at that time than any provision we can insert here, will be applicable to the condition of things that may exist then. I was going to say something about the calculations made by my friend from Doddridge; but I believe the matter is not before the Convention.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. This is not left a discretionary power with the legislature but we say that they shall do so and so; that they shall appropriate a sufficient amount derived from taxation on property to keep up the schools at least three months of the year, for all children between certain ages. My candid opinion is that if you say this it will take at least 50 per cent of the State revenue that is now assessed; and the legislature must do this if you require it.
MR. LAMB. I paid my tax bill the other day, and according to my recollection, if I have not forgotten the figures, I paid for school purposes 140 per cent of the State revenue. For every 40 cents of State revenue, I paid 56 cents for school purposes, in the city of Wheeling.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. I don't doubt that. But, now, are our people prepared for that thing, under the general pressure of things, to say that they will pay 50 per cent of their State revenue for the purpose of educating their children? I say now, if you adopt this as it is you give the legislature no discretionary power, but you say they shall do it. I am, with the gentleman from Kanawha, in favor of limiting the property tax to ten or fifteen per cent. I think that is as high as we ought to go. I am decidedly in favor of his amendment; and while gentlemen refuse to let the legislature fix all the details of this system, if they refuse that I am for limiting the taxation of the people in reference to it. The incorporation of this limit will commend this system to our people. The whole system is new to the people of West Virginia; and if you incorporate this provision letting the legislature go on and tax without any limit you will scare our people so that they will be opposed to the system and opposed to the whole Constitution I fear, many of them. By adopting this limitation, we harmonize the Convention on this principle, we say that our people shall not be taxed to exceed ten per cent on the State revenue; that this will commend this system to the people. I don't want this report to be rejected in toto by this Convention, and I cannot vote for its adoption without some limit on the power of the legislature in reference to taxation. I am for carrying the benefits of education to every cottage and every log cabin, every hill and dale in our land; for I believe no good government can long exist unless based on the intelligence of the people. Let us then commence carefully. We are in our infancy. A new state will soon be launched on the waters, as I trust, we have our state government to keep up. We will have a tax to pay to the general government; our public buildings to build, and we will have various expenses to incur that will deter our people from embracing anything that will give increased taxation. They would sooner put up with the old system with all its imperfections than take on themselves a system that would incur additional heavy taxation. Let us then adopt the principle of the gentleman from Kanawha. Let us crawl before we leap and run. I am decidedly in favor of the amendment. I am in favor of the amendment and withdraw the amendment I proposed and accept that of the gentleman from Kanawha.
MR. BATTELLE. It should be borne in mind that the school system in this State is a separate and distinct system. They keep a school going the year round, and as members of this Convention know who have seen any of their houses they are very costly. The amount of tax then, in comparison, to keep our system going, ought not to alarm gentlemen I hope by its economy.
With my present lights I shall regard the introduction of the amendment of the gentleman from Kanawha as equivalent to utterly crippling the whole scheme. It would be in my estimation comparatively valueless.
MR. POMEROY. I hope we will adjourn, Mr. President. It is about time for a vote. I move to adjourn.
The motion was agreed to and the Convention adjourned.
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Chapter Eleven: First Constitutional Convention of West Virginia