William Irwin

13th Governor, Democrat

Inaugural Address

Delivered: December 9, 1875


In pursuance of a custom, which has now acquired the force of law, I appear before you to outline the policy which I shall attempt to exemplify in the administration of the public trust confided to me.

And first of all, it is fit that I make due acknowledgment for the confidence which the people of this great commonwealth expressed at the late election in my ability, integrity, and devotion to the public interests. It was an endorsement of which I might justly have felt proud, if my claims to public confidence had been much better founded than they were. And while I am sincerely grateful for the evidences of appreciation so liberally bestowed on me, I am not unmindful that the public confidence of which I have been made the recipient, has brought with it corresponding duties.

It has passed into an adage that "Republics are ungrateful." The treatment sometimes received by those who have rendered distinguished public services, at the hands of their fellow citizens, seems to authorize and justify the aphorism. But, however this may be, I do not believe the people are ever really ungrateful to those who have established a title to gratitude, by reason of valuable services to the public. But the people cannot always afford to evince their gratitude for distinguished public services by rewarding those, who have rendered them, with public office. The citizen when he votes—when he discharges that highest and most sacred of all his political duties—must, if he have a just appreciation of the functions of the ballot, be more influenced in casting his vote by considerations touching what the candidates respectively will do, if elected, than by what they have already done. The political act of voting, while it may not wholly ignore the past, has special reference to the future. The patriot will not sacrifice the future of his country; not even to reward one who has served it in the past. Happy is he, if while discharging his duty to his country, he can, by the same act, discharge a debt of gratitude to one who has already rendered that country distinguished or valuable services. But, if in the exercise of the political right of voting, he is presented with the alternative of choosing between the preservation of the institutions of his country, or the advancement of its happiness and prosperity, on the one hand, and the discharge of a debt of gratitude, to even a public benefactor, on the other, he cannot hesitate on which side to cast his ballot. The obligations which patriotism imposes, and which are political in their character, and relate to the whole future of a country, are superior to those due for services already rendered, however distinguished or valuable such services may have been. And citizens generally no doubt take this view of their duty, and, as a rule, conform their political action to it.

This brings me to remark that I interpret the action of the people at the polls not so much as an unqualified indorsement of my past public life, nor as an expression of gratitude for anything I had done, as a declaration of confidence in my ability and disposition to conduct with prudence, economy, and safety, the affairs of the State, while they shall be under my charge. This confidence, so generously reposed in me, admonishes me that I may not lightly regard the hopes and expectations, so anxiously entertained, of the administration this day inaugurated. I can only promise that nothing which honest purpose and earnest, persevering effort on my part can do, to give the State a wise, efficient, and economical administration, will be left undone.


The tendency of political thought at this time, and I may add also, of general public sentiment, is toward increased restrictions on legislative power. This is due largely, no doubt, to the experience of many, if not most, of the States, particularly in later years, which has demonstrated the desirableness, if not absolute necessity, of such increased restrictions. It may sometimes happen, indeed, that injudicious restrictions on legislative discretion will work injury to the public interests. A striking example, in which this has been the case, is found in the practical workings of that clause of our Constitution which requires Assessors and Collectors to be elected by the qualified electors of the districts in which they are to assess and collect. This clause, by its rigid, inflexible requirement on the subject of the constituency of Assessors and Collectors, has caused an otherwise unnecessary multiplication of public officers, and has greatly added to the expenses of government. But the malign influence of this particular restriction has shown itself most conspicuously in introducing and perpetuating the giant evil of unequal assessments of property. Reason would suggest that if the revenue for the support of the State Government is to be derived from a tax on property, the taxation should be equal and uniform throughout the State. This is, also, the rule of the Constitution. Singularly enough, however, the Constitution, after adopting this sound and rational rule of taxation, in devising the means of carrying the rule into execution, hit upon the precise plan which, above all others, was certain to secure its defeat. Assessors are charged with the duty of estimating the value of the property of their constituents for purposes of taxation, and the Legislature is prohibited from creating any tribunal with powers to correct the aberrations of judgment of these local officers. Such, at least, I understand to be the scope of the decisions of the Courts on the assumed power of the State Board of Equalization to change assessments made by County Assessors. If I may be permitted to say it, while the Constitution very properly fixed the rule of taxation, it should have left the mode of carrying the rule into execution to the discretion of the Legislature. And I know of no other amendment to our Constitution so much needed—no one from which such tangible and substantial benefits would result—as one committing the mode of assessing property and collecting taxes to legislative discretion.


