ANNUAL MESSAGE TO GENERAL ASSEMBLY

January 1, 1872

Columbus, Ohio

Fellow Citizens of the General Assembly:

 

The finances of the State Government are in a satisfactory condition. The balance in the State Treasury on the 15th of November, 1870, was $766,038,10; the receipts during the last fiscal year were $5,241,184.91; making the total amount of available funds in the Treasury during the year ending November 15th, 1871, $6,007,223.01.

 

The disbursements during the year have been $5,259,046.74, leaving a balance in the Treasury, November 15th, 1871, $748,176.27.

 

The estimates of the Auditor of State of receipts and expenditures for the current year, are as follows:

 

Estimated receipts from all sources, including balances, $5,206,366.27

Estimated disbursements for all purposes, $4,776,035.73

Leaving an estimated balance in the Treasury, November 15th, 1872, of $430,330.54

 

The public funded debt of the State November 15th, 1870, after deducting the amount invested in Ohio stocks, was $9,730,144.36.

 

During the past year the debt has been reduced $729,415

 

Leaving the total debt yet to be provided for, $9,000,729.36. Of this amount, the sum of $44,518.31 has ceased to bear interest, the holders thereof having been notified of the readiness of the State to pay the same. This leaves the total interest-bearing debt of the State, $8,956,211.05.

 

The taxes levied in 1870, collectable in 1871, were as follows:

State taxes………………………………………………… $4,666,242.23

County and local levies……………………….....................18,797,389.59

Delinquencies & forfeitures in former years….....................    667,188.69

Total taxes, including delinquencies collectable in 1871………… $24,130,820.51

 

The taxes levied in 1871, collectable in 1872, were as follows:

State taxes…………………………………………………..$4,350,728.28

County and local levies……………………………………..18,604,660.12

Delinquencies and forfeitures……………………………….     632,275.84

Total taxes and delinquencies collectable in 1872……………….   $23,587,664.24

 

It will be noticed, with gratification, that the annual increase of taxation, to which the people have been long accustomed, has been checked, and that the taxes, both State and local, have been somewhat reduced.

 

The increase of local indebtedness still continues. The returns made to the Auditor of State are imperfect, but enough is shown to warrant the opinion that during the past year the indebtedness of the towns and cities of the State has increased not less than one million of dollars, and that their aggregate indebtedness now equals the indebtedness of the State. I respectfully repeat, as the remedy for this evil, the recommendation heretofore made, that all public debts be prohibited, except in cases of emergency, analogous to those specified in sections 1 and 2, Art. 8, of the Constitution.

 

The report of the Adjutant General shows that there has been collected by him from the United States during the year, on account of the State War Claims, the sum of $145,304.60, making the total amount of war claims collected $2,826,247.94. It is probable that about $100,000 more can be collected on these claims without additional legislation by Congress. This will leave about $400,000 of claims unpaid, which, it is believed, when presented to Congress, with proper vouchers and explanations, will be provided for by special act. As long, however, as the Board of Military Claims exists, these claims will continue to increase, and it would not be advisable to seek Congressional action until the State, by closing its accounts with individuals, shall be able to ask for a final settlement.

 

It is therefore recommended that the statutes providing for the allowance of claims against the State by the Commissioners of Military Claims be repealed; the repeal to take effect at such date in the future as will afford opportunity for the presentation and allowance of all just claims.

 

The report of the Commissioner of Common Schools shows that, upon the whole, the educational interests of the State continue to be very prosperous. He presents, however, for your consideration, a number of changes in the school laws, which he deems essential to further progress. The proposed reforms are treated of in his report under the following heads: normal instruction, supervision, a codification of the laws, and the township system.

 

The commanding position which Ohio has held in the great transactions of our recent civil and military history, is largely due to the educational advantages enjoyed by her people. Every measure which tends to continue and increase those advantages, merits your earnest and favorable consideration.

 

For many years the most eminent teachers and friends of education have urged the necessity of establishing institutions for the instruction of teachers in the principles and duties of their high and honorable calling. A few thousand dollars of the school fund applied every year to this purpose, will, it is believed, make the expenditures for school purposes vastly more beneficial to the State.

 

There are serious objections to the present mixed system of school management, by means of township boards and sub-district directors. It is believed that this system ought to give place to the purely township system, in which all of the schools of the township are under the exclusive control of a board of education chosen by the electors of the township. This plan is in conformity with that which has been adopted with satisfactory results in most of our towns, and is sustained by the experience of other States in which the purely township system has been tried.

 

In several counties of the State colored children are practically deprived of the privilege of attending public schools. The denial of education to any citizen of Ohio is so manifestly unjust that it is confidently believed that the Legislature needs only to be informed that such a wrong exists to promptly provide a remedy.

