SPEECH TO THE OHIO GENERAL ASSEMBLY

November 23, 1868

Columbus, Ohio

Fellow Citizens of the General Assembly: Upon your assembling to enter again upon the duty of legislation for the welfare of the people of Ohio, the Governor is required by the Constitution to communicate to you the conditions of the State, and to recommend such measures as he shall deem expedient.

The reports of the executive officers of the State, and of the heads of State institutions, are required by law to be made to the Governor on or before the 20th day of November of each year. Since that date a sufficient time has not passed for the publication of the reports and I shall, therefore, not be able at the opening of your present session to lay before you a detailed exposition of the affairs of the various departments of the State Government.

It will be my purpose in this communication to invite your attention to a few brief suggestions in relation to some measures which are deemed important, and which may be considered and acted upon, if you think it advisable, in advance of the publication of the official reports.

FINANCES

The financial affairs of the State Government are in a satisfactory condition. The balance in the Treasury on the 15th of November, 1867, was $677,990.79. The receipts during the last fiscal year were $4,347,484.82, making the total amount of funds in the Treasury during the year $5,025,475.61. The disbursements during the year have been $4,455,354.86, which sum has been paid out of the Treasury from the several Funds, as follows, viz: General Revenue Fund, $1,518,210.35; Canal Fun, $14,939.39; National Road Fund, $18,829.36; Sinking Fund, $11,472,226.33; Common School Fund, $1,426,868.80; Bank Redemption Fund, $1,695; Soldiers’ Claim Fund, $3,781.68; Soldiers’ Allotment Fund, $482.00 Balance in the Treasury, November 15th, 1868, $570,120.75. Total, $5,025,475.61.

PUBLIC DEBT

The amount of the public funded debt November 15, 1867, was $11,031,941.56. During the year the redemptions were: Of the loan of 1860, $14,650.67; of Foreign Union loan of 1868, $191,166; of the domestic loan of 1868, $131,088.13; of the loan of 1870, $157,361.33; Total, $499,266.13. The debt outstanding November 15, 1868, was $10,532,675.43.

TEMPORARY APPROPRIATIONS

Small temporary appropriations are required as promptly as practicable for each of the following objects, the existing appropriations having been exhausted, viz: Expenses of the Presidential election, expenses of the General Assembly, Trustees of Benevolent Institution, care of State House, gas for State House, expenses of the Legislative committee, binding for the State, and the new Idiotic Asylum.

REVISION OF THE FINANCIAL SYSTEM

In pursuance of an act passed March 18, 1867, a Board of Commissioners, consisting of Aaron F. Perry, of Hamilton county, Charles E. Glidden, of Mahoning county, and James H. Godman, Auditor of State, was appointed by my predecessor, Governor Cox, whose duty it was to revise all the laws of this State relating to the assessment and taxation of property, the collection, safe-keeping and disbursement of the revenues, and all the laws constituting the financial system of the State, and report their proceedings to the next session of the General Assembly. The report of the Commission was laid before you at your last session. It disclosed many imperfections and inconsistencies in the existing legislation touching the finances, and the urgent necessity for an elaborate revision of that legislation. Their report was accompanied by eight separate bills, consolidating the present laws, removing contradictions and supplying defects, but introducing no radical change in the general principles of our financial system. These bills have already been somewhat considered in both branches of the General Assembly but no definite action upon them has yet been had. I respectfully recommend an early consideration of the bills and their adoption, with such amendments as in your judgment the public interest may require.

CENTRAL LUNATIC ASYLUM

The destruction of the Central Lunatic Asylum by fire during the night of the 18th inst., causing the death by suffocation of six of the patients, and incalculable distress and suffering to the remainder, will require investigation and prompt action on your part. In rebuilding the Asylum, the erection of a fireproof building will occur to you as alike the suggestion of prudence and humanity.

This calamity also suggests the propriety of examining the condition of the other institutions of the State, with a view of providing them with every proper means of security against similar disaster.

COUNTY SUPERINTENDENTS OF SCHOOLS

The interests of common school education, in my opinion, will be promoted by the early adoption of county superintendencies, as provided in a bill on that subject now pending in one branch of the General Assembly. I therefore earnestly recommend the consideration and passage of the bill. The Commissioner of Common Schools is required in the discharge of his duties, to pay out each year for traveling expenses about $700. The propriety of refunding to him out of the State Treasury his traveling expenses will probably not be called in question.