Though this particular restriction on legislative power has worked to the detriment of the public interests, it may be confidently asserted that, as a rule, restrictions on legislative power, particularly on the power of Legislatures to create debt, have been promotive of the public welfare. To illustrate by the history of our own State, who will question the beneficial effects of that clause in our Constitution which forbids the creation of a State debt of over three hundred thousand dollars? Or of that other section which forbids the credit of the State to be given or loaned to any individual, association, or corporation, or the State to become a stockholder in any association or corporation?

Debt is the bane of modern States. It hangs like a millstone about the neck of all civilized peoples. It consigns the laboring masses to penury and want by consuming the products of their labor in taxes to pay its interest. The money kings have their mortgages not alone on the real and personal property under the governments to which they have made loans, but on the brain and muscle of the people as well. This is the bondage of debt; it descends from father to son; from generation to generation.

Now, while I will not question the right of one generation to appropriate—to squander, if you will—its surplus earnings as it shall choose, I beg to ask by what authority it assumes to encumber the inheritance of its successor, the land which God has given as the common heritage of all generations, with mortgages to the money kings? And still more do I desire to know where one generation obtains the right to hypothecate the brain and muscle—the energy, enterprise, and labor of generations yet unborn—that it may enjoy the luxury of spending money which it has not earned.

Who will undertake to say what proportion of the net earnings of our capital and industry would now be required to pay the annual interest on the debt we would have, by this time, created, but not this prohibitory clause of our Constitution?

But to the thoughtful student there is something almost comic in the want of logic in the Constitution which, while it forbids the Legislature to create a State debt of more than three hundred thousand dollars, allows it to create county and municipal debts, measured only by the ability of the counties and municipalities to obtain credit; the counties and municipalities being but fractional parts of the State, organized solely for the convenience of local government. On this subject, however, we are not left to the voice of logic alone. Our own history speaks. While the present healthy condition of our State finances is the highest possible endorsement of the wisdom which placed a limit to the State debt which the Legislature might create, the bankrupt condition of some of the counties, which were once wealthy and prosperous, and the embarrassed condition of many others, demonstrate, beyond all controversy, that the Constitution ought to have gone further, and placed a limit also to the indebtedness which counties and cities might create. In the absence, however, of any constitutional prohibition, the Legislature should resolutely refuse all authority to counties and cities to create debt beyond a certain fixed, but small, percentage of their assessment rolls.


Just how much the people of the State have been saved by that clause in the Constitution which forbids the State to give or loan its credit to individuals, associations, or corporations, or to become a stockholder in associations or corporations, we shall never know. But when we observe what counties and municipalities, on which no such restriction was imposed, have done in the way of giving and loaning their credit to corporations, and in becoming stockholders in corporations, we have, I think, cause for congratulation that the State was not let, in this matter, to the tender mercies of legislative discretion, but had thrown over it, for its protection, the aegis of a constitutional restriction on legislative power.

But here again the Constitution seems, at least, illogical, in imposing the restriction on the State and not on the counties and cities. Is there any reason for the prohibition in the case of the State which would not apply with equal force in the case of a county or city? Why was the State forbidden to give or loan its credit to corporations, or to become a stockholder in corporations? Was it because, if it possessed this power, it would be liable to make an injudicious use of it? To give its credit to improper objects, or loan it on insufficient securities? Or to assume liabilities which might involve it in bankruptcy? There can be no question that the State, if it possessed the power to give or loan its credit to corporations or to become a stockholder in corporations, would be constantly exposed to all these dangers. But can there be even a pretext for believing that the counties and cities, possessing such a power, are not equally exposed to the same dangers?

But the apprehension that the State would make an injudicious use of this power, if permitted to exercise it, may not have been the chief motive for the incorporation of the prohibition in the Constitution. It could be plausibly argued, at least, that such a power, judiciously exercised, would be productive of great public good. What then was the probable motive for the introduction into the Constitution of a positive and absolute prohibition, forbidding the State, under any possible or conceivable circumstances, to give or loan its credit to the extent of a farthing to any individual, association, or corporation, or to become a stockholder in any association or corporation? What could it have been but a profound conviction that such use of a State's credit was no part of the legitimate business of government? Such gift or loan of the credit of the State, or the purchase by the State of stock in a corporation, would be a perversion of the powers of a political corporation, organized for the purposes of government, to mere private business ends. It may well be doubted whether a government can ever legitimately and justly use its powers for such purposes. But if this was the motive which induced the inhibition on the State to make such use of its credit, it should have caused a like inhibition also on the counties and cities, for they, equally with the State, are political corporations, organized for the purposes of government, and endowed with governmental, not business functions.


