Speeches delivered by Pat M. Neff, Governor of Texas, discussing certain phases of contemplated legislation Page: 5 of 61
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The making of a constitution is but legislation by the people. Constitutions
are not conferred by kings, emperors, or an autocratic few.
The people alone have the right to ratify and adopt constitutions. Constitutions
are but the collective will of the great body of a citizenship.
They are the highest expression of modern, progressive democracy.
The making of written constitutions originated among our people on
this continent. Our example has traveled around the world. It is
America's greatest contribution to political science.
AN INALIENABLE RIGHT.
The people have the inalienable right, from time to time, to pass on
the fundamentals of their government. While our Constitution is
silent as to this, the Constitutions of many States require a constitutional
convention at regular specified intervals. New Hampshire requires
a new convention every seven years; Iowa every ten years; Michigan
every sixteen years; Maryland, Ohio, Oklahoma, and New York,
once in every twenty years. These are old States. Texas is a new
country, larger than all these States combined, rapidly developing with
different and diversified interests, and yet the people of Texas have had
no opportunity to pass on the fundamentals of their government for
nearly a half century.
OTHER STATES HAVE NEW CONSTITUTIONS.
A large majority of the States have adopted new constitutions since
we wrote ours in 1876. Our neighboring States, Louisiana, Oklahoma
and New Mexico, have constitutions in keeping with modern civilization.
Virginia, South Carolina, Michigan, New York and other
States have written new constitutions long since we adopted ours.
For forty years conservative thinkers have registered their dissatisfaction
with our present Constitution. It is too long and detailed. It
constitutes a volume of 30,000 words, while the United States Constitution
has only about 7,000 words. Richard Coke, while Governor,
declared it was a hindrance to our growth. Business men have found
in its limitations barriers to our material development. During all
these years into every Legislature has been poured, as into a hopper,
suggested constitutional amendments. Every Legislature, except two,
for forty-two years, has submitted to the people constitutional amendments,
varying from one to thirteen, aggregating in all, ninety-one
amendments. Thirty-eight of this number were accepted. This was
patch-work. No one piece of cloth could be made to blend with or fit
into the old garment. New goods have already been sewed on to forty
sections of the old garment. Texas is entitled to a brand new suit from
hat to boots. The increased demand for change in our constitutional
thou-shalt-nots is evidenced by the ever increasing number of amendments
each year introduced. Three years ago the Legislature submitted
thirteen amendments, only three of which were ratified by the
voters. The voters of Texas have spent about half a million dollars
holding elections to pass on constitutional amendments. At some of
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Neff, Pat M. Speeches delivered by Pat M. Neff, Governor of Texas, discussing certain phases of contemplated legislation, book, 1923; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth5835/m1/5/: accessed October 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .