The Convention assembled and was opened with prayer by Rev. Mr. Musgrave, of Wetzel County.
Mr. Brown of Preston called up a resolution offered by him yesterday as follows:
"RESOLVED, That hereafter no member shall be permitted either to speak or vote while outside the bar of the hall."
MR. BROWN of Preston. I offer this resolution in all kindness and for the purpose of avoiding a difficulty that occurred in the Convention yesterday. There is no rule of the Convention designating what part of the hall a member shall occupy when speaking or voting. I am myself opposed to the resolution that I offer, but I do it simply for the purpose of avoiding difficulty that is likely to occur. It will be remembered that the President decided that a member of the Convention has not the right to speak beyond the limit of the bar; and my friend from Brooks County, was ordered within the bar yesterday to address the Convention. At that time we had our bristles up a little, a manifestation of unkind feeling in the Convention. When the feeling subsided and the sea was smooth again, my friend from Marshall, last evening, addressed the Convention from outside the bar; so that there is a different ruling, at least a different action on the part of this Convention on that subject according as the feeling in the Convention may be ruffled or smooth at the moment. I hope the resolution will be voted down and that members will be permitted to occupy any portion of this hall and both speak and vote where they sit.
The resolution was rejected.
MR. DERING. I hold in my hand a petition which I ask may be read and laid on the table.
It was a petition of citizens of Monongalia county praying that the Convention insert in the Constitution a provision prohibiting the legislature from appropriating money for the construction of internal improvements and limiting the per diem of members of the legislature after the first session to thirty days.
Mr. Taylor offered the following:
"RESOLVED, That hereafter this house take a recess from twelve o'clock A. M. to three o'clock P. M."
MR. STUART of Doddridge. I move to amend by saying:
"RESOLVED, That the house take a recess at six and meet again at seven."
That half hour is not much but it is very important at present with my arrangement in the senate. I do not suggest, sir, the meeting at seven because I am in favor of it but in order to accommodate members who desire to do so.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. I believe the hour of recess is half past twelve. I do not see that the proposition gains anything except to discommode one of our members and it would look like that was the only object it had. We gain nothing by it. I shall vote against it.
The resolution was rejected.
MR. DERING. I hold in my hand a petition which I ask may be read and laid on the table.
The petition was of the same character as the one previously presented.
MR. CALDWELL. Is the unfinished business of yesterday now in order?
THE PRESIDENT. I suppose the order of the day would be the first business.
MR. CALDWELL. I ask the privilege of submitting what I propose to offer, a substitute for my amendment.
Permission was given, and Mr. Caldwell, accordingly, offered the following which was laid on table and ordered printed:
"The recorder, in addition to the duties incident to the recording of deeds and other writings, the recording of inventories and other papers relating to estates, the registering of births, deaths, and marriages, and the issuing of marriage license, shall have authority, under such regulations as may be prescribed by law, to receive proof of wills, and admit them to probate, appoint and qualify personal representatives, guardians, committees, and curators, with the right of appeal, to any party aggrieved, to the circuit court of the county."
The Convention proceeded to the consideration of the order of the day, it being the report of the Committee on Taxation and Finance.
Following is the report submitted by the committee January 10,1862:
"The Committee on Taxation and Finance respectfully submit the following provisions for incorporation into the Constitution of West Virginia:
"1. Taxation shall be equal and uniform throughout the State, and all property, both real and personal, shall be taxed in proportion to its value, to be ascertained as directed by law. No one species of property from which a tax may be collected shall be taxed higher than any other species of property of equal value; but property for educational, literary, scientific, religious or charitable purposes, and public property, may by law, be exempt from taxation.
"2. A capitation tax, not less than fifty cents nor more than one dollar shall be levied upon each white male inhabitant who has attained the age of twenty-one years.
"3. The legislature shall provide for an annual tax, sufficient to defray the estimated expenses of the State for each year; and whenever the ordinary expenses of any year shall exceed the income, the legislature shall provide for levying a tax for the ensuing year, sufficient, with other sources of income, to pay the deficiency, as well as the estimated expenses of such year.
"4. No money shall be drawn from the treasury but in pursuance of appropriations made by law, and an accurate and detailed statement of the receipts and expenditures of the public money shall be published annually.
"5. No debt shall be contracted by this State except to meet casual deficits in the revenue - to redeem a previous liability of the State - to suppress insurrection, repel invasion or de- fend the State in time of war.
"6. The credit of the State shall not be granted to, or in aid of, any county, city, town, township, corporation or person whatever; nor shall the State ever assume or become responsible for the debts or liabilities of any county, city, town, township, corporation or person, unless incurred in time of war or insurrection for the benefit of the State.
"7. No county, township, city, town or other municipal corporation, by vote of its citizens or otherwise, shall become a stockholder in any joint-stock company, corporation or association whatever; or raise money for, or loan its credit to, or aid of, any such company, corporation or association.
"8. The legislature may at any time direct a sale of the stocks owned by the State in banks and other corporations; but the proceeds of such sale shall be applied to the liquidation of the public debt; and hereafter the State shall not become a stockholder in any bank or other association or corporation.
"9. An equitable portion of the public debt of the commonwealth of Virginia prior to January 1st, 1861, shall be assumed by this State; and the legislature shall ascertain the same as soon as may be practicable, and provide for the liquidation thereof, by a sinking fund sufficient to pay the accruing interest and redeem the principal within thirty-four years."
J. W. PAXTON, Chairman.
Mr. President, I do not design to occupy the time of the Convention at any length on this report, but merely to say a very few words on the different sections as they come up for its action; merely to suggest some considerations which influenced the committee to the conclusions they arrived at and which are embodied in the report, and leave to members of the Convention to elaborate for themselves. I may premise by saying that the two great features of this report, the two fundamental principles in it, are, first, that taxation shall be collected equally and uniformly from all the people of the State in proportion to their means; and, next, that these taxes when so collected shall be likewise expended for the equal benefit of all the people of the State and not for the benefit or advantage of a few or of any particular section or locality.
The first section of this report, it will be observed, adopts the ad valorem principle of taxation - that is, taxing all property without discrimination in proportion to its value. For it must be remembered, sir, that it is the value of any particular thing or object that is taxed not the thing or object itself. Value is, in reality the subject of taxation. This, I believe, sir, is now generally conceded to be the correct principle of taxation; and it is that which prevails, either by constitutional provision or by legislative practice in a large majority - indeed, I may say in almost all, of the states of this Union at the present time. Probably, sir, there is no feature of our present Constitution that has been so objectionable, and is still so objectionable, and I may even say odious - to the people of West Virginia as that feature which discriminates in taxation relieving one species of property from taxation, necessarily to increase the burden on all others. It is of this, sir, that the people of West Virginia have ever complained; and whilst the ordinance of secession may have been the occasion of this new State movement on the part of our people, I apprehend there can be little doubt in the mind of any one that the fundamental cause for this division and desire for a new state may be found in the injustice and oppression which our people have suffered from unequal taxation, from oppressive taxation and unequal representation.
It appears to me, sir, in framing a new constitution now for the people of West Virginia we should be particularly careful to guard against the liability in future of the perpetration of any such injustice on any portion of our own people.
Whilst it is the undoubted right of government to levy taxes for its legitimate support on the aggregate property of a state, Justice requires that each citizen's portion or share of that aggregate should be dependent on his share or proportion of that aggregate property; and to require less or more from one individual than from another on equal value is manifestly unjust and oppressive, and we have so esteemed it, most assuredly here in western Virginia and have ever complained of such a system.
The whole object of the committee in presenting this section of the report was simply to declare what they believed to be a sound general principle of taxation and avoid all details, leaving those details properly to the legislature and leaving the principle to be carried out justly and equitably by the legislature. The exemptions which are provided for in this section are such as appear to be sanctioned by almost universal usage and are conceded, I believe, everywhere to be right and proper.
I will merely add, sir, that I hope the section will commend itself to the judgment of the Convention and be approved by its votes.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. Mr. President, I move to amend this section by striking out after "personal" in the second line down to "but" in the 6th line, and insert after "personal" the words "according to its value," so that the section shall read: "taxation shall be equal and uniform throughout the State on all property according to its value."
It will be perceived by looking over that section the first proposition is that all taxation shall be equal and uniform. That is a fundamental principle I deem essential to incorporate in this Constitution, and that it should be according to the value of the property. The report in the latter clause of the section as it stands, to my mind, is simply repeating the same thing. To say that "taxation shall be equal and uniform throughout the State on all property according to its value" embraces the whole subject. Now, to say that "no one species of property from which a tax may be collected shall be taxed higher than any other species of property of equal value" is simply to reiterate the same thing. For one is asserting it positively; the other is asserting it negatively. I can see no advantage to be gained by it.
MR. PAXTON. Before that motion is put, sir, I simply desire to say that probably the first sentence covers the ground that is occupied by the second which the gentleman proposes to strike out; but at the same time, sir, it appears to me that this second sentence only renders the meaning of the whole section more full and clear. It makes it more specific; and it is put there in contradistinction to a section in our present constitution which expressly provides for discrimination and does exempt one species of property at the expense of all others. It certainly makes the section just that much more distinct. I hope it will not be stricken out. There is nothing new in the provision. It can be found in the constitutions of several of the states.
MR. VAN WINKLE. The amendment goes farther than the chairman of the committee has stated. The first line embraces the principle that taxes shall be equal and uniform. Then it begins to be mandatory; and that is the part proposed to be stricken out. If you do strike out what is now proposed to be stricken out, you leave it in the power of the legislature to apply the principle in the first line as they may think proper. I should like the gentleman who wants to strike out to show where is the great difference in mere language except in the arrangement of the words between his proposition and this. This goes on to say that all property, both real and personal, shall be taxed in proportion to its value. I think, sir, there is some point in that, and it is very different from the amendment proposed. He wants it to read that taxation shall be equal and uniform throughout the State on all property, both real and personal, I believe. But this other if I understand it, is mandatory and provides that all property shall be taxed; because if all property is not taxed - any species left out, why, then the other property has got to bear the whole burden.
MR. PAXTON. Was it proposed to strike out the word "all"?
MR. VAN WINKLE. Yes, sir; and insert "on". Now, sir, in reference to the taxation clause, here comes the rule; it is defining the principle and giving the legislature and all other persons to understand precisely what is meant here, and there can be no escape from it. The language of the whole section is concise, and it appears to me there-is no unnecessary repetition. Some that may not be very palateable, but nevertheless necessary. It says in so many words, that no one species of property from which a tax may be collected shall be taxed less than any other species of equal value. I trust the Convention will retain this clause precisely as it stands. First, that which makes it compulsory on the legislature to tax all property except those for which an exemption is provided; and, secondly, that which gives them the rule in applying this principle, that no one species of property shall be taxed higher than any other species. Now, sir, on this the whole matter of this report turns, in my opinion. If the Convention strike out what they are asked to strike out and insert in lieu of it what is proposed, then I think this principle of ad valorem taxation, so far as it means anything, is lost, killed and destroyed. Now, merely to say that when you tax a species of property you shall tax it so much on its value is saying very little. To say that it shall be equal and uniform is saying very little. We have got that in our present constitution, and taxes are as unequal as possible; and not only unequal in exempting certain species of property and estimating in the Constitution the value of another species of property, but in leaving the legislature perfectly at liberty to continue these things - things of that kind - to an unlimited extent. I do not think a worse system of taxation could have prevailed than that we have been subjected to the last eight or ten years; and if the public are tired of that, if they wish now to prevent inequalities of taxation; if they wish all property to be taxed alike, then they had better retain this section precisely as it stands. I think this is the turning point, the test question of all this matter, and it is now on this question proposed for this Convention to decide whether they do want taxes that are really alike or leave the whole matter at sea again and be treated as we have been under the present Constitution, by which an unjust proportion of taxes, as everybody knows, has been paid by this western section of the commonwealth - taxed, sir, to pay for slaves that are hung; taxed to pay rewards for runaway slaves; and then the slaves themselves not taxed in proportion to their value. That has been one feature. Licenses for every profession, every business, everything they could attach a license to, put on without any rule whatever, oppressively, arbitrarily; whether high or low, they were unjust. Now, this is what we want to put an end to. If the State is equal to raising the money for the management of its affairs, then lay it on all property equal and uniform, and everybody is served alike. It is no matter whether that property is in possession of a merchant for sale or anybody else, you reach the property and tax it and it eventually comes off of those who get the benefit of the property. That I understand to be involved in this proposition that it is property and nothing else that is to be taxed except where the capitation tax is provided for. And certainly that is the true rule. Our laws, our administration, one-half or nearly of the expense of government comes in giving protection to property. Now, property should pay for it. A portion of it no doubt goes in giving personal protection; but there an equivalent is given in mili- itery service, jury duty and many other things for which the citizen is constantly called on. But, in addition to this, it proposes a moderate capitation tax, which I am in favor of for many reasons. This whole report, sir, based on that first section, as far as relates to that meets my entire approbation, and I trust it will that of the Convention. I cannot imagine that any other system can be called "equal and uniform", and the Convention may depend that it is not a question of language here - not because these words may be simply superfluous - that they want them stricken out. It is because they want to get rid of the principle. And if it is a mere question of words, then I beg the Convention to let the words stand, and we shall know precisely what this section means. There can be no mistake about it if these words are left in.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. The gentlemen seems to be wiser above his day and generation in the assumption of the object of this amendment - that it is not to the language but to the principle. The gentleman tells us that this sentence embraces the substance of the former proposition; but then we must beg leave to differ with the gentleman in his declaration. I think he wholly failed to show that his statement was correct. The fundamental principle of equality in taxation is the fundamental principle asserted in this proposition as amended. Now I do not perceive where the gentleman finds himself authorized in saying that the object is to get rid of the principle, not the words.
MR. VAN WINKLE. I found it in the debate on the educational report in the sentiments the gentleman then expressed.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. I do not know what the gentleman found in that debate nor care. He has not seen anything of that in this. There is no eye so keen as to see what is not to be seen. I will endeavor to show to this Convention that the first proposition does embrace everything that is substantially contained in the second line; and that it does assert the fundamental proposition that taxation shall be equal and uniform upon all property according to its value; and that covers everything and you can get nothing more if you use all the language ever written since the days of Adam to the present time. And upon all property, personal and real, the taxation shall be equal and uniform and it shall be according to the value of all that property, personal and real. Now, what more can be in it so far as property is concerned? The gentleman from Wood tells us he is in favor of the poll tax or the tax on individuals, because it will catch some individual stragglers. That has nothing to do with this question we are now discussing, the question of property. The gentleman tells us under this principle - under the similar clause of the Constitution of the state as it now stands - departures have been made by the legislature from it. Well, now, sir, is not that begging the question? Instead of this clause being contained in the Constitution of the state as it now stands that Constitution has an additional clause which warrants the legislature in departing from this provision which is an express declaration that slave property shall be valued at the price of three hundred dollars of land; an express declaration on its face that taxation in respect to that very property shall not be equal and uniform. The gentleman tells us that now he is going to avoid a construction by the legislature because it is not in this provision. It seems to me marvelous indeed that the gentleman should tell us that the former action of the legislature under a constitution which violated the principle here prescribed is authority for the legislature hereafter to fight this section here when sworn to discharge and perform it. He tells us that licenses are a violation of this principle. I repudiate that. Let it be provided that under this Constitution there will be no license taxes. Can any gentleman say that whenever any government is asked for a privilege that it cannot prescribe the terms on which it will grant it? Every individual without any license about it has a right to obtain and hold and enjoy property of every description; but where is the man in this State that has a right to set up any peculiar privilege and indict all his neighbors for the same thing without first obtaining the permission of the law of the land?
MR. PAXTON. In reply to that question, I would just say that in almost every state of this Union the right does exist, without any special license, to deal in merchandise, to carry on business; that the parties so engaged in this kind of business are taxed alike on their goods, the merchants' goods like the farmers' stock; and in that particular taxation is equal and uniform, and that is the principle that is attempted to be formed into this Constitution. I say almost everywhere except in this state.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. Very well, let us test that. I do not know how it is with the merchant. I do not complain of a merchant; but is there any state of this Union where a man can turn out and practice law and sell liquor where and to whom he pleases - drug the whole community, undermining the very foundation of society and say he has the right to do it as he pleases and that the state has no power to stop him or regulate his conduct? Every man has a right to set up a bank in a community and fix the currency of the nation; spread the whole country full of bank-notes like leaves, which are not worth the paper on which they are written? Exercise all these franchises which can only be derived from sovereign power that controls the action of all its citizens, without any authority derived from that power? If that is the constitution you are making, I am sure it will not go down with the people of Virginia, if that is the proposition - to disrobe your government of all the powers it ought to possess to attack and defend the rights and securities of the citizen, then it will be like your bank paper issued under it, not worth the paper on which it is written. The right to regulate every one of these things is a right inherent in the sovereignty, unless it is taken from it by this constitutional provision, and that always carries with it the right to prescribe the terms on which that franchise is to be granted and that whoever does not comply with those terms cannot enjoy the privilege. And that is right. Why, sir, gentlemen who walk into the courts and enjoy all the privileges of harassing and annoying their neighbors by summoning them from all over the country to attend their little petty lawsuits, are not to be even charged with the privilege.
MR. VAN WINKLE. I fancy the gentleman is setting up some men of straw. I did not understand the chairman of the committee to object to issuing licenses and charging a proper fee for professional or special privileges. It is the taxing of licenses to carry on the ordinary pursuits of business, which are a part of the immunities of citizenship, that I object to; compelling merchants to pay such taxes for doing what belongs to a citizen. It is a system not only wrong in itself, but calculated to drive people and business from the State.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. It is prescribing oppressive and vexing terms on which it is to be obtained, and he who does not choose to discharge those terms cannot enjoy that privilege; and if the legislature choose to legislate for the good of the people, that is a matter between the legislature and the people. Announce plainly and clearly to the world that your object is to disfranchise the legislative power of the State on which privileges are to be derived and enjoyed and you have hanged your Constitution. This proposition, then I say, as stated in the first clause of this sentence, that taxes shall be equal and uniform throughout the State on all property, real and personal according to its value fully covers every conceivable case in the taxation of property and leaves to the legislature the right to prescribe the terms on which privileges may be had. It leaves to the legislature the power it has ever enjoyed, if it chooses, to charter a bank, to issue five dollars for one and obtain an interest of 18 per cent instead of six that is enjoyed by the citizen; to say you can pay a bonus for the privilege or you cannot have it, and nobody is hurt. It is so to the gentleman who chooses to set up a store and sell goods to his neighbors. It is not allowed to every other citizen. They can prescribe to the doctor that before he shall practice his profession and charge fees that other people are not allowed to do that he must comply with the terms prescribed by the State. So of the lawyer who goes into court. There is no violation of the principle of equality. It is one of the fundamental powers that belongs to every government, to regulate and control all who undertake to exercise privileges. Everything is to be for public and not for private good. Let us see if the second clause is not a mere repetition of the first. This first embraces all valuable property, personal and real according to value; and "no one species of property from which a tax shall be collected" is just repeating the same thing. It is like saying two and two make four, and then repeating two and three don't make four.
