Letter From John Geddes to William Geddes, April 14, 1841

Author: John Geddes

Date: April 14, 1841

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Detroit . April 14th 1841

Dear Brother [William Geddes]

I am still in this City: the Legislature have not adjourned yet (7th) This Legislating is a slow businefs from several reasons One of the main ones is Union on part of the Lo-cos, against any thing and every thing for the purpose of making the Whigs odious; by making a long session and doing but little. which has been [the] case this winter, The popular branch consists of 32 Whigs and 20 lo-cos:. The Lo-cos oppose or retard businefs in several ways. one is to be always ready to adjourn. voting unanimously or nearly so for all motions to adjourn on any plausible pretense that presents for that object. And they making numberlefs motions to adjourn Still they could not adjourn the House without some Whigs voting with them; which is true But the Whigs do not act so unitedly: it frequently happens a few Whigs are ready or willing, or are weary, or are lazy, and who vote to adjourn, too, so it goes, Then they make motions and make speeches on those motions, and provoke replys and talk on sometimes to know [no] kind of purpose: that is useful purpose; And then offer amendments: frivolous amendments and make speeches about them Amendments those that offer them, dont wish to pafs. The object being to kill time, or load the Bill with such things to make it so objectionable that a majority cannot be mustered to pafs it. Bills are made so objectionable by these amendments that their first friends will not support them. It is called one of the best, if not the best way to defeat a bill by offering amendments to it The Legislature have pafsed a Bank Suspension Law. When we came here the first Monday in January last. It was not expected that a Suspension law would be asked of But the Governor said nothing about Banks in his annual mefsage But still we hoped the Banks, we hoped and beleived would resume. The time came round and the Banks paid out some $500 in specie on the first day. the next day the[y] paid none. (The first day of February was the time to resume). And so ended the Banks paying Specie in Michigan. In about ten days after the news came that the United States Bank had suspended again. The news came here on the second Friday of February (12th) It occasioned different feelings: but was a subject of astonishment to us all. The Whigs of course were sorry. But the Lo-cos they rejoiced even in the face of the lofs Michigan was in danger of sustaining, as the United States Bank owes Michigan some $1.500,000. It is still doubtful whether the United States Bank will pay Michigan the April Instalment. If they do not; Michigan will be in a bad state. Taxation must be resorted too. Which is the evil day. as Michigan has never paid her yearly expenses in full by taxes: but has always her overplus met out of the Loan pretended to be made for Internal Improvements. The State tax of Michigan for three years past was two Mills on the dollar between 5 and $6,000 was the State Tax of Washtenaw County. Two mills on the dollar in Michigan in 1838 amounted to $85.906.95 In 1839 to $92.385 In 1840 I beleive the State tax was $75.000 but I have neglected to attend to it dont know I have been on the Committee of Claims, which Committee has considerable to do It has no laborious reports to make: but has many difficult accounts to pafs on: old accounts that have lain over, for which various excuses are made. The Committee on Internal Improvement has the most important post in this Legislature, $450,000 has been appropriated on the Central Rail-road and $200,000 on the Southern Rail-Road, The rest of the Wild Cat Improvements of this State have had about $100,000 appropriated on the whole of them to secure and wind them up for the present, Michigan has still about $1,000,000 to expend or lay out on Internal Improvements. But there is some $400,000 due to individuals this day: - on contracts made under Lo-co misrule. Notwithstanding that the Instalments of last year (which amounted to over $600,000 was applyed on these contracts) This $400,000 uses up the April and July instalments and half of the October; Consequently we will have no money until October, even if the United States Bank should pay. Those who live in the Counties where we intend to suspend the works on Internal Improvement made a spirited resistance against it pretending it was the understanding at the time the loan was negociated it was the understanding that each portion of the State should have their share that such was the understanding at the time: is very probable but the policy or propriety of carrying out such a system has been abandoned by all but interested or abandoned, or rathered unprincipled politicians. We have had a speciman of those kind of fellows this winter in the Legislature. Whose plan is still to keep on squandering without pretending to even say (and some of them will say any thing) that there is the least plausible ground to expect one per cent on the expense for years to come. These men are Lo-cos and their plan is to repudiate the Loan, they openly avow it here in the Legislative hall. And say that none of the works of Internal Improvement will pay one per cent: and that those who pretend to lay out money with a view to that object dont beleive what the[y] advance. Be that as it may. The Central folks say that their is a prospect of realizing some revenue. Some say whose opinion and sincerity I have confidence in, that when the Central Rail-Road shall be completed to Marshall in Calhoun Co