It will hardly be questioned, theoretically at least, that government ought to restrict its powers to purely governmental purposes. But when this is conceded it will not be easy always to draw the precise line of demarcation between the proper domain of governmental power and the rightful territory of private enterprise. And there are functions, vastly important to the public, about which there is a grave question as to whether they should be discharged by government or surrendered to private capital and private enterprise. The construction of railroads, for the accommodation of the public, is one of these functions. Is the construction of railroads a part of the legitimate business of government? Is it a governmental function to provide the public with highways?

Railroads sustain to the public about the same relation, and perform about the same office now, that ordinary wagon roads did during the pre-railroad era. As the ordinary wagon road was then, so the railroad is now, the highway of inland commerce. It was not questioned then that it was a legitimate function of the government, and even an imperative duty, to open and maintain highways for the accommodation of the public. And this duty is still recognized wherever the public necessities require only the ordinary wagon road. It is not quite clear, on just what grounds the government can be released from the duty of providing the public with highways, when the public necessities demand that these highways shall be railways, instead of ordinary wagon roads. Is it any less the duty of the State to provide railways now, where they are required, than it was to provide ordinary roads before railroads were invented? Or than it is now to provide ordinary roads where they are required? Or, again, has the State lost any of its rights over the highway in consequence of the highway becoming a railway, which it had and exercised when the highway was the ordinary wagon road?


As a matter of fact, the railroads in this country are built by corporations. But what is, or rather, what should be, the relation of these corporations to the State? Are they not in fact, and should they not in contemplation of law be held to be, agents of the government, charged with the performance of a duty to the public, which the government itself owes? And is it not precisely because they are agents of the government, engaged in services which the government is bound to perform in behalf of the public, that the government clothes them with the power of eminent domain? And still more, on what other hypothesis could the exercise of the taxing power in their behalf, which we have seen, be justified?

If this is the correct view of the relation of these corporations to the government, what are some of the resulting rights of the government over the corporations, and duties of the government to the public? It would seem clear that the government must possess the right to require the corporations to operate their roads in the public interests. I do not mean to assert that the corporations, or perhaps more correctly, the persons who own the stock of the corporations, have not property rights in the roads which the government is both legally and morally bound to protect. The person, also, who holds a public office, has rights which the government is morally bound, at least, to respect. But the public welfare is the inducement to, and the sole justification of, the establishment and maintenance of the office. And the government is bound to see that the office is conducted primarily to promote the public welfare: not to improve the fortune, or better the social condition of the incumbent. In like manner, the inducement to, and the justification of, the construction of railroads are the demands of the public interests. It is only because the public interests demand railroads that the government is justified in conferring on the corporations the power necessary for their construction. The interests of the corporations are subordinate to the public welfare. And the relations of the government to the public place it under the highest conceivable obligations to compel the corporations to maintain and conduct their roads primarily in the public interest, not for the enrichment of the stockholders. The public necessities and the public convenience must have precedence of the private interests, represented by the corporations. Such I understand to be the relation of the government to the railroads; and the duty of the government, growing out of that relation, to require them to be conducted in the public interest.

As already stated, I do not deny that corporations which construct and maintain railways, have property rights in their roads which the State is bound, both morally and legally, to protect. I do not suppose, however, that the duty of protection, which the State owes to the property rights of railroad corporations, is incompatible with that other duty which the State owes to the public—of requiring the corporations to operate their roads for the public welfare. The two duties are co-existent, and the government cannot, without recreancy to its high trusts, ignore or disregard either.

I am not unaware that those interested in the stock and bonds of railroads deny the right of the State to fix the rates which the corporations may charge for their services. This denial is based on the assumption that railroad charters are contracts, and that to fix rates any lower than those prescribed by law at the time of the granting of the charters would be a violation of the contracts. However valid this argument may be, when applied to charters granted without the right being reserved to alter their terms, I think it wholly inapplicable to corporations formed under the laws of this State; for the Constitution of the State expressly reserves to the Legislature the right to alter, from time to time, or to repeal, all corporation laws. This reservation of power enters as an element into every railroad charter, and takes it from the category of contracts, protected by the Constitution of the United States. At least, I hold such to be its effect, and shall continue to do so, till the tribunal of last resort shall decide otherwise.