MR. LAMB. I shall not use up my ten minutes in the remarks I have to make in reply to what I must say in a very singular argument of the gentleman from Kanawha. In the first place, he tells the Convention that his amendment is substantially the same as the original proposition; that his amendment, in fact, embodies everything that is contained in the original proposition; and then he proceeds to an elaborate attack on the original proposition. Now, if the original proposition carries with it all the evils which the gentleman from Kanawha has portrayed, how is it he is here offering an amendment to it which he says is really the same thing? Either his first proposition is wrong or his argument is wrong. In the next place, the gentleman's argument is predicated to have this effect on the Convention, that if you adopt this first sentence you are not at liberty to regulate the selling of liquors, to regulate banking, and you are not at liberty to regulate practicing attorneys. Will the gentleman, as a lawyer of first-rate standing, as I know him to be, risk his professional reputation on the assertion of any such thing? After the adoption of this clause are you not at liberty to adopt such regulations as the public interest may require in reference to all these subjects, with one single exception, that the properties of the banks, the attorneys and of all persons, is to be equally taxed ? You may subject them to what regulations you please; but so far as they are the holders of property, their property is to be taxed like that of other people. I do hope it will be the pleasure of the Convention to adopt this principle, and to adopt it as it stands in the report of the Committee on Taxation. The words here are so clear, so precise that there is no misunderstanding the meaning, and a common man as well as a lawyer can say exactly what is their effect. They do embody a principle which I regard as second only to the principle of equality of persons in regard to representation; the great principle of equality of property in regard to taxation. I hope it will be the pleasure of the Convention to adopt and to carry out - to see that both these principles are carried out fairly - in the Constitution which they intend to propose to the people. And then let them leave the legislature at full liberty to adopt all proper regulations, as the legislature will be left at liberty to do, in regard to banks, liquor selling, attorneys and everything else in which the interests of the community are involved. This proposition will not interfere with that. This proposition is not liable to the objections in that respect to which the gentleman from Kanawha pointed out at the same time that he told us his own proposition was the same in substance.
MR. IRVINE. Mr. Speaker, I rise for the purpose of making only two or three remarks and I will be just as brief as the nature of the case admits of. This first sentence, Mr. Speaker, is perfectly plain. Taxation shall be equal and uniform throughout the State on all property both real and personal; shall be taxed in proportion to its value to be ascertained as provided by law. Now, this sentence is perfectly plain; that taxation shall be uniform on all property both real and personal. That includes all property, both real and personal. You cannot tax one species of property higher than another without violating the rule here laid down in the first sentence. But the second sentence, Mr. Speaker, is a little ambiguous. If it is merely intended as a repetition of the first sentence, it is tautology, totally useless. Is it intended to repeat what is conveyed in the first sentence? If so, it is wholly useless. It is mere tautology. No one species of property from which a tax shall be collected shall be taxed higher than any other species of property of equal value. If that is all that it means, why it is a mere repetition of the first sentence; but after having been introduced here in connection with the first sentence the presumption is that it was not introduced for the purpose of repeating what is in the first sentence but for some other purpose. Now, I want to know for what additional purpose this sentence was introduced. Was this introduced for the purpose of affecting a privilege that is sometimes granted to a man in the use of his property? The privilege of selling goods - I mean licenses?
MR. LAMB. If the gentleman will read on through the section, he will see the meaning of it, that certain kinds of property are enumerated from which no taxes are to be collected; public property and property used for the purposes mentioned, educational, religious, charitable, etc. Take the whole section in its connection, and those words with it "on which a tax shall be collected." These kinds of property are to be exempt from taxation. "All property shall be taxed" - of course, everything must be taxed except the several kinds thus exempted.
MR. IRVINE. I do not think there is anything in the gentleman's explanation. He thinks it is necessary to introduce the first clause. Why resolve the section into two sentences; the second sentence into two clauses? Now, suppose you drop the first clause altogether; the second sentence beginning at "No," down to "value" - drop that clause. The second sentence would come in as well without the first sentence as without the first clause of the second sentence. It is not necessary at all to introduce the first part of the second sentence in order to explain. Suppose after the words "as directed by law" we go on and say: "but property used for education one and the other purposes, shall be exempt." It is not at all necessary to introduce the first part of that sentence for the purpose of introducing the second part. It is separate and distinct and might be introduced in connection with the first sentence as well as with the first part of the second sentence. It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that the first part of this second sentence was introduced for a particular purpose distinct from the purpose from which the second sentence was intended to answer. That answers every purpose. It declares that taxation shall be uniform on all property both real and personal. Now, no species of property from which a tax shall be collected - I do not understand for what purpose that was introduced. Unless it is made clear so that the Constitution will be understood by everybody I shall at least vote against that clause.
MR. DILLE. I have looked over this section carefully and I can see words that could be omitted, and convey the idea that I think should be conveyed to embrace the matter that we at least in this part of the state have contended for ever since I have had any knowledge of the state. It seems to me that the provisions of that section are clear as they are now. In the first place, if you will notice in the first part of it there is a square enunciation of a principle. That principle is one that we have all along contended for; that is, that taxation upon personal and real property throughout the State shall be equal and uniform. Now, the mere enunciation of a principle amounts to nothing unless you carry with it a provision requiring the legislature to carry out that principle. The last part of the first clause announces that the legislature shall tax all real and personal property in proportion to its value. Seems to me this first clause, then, announces the principle that we have all contended for during every period, I believe, of the history of the western part of this state, and then a requirement upon the part of the legislature to carry out that principle. Then the second sentence goes a little further, and I think it is proper, especially as we have so long contended for that principle - not contended for it in one view of it but in every view - and that more clearly expresses our sentiments. Having for the first time in the history of our portion of the state had an opportunity to do so, we clearly fix upon the legislature a prohibition that they shall not in the exercise of any discretion or any power that they may conceive that they may possess, upon any species of property, in any way, violate this fundamental principal. It seems to me we ought to have that provision, and we ought to so impress it, not only upon our people but upon our legislature that they may not under any circumstances, in reference to any species of property, violate that fundamental principle; and as announced here by the report of this committee and the amendment proposed by the gentleman from Kanawha. It certainly will address itself to this Convention as not only a more clear and perfect exhibition of that principle than his does. But it seems to me, Mr. President, that the gentleman does not go far enough with his amendment. He merely announces by a provision in the Constitution a principle but he does not follow that with a requirement that the legislature shall carry out that principle and that they shall carry it out with reference to every species of property. The only objection, really, that I can see to this sentence is in the latter clause of it, and that is that it leaves it to the discretion of the legislature to tax or not property used for educational, literary, scientific, religious or charitable purposes. If there be any objection to it, it is in leaving to the legislature a discretion; but being one of those persons in this Convention who believe the legislature has some wisdom, and will act in the exercise of a sound discretion on that subject. I have no fear the legislature in its future action in reference to these matters will not exercise that discretion as soundly as this Convention can do.
Hence, I am in favor of the section as it stands; and I think it is really a provision that we ought to have and that we ought to abide by in detail for fear that the legislature might at some future period in its history feel disposed to violate in reference to some species of property this grand and fundamental principle that taxation shall be uniform throughout the entire State on every kind of property according to its value.
MR. HERVEY. I want to say a word, not particularly in relation to the subject matter involved in striking out except that the question of license has been referred to in connection with the section. Now, Mr. President, the question of license is involved in this sentence. It is not prohibited to the legislature; and if this section is voted as it stands - as I hope it will be - the legislature of the State will have a perfect right, notwithstanding all the words the section may contain, a perfect right to require license. This provides for taxation upon property real and personal; but it does not say anything about privilege - to bank, sell liquor, deal on goods, practice law or medicine, or anything of that sort. The people will reserve them the right through the representative to levy a license on the lawyer, the retailer of goods and ardent spirits. I don't conceive, however, that the license question is at all implicated in this section or has any connection whatever with it. That is reserved to the people exclusively.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. This reminds me somewhat of the fable of the rat. This thing may be meal or it may be a cat; and it is rather invidious, and I have been cramped, and I really cannot understand the object of the gentleman in seeking to introduce this second clause into it. It may be to cover the cat with meal. It reads: "Taxation shall be equal and uniform throughout the State, and all property, both real and personal, shall be taxed in proportion to its value, to be ascertained as directed by law." Now, what do you want us to understand by that? Suppose you tax my horse the same as you would another man's mule in proportion to its value. If that is in the first clause, what is the necessity for the second? Unless it is to throw in some ambiguous section here by which a different construction may be placed upon it? Now, I admit frankly if this could not be construed by which the legislature might be interfered with in assessing or fixing the tax or license on any person for carrying on a particular business, I have no objection to it; but if it could be possibly construed in that way, I think we had better strike it out. "No one species of property from which a tax may be collected shall be taxed higher than any other species of property of equal value." Now, sir, it might possibly be that a man who was carrying on any business and had to have a license for it, that you would have no right to impose a license on him which would look to taxing his property higher than any other man; that you, should look to the value of his property and would have no right to impose a license under this section. But if it is not to preclude the right to tax a privilege I have no objection to it. But as it might lead to a construction of that kind, and as the first part of the section carries out clearly the object of the gentleman, I think we had better strike it out.
MR. PAXTON. I am not sure whether I understand the objections that have been made to this section. If I do and the opposition of gentlemen, it is not to the principle involved here. If I understand the gentleman from Kanawha, he does not object to the principle but to the manner of expressing it. Now, sir, this section simply declares, in the first place, that taxation shall be equal and uniform throughout the State. I presume there can be no objection to that. I apprehend no gentleman on this floor desires to object to that principle. It next declares and requires that all property shall be taxed. Is there anybody here who desires to have an exemption made, to say that any particular kind of property shall not be taxed as high as all other property as the case is now? Unless there is a disposition of that kind, sir, I cannot see the objection to the second part of this first sentence in connection with the first part. In regard to this second clause, "no one species of property from which a tax may be collected shall be taxed higher" than another, I can assure gentlemen that so far as I am concerned and the committee is concerned, there is no cat in the meal bag about it. It was simply intended to make just that much more specific, as I think it is, the first declaration that all property shall be taxed alike according to value. There cannot possibly be any misapprehension about that, it is so plain. But now in connection with what follows as to exemptions it makes it the more readily comprehensible. I will just remark by the way that the principle laid down here is the principle of taxation that may be found in the constitutions of pretty much all the states with but two or three exceptions, where the constitutions say nothing at all in regard to the subject and where there is no constitutional provision, as there is not in some of the states, follows the same principle.
MR. SMITH. The view I have of this subject, it strikes me it was not perhaps subject to any particular objection but that of repetition. And upon a more close examination of it, I am fearful it may lead to this construction. I do not know whether there is a cat in the meal tub or not; but there is such a thing as licenses for merchants, such a thing as tax on incomes, such a thing as tax on salaries particularly as to licenses -
MR. PAXTON. A single remark I forgot is simply this; that this section does not in any manner restrict the legislature in the imposition of taxes on privileges or anything else that is not property. The legislature is at perfect liberty to tax in any manner, shape or form, or by any name it pleases, what they please, provided they do it in conformity to this principle; to which I think no exception can be taken.
MR. SMITH. I had considered all that, but still there is a difficulty. "No one species of property from which a tax shall be collected shall be taxed higher than any other of equal value." Now, you tax merchandise. A merchant buys in town the first of June his goods for the year. The commissioner comes round in May and makes out his books. Well, now he gets the goods in June, is not taxed, it is not taken down in the commissioner's books; no tax levied on it.
MR. PAXTON. I have to correct the gentleman just there a moment, because if I understand the working of this system provision is made for that sort of thing; that where a merchant comes into possession of property after the time. the assessors come around to levy the taxes, he may by legislative provision be required to come forward and go to the assessor and give him a list of the property he has to contribute in proportion to the balance of the year. That is the way these things work in other states.
MR. VAN WINKLE. In some places they tax him his average stock. That is the most common way.
MR. SMITH. There is something of an exclusive privilege about giving a license. I think it would be the better way, to get rid of all difficulty at the close to put in these words: "but nothing herein contained shall be construed as to inhibit the legislature from levying a tax on licenses, salaries or incomes." Now, I know that the revenue of our state from licenses especially is very large; more, perhaps, than a million of dollars in the State of Virginia at this time; and when we want taxes, why they are able to pay and it is a very just subject of taxation; and if that is the meaning which the gentleman attaches to the section this sort of a clause can rid it of that doubt of construction. Now, the language is "All property, both real and personal, shall be taxed in proportion to its value, to be ascertained as directed by law. No one species of property from which a tax may be collected shall be taxed higher than any other of equal value." Now "all property" means anything that is capable of being owned. It is real, personal or mixed. It is "all property" a general comprehensive term.
That certainly embraces goods, embraces the property which a man sells to his customer as a tavern keeper; and it is a thing you cannot very well tax for it is coming in or going out the whole course of the year, difficult of taxation at all. This has made it necessary to grant licenses by which it shall be done and that should be regulated by law to ascertain the amount that is probably sold by the business transacted; and if as the gentleman says it is not intended to control the legislature in that particular then the terms which I introduce would avoid all difficulty. "But nothing herein contained shall be so construed as to inhibit the legislature from levying a tax on licenses, salaries or incomes." Salary is a choses in action, and it would be embraced under the term "property." If you tax the income and if you tax the salary, as may be done, it would be sufficient. But a tavern keeper's license, a license to sell goods and a lawyer's license, a doctor's license - I want them all fixed. I have been paying a tax myself some fifteen or twenty dollars a year on my profession as a lawyer. I don't want the State to lose that tax. It is a very important tax, and I therefore think it would be prudent to put in this clause to rid of that misconstruction.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. I accept it as an amendment to mine.
MR. SMITH. I perfectly agree with the principles of the report.
MR. VAN WINKLE. Does the gentleman offer that as an amendment? It is not in order now. We have not had an opportunity to discuss it.
MR. SMITH. I do not think it is in order. I merely offered it as an argument, and so at the proper time I will offer it, at the close of the section to ask to introduce it, and with that amendment I would vote for the section, those two sentences as they are. I have no objections, only it is repeating the same idea and only involving it in more difficulty of interpretation; the repetition involves it in a greater difficulty of interpretation. I do not suppose that there is a cat in the tub here, but the cat may get in the tub unless we watch it.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. (Mr. Pomeroy in the chair.) Does the Chair understand the gentleman as withdrawing his amendment?
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. I do not withdraw it, sir.
MR. DERING. It seems to me, sir, that this section is not liable to the objections that gentlemen raise against it, nor is the amendment, I think, calculated to make it any more clear and explicit than it already is.
We have long been complaining that in western Virginia against unequal taxation, and the committee here in its first section have made the declaration that taxation on all property, real and personal, shall be in proportion to its value. The second sentence only reiterates and emphasizes that declaration in a little more explicit form; and we desire to impress upon the Constitution, to make it stand out in bold relief that this Convention desires to incorporate in their Constitution a principle in the most emphatic form possible in order that our people may see that we have had that thing in view, and we are determined it shall stand out in bold and prominent characters. It is a mere repetition, sir, of the principle incorporated. Now, sir, is there a West Virginian anywhere that would object to that principle; a citizen within the bounds of the new State that would object to that principle? Why, sir, it is to West Virginians one of the most dear and cherished principles we could incorporate in our Constitution; and can there be any objection to a reiteration of that principle in this second sentence? It seems to me there cannot. The amendment indicated by the gentleman from Kanawha is ostensibly offered to correct objections for which I think there is no ground. There is no cat in the meal-tub, sir. I had the honor of being one of the committee and I did not see any cat put in the meal-tub at all. There is no covering up, no prohibition of the legislature in reference to licenses whatever. We do not say the legislature shall not provide by law for licensing merchants and lawyers, hotel-keepers, etc. No such thing is to be found in the section; no such inhibition whatever on the legislature; a clear right to go on and legislate with regard to licenses, and there is no prohibition whatever. I do not think the section is at all liable to the objection gentlemen have raised against it. It seems to me it is, as I said, a mere emphatic reiteration of the grand principle that taxation on all property shall be equal and uniform.
Again, sir, I cannot see any objection to that; I cannot see how the amendment will help it any; I cannot for the life of me, see or find any cat in the meal at all. I am in favor of the section as it stands.
MR. SINSEL. As this is an important section, I want to see whether I understand it fairly or not. "Taxation shall be equal and uniform throughout the State, and all property, both real and personal, shall be taxed in proportion to its value, to be ascertained as directed by law." I understand by that that the legislature shall not in one section of the State levy, for instance, four mills on the dollar and in another section five mills on the dollar; but it shall be the same every place. In the second place, I understand all property shall be taxed in proportion to its value. That is, if one horse is worth $5, tax it on $5, and if another is worth $125, tax it on $125. And so on with every other species of property. Well, the mode of ascertaining the valuation, as I understand the section, the legislature is to prescribe - how it shall be done and who shall do it and so on. Well, now, sir, in the first part of the second sentence, "no one species of property from which a tax may be collected shall be taxed higher than any other species of property of equal value." I presume this clause never would have entered into this Constitution had it not been that there is a clause in the present Constitution of Virginia which was in direct opposition to this principle; and I suppose the committee wished to remove all doubt from the mind of the most common reader that their property should be taxed in proportion to its value, no matter whether it was a horse, cow, sheep, hog, slave or whatever it might be. I don't see any particular need of that, neither do I see it will do any harm. As to licenses, I think lawyers understand them to be issued not upon the valuation of property at all but for a privilege. You issue a license to a man that wishes to engage in a certain kind of enterprise, and he pays for the privilege with a distinct understanding that no one else shall come in competition with him unless he pays a like tax for the same privilege. A tax then and a license is not a double tax on property but a privilege granted to the individual to carry on a certain business. This section cannot affect the license question at all. If I am wrong in my understanding of this, I wish some learned gentleman to correct me.
