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Of the Comptroller, on the Cayuga marshes and swamp lands.
STATE OF NEw-York, CoMPTRoller’s OFFICE. The Comptroller, pursuant to the act entitled “An act to authorise an investigation of the accounts of the commissioners appointed to drain the Cayuga marshes and swamp lands in the valley of the Soneca river,” passed April 20, 1830,
That as soon as the pressure of his office duties, occasioned especially by the tax sale going on at the time this law was passed, would permit, he commenced a correspondence with the commissioners named in the act, with the persons who had, at different periods, acted as the treasurers of the commissioners, and with those individuals who were more particularly known to him as the accusers of the commissioners, in the discharge of their official duties, for the purpose of fixing upon a time and place which would best accommodate the witnesses to be examined, and of learning the names and places of residence, as far as that could be done before the investigation should be entered upon, of such witnesses.
On the 28th June, subpoenas were issued for all the witnesses whose names were given by any of the persons feeling an interest in the investigation, and were put into the hands of a constable of the county of Cayuga, to be served, returnable at the court-house in the village of Auburn, on the 12th day of July, and on subsequent days in the same week. On the 9th day of the same month, [A. No. 70.] 1
the Comptroller arrived at Auburn for the purpose of entering upon the investigation; and on the 10th, he started, in company with one of the commissioners and several other persons, to view the works upon the Seneca river which had becn done under the direction of the commissioners for draining the Cayuga marshes. He passed down the river in a boat from Montezuma, a point above where any work had been done, to Jack's Reefs, the lowest point where money had been expended. This examination was completed and he returned to Auburn on the 11th ; but the very high water in the river gave him little opportunity to see or judge either of the work which had been done, or of its effect towards the accomplishment of the desired object of draining the marshes.
On the morning of the 12th, the taking of testimony was commenced, and continued with reasonable industry until the evening of the 24th, when all the witnesses who had appeared had been examined, and when none of the persons who had attended or taken any part in the investigation, seemed to desire its farther continuance. It was therefore closed on that day.
The attendance of the witnesses did not permit the commencement or prosecution of the investigation in the order of time, and the depositions taken do not permit of any arrangement which will give a connected and unbroken history of the progress of this work. They are, however, herewith transmitted, arranged in the order which appears to the Comptroller at least as likely as any other, to give the reader a just impression of the facts which they contain.
As it was desirable to make the expenses of the investigation as small as possible, no clerk was employed, and none of the depositions have been copied. Every deposition was carefully read to the witness making it, and such corrections were made as he suggested or desired, when his signature, in his own proper hand-writing, was placed to his testimony thus given.
The original depositions, thus taken and signed, are those which accompany this report; and they are so voluminous that the Comptroller has not attempted to make copies to preserve.
Should this testimony be ordered printed, this fact may cause some inconvenience, as it may be difficult to collect and preserve these originals, if they are used by the printers for the purpose of obtaining a proof. So far, however, as any difficulty on that score can be obviated by directing the Comptroller to examine the proofs taken, he will most cheerfully obey such direction.
Being aware that the personal examination of a witness may convey to the mind many impressions which cannot be communicated with the written evidence of such witness, however truly transcribed, but which may still be of importance in giving testimony, thus written, its just weight and force, and inasmuch as the testimouy here with communicated embraces depositions from four of the persons who have, srom time to time, acted as commissioners for draining these marshes, and from the two persons who only have acted as the treasurers of the commissioners from the commencement of the expenditures, the Comptroller feels it a duty to say, both in justice to these individuals and to those who shall examine the evidence given by them, that he was not conscious of discovering, in the course of the examination of either of these persons, any evidence of a design to suppress facts inquired after, or facts which they supposed important to the object of the investigation, or any inclination to equivocate or evade direct answers. In many instances, a want of that distinctness of recollection which would have been highly satisfactory, was observable; but he is not able to say that he saw instances of this kind which carried to his mind the belief that the forgetfulness was assumed, or was incredible. On the contrary, the lapse of time which had run upon many of these transactions, the great number and variety of the transactions which formed the subject of inquiry, and the loose manner in which the whole business appeared to have been done, seemed to him to render want of minute remembrance more than probable.
In short, the best impression, derived at the time, and still entertained, from a careful re-perusal of the evidnce is, that as well the depositions of the persons last named, as those of all the other witnesses examined, will, upon being attentively read and thoroughly examined, convey to the reader opinions and views, more nearly similar to those which would have been derived from a personal examination of the witnesses, than is usual in testimony of this description.
The Comptroller is well aware that the Legislature will expect from him some analysis of this testimony, and some application of it to the accounts as exhibited in his office, that they may the more
readily understand the subject, and see the points, if any, which call for their further interference. An attempt has therefore been made to classify these expenditures, so far as they are susceptible of classification, and to accompany a particular reference to the vouchers, with a general reference to such depositions as most directly show the history of that part of the work to which each class of expenditures relates. Such remarks also, as were suggested by this minute examination of the accounts with the evidence, will be found interspersed with the references to the depositions. In order to make such a statement intelligible, an entire abstract of all the vouchers rendered to this office, distinguishing each rendition, and the numbers of the vouchers upon each, for the respective sums of $10,000, as drawn from the treasury, is necessarily furnished, and precedes the statement. These papers were found to constitute so long and tedious a document, and to consist so considerably of figures and calculations, that the idea of incorporating it in this report was abandoned, and the conclusion was adopted of annexing it as an accompanying explanation.
From an examination of this document, it will be seen what payments, which have been in fact made, were authorised by the contracts under which they purport to have been made; what payments have been made beyond the contract prices of the work, towards which the vouchers shew that the money was paid; what vouchers are ascertained to have been taken for amounts greater than the sums actually paid upon them; and what vouchers have been drawn and receipted, and the money obtained upon them by indirection, and without an intent to apply it to the purposes indicated upon the face of the voucher. This exhibit of the expenditures will also show the amount of moneys yet unaccounted for, in the hands either of the commissioners, or of their treasurer, and the descriptions of property which, in the course of the progress of this work, the commissioners have acquired, and which remains in their hands as part of the draining fund.
In regard to that part of the expenditures set down in the statement as being accounted for, nothing can be added to the relations given in the depositions.
They are believed to contain substantially the facts upon the subject, or, in any event, they do contain those facts, so far as the Comptroller has been able to ascertain them by the investigation which he was directed to make. If, therefore, they should not prove satisfactory to the Legislature, still they embrace all the