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DOSTIE AS AUDITOR OF STATE.
The business before Dr. Dostie as Auditor of State was foreign to his former habits of thought, yet after the first feeling of reluctance, he entered upon its details with characteristic energy. ISTo man ever felt the responsibility of official business more than Dr. Dostie. He always defended his schemes for the public good upon the grounds of justice and economy, which sometimes brought down the denunciations of those selfishly interested, who accused him of guarding the public more carefully than his position required.
As Auditor of State he vigilantly watched and exposed abuses, which he considered in any way connected with his official duties. In his official relations he sometimes contended with the members of the Convention and Legislature. In those discussions he always maintained a respectful firmness, never yielding to conciliatory measures, or boisterous threats unless convinced of error.
Said Dr. Dostie, "In my official capacity I must be allowed to act according to my convictions of duty." The following correspondence illustrates the above sentiment:
"new Oeleans, Nov. 12, 1864. "Hon. B. L. Lynch, Attorney General of Louisiana—
"Sir: I respectfully call your attention to the following facts and request your legal oj)inion in the matter at your earliest convenience: Mr. E. P. Marrioneaux was elected on the 5th of September to represent the parish of Iberville in the House of Representatives, now in session, but declined to take his seat. On the 31st October an election was held to fill the vacancy occasioned by such declension, and Mr. P. L. Dufresne was elected. He took his seat in the House and was sworn in on the 2d of November.
"The House passed the following resolution:
"Be it IZesolved, That the said P. L. Dufresne, member elect of the parish of Iberville, be, and he is entitled to the same per diem and mileage allowed other members of the House, from the 3d day of October, 1864."
"A warrant, in the usual form, signed by the Speaker of the House and Chairman of the Finance Committee, has been drawn on me for payment of Mr. Dufresne in accordance with the above resolution.
"Is the action of the House in accordance with the constitutional law of the State? Is it not positively unconstitutional? If so, have I the right, and is it not my duty as Auditor, to refuse to pay^ except for the time since his election? Would it not be violating my oath of office to pay money from the State Treasury for services never rendered, and as per diem for an officer who did not exist, even though I had the sanction of the House to that effect.
"Article 32 of the new Constitution says: 'The members of the General Assembly shall receive from the public treasury a compensation for their services, which shall be eight dollars per day during their attendance, going to and returning from the sessions of their respective Houses. The compensation may be increased or diminished by law, but no alteration shall take effect during the period of service of the members of the House of Representatives, by whom such alteration shall have been made.' By this article of the Constitution, it seems to me jilain that he cannot be paid from the 3d to the 81st of October, but only from the 2d of November to the 12th, inclusive, the time of actual membership.
"This is no donation to him for relief or charity, (the House unquestionably has the right to make appropriations for such purposes), but for per diem as the resolution expressly states.
"Hoping I may be honored with your opinion upon this important question as soon as practicable, I am, very respectfully yours,
"(Signed) A. P. Dostie, Auditor."
"new Orleans, Nov. 14, 1864. "Hon. A. P. Dostie, Auditor of Public Accounts State of Louisiana—
"Sir: The resolution of the House of Representatives relative to the per diem of the Hon. P. L. Dufresne, is a flagrant violation of the Constitution of the State of Louisiana, and you are fully justified in refusing to audit the warrant drawn upon you under that resolution.
"' The members of the General Assembly,' says Article 32 of the Constitution, 'shall receive from the Public Treasury a compensation for their services, which shall be eight dollars per day, during their attendance, going to and returning from the sessions of their respective Houses,' and I cannot advise you to audit beyond the limits fixed by the Constitution."
"Very respectfully, your obedient servant, "(Signed) B. L. Lynch,
"Attorney General." The following is a letter written by the Auditor to the Senate, after it had drawn up resolutions of impeachment against Dr. Dostie for refusing to audit certain claims.
New Orleans, Nov. 20th, 1864. To the Hon. Legislature of Louisiana:
"Article 32d of the Constitution says: 'The members of the General Assenbly shall receive from the Public Treasury, as compensation for their services" &c. If it can be shown to the Auditor, whose sworn duty it is to ' audit, adjust, and settle all claims against the State, according to the Constitution and laws,' that the Senator was a member of the General Assembly from the 3d of October, and has rendered services, then it will become the Auditor's duty to draw his warrant upon the Treasurer in payment for such services from that date; but if on investigation of the claim it should be found that he was not a member, aud had not rendered any services up to the 24th October, then the Auditor, by making such payment, would be violating his oath of office, forfeiting his bond to the State, and rendering himself liable to fine and imprisonment.
"It is not, however, claimed by your resolution that the honorable gentleman was a member at the time in question, and* as I have shown above, he was not an officer of the State until the 24th of October, therefore he is not legally entitled to compensation for services previous to this date.
"Complaint cannot be made, in justice, of the State
in adopting such rules, or of the Auditor for protecting the public treasury from unlawful demands. If the State did not, through her officers, correct errors of this character, her losses would sometimes be very severe, and her ability to maintain her credit materially lessened.
"For these reasons T must respectfully decline to draw a warrant in pursuance of your resolution. Honorable Senators—I desire to say in conclusion that this decision is from a conscientious conviction of duty, and not from any disposition to oppose your honorable body or clog the wheels of legislation. My history in the public affairs of the State establishes beyond a doubt my love and reverence for the new Government of Louisiana, and that my prayers are fervent and continuous for the progress, prosperity and permanence of the government under the Constitution of 1864.
"Let me pray that if you, in your superior wisdom, dissent from my views of law and duty, that you will, in your judgment, consider me honest and conscientious, and as not intending disregard or discourtesy towards the dignity of your body.
"I am, very respectfully, yours,
"A. P. Dostie, Auditor.''
The position taken by the vigilant Auditor of State was decided correct, and an abuse, having no countenance of legality, was prevented.