MR. RAYMOND. I am for the section just as it stands. It is, sir, the doctrine which western Virginia has been advocating for a long time; a doctrine which I hope will be adopted by this Convention. It is for this reason that we are trying to cut ourselves asunder from the eastern part of the state. We wish to secure to us this very doctrine. The gentleman from Logan appears to be uneasy fearing he will not get the chance to tax a man for what he is worth and then taxing him again for his industry. Now, I never thought a man ought to be taxed for his industry. I believe if he paid taxes for what he was worth, it is all he ought to be taxed. Now, let us suppose a case. Here are five of us who have been partners. We dissolve and when we settle we have $1000 apiece clear cash. Here comes the assessor and assesses us $1000 apiece. We have nothing more and now each one is going out on his own hook to engage in business. Is it right that one of these partners should pay now more tax than another? That is the question. I am going to be a farmer in Marion, another something else. Why should we be taxed one more than another? I never could see that a merchant should be taxed more than anybody else. I have been a farmer and merchant both at the same time. I have been a merchant for 17 years, sometimes carried on two plants; then had to pay $100 tax, when my other taxes were about $70.00. I paid $170 tax while my neighbors, worth more than I, did not pay as much by a hundred dollars, as I did. I never could see any justice in that. I do not want a man taxed for his industry. I want us to have a liberal constitution here, under which every man will have a right to do that which he wants to do; that every man will have a right to follow the pursuit he desires to follow, and let him pay taxes according to what he is worth; and that is all any honest government ought to require.
MR. HAGAR. I differ a little from my friend, though we agree in a great many things, especially so far as concerns the adoption of the section under consideration. He wants to know the reason why these men in different occupations are taxed. Well, we charge the merchant to sell goods. Lawyers charge very high fees, and we want to make them pay for it; doctors charge very high charges, and we want them to pay for that. A man who has a horse going round the country imposing on the people, I think it is right to tax his license. But I am for the section as it stands.
MR. IRVINE. Mr. Speaker, the gentleman from Marion contends, I think, for the construction that I think this section might possibly be susceptible of.
MR. RAYMOND. I did not allude to that at all. I said the gentleman from Logan was uneasy for fear there was some "cat in the meal-tub" (Laughter).
MR. SMITH. No, no; I was not; it was the gentleman from Doddridge.
MR. IRVINE. It was then inferred that the gentleman gave the construction that I have myself contended it might possibly receive. As to the chairman of this committee giving a particular construction to it and saying that is the construction it is to receive, no doubt this gentleman is perfectly honest in his declaration; but when we come to construe this section you could not even read into the construction of the section the speeches that were made in this Convention to show how the Convention construed it. That is a well-established principle. You could not read into the law that is passed in Congress that speeches that were made during the time upon the law. It is to be construed according to its language, according to the subject matter and the context, no matter how the framers of the law intended it; and unless the language and the context admits of that construction it will never receive that construction. The only question is, how would they construe this section according to the rules of construction that have been adopted by the sages of the law for construing all laws?
Now, Mr. Speaker, I have only five minutes; let me know when my time is up, and I will take my seat. In construing this law, it will be construed in connection with the context. Then the first question will be asked - here is the first section fixes the rule, all property shall be taxed equal and uniform throughout the State on property both real and personal. That is the great principle that we have contended for in the west as enunciated in this sentence. Gentlemen on the other side of the question seem to contend that we are combatting the great principle we have contended for in the west here, that taxation shall be uniform on all property according to value. I am in favor of taxation being uniform. I am in favor of the great principle that we have contended for, that every species of property ought to be taxed in proportion to its value, including negroes and everything else. This principle is clearly expressed in the first sentence. Then in interpreting this whole section the question will be asked, for what purpose the first clause of the second sentence was introduced ? Now, it is a rule of construction that you must give effect to every part of a sentence; if it is susceptible of any meaning, you must give some effect to every part of it. For what purpose was this introduced? If it merely repeats what is contained in the first sentence, it answers no purpose. Might it not be contended that when a man obtained a license to sell goods that you cannot charge him for the license? "No species of property from which a tax may be collected" is the peculiar language used here. He may contend that as a tax has been collected from his goods you cannot tax his license; that it is in effect collecting another tax from his goods - the goods he sells and that you cannot tax him any more than you would tax a man for any other species of property. That is, in other words, to express myself more clearly, that you cannot tax him for the privilege of selling the goods.
MR. PAXTON. A single explanation.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. The gentleman from Ohio has spoken twice.
MR. PAXTON. I waive it, sir.
MR. CARSKADON. The tenacity with gentlemen stick to the first clause of the second sentence has convinced me that there is some purpose in it; for had it not been so they would not have been so tenacious in holding on to it. It simply reiterates what is said in the first sentence; carries nothing else with it. The first sentence to any man of common-sense is as plain as there is any necessity for; and there is no necessity for the first clause of the second sentence without some particular construction to be put upon it. I had from the first reading of it suspected that there was some design in it, and the intimation of the gentleman from Marion has confirmed me in that opinion. Therefore I am decidedly in favor of the amendment which the gentleman from Logan proposes to add at the conclusion of the sentence. And if they have not the purpose which has been indicated by that first clause of the second sentence, they can have no earthly reason for opposing the amendment of the gentleman from Logan. Therefore I hope the gentlemen from the rural districts will take into consideration that this is to exempt merchants - at least it is my opinion so - and I give it for what it is worth - from paying a license; and it will therefore have to be that extra amount of tax levied, to come off rural districts, in order to make up the revenues of the State.
MR. PAXTON. Explain what you mean by exemption merchants from paying license? Do you mean to say they will pay no tax?
MR. CARSKADON. No, sir, not paying tax; but pay no license for selling goods. I understand it has heretofore always been the law that they shall not pay any license.
MR. STEVENSON of Wood. I was going to make a suggestion. I don't know whether I have a right to make the motion or not, that this 15-minute rule should not apply to the chairmen of committees. It is impossible, it seems to me, that you can consider a report brought in by a committee where the chairman has not the privilege of explanation. The privilege has been extended in every other case in this Convention.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. I rise to a question of order.
MR. STEVENSON of Wood. I merely wish to know if it is in order.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. The Chair thinks it is not in order.
MR. STEVENSON of Wood. The Chair will remember that I just asked if it was in order. The gentleman need not be quite so fast.
MR. HAYMOND. The gentleman from Hampshire entirely misunderstood me. I was merely alluding to the gentleman from Logan who appeared to be very uneasy for fear there was something he did not understand. The gentleman from Hampshire misunderstood me.
But I am sorry, Mr. President, to see men here wanting to put in this Constitution the very things which we have been opposing for twenty years. We have been contending for twenty years for the very things which this clause contains and I do not see how gentlemen can get up here and oppose it. I wish this clause adopted in the very form in which it now is; I wish to see West Virginia stick to that principle which she has been contending for for the past twenty years. That is what I am for, and nothing else.
Mr. Brown of Kanawha addressed the Chair.
MR. HALL of Marion. The gentleman has twice spoken.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. No, sir; you are mistaken.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. The gentleman from Kanawha made a motion to amend but he did not make a speech at that time.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. This proposition, Mr. President, either says one and the same thing or it does not. It is a cat in the meal-tub, or it is not. Now, which is it? This Convention will bear me in mind that I have urged it was a different proposition and was a cat in the meal-tub. I moved to strike out the intermediate clause because, as I believe it repeated substantially the same proposition contained in the first; and if I be correct in that, then it certainly will meet the approval of this Convention to strike it out, for I do not think any gentleman can defend the proposition to repeat it twice in the Constitution; for if it is right to repeat it, it is right to repeat it everywhere in the Constitution, and then repeat the Constitution. Now, therefore I say if the proposition is one and the same substantially, it ought to be stricken out because it is a repetition and can only have the effect of discrediting the Convention that does it. If this clause does not mean the same thing as the first sentence it ought to be stricken out because it is an attack on a fundamental system, one essential to the defense of the State. The gentleman from Marion thinks every man ought to be taxed alike; but if the gentleman takes his $1000 and puts it in that form, and the lawyer - the other man with $1000 puts his at interest and then goes about his profession and makes five thousand dollars the next year off his profession, would you think the lawyer ought not to be taxed something for that capital that makes five thousand while the farmer is taxed on his farm at its full value?
MR. HAYMOND. If he makes $5000 could not he be taxed on that the next year?
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. No, sir; he would spend it all before the year was out, just as the merchant we went to levy on on the next 1st of February will not have a cent perhaps. He will buy his goods again, and when the time comes, it will all be gone in the meantime.
MR. LAMB. I merely want to ask the gentleman a question: whether the value of the merchant's stock would not, of course, be ascertained as directed by law? I suppose the legislature would see that the law was not evaded in the way the gentleman indicates.
MR. SIMMONS. I just rise to make a single remark in regard to mercantile business. I have been engaged in that for a number of years, and it has been intimated by the gentleman from Hampshire that if the merchants are not taxed up on a license the people generally at large have to pay it from some other source. I wish to remind gentlemen here that have never been engaged in this business that if the merchant pays a heavy tax, the people who buy his goods pay it themselves. If he is taxed heavily, he undoubtedly must sell his goods high enough to enable him to cover this tax; if his taxes are light, he sells at a lower rate. I have always found that to be the fact. I don't say the merchant is justified but he will protect himself in the matter of his expenses. In laying unfair burdens on him you are simply laying them on the people who are his customers.
MR. VAN WINKLE. The gentleman from Hampshire had something to say about the "rural districts." I have heard a good deal about the "rural districts" in my time. Nobody here has for one moment said a merchant shall not be taxed. It is as to the system that is to be applied, that there is any question about. The report, as I understand it - and it is not as explicit on that subject as it might be - confines the tax to the "property" in the hands of the merchant; and I should like to know if that is not the fairest way, more in accordance with equality than to allow the legislature to put on an arbitrary tax and increase it at its own pleasure? If gentlemen would make themselves familiar with how these things are managed elsewhere they would see there is no practical difficulty in any part of it. This section is the identical provision that is in operation in nine-tenths of the states of the Union,, where the practice is exemplified every day. There can be no practical difficulty about it. The only question involved is the rule by which you are going to get at it. In reference to the clause as it stands, I believe that it is necessary, to contradict the practice that has obtained very widely in this State, that this language shall be repeated in this slightly different form, to make the meaning more explicit, even if gentlemen will have it that it is a mere repetition. It is necessary that we should forbid. One is the affirmative; the other is the negative; but that this clause should be here forbidding discrimination in taxation in different kinds of "property"; forbidding that one species of property should be taxed higher than any other. Now, sir; in reference to the cat in the meal-tub, there might be a cat in the other meal-tub. I would 'like to know why if the gentleman from Hampshire thinks we are "tenacious" about retaining this language, if he can infer any argument from the "tenacity" with which it is sought to have this language stricken out? If it is only repetition, why so tenacious? Mere repetition is a trifling fault, not worth all this elaborate effort to throw suspicion on a mere surplusage. Has the gentleman from Hampshire ever heard of a peculiar species of property in Virginia which the legislature of that state under such a provision as he wants here felt authorized to tax way below what other property of equal value was taxed? His argument cuts both ways. The point I want to get at is that no citizen shall have just cause of complaint as to the taxes that are levied on him; and if you make it a strict rule that all shall pay according to the value of their property, none can have a right to complain. I wish, sir, to prevent the legislature under the spur of circumstances, under the spur of an outside pressure, to make laws which some particular individuals may desire, thinking their friends are numerous enough to affect the elections next year. And I hope every member of this Convention will see the necessity for it. You know how hard it is for them to screw up their courage to lay the proper tax on property, and how they try to find some way to raise the needed revenues by laying taxes in some other way, on other subjects or by other devices, less liable to antagonize large interests when it comes to the elections. If you are going to levy upon salaries and incomes, the rural districts had better look out; because if you are going to tax my income, I want the farmers' income taxed too; and how will he like it, to pay a tax on his land, on the crops in his possession and then pay a tax on the income of the year? Will the farmer like that and if he doesn't like that for himself does he want to put it on anybody else? There is a provision in the old constitution that attempts to guard against that; but it has been found nugatory in practice. Gentlemen ought to consider these things. Do you want to make a constitution that is to be satisfactory and that is to stand? If you want to make a constitution that is to confer the benefits we hope to derive from it, then make it equal in its privileges and purview and don't give to one what you deny to another; don't impose a burden on one that you don't impose on another in proportion. That is the only fair and just rule; and if there is any cat in the meal, I should like to know where it lies. The cat must be in trying to make one pay more than his fair proportion if it lies anywhere.
MR. PAXTON. I understand that I have not exceeded my privilege; that the first remarks I made when the section came up was not to be counted under the rule, I merely wish to read from one or two constitutions so that if there is any cat in the meal-tub that other people have been guilty of it as well as ourselves.
From the Constitution of Tennessee:
"All property shall be taxed according to its value, that value to be ascertained in such manner as the legislature shall direct, so •that the same shall be equal and uniform throughout the state. No one species of property from which a tax shall be collected shall be taxed higher than any other species of property of equal value."
From the Constitution of Louisiana:
"Taxation shall be equal and uniform throughout the state. All property on which taxes may be levied in this state shall be taxed in proportion to its value to be ascertained as directed by law. No one species of property shall be taxed higher than another of equal value on which taxes shall be levied."
I imagine the object of the framers of these constitutions was the same as the committee had in view, simply to make it so plain that there could be no misunderstanding.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. The cat has got out of the meal-tub and is loose now, that is if we are to take the expositions of the gentleman from Wood. He said he wanted to restrict the legislature so that when they come to imposing a tax they could not increase the tax on the merchants' licenses. And I suppose we are to understand that this is a restriction on the legislature in imposing these licenses. The question comes up whether you want to restrict the legislature in imposing these licenses or not.
The Secretary reported the amendment of Mr. Brown as proposed, to strike out the 3rd, 4th and 5th lines and some other words and insert other words, so that if adopted, the provision would read:
"Taxation shall be equal and uniform throughout the State on all property both real and personal according to its value; but property used for educational, literary, scientific, religious and charitable purposes may by law beexempted from taxation."
MR. HERVEY. No gentleman has alleged on this floor that it takes away the power of the legislature to impose licenses. It has been denied by every advocate of this section as it stands.
The vote was taken on Mr. Brown's amendment and it was rejected by the following vote:
YEAS - Messrs. Brown of Kanawha, Chapman, Carskadon, Cook, Hansley, Hall of Marion, Harrison, Irvine, Montague, Robinson, Stephenson of Clay, Stuart of Doddridge, Smith, Taylor, Walker, Warder, Wilson - 17.
NAYS - Messrs. Brown of Preston, Brooks, Brumfield, Battelle, Caldwell, Dering, Dille, Dolly, Haymond, Hubbs, Hervey, Hoback, Hagar, Lamb, Lauck, Mahon, McCutchen, O'Brien, Parsons, Parker, Paxton, Pomeroy, Sinsel, Simmons, Stevenson of Wood, Stewart of Wirt, Sheets, Soper, Trainer, Van Winkle - 30.
MR. SMITH. I will ask to amend the section by adding these words:
"Nothing, however, in this section shall be so construed as to prohibit the legislature from levying a tax on licenses, incomes and salaries unless in cases where the estate from which the income arises is taxed as property."
To come in at the end of the section.
MR. VAN WINKLE. I would call the gentleman's attention to a section in the present constitution: "The general assembly shall levy a tax on income, salaries, etc."
MR. SMITH. Mine embraces the same idea.
MR. VAN WINKLE. I was going to advise that you offer it as a separate section that we might take up the question by itself, as I intend to oppose it.
MR. SMITH. I would offer it as an independent section, and just copy from the existing constitution. My object is to secure a tax on licenses, incomes and salaries. I will just adopt the language of the Constitution of Virginia.
The first section was then adopted, and Mr. Smith offered the following as a separate section:
"The legislature may levy a tax on incomes, salaries, and licenses, but no tax shall be levied on property from which any income so taxed is derived, or on the capital invested in the trade or business, in respect to which the income so taxed is issued."
MR. SINSEL. Under that section, if you adopt it, I might engage in the mercantile business with a capital of $50,000. This capital then, as property, will be exempt from taxation and they will tax me on a license for the privilege of selling goods. Now, you see at once that that cuts out all competition from any other person engaging in the mercantile business. My neighbor would be liable to fine. He might come to Wheeling and buy a lot of goods for his own use; but if he undertook to sell them to his neighbors, if he did, he would be fined because he has no license. I have an exclusive privilege of selling and yet paying not a cent of tax on $50,000, paying only for the privilege of selling my goods. So you see it cuts out the competition right at once, and the State would derive no more tax from that source than if you say to tax the individual, so I am opposed to it.
MR. SMITH. The gentleman has wholly misconceived it. The license is intended to be a tax on the property and also a tax for the privilege. I leave it to the legislature what it shall be. Where there is $50,000 capital, there will be a particular tax, and on $100,000 a particular tax, and where there is $200,000 the tax will be in proportion to the amount of property invested in the business and it is always more than the ordinary tax upon the capital invested. You look at the legislative acts on this subject. We have been granting licenses. They pay very heavy licenses. It is the complaint of a great many merchants that their tax is too high; but I imagine that there is an esprit du corps among merchants too, and wherever you touch the matter of license you see the merchants hopping up. But the objection raised to this is that the practice is to tax the license too high, costing more than the property itself; that the subject of trade would be taxed and the legislature have the whole power. Here you have $50,000. Well, you will assume the tax on $50,000 - the ad valorem tax according to the ratio of taxation adopted where they will put the $50,000 down, they will put, maybe, $15 or $20 for the privilege of selling. They tax the property and they tax the privilege both; and that is left to the discretion of the legislature. That is the object of the amendment. It is to secure that subject from the difficulties that would arise where it is a changing, varying property from time to time and from year to year. It is to tax it by the amount of capital actually engaged in it, because if you go to tax property there may be no property in hand at the time the commissioner comes around. And hence the necessity of taxing a license according to the usual capital of the party engaged and some little bonus for the privilege.
MR. PAXTON. The committee whose report is now under consideration had this question before them - this very provision reported by the gentleman from Logan - and we could not see any propriety in a provision of that sort; or any use, because that provision would conflict with the principle which the committee had agreed to report as the basis of their system, now adopted by the Convention. We have adopted a principle of equal and uniform taxation. Is it a reality or a sham? If it is real, then I can see no propriety in adopting this, because the legislature already have the authority to levy taxes in any manner, shape, form or way, or under any name they please, in conformity with that principle. Therefore, if it does not conflict with that principle, there is no use of putting it in the Constitution, because the legislature already has the authority this would confer. You might as well go on and specify how the legislature should levy the tax, in what manner, through what officers - make a code while we are at it. As I said before, unless the object of this is to come in conflict with the principle already adopted, there is no use of it here, for the legislature already has that power and this detail should be left to them. If it is intended to come in conflict and we adopt it, -we would have declared a fundamental principle for our system of taxation and then in the next vote have taken a position that comes in direct conflict with that principle. Do we mean what we say when we declare a principle here? I do hope this Convention will not adopt the section proposed for the very reason that if it conflicts with the principle we have adopted it should not be adopted; if it does not, the legislature already have the power that is necessary to give them entire and absolute control over the whole subject.
MR. VAN WINKLE. With a view of bringing this matter to a direct issue, I will offer the following as a substitute for the section offered by the gentleman from Logan:
"No tax shall be levied on licenses, salaries, or incomes, but the property used in any business or calling shall be taxed as other property. Nothing herein contained shall be construed to prevent the county authorities from issuing licenses, and charging such reasonable fees for the same as may be allowed by general laws."