Assuming then, as I do, that the State has the power, and that it is her duty, to require railway corporations to operate their roads for the public welfare, in what manner shall she exercise this power, and discharge this duty? It may be asserted, in general terms, that the State must prevent extortion, oppression, and unjust discriminations by railroad corporations, and must compel such corporations to carry passengers and freight over their roads at reasonable rates. I am aware, however, that to determine what reasonable rates are, is a problem full of practical difficulties. Without attempting to fix the exact limit of the legal power which the State may exert in regulating the rates of fares and freights on railroads, it would seem clear that she has not the moral right to require the companies to carry at rates which would not yield a reasonable interest on the capital invested. On moral grounds, at least, those who invest their capital in the construction of railways are as much entitled to a reasonable return on their investment as are those who invest in other enterprises. But, while this is conceded to the fullest extent, it must be borne in mind, on the other hand, that the State is equally bound to protect the public against the injustice and oppression of rates which would yield excessive returns on the capital invested.

Those, on the one hand, who have their capital invested in the roads, and the general public, who must pay for the service which the roads perform, both have their rights. To adjust a schedule of fares and freights which will do equal and exact justice to both parties is a task that will tax, to the utmost, the ability, the intelligence, and the impartiality of the Legislature. But difficult and laborious as the work will be, the Legislature may not shrink from the responsibility of providing the public with all necessary protection against oppression, present or prospective, from the railway corporations, while the corporations are left in the enjoyment of all their just rights and privileges.

Having stated that, in my opinion, the State has the power, and that it is her duty, to supervise the railroads, I now venture to suggest the creation of a Commission to assist in this work. I am quite aware that no legislative power could be delegated to a Commission. A Commission, however, could be clothed with power to correct abuses by compelling the corporations to obey the laws already on the statute book. It could, also, be charged with the duty of collecting such statistical and other information as must precede and become the basis of intelligent legislation on railroad matters. In addition, it could be given such other powers, and be charged with such others duties, as the experience of other States, which have Boards of Railroad Commissioners, has shown to be desirable or necessary.


Another subject which now occupies a large share of public attention, and in which the people in some sections of the State are vitally interested, is that of irrigation. It is probably the most important, and at the same time the most difficult, problem with which the Legislature will have to deal at the present session. In fact, it would be difficult to overstate the importance of irrigation, or to magnify the difficulties that must be encountered in obtaining it. I should deem it a work of supererogation to attempt to prove that irrigation is desirable: that it would increase the productive capacity of large areas a hundred or even a thousand fold; and that no effort should be spared to obtain it for those localities which need it, at the earliest practical moment. On all these points public sentiment throughout the State is in substantial harmony. We are called on now, however, to give a practical solution to the question, "How shall we obtain irrigation?" In devising a system of irrigation it would seem necessary that the Legislature should provide:

First—For the division of the portions of the State, which need irrigation, into districts, in such a manner that all the lands which must be irrigated, if at all, from the same source of supply, shall form a single district. It will devolve on the Legislature to adopt the plan which shall offer the best guarantees for having this work done in a proper manner, and the most economically.

Second—For the appropriation by irrigation districts of such unappropriated waters as they may require for irrigation purposes; and for the acquisition by such districts, by purchase or condemnation, of such waters held by adverse right as they may require. Irrigation will be impossible unless irrigation districts are clothed with these rights.

Third—That each separate portion of land forming an irrigation district shall have an indefeasible right to its pro rata share of the water belonging to the district. The right of each portion of the land of a district to a pro rata share of the water appropriated to such district results, as a necessary corollary from the power assumed, first, to form all the lands susceptible of irrigation from the same source into a district; and, second, to give such district the right to appropriate, purchase, or condemn the water necessary for its irrigation.

