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Proceedings and Debates of the 1864 Constitutional Convention
Volume 102, Volume 1, Debates 221   View pdf image (33K)
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221
maintain a system of general and universal
education. And because, in my judgment,
it may and will happen that the Legislature
will so regard this matter, that is, that there
is no way of maintaining Maryland as a free
State but by educating alt the people. I de-
sire that they shall not be fettered in this re-
gard; and if they shall think it better for the
interests of the whole State to impose this or
any other lax to make the system of educa-
tion enduring and self-sustaining, there shall
be nothing in this Constitution to prevent
their doing so. These are the reasons, and
the only reasons wily I support the amend-
ment of nay colleague (Mr. Scott) to strike
out the first clause of this article as reported
by the committee.
Now, in saying that, I do not take back
one jot of my original statement, that it is
not true that taxes by the poll, are, in them-
selves, necessarily grievous and oppressive.
And the reason why a large number of the
citizens of Maryland are to-day under that
disabuse of judgment is because demagogues
all over the State are constantly trying to
make them believe that such is the case. I
believe this question has never been used for
any other purpose than to accomplish some
party end. And I believe that the vote here
in the last Convention, upon that subject—
although I do not know all the members—
was given with a view to party purposes;
and that members of either side favored or
opposed the proposition because they could
thereby pander to the prejudices of the peo-
ple whom they represented, and tell them
that in so doing they had been protecting cer-
tain rights of theirs, when their rights had
never been in danger of being interfered with.
Now a poll tax is not necessarily an inter-
ference with any of the rights of the people.
There is nothing in the proposition of my
colleague (Mr. Scott) which says that such a
tax, if imposed, shall be a tax upon the elect-
ive franchise; and all that talk, therefore, to
which we have listened in this Convention,
amounts to just nothing at all, A man can
vote just as well if a poll tax is imposed upon
him, as if it was not.
Now I believe the proper course for the
members of this Convention to pursue, is to
go home and tell their constituents that it is
not true that a poll tax is oppressive and
grievous; that that is only the statement of
the demagogue. I do not pretend to answer
for the constituents of other gentlemen; but
I know this, that such white men are ex-
tremely scarce in the section of the State from
which I came. I have never heard of one of
the people there who was not willing to do
what little he could for sustaining a uni-
versal system of education.
Mr. HEBB. I move to amend the amend-
ment, by adding after the word "poll," in
the first line, the words "as a qualification
tor the exercise of the right of suffrage."
The question was upon the amendment to
the amendment.
Mr. STIRLING. I do not rise for the purpose
of discussing this question, but merely to
explain my reasons for voting against the
amendment to the amendment, and to allude
to one or two remarks of the gentleman from
Cecil (Mr. Pugh.) I halve never said, never
supposed, that the objection to striking out
the first, clause of this article as reported by
the Committee on the Declaration of Rights,
was because it had anything to do with the
right of suffrage; and if that has been said,
it has been said as much by the one side as
the other upon this question. The gentle-
man from Allegany (Mr. Hebb) moves to in-
sert the words ''"as a qualification for the
exercise of the right of suffrage," when everybody
knows that the Constitution fixes the
qualifications for the right of suffrage, and
there is no use in putting those words in.
Now if there is any kind of tax that can be
levied for the purpose of equalizing the bur-
dens of taxation, and, as the gentleman from
Cecil (Mr. Pugh) urges, to support a system
of public schools, let it be levied; there is no
prohibition of that in the article as reported
by the committee. But what is taxation by
the poll? It is a tax laid on every head, ir-
respective of the brains, body or property
belonging to that head. There can be no
doubt that taxation by the poll is simply
taxation by the head, irrespective of any
other circumstances; that is the necessary
meaning of it. Gentlemen urge that there
should be some system devised by which a
particular class of people, the young men of
the State, may betaxed. Now that may or
may not be taxation by the poll. If the
Legislature believes that there is a certain
class of people in the State of Maryland who
receive benefits from the government, and
ought to contribute something for its sup-
port, it may or may not reach them by taxa-
tion by the poll.
But the proposition that taxation by the
poll, or support of the government by tax as
levied on everybody, irrespective of what they
are worth, is grievous and oppressive, is as
true a proposition as can be announced; is
as plain as the sun in the heavens at noon-
day, Now if a tax can be levied, not by the
poll, not on everybody, irrespective of all
considerations and circumstances, then that
is not taxation by the poll. But I say the
imposition of a tax at so much a head on
everybody, is grievous and oppressive. Sup-
pose you say that each person in this State
shall paly a tax of one dollar. One man is
confined to his room with a broken leg, or is
sick and has laid upon his back for ten years,
is a bed-ridden man. If you make him pay
the same tax as a hearty strong man shall
pay, then that tax is grievous and oppres-
sive, and necessarily so. If it is levied utterly
irrespective of the; circumstances of the man,


 
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Proceedings and Debates of the 1864 Constitutional Convention
Volume 102, Volume 1, Debates 221   View pdf image (33K)
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