I wish, Mr. President, to bring the Convention to a direct vote on the question whether they are going to allow one class of citizens to be taxed higher than another; or allow one class to be taxed twice: first upon their property and secondly on their income, while others are not taxed on their income?
In the first place, sir, this whole idea of licenses is a strange one. Gentlemen have heard a good deal about our having a "free state." They have it in a certain sense; but I want to have a free state in another sense, where the white people are free. I want it, sir, that any man can go into any business when he chooses if he will comply with the laws regulating it; not but what any man may be prevented and regulated with respect to the things demanded by the public morals: but the idea that a man cannot open a store without permission of the commissioner of revenue is repugnant to a correct system based on popular liberty. I would ask if you want to subject the citizens of this new State to that idea that a man is not free to engage in trade without he goes and asks permission of the commissioner of the revenue. Why, sir, gentlemen talk as if these licenses were exclusive privileges. It is no such thing and never has been. Any man who chooses to go and pay the fees can get a license. It is only in cases of selling liquor, where good character and such things are required, that any of these remarks will apply. The idea of talking about a lawyer's "license." A lawyer's license is simply a certificate that he has undergone the examination which shows him to be competent. That used to be a lawyer's license. A lawyer pays taxes on his property but not for his privileges. If you tax a merchant, he pays for the privilege and pays a tax on the property he is obliged to use in his business. They may charge a lawyer what they charge now for issuing the paper to him. That may be all well enough. But it is with reference to where it becomes a burden thus put on to the merchant and others that are dealing in that kind of goods. If we want to drive business from the State we had better go on in the plan that has been pursued. And what difference does it make to the "rural districts" - to quote the gentleman from Hampshire - if this merchant pays upon the property he has in possession, or pays a round sum? What difference can it make to them unless the idea is that the merchant is to be taxed beyond the proportion his property would allow? If a merchant has an average stock of $10,000 and the tax is 4 cents, he will pay $40; if he has $20,000, he pays $80 and so on. Is not that fair? But will you put them into a class, and put a tax on at the pleasure of the legislature of whatever they may choose without any guaranty that one shall be proportioned to the other?
I ask, first, whether the people of this State are to be so tied up that they cannot choose what business they will go into which does not affect the morals of the public, on the one hand, or if this Convention is going to consent to the principle now sought to be established by this amendment. Remember it comes from the old Constitution of Virginia under which these things have been practiced. Why are we here making a constitution for a separate state if it is not to escape from the tyranny of just such things, suffered by our people under the old; if it is not, in this particular matter that taxation in the case of a particular class and of all other individuals shall be equal?
Now, what have we to do with salaries and incomes? In the history of Great Britain an income tax was resorted to only in times of war. It was considered a war tax. What are war taxes? We are paying them here. You must place a stamp on every bill and note that is issued. You cannot give your note of hand unless you pay a tax to the government on it; cannot write a will or any other legal paper unless it has a stamp upon it paying a government tax. These are war taxes. This income tax in Great Britain has always been left to be resorted to on extraordinary occasions. It was promised by the chancellor of the exchequer that as soon as the Crimean war was over that war-tax should be lifted. But then came on the war of India and they are yet laboring under that war expense. Here in this free State, in one of the sovereign and independent states of this Union, under republican institutions, here, we are asked to take this extraordinary tax, which people are willing to pay only in time of war or great public emergencies, and make it the common rule! That is what we are asked to do. If property is taxed according to its value, if 40 cents will not pay the expenses of the government, put on 50; if 50 is not enough, put on 60. But then it will be equal on all the citizens and on all the property of the State, which is the thing that is to bear the burden, for it is that mostly which is to be protected. We are all liable to turn out and bear arms for personal protection. That with a small capitation tax would be a sufficient equivalent for the personal protection we get. But all the rest of the machinery of the government is employed - nine-tenths of it - in the protection of property. Therefore, property should pay for it. But when you come to levy that tax on the property of the citizens of the State then according to the principle we have recognized everywhere in this Constitution, the fundamental and foundation principle of our financial system, on which our institutions are to be built up - that is equality of the citizens, we make them equal by taxing them each one in proportion to his property. You require more always where there is more protection given and less where there is less protection given. You require, for instance, more in personal services from the sound, healthy man than from the valetudinarian or aged man. You require the young man to shoulder his musket and turn out to defend his country; but only in extreme cases those whose health is feeble or from any other cause unable to perform the same service, and it is all perfectly right.
And so it is in reference to this question of taxation. Now this amendment I have offered embraces a fair and equal system. The amendment of the member from Logan is the old method under which we have been groaning and which has at last resulted in a general desire to repudiate the whole thing. I have provided that these licenses should be issued by the county authorities. They are the proper judges. That will be, of course, under regulations to be prescribed by law, and they can issue and demand a proper fee for issuing them. If they choose to make it five dollars or two dollars on a license, I have no objection; if they choose to make it fifteen or twenty dollars on an ordinary license, I have no objection to that; but I do think these businesses that are common to every citizen everywhere else ought to be common to every citizen here, and we do not want any of these tyrannical laws imposed on our citizens any more than they are imposed everywhere else. There is no call for it. Tax the merchant on his property and you will get all you are entitled to, and about as much as you will get by this special license. And as in some twenty or thirty states of this Union they have found out a way to apply this rule, there will be no difficulty in applying it here. Our officers have as much intelligence as they have there, and will be just as able to apply the rule as they are in any other states.
MR. SMITH. I offered the amendment at the solicitation. I thought, of my friend from Wood, and I expected to get his support.
MR. VAN WINKLE. My solicitation to you was to offer it as an independent section. It was in the old constitution as such; but I announced at the same time that I intended to oppose it.
MR. SMITH. I thought you said you would vote for it (Laughter).
I regret to see my friend from Wood take this ground he does. He is a member of the fraternity to which I belong, and with all the abuse that is heaped on them, I undertake to say that in all public measures calculated to advance the interests of the country - I say it now; I have got so far advanced in the profession I may say it without being immodest - I say they are the most liberal class of this whole community, and wherever a public measure fraught with public interest is before the country you will always find them shoulder to shoulder pressing it forward.
Now, let us see how the merchants and others stand up to the work; see how many merchants will vote for this measure. Lawyers are embraced in the licenses as well as the others. I call upon my friends, the members of the bar vindicate the character which I have now given them - by their votes come up to it (Laughter). I call upon my friend from Wood to come up and vindicate the reputation of his profession - a profession honorable and liberal and generous.
MR. VAN WINKLE. I hope I shall not need to vindicate my professional character by paying five dollars for the privilege of belonging to the profession. I value it a little higher (Laughter).
MR. SMITH. I believe the gentleman has got down into a more sober business profession, and since he has got down there he has lost some of that liberality that belongs to the profession (Merriment). But I call upon them to stand up and let us see how many merchants stand up and agree that they will pay license. It is a just and expedient law. I say they have a privilege, as a professional man I have a privilege of appearing before the bar and defending or prosecuting the causes of others, but the community at large is excluded from it. I say when you get a license to sell goods you have an exclusive right and you should pay for it. The country at large gives you that exclusive privilege and I demand that the commonwealth should be compensated for it and that you shall not go back on the farmer and laborer to pay up that deficiency which you ought to pay for the privilege granted you. That is the ground I take. I do not consider that I am practicing on the principle of a demagogue either. If there is anything I despise more than another it is legislating as the demagogue, looking to see how popular it will be.
MR. VAN WINKLE. Does the gentleman apply that to me?
MR. SMITH. Surely not. Because you are practicing on a principle that does not look demagoguical; because you are resisting what will be regarded as the principle of the demagogue, and I am advocating one that may be so regarded. I am vindicating myself against such a charge, not charging you with it.
I say it is just; and I do not ask that I as a lawyer should have this exclusive privilege and for that privilege pay no price, and go back and ask the farmer or the mechanic, or any other class of laboring men in the community, to pay it. I ask that the merchant who sells to the farmer and sells to others and holds an exclusive privilege of doing so shall come up and pay for the privilege. That is what I ask and it is just. And I will so provide, that if the farmer's land and his negroes and his other property is taxed, that then, sir, his income shall not be taxed; but if the lawyer is not taxed in his income, why, then let him pay for the privilege; but if his income is taxed then he does not come under the provisions of that. Nor is the merchant. If his goods are taxed, he is excepted from its operation, and where it is not taxed he is to pay. And you cannot - it is impossible to tax the merchant. His goods are traveling from hand to hand all the time - a thousand dollars today, six hundred dollars tomorrow - and how are you going to tax it? You must have the commissioner running every day to ascertain the amount of property he has got to assess the taxes he should pay. If you tax him as upon an income of $50,000 and lay a tax on an income on a stock of $50,000, then he will pay for his license; but if he don't pay as upon a property of $50,000, then he pays for the privilege. It is equality and justice, and I want him to pay a little more than the owner of his property. I want him to pay for the privilege. It is a privilege, an exclusive privilege he has when he is not taxed. I call upon the merchants now to come up, and I call upon my lawyer friends to stand up and vindicate themselves, the whole of them. It is proper and right.
MR. LAMB. I regret exceedingly the gentleman did not also call upon the bankers (Laughter). So far as they are concerned, some allusion has been made to them in a former part of this discussion. I may say the application of the principle embodied in this first section will certainly subject them to a much higher degree of taxation than they are now subject to. But however that may be, however it may affect lawyers or merchants or anybody else, I have from the beginning endeavored to occupy a position in this Convention of advocating and maintaining what I supposed to be great and correct principles. And, as I have already said, I look on this principle of the equality of property in regard to taxation as second only to that great principle which we have adopted, the equality of persons in regard to representation. However it may affect one class of the community, or another, it is a proper principle, and without reference to its operation on classes, as a just and fair principle I hope this Convention will adopt it. The merchant will pay a tax upon his stock, the value to be ascertained as shall be prescribed by law; and certainly there can be no difficulty in that more than in ascertaining the value of other property. He will pay a tax on the debts that are due him, on his furniture in the house, on all other property he may possess - a tax on that which we all pay and in precisely the same proportion. I doubt very much whether the commonwealth will not by such a system secure as abundant revenue from this source as they will upon a system like that which has heretofore existed in this state; for that system, proposed to be perpetuated here by the gentleman from Logan, is entirely an arbitrary one:
"The legislature may levy a tax on incomes, salaries and licenses, etc."
There is no principle here. The legislature may levy it without regard to any principle; without regard to justice; without regard to equality. There is nothing here to carry out this great principle of equality, even as between merchants, or as between persons who are in the receipt of salaries. There is no principle as between these classes, nor even as between persons in the same class; nothing to confine the legislature to any quality or any justice between the parties subjected to these arbitrary taxes. As for the lawyers, the prices for goods, and all this, why, gentlemen, the lawyer is perfectly indifferent about whatever tax you may impose on him. There is no patriotism in the declaration of the gentleman from Logan, for he knows whether the tax is ten dollars or a hundred dollars, the client pays it. If you want goods at low prices, if you want really to benefit the "rural districts," in that respect, subject these matters to as few embarrassing restrictions as possible; leave the business as free as you can. Where you have one merchant alongside your farm, let another man go there to enter into competition. That is the way in which the farmer and the rural districts will be benefited, in which they will secure goods at reasonable prices. If you are to make this an exclusive business, if you are here to grant exclusive privileges to a certain man or to a few men to sell goods to your farmers, you may depend upon it that not merely will the price of the license but ten times the price of that license will come out of the farmers' pocket. This great principle is not only a correct one, I maintain but it is one that will benefit all classes; one, too, that I think will secure to the commonwealth which we hope we are about to establish as full a treasury as you can secure to it by this exclusive system.
MR. STEVENSON of Wood. As I am neither a lawyer nor a merchant I suppose I may not come within the call of my friend from Logan, and of course he will not expect me to accept his proposition. I had supposed that gentleman, from his arguments heretofore, was opposed to stuffing the Constitution with legislation, but that our duty here as framers of a Constitution was to incorporate in that instrument only great principles and leave with the legislature power to apply and develop and carry out those principles as might be dictated by the interests of the people when the time arrived to apply them. Now, sir, there is but one principle involved, it seems to me, in the amendment proposed - I mean the amendment of the gentleman from Logan, because I must discuss that, of course in considering the substitute for it offered by my colleague, and that principle is simply this: whether after having labored all this forenoon to breathe the breath of life into a great principle - this ad valorem system of taxation of property - we shall go to work and knock the breath right out of it. That is just the substance of the proposition made by the gentleman from Logan. We have settled the principle here by a very decided vote that taxation shall be equal and uniform throughout the State on all property, real and personal; and now he proposes to give the legislature special authority in some particular cases to abandon that principle. Well, now, if there could be any good reasons urged here in favor of abandoning the principle at all; if it could be shown that more revenue could be raised in that way; that there would be less injustice done than in the other case, why that might possibly be an argument in an extreme case for the abandonment of that principle. But it seems to be agreed here that it will make but little difference in the amount of taxes or revenues raised for state purposes whether you abandon the principle or adhere to it, at least that no more will be raised by abandoning than by adhering to the principle you have adopted. Then shall we abandon the principle and especially shall we abandon it when it is not established here that we will make anything out of that abandonment? I hope not, sir. If a principle is worth anything it is worth being applied to all property wherever the legislature in the laws they make shall be able to find that property. That is the grand principle which we have adopted: that all property, whether in the hands of a lawyer, banker, farmer or merchant shall be taxed in proportion to its value. I say that is the correct principle. If you abandon that principle once, or if you give the legislature power to abandon it, in a particular case, or to a number of particular cases, you have opened the door to any amount of abuses almost in the way of taxation. You cannot tell where they will stop, because it is discretionary with them, as I understand the proposition, if we open this door at all in this particular, we leave them to use their discretion in imposing either a small or a large tax in these particular cases. I hope, sir, unless better reasons are adduced for abandoning this great principle of ad valorem taxation on property than those which have been urged, the members of this Convention will adhere to the principle they have already adopted.
Now, sir, I care nothing about this matter of taxing licenses: I mean I don't care whether you require a license from a professional man or not; or from merchants or not. My experience and observation in regard to license on merchants - and I have watched it with some care - is this: these extravagant prices which they have been compelled to pay for the privilege of merchandising has had the effect of driving the customers to move out of the State - particularly on the border across the river where they could purchase their goods cheaper and where the legislature have been more liberal to that class of men. That is the effect it has had. Numbers of merchants are driven into other states where a more liberal policy - perhaps I should say a less oppressive and harassing policy - is pursued. I say that will be the history of the adoption of this amendment. It is impossible where it will stop. You may wish it to apply only to particular cases or to persons of a particular class; but if that matter is left entirely to the legislature, they might adopt almost any plan it pleases in reference to this matter, and thus the operation of this principle and the objects of this Convention to be defeated. I hope, therefore, sir, it will be the pleasure of the Convention to preserve this principle of taxation which they have adopted in this first section all through this report, and never abandon it. If we do, sir, the principle itself is gone.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. I would like to inquire how this authorizes one county to levy a greater license than another.
MR. VAN WINKLE. It contemplates that the legislature may pass general laws. The idea is that it shall not be a tax but a reasonable charge for issuing the license.
MR. STUART. I only wonder that the gentleman did not leave this privilege to the townships (Laughter). Now, sir, the county may under that provision charge a license or may not. If licenses are to be charged for privileges it should be uniform it appears to me. One county may overrun another by granting licenses while another might desire to refuse. I shall vote against the amendment of the gentleman from Wood.
MR. SIMMONS. I ask for the yeas and nays on this.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. The principle that taxation shall be equal and uniform is a fundamental principle in the proposition we have adopted. I want to see how far that question is to be maintained and what is to be the operation in the matter. One man has no property and therefore nothing to tax except his head, and that will pay a dollar, and with every other man in the community will receive the blessings of the government and enjoy its privileges and securities. He every year lives as well, enjoys as many comforts upon a salary of a thousand dollars, two, three, four or five thousand dollars; fares sumptuously every day and wears his purple and fine linen, and pays nothing but the tax of one dollar on his head. Now, is that carrying out the principle of equality? Is that applying the principle properly and rightly that is. Now, the principle is defective. There is the tax on property; but he has no property, nothing at all which the law can apply to.
MR. VAN WINKLE. I never supposed a man's labor is property and that the State could exact a tax on that. All taxes are laid on surplus - on what a man has left after he has paid the cost of living. I hope it is not intended to tax the white labor of the country. But the gentleman takes a very superficial view of this matter as he states it. The gentleman who enjoys that generous salary and lives in the style my friend supposes must live in a house, and for one living so luxuriously it would have to be a handsome and expensive house. He does not own the house but he pays roundly for the use of it. Now, you may depend that the State's tax on that house - all the taxes on that house, state and local - have been added to the rental which the owner requires this Sybarite to pay. He pays all those taxes on that house and grounds when he pays his rent. The renter pays as much tax on what he uses as the man who owns his own home - probably something more. Every man who knows anything about political economy knows how these things adjust themselves.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. I am meeting this question as it stands, I say the commissioner will come around and be told, sir, I have no property. Here is my head; tax that a dollar. If that is not a violation of this principle, it is of the principle of similar equality. But here are the gentlemen whose offices vary from one thousand up to five thousand dollars a year. Why, there are plenty of officers that receive their salaries and live comfortably and fare well although they bear none of the expense of the government that secures them these privileges. Here is the president of the James River and Kanawha Company receives a salary of five thousand dollars. Yet he pays no tax at all, when his neighbor with a little farm worth $500 is taxed on the value of it, and his neighbor who has got a little old donkey is taxed on that. I want to know why this gentleman should not be taxed on his salary and why it should not be assessed on this principle in conformity with its value as much as anything else. I am unable to perceive why. It is this law which secures him the blessings of the country, and I am unable to see why he should not bear his per centum of its burden. Well, sir, you know the gentleman who wants to keep a hotel. He has got no hotel, but he wants to keep one; so he goes and rents one; and that man is taxed on the property, he is taxed on this house and lot; but the gentleman who wants to keep it rents it for whatever it is worth per year and then he goes to the court or some authority and asks the liberty to charge everybody that comes there and makes them pay to accommodate them for it. Well, sir, the traveler stops at this hotel and he pays the price. Another man comes to a neighbor who has no license, and if he charges for entertaining the man, he is fined for it, and this tavern-keeper will be the first man to indict him for it. Now, I want to know what difference there is in indicting one and not charging the other? If this gentleman for the mere trifle he has derived from the authority of the government can make a thousand dollars out of it I do not see why he shall not be taxed on his salary if he does not pay any tax for having the license. But if he does, then he has accomplished all that is required. I do not see why you should give this gentleman the privilege of charging his neighbor and not allow every other neighbor the same privilege. Now, it is necessary to have licenses for the public good; and it seems to me that you secure to the public these blessings at the same time that you obtain from the party who gets the privilege of enjoying it and making a profit out of it that remuneration for the State that every other individual is required to pay. It is no more a violation of this principle than taxing a man a dollar on his head. A gentleman wants to sell liquor and make a fine fortune in that way. He will spend a hundred dollars and get his stock on hand. You cannot tax him for what he did not have the day the tax was levied; and he will sell as he pleases and turn his money and be back to market perhaps twenty times before the commissioner comes around. He will use up all he made and in the final end he has nothing you can tax. How are you to tax this man on the principle contemplated unless you assess him every day in the year? Whatever day you may fix it on, he will buy his goods the day after that. It is not like a man who buys his goods to keep, who has something permanent in it from year to year. The man who buys horses to cultivate his fields. The goods are bought to sell and to be kept no longer than disposed of. The grocer, who will turn over his whole stock two or three times a year can whenever he pleases have none on hand. It is not like the farmer. His lands are all the time there - always to be found whenever you go for them. Unless you then levy this tax for the privilege to cover the whole transactions during the year, you are to ascertain from him what is expected to be the business transactions of the year; you have no other way of reaching that man.
