Слике страница

rather above our comprehension, and we concluded that it was wisest to let it regulate itself. What have you done to supply the deficit in the treasury? We thought that, although you are all endeavoring to get out of the banks, it was a very good time for us to go into them, and we have authorized a loan. You have done something then, certainly, on the subject of retrenchment. Here, at home, we are practising the greatest economy, and our daughters, no longer able to wear calico gowns, are obliged to put on homespun. Why, we have saved, by the indefatigable exertions of a member from Tennessee General Cocke-fifty thousand dollars, which were wanted for the Yellow Stone expedition. No, not quite so much ; for thirty thousand dollars of that sum were still wanted, although we stopped the expedition at the Council Bluffs. And we have saved another sum, which we hope will give you great satisfaction. After nearly two days' debate, and a division between the two houses, we struck off two hundred dollars from the salary of the clerk of the attorney-general. What have you done to protect home industry from the effects of the contracted policy of foreign powers? We thought it best, after much deliberation, to leave things alone at home, and to continue our encouragement to foreign industry. Well, surely you have passed some law to reanimate and revive the hopes of the numerous bankrupts that have been made by the extraordinary circumstances of the world, and the ruinous tendency of our policy? No; the senate could not agree on that subject, and the bankrupt bill failed! Can we plead, sir, ignorance of the general distress, and of the ardent wishes of the community for that protection of its industry which this bill proposes ? No, sir, almost daily, throughout the session, have we been receiving petitions, with which our table is now loaded, humbly imploring us to extend this protection. Unanimous resolutions from important State legislatures have called upon us to give it, and the people of whole States in massa -almost in mass, of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio-have transmitted to us their earnest and humble petitions to encourage the home industry. Let us not turn a deaf ear to them. Let us not disappoint their just expectations. Let us manifest, by the passage of this bill, that Congress does not deserve the reproaches which have been cast on it, of insensibility to the wants and sufferings of the people.

romanis bill passed the House : yeas 90; nays 69: but in the senate was postponed to ho cex scasion-jo effect, rejssted-liy the close vote of 22 to 21.)

[ocr errors][merged small]


(The power of the Federal Government to construct, or aid in constructing, works, of Internal Improvements, had for several years formed one of the most steadily and earnestly controverted topics connected with the legislation of the country. Its existence was affirmed, and its exercise demanded with an almost unanimous voice, by the spreading West, aided by many liberal and far-seeing representatives of other sections of the Union. It was opposed with equal ardor by a nearly equal number, throughout the continuance of the struggle. In 1824, a third effort was made, (two bills having been vetoed in former years,) and the bill authorizing the President to cause certain Surveys and Estimates for Roads and Canals to be made, being under consideration, Mr. Clay addressed the Committee of the Whole as follows:]

I CANNOT enter on the discussion of the subject before me,

without first asking leave to express my thanks for the kindness of the committee, in so far accommodating me as to agree unanimously to adjourn its sitting to the present time, in order to afford me the opportunity of exhibiting my views; which, however, I fear I shall do very unacceptably. As a requital for this kindness, I will endeavor, as far as is practicable, to abbreviate what I have to present to your consideration. Yet, on a question of this extent and moment, there are so many topics which demand a deliberate examination, that, from the nature of the case, it will be impossible, I am afraid, to reduce the argument to any thing that the committee will consider a reasonable compass.

It is known to all who hear me, that there has now existed for several years a difference of opinion between the executive and legislative branches of this government, as to the nature and extent of certain powers conferred

upon it by the constitution. Two successive Presidents have returned to Congress bills which had previously

passed both houses of that body, with a commuvication of the opinion that Congress, under the constitution, possessed no power to enact such laws. High respect, personal and official, must be felt by all, as it is due, to those distinguished officers, and to their opinions, thus solemnly announced ; and the most profound consideration belongs to our present Chief Magistrate, who has favored this House with a written argument, of great length and labor, containing not less than sixty or seventy pages, in support of his exposition of the constitution. From the magnitude of the interests involved in the question, all will readily concur, that, if the power is granted, and does really exist, it ought to be vindicated, upheld, and maintained, that the country may derive the great benefits which may flow from its prudent exercise. , If it has not been communicated to Congress, then all claim to it should be at once surrendered. It is a circumstance of peculiar regret to me, that one more competent than myself has not risen to support the course which the legislative department has heretofore felt itself bound to pursue on this great question. Of all the trusts which are created by human agency, that is the highest, most solemn, and most responsible, which involves the exercise of political power. Exerted when it has not been intrusted, the public functionary is guilty of usurpation. And his infidelity to the public good is not, perhaps, less culpable, when he neglects or refuses to exercise a power which has been fairly conveyed, to promote the public prosperity. If the power, which he thus forbears to exercise, can only be exercised by him if no other public functionary can employ it, and the public good requires its exercise, his treachery is greatly aggravated. It is only in those cases where the object of the investment of power is the personal ease or aggrandizement of the public agent, that his forbearance to use it is praiseworthy, gracious, or magnani


