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in our common schools, to be furnished at the cost of the State. With this sentiment I am in hearty sympathy and I hope the subject may have your attention before the present session adjourns.
I think it proper to add before quitting this subject of our public schools that too much care cannot be taken to completely divorce the teaching of the legitimate studies of our state schools from those teachings which are partisan and which relate only to current politics. Teachers employed in our state schools have no right to use the influence and prestige which accrue to them solely from their positions as teachers, in organizing and carrying on a propaganda among the students for partisan purposes, or to win converts to mischievous economic vagaries, not believed in or recognized by any party. I recognize every citizen's sovereign right to do his own political thinking. No man or official is the judge of what political views a citizen shall entertain or of the freedom with which he may, as a mere citizen, express those views. But a teacher as such cannot with propriety enter the political arena as a party advocate under such circumstances as to transfer the legitimate inHuence of the school room to the securing of recruits for his party among the students whom he is accustomed to instruct and over whom, for that reason, he possesses large influence, and to do this indirectly is just as pernicious as to do it directly. I promise that any abuses of this character which may have grown up in any of our state schools, shall be speedily corrected.
REVENUE. There is widespread dissatisfaction with our revenue laws. Taxpayers generally believe them to be, in their practical operation, unequal and unjust, in that the provisions for the assessment of property are such that the wealth of the State, and particularly that wealth which is aggregated in large enterprises and corporations, escapes its just share of taxation. I am constrained to believe that these complaints are largely true, and that the facts call for a full and just revision of the law providing for the assessment of property and the collection of taxes.
Our present Constitution provides, "The General Assembly shall provide such revenue as may be needful, by valuation, so that every person and corporation shall pay a tax in proportion to his, her or its property-such valuation to be ascertained by some person or persons to be elected or appointed in such manner as the Cieneral Assembly shall direct, and not otherwise."
The revenue laws of our State provide that property of every description (subject to taxation shall be assessed at its fair cash value.
This part of the law is not carried out, as the assessment of the State plainly shows. The total assessment on all the property of the State (subject to taxation), except that of railroad and other corporations,
$750. 118, 296
For the year 1893 was.
A grand total for 1893 of..
36, 773, 220
I find that for the same year there was charged, as taxes, upon the various tax books in the State, against the tax-payers, $10,071.159.24-rery nearly five (J) per cent upon the assessed value of all property of the State.
Now, if the provisions of our constitution and revenue laws were fairly carried out, this extremely low assessment would not exist. From the best authority I can obtain, the real and personal property of this state, owned by individuals, is worth at least $1,000,000,000; the railroads are worth $100,000,000, and other corporations $75,000,000, making the total value of all the property of this State, subjeet to taxation, $1,475,000,000.
If all the property was assessed at these figures, the average taxes would only be 90 cents on each $100 of assessed property in place of $1.75 on our present assessment. If all classes of property are assessed equally it is of less consequence what the total assessment may be. But it is understood that in our large cities, proportionate values are not adhered to, and that valuable property is assessed at a vastly less proportion than medium and poor classes of property. This is a clear violation of our present law, and it seems to me that some amendments should be made to our revenue law, that would compel its enforcement. If the law were properly enforced there would be no reasort for complaint.
In the first place I would recommend lengthening the time for making the assessment, beginning on the first day of March, in place of the first day of May. Then in cities of over twenty-five thousand inhabitants, I should require the assessment of each ward, as soon as made, to be published in pamphlet form, and a copy left either at the place of business or residence of each person assessed in the ward; each assessment should give the description of a lot and block, by number and street, with the number of feet front and depth, and also the annount of personal property. There should be a board of review, consisting of three persons, appointed by the county judge, who should have full power to raise or lower individual assessments. Publication of assessment would expose to public view both under and over assessments, and the original assessor would be more particular to secure uniformity of values in his assessment. In the country and smaller towns and villages, there is not the same inequality in assessments, they are generally more uniform.