Well, gentlemen argue very strangely. The merchants are always shrewd, smart men as alive to their interests as any other class of the community. Gentlemen tell us, if you lay this on the merchant, he will not pay it; he will lay it on the consumer to whom he sells his goods and that you really do not tax the merchant but the consumer. It is therefore argued do not lay this license because it is not on the merchant but on the consumer. If that was the case, why is it merchants feel any concern about it? Why, sir, whenever you touch the interest of a thing you will stir the world. Men are governed by their interests, merchants as well as others. Why is it the gentleman who has got a salary, who lives by it, does not want his salary taxed. Because it is to his interest not to have it taxed. I can see no reason. Every man ought to be taxed his per centum in proportion to the amount of benefit he derives from the government which protects him. The farmer is taxed on his head, his horses and everything else that he has got. But the lawyer has got something his neighbor has not got, the right to prosecute suits and charge fees, which is a capital in his brains; and is it not right that he should pay a license before he should obtain this privilege? The gentlemen say it is no tax on the lawyer at all, because he just charges it to the client. Well, now, if that is the case, clients have more interest in it. I am confident the lawyers always think they pay it and I am sure no lawyer ever added a little to his fee because he was charged with a license before he was allowed to practice. Clients will pay the very same and the treasury will be deficient that amount. Strike it all out and you have to make it up off the laboring men of the country and let out all these men who enjoy these privileges at the hands of the government. Well, sir, if that is to be your policy, to turn all the burdens of the government all back on the dray-horses of the community, then you are making a very fine constitution for the favored classes.
MR. VAN WINKLE. I want to repeat -
THE PRESIDENT. The Chair would remark that so far as his observation has gone a gentleman offering a proposition has a right to explanation which is not charged to him as a speech.
MR. VAN WINKLE. I don't want five minutes. I only want simply to repeat that the proposition of the gentleman from Kanawha is nothing more than this: either that you are going to tax labor for a man's daily work or that you are going to establish an inequality. Now, if a man is dependent alone on a salary for his living, that is his daily labor; and are you going to tax that man on his daily earnings and not tax the laborer who works by so much a day. What is the difference whether a man works for a dollar a day or $365 a year? Now, carry that out, and it would be the most obnoxious proposition that was ever passed in any deliberative body. And, sir, this inquitous law, as it now exists in Virginia is made to apply to engineers on railroads, who are nothing but mechanics and who earn a daily stipend. Do you want to put such a provision as that into your Constitution? Well, sir, all this gentleman's remarks which I have heard seem to allude to me in some way or other; but the facts do not bear them out. In the first place, I am not a practicing lawyer. In the second place, I am not in receipt of any salary. In the third place, I never was, but once, a candidate for any office. I ran once for the legislature, for which I hope to be forgiven, and was defeated - for which I desire to be thankful (Laughter). I was merely appointed an alternate to the June convention and the party who was delegate declining to come here, I came. I wrote to Parkersburg that I would not be a candidate for this Convention; but when I got there they insisted on it and I was elected by a heavy vote. I was tendered the highest office under the restored government, which I declined; was offered a high office under the United States Government, and was ready to take the second office. I was offered another office under the government, which I declined. I do not think, if I know myself I shall ever be a candidate for any office. If ever a man was sick and tired with the little experience he has had of public office, it is myself. Now, sir, I stand just there. I have no doubt or fear that my constituents will censure me. They all do know that if there is anything I am wedded to, it is precisely this principle of equality in legislation as affecting the rights of the citizen. I was as strenuous as I dared to be in the convention of 1850 - the more so in the committee touching county courts and county organization than I could be in the convention; but my speeches made there were published, and they knew precisely what my attitude was in that convention and what it would be in this Convention when I pledged them at the court-house. What I said then in regard to this tax on salaries I say now, and I at least claim credit for consistency.
MR. SIMMONS. I wish to make a single remark in regard to the attitude of the gentleman from Kanawha towards the merchants. I may be mistaken. There is something in his argument I do not understand. He goes on to tell you that a merchant is a very shrewd intelligent man and always watching opportunities to defraud the government in the matter of his taxes. I would ask the gentleman whether if the commissioner comes the day after the merchant has paid out his money for goods if the assessment is not made just the same, for he must have had the money the day before he paid it out. If he buys on time, he had no money and had no right to be assessed for it. I cannot see any advantage a merchant can take in defrauding the government in that respect. I do not wish the mind of this Convention to be poisoned in this manner. I do not think the commissioner would be deceived; because the merchant has the money in his business and he is assessed with that money. I just wished to make this single remark in order that gentlemen may not be deceived in this matter.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. I am a little surprised the gentleman should suppose I would make any reflection on the merchants. On the contrary, I have the highest respect for them, and neither doubt their integrity or principle.
In regard to the intimation of the gentleman from Wood that he seemed to be the subject of my remarks, I had no reference to the gentleman. I did not know that he either had a salary or held an office, or anything about it, and therefore thought not about his salaries. The allusion I made to the president of the James River & Kanawha Company was in illustration of what I had to say about taxing salaries. With reference to the balance of the gentleman's remarks, I was glad to hear he had been so successful and hope he may continue in the public service.
MR. SMITH. I would just ask to make this remark. The gentleman from Wood said it was tyranny to tax the laborer. Now, there is no such thing as a license for a man to labor. Who ever heard of a man going to court for a permit to work?
MR. VAN WINKLE. Taxing salaries is to put a tax on labor, and I stated expressly that the enginemen who drive engines on the railroad are taxed. I wrote at their request to the auditor, Mr. Bennett, and got his views. He stated that it had been decided they should be taxed.
MR. SMITH. It is all left to the legislature - permissive to the legislature; and I never heard of a man who was working at his 50 cents or a dollar a day on the farm - I never heard of his being taxed on the money earned in that way. It is not a salary, it is daily labor or monthly labor, or yearly.
Here is another point I wish to submit to the Convention. Here is a man traveling about the country with a circus, all sorts of exhibitions. I say evil to the country. You say he shall not be taxed, no license shall be required of him. The gentleman from Wood charges me with inconsistency. I think the gentleman is wholly at fault there. I am not inconsistent but am perfectly consistent. He has got in a section here which I think from what has been exhibited, or was intended, or looks very much that way, to prevent this very thing - the taxing of these persons. I want to correct that interpretation if there is any mistake in it and give direct power to do this thing which by the other section might be inhibited; and I want to give them the power that would otherwise not exist. I would greatly prefer simply to say that taxation should be equal and uniform throughout the State and leave it there. But, no; you go on further and introduce other clauses that may tend to exclude or receive a construction that would exclude the legislature from the right of granting licenses and taxing them. It is that object I have in view, and it is not at all inconsistent. If you will go back to my doctrine, I will fall in with you and leave the whole of it to the legislature. Adopt that which we all seem to approve, that taxation shall be uniform and equal throughout the State; get that in and let it stay there, and I will withdraw my amendment. But I say, as the gentleman from Kanawha said: merchants, lawyers, doctors, everybody else who have brains and get the benefit of their brains, should have their brains taxed; and if a lawyer or anybody else gets a judgment that gives him $5000, will his brains be taxed for the $5000?
The hour for recess having arrived, the chair was vacated.
The Convention re-assembled at the appointed hour and resumed consideration of the Report on Taxation and Finance.
The question was on the substitute offered by Mr. Van Winkle for the additional section offered by Mr. Smith, and the yeas and nays had been ordered.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. I believe, Mr. President, I had not exhausted my privilege. I made one little speech perhaps. I want to occupy two or three minutes again; and I really think the best thing the Convention can do now is to leave this subject to the committee to read as it does: "Taxation shall be equal and uniform throughout the State, and all property both real and personal, shall be taxed in proportion to its value, to be ascertained as directed by law." Now, sir, I shall not go into the history of things as did my friend from Wood, but as we all want to have a little pitch at it occasionally I must make one observation in regard to the argument of the gentleman from Wood. He seems to intend to provide for such taxation here as to make it certain that he never will receive public office again. But I never before understood why he wants to go into such details in our Constitution. It is because he never expects to be in the legislature again, and he wants to do all that legislation in our Constitution that will be necessary for many years thereby he will be released from further obligations to the State (Merriment). I understand now why it is the gentleman is so anxious, perhaps only as he never intends to give us the benefit of his labors any more. This is why he desires to get so much legislation into our Constitution. Sufficient apology, and I will excuse him. But I cannot concur in the sentiment. Now, sir, the substitute he offers here:
"No tax shall be levied on licenses, salaries or incomes, but the property used in any business or calling shall be taxed as other property. Nothing herein contained shall be construed to prevent the county authorities from issuing licenses and charging such reasonable fees for the same as may be allowed by general laws."
Now, in some respects, that would answer, Mr. President; but how is it you are going to tax these peddlers?
MR. VAN WINKLE. Two words. The object of the amendment, which I see the gentleman misunderstands - about which several gentlemen have spoken to me since the recess also - "nothing herein contained shall be construed," is to preserve it as a police regulation, which it originally was: the taxing of peddlers, shows, ordinaries - or at least licensing them with a proper fee or consideration for it - for instance a circus - is preserved as a police regulation by the local authorities and not made the subject of taxation by the legislature. That is the distinction I intended to observe.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. Well, sir, I was going to remark that if our Constitution prohibits the legislature from imposing a tax on these licenses, I want to know how it is going to be done. How are you going to tax these ordinaries and peddlers and all classes of this kind? Do away with this power to levy and collect these licenses? I cannot understand unless it is by a general provision authorizing; and then I see no object to be aided by the substitute of the gentleman. If there is to be a general law proposing these taxes on licenses, what is the object of the substitute?
MR. VAN WINKLE. In the states where these similar provisions prevail, licenses are not taxed directly as a tax, but there is a charge. As, for instance: they charge in Ohio for a circus or theatrical exhibition, or perhaps a license to keep a hotel or ordinary, and various other things no doubt including peddlers - the peddlers' license is no doubt intended for the operation of home merchants; but it is not as a subject of taxation. If the gentleman will remember, these licenses are always issued, not by the state but by the county. They were originally a police regulation, and to that I have no objection. The objection is to taxing licenses ad libitum.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. I must admit it is very obscure, and I think the gentleman had better leave off his legislation and let the general assembly legislate concerning these matters. I really don't know what would be the effect of it if we adopted it here in our Constitution. At first it struck me as an anomaly. I tried to see through it and I have been studying it ever since and I must admit that I cannot see through this thing. The cat is still here I think. I cannot understand it. Now, sir, "nothing herein contained shall be construed to prevent the county authorities" from issuing licenses. There is nothing here to prevent the county authorities from issuing licenses, and there is nothing in this constitutional provision to prevent a man from carrying on the very same business even if the county does not issue licenses - is there? If there is I cannot see it. The county authorities may issue licenses, and even though they do there is nothing in this provision to prevent any person from carrying on the exact trade without a license.
MR. VAN WINKLE. It provides it is all to be regulated by law.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. Well, then, let us leave it all to law.
MR. VAN WINKLE. Well, but I hope the gentleman doesn't want the legislature to go beyond its proper functions.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. I think, sir, if you put this in our Constitution in its present form, the provision which says licenses shall not be granted, then I would rather trust the legislature than the county authorities. I think it must be apparent to the members of the Convention that we had better not adopt this substitute; leave this thing for legislation; and even if the gentleman will not aid us hereafter, adopt the fundamental principles which should govern us and let the legislature regulate these matters.
MR. VAN WINKLE. I think the county authorities should have something to say about it; they are better authorities than the legislature, who know nothing about it.
MR. LAMB. If the substitute is adopted the question will then recur on the additional section for which this is a substitute. I would like the Secretary to report the section which this is offered as a substitute for.
Mr. Smith's motion was reported as follows:
"The legislature may levy a tax on incomes, salaries and licenses; but no tax shall be levied on property from which any income so taxed is derived or on the capital invested in the trade or business, in respect to which the income so taxed is issued."
The vote on Mr. Van Winkle's substitute was taken and it was rejected by the following vote:
YEAS - Messrs. Brumfield, Battelle, Raymond, Hubbs, Lamb, Lauck, Mahon, Parker, Paxton, Pomeroy, Sinsel, Simmons, Stevenson of Wood, Stewart of Wirt, Soper, Trainer, Van Winkle - 17.
NAYS - Messrs. John Hall (President), Brown of Preston, Brown of Kanawha, Brooks, Chapman, Carskadon, Cook, Dolly, Hall of Marion, Harrison, Hoback, Hagar, Irvine, Montague, McCutchen, O'Brien, Parsons, Robinson, Stephenson of Clay, Stuart of Doddridge, Sheets, Smith, Taylor, Walker, Warder, Wilson - 26.
The question recurred on the additional section offered by Mr. Smith.
MR. PAXTON. Before the vote is taken on that - I believe I have been on the floor but once - 1 desire to make but a single explanation in regard to the operation of a tax on merchants, for I think that matter has been somewhat misunderstood. There seems to be an impression prevailing that if merchants are taxed as other men are the taxation will be less than heretofore. I am inclined to the opinion that it absolutely increases it, for this reason: that besides the regular State tax they will pay, they will then be liable for the county tax and school tax and all other taxes that may be levied. If a merchant, for instance, in this county - and so in every other - pays but one tax, that is called a license, to the State. If instead of the old license, sir, the merchants shall be taxed on the property they possess that would be a State tax. They would next be taxed 180 per cent upon that as a county tax. They would next be taxed 75 per cent on the State tax for school purposes. First 4 cents; then 140 per cent on that; taking this year's tax for county purposes, 72 per cent upon that as a county tax and 75 per cent on the State tax for school purposes.
MR. LAMB. The 75 per cent is on the county tax on my tax bill.
MR. PAXTON. Well, that makes it a great deal worse. But I think the gentleman is mistaken. But any one can see at once that any merchant under that rule will pay a much larger tax than he does now, and the advantage that will accrue to all the counties in the State will be this: that all the counties will then derive a revenue from the merchants' property, whereas now they do not. At present what is paid on the license goes to the state; the counties get nothing. Under the other system of taxing merchants just as others are taxed they would pay not only the regular State tax but pay this additional county tax, school tax, road tax and every other local tax that may be levied on every species of property. So that while the burden of taxation might not be increased on them, it would preserve entire the correct principle.
THE PRESIDENT. Suppose it is levied as a township tax on merchants, shows, etc., would not a single township in the county receive the whole of it and others be excluded?
MR. PAXTON. I do not know that I understand.
THE PRESIDENT. In most of the counties now in this portion of the state, they have but one town in them, at the court-house. Suppose all the licenses were collected by the township tax would not it be mostly collected in the township in which the court-house was situated?
MR. PAXTON. I was speaking of the effect of taxing merchants instead of a license; taxing the merchants on their property as you tax everybody else on their property.
THE PRESIDENT. If it was turned over to the local authorities, what would the State get?
MR. PAXTON. I do not propose that it is to be taken from the State and turned over to anybody else. That all depends on the mode prescribed by the legislature. But if instead of a State license, as now, a merchant's property is taxed as all other property is, I say that in addition to the tax it would pay the State, the assessment of the property would make it liable and it would pay all the local taxes that are assessed against the property of others. Now he pays but one tax, that is a license, to the state; nothing for school or other local purposes. What I have endeavored to express - I do not express myself very clearly - is this: that under the new system the merchant would pay more taxes really than he does now and that the county, schools and other subjects of local taxation would derive a benefit which they now do not.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. Mr. President, it seems to me the gentlemen now opposing this section answer themselves. The doctors disagree. The gentleman from Wood - both gentlemen from Wood - give as a reason that this taxation from licenses on merchants was so oppressive it was driving men out of the state. Now, if the argument of the gentleman from Ohio be correct that the operation of this new law will be to actually increase the burden that is now destroying them, what is to become of the merchants? Why, they will say, save us from our friends. Now if the argument of the gentleman from Ohio be correct, take away this license tax and you are going to impose a much heavier burden on the mercantile community. Why is it when you touch the subject you stir the merchants? If they are so awake to their interests, why, when you carry this new system, do they not cry out, more taxation, more burden. Now the effects to my mind contradict the argument, and I therefore cannot appreciate the force of it.
MR. PAXTON. The gentleman seems to think the members are influenced here chiefly each by his own individual interest in this matter. I beg to assure the gentleman that that is not the fact at all. I beg to say for one that I repudiate any such motives.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. I hope the gentleman, will be satisfied with the explanation.
MR. PAXTON. And that my object is to maintain entire the principle of equal and uniform taxation, and I care not how merchants may be taxed, or lawyers, nor what may be the cost of this principle to any man. Maintain the principle we have declared. We have declared it; let us carry it through.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. I understand the gentleman's proposition. He declares that is his object, and we declare that is our object. The question is, which is doing it? We don't pretend to deny the sincerity of his declaration and his opinion that he is doing it; but I show that he is not doing it. We pretend to be here the gentlemen who are carrying this into practice, and we are endeavoring to do it, and object to the gentleman's actions as well as words; and I do not understand that I intimate at all that these gentlemen who are advocating this are affected by personal considerations, but I understand that these gentlemen are maintaining with vigor and industry and zeal and earnestness the cause and interests of a class in the community with whom they have only a mere common interest. Personally, I presume they care nothing about it. But the whole mercantile class is affected by it, and they are now maintaining their interests; and I say it has been urged on this ground, that it was oppressive to the mercantile class. The argument of the gentleman is that it is going to be burthensome. The argument cuts its own throat. I do not suppose that lawyers in favor of the proposition who are urging it with great zeal have any personal concern in the matter I suppose that is a matter of total indifference and we never think of implicating any gentleman of being controlled by his own personal feelings in the matter; that he is representing a class and speaks his sentiments as affecting the interest of that community. I have no doubt every gentleman is acting for the public at large.