 

The official reports of the Penitentiary, the Reform School for Boys, the Reform School for Girls, and the Benevolent Institutions of the State, which will be laid before you, show that the work of these institutions has, during the past year, been well done. They will, without question, receive from you all needed encouragement and support. It seems proper, however, to direct your attention to the urgent necessity of such legislation as will empower the Boards of Trustees and Directors charged with the erection of buildings for the insane and for the orphans of deceased soldiers, to complete them as soon as practicable.

 

By the census of 1870, the number of insane persons in the State was 3,414. The number of patients under treatment in the insane asylums of the State was, last year, 1,346. The Trustees of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphans’ Home report that the number of orphans in Ohio needing care is about eight hundred, and that the number cared for is only about two hundred and fifty. These facts sufficiently demonstrate the importance of the suggestion here made.

 

I renew the recommendation heretofore made, that the Legislature provide for the erection of suitable monuments at the graves of General Harrison and General Hamer.

 

General Harrison has many titles to the grateful remembrance of the people of Ohio. He was one of the pioneers of the West, a soldier of honorable fame in two wars against the savages, and in the war of 1812, a Secretary and Acting Governor of the North-west Territory before Ohio was organized, a law-maker of conspicuous usefulness at the State Capital and at Washington, and was Chief Magistrate of the Nation at the time of his death. To honor him is to honor all who were eminent and useful in the early settlement of Ohio.

 

General Hamer served with distinction four times in the General Assembly; was the Speaker of the House of Representatives; was six years a member of Congress from the Brown County District, and died in Mexico, in 1846, a volunteer from Ohio, in the service of his country, with the rank of Brigadier General. At the time of his death, the General Assembly, with entire unanimity, “resolved, that the body of the deceased be brought from Mexico and interred in the soil of Ohio, at the expense of the State.” Having undertaken, as the duty of the State, to give the remains of General Hamer a fitting burial, the Legislature cannot regard that duty as completely performed until an appropriate monument has been built at his grave.

 

Since the adoption of the present Constitution, the Governor’s duties have compelled him to reside at the Capital. If any change is made in respect to the powers and duties of the Executive in the revision about to be made of the Constitution, the change, it is probable, will increase rather than diminish his duties. The evident impropriety of subjecting each new incumbent of the office to the inconvenience and expense of procuring and furnishing a suitable residence for the short period of a Governor’s term of office, has led, in many States, to the purchase of a Governor’s Mansion. Three of the States adjoining Ohio have adopted this course. It cannot be doubted that Ohio will, at no distant day, follow their example. The rapid increase in the value of real estate in Columbus in consequence of its present growth, and its promise of continued prosperity in the future, gives force to the suggestion that, if the State is to purchase a Governor’s residence at all, it would be well to do it promptly.

 

The importance of wise legislation on the subject of railroads, in a State having the geographical position which belongs to Ohio, cannot be over estimated. The greater part of the trade and travel between the commercial and manufacturing States of the East and the agricultural States of the West, and of the business of the continental railways which connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, passes over the railroads of this State. Fourteen years ago, Governor Chase, speaking of the railroads of Ohio, said: “This vast interest, affecting vitally so many other interests, has grown suddenly to its present dimensions without system, without general organization, and, in some important respects, without responsibility.” Then the railroads of the State carried annually about a million of passengers, and their gross receipts were about six millions of dollars a year. Last year they carried twelve millions of passengers, and their gross receipts exceeded thirty millions of dollars.

 

All of the just powers of the corporations which conduct this immense business, are derived from the laws of the State. If these laws fail to guard adequately the rights and the interests of our citizens, it is the duty of the General Assembly to supply their defects. Serious and well-grounded apprehensions are felt that in the management of these companies, which are largely controlled by non-residents of Ohio, practices, not sanctioned by the law, nor by sound morality, have become common, which are prejudicial to the interests of the great body of the people, and which, if continued, will ultimately destroy the prosperity of the State.

 

Regarding railroads as the most useful instrumentality by which intercourse is carried on between different sections of the country, the people do not desire the adoption of a narrow or unfriendly policy towards them. But it should be remembered that these corporations were created, and their valuable franchises granted by the legislature to promote the interests of the people of the State. No railroad company can sacrifice those interests without violating the law of its origin. It is not to be doubted that the authority of the General Assembly is competent to correct whatever abuses have grown up in the management of the railroads of the State.

 

The late Commissioner of Railroads and Telegraphs, in his last able and valuable report, directs attention to a large number of what he terms “clear and palpable violations of law,” by railroad companies, which are of frequent occurrence.

 

In relation to the rates prescribed by law for the transportation of persons and property, he says: “There is not a railroad operated in the State, either under special charter or the general law, upon which the law regulating rates is not in some way violated nearly every time a regular passenger, or freight, or mixed train passes over it.”

 

As to the laws regulating the occupation of streets and alleys by railroad tracks, the speed of locomotives in towns and cities, and railroad crossings, he says that, statutes which he regards as wholesome are, “it is notorious, wholly ignored by some companies, and only partially obeyed by others.”

