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FIFTH LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL,
Begun and held at the Council Chamber, in the city of Detroit, in the Territory of Michigan, on Tuesday, the first day of May, A. D. one thousand eight hundred and thirtytwo, under the provisions of the Act of Congress of the United States, of the 3d of March, 1823, entitled “ An Act to amend the Ordinance and Acts of Congress, for the government of the Territory of Michigan, and for other purposes," and the Act in addition of the same, approved February 5, 1825 :
On which day, being that fixed for the meeting of the same, by the Act of the Legislative Council of March 4, 1831, the following members appeared and took their seats,
From the First District, consisting of the county of Wayne, John M’DONELL, JOSEPH W. TORREY, CHARLES MORAN.
From the Second District, composed of the counties of Macomb and St. Clair, ALFRED ASHLEY.
From the Third District, consisting of the county of Oakland, CHARLES C. HASCALL, ROGER SPRAGUE.
From the Fourth District, consisting of the county of Washtenaw, and the country attached thereto, JAMES KINGSLEY, GEORGE RENWICK.
From the Fifth District, composed of the counties of Monroe and Lenawe, and the country attached thereto, DANIEL S. Bacon, LAURENT DUROCHER,
From the Seventh District, consisting of the counties of Chippewa, Michilimackinac, Brown, Crawford, and Iowa, MORGAN L. MARTIN.
A quorum being present,
The credentials of the members present, (including also, those of Henry Dodge, a member elected from the Seventh District,) were presented and read.
On motion of Mr. M'Donell, it was
Resolved, That a committee of two be appointed, to wait upon the Executive of the Territory, and inform him that a quorum of the Council have assembled, and are ready to receive any communication he may think proper to make.
Messrs. Torrey and Durocher were appointed that committee.
Mr. Torrey, from the committee appointed to wait on the Executive of the Territory and inform him that the Council are ready to receive any communication he may think proper to make, reported that the committee had performed that service, and were informed by the Executive that he would meet the Council to-morrow, at 12 o'clock.
On motion of Mr. M'Donell,
WEDNESDAY, May 2. The Council having convened,
At 12 o'clock, Stevens T. Mason, the Secretary and Acting Governor of the Territory, entered the Council Chamber and was conducted to the Chair; and the credentials of the members present having been read, (the same being present who appeared yesterday,) he administered to them the following oath.
“ You, and each of you, do solemnly swear, that you will support the constitution of the United States of America ; and that you will, to the best of your judgment and ability, discharge the duties of members of the Legislative Council of the Territory of Michigan, for the term for which you have been elected so help you
God.” After which the Acting Governor addressed the Council as follows:
“ GENTLEMEN OF THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL :
The temporary absence of the Governor of the Territory, having devolved upon me the duties of the Executive Department of this Government, I have, with the diffidence of conscious inexperience and inability, endeavored to discharge, in a satisfactory manner, such of those duties as required indispensable action. These have been few; and if their execution has not been attended with any distinguished benefit to the public interest, I may flatter myself with the hope, that no great injury has resulted from it. The virtue and intelligence of the people, have happily supplied all defects, and rendered it unnecessary for the Executive, to attempt to discharge much more than the formal routine of ordinary official business.
Under our limited form of Territorial Government, one of the greatest blessings we enjoy, is the possession of a Legislative body, elected by the people, and responsible to them alone, for the faithful performance of the important trusts committed to their care ; and our fellow citizens must derive confidence and satisfaction from the reflection, that without your concurrence, no measure, seriously or extensively affecting their interests, can be adopted or changed. To you, then, gentlemen, coming from the different counties of the Territory, and thoroughly acquainted with the wants and wishes of your constituents, is committed the important task, of legislating for their benefit, of enacting new laws to promote their welfare, and of applying the appropriate and adequate remedy to existing defects.
Among the subjects which appear to me particularly to merit your consideration at this time, are the present organization and condition of the judiciary. Nearly the whole judicial business of the Territory, except that which is transacted by Justices of the Peace, falls upon the Supreme Court, which is composed of three Judges only. From the rapid extension of population into the interior of the Territory, and the vast accumulation of legal business, it has become impossible for any three Judges, under the existing system, to hold the various courts required by law. The great inconvenience resulting from this circumstance, has frequently been felt in several of the counties, but perhaps never so sensibly as at the present time, proceeding from the delay in the appointment of two of the new Judges of the Court. If the Circuit Courts could each be held by one of the Judges, the evil would at least be partially remedied. By a division of the Territory into different circuits, two or three courts might be held at the same time, and the judicial business of the counties despatched with a corresponding celerity. Appeals, in that case, from the Circuit Courts to the Supreme Court, would afford greater satisfaction to the parties litigant, because a majority of the court in bank, would hear and decide on the appeals, without having prejudged the case in the courts below.
Dissatisfaction prevails in different parts of the Territory, in relation to the extent of jurisdiction now exercised by justices of the peace ; and petitions will probably be presented to the Legislative Council on that subject, during its present session. The great source of complaint is, that the justices exercise jurisdiction throughout the whole county ; that defendants are consequently often dragged to parts of the county remote from their residences, sometimes thirty or forty miles ; that by this proceeding, the plaintiff is enabled to convert the law into an instrument for the gratification of his personal resentment and malevolence, and the defendant, subjected to a great additional inconvenience and expense. The complaint seems to be well founded, and the evil, which has produced it, to violate that sound principle handed down to us by our ancestors, which requires justice to be brought home, as it were, to every man's door. The limitation of the jurisdiction of justices of the peace, in civil cases at least, to their respective townships, would doubtless almost entirely remove the prevailing discontent on this subject.
The expenses of the Territorial Government, l'eing defrayed by the United States, taxes are required only for township and county purposes, or for other immediate local objects. As it is desirable that a rigid system of economy should be adopted in the administratien of our local financial concerns, your attention is respectfully invited to this subject, in order that, if necessary, the various acts authorising the imposition of taxes, and specifying the objects to which they may be applied, may be re-examined, simplified, and improved by alterations and new enactments.
By an examination of our statute laws respecting grand and petit juries, it will be seen that no adequate compensation is allowed jurors, for the time and labor consumed by their attendance at courts. Petit jurors are at present, drawn away from their homes for weeks together ; they are compelled to neglect their families and business; and for the services rendered at courts for the benefit of others, they are allowed in return the mere pitance of twenty-five cents for each case they may determine. This law is oppressive and unequal in its operation, for by a very slight observation it will be seen, that a greater portion of our juries are composed of farmers and mechanics, men whose occupations of all others, require their constant individual attention. It would seem then, that an adequate allowance