« AnteriorContinuar »
The General Assembly met November 24.
S. A. Swails, of Williamsburg, was reelected president pro tem. of the Senate and Josephus Woodruff clerk.
In the House the contest for the speakership was between R. B. Elliott, of Aiken, and N. B. Myers, of Beaufort, both colored. The ballot stood Elliott 64, Myers 49. The Conservatives, with the exception of Mr. Beatty, of York, voted for Myers.
Elliott had been a conspicuous figure in South Carolina politics ever since the meeting of the Constitutional Convention called under the Reconstruction acts. He was violent, sometimes almost incendiary, in his appeals to the negroes to stand by their race, and held extreme views on all questions of civil rights—meaning social equality. He soon became a leader among the negroes and was courted by most of the white men who called themselves Republicans. He was the first chairman of the House Committee on Rail. roads, and in that capacity was believed to have received large bribes from John J. Patterson for helping on the schemes for the acquisition of the Blue Ridge Railroad and the Greenville and Columbia Railroad. On the occasion of the attempt to impeach Governor Scott, Elliott received one bribe of more than $10,000 and, according to common report at the time, considerable sums besides. He was generally considered utterly corrupt, and his influence, in whatever sphere he had opportunity, was always on the side of the robbers. He was directly responsible for some of the race troubles in South Carolina. His personal character, aside from his conduct in office or in politics, was of a low order-immoral to an extent difficult to understand in a man of his education and his prominence in the Republican party. Though very mouthy, he was generally accounted a coward. As a product of Reconstruction in South Carolina Robert B. Elliott must be classed among the very lowest and the very worst.
Bowen, of Charleston, managed Elliott's campaign—which was said to have cost over $5,000.
It will be noticed that Elliott forbore to run for Congress in order to reenter the State Legislature and become speaker of its lower house.
A. O. Jones was reelected clerk without opposition.
Governor Moses omitted to send the usual message to the General Assembly.
THE GOVERNOR'S INAUGURAL. Daniel H. Chamberlain was inaugurated as Governor on December 1. In his address on that occasion he departed from the custom observed by his two predecessors, in that he undertook to present the conditions which the General Assembly must meet, and suggested important reforms in various departments of the State Government. His introductory statement was as follows:
Fellow citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives: I have appeared before you today to assume the office of Governor, and to state my views of the action and policy on the part of our State Government which will best promote the public welfare.
Our recent political canvass presents one or two aspects which are significant of the will of the people. The two parties which sought supremacy were equally emphatic in their demand for the correction of existing abuses in the administration of our Government, and both presented to the public the same platform of principles and policy for the future conduct of public affairs. The remarkable spectacle was thus presented, among a people hitherto considered most widely divided in their political sympathies and aims, of an absolute identity of sentiment upon all the questions which were presented to the public in either party. It is true that a large minority of our citizens did not take part in either of the political conventions which presented the respective candidates for State officers, yet in the election wherein the total number of votes cast was more than 12,000 greater than in any previous election since 1868, only two parties appeared, both of which professed to seek similar ends by similar means. The result is that we who have been elected to office are united in the general objects which we seek and the general methods by which those objects are to be reached.
Without intending to overstate the extent to which our recent party combinations have bound us in respect to our future action, I congratulate all our people upon the substantial harmony of purpose which now prevails. I take strength and hope from that fact. we are honest in our professions, I cannot find myself in antagonism to any member of the executive or legislative department of our Government, except upon matters of detail in our common pursuit of the same ends. I feel bound to say that, until experience shall correct me, I shall rely for support in the course which I intend to
pursue upon members of the General Assembly who were opposed to me in the recent political contest as confidently as upon those who favored my election.
The paramount duty before us may be stated to be the practice and enforcement of economy and honesty in the administration of the Government. Fortunately our evils are chiefly evils of administration. Our State Constitution commands the undivided approval of our people. The body of our statute law is believed to be, in general, just and wise. The present demand is for a faithful application and enforcement of the existing Constitution and laws; in a word, good administration.
Wise statesmanship aims at practical results, and concentrates its strength upon those measures which are of prime importance. I must be pardoned if I omit to catalogue all the matters of public interest to which consideration must be given by the General Assembly and confine my attention to those topics which appear to be most pressing
The Governor then proceeded with suggestions of reform in the various departments of the State Government.
He recommended changes in the tax system, with the view to V , greater simplicity, fairness and efficiency.
He urged a reduction of expenses and the limiting of the amount of taxes to the actual requirements of the Government–especially commending the plan of making a specific levy for each authorized object.
