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Proceedings and Debates of the 1864 Constitutional Convention
Volume 102, Volume 1, Debates 1563   View pdf image
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more city the other day, to attach an amend-
ment to the provision in relation to the attorney
general lo make him attend exclusively to the
duties of his office and not to any other business.
There was hardly a lawyer in the convention
but voted against it on the ground that it was
utterly impossible to get an attorney general
to take the office under such circumstances.
The objection applies with the same force to
the clerk of the county courts.
Mr. SANDS. I think we have some legisla-
tion upon this subject, but the very phraseol-
ogy of that legislation is a reason why the
views of the gentleman from Allegany (Mr.
Thruston,) which are very proper, are not
now required by the law of this State.
Section two of article eighteen of the code is
as follows:
"Every clerk shall attend at his office for
the transaction of the business thereof, every
day except Sundays, either in person or by
deputy, unless prevented by sickness, accident
or necessity."
If the words " or by deputy " were stricken
out of this section, and it was offered by the
gentleman from Allegany (Mr. Thruston) as
an amendment to the section under considera-
tion, I think it would meet the case, and very
properly meet it. For the Office of clerk in
many of the counties of the State is worth
more than that of the judge of the court.
The fees of the office go over three thousand
dollars, and in that case the office of clerk is
worth three thousand dollars.
Mr. STIRLING. The constitution limits it to
twenty-five hundred dollars.
Mr. SANDS. Well, twenty-five hundred
dollars, then. They are then paid salaries
equal to the salaries of the judges of the
courts. Now we know what is the custom.
I know what it is with us. A gentleman is
elected clerk who is a farmer. Now farming
his land is the grand consideration with him,
while he farms out his clerkship to a deputy,
and very frequently when you go to the office
on business, you find no one thereto transact
your business but the deputy or a minor son.
Now I think when a gentleman who has a
farm, becomes a candidate for the office of
clerk, and is elected by the people to that
office, he ought to farm out his form to some-
body else, and stay at his office. What busi-
ness has be away from his office, anymore than
the day laborer has away from the handles of
the plough when paid for his work?
Mr. RIDGELY. I would ask the gentleman
whether there is not most ample provision in
this section, as it now stands, to protect the
public against such maladministration of
office of which he speaks, in that portion of
it which renders him liable to indictment and
removal for wilful neglect of duty?
Mr. SANDS, We all know what that all
amounts to; it amounts to just nothing at
all. Under the provision now, when the fees
go largely over twenty-five hundred dollars,
the clerk is allowed to pay a deputy for trans-
acting the business of the office, and still re-
ceives himself annually twenty-five hundred
dollars when he is not in his office one day in
seven, I have had some observation and ex-
perience upon this subject. I know how im-
portant it is that you should confine these
officials to their duties, and not have the
clerkship regarded as something to be bid for
in a nominating convention, and then when
obtained farmed out perhaps to incompetent
people, while the other pockets the salary. It
is so in our register's office, and I think when
we come to that matter it would be well to
change that. We have statutory law requir-
ing the register to be in his office certain
hours, and yet he is not there on the average
one day in the week And if a party owning
a farm, or store, or anything else, wants the
clerkship, then let him farm out his store or
farm, instead of the clerkship, which is a
public office vital {to the interests of the peo-
ple, and which at all times should be open to
their inspection and accommodation in any
Mr. DENNIS. It really seems to me that all
this is "much ado about nothing." It does
seem to me that there are ideas prevailing in
this convention practically reversing alt the
old doctrines about office. I had supposed
that offices were created for the good of the
community. But the prominent idea here
seems to be that the officeholders are the ex-
clusive beneficiaries, and you are so to arrange
matters that they shall reap all the benefit of
the offices without any regard to the commu-
nity at all.
Now where is the necessity for the proposed
amendment? You provide in the section
that if the duties of the office are not properly
discharged, the incumbent shall be subject
to removal. What more do you want? 13
not that sufficient? if the duties of the office
are not discharged, either by him or his depu-
ty, then he is subject to removal. I think it
is eminently wise and proper that you should
have the office open to deputies. My expe-
rience in that very frequently incompetent
men are elected to this office, not unfrequently
some cross-road politician who knows how to
hurrah for bumcombe, but who is entirely-
ignorant of the duties of the office. And it is
well enough to have some competent deputy
to discharge the duties of the office.
Mr. STIRLING. It strikes me that this is a
very strange proposition, it involves the
idea that the clerk of the court is supposed to
perform the duties of clerk himself. Now 1
submit that it is not expected that the clerk of
the court shall] perform the duties of the office
himself, it may be proper for him, if the
fees of the office are not sufficient to enable
him to employ a number of deputies, to re-
duce the expenses by performing the duties
himself. The gentleman from Somerset (Mr.
Dennis) Bays the people have the right to

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Proceedings and Debates of the 1864 Constitutional Convention
Volume 102, Volume 1, Debates 1563   View pdf image
 Jump to  

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