Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Capt. Huntting,

January 31, 1889, New York Times, THAT ASSEMBLY CEILING



ALBANY, Jan. 30.--There was a lively time in the Assembly this morning over the much-talked-of ceiling. Three members of the committee, who are supposed to have supervised the construction of the ceiling, stated openly on the floor that so far as their recollection went, the ceiling was to be constructed of carved oak, and they knew nothing of the papier-maché clause until the present session of the Legislature convened. These members were Speaker Cole, Mr. Sheehan of Buffalo, the leader of the minority, and Mr. Gallup of Onondaga. It was also said on the floor that George I. Weed, another member of the committee, but not of this House, had made the same statement, and the only member of the committee who could recollect that papier maché was talked of was Mr. Enz of Thompkins, from which county, singularly enough, the man who drew the contract, Prof. Roe, [Rowe in other news accounts.] and the contractor, Mr. Snaith, also hail.

The atmosphere of suspicion that has surrounded this subject since the agitation of the ceiling fraud was begun was so apparent this morning that more than one member insinuated, and one openly charged, that there was a disposition to hush the whole matter up. Other members criticize the wholesale freedom with which the subject was treated, and declared that such an open course of proceeding would certainly frustrate the ends of justice.

Mr. Ainsworth returned from Oswego and reported to the House that the three experts selected by the Appropriations Committee---Prof. Chester of Hamilton College, Architect Russell of Syracuse, and Civil Engineer Brush of the University of New-York---had accepted the invitation to investigate the ceiling. Mr. Crosbie asked that Mr. Stanley [Stanford] White of New York be added. The report of the committee, with Mr. White's name added, was adopted. Mr. Ainsworth explained to the House that the object of the Appropriations Committee was to have the expert commission look into the matter of the ceiling and see if it were made according to the contract, and if it were not to examine the contract and see if that had been properly drawn.

Mr. Sheehan did not believe Mr. Ainsworth's plan broad enough. The investigation should not be limited to the plans and specifications, but should delve deeper and determine whether a carved oak ceiling could not have been made under the appropriation, what the cost of an oak ceiling should be, and what was the cost of the present ceiling.

Gen. Batcheller believed that all these propositions would incumber the investigation so as practically to nullify its work. The question was simply this: Did the contractor carry out the terms of his contract? If he did, then the question became, Was the contract drawn as it should have been?

But Sheehan was obdurate. He wanted a full, deep and thorough investigation. "You do not go far enough," he declared. "The time has come when some members of this committee should speak. I want to say that it is my belief, and always has been, that we were to have a carved oak ceiling. When the bill was passed I don't believe there was a member who imagined we were to have a faced ceiling." He wanted it shown whether any change had been made in the specifications without the knowledge of the committee, to determine the motive for the construction of a ceiling different from what every one believed it should be. There was a big difference between a carved oak ceiling and the one now overhead. If it could be shown that the change had been effected surreptitiously in the specifications then they would strike at the root of the evil.

The speech of the day was made by the venerable skipper from Suffolk, Capt. Huntting. All through the debate he had been heaving to and fro like a south shore whaler in a stiff nor-wester, and he now raised all canvas, weighed anchor, and sailed in. It is years since the Assembly Chamber saw such a sight. The rugged old tar was stripped for action and dead earnestness and grim determination stood out all over him.

"It is 20 years that this pile has been growing," he said, "until it has become a stench in the nostrils of the public. It is a fact that rottenness runs through it from the keelson to royal to'gallant. Three years ago Gen Batcheller called it a colossal fraud. The other day Mr. Blumenthal called it a monumental failure. I go further," blazed away the Captain, shaking his fist violently, "and I say it is a Chimborazo steal."

Here he paused and gazed around the Chamber until his eye caught the gilded coat of arms of the State cut into the stone over the main entrance to the Chamber. "There is our motto, 'Excelsior!' I say tear it down! tear it down! It is a standing lie. Tear it down and hang it in the blue vault of heaven among the stars."

At this point his colleagues were quite overcome, but the Captain was not done. Clasping his hands tragically, he lifted his eyes toward the ceiling and poured forth his peroration: "Oh my mother State, we have wronged you in the years agone! Cease thy mourning and dry thy tears, and here and now we renew our oath of fealty to thine interests, and henceforth we shall receive thy benediction."

The old tar here came to anchor and furled his speech amid the hearty acclamation of his brethren. It was a great speech, and worthy the occasion. A prolonged debate followed, in the course of which Mr. Andrus of Buffalo charged that there was suspicion that some one wanted to suppress an investigation, which was shared in by many members, and Mr. Cole explained that of the $7,500 which was charged as expenses to the committee $2,500 went to defray the expenses of Prof. Roe, [Rowe] the architect from Thompkins County. Mr. Cole said that none of the committee had received any money out of the thing. It was on motion of Mr. Enz that Superintendent Andrews raised the extra $3,500 for supervising the work. From this it will be seen that with $2,500 given to Architect Roe the State paid $6,000 for architects' services during the five months when work on the ceiling was going on. Superintendent Perry received $7,500 a year as Commissioner of the Capitol.