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it will pay 6 pr cent on the cost of construction. I hope that may be the case I think it probable, but at present all things are doubtful almost all conjectures of late, but those of a gloomy kind in connection with money finance or revenue have failed; consequently what may be plausible as well as probable one day is impofsible next day. Still men are to be found who say that all our Rail-Roads will grow up in grass in a few years: that some will: I have no doubt but I do not think the Central Rail Road will be abandoned. I am at present of the opinion [I am inclined to the opinion] that the Central Rail Road, when Completed to Marshall will pay 6 pr Cnt on the first construction. The receipts on the Central Rail Road after paying all expenses last year was about $18.000. that was about 2••• pr cent on the original cost of the Road & Loco motives and Cars. The travel keeps falling off every year which is the most lucrative part of tolls. And the times keep srewing [sic] harder and harder: and the prices of every thing descending, which causes many who have teams to convey articles from Detroit to Ann arbour and from Ann arbor to Detroit, what would a few for a price that a few years ago would have been hooted at by that recklefs part of the community. These things seriously affect the revenue of the Rail-Road. .25 pr Barrel for Flour is price of Freight from Ann Arbour to Detroit and .20 from Ypsilanti to Detroit. And from Detroit to the City of New York 1.25 pr Barrel of Flour. The Lo-cos here openly say that the Whigs are accountable to the people for the length of the session: and for all the acts that may be pafsed and as long sefsions are unpopular they wish to make political capital and render the Whigs odious. They have made a long sefsion by their mean course; but whether the people will sustain them in the means they have made use of to effect that object: will be sustained: is yet to be seen. I hope not. It is just a piece and parcel of the same political vagabonds who have plunged our State in debt; and plundered our treasury and who now still are the advocates of the squandering and repudiating system their system is founded in selfishnefs: in present, individual benefit; it is get what you can: it matters not how; only get. That is my opinion of the minority of this Legislature taken in a body; for they act in a body. Individually there is exceptions to this general rule. But still there are individuals amongst them destitute of moral as well as political honesty, whose element is to glory in wrong. and whose principles are that the end justifies the means: and that that end is power, whether that power is to be used for the benefit of the people or not. The Lo cos do not pretend that they have managed the State well, but pretend their Legislation was affected by the peculiar state of the time [and] that the people were mad and the Legislature as a matter of course were [also mad] with the same malady. But when you see them still attempting to [hole] the same principles now; that they once put in train [?]. the conclusion must [be] that they are insincere. Their principles are those of Satan: and are alike pernicious whether in the majority, or minority. Men who will vote to sustain a party who have acted as the Lo-cos of Michigan have acted are unworthy or confidence themselves. The Bank Suspension law was a difficult one to pafs. The Lo-cos would not help to pafs the Law. So that the Whigs had to agree amongst themselves which was no easy matter. But after seven nights of caucusing, we agreed upon a bill at last: and put it through: and four Whigs voted against us. Washtenaw members had some difficulty in agreeing in the details of the Suspension bill: but finally united and voted unanimously as good Whigs ought to do. Not a Lo-co voted for the Bill. We past a Bill which has become a law, which requires all property both real and personal that is sold on execution: to sell for two thirds its appraised cash value, or else it is not sold. This may be considered a hard law, and so it is but the people are hard up, and our currency is paper, and this paper is not plenty: and something must be done: and now people can turn out property at no greater sacrifice than the lofs of one third its Cash value, which is sacrifice enough. I voted for this Law and only an other; of the Washtenaw members. The Bill pafsed 28 to 24. Fourteen Whigs and fourteen Lo-cos went for the bill and Six Lo-cos and eighteen Whigs against it. The only way to wind up the minority is by the previous question. But many Whigs pretend that the previous question is too harsh a way to do businefs, but I am not one of those that is overloaded with these qualms of conscience. The fact is the minority when the[y] take a stand against doing what they were elected to do: they take a course unprincipled in its nature and its effect: and are entitled to no courtesy. They might be considered as enemies to honesty at least, and ought to be treated accordingly. When I first came here after the first two weeks, I was unwell for Six weeks more or lefs, I kept round and attended the meetings of the Legislature regular. The difficulty appeared to be want of usual exercise. My health has been pretty good for a month pafsed. I now weigh 154 lbs I weighed 160 lbs when I came here. Paul Geddes who is recording Clerk weighs now 197 lbs I think he says he has gained 20 lbs this winter. I have boarded at Mr Ewers all winter. I have made no bargain about my board so I do not know what I will have to pay. Some pay $3.00 Some $4.00 and Some $5.00 pr week. They have a room to two persons fire and candles. I Board amongst the family. Mr Ewer’s family are in their usual health and so is Roberts and mine. It will be four weeks in three days more, since I was at home I do not intend to go home until we adjourn which [I] think will be in three days (this is Friday the 9th of April) I have not done much else than vote in the House this winter I have probably said lefs that [than] I ought to have said: but Washtenaw had