As the "specific measures” which would bring the State Government "nearer to a correct rule of public expenditure," he suggested: That the payments from contingent funds be regulated in the same manner as other disbursements of public money and that these funds be reduced to the lowest figures consistent with efficient service; that the expenditures of the General Assembly, already constituting an "intolerable abuse," be reduced by shortening the session to a term not exceeding thirty days, by passing a general law for the granting of charters, by cutting off useless employees and attaches, by stopping the excessive appropriations of money for contingent or incidental expenses, and by prescribing proper rules for auditing and paying all legislative expenses; that the system prevailing in the matter of public printing, being “utterly incapable of defense or excuse," be abolished, the printing to be let to a responsible bidder in a fair competition, and the cost be reduced to reasonable figures; that the amount needed to pay accumulated deficiencies be ascertained and a tax levy made adequate to pay the amount; that
the issuance of "certificates of indebtedness" be discontinued; that all unnecessary offices, whether in State or in county government, be at once abolished; that the provisions of the Consolidation Act, to reduce the volume of the public debt, be faithfully and carefully carried out and the interest on the recognized bonds be promptly and regularly paid ; that some effective measure be taken to retire the outstanding bills of the Bank of the State of South Carolina ; that justices of the peace and constables be elected by the people, in accordance with the requirement of the State Constitution; that the powers of the State Board of Canvassers be so extended as to increase their means of determining questions arising out of contested elections ; that the requirement of the Constitution as to the registration of electors be no longer disregarded, and that the existing scheme of public education be carefully fostered, liberally supported and generally improved.
The Governor presented in their proper places the statements showing the gross extravagance of former administrations. The figures have been given in a previous chapter. He concluded as follows:
The work which lies before us is serious beyond that which falls to the lot of most generations of men. It is nothing less than the reestablishment of society in this State upon the foundation of absolute equality of civil and political rights. The evils attending our first steps in this work have drawn upon us the frowns of the whole world. Those who opposed the policy upon which our State was restored to her practical relations with the Union have already visited us with the verdict of absolute condemnation. Those who framed and enforced that policy are filled with anxiety for the result, in which fear often predominates over hope. The result, under Divine Providence, rests with us.
For myself, I here avow the same confidence in the final res’lt which I have hitherto felt. The evils which surround us are such as might well have been predicted by a sagacious mind before they appeared. They are deplorable, but they will be transitory. The great permanent influences which rule in civilized society are constantly at work and will slowly lift us into a better life. Our foundations are strong and sure. Already we have seen the day when no party or no man in our State was bold enough to seek the favor of the people except upon the most explicit pledges to remove our present abuses. If we who are here today shall fail in our duty, others more honest and capable will be called to our places. Through us or through others freedom and justice will bear sway in South Carolina.
19—R. S. C.
I enter upon my duties as Governor with a just sense, as I hope, of my own want of such wisdom and experience as the position demands. I shall need the friendly aid not only of my political associates but of all men who love our State. We must move forward and upward to better things.
The address was noticed by the press of the State and by some leading papers in other parts of the country—all the comments being highly complimentary. The State papers took pains to say that in any efforts to effect the reforms suggested in the inaugural the Governor would have the active and hearty support of all good citizens—more particularly of those opposed to him politically.
The Governor later sent a message to the General Assembly, in which he amplified some of the suggestions contained in his inaugural-referring particularly to the finances of the lunatic asylum, the condition of the penitentiary, the progress of the free schools, the past indebtedness of the counties, the floating debt of the State, minority representation (which he unreservedly recommended), the election of justices of the peace and constables, the registration of electors and the reduction of expenses.
In a message (December 22) approving the act appropriating funds for the payment of legislative expenses the Governor called attention to the fact that whilst the amount required by the act was $150,000, the sum to be received from the tax levy (one mill) would not exceed $115,000—and took occasion to warn against the making of deficiencies.
In his message of March 12, 1875, the Governor stated his reasons for not approving the "act relative to the deposit of moneys of the State, and other provisions in relation thereto," requiring all State funds to be deposited in two banks in Columbia—the Carolina National and the private bank of Hardy Solomon, styled "The South Carolina Bank and Trust Company.” The Governor took the position that any such designation was unwise and that the selection of depositories should remain with the board consisting of the Governor, the Comptroller-General and the Treasurer. The veto was sustained. .
The Governor next vetoed "an act to provide for the settlement and redemption of certain claims against the State"-a measure intended to effect the payment of the floating debt. The Governor stated, as his principal objection to the measure, that it did not