If uniform assessment could be enforced in our cities and counties, the county and State boards could easily equalize assessments so that each county and city would pay its just proportion of taxes. Local assessors have. from year to year, been reducing their assessments until the valuation is not 20 per cent. of a fair cash value. It seems to me that after assessments are made and properly equalized by county and State boards, if the whole does not amount to $2,000,000,000, the Auditor of Public Accounts should be compelled to raise the entire assessment by percentage up to that sum. With this fixed minimum assessment it would be easier to fix the maximum of levies for the different objects of taxation.
If each piece of property in the State contributed its equal share in taxes, the burden of taxation would not be heavy on any one. But the citizen of small capital generally has his property in such form that it falls readily under the eye of the assessor, while it is often true that the very wealthy can readily conceal a large part of their wealth from the assessor's notice. One whose property consists of a small home in the city, or a farm in the country, is sure to be taxed on his entire property, but one whose holdings are principally in shares of stock or in bonds, notes and mortgages, can, if disposed to do so, conceal his property and thus escape a large part of his just share of taxes. Furthermore, it is generally believed that in large cities practices have grown up under which assessors are prevented from doing their duty in the fair and equal assessment of property. I think a very full investigation should be made of the workings of our present revenue law and of the practices which have grown up under it, particularly as respects the current methods of valuing property in large cities. Such an investigation would furnish the best means of determining what is necessary for the proper amendment of our statute on revenue. The present legislature should take hold of this subject with a strong hand and push it until the evils of our present system of assessing property have been corrected. We cannot expect to have our State and national institutions respected and cherished by our citizens so long as those who are only moderately well off are compelled to pay a disproportionate share of the expenses of the State government.
OIR PENAL INSTITUTIONS. The management of our State prisons is a matter of great importance, and the particular phase of the subject which just now compels the greatest attention of the public has reference to the proper manner of employing State prisoners. The two penitentiaries of this state contain, in round numbers, twenty-two hundred convicts. It was long claimed that under the old contract system, our prison labor was permitted to come into destructive competition with the free labor of our State. The agitation of this question resulted in the adoption, in 1896, of the following amendment to the Constitution:
* Hereafter it shall be unlawful for the commissioners of any penitentiary or other reformatory institution in the State of Illinois, to let by contract to any person or persons or corporations the labor of any convict contined within said institution."
It seemed to be supposed. at the time this amendment was adopted, that if the system then in force of letting the labor of convicts by contract was abolished, it would free outside labor from competition with convict labor. But it is now made evident that a system under which convicts are employed in various lines of manufacture upon State account, involves competition more disastrous to free labor than was ever experienced even under the old contract system.
One great question to be answered in determining upon a system of prison management, seems to be this: How far is productive labor essential in prisons to that reformation of the convict which the law makes it the duty of the State to seek, while punishing him for his crimes? To protect society against the lawless and criminal, we must have officers and courts, a police force, for great emergencies a militia organization, which can be relied upon when ordinary agencies fail. As a part of this great and necessary machinery of justice, devoted to the protection of property and life and the preservation of the peace, we have our penitentiaries, where convicted law-breakers are confined. All this machinery is properly regarded as a charge upon the citizens, the expense of which they pay in exchange for protection. No part of these government agencies has ever been regarded as a legitimate source of revenue. People expect to pay for them, rather than that they shall be used to produce revenues for the State. The law, under which convicts are sentenced, commands that they shall be kept at hard labor while serving their sentences, and the higher law of humanity and justice forbids that they shall either be maintained in idleness, at the expense of honest tax-payers, or forced to the debasing drudgery of the tread-mill or the crank, which marked the barbarism of all early attempts to deal with crime. These convicts, with few exceptions in case of life sentences, must be returned to society either better or worse than when received into prison, and this fact, of supreme importance, must enter into and determine, to a great extent, all questions concerning their treatment and employment, while in prison, because if they are released worse than when received, the prison becomes a menace instead of a safegard to society. At the same time I freely believe it to be the plain duty of the State to reduce