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novel and simple. It empowered each court to hold double sessions, or, in other words, instead of the judges holding the court together, it authorized each judge to hold a separate branch of the court, with a separate jury, for the trial of causes. By this means three trials could be carried on at the same time, by the same court sitting in different rooms. Instead of the two courts being occupied with but two causes, they might be engaged at the same time in the trial of six.
This simple contrivance worked admirably. In less than a year the great mass of the business was cleared off, and since that period the judges have been enabled, by holding their separate and extra courts, to prevent any accumulation beyond the regular and ordinary business.
In the same year he introduced another bill, marked by the same remedial features.
A special term was held in Albany, the capital of the state, every month, for the dispatch of that large class of business known to lawyers as non-enumerated. One third, or nearly one half, of this business originated in the city of New York, and the lawyers of that city were compelled to go to the former place to attend to it. This system subjected them to considerable expense and great loss of time. Still it had been submitted to for a long series of years, and no attempt had been made to alter it. Mr. Maclay's bill empowered the judge of the New York circuit to hear and determine all business of this description arising within his circuit. Parties were permitted to bring in their motions before him at the city of New York upon a notice of four days: a change which greatly facilitated the dispatch of business, and materially lessened the expense of suitors.
As a member of the Legislature, Mr. Maclay also made a report, upon an application by petitioners from several counties in New York, for a change in the existing mode of apportioning the literature fund of the State of New York. It was contended that the income of this fund (840,000), then divided into eight equal parts, and given to the eight Senatorial Districts into which the .state was divided, should be distributed to the whole state without reference to these districts. The hij^hest sum apportioned the previous year to one student had been eight dollars and thirty-six cents, and the lowest three dollars and forty-three cents, while, upon the plan proposed, the rate per scholar would have been four dollars and fifty-two cents. Mr. Maclay gave a history of the fund, by which, as appears from his report, the mode of distribution asked for had been tried and abandoned, upon the discovery that the more sparsely-settled districts of the state were not reached by it. He contended that if such districts now received more, they needed more; and that the object of the state being, not to endow, but to encourage academies, its bounty was rightly bestowed where most required, and "diminished only where the well-managed institution could spare a portion without injury to the younger and weaker seminaries." He showed conclusively that the expectation entertained that the inequality in the apportionment would be gradually reduced and ultimately destroyed, had been in part realized, inasmuch as the disparity had fallen from eight times to twice the amount received. These conclusions were sustained by the Legislature.
During the same session a committee of three was chosen by ballot, to sit during the recess of the Legislature, with power to send for persons and papers, for the purpose of investigating the affairs of the New York and Erio Rail-road Company. Grave charges had been preferred against the company, to whom the state had loaned its credit to the amount of three millions of dollars, and much hostility had been excited against it from its supposed participation and interference in the political struggles of the day.
Mr. Maclay was chosen one of. the committee, and, as appears from their report (a document of one thousand pages, which was printed by order of the Legislature), took a prominent part in the examination of witnesses and in the other labors of the committee, which extended over a period of six months.
In the autumn of the year 1841 Mr. Maclay was again elected a member of Assembly of the State of New York, for the city and county of New York.
Occupying the station of chairman of the Committee of Schools and Colleges during the session of 1842, he introduced and procured the passage of the "Act to Extend to the City and County of New York the Provisions of the General Act in relation to Common Schools," which passed April 11, 1842. A brief sketch of the features of the school system existing in the state and the city of New York respectively, may not be uninteresting.
In the year 1812, a board of commissioners, appointed by the Legislature to devise a suitable system for the organization and establishment of common schools in the State of New York, submitted a report, which was adopted by the Legislature, who enacted a general school law in accordance with its provisions, whereby the several towns were divided into school districts, and trustees elected in each, to whom were to be confided the care and superintendence of the schools established therein. The interest of the school fund was to be divided among the different counties and towns according to their respective populations, and the proportions received by the respective towns were to be subdivided among the districts into which such towns should be divided, according to the number of the children in each between the ages of four and fifteen years. Each town was required to raise by tax, annually, as much money as it should have received from the school fund, and the gross amount of moneys received from the state and raised by the laws was to be appropriated exclusively to the payment of the teachers.