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three old members, one of them had been four years a member of the Legislative Council, and this is the third winter he has been a member of the lower House. He is chairman of the Committee of ways and means. his experience makes him a prominent member, an other is Chairman of the Judiciary committee. He is a Lawyer. This is the third winter for the other old member the other three of us are farmers and new members and none of us take much part. Washtenaw is well represented in this Legislature. much better than Wayne Wayne has one prominent member and but one: that is John Biddle. Brother of the famous Nick Biddle. John Biddle seems to be an honest politician, or rather an honest man, and no politician at all. His course this winter seems upright and we give him good credit for his good intentions: but think him inconsiderate. In the beginning of the sefsion. Biddle fell in our estimation. But has gradual rose again In Legislation the man that says too much is a worse member than him who says too little. The great evil is too much talking: men wish to signalize in making speeches Forget that they are not sent here to talk, but to do up, what may be necefsary and then go home. An effort has been made to alter the Constitution so as to restrict the Legislature to a Sixty days sefsion: giving the Governor power to extend the sefsion ten days longer if necefsary. and the same power he now has to call an extra sefsion that he now has I am in favor of restricting to a Sixty days sefsion by the Constitution. men have become so corrupt that something of this kind seems necefsary. An effort has been made or rather a joint resolution has pafsed this winter granting Blacks, and Indians, who have paid tax on $250 worth of property the privilege of voting. And like wise requiring a voter to reside thirty days in the County where he offers to vote immediately preceding the election This last amendment is to prevent persons from going into another County from his regular residence; a few days before the elections to vote: and afsist his political friends to carry their County, a measure that has been practiced by both parties in this state. All amendments to the Constitution has first to pafs by a majority of the members elected (It had just that majority 27 votes in this House I voted for it) Next year it must have two thirds majority of the members then it goes to the people: if a majority sanctions it: it is part of the Constitution. I dont think the Black part can pafs next year. Some oppose the property qualification: and [some] are not for pafsing it without that: and others again hate Indians. Ann arbor Township election has went in favor of the Whigs. That township had four tickets [hole]lition, Working men, and Lo-cos. We will have another warm electioning cam[paign] this fall for Governor &c and so will you. The Lo-cos here think that they [hole] again and it would rather seem so. I am in hopes they have overacted. [hole] are against a high tariff in this State; strange as it may seem: but [hole] out of view. We have thought of pafsing some resolutions in favor of higher [hole] the Lo-cos they would resist, and for the sake of peace, we have done nothing on the subject and I voted against taken [taking] up the resolutions, simply to save time a few days ago This morning April 10th news came from the United States Bank that they could not pay their instalment due Michigan as agreed, but offer to pay in their own Bank-bills and give us four pr cent extra. There is a resolution now before the House that the State cannot borrow nor increase the State debt without a vote of the people to that effect. Its to be an amendment to the Constitution. I intend to vote for the foolish thing. It is introduced by the Lo-cos for political capital. It cannot pafs next year. What a disgrace it is: that Legislative halls have become political arenas for unprincipled demagogues to display their love to the dear people. A resolution has just been pafsed by the Senate and House of Representatives requiring the Clerks of House and Senate to retain the price of all Books taken from the Library and not returned by the members out of their pay that is their portions. The necefsity of passing such a resolution is what I look at as a disgrace to the Representatives of a free people. It pafsed unamiously Those who felt dispose[d] to pilfer from the Library did not dare to oppose it: and we that do not intend to steal thought it ought to pafs. News came this day (10th) that Gen. Harrison died April 4th. Which is gloomy intelligence for the West. The West expected something from the Old Gen. and we are poor and needy. But in that particular we are disappointed: well it must be endured: According to the rules of Michigan Legislatures each member, has the Revised Statutes the Sefsion laws of 1837. 38. 39. 40 and 41 that is the Sefsion laws of this winter: and the Journal of the House and Senate and the House and Senate documents of last year and this. All these volumes amounting to eighteen, each member gets a present to take home for their own use. I call this extravagance. we are furnished Stationary when here. that is paper a pen knife which cost $2.50 two ink-stands, Sand-box, wafer box, a small ivory rule. two pieces of red tape and as many wafers as we can use, as much paper as we can use, and to the amount of two Daily papers and all postage of letters directed to us: but we no [don’t] have franking privileges. The Stationary furnished by the Committee on supplies for the House of Representatives this winter amounts to $986.10 And for the Senate $484.35. The Stationary that I got amounted to about $5.00 And my pen knife was half that: and some person stole that from me. a number of the members have had their knives stolen from them. I never before understood or realized the stealings in of public officers. And the still greater necefsity of having honest men in office. Not a few of the members carry off paper, Steel-pens, Ink &c lay in their summer supply. Not one of the members of Washtenaw is given to pilfering. So much to the credit of our reform County. The thieves are mostly Lo-cos They have been used heretofore to this kind of Stealings in (so called) A motion was made to give the Chippawa & Mackinaw members a