MR. PAXTON. The gentleman remarked that merchants were a class of sharp business men, and I take the inference. But I know not the merchants in the house, the merchants throughout the state. We know the merchants in Richmond have raised this question, alleging that the operation of the system of licensing was oppressive on the city of Richmond, as the largest in the state; and I presume the city of Wheeling has felt the same things. I have heard merchants in my own town question the same doctrines and I have no doubt their ideas were sharpened by their interests in the matter. It is not here, it is everywhere.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. Now, sir, unless this doctrine of licenses is to obtain, we are not only to lose the taxes on salaries, shows, hawkers and peddlers and all these individuals who gad about in an irregular and uncertain business that you cannot define and determine, because as I understand the proposition - it is however voted down - the motion was simply to grant licenses. Well, now every lawyer who gets a license pays on it a tax to the state and pays the commissioner a fee for issuing the license. He could issue it just as cheaply for $500,000.
MR. BATTELLE. There is another class of persons affected by this provision.
MR. LAMB. I would suggest that when a speaker is interrupted the time he loses ought not to be counted against him. He ought to be allowed an extra minute for every interruption.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. A speaker has no right to be interrupted unless it is his pleasure.
MR. LAMB. O, he cannot refuse it.
THE PRESIDENT. The Chair has been allowing the additional time. If it is thought the other rule would be better, the Chair would adopt it.
MR. BATTELLE. "The legislature may levy a tax on incomes, salaries and licenses." I suppose this provision would make it perfectly lawful to impose a tax, not merely upon officers of the government or officers of companies or corporations who are receiving thousands, but it makes it just as lawful for them to levy a tax on a man who is laboring on a farm at ten dollars a month, or laboring in any other capacity. If it is a salary, it is an income. If it is wages it is either a salary or an income. There can be no distinction. According to that provision I suppose it is perfectly competent for the legislature to impose a tax on anybody's compensation or wages however little. But we are not left to theory on the subject that such would in fact be the practice. There are persons in this county, persons in this city who have had imposed on them a tax on their daily earnings working in the shop or in the mill, who supported themselves and their families by their daily labor and that alone. Under the provisions of this section here, which is now proposed to re-engraft in our new Constitution such taxes as have been heretofore imposed, and if I mistake not collected. I do hope the legislature is not to be made to re-incorporate a feature so offensive and, as it strikes me, so damnable; at least so offensive - so justly offensive if it is to be put into our new Constitution. I think there can be no dispute about it as to the perfect competency on the part of the legislature if this provision goes into the new Constitution, to impose taxes on any person who receives compensation for labor however little it may be.
Well, now, we may say that the legislature may not, in practice, levy a tax on an income that is so small as that to which I have alluded. That suggestion is answered by the fact that they have done so in Virginia, of which we are still a part, under this identical provision. That was a few years ago, under the present Constitution of Virginia, I believe, a variation from year to year. At one time it was fixed at something like this, that all sums over a certain amount should be taxed the next year; that a certain amount would be allowed, the next year perhaps raised. But I recur again to the fact - the indisputable fact - that in this very county and no doubt in many other counties taxes have been imposed on the wages of the day laborer and on the pay of men who were receiving what was a bare competence for the support of their families from day to day.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. I only want to remind my friend from Ohio that not many days hence in the discussion of the school report he strenuously advocated including the proceeds of taxes on licenses, etc., in the school fund.
MR. BATTELLE. I had not come to that in my remarks just now.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. What, have not got to that? I say you kept us very well employed on that for several days. I suppose the gentleman has forgotten that it is in his report on his motion.
MR. BATTELLE. The gentleman doesn't understand me. I have said nothing in these remarks inconsistent with my present remarks, with my former position. I merely said that the permission to the legislature to tax incomes and salaries was unfair, and I cited examples in which it had worked unfairly and oppressively.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. If it does operate unfairly, it ought to be stricken out of the report.
MR. BATTELLE. It is not in my report.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. Well, I may be mistaken. I only wanted to call the attention of the gentleman to it. This matter, Mr. President, of collecting taxes by licenses is a source of revenue, and I must say it is a very considerable one and one that we should not overlook at the present time. It is rather an indirect way of collecting taxes I admit. The people, they say, have to pay, but it is the consumer that has to pay, and the poor man does not consume a great deal and he has very little tax to pay that is collected in this way. No doubt we pay a very large tax to the general government, but we do not feel it. We do not know anything about it. The poor man hardly knows that he pays any tax at all to the general government. It is paid in an indirect way; and the tax we pay now to merchants is an indirect tax on the people and they do not feel it. Yet it is the consumer that pays. I think if we looked to the interest of the community generally that we ought not to deprive ourselves of this source of revenue. It is a considerable source of revenue; and I am not like the gentleman from Ohio, chairman of this committee. I rather think it will come down a little harder on the merchants if we have a right to tax them on their licenses for the privileges they enjoy, and I think the remarks of my friend from Kanawha in regard to the argument of some gentlemen, that people had to go off to other states to purchase goods and were induced to do it because they could sell lower - that argument was conclusive and forcible. A house divided against itself cannot stand. Gentlemen are divided in their opinion about this matter when they introduce arguments in opposition to those of the chairman of the committee.
MR. HERVEY. My friend from Doddridge has made a very strong argument against his side of the question. (Laughter.) I had rather come to the conclusion to vote against his proposition. He says it is a pretty good way of raising money and the man that pays it doesn't pay it; that is the people pay it to him, the taxpayer, and he pays it to the treasury. Now, sir, that reminds me of a little of the black fellow, who had a very thick heel, who was lying on the floor with his feet to the coals. After while he waked up and thought he smelled something burning, very odoriferous. "Ah smell somet'ing," he said. "Smells lak a nigger's heel. Whose heel's a burnin'?" By and by it began to get through and all at once he yelled, "By golly! It's dis nigger's heel!" (Laughter.) Now, sir it strikes me that after we bore away into this system of indirect taxes we will begin to feel after while that it's our heel that is "burnin'." (Laughter.) I have come to the conclusion to vote against this burn.
MR. HALL of Marion. I wish, sir, to enlarge a little on the argument of the gentleman from Ohio. It is a fact that under the action of the legislature at Richmond they did pass such a law as that went down to the taxing of the wages of the laborer, I believe, to the lowest amount without restriction and there was but one sentiment about it. All over the country the laborer and all other classes of persons were ready to denounce it as oppressive, an unjust and improper method of raising the necessary revenues to carry on the government; and in the city of Wheeling, I understand, that tax was actually collected. But I know that in the county of Marion the question was raised and it was not clear there, and the matter was referred to the attorney general of the state upon a construction of the act passed, and he decided that the act was authorized to require that the wages or income, though it were the wages of the day laborer, were subject to taxation. Now, there was no division of sentiment about that thing. I found no man in any part of the country who did not denounce it, and why? Because it was an admitted fact that it was proper to look to the men who had the means and ability to pay, and not fall upon the poor man who by his day labor was merely able to keep soul and body together.
But let us follow this thing a little farther. What was the reason it was not collected elsewhere all over the state? So far as I know, I never heard of its being collected anywhere except in Wheeling, in the county of Ohio. It was not in Marion. Our representatives there were placed in what position? Why, sir, they had to deny that they voted to pass any such act. That it bore no such interpretation; and they labored and instructed those whose business it was to look after the gathering up of the revenues that would be derived from this source that they were not to act and our commissioner went on and overlooked this matter, or at least construed it according to the instructions of the persons who represented us in the legislature when the act was passed had felt bound to construe it to me. And then what was the result? The very next winter, sir, among the very first acts passed by the legislature was one to repeal that act, seeing that the legislature cannot oppress the people and that the people will rise up in their majesty if they attempt a thing of that kind; they will have to deny it when they come home; and if they ever get back at all the first act they do there will be to repeal it. Now, sir, there is an argument in that for the gentleman from Ohio that shows the safety and propriety and importance of leaving this thing to the legislature. I have been protesting all the time against making a cart-load of our Constitution. But when we leave this matter to the legislature - and I understand there is nothing mandatory in this - the legislature "may" is all it says; and the argument of the gentleman from Ohio is to leave the impression here that by incorporating this clause in the Constitution we are seeking to rob the poor man of his money. It is no such thing in my view unless you say they shall do it. Now, that is the reading of the proposition. There is nothing mandatory in it and they may do it to such an extent with such discrimination as they may deem right and proper; and if they should err in this the people will bear down upon them just as they did before as in the case referred to by the gentleman from Ohio.
Is there any propriety, then, in taxing salaries at all. There seems to be in the clause we have adopted, a doubt. That very fact makes it necessary when we cannot agree that we should remove that doubt. But there is eminent propriety in taxing the salaries and in taxing merchants and all this, because direct taxes are odious and we must derive taxes from some source and if you do not do it in some such source as this, then you must resort to direct taxation, which is the last resort at all times, always has been, with every people, because people would rather pay in such indirect ways as suggested than in any other way; and in this way the greater proportion of the taxes comes off those who purchase and consume most; and in that way those are made to bear who are most able to and ought to bear. I trust we will adopt this and remove any doubt on this question and say the legislature shall have the power. I desire to have it so that the people control this matter; that they can try one thing and another until they get it to operate fairly and equally and after that can avoid oppression and injustice.
MR. SINSEL. I have no objection to the legislature having the power but what are the conditions proposed by the section offered by the gentleman from Logan? The legislature may impose a tax on certain trades or callings; that the capital invested in that trade or calling shall be exempt from taxation. Now while you attempt to establish the principle of equal and uniform ad valorem taxation on the one hand, you give it up on the other. You have in the first section just adopted declared for the establishment of this rule as the fundamental principle of your whole financial system. Here in the next section you are called upon to act on, it is proposed to incorporate a provision that directly antagonizes the other. More than that you leave it to the legislature to favor this class of individuals or oppress them just as they like. If you require a license tax of a merchant and do not tax his property, his capital invested in his business, what becomes of your equal and uniform taxation of all property? If you wish to bear down on the merchant, you may make the tax on the privilege higher than it would be on his capital. If you wish to favor him, you can make it lower. In either case you violate your fundamental principle when you omit the tax on his property which is laid on all other property. If in accordance with the section we have just adopted you tax the merchant's capital like the capital invested in any other trade or calling, you know exactly what you are getting. He is only paying what other persons pay upon like value of property, and you are maintaining your principle.
MR. BATTELLE. I wish to say a word in reference to the remarks of my friend from Marion. It seems his argument was a little singular. He proposes as a remedy, as I understand it, for the provisions which it is proposed now to insert in the Constitution, a remedy for the evil effects it may have, the revolutionary right of the people. I do not see that his argument amounts to anything else but that. That we put into the Constitution a permission to the legislature to do a certain unjust, unequal, and, if you please, unrighteous, thing, and the remedy for all that is the right that inheres in the people to revolt against it, as it seems they did in his and some other counties when the same sort of unrighteous thing was done by the Virginia legislature under warrant of this identical provision. On this ground and none other we are asked to repeat this iniquity and this folly. It seems to me the much better remedy is not to give the legislature the power at all. I did not say the provision here was mandatory. I intended to say that it proposed to put into the Constitution a permission to the legislature to impose this kind of a tax, and I said that not only may they in theory impose such a tax but that they actually have done so in the past; and for one I am not disposed to give them the privilege to repeat that wrong. It seems to me by far the safest course is simply to withhold the power. They may never resort to that species of taxation again. If you do not give them the authority, they certainly will not.
MR. HALL of Marion. I mean, sir, that revolutionary right of the people, if he calls it such, to turn out an unfaithful agent and to put in a true one. That is a right of revolution that I vindicate in the people and always will. I mean, sir, when the people have unfaithful representatives they take them by the nape of the neck and turn them out and put somebody there who will know and do their duty. So far as refers to the fact that that tax was not collected, I say there was no resistance in that particular; but the representatives were ashamed to meet their people, and they told our commissioners to do no such thing and to cover it up until they could get back to Richmond and blot it out. I used this to show that the people were ready to make their representatives mete out to them equal and exact justice. I tell you the power is in the people and the rights in the people. When this is not mandatory I tell gentlemen, do not borrow trouble and get scared at a raw- head-and-bloody-bones. Why, sir, the legislature have the power to tax church property. Do they? No, sir; the people would not allow them to do it. So there is nothing in that argument. The fact is that we must raise taxes. The question is how and upon whom? I for example live by the profession of the law. I have no farm. Why not tax my profession? I can make as much. I will bear it. True, individually I would fare the better by the course proposed by the gentleman, not to tax these licenses. My friend from Ohio county in his position as banker will have his salary of $3000. Why not tax him? Saddle it down on those who are able to pay. If you don't make them come from some you have got to rake it out of the poor day laborers. Bring money from where money is.
MR. MAHON. I am opposed to the amendment of my friend from Logan; and I oppose it on the same view that the gentleman from Doddridge expressed on that subject. I am of the same impression, that the license the merchant pays is put on his goods and that the people pay it. It does seem to me very unjust to pretend to tax capital and derive no tax whatever from the possessor of that property. Say, for instance, I am a merchant doing business with a capital of $10,000, and I have to pay $100 license, and I add it to the price of the goods I sell. The buyer is my friend from Doddridge. Say, is he the payer of that tax? Now, sir, in a community such as we have at least in Jackson county there are generally some poor men. The poor families in these counties pay that enormous tax. It is not the merchant who pays it; it is the consumer. Well, is there any justice in this thing? He says: Lo! they do not feel it; it goes out so gradually they don't feel it at all; they are not sensible of the fact. Nevertheless, it has been added to their expense and the injustice is just as great as though I would put my hand in the pocket of my neighbor and take out 25 cents. He didn't know I took it; lie never missed it; and yet I am a thief!
Therefore, I say, I oppose the system; and, more than that, if I understand it correctly, these license taxes go to the State and the counties and townships derive no benefit from them. I am opposed to it on that ground. I believe the county should have her proportion of that tax, and the school funds in particular should have their interest in that tax; and I do believe those who are friendly to the school system should vote against this amendment, to have all the tax we can possibly get to place our school fund on a sound basis. If I understand, those license taxes are to go to the State treasury altogether.
MR. STEVENSON of Wood. I made a short argument on the other amendment which has just been voted down. It appears I was misunderstood. Maybe I did not make my argument very clear. Let me, sir, read what is proposed to be inserted here as a new section:
"The legislature may levy a tax on incomes, salaries and licenses; but no tax shall be levied on property from which any income so taxed is derived or on the capital invested in the trade or business in respect to which the income so taxed is issued."
Now, I think every gentleman in the Convention will admit that whether it be appropriate to adopt this section or not, it is a departure, an entire departure from the principle of taxation we adopted this forenoon. If there could be anything said here to show that either the people or the State in the long run would be the gainers by this departure from a well-settled and just principle, I concede there might be some force in the argument urged in its favor. Certainly this Convention is not convinced - at least I have not been - that there is any additional advantage to be derived from the adoption of this section, that would not be derived if it was not adopted. Now, why depart from the principle if that is the case? Gentlemen have not shown here that the people would be benefited by it. The State revenue would not be increased by it. Now, sir, if we can gain nothing - indeed, unless we can gain a great deal - why sacrifice this principle? That was the position which I took.
Let me tell you that this proposes to leave to the mercy of the legislature the whole matter of taxing incomes, and in that I include the labor of every man who makes his living by honest industry; for most certainly if you can tax the wages of a clerk who makes $500 or $800 a year, or the lawyer who makes $3000, you can tax the laborer on the same principle who makes his 75 cents or a dollar a day. It is taxation on labor, on the means, and sometimes the only means, a man has of making a living for himself and those dependent on him, and not upon property. Now, sir, if you can obtain the same thing by taxing property, which you exempt in this provision, ("but no tax shall be levied on the property from which any income so taxed is derived"), if you can raise the same revenue by taxing the property, why shift it from that property to income? I ask gentlemen in this Convention to think about that question. This is a very peculiar and remarkable provision. Very large property interests might find exemption under it under color of a tax on alleged income. It might result in a very extraordinary method of taxation.
One word in reference to the matter of licenses. When I spoke in reference to that matter what I wished to express to the Convention was this: that trade and commerce does not flourish, and cannot be permanently successful where all the conditions on which a man may carry it on are unsettled and uncertain. I will venture to say the history of the world does not furnish an example where trade has been prosperous, as a general thing, where the rules and laws that regulate that commerce are unfixed, unstable and unsettled. That is the reason why the mercantile business has been crippled and in some instances destroyed in western Virginia. It was not that the merchants objected to paying a license but that the regulations governing that license were on no fixed principle. It was all uncertainty. If a man invested $25,000 in any town in western Virginia under a certain state of regulations that existed at that time, he did not know but the very next year the legislature might strike out all these regulations and create an entirely new set that might destroy his capital and his business. That is a principle that governs commerce in this country and in the world, and always has, because it is one of the laws of trade that is just as fixed and unalterable as the laws of nature themselves. It will operate, gentlemen, in reference to your trade, in reference to the common industry of the State, in reference to every business in it until you have fixed some great principle as a common center to which the merchant, the mechanic, the farmer and citizens generally can look as a rule by which their trade, or business or calling is to be governed. Now, sir, let me say, when you depart from this principle of taxation which has been adopted in this first section you throw everything at sea. A merchant cannot tell this year if he enters into business what the regulation will be next year. You may lay a special tax on him this year of $50 and next year it may be $150. You may not only make his special tax so, but you leave it in the power of the legislature to inflict! a tax on his income, and that may be such as to utterly destroy his business. Under any such regulations it is utterly impossible that trade can become fixed and stable and prosperous in this State. That thing, sir, has been abandoned in nearly all the states. Where commerce is prosperous, where the merchant has become right and contributes his revenues to the state, it has been where trade has certain fixed cardinal regulations and rules which govern it as well as the other institutions or callings that are found in the community.
Gentlemen say that the matter is with the legislature. I will admit that fact; but do not you grant it is unsettled, whereas stability is the one thing demanded by all commercial interests. The legislature may take a notion that they can tax exorbitantly a certain class of men because they are not a great majority. They are useful, but they are in a minority. There will be no difficulty about putting an exorbitant tax on that people because it will not affect the prosperity of the gentlemen who fill that legislature at the time. I don't say it will be the case, but it may be; and therefore it leaves the matter unstable, unsettled and uncertain. Capital is timid and always wants assurance of settled conditions. That is the strongest argument to my mind why the taxation of our commercial classes and interests should be established on a fixed and stable, and just basis. The finances and general industries and trade of your new State are largely dependent on what you do right here and now. And let me say to you that if you adopt a provision here under which a tax will be laid on the muscles and industry of the people of this new State you have struck a fatal blow at this prosperity. If gentlemen want to make this Constitution popular with the people who are to pass on it, they must not incorporate a system so objectionable as that would be to the great bulk of the people within our limits.