In addition to all this, the Legislature must determine the financial basis on which irrigation shall rest. The financial problem is likely to prove the most difficult of solution of any connected with irrigation. There would be a manifest injustice in making the cost of irrigation a charge either on the State or on counties. The justice of making each district bear the expense of its own irrigation seems so clear that I hardly think there can be any difference of opinion on that point. But there may be some question whether this expense should be borne by the whole property of the district or only by the land. A very little reflection, however, will, I think, suffice to show that only the land, and not the whole property of the district, should be taxed to provide irrigation. Irrigation is a process of fertilization, the water being the fertilizer. Its effects on land are analagous to those of guano, or any other substance used to increase its productiveness. By increasing the productiveness of land, it adds to its value. And as the owners of the land are the persons chiefly benefited by the additional value given to it by irrigation, they should bear the expense of irrigation. In other words, the cost of bringing water upon land should be paid out of the increased value given to the land.

I can only add that the Legislature will ever find in me a ready and zealous co-operator in any judicious, well-considered, and practicable scheme, which it may devise, for converting our dry and barren plains into fruitful fields, by bringing the life-giving and fertilizing water upon them.


Another subject which ought to engage the earnest attention of the Legislature is the State Prison. Of all our public institutions it is in the most unsatisfactory condition. This is not said to censure those who have managed it. They have probably done as well as it was possible to do with the facilities at their command, and under the system established. And I will not assert, with any degree of positiveness, that any system can be devised, or any management instituted, which will give any better average results. I do not suppose that any one will claim that the prison has been, in any considerable degree, successful as a reformatory; and I do not know that it is possible, however desirable it may be, to reform any considerable percentage of those who belong to the criminal classes, proper. But, however this may be, there is one point, at least, in which all will agree—at least all taxpayers—to wit: that the prison should be made as nearly self-supporting as possible. The cost of maintaining the prison, in addition to receipts from prison labor, and exclusive of expenditures for permanent improvements, is over eighty thousand dollars per annum. I need not add that this is a heavy burden on the taxpayers, of which they should be relieved, if it is possible to relieve them. No great reduction can be made in the cost of supporting, officering, and guarding the prisoners. Our prisoners cost per man about the same as those of Massachusetts and Ohio—States in which their prisons have been, with rare exceptions, self-supporting for several years past. They have not surpassed us in economy in supporting prisoners, but have been more successful in utilizing their labor. The last biennial report of our prison shows that the earnings of the prisoners for the two years, ending June thirtieth, eighteen hundred and seventy-five, were 48.8 per cent of the current expenses of the prison for the same period; and that for one of these years, the prisoners, under wages, were forty-nine and a half per cent of the whole number in the prison, and for the other forty-two and a half per cent. These facts show that if all the prisoners could be kept under wages, at the rates received, the prison would be very nearly self-supporting.

Can all the prisoners be let out under contract, or be otherwise employed at remunerative labor? I answer, not without more shop room. The first step toward making the prison self-supporting must be the erection of more shops. Should the additional shop room required, as well as the additional cells, which are needed, be provided wholly at Folsom, or in part at San Quentin? With a daily average of nine hundred and ninety-one prisoners for the last two years, the cost for officers and guards has been forty-three and a half per cent of the whole cost of the prison. With two prisons the cost for officers and guards would be nearly doubled.

Will it be easier to keep the convicts employed, or will their labor be more valuable, at Folsom than it is at San Quentin? The answers to these questions depend, in my judgment, on the answers which shall be returned to the following: Can convicts be employed profitably at quarrying and dressing granite at Folsom? If yes, What number can be so employed? I think I hazard nothing in assuming that for any other purpose, convict labor will always be in much better demand, and will command much higher prices, at San Quentin than at Folsom. If these opinions be well founded, the Legislature should pause before determining to provide all additional prison accommodations, which may be required, at Folsom.

I venture to suggest: That the first story of the prison commenced at Folsom be carried forward to completion, and that the work be then stopped. This will give one hundred and sixty cells. Let the experiment of quarrying and dressing granite with convicts be then tried. If the experiment proves successful, and there be a demand for the labor of more prisoners than can be accommodated in the cells already provided, let an additional story, or two, if necessary, be built on the prison.

In the meantime more shop room and more cell room must be provided somewhere. And these additional accommodations are not wanted as mere conveniences or luxuries; they are required as absolute necessities. No step can be taken toward making the prison self-supporting without them.