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$100 each, extra pay, on account of the great distance and badnefs of the roads in the winter. notwithstanding each of [them] got $125 for bringing the election returns from their County and of course their usual mileage $3 pr 20 miles. Every Lo co voted for it. But it did not carry. Various are the speculations as to the course that may be pursued by John Tyler it is all hope and doubt. But the West do not doubt that they have lost their best friend. and that we must be the loser. As to what a House would cost built on your land; would depend on the kind of a House. Some years ago $100 would build a good log house. I have heard of them being built for $40. One Story and a quarter My house that I live in is two story frame house with a good cellar Is all finis[h]ed except painting on the outside (it is 24 by 32) cost about $700. I will not do any thing about building a House for you, until further orders. I want you to pay the Weekly North American two dollars, on my account. If paid by the first day of June it will do This will be an important year, an era in the history of United States as well as of some of the individual states; Pennsylvania for instance. and it would not do for me to do without an eastern paper. And I think very well of the Weekly North American. The situation of Pennsyl. is critical and politicians, are unprincipled; there as well as here. If the Legislature of Pa. had went on and granted a Suspension. In fact the Legislature did: but the Governor we hear intends to veto it. The Bank of United States would have been better able to pay Michigan

[the center third of this page was left blank to be the outside of this letter. The Detroit postal stamp was used twice – on April 13 and the other April 14. As usual, it was addressed to William at Palmyra]

April 13th The Legislature is to adjourn to day. will make 100 days at 3 dollars pr day. The House of Representitives pafsed a bill for $2 1/2 pr day, but the Senate did not agree to it the Washtenaw delegation was ordered to vote for two dollars pr day, and we did so. But money is the order of the day. And a majority of the members would not reduce their pay. The Legislature has pafsed a Law increasing the State tax from two to three mills on the dollar. Your tax was paid by one of my acquaintance. I think it is $5.71. But I will pay it and tell you in my next. I have not seen the person that paid it but once this winter and then offered to pay him. But he did not want it. Because the money was not first rate. But Michigan bills is taken for taxes, at its face, Michigan money is worse this year than last year, here amongst our selves. But we cannot get any thing else for our pay Michigan Bank bills sold this winter for 25 pr. cent below specie. The[y] are not much better now. But I think the Bank will keep their bills up to ten pr cent below par. If not the Bank must go down. This bolstering of the Bank, without the Bank doing some thing for the people is unpopular, and opprefsive, as well as unreasonable. My board is two dollars pr week. That is Mr Ewers charge: that is one dollar lefs pr week than any other member has been boarded for. Wheat is .62 1/2 pr Bu. Corn .25. Oats .16 2/3. Hay $6.00. Eggs .08. Butter .10. Michigan money. If you have Illinois news I want you to send it on. I have heard no news from any Geddes since your last letter. The Rev. Mr Duffield (formerly of Carlisle Pa.) now of Detroit, delivered a discourse having reference to the death of Gen Harrison on Sunday evening last, which is highly spoken of. The very large meeting House (Presbyterian) was full to overflowing. The Legislature pafsed a resolution to wear Crape on the left arm for thirty days to the memory of Gen Harrison. And so the Committee of supplies presented each member with a piece of Crape.

Farewell John Geddes