Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ive legislation. Whether a law is or is not constitutional is nearly always a matter of construction and depends upon the point of view from which the subject is considered, sometimes depending largely on the bias or learning of the judge.

While the decisions of the Supreme Court are conclusive and final in the cases in which they are rendered they do not become a rule of political action. They do not deprive the people of the power to regulate their affairs, nor can they in any way prevent farther efforts to cure the evils that were aimed at. In his first inaugural message, President Lincoln, in speaking of the Supreme Court of the United States, said: “The candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by the decisions of the Supreme Court the instant they are made, as in ordinary decisions between parties in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically released their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.” On various other occasions Mr. Lincoln declared in public that the decisions of the Supreme Court on constitutional questions, while entitled to respect and while conclusive upon the individuals involved in the litigation before then, did not constitute a rule of action politically and did not deprive the people in any way of their power of self-government, and did not prevent the people from proceeding in an orderly manner to bring about in the end the establishment of a principle different from what the Supreme Court had enunciated. Neither the executive, the legislative nor the judicial branches of the government, nor in fact all combined have the power to foreclose the people on a question of government nor to prevent the people from in the end enforcing such policy as they deem proper.

CRITICISM OF DIFFERENT BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT. I am aware that there are people who will urge that this is a criticism of the courts, but nothing of the kind is intended. I have simply stated bistorical facts, and have endeavored to make clear the fundamental principle which the legislature must always keep in view when dealing with great problems. So far as the question of criticising is concerned, the Constitution has divided the government into three departments, and each of these departments is alike subject to criticism. It may be said that the life of a republie depends upon the intelligent scrutiny and criticism which the people give to all branches of the government. It has been urged by some of the greatest men of our country that inasmuch as judges are human and possess the same prejudices, passions and weaknesses that other men do, and inasmuch as the public can impose its will more easily upon the executive and legislative offices because their terms are shorter, that therefore there was all the greater need of thorough examination and free criticism on the part of the public of the acts of the judiciary. While the public has this right to the fullest extent, there is a question of propriety involved in one department of government indulging in mere criticism of the other, but there is no rule of propriety which prevents either branch of the government from stating historical facts or pointing out difficulties which must be met by all; in fact, the judicial branch has at various times criticised the acts of the legislative branch of government with the greatest freedom.

While I have thus stated the general principle, I believe that no serious difficulty will be encountered in enacting all necessary legislation without coming into conflict with either the Constitution or the decisions of the Supreme ('ourt.

NEWSPAPER LICENSES. The legislature owes it to the people of this State to devise some reasonable protection against the outrageous newspaper license on the part of great journals, of which the people are now victims. Newspaper abuse terrorizes the people and deters many of our best citizens from taking part in public affairs. Men have a right to look to government for protection, for a govern, ment is unworthy of respect that simply imposes burdens on its people and then leaves their lives or their reputations at the mercy of those who shoot from ambush. No measure can be considered which will in any way interfere with the fullest publication of the news, or with full comment on current events, and there must be reasonable allowance for mistakes honestly made. What should be aimed at is to do away with the anonymous and dark-alley features of modern newspaperism. This is where cowards roost and where sneaks take refuge. As yet there are but few great journals in the United States that meet the definition of a newspaper. Many of them are personal and partisan organs often used maliciously, and instead of publishing the news fairly they make it their daily business to garble and misstate it. This in itself is perhaps not a proper subject for legislators, but when men, who are ashamed to give their names, hide behind a newspaper hedge and throw mud at people who are walking on the highway, then the public has a right to complain, and has a right to insist that this be stopped, or, if it is impossible to stop it, that then it should be known to the world who are the offenders.

It has been urged that this species of journalism brings its own punishment; that anonymous abuse reacts on the author and weakens his character and destroys his manhood; that early in our history when every newspaper writer had to face his fellow men and be personally responsible for his utterances, the profession produced some of the greatest men in the land who exerted a powerful personal influence on the nation, while since anonymous writing has become the rule on great journals, the profession seems to be blighted; that all are reduced to the same level and are swallowed.

Even if this were so, it does not justify continued license. It has also been urged that public good is promoted by anonymity. It may be a strange coincidence, but the marauding white-caps in neighboring states have likewise defended their cowardly operations on the ground of public good.

There is a principle involved here, and that is, that no man can be permitted to set himself up as a public censor and proceed to wrong those whom, for many reasons, he does not like. The mere fact that a man is able to buy presses and hire a lot of men who must do his will, does not give him any more rights than are possessed by other people. The existing statute is comprehensive in defining libel, but it can only be enforced through a prosecution or a law suit which will last years, and not only subject the individual to additional notoriety, but will wear him out; so that for the average citizen there is no protection whatever against newspaper abuse.

Two years ago an act was passed which provided that when, in cases of libel, it is sought to punish an editor, in addition to making him pay damage, that then he should be permitted to show the facts in the case. This principle is correct, for when a man is to be punished he should be permitted to show all the facts connected with the act for which he is to be punished; but the trouble with all existing legislation is that an individual is worn out with delay and expense before a case reaches the point where sentence is to be imposed.