The provisions of the general law for the State of New York, above set forth, have been continued, without any material change, until the present time, the titles and duties of the school oflicers annually chosen in the counties, towns, or districts having been altered or modified, to keep pace with constant improvements suggested by experience.
The city and county of New York, however, were excepted from the provisions of this act; the interest of the school fund to which, according to its proportion of population, it was entitled, being paid to an incorporated body, called the Public School Society, and being by them appropriated to the support of Public Schools, in such a manner as, in the opinion of the trustees, was deemed most expedient. This society was founded in the year 180o, before an efficient general system had been devised for the state at large, and when the city of New York, in an especial manner, was suffering from the many evils resulting from the want of a suitable system of education for the poor. De Witt Clinton, whose philanthropy equaled his intelligence, and in whose public and private life they walked hand in hand together, was the originator and first president of this society, which, from the date of its incorporation to the present time, has been a fruitful source of good to the city, the education of whose children it has had in charge. By degrees, the most distinguished citizens, becoming interested in the operation of the society, enrolled themselves among its members, and, devoting themselves gratuitously to the discharge of their self-imposed duties, were the means of effecting a greater amount of good in the aggregate, it is believed, than has ever yet been effected simply by private benevolence.
It was, however, contended, by the opponents of this system, that there were a number of evils inherent in it—that it was not adequate to the increased wants of the community, and that the plan—which had promised well at its inception, when the limits of the city were circumscribed, and its population comparatively small and more homogeneous than at present, and when, above all, there was no adequate public provision for popular education—was unsuitable, and ill adapted to its present circumstances. It was also contended that the great power possessed by a corporation which was declared to be irresponsible, composed of private individuals, receiving and expending large amounts of public money, under the control only of their own judgments, gave umbrage to many of our citizens, who contended that the money of the people should be received and disbursed only by agents chosen by the popular will; and the excitement upon this subject, heightened by some extraneous circumstances, to which it is not necessary now to refer, increased to such an extent that the action of the Legislature was invoked by numerous petitions, and the Committee on Colleges, Academies, and Common Schools of the Assembly, on the 14th of February, 1842, through their chairman, Mr. Maclay, presented a report, in which what were believed to be the eauses of the evils of the system of common school instruction in the city of New York were clearly set forth, and the proper remedies designated. A bill, entitled "An Act to Extend to the City and County of New York the Provisions of the General Act in relation to Common Schools," was introduced with the report, and speedily passed into a law.
The various objections to the system of the Public School Society and to its practical effects are enumerated in the report. We will content ourselves with a brief quotation, sufficient to show the nature of the evils complained of, and the purposed remedy:
"All that appertains to public instruction in the city anil county of New York is substantially under the control of an incorporated institution, known as the Public School Society. The extraordinary powers of this society have been ably and elaborately set forth in the reports made to the Legislature at its last session. The control of the public education of the city of New York, and the disbursement of nine tenths of the public moneys raised and apportioned for schools, are vested in this corporation. It is a perpetual corporation, and there is no power reserved by the Legislature to repeal or modify its charter. From the petitions of many thousand inhabitants of New York, it appears that objections are widely prevalent against this organization of schools in the metropolis, and that the system so far fails to obtain the general confidence, that a very large number of children are left destitute of education.
"There is something exceedingly incongruous with our republican habits of thinking in the idea of taking the children of a population approaching half a million of souls—taxing them, at the same time, for the support and maintenance of schools—and, when both the children and the taxes are furnished, withdrawing both out of the hands of guardians and tax-payers, and handing them over to an irresponsible private chartered company. Such a concentration of power into mammoth machinery of any description is odious to the feelings, and dangerous to the rights of freemen.
"It is too late to argue that private chartered corporations, with extraordinary powers and privileges, are more suitable or efficient agents for public objects than the community itself acting under general laws. But the question is not upon the merits or defects of other institutions; it is whether the Public School Society has or has not failed to accomplish the great object of its establishment—the universal education of the children of the city of New York. That it has signally failed has been shown by the statistics of the schools; and there is, moreover, incontrovertible proof in the fact that nearly one half of the citizens of the metropolis protest against the system, and demand its modification.
"Such, then, is the evil to be corrected. It is apparent that it began with a departure from the confessedly equal and just system of common school education which prevails in all the