« AnteriorContinuar »
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
NEW YORK ELECTION FRAUDS.
FEBRUARY 23, 1869.-Ordered to be printed, with the views of the minority.
Mr. WM. LAWRENCE, of Ohio, from the Select Committee on Alleged
New York Election Frauds, submitted the following
[The numbers in the foot-notes refer to the numbers of questions and answers in the volume of evidence
accompanying this report.)
THE EVILS DEMANDING A REMEDY.
The committee was charged with the duty of investigating “the irregularities and frauds alleged to have occurred in the city and State of New York, affecting the recent election for representatives to Congress and electors of President and Vice-President."
This duty is one of the highest political importance. Irregularities and fraud in the election of representatives to Congress and electors of President and Vice-President cannot fail to excite just alarm in the minds of the people. Unless their will can be fully and fairly expressed in the election of the officers who are to make and execute laws, the vital principles upon which the government rests are set at defiance, and soon we may follow the fate of France, where imperial power was welcomed as the only means of peace, or the anarchy of contending factions, so fatal to Mexico, may close the career of our great republic. With us it is a political axiom that governments derive “their just pow
| This investigation was set on foot in pursuance of a memorial of a committee of the Union League club the City of New York,” presented in the Senate and House of Representatives December 14, 1868, (Senate Mis. Doc. No. 4, 3d session 40th Congress.) This club numbers about 1,300 members, composed of gentlemen many of whom are distinguished for their learning, ability, and devotion to the interests of the republic. No stain of dishonor rests upon this organization or any of its members connected with the recent election. It is an organization which has rendered valuable service in various ways, including its prompt and energetic measures to detect and prevent fraud and secure the purity of the ballot. Its history is, and will doubtless continue to be, a part of that of the republic. It is proper to say this association has no connection with the organization known as "The Union League.' The prominent historical democratic political organizations in New York city are “ Tammany Hall, Mozart Hall," and the Democratic Union.”
ers from the consent of the governed.” It has been forcibly said that " the fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of the consent of the people. The streams of national power ought to flow immediately from that pure original fountain of all legitimate authority.92
By the Constitution the House of Representatives is composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several States." (Art. 1, sec. 2.)
Congress may at any time by law make or alter regulations prescribed in the States by the legislatures thereof, as to the times, places, and manner of holding elections for representatives. (Art. 1, sec. 4.)
As Congress is thus clothed with the high prerogative of supervising the election of representatives, it is not only eminently proper, but it is an imperative duty that this body should by all proper means ascertain when irregularities or fraud exist in the election of its members, so that the people, apprised of evils, may avert them in the future, by personal vigilance, by making and enforcing proper legislative provisions in the States, and above all so that Congress shall apply remedies by adequate laws efficiently enforced. A republican government that cannot preserve the purity of the ballot is a failure; one which will not is a fraud, and is already resolved into anarchy.
If as is alleged the “precipitate communication of the privileges of citizenship to the inhabitants of Italy at large” contributed to the downfall of Rome, or if the same causes scourged Syracuse by “perpetual sedition," how much greater will be the dangers that may environ our own republic if elections are to be controlled by fraudulent votes cast in the interest of anarchy and misrule ?
The nation must speedily perish if law-makers, under pretence of deriving their power from legal voters, are suffered to become the representatives of conspiracy and fraud at elections. Successful election frauds in one great city may decide the political majority of a Congress, of a State, or of the nation in a presidential election. If they may succeed in one locality the evil will become contagious, until it pervades the whole body politic; elections will cease to reflect the public judgment, and soon, if the evil is permitted to go on unchecked, they will become rival contests of fraud, commanding neither confidence nor respect at home or abroad. Power obtained by fraud will not scruple to perpetuate itself by like means, nor will it hesitate to rob the people by corruption and schemes of plunder to accomplish its aims.
If evils like these may come, or if a republic in name cannot or will not be so in fact; if the popular voice is to be hushed and powerless before the mockery of elections conducted in the name of the people, but reflecting only the purposes of terrorism and fraud, then revolution will be speedily invited, and the great republic may crumble to atoms.
If Congress or the people could be insensible of, or indifferent to, the evils of fraudulent elections, it would not argue well for their patriotism, nor would it augur well for the permanency of our nationality. Fortunately our past and present history proves that the great body of the people are alive to the necessity of preserving the purity of the ballot; but it is to be deplored that the evidences are abundant that elections have too frequently been carried by fraudulent means in defiance of the popular will, and that existing laws are wholly inadequate to prevent a repetition of similar results.