I am extremely happy to find, that, on many of the points of the argument of the honorable gentleman from Virginia, (Mr. Barbour,) there is entire concurrence between us, widely as we differ in our ultimate conclusions. On this occasion, (as on all others on which that gentleman obliges the House with an expression of his opinions,) he displays great ability and ingenuity; and, as well from the matter as from the respectful manner of his argument, it is deserving of the most thorough consideration. I am compelled to differ from that gentleman at the very threshhold. He commenced by laying

down, as a general principle, that, in the distribution of powers among our federal and State governments, those which are of a municipal character are to be considered as appertaining to the State governments, and those which relate to external affairs, to the general government. If I may be allowed to throw the argument of the gentleman into the form of a syllogism, (a shape which I presume will be quite agreeable to him,) it amounts to this : Municipal powers belong exclusively to the State governments; but the power to make internal improvements is municipal; therefore it belongs to the State governments alone. I deny both the premises and the conclusion. If the gentleman had affirmed that certain municipal powers, and the great mass of them, belong to the State governments, his proposition would have been incontrovertible. But, if he had so qualified it, it would not have assisted the gentleman at all in his conclusion. But surely the power of taxation--the power to regulate the value of coin

-the power to establish a uniforin standard of weights and measures--to establish post-offices and post-roads to regulate commerce among the several States——that in relation to the judiciary-besides many other powers indisputably belonging to the federal government, are strictly municipal. If, as I understood the gentleman in the course of the subsequent part of his argument to admit, some municipal powers belong to the one system, and some to the other, we shall derive very little aid from the gentleman's principle, in making the discrimination between the two. The question must ever remain open-whether any given power, and, of course, that in question, is or is not delegated to this government, or retained by the States ?

The conclusion of the gentleman is, that all internal improvements belong to the State governments; that they are of a limited and local character, and are not comprehended within the scope of the federal powers, which relate to external or general objects. That many, perhaps most internal improvements, partake of the character described by the gentleman, I shall not deny. But it is no less true that there are others, emphatically national, which neither the policy, nor the power, nor the interests of any State will induce it to accomplish, and which can only be effected by the application of the resources of the nation. The improvement of the navigation of the Mississippi furnishes a striking example. This is undeniably a great and important object. The report of a highly scientific and intellimat officer of the engineer corps, (which I hope will be soon takaa

up and acted upon,) shows that the cost of any practicable improvements in the navigation of that river, in the present state of the inhabitants of its banks, is a mere trifle in comparison to the great benefits which would accrue from it. I believe that about double the amount of the loss of a single steamboat and cargo, (the Tennesse,) would effect the whole improvement in the navigation of that river which ought to be at this time attempted. In this great object twelve States and two Territories are, in different degrees, interested. The power to effect the improvement of that river is surely not mus nicipal, in the sense in which the gentleman uses the term. If it were, to which of the twelve States and two Territories concerned does it belong? It is a great object, which can only be effected by a confederacy. And here is existing that confederacy, and no other can lawfully exist; for the constitution prohibits the States, iminediately interested, from entering into any treaty or compact with each other. Other examples might be given to show that, if even the power existed, the inclination to exert it would not be felt, to effectuate certain improvements eminently calculated to promote the prosperity of the Union. Neither of the three States, nor all of them united, through which the Cumberland road passes, would ever have erected that road. Two of them would have thrown in every impediment to its completion in their power. Federative in its character, it could only have been executed so far by the application of federative means. Again: the contemplated canal through New Jersey; that to connect the waters of the Chesapeake and Delaware ; that tó unite the Ohio and the Potomac, are all objects of a general and federative nature, in which the States through which they may severally pass cannot be expected to feel any such special interest as will lead to their execution. Tending, as undoubtedly they would do, to promote the good of the whole, the power and the treasure of the whole must be applied to their execution, if they are ever consummated.

I do not think, then, that we should be at all assisted in expounding the constitution of the United States, by the principle which the gentleman from Virginia has suggested in respect to municipal powers. The powers of both governments are undoubtedly municipal, often operating upon the same subject. I think a better rule than that which the gentleman furnished for interpreting the constitution, might be deduced from an attentive consideration of the peculiar character

« ПретходнаНастави »