MR. HARRISON. I think, sir, if the gentleman from Wood would look at the facts that have resulted to the country from taxing the licenses of merchants and other dealers, look at our statute-book, see the vast number of persons there required to take out a license to travel around through the country - perhaps he did when he was a candidate for this Convention -
MR. STEVENSON (in his seat). I did not electioneer any.
MR. HARRISON. He would find at almost every cross-roads a certain thing, a store; and if it had been your fortune as it was the fortune of some other members of the Convention perhaps, to have found it necessary to meet people at the various prominent points, you would have found a store at almost every cross-roads at night and a good many between. And if you will go into the towns and cities - take this, for instance - why you cannot step out of the door hardly without meeting a store. Now, if this system is so very onerous and oppressive on the merchants why is it that they are so numerous abroad? Let me read a few of the subjects for which licenses are issued; houses of private entertainment; houses of public resort; eating houses; cook shops; bowling alleys; billiard table; bagatelle tables; livery stables; distilleries; merchants, having right to sell liquors; merchants, general; fuel dealers, and a long list of almost a hundred, from the code index. It has been found a very convenient way to collect the tax off the people, and I think the report of the auditor for 1859 will show that upwards of a million dollars - fully one-third of all the revenue - that is paid into the State of Virginia is derived from these license sources. It is nearly a million and a half. Our revenue is about four millions. Now, can we afford at this time to do without that revenue? Will this Convention, by refusing to adopt this amendment say it will not look to this source of revenue any longer for aid in defraying the expenses of the government? If that is what it intends to do it will vote against this resolution; but if it thinks that these sources of revenue are fair and right and just and profitable, it will vote for the resolution. My opinion is - it may not be worth a great deal - that we should sustain it. I believe it was the gentleman from Doddridge who argued, very correctly, I think, that you have this revenue to pay, the money must come and the question is whether you will go directly into every man's pocket and take it, or will you take it indirectly and make it a kind of involuntary thing. You are not compelled to go to the merchant to buy. You can do without his goods. But then remember there are people who have more money than others, and they do buy and the consequence is they pay a larger portion of this tax than the poor men and the man who does nothing. If you permit the legislature to put this license on the merchants and the merchant puts it on the goods, then it is not the poor man who pays this bulk of taxes but it is the man who has the more means and buys most largely of the merchants.
MR. DERING. I do not rise to make a speech, but merely for the purpose of indicating what influences shall control my vote in this thing more than anything else. If the section which it is proposed should be adopted here, taxes, incomes - all incomes indiscriminately - and I hope it does - I am utterly opposed to it.
Sir, you have heard argument upon argument from gentlemen here who are opposed to that showing the injustice and impolicy of taxing the industry of the country. Why, sir, I very well recollect when our country was in turmoil, and, sir, it almost produced a revolution in that country. The voice of the people was so potent, sir, that both men had taken the ground, in the first place, that it did tax their industry; that the whole community were to be made tributary to the revenues of the state in that respect; but there they were checked by the popular indignation and did not dare to enforce what they called a just interpretation of the law. Now, sir, let me tell you the country will not bear any such thing. Let me tell you that any such odious feature will meet with a sudden rebuke when they come to vote on this Constitution, and hundreds will be controlled by that very thing when you present a constitution with this feature in it. Sir, I am opposed to taxing merchants. I am not opposed to letting the legislature impose a license on them. I think it is but right they should pay some small sum - nothing like what they have paid, because the license on merchants has been onerous to an extreme degree because they composed but a small part of the community and have comparatively few votes at their command. The legislature will always do their duty and lay it on them heavy enough; will never fail to make him pay all the license he ought to pay, and a good deal more to boot. I see nothing in the section we have just passed that prohibits the legislature from laying this license; nothing in the whole chapter on taxation and finance that prohibits the legislature from making this levy on the mercantile community of the country. The legislature will not if you leave that power with them tax incomes of our laboring community, of our mechanics and farmers and the whole country at large. I am willing, then, to leave the section as we have passed it and have confidence that the legislature will do their duty and levy a license tax on the merchants of the country but not on the industry of the country generally. I therefore, sir, shall vote against this section with a view of opposing anything like the granting of authority to lay taxes on the industry of the country, and that alone shall control my vote.
Mr. Hoback asked for the yeas and nays on the question.
The vote was taken on Mr. Smith's motion and it was rejected by the following vote:
YEAS - Messrs. John Hall (President), Brown of Kanawha, Chapman, Carskadon, Cook, Dolly, Hansley, Hall of Marion, Harrison, Hagar, Hoback, Irvine, McCutchen, Robinson, Stephenson of Clay, Stuart of Doddridge, Smith, Taylor, Walker, Warder, Wilson - 21.
NAYS - Messrs. Brown of Preston, Brooks, Brumfield, Battelle, Caldwell, Dering, Dille, Haymond, Hubbs, Hervey, Lamb, Lauck, Montague, Mahon, O'Brien, Parsons, Parker, Paxton, Pomeroy, Sinsel, Simmons, Stevenson of Wood, Stewart of Wirt, Sheets, Soper, Trainer, Van Winkle - 27.
MR. SMITH. I will strike out the word "income" in that section and ask a vote on that. It is a new proposition. The word occurs twice.
The Chair entertained the motion.
MR. STEVENSON of Wood. I would like to hear it read again, sir. I read it myself several times, but I do not recollect exactly how it reads.
THE SECRETARY. There will have to be a clause stricken out.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. I am in favor of the section certainly; but I am afraid it will be rather a bad precedent at present, after we have been amending it and have voted it down, to amend it again and then re-offer it.
THE PRESIDENT. The Chair would suggest to the gentleman from Logan whether it would not be better to retain his amendment and offer it at the next reading of the report.
MR. CALDWELL. My opinion is that this motion is not in order. I will state the grounds of my belief. I think the practice is in all parliamentary bodies -
THE PRESIDENT. The gentleman has withdrawn it.
MR. SMITH. We will take the objection when we offer it again.
The Secretary reported section 2.
2. "A capitation tax, not less than fifty cents nor more than one dollar, shall be levied upon each white male inhabitant who has attained the age of twenty-one years."
MR. PAXTON. I suppose it will be generally conceded here that there is no "cat in the meal-tub" in this section, anyhow. It is very plain and I do not think it can be misunderstood. The capitation tax provided for in this section is a part of our present system of taxation, and, so far as I know, has been sanctioned by the cheerful acquiesence of our people. I have never heard of any complaint from any quarter. It appears to be an eminently proper and just tax. It is very proper that every citizen should contribute something for the support of the government of which he is himself a part, a share of the taxes be it ever so small. I do not know that it is necessary to enlarge on this matter; merely to say the committee thought the mode proposed here of making this tax specific within the range of fifty cents to a dollar, preferable to the present mode which seems to assess a man to 200 dollars. Under the present constitution the tax is 80 cents, and it may be increased or diminished as the taxes on property are increased or diminished. In this section it is specific between the limits of fifty cents and one dollar.
MR. CALDWELL. I am not so sure as the gentleman is but there is a cat in the meal-tub here. We will all remember that there is in Virginia according to our constitution a white titheable; as well as a black titheable; and I think the blacks should pay a tax as well as the whites. It is proposed here to levy a tax on only the white male inhabitants.
THE PRESIDENT. This is the capitation tax. It has not been changed. It has not been applied to the blacks ever by the legislature. In county levies in Virginia a tax has been laid on the blacks. There has been no capitation laid on them.
MR. HARRISON. A capitation tax on free negroes, I believe, sir.
MR. SMITH. I will ask to amend so as to make the tax specifically one dollar, so as to read: "A capitation tax of not less than one dollar shall be levied, etc." I think if you put one at all it ought not to be less than one dollar. I suppose if a man is worth three hundred dollars at our present rate the tax would be about a dollar. To rate every white man over 21 years of age at a dollar I think is a reasonable price. Fifty cents is rating men too low.
MR. STEVENSON of Wood. There is this difference in the amendment of the gentleman from Logan and the section as it reads, that - if I understood it properly - the legislature may tax more than one dollar. I don't like that, sir. I would rather limit the amount, beyond which they shall not go. But if you say they shall levy a "tax of not less than one dollar," why they may levy a head tax of ten dollars, if they like.
MR. SMITH. I think you would hear from the heads very quick if you did it.
MR. STEVENSON of Wood. I know we did have a tax in my county of $3.75; and we heard from the heads, but we had to pay the tax. I don't want to leave the door open for abuses of that kind, and I am decidedly in favor of limiting it to one dollar or two dollars. It is as high as I want it; and I think we had better say it shall not be less than fifty cents. I was reading last night the Constitution of Ohio, made in 1850. They not only refuse to levy a head tax but actually use an argument against levying such a tax, and if our people should get the same notion they have in some of the other states they may wish to reduce this tax even as low as fifty cents. I would not like anything in the Constitution to prevent that reduction. If the legislature see it is necessary to have the tax at one dollar they can keep it at that until we get another constitution; but if the people should desire a reduction of that tax, why then they have no power to do it if you adopt this amendment. I am decidedly in favor, sir, of this section as it stands, and I think it would meet with very general favor amongst the people.
The question was submitted and Mr. Smith's motion rejected; and the section as reported by the committee adopted.
Section 3 was reported as follows:
"3. The legislature shall provide for an annual tax, sufficient to defray the estimated expenses of the State for each year; and whenever the ordinary expenses of any year shall exceed the income, the legislature shall provide for levying a tax for the ensuing year, sufficient, with other sources of income, to pay the deficiency, as well as the estimated expenses of such year."
MR. PAXTON. The whole object of this section is simply to require an annual tax sufficient for the ordinary expenses of the government, and in case of deficit to provide for it. A provision of similar import to this may be found in many of our later constitutions.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. I was going to move to strike out the whole section; but I do not know that it is of any importance to move to strike it out, since the vote on adopting or rejecting it is the same. I can see no necessity for this section at all. The peculiar duty of the legislature is to provide the revenue for carrying on the State government and levying the taxes on the people to do it. I think there can be no doubt about that. I have never heard any good reason assigned for placing a clause here requiring the legislature to do the very thing the legislature is called for. One of its fundamental powers and objects of its existance is to maintain the government that it constitutes a part of. It seems to me it were just as applicable to put in a proposition that they should annually levy a tax to pay the per diem of its members. Because it is wholly unnecessary, I object to it, as cumbering the Constitution. They have already the power and it is their duty to do it. And if they fail to do it, repeating over and over again does not make it any stronger; and if they fail to do their duty what is the remedy? There is no superintending power to compel the legislature to levy the taxes. They are the law-making power; that is their business. I can see no object to be attained by it.
MR. LAMB. I cannot regard the section in the light in which it is presented by the gentleman from Kanawha. I view it as rather an important provision. It is to make it imperative on the legislature, in case the ordinary revenue does not meet the ordinary expenditure in any one year to provide immediately by taxation for the deficit in order to prevent the accumulation of debts on account of these deficits. If any provision is necessary, it must be in the Constitution. It is a provision which cannot be supplied by law; and I think it ought at least to be declared to be the imperative duty of the legislature to provide an annual revenue equal to the annual expenditures.
And what is the remedy, the gentleman asks, providing the legislature will not do it? Why, Mr. President, we have provided in twenty places in our Constitution that the legislature shall do so and so. What is the remedy in each of these cases if the legislature refuses to obey the constitutional injunction? The remedy is with the people, and you by making this provision in the Constitution present to the people the case of a legislature wilfully neglecting their constitutional obligation. If the people do not apply the remedy, there is no remedy, it is true, and there cannot be any. Such action by the legislature would be revolutionary and the remedy must be outside of any application of law, organic or statute. But it is just the same case here as it is everywhere, where you have attempted to make it the imperative duty of the legislature to do this or omit to do that. If they disregard the mandates of your constitution, there is no remedy but with the people. There cannot be in any case - this case as well as all others. Are we for that reason to omit all instructions and all restrictions which we, as representing all the people of the State and all the .political authority of the State, see fit to incorporate in the organic law? I would have it, I must confess, declared in your Constitution as the imperative duty of the legislature to prevent the accumulation of annual deficits. If they have not yet provided a sufficient remedy, let them meet the case manfully by a tax on the people. It is the only way in which you can keep your finances in proper condition; and if the legislature fail to perform their duty in this respect, I hope the people will appreciate sufficiently the importance of the principle to apply the proper remedy by turning them out.
Mr. Smith moved to strike out "defray the estimated expenses" and substitute "meet the wants," after "sufficient" in line 12. I will state my reasons for this. This section is, I believe, mandatory on the legislature, and while mandatory confines it to current expenses - nothing else. We might want to build a capitol. That is not current expenses, and that requires an appropriation and an indebtedness, and it is the expenses alone that you provide for. You may have other liabilities. There may be a desire to make some improvements in this country and it may be necessary to carry on these improvements and those current expenses. Well then you have made it mandatory on the legislature to provide for expenses only.
MR. PAXTON. For "estimated" expenses.
MR. SMITH. What do you call expenses.
MR. PAXTON. Why, sir, I suppose if they wanted to build a capitol, there would be an estimate made of it as part of the estimated expenses.
MR. SMITH. Would that come under the head of "expenses?"
MR. VAN WINKLE. But lending money to corporations would not.
MR. SMITH. It looks to me like the beginning of a system which it is perhaps legitimate for me to allude to, in the subsequent sections. I do not desire to say anything in regard to the subsequent sections, but it is in reference to the subsequent sections that I propose this amendment. The subsequent sections seem to me exceedingly objectionable such, I think, as well if they here defeat this Constitution and the people - inevitably defeat it. And I am not choice about the words that may embrace what I have in view I am willing to adopt; to meet the sufficient, to meet the ordinary, to meet the liabilities of the State. That would answer me; but I look upon the word expenses as current expenses in the management of the government. That is the sense in which it presents itself to my mind, and it is in that sense that I object to that; for I do not want to confine the legislature to merely the expense that may be incurred by the government in its ordinary business. But I think that in this country we shall have need of other expenses than ordinary expenses of carrying on the government. And it is my opinion about the meaning of the word "expense" that induced me to offer some other phraseology. I am not choice, I say, about the words that carry out my meaning; but I desire a course to be pursued that will not tie the hands of the legislature; although I should not imagine that the legislature under the terms of this would be estopped from making provision for these other subjects of expenditure. Yet it looks like the foundation of the beginning of what is to follow. If you will examine the balance of the section, it carries out the idea, and I propose to amend the balance of the section.
MR. VAN WINKLE. The words "necessary expenditures" -would meet that thing and confine it to current expenses. I propose that, because then this section might be passed and the question you allude to be reserved where it is more plainly indicated.
MR. SMITH. I have no objection to it only for the reason assigned.
MR. VAN WINKLE. In case any alteration in the after part would make alteration here necessary, it would of course be passed.
MR. SMITH. Yes, sir, that is the view I had. I would prefer that course for the purpose of looking into other parts of this taxation plan.
Objection was made to Mr. Van Winkle's suggestion.
MR. SMITH. I ask that it may pass, because it may become material. I do not want -
MR. VAN WINKLE. My suggestion was that by changing to "expenditures" it might then be passed. I don't mean passed by. It would not then affect the question with that word in.
MR. SMITH. The suggestion, which I accepted, was to strike out the word "expenses" and substitute "expenditure."
MR. HERVEY. I am opposed to striking out, sir. There is a wide difference in the signification of the two words. The word "expenses" here, in connection with the balance of the section, has a definite meaning. It means the current ordinary expenses of the State. Whereas, by striking out expenses and introducing another and a more general term, "expenditure," we imply not only the expenses of the State but all kinds of expenditures no matter what. Looking over these sections, it seems to me the ground-work is commenced to be laid in the third section; goes up in regular gradations until it becomes consecrated in the 4th section; and I am in favor of following it step by step clear through. I think that any change in this present section impairs the whole structure. Therefore, sir, I think uniformity, regard to the system as laid down in this report requires that we should preserve the present words. It has a definite meaning, referring to the expenses of the State ordinarily incurred.
MR. VAN WINKLE. I think, sir, the substitution will not be necessary here. The word I suggested to the gentleman thinking it would meet what was his objection and would then leave this section so that it could be acted on; but looking at it again it seems to refer entirely, as the gentleman who has just spoken suggested, to the ordinary expenses of the State and it does not affect any other expenditures.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. I would suggest "necessary expenditures" there, and strike out ordinary.
MR. VAN WINKLE. I was trying to show that even to meet the gentleman's views, it will not be necessary to even substitute in this section. That is understood to be confined to the ordinary expenses of the State. Then it provides that the legislature shall raise by taxation sufficient to meet those ordinary expenses.
MR. SMITH. I will withdraw the amendment for the present.
MR. VAN WINKLE. A man who goes in debt for the ordinary expenses of his family will never get out of debt in the world. This provides that no deficit occasioned by the excess of ordinary expenditures over revenue shall be allowed to accumulate. It is illustrated in the history of this State. Only a few years ago, they had by extending internal improvements produced a deficit in the ordinary expenses of the State and the taxes to meet this deficit were, I think, limited to three years. Under the committee's report we would meet our ordinary expenses each year by taxation; but if we undertook to build, say a state capitol, we should have to make a debt for the purpose. If we wanted to erect a state house there is nothing in this report to forbid the legislature doing so. As the capitol would be for the use of posterity for ourselves that might prefer that posterity should pay a part of it, and so borrow the money for the purpose of making that State house. This does not prevent it. Well, if they were expending, say, ten thousand dollars a year on public buildings until they were completed, this does not compel them to levy a tax to raise that. If they choose to do it by loan, they are at liberty to do that. And I think I can also say that that view of it does not affect that other question which the gentleman from Logan wants to present at the proper time. I think the section itself is a very proper one and one that we ought to adopt most cordially. We ought not to permit any such deficit to accumulate. Better to be taxed at once and pay it than to wait until it has accumulated with interest and interest on interest. Then it is a burden.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. I would go a little further than the gentleman from Wood, and I will assign my reason in a few moments. From the reading of this I infer that so much of the expenses estimated for the year would be all moneys that may have been appropriated for any purpose, for instance, for any internal improvement purpose. Suppose you appropriate a hundred thousand dollars for the purpose of carrying on some improvements? Well, I want that to be met as we go along. And I am only sorry that we have not had that law in Virginia for many years past. If we had had it, the legislature would have been bound to meet the current expenses of the year by levying a tax and we would not have been in debt forty millions of dollars. But this thing has grown on us so gradually and the debt accumulated while the people knew nothing about it. Now, if you will compel the legislature to levy yearly to the amount of the necessary expenditures, then the people will have something and will not go in debt and know nothing about it. I would like to have this changed in the way indicated by the gentleman from Wood. "Estimated expenditures" of the State for each year. I would leave out "whenever the ordinary expenses shall exceed the income, etc." Now, that is exactly my sentiments. I am an internal improvement man too. I'll go for it. As we improve, I want to pay for it and not entail a debt on posterity that should be looked after at present. I want to vote in some section that will provide against a contingency of that kind, of letting the State incur large debts and people know nothing about it until taxes become so onerous. I move, sir, to insert "expenditures" in the 13th line, and strike out "ordinary" in the 14th.
