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PREPARED IN PURSUANCE OF
CHAPTERS 194 AND 458, OF THE LAWS OF 1867,
UNDER THE DIRECTION OF
FRANCIS C. BARLOW, SECRETARY OF STATE,
BY FRANKLIN B. HOUGH.
ALBANY, N. Y. :
The act providing for a Convention to revise and amend the Constitution, passed on the 29th of March last, conferred upon that body the power to call upon all public officers, Boards and Commissions, for such information, papers, statements, books or other public documents in their possession, as the said Convention might order or require for its use, from time to time while in session. It also made it the duty of the Secretary of State, Comptroller and Attorney-General, to cause to be prepared in readiness for the Convention, at the commencement of its session, a suitable Manual, two copies of which were to be furnished to each member and officer.
After due consultation, it was thought expedient to ask from the Legislature, the authority necessary for the performance of this duty, as, without the means for defraying certain incidental expenses, or power to call for information that must be procured, the State officers from whom this duty was required, would be quite unable to meet the expectations of the Convention, or to satisfy the conditions of the law.
A bill was accordingly introduced, investing the Secretary of State, Comptroller and Attorney-General with the same powers to call for information from all Civil and Military officers, Boards and Commissions, as had been previously conferred upon the Convention itself, and providing that the expense of obtaining this information should be audited and paid under their direction. This bill did not become a law until the 19th of April. On the same day, the Commission named in the act, appointed Dr. FRANKLIN B. HOUGH as their Secretary, and authorized him in his own name, and on their behalf, to apply for information, and to collect, prepare for the press, and direct the printing of the Manual required to be published under their direction, for the use of the Convention.
The very brief period allowed for this labor, would not admit of so careful and thorough a summary and analysis of our administrative affairs, under the various departments of the government, since the revision of our State Constitution as might have been desired, yet it was resolved to present a complete and carefully prepared edition of the Articles of Confederation, Constitution of the United States, the former and present Constitutions of New York, and the latest Constitution of each of the States in full, with their latest amendments, together with such synopsis of the operations of the several departments of the State government during the last twenty years as might be practicable.
It was also decided to undertake an exhaustive inquiry into the. present indebtedness of the several civil and municipal corporations of the State, and as far as possible, to procure, in detail, the statistics of courts in the several counties under the present Constitution, together with such information of a general character, as might most fully meet the wants of the Convention, and illustrate the operation of the existing laws.
In pursuance of this plan, letters were without delay addressed to the Secretaries of State in each of the States, for copies of their latest constitutional amendments; to the various public officers of the State government for information concerning their several departments. Blanks and letters were also sent to the proper officers of each county, city, town, and incorporated village, for statements relating to their present debts, the time when; and object for which contracted, and date of maturity, and for such other statistics as were specified in the blanks, or particularly designated in the correspondence. As a preliminary to this, it was found necessary to procure, through the county clerks, the names and address of the recently elected supervisors of the towns, and in many instances to make repeated inquiries by letter, before ascertaining the proper persons to be addressed.
The task of collecting the latest Constitutions of the States, was greatly increased by the fact that, in most of the States lately in rebellion, very recent revisions and amendments have been made, that have not hitherto been collected, and in some cases manuscript copies could only be procured. The Commission owes a public acknowledgment to Col. A. J. H. DUGANNE, Chief of the Bureau of Military Record, for the use of several newly adopted Constitutions of Southern States that could not otherwise have