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CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS. Neither the Constitution of 1777, nor that prepared in 1821, had any reference to the higher educational interests of the State. The latter, which took full effect at the beginning of 1823, pledged the proceeds of all the lands belonging to the State, except such as had been reserved for public use, to be applied, together with the Common School Fund, for the support of common schools throughout the State; but it made no provision in respect to a Literature Fund.
The Constitution of 1846 contained in Article IX the following provision :
“The capital of the Common School Fund, the capital of the Literature Fund, and the capital of the United States Deposit Fund, shall be respectively preserved in violate. The revenues of the said Common School Fund shall be applied to the support of Common Schools; the revenue of the said Literature Fund shall be applied to the support of Academies, and the sum of $25,000 of the revenues of the United States Deposit Fund shall each year be appropriated to and made a part of the capital of the said Common School Fund."
No charge has since been made in this provision, but in the revision prepared in 1867–8, it was proposed to cover certain other funds applicable to educational purposes, so as to place the principal of these funds secure against any loss, but this did not become the fundamental law.
Questions Raised under the Constitution of 1821. The Constitution of 1821 (section 9, article VII), declared that the assent of two-thirds of the members of each house was necessary for the passage of every bill for creating, continuing, altering or renewing any body politic or corporate.
A question was raised whether this abrogated the powers formerly vested in and often exercised by the Regents, in incorporating Colleges and Academies, or if the power still continued, how it had been affected by this change in the Constitution.
The Board upon request,' in a lengthy report, replied that it did not consider itself as affected by the change; that the language of the Constitution applied to the Legislature only, and that whatever powers had formerly been vested by law in the Board of Regents continued until changed by a legislative act.'
· Senate Journal, 1825, p. 124.
" Ib., p. 188.
Senator John C. Spencer, from the Committee upon Literature, to this replied,' that the Legislature could not do that indirectly which it was prohibited from doing directly, and that any thing done under sanction of a law must be in accordance with the Constitution. The new Constitution 2 had elsewhere declared that all laws repugnant to its provisions were void, and hence, that the power of creating academic corporations, so far as it conflicted with the new organic law, had been abrogated by its adoption.
But there was again found a provision in the fourteenth section of the same article which declared that nothing in this Constitution should affect any grants or charters made by the State or under its authority; it was affirmed by the Regents that this latter was a sav. ing clause protecting their acts from any impairment from any cause.
To this the committee further replied by questioning, whether the powers conferred could be claimed as one of those vested interests which are the subject of any charter. It was a delegation of legisla. tive power which the State might resume when it pleased, and in the opinion of the committee it had been resumed by the Constitution when it prescribed a particular mode of creating corporations, and abrogated all laws inconsistent with it. But to remove all doubt they reported a bill for confirming the acts of the Regents since the Constitution took effect, which failed, however, to become a law.
Before this time, only half a dozen academies had been incorporated by special acts, but from this time forward, it became the more frequent mode of incorporation; but always coupled with the proviso, that they should receive no moneys in the apportionment made by the Regents, until they had complied with their rules. This was done, some months or years afterward, in many cases by a formal resolution of the Board, as they found their conditions fulfilled, and others never perfected an organization. They also continued to grant charters as before, without further challenge of their right to do so, by Legislature or other authority.
Another question was raised under the Constitution of 1921, which in the first section of article IX, declared, that the commissions of all persons holding civil offices on the last day of 1822 should expire on that day, or until their places were filled by new appointment or election. If the office of Regent was a civil office, there was need of a new organization. But the old Constitution, which had prohibited the Chancellor and Judges of the Supreme Court
from holding any civil office, had not been deemed to extend to the place of Regents, and several of them had been appointed. Two of the committee deemed this sufficient, but the chairman dissented from this view, claiming that they were as much civil officers as were any of the State officers then chosen by joint ballot of the Legislature. The question was laid aside at the time, and was not again raised, nor, so far as we are informed, was it ever judicially decided.
Changes under the Constitution of 1846. The adoption of the Constitution of 1846 rendered it necessary to make some changes in the mode of distribution to academies, or to provide from other funds for continuing the grants that for some years had been annually made. Since 1838 the sum of $10,000 had been given to the academies for general purposes, under the rules of appportionment based upon attendance of classical students : and of this, $12,000 came from the income of the Literature Fund, and $28,000 from that of the United States Deposit Fund. Most of the excess beyond $28,000, received from the latter, had since its beginning (and from other funds since 1834), been applied to the purchase of text-books, maps, globes, and philosophical and chemical apparatus for such academies subject to the visitation of the Regents, as had raised an equal sumn for the same object.