It is doubtful whether the possibility of collecting damages furnishes any practical protection to the public. In my judgment, the public would be much better off if there were no provisions for ultimately getting damages, except in rare cases, provided the authorship of every abusive article were at once known, for in that case the article would receive such credence from the public as the character and standing of the author would secure for it, and no more. This would tend to secure accuracy of statement. It is the anonymous article which is careless and reckless-which is full of insinuation and invention. At present there is but little complaint about the country weeklies and small papers because generally the authorship of every article is known. Even when such a paper resorts to vilification, it makes no impression except what is secured for it by the character of the writer. It is clear that the public does not want damages so much as it wants a preventative. It wants less firing from ambush. Any measure that will stop this will be beneficial, and if no other remedy is practicable I believe that a measure which would grant reasonable immunity to the writer in all cases in which an article was signed, while it provided for summary penalties where the authorship was not disclosed, would at least tend to limit existing abuses.

THE REAL ENEMIES OF THE STATE. In a monarchy, government can be maintained for a time by brute force, but in a republic, government can be maintained only by justice. Those men and those policies which beget injustice are mortal enemies of republican institutions. No government was ever overthrown by the poor, and we have nothing to fear from that source. It is the greedy and the powerful who pull down the pillars of state. Greed, corruption and pharisaism are to-day sapping the foundations of government. It is the criminal rich and their hangers-on who are the real anarchists of our time. They rely on fraud and brute force. They use government as a convenience and make justice the handmaid of wrong. We are developing a kind of carbonated patriotism which seems to derive its most sparkling qualities from respectable boodleism. Our country has great vitality, but these conditions must be arrested or else we are lost. Only those nations grow great which correct abuses, make reforms, and listen to the voice of the struggling masses.

DESTINY OF ILLINOIS. Illinois is yet in the morning of her career. Seated at the heart of the continent, the centuries are before her. Excelling in resources, in enterprise, in achievement and in the spirit of her people, she must lead the way. Destined to be the center of intellectual activity, her genius must guide the republic. Directed along the paths of justice and humanity not even the stars can measure her glory.

This is the State which I commit to your care. Again: “Let us build for the centuries."

John P. ALTGELD. The Speaker laid before the House the following Senate joint resolution:

Resolved, by the Senate, the House of Representatives concurring herein, That 5,000 copies of Governor Altgeld's message be printed for the use of the members of the General Assembly, and for distribution.

Mr. Selby moved that the House concur in said joint resolution.

The question being, shall the House concur with the Senate in the joint resolution,

It was decided in the affirmative.
Ordered that the clerk inform the Senate thereof.

Mr. Weidmaier offered the following resolution, and moved its adoption:

Resolved, That the Speaker be, and he is, hereby authorized to appoint a stenographer, to serve the Speaker at a per diem allowed to assistant clerks.

And the question was unanimously adopted.

Mr. Murray offered the following resolution, and moved its adoption:

Resolred, That the Secretary of State be, and he is, hereby instructed and required to furnish the clerk of the House, upon his written order, all necessary supplies for his office.

And the resolution was unanimously adopted.
Mr. Ely offered the following resolution, and moved its adoption:

Resolred, That the Secretary of State be, and he is, hereby instructed and required to furnish the Speaker of this House, upon his written order, all necessary supplies for his office; also, to supply the enrolling and engrossing clerk, the doorkeeper, and the postmaster of the House, each upon his written order respectively, all necessary stationery for their respective offices, when such orders are approved, in writing, by the Speaker of the House.

And the resolution was unanimously adopted.

Mr. Allen moved that when the House adjourn to-day, it adjourn to meet at 3 o'clock p. m., to-morrow, January 13, A. D. 1897.

And the motion prevailed.

On motion of Mr. Stoskopf, the House adjourned to meet at 3 o'clock p. m., Wednesday, January 13, A. D. 1897.

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 13, 1897–3 O'CLOCK P. M.

The House met pursuant to adjournment, The Speaker in the chair. Prayer by the Chaplain. The journal of yesterday was read and approved. A message from the Senate by Mr. Paddock, Secretary: Mr. Speaker:-I am directed to inform the House of Representatives that the Senate has passed bills of the following titles, in the passage of which I am instructed to ask the concurrence of the House of Representatives, tn-wit:

SENATE BILL No. 1. A bill for "An act making appropriation for the payment of the employés of the Forlieth General Assembly.

SENATE BILL NO. 2. A bill for “An act to provide for the incidental expenses of the Fortieth General Assembly of the State of Illinois, and for the care and custody of the State House and grounds, incurred and to be incurred and not now provided for."

Passed the Senate January 13, 1897.

J. H. PADDOCK,

Secretary of the Senate. Foregoing bills Nos. 1 and 2 read by titles and ordered to a first reading

A message from the Senate by Mr. Paddock, Secretary: Mr. Speaker:-I am directed to inform the House of Representatives that the Senate has adopted the following joint resolution, in the adoption of which I am instructed to ask the concurrence of the House of Representatives, to-wit:

SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION No. 3. Resolved, by the Senate, the House of Representatives concurring herein, That on Tuesday, the 19th day of January instant, at 11 o'clock a. m., each house shall, by itself, and in the manner prescribed by sections 14 and 15 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, name a person for Senator in the Congress of the United States from the State of Illinois, for a term of six years, from the 4th day of March, A. D. 1897. And on Wednesday, the 20th day of January instant, at 12 o'clock meridian, the members of the two houses shall convene in joint assembly in the hall of the House of Representatives, and in the manner prescribed by law declare the person who has received a

« AnteriorContinuar »