THE CATTLE DISEASE

During the last summer a cattle disease, commonly known as the Spanish or Texas cattle fever, occasioned much alarm in the grazing counties of the State, and in a few localities caused serious loss. On the recommendation of the State Board of Agriculture, in the absence of effective legislation, it was deemed proper to appoint Commissioners to take such measures as the law authorized to prevent the spread of the disease. A proclamation was issued to prevent, as far as practicable, the introduction, movement or transportation of diseased cattle within the limits of the State. The railroad companies and the owners of stock, promptly complied with the requirement referred, to, and the injury sustained by the cattle interest was happily not extensive. It is believed that upon investigation it will be found necessary to confer by law upon a Board of Commissioners appointed for that purpose, or upon the Executive Committee of the State Board of Agriculture, power to stamp out the disease wherever it appears, by destroying all infective cattle, and to prohibit or regulate the transportation or movement of stock within the State during the prevalence of the disease. To the end that proper investigation may be had, I respectfully recommend that authority be given to appoint five commissioners to attend a meeting of commissioners of other States, to be held for the consideration of this subject, at Springfield, Illinois, on the 1st of December next; said commissioners to report the results of their investigation in time for action by the present General Assembly.

GEOLOGICAL SURVEY

I submit to your consideration the importance of providing for a thorough and comprehensive geological survey of the State. Many years ago a partial survey was prosecuted, under many difficulties and embarrassments, which was fruitful of valuable results, it is beyond doubt that such a work, as it is now proacticable to carry out, will, by making known the mining, manufacturing and agricultural resources of the State lead to their development to an extent which will, within a few years, amply reimburse the State for its cost.

EXECUTIVE REPORTS

The annual report of pardons granted and the commutations of the sentences of convicts, required by law; a statement in detail of the expenditure of the Governor’s contingent fund; the semi-annual report of the Commissioners of the sinking fund; copies of proclamations issued during the last year, and an acknowledgment of the presentation to the State of several of the portraits of former Governors of Ohio are transmitted herewith.

ABUSES OF THE ELECTIVE FRANCHISE

The most important subject of legislation which in my judgment requires the attention of the General Assembly at its present session relates to the prevention of frauds upon the elective franchise. Intelligent men of all parties are persuaded that at the recent important State and national elections great abuses of the right of suffrage were practiced. I am not prepared to admit that the reports commonly circulated and believed in regard to such abuses would, so far as the election in Ohio are concerned, be fully sustained by a thorough investigation of the facts. But it is not doubted that even at the elections in our own State frauds were perpetrated to such an extent that all good citizens earnestly desire that effective measures may be adopted by you to prevent their repetition. No elaborate attempt to portray the consequences of this evil is required. If it is allowed to increase, the confidence of the people in the purity of elections will be lost, and the exercise of the right of suffrage will be neglected. To corrupt the ballot box is to destroy our free institutions. Let all good citizens, therefore, unite in enacting and enforcing laws which will secure honest elections.

REPRESENTATION OF MINORITIES IN ELECTION BOARDS

I submit to your judgment the propriety of such amendments of the election laws as will provide, first, for the representation of minorities in the boards of judges and clerks at the elections; and second, for the registration of all lawful voters in each township, ward and election precinct prior to the election. That the boards of elections ought to be so constituted that minorities as well as majorities will have a fair representation in them is so plainly just that in some parts of the State even in times of the highest political excitement, such representation has been obtained, in the absence of law, by arrangement between the committees of the rival political parties. It is not probable that any mode of selecting judges and clerks for elections can be adopted which will, in every case, accomplish this object. But in all cases where the strength of the minority is half, or nearly half, as that of the majority, the desired representation of the minority may be insured with sufficient certainty, by several different plans. For example: it may be provided that at the election may be allowed to vote for two candidates only, and polls of each election may be allowed to vote for two candidates only, and that the three candidates having the highest number of votes shall be declared elected, and in a like manner that at the election of the two clerks of elections, each elector may vote for one candidate only, and that the two candidates receiving the highest number of votes shall be declared elected. I do not lay much stress on the particular plan here suggested, but your attention is invited to the importance of a fair representation of the minority in all boards of elections, not doubting that your wisdom will be able to devise a suitable measure to accomplish it.

REGISTRY LAW

All parts of the State of Ohio are now so closely connected with each other, and with other States by lines of railway, that great and constantly increasing facilities are afforded for the perpetuation of the class of frauds of the elective franchise commonly known as colonizing. In the cities, men called “repeaters,” it is said, are paid wages according to the number of unlawful votes they succeed in casting at the same election. The increase of population adds to the difficulty of detecting and preventing fraudulent voting in whatever mode it may be practiced. It is manifestly impossible, amid the hurry and excitement of an election, that the legal right investigated and decided. The experience of many of the older States has proved that this can best be done at some period prior to the election, so as to give to every legal voter in an election precinct an opportunity to challenge the claim of any person whose right is deemed questionable. Laws to accomplish this have been in force in several other States for many years, and have been carried out successfully, and with the general approval of the people. Believing that an act providing for the registration of all legal voters is the most effective remedy yet devised for the prevention of frauds on the sacred right of suffrage, and that a Registry law can be so framed that it will deprive no citizen, either native born or naturalized, of his just rights. I respectfully recommend to our earnest consideration the propriety of enacting such a law.

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