the competition of conviet labor with free labor to the lowest point which is compatible with good government and proper protection of society. During the late canvass I took occasion to thus declare my position. At the same time I said, and I now repeat, that the whole question is burdened with many (lifficulties, and I have never pretended to see my way clear to a proper solution of all the problems involved. In the nature of things there must be some competition, and it should always be remembered in dealing with this question, that if every able-bodied man in our penitentiaries was now discharging the duties of a good citizen, instead of paying the penalty of his crime, there would be, at this moment, exactly that number of men more than there are in full and active competition with the good citizens of our State, along all the various lines of industrial effort. Bui, nevertheless, our best thought should be given to the question of how the competition of prison labor may be minimized and made as little injurious as possible to all honest workers in the various callings that may be affected by it. Great changes have been made in the last four years in the condition and management of our prisons, as respects manufacturing, with the details of which I am not familiar. A full acquaintance with and study of these conditions will be essential, before any definite plans can be formulated. The people of the State have lately been taxed to pay the cost of purchasing expensive machinery and fitting up elaborate factories in the prison at Joliet, and it would be infair to the people, who have paid this expense, to sacrifice all this outlay before something adequate to take its place has been provided. I am informed that in some states the labor of convicts is largely devoted to the manufacture of supplies for other state institutions. Ilinois has numerous public institutions, which consume large quantities of supplies, for which the State pays cash. If our convicts can be wholly, or in part, employed in manufacturing supplies for State consumption, the competition thus created would seem to be more legitimate and less disastrous than that which exists under our present system.
Should the General Assembly adopt my suggestion that text-books be provided for our common schools, at-public expense, it might be found practicable to employ a large number of our convicts in the manufacture of school books.
It may not be practicable to make any immediate or violent change from the system now in vogue, established and intrenched as it is by so great an pipenditure from the public treasury, but I trust the present legislature will, at this session, through proper committees, investigate this whole subject thoroughly with a view to reform.
Without attempting to dietate a course of action to this body. I beg to assure you that the officers who shall be chosen to administer these great trusts, shall be in hearty sympathy with every reasonable effort that may be put forth to remove, as far as it can be done, all just cause of complaint, against convict labor. The prisons and asylums of this State must be the last places where cupidity shall have a voice in management, and in all legislation, wisely directed to these ends, I promise you the cordial co-operation of the executive.
THE PARDONING POWER. The constitution provides that “the Governor shall have power to grant reprieves, commutations and pardons after conviction for all offenses, subject to such regulations as may be provided by law, relative to the manner of applying therefor." The pardoning power, thus lodged in the Governor is one, which in its very nature, is subject to abuse. All Governors, I am persuaded, have used that power more or less arbitrarily and without due regard to the real merits of the cases passed upon. This has been more often the fault of the system than of the individual, for a wrong result is likely to be reached when the Governor is honestly and fearlessly seeking to do his duty. The abuses of this system are inherent in it, as a very little consideration will show.
Nearly every convict, who has one or more friends of standing or influence, sooner or later makes an application for a pardon. The applications are thus made very numerous, and the papers accompanying each case are generally voluminous. The work of minutely examining all the parlon cases coming to a governor would, I am told, in itself be suilicient to occupy all his time, leaving none to be devoted to other important duties. Unable, for want of time, to make a full original investigation of each case for himself, the gov'. ernor in very naturally inclined to pardon those whose friends are most urgent and plausible, and in mumbers most imposing. But we all know the fact of being able to make a strong showing of intience to the governor is hy no mean a safe criterion for judging the merits of a pardon case, because it may be, for the very reason that a convict is comparatively friendless that he proveu unable to resist conviction in a case where the palliating circumstances would have been marshalled and made into a positive vindication had the accused possessed influential friends. On the other hand, the fact that a man has received sentence of punishment in spite of the fact that he had many strong friends to stand by him in the day of his trial is often a circumstance strongly persuasive of his guilt. And yet, those who, though active, were unable to reture the acquittal of the accused in a judicial investigation, often succeed in securing the yovernor's clemency, after guilt has been legally established.