 

He quotes the laws forbidding railroad officials from being interested in fast freight, express or transportation companies, and from dealing in railroad securities, and adds, that “the violation of these laws is believed to be very common among railroad officials.”

 

The Commissioner also gives examples of “the increase or watering of stock” by railroad companies, and remarks, “the foregoing statements are the more striking in view of the fact that the stockholders in the company have been in receipt of regular semi-annual dividends for several years of from six to ten percent per annum.”

 

The significance of this remark of the Commissioner lies in the fact that the rates which railroad companies may charge for the transportation of passengers and freight may be prescribed by the General Assembly, whenever the net profits amount to ten percent on the capital actually invested.

 

The interests involved are of such magnitude that all legislation out to be based on the fullest and most accurate information which a careful investigation can furnish. I, therefore, recommend that a commission of five citizens, of whom the Railroad Commissioner shall be one, be organized, with ample powers to investigate the management of the railroad companies of the State, their legal rights, and the rights of the State and its citizens, and to report the information acquired, with a recommendation of such measures as the commission shall deem expedient.

 

During the past year, the traveling public has enjoyed, in Ohio, remarkable immunity from railroad accidents. According to the reports of the railroad companies to the Commissioner, not a single passenger has lost life by the fault of the railroads in the State, during the year. But the number of persons “other than passengers,” and of “employees” who have lost their lives, is quite large. One hundred and fifty-seven persons are reported to have been killed, and it is without doubt that many deaths have occurred which have not been reported. Many of these fatal accidents happened in the streets of towns and cities, and at street and road crossings. It is perfectly practicable to protect citizens from these dangers, by enforcing proper regulations as to the speed of trains, and as to the occupancy and crossing of streets and roads. Your special attention is called to this subject.

 

One of the most difficult and interesting practical problems which now engages the thoughts of the American people, is how to maintain economy, efficiency, and purity in the administration of local affairs, and especially in the government of towns and cities, without, a departure from principles and methods which are deemed essential to free popular government. Many of the most important functions of the government are in the hands of the local authorities. They are directly charged with the expenditure of large sums of money, with the protection of life and property, and with the administration of civil and criminal justice. These duties, in one way or another, touch nearly and constantly the interests and feelings of every citizen. Upon their faithful performance depends the prosperity, happiness, and safety of the community. It is true, that as yet, Ohio is happily, in a great measure, free from the operation of causes which in the commercial metropolis of the country recently led to such extraordinary corruption in the government of that city. But those causes do not belong alone to the great cities of the East. They are already at work in our midst, and they are steadily and rapidly increasing in power. No political party is altogether free from their influence, and no political party is solely responsible for them. We have laws prohibiting almost every conceivable official neglect and abuse; and penalties are affixed to the violation of those laws which cannot be regarded as inadequate. The difficulty is to secure their enforcement. Those whose duty it is to detect and prosecute, are often interested in maintaining good relations with the wrong doers. The contractors for public work and supplies, not infrequently have a community of interest with those who are the agents of the public, to let and superintend the performance of contracts. Where these abuses exist, there is apt to be a large circle of apparently disinterested citizens who labor to conceal the facts, and to suppress investigation. What the public welfare demands, is a practical measure which will provide for a thorough and impartial investigation in every case of suspected neglect, abuse or fraud. Such an investigation to be effective, must be made by an authority independent, if possible, of all local influences. When abuses are discovered, the prosecution and punishment of offenders ought to follow. But even if prosecutions fail, in cases of full exposure, public opinion almost always accomplishes the object desired. A thorough investigation of official corruption and criminality leads with great certainty to the needed reform. Publicity is a great corrector of official abuses. Let it, therefore, be made the duty of the Governor, on satisfactory information that the public good requires an investigation of the affairs of any public office or the conduct of any pubic officer, whether State or local, to appoint one or more citizens who shall have ample powers to make such investigation. If, by the investigation, violations of law are discovered, the Governor should be authorized, in his discretion, to notify the Attorney General, whose duty it should be, on such notice, to prosecute the offenders. The Constitution makes it the duty of the Governor to “see that the laws are faithfully executed.” Some such measure as the one here recommended, is necessary to give force and effect to this constitutional provision.  

 

In compliance with the Constitution, the last General Assembly submitted to the people the question of holding a Convention, “to revise, alter or amend” the Constitution; and at the October election, a large majority of the voters of the State decided in favor of a Convention. It is the duty of the General Assembly, at its present session, to provide, by law, for the election of delegates, and the assembling of the Convention.

 

The vote on the question of calling the Convention which formed the present Constitution was taken at the October election, 1849. At the next session of the General Assembly, an act was passed which provided for the election of delegates to the Convention, the first Monday of April, 1850, and the Convention was convened on the first Monday of May following.

 

In conclusion, I wish to make my grateful acknowledgments to the people of Ohio, for the honorable trusts they have confided to me, and to express the hope that the harmony, prosperity and happiness which they now enjoy in such full measure, may, under Providence, be perpetual.

 

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