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Proceedings and Debates of the 1850 Constitutional Convention
Volume 101, Volume 2, Debates 729   View pdf image
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the legislature to fix the maximum, it would be
subject to abuse. He would therefore move to
add at the end of the amendment, the following:
"Provided no register shall receive a greater
compensation for his sevices than the sum of $2,
500 per annum, but the legislature may provide
for the expenses of the office such compensation
to be paid out of the fees of office as may be
reasonble and proper."
Mr. BRENT, of Baltimore, suggested that the
whole could better be left to the legislature,
and moved to postpone the further consideration
of the section and the amendments.
The motion was rejected.
Mr. MERRICK said that the people complain-
ed loudly of the grievances growing out of the
fees of these offices, but that as there was no
time was to arrange a system, it would be bet-
ter to leave mandatory directors to the legisla-
ture by which other grievances might beremov-
ed. It would be no great difficulty to remove
these annoyances of fee bills, and at the same
time to give adequate; just, and equal compen-
sation to these officers throughout the State of
Maryland. There ought to be a fixed salary all
over the State; and as different amounts of labor
would be required in different offices, the county
commissioners might be authorised to judge of
the amount of assistance required, and to make
a proper allowance for clerks in addition to the
fixed salary. He hoped the House would adopt
the amendment proposed.
Mr. RIDGELY remarked, that the proposition
of the gentleman from Baltimore city, (Mr.
Brent,) was entirely vague, giving the Legisla-
ture power to give whatever compensation they
thought proper, and not restricting them from
giving those very salaries complained of as being
so enormous. He believed that $2500 the sal-
ary of the Chief Justice of the State, and of the
Judges of the State, was sufficient as a maximum
salary; while in some cases it might be poper
that it should be less.
Mr. SPENCER believed that the latter portion
of the amendment would defeat the entire object.
The same evil would exist that now exists, be-
cause these fees would all be swallowed up in the
expenses of the office. He would be glad to
know the number of clerks required in the office
in Baltimore city to carry on the duties of the
office, and then he could vote upon the maximum
to be allowed to the register or clerk of that city.
Mr. GWINN suggested that it would be as well
to fix the salaries of the clerks and registers by
the Constitution, and leave all the details to be
fixed by the Legislature. He had in his room a
statement with regard to the number of clerks;
but he could not now speak with certainty.
Mr. DORSEY was satisfied from all that had
been said, that these ought not to be salaried of-
ficers. The Convention had been called for re-
trenchment and reform; but would be called pro-
digal and spendthrift in the multiplication of
salaried officers. It was true that it was impos-
sible now to ascertain what the fees had been;
because they were received by the clerks, and
no entry was made; but every register and every
clerk could be required to make a record of all
fees hereafter received by him, and that record
might be open to the inspection of the Legisla-
ture. This would enable the Legislature to act
understandingly upon the subject. It was said
that enormous sums were now paid for copies
never called for and never wanted. The Legis-
lature could provide for all contingencies and re-
medy all abuses. But if it was attempted to give
salaries, and to require the payment into the
Treasury of all the fees above those salaries, not
a cent would be got. The officers would dis-
charge their duties less faithfully, and would not
take the trouble to collect the fees excepting so
far as to pay the salary allowed. There was no
time for the Convention lo consider the matter,
and he trusted that the Legislature would be directed
to prepare a system by which justice
should be done.
Mr. JENIFER said that at present the registers
have in their power if they are dishonest, to op-
press the persons who visited the courts, because
they could not know what fees should be charg-
ed. He had known clients to go to their counsel
to inquire, and the counsel themselves would
admit that under the present system of fees, they
could not know whether the fee bills were cor-
rect or not. If the register or clerk was dis-
posed to overcharge, he could do it with perfect
impunity. If, however, a salary was given, and
the inducement was taken away to commit
fraud, this evil would be remedied. The Con-
vention could not properly go into details. It
would be well to direct the Legislature to pro-
vide a system by which a fixed salary should be
paid to these officers, and the fees should be so
regulated as to make suitors pay as little as
possible, in order to secure the accomplishment
of justice. If there was an evil complained of
more than another, it was the want of uniformi-
ty in the charges of registers and clerks. Three
adjoining counties could not be found where
they would be uniform.
Mr. SPENCER demanded the yeas and nays on
the amendment of Mr. RIDGELY,
Which were ordered;
And being taken resulted—yeas 53, nays 24,
as follows:
Affirmative.—Messrs. Chapman, President, Mor-
gan, Hopewell, Ricaud, Mitchell, Donaldson,
Dorsey, Sellman, Weems, Bond, Brent, of Cha's.,
Merrick, Jenifer, Howard, Bell, Welch, Ridgely,
Dickinson, Colston, John Dennis, James U. Den-
nis, Eccleston, Chambers, of Cecil, McCullough,
Miller, Bowie, Tuck, Sprigg, Bowling, Dirick-
son, McMaster, Hearn, Fooks, Thomas, Shriver,
Annan, Stephenson, McHenry, Magraw, Nelson,
Carter, Stewart, of Caroline, Gwinn, Stewart, of
Baltimore city, Sherwood, of Baltimore city,
Ware, Neill, Kilgour, Waters, Hollyday, Cockey
and Brown—53.
Negative.—Messrs. Lee, Wells, Sherwood, of
Talbot, Dashiell, Hicks, Spencer, Grason, George,
Wright. Sappington, Thawley, Brent, of Balti-
more city, Schley, Fiery, John Newcomer, Har-
bine, Michael Newcomer, Brewer, Anderson,
Weber, Fitzpatrick, Smith and Shower—34.

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Proceedings and Debates of the 1850 Constitutional Convention
Volume 101, Volume 2, Debates 729   View pdf image
 Jump to  

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