The pardoning power itself is an anomaly-a survival from the days when a man could be lawfully gibbeted for stealing the worth of ten shillings. At this time, when the humanities have found expression in a far more lenient criminal code and a more enlightened procedure; when all presumptions are indulged in favor of innocence; when severe punishments have been abolished in all except the most heinous crimes; when the technically guilty generally escape and when the highly guilty are only convicted after a long and heated trial, it seems illogical and most arbitrary that one man should be endowed with power, through mere caprice, if he chooses to indulge it, to overturn all the results of a long and expensive adjudication.
I do not say the pardoning power should be entirely abolished, even if the constitutional provisions I have quoted would permit it, but it should certainly be regulated, and I think it is competent for the legislature to materially regulate it by statute. The practice of late indulged of assuming to re-try cases in the governor's office upon their merits, on application for pardon. the governor thus constituting himself, not a dispenser of clemency, but a high court of appeal, which assumes to reverse judgments, without the formality of a trial or of hearing or reading a word of evidence, certainly emphasizes the great necessity of some legislative action to curb and set bounds to this extraordinary power, which arose in the days when the executive was absolute.
BOARD OF PARIONS. Boards of Pardon have been established in a number of sister states, whose duty it is made to investigate all applications for pardon, and make recommendations of appropriate action to the governor. Under the provision of the Constitution, reserving to the legislature power to control the manner of applying” for pardons, it is, I am advised, competent to provide by statute, that all applications for pardon shall be first made to the board of pardons to be so established, and thus no case would come to the governor until it had been thoroughly investigated by the board and an appropriate recommendation made, and this investigation should only be had upon due adrertisement and notice to all parties concerned. I seriously and ardently favor some action by the present legislature for the establishment of such a board in this State. Its exact functions and powers and its methods of procedure are matters of detail which could be fixed after examining the work of the system in sister states where has been tried.
STATE CHARITABLE INSTITUTIONS.
There are embraced under this head at present in the State of Illinois:
Northern Insane Hospital, Elgin; Eastern Insane Hospital, Kankaker: Central Insane Hospital, Jacksonville; Southern Insane Hospital, Anna; Asylum for Insane (riminals, ('hester; Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, Jacksonville; Institution for the Blind, Jacksonville; Asylum for Feeble-Minded, Lincoln; Soldiers' Orphans' Home, Normal; Charitable Eye and Ear Infirmary, Chicago; Soldiers and Sailors Home, Quincy: State Home for Juvenile Female Offenders, Geneva; Illinois Industrial Home for the Blind, (hicago; having a total of nearly nine thousand inmates, costing the State per annum about one million, two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. As the State becomes more populous, there is a constantly increasing demand fou larger capacity and greater facilities for additional inmates. Each of these institutions is now under the control of three trustees, appointed by the Governor, who serve without compensation, their expenses only being paid. Over all is a State Board of Commissioners of Public Charities, composed of five menbers, who also serve without compensation. The State thus receives for nothing the services of these various boards of commissioners and trustees, and that kind of service is always the most expensive the State can receive. Trustees do not and ought not to be expected to devote the time (under these circumstances) required for a proper discharge of the duties imposed. Superintendents are left practically without any controlling head. Recommendations for appropriations, while made in the name of the trustees, have been those of the superintendents. They are often made upon the theory that the amount asked to be appropriated will be reduced by the legislature, the amount recommended for any given object being correspondingly raised beyond that actually required. Superintendents have thought it necessary to make frequent visits to the legislature when in session. to secure what they regarded as proper legislation, to the manifest negleet of their duties. The State has outgrown this method of controlling these important trusts. The entire seheme, now in vogue, is unwieldy.