The discipline of the prison, also, no doubt, should be changed in some respects. The contractors of prison labor all complain that it is too lax; and it is certain that the discipline in those prisons which are self-sustaining is much more rigid than it is in ours. The Board of Prison Directors, however, have, I think, all the power necessary for the purposes of discipline, except in one particular. I would advise that the power be given to the Board to set apart a portion of the earnings of the prisoner—say ten per cent or less—to be given to him, the one-half of it, from time to time, if he should so desire, for the purchase of articles of necessity and comfort; the other half, at the time of his discharge from prison. His receiving any part of his earnings should, of course, be made dependent on his meriting it by honest, faithful labor, and general good conduct. Clothed with this power, the Board could establish a system of rewards for faithful labor and skillful workmanship, coupled with general good conduct, which could hardly fail to exert a most salutary influence in the maintenance of discipline, while it would prove a powerful incentive to the prisoner to try to make his labor as valuable as possible to the contractor.

And aside from, and in addition to, all this, our system of prison management should be so changed that we could place the prison in charge of an educated and permanent corps of officers. By educated, I mean qualified specially for the particular duties which a prison officer has to perform. And as these qualifications are usually the combined result of an original aptitude, and an experience, more or less protracted, officers who possess them should not be superseded by the naturally unfit, or the inexperienced. Though the reform now suggested is partially within legislative power, probably a constitutional amendment will be necessary to give the management of the prison the desired permanence.


I have already stated that I understand the scope of the decisions of the Supreme Court to be, that the provisions of the Code, assuming to confer on the State Board of Equalization power to change, or to cause to be changed, assessments made by County Assessors, are in conflict with the provision of the Constitution which requires Assessors to be elected by the electors of the district in which they are to assess.

It would be difficult to overstate the extent of the inequalities of the assessments made in the different counties in pursuance of this provision of the Constitution; or the consequent necessity for some tribunal with power to review the valuations of property made by local Assessors, and to change these valuations when the facts show them to be either too high or too low.

In fact, the history of the practical workings of our revenue laws has demonstrated, if it has demonstrated anything, that without some body, with powers similar to those attempted to be given to the State Board of Equalization, the different counties can never be made to bear their just proportion, and no more, of the burden of supporting the State government. As long as Assessors, or the County Boards of Supervisors, are the only officers that can be vested with power to determine the value of property, for the purposes of taxation, some counties will bear much more than their just share of State burdens, while others will bear much less. This, it must be admitted, is a grievous evil. But if I have not misinterpreted the decisions of our tribunal of last resort, it is an evil for which the State Board of Equalization can furnish no remedy.

And as the maintenance of this Board adds materially to the public burdens, while the decisions of the Courts have shorn it of all power to accomplish the purposes of its creation, I respectfully suggest that considerations of economy imperatively demand that it be abolished. And, accordingly, I so recommend.


While it is the duty of the Government to pursue with the tireless step and the sleepless eye of an avenging Nemesis every transgressor of the laws made to protect society, there are some offenses which should call down on the heads of their guilty perpetrators, with more than ordinary certainty and swiftness, the full measure of retributive justice. An offense of this character is the violation of a public trust. And at the present time—in the existing condition of public sentiment—I know of no other crime which it is so necessary to punish, to save society from utter demoralization and ruin. The opinion is quite general—I had almost said is universal—that every public officer, who has the opportunity, will enrich himself by plundering the public. And I am sorry to be compelled to add that, in too many instances, the conduct of those charged with public trusts has given just ground for such opinion.

And it is to be observed further, also, that the impunity, or, at least apparent impunity, with which public officers have appropriated to their own use the public funds, by a gross and almost open violation of the trusts committed to them, has apparently impressed on the lower grade, and even average public mind, the conviction that to rob the Government is legitimate, and that not to do so, when one has the opportunity, argues the lack of enterprise and business talent—not the possession of a quality for which he is entitled to public respect. That a sentiment of this kind does exist to an alarming extent, in certain strata of society, no close observer of social phenomena can doubt. No more can any one capable of the simplest form of reasoning—of following causes to their immediate effects—doubt that such a sentiment, if permitted to grow, and spread, and perpetuate itself, must result in the utter demoralization and ruin of society. Society, therefore, is bound, in self-protection, in self-preservation, to check the growth of this sentiment and to crush it out utterly. How can this be done? I answer, only by pursuing and hunting down with tireless energy, and punishing with remorseless rigor, the guilty violator of a public trust. Sympathy may plead for the overtaken, prostrate, and crushed criminal; but the great interests of society, when supported by the demands of justice, may not be ignored, nor imperilled, out of deference to a mawkish sentimentalism which is shocked at all punishment, however just, of individuals.