MR. LAMB. Mr. President, it strikes me that would alter entirely the intent of this provision. If gentlemen will look at the whole of this provision they will see it draws the distinction between the ordinary expenses of the State and the extraordinary expenses.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. For information: Supposing the State appropriates a hundred thousand dollars for some internal improvement, do you look on that as "ordinary expenses?"
MR. LAMB. The gentleman will find that is provided for in the subsequent part of this report. That would be an extraordinary expense.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. An extraordinary expense. Extraordinary; well, I want that levied as we go along.
MR. LAMB. This draws the distinction between the ordinary expenses of the government and the extraordinary expenses; and it is intended to put here a rule that the ordinary expenses shall be provided for here for the year by taxation; but that if the revenue levied is not sufficient for the expenses of the year a levy shall be made immediately sufficient to cover the deficiency. This prescribes no rule in regard to the extraordinary expenses. If we find it necessary, for instance, to build a capitol, that should not be considered one of the ordinary expenses of the State. The legislature would be at liberty notwithstanding anything contained in this provision to arrange that matter as they might deem best. If the legislature were to appropriate a hundred thousand dollars or a million of dollars to internal improvements, that could hardly be considered, with any propriety, as ordinary expenses of the State, unless you adopt some other provision than this. That would not be affected by this provision.
The whole object and scope of this provision is to compel the legislature to provide for the ordinary expenses within the year and immediately afterwards. What provision it may be necessary to make in regard to extraordinary expenditures will necessarily come into consideration when we have the balance of this report before us; but it is not involved in the consideration of the present section. This has one plain, definite object which I think ought to be provided for in the Constitution. The object which the gentleman from Doddridge seeks to accomplish had to be provided for in a distinct portion of the report, not connected at all with this.
MR. PAXTON. The effect of the amendment proposed by the gentleman from Doddridge, to strike out "ordinary" would be this; that in case of an extraordinary expenditure - say, for instance, a case of armed invasion or insurrection - the State might find it necessary to incur extraordinary expenses to a large amount, even a million dollars; and yet, if you strike out the word "ordinary" then the legislature would be compelled to levy a tax at once to pay the entire expense. Certainly it could not be his intention to require the legislature to levy a tax to meet such an extraordinary expense as that. That would be the effect of the gentleman's motion, and would defeat the whole intention of this provision. This is merely to require that the legislature shall levy a sufficient tax each year to meet the ordinary expenses of the year. It does not prohibit the legislature from levying any other tax they please. It does provide that they shall provide against a debt consequent on the accumulation of temporary deficits. But to require them to levy for every expenditure however extraordinary would certainly be an improper requirement.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. My object is not to meet extraordinary expenditures, but I think these appropriations for internal improvements are only ordinary expenditures. Such as the rebellion, as a matter of course, we cannot make a provision for that. But I do insist that the legislature shall be compelled to levy a tax to meet all appropriations for all purposes of that kind. I do not see if we are not able to pay we should not engage in it. If we don't do that - have such provision - the same state of affairs may occur that has already occurred in the State of Virginia. We will find we will not be able after while to pay interest on the money we owe. It would be a very imprudent farmer now who would incur expense year after year and let the interest devour it. It would be better for him to make the provision to pay as he goes along; and if he has not the ability to make the improvement, let him do without it until he is able to make it. I think the new State should not enter upon this internal improvement system to any greater extent than she can pay as she goes. That is my object, not to meet extraordinary expenses such as referred to by the gentleman from Ohio.
MR. HERVEY. The provision of the gentleman from Doddridge is completely met in the 5th section of this report: "No debt shall be contracted by this State except to meet casual deficits, etc." The contingency which he supposes might arise cannot arise under the 5th section of this report.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. After consultation, I withdraw the amendment for the present.
The third section was then adopted, and the Secretary reported the fourth:
"4. No money shall be drawn from the treasury but in pursuance of appropriations made by law, and an accurate and detailed statement of the receipts and expenditures of the public money shall be published annually."
MR. PAXTON. A provision similar to this may be found, I believe, in the constitution of every state of this Union as well as in the Constitution of the United States. I do not know that it requires any explanation whatever. The only difference between this section as reported here and one of a similar character reported by the Committee on the Legislative Department, which on motion of the chairman was stricken out, is that this provides for publishing annually a statement of receipts and expenditures. This is probably more explicit and I think preferable in that regard only.
The 4th section was adopted and the Secretary reported the 5th:
"5. No debt shall be contracted by this State except to meet casual deficits in the revenue - to redeem a previous liability of the State - to suppress insurrection, repel invasion or defend the State in time of war."
MR. LAMB. I would move to insert there, after the word "revenue" in the 23rd line, "to erect public buildings." I suppose there will be no objection to that. We will have to erect public buildings. It may be rather hard for us to provide even for that expense.
MR. DERING. I was going to offer the following amendment, to be added to the section, to be brought up all together, and we will meet the question right at once:
"Nor shall the legislature ever appropriate any money or the credit of the State to any railroad or other work of internal improvement."
MR. LAMB. It is an entirely independent provision. I prefer the vote should be taken on my amendment. I would inquire of the chairman whether there is any objection to the words I have proposed?
MR. PAXTON. For myself I have no particular objection to it. Of course, I cannot speak for the committee; although I should think even for the erection of public buildings the State might in the course of two or three years levy a tax sufficient for that. Still I have no particular objection for myself to amending the section in that particular.
MR. LAMB. I would suggest that the vote be taken on this and then the gentleman from Monongalia can offer his amendment; otherwise I must call for a division of the question, which will accomplish the same thing.
MR. DERING. I don't withdraw it, sir.
MR. VAN WINKLE. Well, sir, I ask for a division of the question, first on public buildings and afterwards on corporations.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. I understand that cannot be done.
MR. VAN WINKLE. Any member has a right to call for a division of a question when the question is susceptible of division.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. You cannot say which question shall, be put first.
MR. VAN WINKLE. I stated them in the order they were offered. I did not intend to assume any such authority. It would be the natural order.
MR. BROWN of Kanawha. We are framing a constitution with a view to an independent organization; and I for one desire to make that constitution conform to the wants of the people over which it is to be the organic law. The State upon which this Constitution is proposed to act is one that is now without internal improvements to a very great extent. It is a state perhaps more now than any other in this Union requiring a system of internal improvements; a state that has been for 30 or 40 years bearing the burthen of revenue to make internal improvements in the state, but unfortunately under the administration of one section of the state, has had its revenues appropriated elsewhere than within its borders. One of the crying evils that has been in the mouths of these people has been that the power of the state has been exerted to levy taxes on the people for works of internal improvement and then to transfer that money to other sections of the state and also appropriate it. Why are we here to-day clamoring for a new State. One of the reasons, sir, that moved the people of this section of country is in order that they may have control of their own moneys and expend it among themselves for their own benefit; and that they may apply what is rightfully their own to their own benefit; may not have their funds and all their resources and wealth appropriated elsewhere. Now, this clause in this report, proposed to be adopted as part of the Constitution, is to tie forever that very hand that is now seeking relief and release from the bonds it has been in heretofore. It is an effort to strike down. and destroy the object we have in view in the formation of a separate state; an attempt to tie beforehand the hands of the state and people so that they shall never exert their combined power and ability to develop the resources of their state to enter on a system of internal improvements. Fix this as proposed in the organic law and put it before the people, and there is but little motive with them for a new State; it defeats the very object they have in view in, and they will tell those who present them that Constitution we will have none of it.
What is the condition and situation of the State? Just look at it in its whole area. With the exception of this section it has scarce a turnpike you can travel on or drive a wagon or stage upon; with no means among the community to make those roads; with no railroads or canals; with nothing done of an internal improvement character on the part of the State; with a country that is diversified with mountains and valleys that are inaccessible across each other, that you cannot traverse unless you go down to the mouth of your rivers and up the channel of the next. If you should establish the capital in the center of your State, or in any particular prominent locality within it, there is no way of access to it save and except to mount your horse or take it afoot. And you expect that for all time to come your people are to be made to trot to the capital and trot back again, with all the power and means at their command; and yet you prohibit them by this Constitution from using them; that your legislature, although they may be the wisest men that ever assembled shall not exercise their wisdom to call forth the resources they could command to develop these resources, to put this State on a new footing and prosperous career. All that is to be prohibited by the enacting of this clause which is forever to tie up our legislature and say they shall incur no debt save and except for war and rebellion and such like things. Why, gentlemen seem to be alarmed at this war. I take it for granted when this war is over, we will have no more for nearly a lifetime. We will be sick enough of war; and then it will be absolutely necessary to the prosperity of the State that the legislature should be untrammeled in this matter and you should be able to call to your aid the wisdom of the people's representatives to put this State on a free career of prosperity.
I hope, therefore, gentlemen here who feel the necessity and want of internal improvements in their country and neighborhood will act with me and vote down this attempt to tie the hands of the representatives of the people. Why put it here? If your people do not want your internal improvements, they will not ask for them. If your people do not choose to encumber themselves with any debt to make them, they will tell their representatives not to incur the debt or enter on the plan. If they want them, why seek to tie up in this Constitution. If gentlemen wish to put any such proposition to the people, let them put it as an independent proposition, so that they can vote for the Constitution with it or without it as they may choose? And I will warrant you whenever they put the question to them, they will by an overwhelming majority of more than three or four to one vote in favor of a system of internal improvements, managed and directed by their representatives and the money expended among themselves for their own advantage and benefit. Those gentlemen that represent a country that needs these improvements but who wish to vote to tie up the hands of their representatives will consign themselves to the tomb of the Capulets. I do not see on what principle any gentleman who by adventitious circumstances have obtained a better position, a more favorable condition in the condition of the State as it will be than others, should desire to tie the hands of the legislature. It is something of that dog-in-the-manger policy; they don't enjoy nor let others participate in it. I am for a legislature which shall be perfectly free to exercise its discretion to meet the wants and necessities of the people whenever they arise; that when the mandate of the people has gone forth that this is what they want - this that and the other work of internal improvement - that the improvement shall be entered upon; that your Constitution shall not trammel representatives in incurring a debt if it is necessary to create it. In other words, that you may make internal improvements that shall benefit posterity a thousand years hence, but shall not tax to lay a debt on the community now to build it, but obtain capital to effect the object and then distribute the cost among posterity. Then no harm is done to anybody. All have been benefited; and you can look over the whole nation and those states that have entered on this career of internal improvement are now far in advance of the rest and those that have never entered on it are behind their sisters. This question is this: In entering now on this race shall we abandon a policy that has been pursued with such great results? The only injustice of which has been is that the property has been distributed in other sections and not in our own. I hope this Convention will vote down this proposition or rather to insert the amendment that changes the whole character of it.
MR. VAN WINKLE. I apprehend that if this Convention votes in and votes out any proposition that is submitted here it will be a pretty good indication of how the people will receive it in reference to this matter of making internal improvements by the State, for to that I shall confine myself. As respects the matter of the public buildings, there is a great deal to be thought of and a great deal to be said if there was time.
Well, sir, I want to come to this subject of internal improvements to be made by the State. And now the question arises: in what condition do we find ourselves in reference to such matters? We find ourselves not only without the improvements that have been given at our expense to other parts of the State but we shall find ourselves saddled with a part of the debt contracted to pay for them. Turn it and twist it as you will, that is the thing to which it has all got to come. We have immediately to assume a portion of that debt without reference to the way it was contracted. We have seen, sir, the prodigal - worse than prodigal - system that has been pursued in this state and in other states in reference to this very subject. We saw a few years ago several cities repudiating the payment of their interest on account of being involved in debt beyond their ability. We say this state so involved that even if this rebellion had not occurred she would probably have been in a very tight place by this time; and that fact, sir, was known at the last regular session of the legislature at Richmond; and yet, sir, the prodigal was not checked in the least; and it was done by logrolling. I have been there, sir, and have written: a good deal about it. It was by these various projects in various parts of the East by those who favored them, uniting together and voting for each other's bills that this great debt has been saddled upon us.
Now, we do not want that thing re-enacted in our new State; and while we want the improvements - while I trust the State may be covered with them in due time - yet, sir, the question is whether our government is going into a system of large expenditures by the State to run up a debt and inflict burdens on this people that they must stagger under for the next three or four generations in order to obtain them. That is the way the question presents itself to my mind. We are commencing poor; we are commencing with a debt that will be all we can carry for many years; and now it is proposed to open the flood-gates of folly and let that debt be increased with a rush such as we have seen in the eastern part of the state. There is another section here which prevents the State from becoming the partner of any joint-stock company in this matter; and I would call attention to the fact that whenever the State has money to spare, out of her ordinary revenues beyond her ordinary expenditures for the building of these improvements, there is nothing in this report to prevent her spending it in this way. This only relates to the creation of a debt.
And, now, I will ask gentlemen, speaking of a railroad how long a one do they want? If they want to make it a great State, work it on a scheme to extend it nearly across the State? If that is the scheme, it must be from one hundred to two hundred miles in length. The road with which I am connected is a hundred miles long and has cost for construction about $45,000 a mile, and that is exclusive of interest. There was contracted during the building of the road an exclusive loan by the sale of its bonds. It was not nearly as heavy in that case as many roads in the state in the east. A hundred miles of road at $45,000 a mile is $4,500,000. Two hundred miles of road would, of course be $9,000,000.
Now, is there, in the first place any probability that the State will within the lifetime of any of us be able to incur a debt - I do not say be able to spend the money, if she did it - but be able to incur a debt for that amount. Interest on the smaller amount would be $270,000 a year, added to the annual expenditure, which must be raised by taxation when probably the ordinary expenses of government would not amount to more than that sum. Then you are going to double that ordinary expenditure besides assuming the debt you will have to as part of the debt of Virginia, of $5,000,000 at least; for I cannot possibly see how it can be much if any lower and I am afraid it will be more. The interest on this will be $300,000 more. Then you have $840,000 to be expended in this small section of the State, to be raised annually by taxation. The very fact, I apprehend, until we are in a better situation to shoulder the debt which will be upon us and meet our ordinary expenditures, if the legislature should authorize the contracting of another debt would damn the credit of the State in all the markets of the world. You would hardly be able then, with a large debt of that kind authorized to be added to the debt of the State, you would hardly be able to borrow the one or two or three hundred thousand dollars at the utmost that may be necessary for the erection of your public buildings.
But apart from these consideration, here is another matter which can be done by private means. If these roads are well located, if they run in connection with the channels of trade, you can get help from abroad to build them by private companies, as the roads already in this part of the state have been built. There has been no aid from the State of Virginia to the Baltimore & Ohio and Northwestern. Neither of them has had one dollar from the state. And yet they have been constructed and are in successful and profitable operation, because they covered the lines of trade and because it was desirable to the large states lying at each extremity of them to have those roads with a view of affording the needed direct communication to markets and thus enhancing their business. You see Cincinnati has a delegation at this time at Washington urging the opening of the Baltimore & Ohio road, and of course Baltimore is urging it too.
Now if a railroad such as would accommodate this State, which I believe a road running through the State from northeast to south- west would do - if such a road was proposed after the country returns to a proper state, I believe such a road can be built by private enterprise. But if you go into this system of state building, you will have the case of Pennsylvania over again. In order to get through her line of canals she had to grant charters to one-horse railroads running up to the canal all along the line, and that is the way over forty millions of debt was contracted. The main road did not cost half the money. But that is what you produce whenever you leave a matter of this kind in the hands of a public body like the legislature. Most certainly I have no objection to see every desirable improvement made that can be; but looking to what will be the probable situation of this new State, I do think that we ought here in this Constitution restrict the legislature during the time this Constitution is likely to continue in force from expenditures in such way. If the time shall come when we are in a better situation, when the people of the State shall desire to have improvements made at state expense an amendment to the Constitution permitting it can easily be had.
MR. STUART of Doddridge. I must be permitted to say, Mr. President, that if I have anything of a temporary nature at heart it is the welfare and prosperity of the State of West Virginia, and I do not think I have been actuated here by any selfish motives, and I hope I shall not be. If I was to look at the interests simply of my own small locality, I would certainly oppose the motion of the gentleman from Kanawha; but, sir, I cannot do that. I am very happily situated, and I believe my friend from Wood is very happily situated. I have got a very fine improvement a fine railroad, the Northwestern turnpike road, and nearly every improvement we ever expect to get in this State or any other state; but, sir, in looking to the interest of the whole State at large, not being confined to any particular locality, I must be permitted to say I am compelled to support the amendment of the gentleman from Kanawha. Although the opponents of internal improvements opposed the motion I made in the second section, in which it would perhaps have held some controlling influence, I am utterly opposed to that. I suppose it is because they want to strike at the very roots of internal improvements. I am an internal improvement man; and, now, gentlemen of the southwest, let me say to you that unless you be careful and know what you are doing you will get yourselves into a trap that you will not get out of until you break up this Constitution. Sir, there are a good many counties in the state I never would have known existed had it not been for this Convention and meeting representatives of them, and I will never know them hereafter unless we can get some internal improvements; and I think these gentlemen ought to be the last men to oppose it. We know the value of them. We know in the little county of Doddridge, sir, where we paid revenue of perhaps some thousand or eleven hundred dollars a year before the construction of this great improvement, the Northwestern Virginia Railroad. Now, sir, we pay some $5,000 or $6,000. We increased our revenue some five-fold.
And now what is the policy for West Virginia, if we ever get a new State? Is it to look up these people in the southwest in their mountains and say that they shall never have any outlet and their property never be increased by internal improvements? We will have nothing to collect from them; no revenue; will not be able to carry on the ordinary expenses of our government unless we do something to enhance the value of their property and let their great mineral resources and wealth be developed by this kind of improvement.
I would have been very much in favor of the amendment I proposed to the third section in order to hold the legislature in check that we may not run into enormous debt; but gentlemen could not see it in that light; but now they want to strike at the very root of internal improvements and say the State never shall appropriate anything for purposes of that kind. I am opposed to it. And I simply got up here to call the attention of gentlemen from the southwest who expect to get perhaps a railroad through their country - to call their attention to it for fear they might overlook it and might, form an opinion here and might pledge themselves to some measure that might be destructive to their best interest.
MR. PAXTON. I desire to say a few words on this subject; but as it is now late, I will move that we now adjourn.
The motion was agreed to and the Convention adjourned.
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Chapter Eleven: First Constitutional Convention of West Virginia