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as collections were not rigidly enforced because the treasury always had a surplus.
Tennessee was thus in 1834 a prosperous State, increasing rapidly in population and wealth, having the beginnings of an excellent public school system, able to make liberal appropriations for public improvements, possessing resources more than sufficient for its needs, keeping pace with opinion upon the subject of crime and its punishment, but having a system of government which even when administered by a man as capable as William Carroll was inefficient and in some respects positively unjust. The inefficiency was in part the result of general social conditions, which even yet were crude and unsettled, but the principal sources of trouble were the defective provisions of the Constitution in regard to taxation, the election of county officers, and the judiciary. So far as the judiciary is concerned wise legislation might have overcome the fault of the Constitution in a great measure, but in fact, unwise legislation had magnified it.
The Constitution provided that when two-thirds of the members of the Assembly should think it necessary to change the Constitution, they should recommend to the electors, at the next election, to vote for or against a Convention, and if a majority of those voting for representatives should favor a Convention, it should be called at the next session, and should consist of as many members as there were in the General Assembly.41
At an election held in 1831, the Convention failed by over two thousand votes of receiving a majority, but the Legislature renewed its recommendation, and in 1833 a Convention was approved by the people and called by the Assembly.*
The conservatism of our ancestors in retaining so long the Constitution of 1796, was not more excessive than that which our own generation has shown in regard to the Constitution of 1870.
41 Article X, section 3.
THE CONSTITUTION OF 1834.
The Constitutional Convention of 1834 met at Nashville on the 19th of May, and adjourned on the 30th of August of that year. The Constitution was submitted to the people on the 5th and 6th of March, 1835, and was ratified by a vote of 42,666 against 17,691. It remained in effect until the adoption of the Constitution of 1870, but was amended in 1853, in certain matters connected with the judicial department, and again in 1865 so as to abolish slavery, and to prohibit the Legislature from making laws recognizing the right of property in man. The members of the Convention were not as a rule, men of exceptional ability, and but few of them had been prominent in the public service. The best known were William B. Carter, who served three terms in Congress acceptably; Robert J. McKinney, one of the most eminent jurists the State has produced; Newton Cannon, who was Governor from 1835 to 1839; Francis B. Fogg, a lawyer of great learning and ability; West H. Humphreys, who was afterwards Attorney General and reporter for the State, United States District Judge and Confederate States District Judge; and Willie Blount, the younger half-brother of William Blount, who had been Governor of the State from 1809 to 1815.
The Convention marked the accession of the people to power, the triumph of democracy, and the begining of a new era of progress, of activity and of State leadership There was nothing revolutionary, but only the culmination of a gradual and inevitable process which had been going on in Tennessee as everywhere else in America. Of the forces underlying this process, William Carroll was thoroughly representative. His first election to the Governorship in 1821 is characterized by one historian as the overthrow of the "quality," but this is a little misleading. There never was an aristocratic sentiment or class of importance in Tennessee. The State had had only four Governors before Carroll, and of those, John Sevier, who served twelve years, was essentially a man of the people, and Joseph McMinn, who served six years, was a plain farmer. Roane, who was able to secure only one term, was a lawyer and scholar, and not a man of the people, and was easily unseated by Sevier, who had given way, for two years, only because the Constitution made him ineligible for a fourth consecutive term. Willie Blount was of aristocratic antecedents, and did represent the "quality," but he was the close friend and follower of Andrew Jackson, the typical democrat. There were rich men in the State who possessed the influence that money always gives, and there was for a time, almost a distinct office holding class, but it was what modern politicians call a "ring,” rather than an aristocracy.
The retarding influences in Tennessee had been excessive conservatism, want of confidence of the people in themselves, and, in the beginning at least, inattention on the part of the majority, to affairs of government. In the phrase of our own time there was no development of civic consciousness until after the war of 1812. At that time McMinn was elected Governor, and his policy, while it was advocated with less ability, and pursued with less energy, was like Carroll's, essentially popular and progressive. McMinn was a politician, though an honest one, not a statesman, obeyed public opinion, and was in no sense a leader. His serious errors in approving a loan office to be conducted by the State under the name of a bank, and unwise and vicious laws for the protection of debtors, were concessions to a wide spread, though unreasonable, popular demand. He was the cautious advocate of internal improvements, of ameliorating the penal code, and in general, of the reforms that were accomplished during Carroll's long administration which extended from 1821 to 1835, with an intermission of two years. Carroll was a statesman, possessing foresight, and large constructive ability, and had all the qualities demanded by the times, and by the position to which he was so often elected, and it