The question to be decided was, whether this appropriation shouid be continued, now that $25,000 a year of the income of the United States Deposit Fund was to be added to the principal of the School Fund or whether it should be reduced by this amount. There were some other objects of expense to be likewise met from other sources.
The Legislature has acted upon this matter from year to year as the occasion required. The grant of $25,000 to the Common School Fund, has been regularly and punctually made, and when occasional deficiencies have occurred in the revenue of these guaranteed funds, they have been made up from other sources by appropriations.
Another question indirectly affecting the higher educational institutions of the State was involved in an amendment to the Constitution adopted in 1874, in which neither the credit nor the money of the State could be given or loaned in aid of any association, corporation or private undertaking, with the following exceptions : “ This section shall not, however, prevent the Legislature from mak
ing such provision for the education and support of the blind, the deaf and dumb, and juvenile delinquents, as to it may seem proper. Nor shall it apply to any fund or property now held, or which may be hereafter held by the State for educational purposes."
The policy of this exception has been criticised, but no action has been had, or is in prospect for further action, and the relation of these institutions to the State remains as before.
LITERATURE FUNDS. The control of a fund for the promotion of literature, with power to regulate its distribution upon compliance with rules, has undoubtedly been the principal agency by which the Regents of the University have been enabled to secure a successful management of the academic institutions of the State. A beginning had been made for the formation of a fund for this purpose, before the Board of Regents in its present form was created.
By an act passed May 10, 1784, and intended to apply to all the unappropriated lands belonging to the State, the Board of Commissioners of the Land Office was created, and empowered to lay out the land into townships six miles square, and in each of these a lot of three hundred acres was reserved for the use of a minister of the gospel, and one of six hundred and ninety acres for a school or schools.
This was followed by another act passed May 5, 1786," "for the speedy sale of the unappropriated lands of the State,” in which the Commissioners of the Land Office were to cause one lot to be marked by the Surveyor-General “ Gospel and Schools," and one other lot “for Promoting Literature.” The former was reserved for the objects mentioned, within the township, and has since formed the basis of various local school funds, and the first help in the erection of churches; the other was reserved to the people of the State, to be afterward applied as the Legislature might direct, for the promotion of literature within the State."
I Common School Report, 1874, p. 55. 2 Chap. 67, 9th Sess. (folio), p. 129.
3 Under this act, the townships were to be ten miles square, and the Ten Towns of the St. Lawrence were laid out under its provisions. The lots were one mile square.
In the creation of the Board of Regents, no funds were assigned to their control, although the intention of placing means at their disposal was plainly expressed. The reservations proposed in this were for
many years unproductive, and were afterward disposed of by the Legislature by special acts. The want of means for rendering their operations effective was felt from the beginning, and the subsequent creation of a Literature Fund, subject to the control of the Regents, was undoubtedly due to the representations which they made, and the influence which they controlled.
In their second annual report, dated December 27, 1788, after noticing the flourishing condition of the College and the two Academies then under their care, they added :
“But whilst we thus express our satisfaction at the circumstances already enumerated, we cannot but lament the existence of others which have a direct tendency to check the progress of science, and in some measure to defeat the ends of our institution.
" As the education of yonth and culture of learning are connected with the improvement of Useful Arts, and nourish both the disposition and abilities requisite for the defense of Freedom and rational Government, so they have been esteemed in every civilized country as objects of the highest importance. In our State it was evidently intended that the University should possess and exercise a general superintendence over all literary establishments which might be found among us, and that it should direct the system in such a manner as would conduce to the harınony and interest of the whole. In the conrse of our duty we have seen with regret, that several of the literary establishments in this State are destitute of funds for their support, and involved in debt or dependent on private bounty ; that eren Columbia College is in such a situation as to want a Library and proper Mathematical apparatus, and that a number of the youth belonging to our State are from these circumstances induced to finishi their education at other Colleges, in preference to the one established among us.
“ These we consider as evils of a serious nature, and if it was in our power, we should endeavor to rescue the seats of learning from a situation which circumscribes their utility and renders their duration limited or precarious. Our attention would naturally extend, not only to subsisting literary corporations, but to the erection of Academies in every part of the State; and it is obvious that the most important purposes might be attained by affording timely assistance to infant seminaries, which must otherwise languish for a time, and perhaps finally perish. But unfortunately the University is unprovided with the means even to pay the contingent expenses arising from the immediate duties which the Legislature has prescribed.
“In this situation we trust that it will not be deemed improper to suggest, that the land belonging to the State at Crown Point, Ti