2 Number 22, Federalist; 7 Hamilton's History of the Republic, 379; 2 Contested Election Cases, 262.
37 Hamilton's works, 774.
If the investigations of this committee shall arouse public attention to some of the dangers which threaten our institutions, the cause of good government will be promoted thereby. If these investigations show that State laws in their structure and mode of enforcement are wholly inadequate and cannot be relied on, then the duty of prescribing congressional safeguards, to preserve the purity of the ballot for national officers, is manifest. With a view to ascertain what is demanded by public interests, we may appropriately consult the lessons afforded by history, and especially those taught by experience in our own complex systems of government.
In every country where popular suffrage has existed it has been found necessary to legislate against election frauds.4
The State of New York has been prolific in election frauds“ at various
4 In “Rogers's Law and Practice of Elections,” (7th edition, 1847,) is a collection of the English election laws, commencing with the statute of A. D. 1382, 5 Richard II, stat. 2, cap. 4, and ending with the elaborate statute of May 31, 1843, 6 Victoria, cap. 18.
In 3 Edward I, cap. 5, it is enacted : “Because elections ought to be free the King commandeth, upon great forfeiture, that no man, by force of arms, nor by malice, nor menacing, shall disturb any to make free election.”—2 Inst., 168.
By statute 13 Henry IV, c 7, it is required that, “sheriffs and justices of the peace shall repress riots with the power of the county.”.
The statute 1 W. & M., sess. 2, c. 2, s. 1, after reciting as one of the grounds of the abdication of James “the violating of the freedom of elections of members to serve in Parliament,” declares “that elections of members of Parliament ought to be free."
The statute of 7 William III recites “grievous complaints of undue election of members of Parliament by excessive and exorbitant expenses,” and affixes penalties for bribing voters.
By sec. 83 of the statute of 6 Victoria, cap. 18, it is made penal for any person to knowingly personate and falsely assume to vote in the name of any other person, whether such other person be living or dead, or, if the name of said other person be the nams of a fictitious person."
5 In the assembly of the State of New York, on the 6th of April, 1838, the judiciary committee reported in relation to elections in that State that
Men vote who do not reside in the ward, often not in the State; aliens are frequently brought to the polls and their votes imposed upon the inspectors although many of them have not been a week in the country, and voters are not unfrequently taken from poll to poll, voting in three or four different wards at the same election. These are the frauds constantly practiced at our elections, to the disgrace of the State and to the mani. fest wrong of the whole country. (Assembly Documents, New York, 61 sess., 1838, vol. 6, Rep. No. 324.)
The reports of the Judiciary Committee of the Senate of the United States, submitted Jan. uary 27 and March 3, 1845, abundantly prove the existence of great frauds in the presidential election of 1844. It is here shown that “repeating” was then practiced. (See Berrien's report, pp. 82, 84, 91, 95, 138.) Senate Docs., second session twenty-eighth Congress, vol. 9, 1844-45; Report No. 173.
On the 1st of April, 1857, a committee reported to the assembly of New York that the ballot
Still fails to be a true reflection of the will of the people. It is said to be true that its guardian, so far from protecting it, became the medium of its corruption, and made its results such as they might desire instead of the honestly expressed sentiment if the ballot had been left undisturbed, or the inspector, either himself or by others, putting in unauthorized ballots enough of an opposite character to outweigh and smother those hon. estly deposited. So skilfully and adroitly are these frauds perpetrated that the offenders are rarely detected, and if detected, political sympathy or prejudice loses the guilty one from the punishment he merits. (Doc. No. 197, 80th session, 1857, vol. 3, assembly of New York.)
Governor King, of New York, in his first annual message, in referring to the “elective franchise,” said:
All know that in the city of New York, and measurably in other large cities, it is not pure and often is not free. (Report No. 109, vol. 4, Docs. of assembly of New York, 81st sess., 1858.)
And on the 20th of March, 1858, a select committee reported to the assembly that, Of late years fraud and simulation at the ballot-box have become extensive and enormous. No sane man will deny this; no man can controvert this fact; the evidence of its existence is as manifest and notorious as any well-known truth. It is true this evil is still in its infancy, but it is none the less important that a remedy should be speedily devised. (Ib.)
The legislature of New York finally enacted the registry laws of May 13, 1865, and April 25, 1866, which have failed to secure the purity of the ballot-box.