The resolution was ordered read and sent to the Appropriations Committee. This is the resolution:

Resolved, That the Committee of Experts examine and report.

First--Has the present ceiling been constructed in all respects in accordance with the plans and specifications.

Second--What would be the cost of said ceiling if quartered oak were used in place of papier maché.

Third--What would be the cost of constructing a proper carved oak ceiling, in accordance with the plans adopted for the building of the present ceiling, and in case carved oak were used in the specifications in place of quartered oak or papier maché.

Fourth--That said committee further investigate and report upon any other matter pertaining to the building of said ceiling that they deem material, and also if the article, papier maché, as used in this ceiling is proper and first-class material.

April 15, 1886, New York Times, Page 2, Column 3, THE STATE LEGISLATURE.

ALBANY, April 14.--For the first time in the history of the plan to divorce Lloyd's Neck from Queens County and attach it to Suffolk County, to which it rightfully belongs, the bill to accomplish this passed the Assembly to-day Capt. Huntting, the grizzled member from Suffolk, made the fight for the bill, and got 66 votes for it. His opponent, Mr. Fitch, of the Second District of Queens, got 31 votes against it. The Captain was formerly the commander of a North Sea Whaler. He has a ringing voice and a bluff, hearty, honest manner, which command the House. Every orderly around the Capitol knows him, and after the adventure of one of their number none of them could be tempted to accompany him in his exploring trips over the Capitol in search of information to guide him in voting for an appropriation to continue work upon the Capitol. Orderly Ronan was a young man, with a healthy Chemung County glow upon his cheeks, when the Captain invited him a few weeks ago to take him aloft and show him the workmanship upon the tower, now nearly 150 feet in the air. The Captain insisted on mounting the ridge pole of the main building, clambering around in the gutters, and swinging himself recklessly, as it seemed to the orderly, around the scaffolding at this giddy height. Hither and thither he dragged the unfortunate orderly, plying him with a hundred questions about every point which he did not fully understand. The orderly was dripping with perspiration when he heard the Captain cheerily remark that he had seen everything and they would now go below. He never felt happier than when his feet pressed the tile flooring and he realized that his life was no longer in danger. But the peachy bloom had left his cheek, he was a serious old man, and his associates all declare that, among other transformations wrought in him in this one brief trip aloft with the Captain, gray hairs have plentifully sprinkled themselves through his raven locks. Not even the gift of the whole annual Capitol appropriation would tempt him to repeat the journey.

In much the same spirit of bold determination the mariner took the House along with him to-day when he pleaded and demanded for the right of the residents of Lloyd's Neck to be set over to his county. Geographically, the neck is as much a part of Suffolk County as Montauk Point. The town of Oyster Bay, in Queens, has for years kept the residents of the neck in a state of bondage. It has taxed them for costly county buildings and has compelled them to respond to the summonses of the Sherriff to perform jury duty 50 miles away, and to travel a distance of 12 miles through the county of Suffolk to vote at the annual election. Notwithstanding their contributions to the town and county treasury not a public road has been laid on the neck for a century, no schools are furnished, no attempt is made to protect the isolated inhabitants from the depredations of thieves who visit the neck by water, and there is no administration of justice worthy of the name. Under all these circumstances the unfortunates plead to have their 3,542 acres annexed to the town of Huntington, Suffolk County.

The Captain's closing words brought down the House. They were as quaint as the peroration of a Fourth of July orator of the period of 1812, as he uttered them he strode up and down the well as if he was treading a quarterdeck and was giving his orders to shorten sail in a howling gale. The whole Assembly woke up and applauded. "It seems to me," said he, "that while on every natal day iron lungs, brass throats, silver-tongued orators are lifting their praise to the flag and singing 'The home of the free and the land of the brave,' and are singing 'Come, come, come all the world to this free land,' and crying from the land of the midnight sun to the ice and snow of the Muscovite, from the land of the Kosciuskos, from sweet Switzerland, from soft Italy, and from the land of Rochambeau and Lafayette, our own Lafayette; from England, old England, come one, come all; and from the Emerald Isle, come to this land of the free; everybody come---but Chinamen and Lloyd's Neck. [Prolonged laughter and applause.] Now, I ask you, Sir, to hear these gentlemen, full of the love of liberty, full of the love of freedom, the love of justice, the love of humanity. Oh, man's inhumanity to man! Mme. Roland, with but a step to the block, said: 'Oh, liberty, what crimes are perpetrated in thy name!' and I would say to my good friends, 'Kind words can never die.' Good acts are immortal. Stand for the right, my friends; stand for the true. And a thousand will rise up and call you blessed."

Not even Assemblyman Church, who fought this bill so persistently for three years, could have staid the tide which the earnest old Captain turned in favor of the outcasts at Lloyd's Neck.

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