The relation which the State should sustain to the public schools is a subject of very great importance. Moreover, it is one which, at present, is engaging a large share of public attention, and which, judging from recent indications, is likely at an early day to assume still greater prominence as a public question, if it is not precipitated as an issue of partisan politics. The great importance of the question, which is universally acknowledged, in conjunction with a certain sensitiveness of the public mind, approximating a condition of alarm, in relation to it, must be both my excuse and justification for referring to it on this occasion. I shall state, as succinctly as I can, what I conceive should be the relation of the State to the system of public education.

It has passed into an aphorism, and may be accepted as axiomatic, that republican government must be based on the intelligence of the people. Without intelligence among the masses, it would be impossible long to maintain republican institutions. With us, therefore, general education is not only justified, but is made imperative, by the very conditions of our political system. To withhold education from the masses of the people, or to make access to our schools so difficult or expensive that large numbers could not make them available for the education of their children, would be to remove the corner stone on which our political edifice rests. Under our government, therefore, the education of the people—not merely the education of the wealthy or of the well-to-do classes, but of all—is a public necessity which the State itself must provide for, and supervise. This public necessity—for we cannot recognize it as anything less-not only sustains, but imperatively demands, the exercise of the power of taxation by the State for the support of schools in which the children of all may obtain an education. This much the State, as the organized form through which society acts, must do in self-protection and self-perpetuation.

The duty of the State to provide the means to educate the children, resident therein, may be supported on another ground, also. Humanity imposes on society the duty of providing for the physical wants of those who are needy, and incapable of helping themselves, whether the helplessness is that of infancy or arises from sickness or from the decrepitude of age, whenever their natural guardians or helpers fail, through death, poverty, or any other cause, to provide for them. In every civilized community, education is recognized as an actual, bona fide want of the individual, as much as is the food that keeps him alive, or the clothing that keeps him warm. Education is necessary for the individual, to enable him to provide properly for his physical necessities and comforts. The parent, therefore, may no more neglect to educate his child than he may neglect to feed or clothe him, during the period of his helplessness. And as humanity imposes on society the duty of feeding and clothing the infant, in case of the default of the parent, who is his natural guardian, so humanity imposes a like duty on society in relation to the education of the infant, if the parent neglect or is unable to provide this necessity for him. And whatever duty humanity imposes on society at large becomes a legitimate charge on the State, for the State is but the organ of society, through which it discharges its functions.

Having thus stated, as clearly as I can, and without equivocation, that I hold it to be the duty of the State to provide all children, resident therein, or at least to see that all children are provided, with the means of obtaining an education, I desire to remark, briefly, on what this education should be. The absolute divorce of Church and State is a doctrine which lies at the very foundation of our whole political system. Congress is forbidden "to make any law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." And the Constitution of this State provides, that "the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed in this State." I think I may assert without reservation, and without the fear of contradiction, that the idea of a perfect severance—an absolute divorce—of Church and State, obtains in the Constitution of the United States, is incorporated into the Constitutions of most, if not all, of the States, and is deeply imbedded in the very heart of hearts of the great body of the American people. The education, therefore, which the State must provide is secular; not religious. The State is firmly held by the letter of our Constitution, and by the common law of the land, indelibly written on the hearts of the people, to a rigid impartiality—a strict neutrality—as between the different forms of religion. It is strictly enjoined against all religious propogandism; but it must allow "the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship without discrimination or preference." It is against the letter of the law and the whole genius of our institutions, that a solitary farthing should be raised by taxation for the support of religion. The written law in the books, and the unwritten law in the hearts of the people, concur in the declaration that the only proper mode of supporting a religion is by the voluntary contributions of those who profess it.

The education, therefore, which the State is bound to provide, must embrace only those branches of learning which are necessary parts of all systems of education; those only about whose utility and necessity there is a substantial agreement among all civilized peoples, among the adherents of all religions, and the membership of all sects. Such are reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, grammar, natural history, natural philosophy, geometry, trigonometry, surveying, civil engineering, etc. These and other cognate branches of science and art are neither Pagan, Mahomedan, nor Christian; they are neither Protestant nor Catholic. They are adapted to the wants and necessities of men and women, as human beings. And whether the men and women be Pagan, Mahomedan or Christian—Protestant or Catholic—they stand equally in need of the knowledge acquired by a study of these and cognate branches. To instruct in these is not to instruct in religion: yet such instruction is not antagonistic to religion, but harmonizes well with all religions, and with the doctrines of all branches of the church.

