The salt question.
This question, we observe, is again under hammer in the Legislature.
A joint committee of both Houses, to whom was referred sundry allegations of the State Superintendent
and suggestions of the Board of Public Works, and who were instructed to ascertain the causes of the obstructions in furnishing a supply of salt to the people, have, after a protracted investigation, submitted a report.
In this report the committee state:
The whole evidence conclusively shows that the lessors have repeatedly failed to deliver brine to the State
furnaces, according to the terms of their contract of lease, whereby said furnaces could not be worked up to their full boiling capacity, and were in fact often "blown out" entirely for the want of a supply of salt water.
The committee are clearly of opinion that there is a legal liability resting on Stuart
& Co. to make good to the State
the loss resulting from this failure on their part to comply with their contract.
The tenor of the evidence estimates the loss from this source at from fifteen thousand to twenty thousand bushels of salt.
The Superintendent, in his communication to the Board of Supervisors, of date September 4, 1863, complains that the lessors delivered a portion of the leased furnaces in very bad order, the flues of some of the furnaces requiring extensive repairs, almost, or quite equivalent to rebuilding them.
These allegations are fully sustained by the evidence, and the loss accruing therefrom at one of the furnaces, estimated by one of the witnesses at "from four hundred to five hundred bushels of salt per day for ten or twelve days," when the State
first took possession.
Your committee would be derelict of their duty, if they failed, in this final report, to bear their emphatic and unqualified testimony to the zeal, energy, intelligence, and skill in the whole complicated business, and no less the integrity and fidelity to his trust, which has marked, in a conspicuous manner, the administration of John N. Clarkson
, the State Superintendent
But when the General Assembly calls to mind the distressful and almost alarming condition of our people throughout the year 1862 and the first half of 1863; the absolute suffering of man and beast for want of salt; the repeated failures to obtain it from the owners of the Salt Works
, under county contracts and contracts by the Governor
— and now, on the other hand, find that the people and the markets are so fully supplied with a sound; merchantable article, that despite a deprecated currency and fabulous prices for all other articles of human consumption, salt alone is quoted in the price lists as "dull and flat" and "cheap," they will find in this the highest vindication of their legislative policy, and proof that they have been fortunate in their selection of agents to carry out that policy.
The Committee it seems made sundry efforts to make satisfactory arrangements with the proprietors of the salt works for continuing the State
operations in making salt after the expiration of the present lease, on the 8th of June next, but they say the proprietors so fettered their proposals with terms and stipulations as virtually, in the judgment of the committee, to render the whole scheme nugatory.
The report then proceeds with the following recommendations:
That the State
shall immediately impress the six furnaces known as the "Charles Scott
& Co's works," and shall, prior to the 8th day of June next, impress nine of the ten furnaces of Stuart
& Co., now leased by the State
; also the "Preston
" well, and so much salt water from the King
wells as shall be ample to supply the said fifteen furnaces.
Likewise, that the superintendent have authority, under the supervision of the board of supervisors, to impress standing wood for operating said furnaces.
Your committee deem it unnecessary to go into any argument to justify the Commonwealth
in asserting her right of eminent domain in a time of war in and to her only available salt wells.
A portion of your committee favored the condemnation of this entire salt property to the public use, State and Confederate.
But the committee prefer to confine themselves to so much only as shall be ample to insure a full supply of this indispensable necessary of life to our own people and to the armies of the Confederacy
, and should any surplus be left over, then to furnish that surplus to our sister Confederate States