From what has been said I make the following deductions:

The State must provide, in a system of common schools, for the education of the children resident therein, in such branches of non-religious or secular knowledge as by common consent are recognized as necessary to enable men and women to properly support themselves; and as necessary to equip men and women for their duties as citizens.

The State may not force into the schools, which her duty compels her to maintain, studies obnoxious to any portion of the citizens of the State, on account of the religious character of such studies. The obligation which binds the State to maintain public schools is of no more force than is the obligation which requires her to exclude from them all sectarian religious studies.

The ideas of government and principles of public policy, which forbid the State to employ the taxing power to establish a religion, or support a church, forbid it, equally to apportion a fund, raised by taxation, among schools devoted, in whole or in part, to religious education.

Neither the people of this State, nor of the United States, are, in my judgment, opposed to schools for the religious instruction of children; they are, however, if I am not much mistaken, even violently opposed to the employment of the taxing power of either the State or the United States, for the support of such schools. Public sentiment, as well as sound principles of government, demands that schools, devoted, in whole or in part, to religious instruction shall, like religious establishments, be supported by those who patronize them; and that the power of the State shall be employed only to provide that education which is useful to all alike, in gaining a livelihood, and necessary to all alike, for the intelligent discharge of their duties as citizens.

And now I will venture to express the belief that on this subject I am in substantial accord with the great body of the people of this State, irrespective of party: nay, more, that I am in substantial accord with the great body of the people of all the States.


Although the currency question, which is now engaging so large a share of public attention, is in no proper sense a question of State polity, I do not think it at all doubtful what position California occupies, or will occupy, on it as a question of national politics. It would be superfluous to remark that California has always been a hard money State, or that the people of the State are indissolubly wedded to gold and silver, as the only proper circulating medium. Here, public sentiment has steadfastly refused to accept anything, as a substitute for the precious metals, to perform the office of money. And even the gold notes, which are exchangeable for gold at the will of the holder, can be got into circulation only with difficulty, and to a limited extent. The actual circulating medium in use by the people, in the transactions of their daily business, is now, as it always has been, gold and silver.

It is proper to remark that, in my opinion, the State has acted wisely in adhering to a hard currency—the currency of commerce—in all the vicissitudes of the past, and that her present prosperous condition is due, in a large measure, to that circumstance. I will not assert that the United States could get along without paper money, of any kind or character, as California has done during the greater part of her history, but I will assert that no paper should be permitted to circulate as money, unless it possess the character of interchangeability with gold, at the will of the holder. This is the one sole test of the fitness of paper or any other substance to become, under any possible or conceivable circumstances, a substitute for gold and silver, as money.

But while this is the case, I recognize the fact that we cannot exact impossibilities of even the Government; and it may be impossible for the Government to return, at once, to specie payments. But we can and ought to demand that the Government resume specie payments at the earliest possible moment.

Moreover, we should insist, that, the currency of commerce—the money of the world—become again actually, or in substance, the currency of the American people, in their daily business transactions.


It would be a work of supererogation to attempt to prove that Chinese immigration is undesirable, and that it will, if allowed to go on without check, inflict not only the most serious evils on the laboring classes, but work a change in the very character of our civilization. This, all see and know. But how shall the evil be averted? I will not stop to inquire to just what extent, or with what effect, we can employ the police powers of the State for that purpose. It is certain, however, that the only sure remedy against Chinese immigration lies in the treaty-making power of the United States. If we would escape the dangers which threaten us from this source, we must invoke the exercise of this power. Let this State bring all its influence to bear on the Government at Washington, to induce it to demand a modification of the treaty between this Government and that of China. Our interests, our very safety, demand that it shall be reduced to a mere commercial convention.


In conclusion, permit me to say, that, according to the theory which I have been taught, government is instituted not for the benefit of those who administer it, but for the common good of all; and that that government, which is the simplest in its form, and least expensive in its operations, is the best, if it accomplish the purposes for which governments are instituted. In a word, government is the agent of society for the accomplishment of certain specific purposes. And society, like an individual or a corporation, is interested in having its agent perform the work assigned him, in the most efficient and cheapest manner.

This brings me to remark, that I will cordially co-operate with the Legislature in every effort it may make to reduce the expenses of the State, county and municipal governments to the lowest scale, compatible with vigor and efficiency of administration.