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the government was instituted !” President Adams bad previously used the same argument in his first Message to Congress. He said, “No government, in whatever form constituted, can accomplish the lawful ends of its institution, but in proportion as it improves the condition of those over whom it is established. Roads and canals, by multiplying and facilitating communications and intercourse between distant regions and multitudes of men, are among the most important means of improvement."
Arguments like the foregoing are become common, and that they are true no man need doubt; but the governments to which they are applicable, are not our limited Federal Agent, but our State Governments, in whom and their citizens, rest all the ungranted powers of nationality, and who, accordingly, have exercised such powers, by constructing railroads, canals, harbors, electric telegraphs, steamboat and steamship navigation, &c., to a degree that exceeds the coetaneous improvements of European governments. Indeed, the facts that our States and people possess the power to accomplish internal improvements, negatives the alleged absurdity of denying that such powers exist in the Federal Government, and even proves that the powers are not possessed by the Federal Government : otherwise, the Federal and State Governments would constitute two families occupying the same house, and proverbially no house is big enough for such a joint occupancy. The Federal Government was not instituted to supersede the State Governments, except where the States would conflict injuriously with each other, and in some particulars (external defence, &c.,) in which the General Government could act for the whole more advantageously than each State could act for itself.
Congress possesses a latitudinous power over the public lands.
Nor is the assertion correct, that any of our rivers are unimprovable except by the Federal Government. All our rivers and lakes are within the limits of some one or more of our States; and where a river or lake traverses more than one State, each State knows the part over which it possesses jurisdiction; and to make therein all navigable improvements, is among the unquestioned powers of every such State. If, however, any river or lake shall be so peculiar, that its improvement will constitute a common benefit to the United States, the General Government possesses in the public lands a constitutional resource adapted to the occasion. The resolves of the old Confederative Congress, of Oct. 10, 1780, show that the lands were “to be disposed of for the common benefit of the United States;" accordingly the existing Constitution gives to Congress unlimited power "to dispose thereof." The power is not to sell, but “to dispose of ;" and the mode of disposition is subject to only the discretion of Congress, as is also the purposes of common benefit, for which the disposition shall be made. River, lake, or harbor improvements, roads or canals, may constitute the greatest common benefit which the lands can subserve. To facilitate the settlement and cultivation of the lands, may constitute a common benefit that would make a donation of lands constitutional and desirable.
The lands also acquired by purchase from France, Spain and Mexico, Congress has power “ to dispose of,” and the power must, in the absence of directions, imply a discretion in Congress as to the purposes for which they shall be disposed of. The means that we thus possess for public improvements, are exempt from the excesses which have been apprehended from making such improvements by drafts on
the public treasury; for the quantity of land is limited that can, at any given time, be advantageously available in making the improvements; hence improvements of diffusive utility will probably be alone undertaken.
Public improvements can be aided by a tonnage duty.
Nor need the public lands be applied as above, except as an auxiliary to other constitutional means. The Veto Message of President Polk, of March 13, 1848, suggests a tonnage duty by the States, (with the assent of Congress, conformably to the Constitution,) as a resource by which a State may make public improvements within its jurisdiction. A vessel deriving a benefit from the improvements will as cheerfully pay therefor a reasonable tonnage duty, as a Philadelphia wagon pays cheerfully a toll in passing over a good turnpike road into New Jersey. The State exactions which were objectionable under the old Confederation, were paid without any equivalent to the payer; but the proposed tonnage duty will be graduated by Congress, and bear only a small proportion to the benefit that will result to each vessel in safety, increased draught, and facility of progress. A State furnished with such means for improving its navigable waters, may grant the tonnage to private corporations; and thus our rivers, lakes and har. bors would become improved on the principle of private emolument which has covered our country with canals, rail-roads, electric telegraphs, dry docks, &c.; and which is connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans; besides furnishing steam conveyances for mails and passengers over all the States, and to foreign nations. If we had perversely sought these services at only the hands of the General Government, the General Government could not have performed them to the extent we possess them, even if no constitutional impediment had existed.
Finally, when our original thirteen States formed the existing Union, its speedy dissolution was predicted by Europeans, for they supposed it was but a repetition of the old experiment of consolidating several antagonistic sovereignties into one. Indeed, so little was the element which preserves our Union, (the reserved powers of the States,) understood by many who founded the Constitution, that a deficiency of consolidation in the General Government was deemed its main defect. To remedy this defect, by a latitudinous construction of the Constitution, became a cardinal object of one of the great parties (the Federal) into which our citizens soon divided ; and it has ever since constituted the chief element of our party divisions. Europe, however, is beginning to see why the predicted dissolution of our Confederacy has not occurred; and Germany and Italy are attempting the melioration of their respective dominions, not by the absorption, as formerly, of smaller neighboring States, but by confederacies after the manner somewhat of our Union. Should such confederacies be formed, we may well doubt whether the respective confederates (especially the more powerful ones) will be always content with the exercise of only such powers as will abridge the sovereignty of each confederate as little as shall be indispensable for the good of all. But we, the originators of the system, who under it have enjoyed, for more than sixty years, unexampled domestic peace and prosperity; have learned, we may fondly hope, that all our patriotic anticipations for the future are dependent, almost wholly, on the strictest practicable construction of our fed
We will be tender of our confederates even within the admitted powers of the Constitution; and, like St. Paul, “if meat make any brother to offend, we will eat no flesh while the world stands."
THE MODE OF SELECTING A NEW PRESIDENT. * Having been one of your representatives in the late Baltimore Convention, you will, I think, pardon me for submitting to you the following reflections :
Society is every where divided into two classes. The greater class constitutes the democracy; the smaller class the aristocracy. In every nation bnt ours, the smaller class controls the greater ; hence, in our country the smaller class deems the authority of the greater a species of political usurpation. Numerical strength, however, which in all countries constitutes the only element of natural power, constitutes also, with us, the only element of legal power; hence our minority bear the double disadvantage of contending against both nature and law.
The weaker party is from necessity usually licentious in politics. Unable to defeat any measure, they are reckless what they oppose; and, unable to consummate any measure, they are reckless what they support. The majority is master of its own actions, but the minority, determined to disagree, can move only in opposition; hence when the majority, obeying the impulse of duty, points as now, its head North East, the minority (like the baser extremity of a weather-cock) must point South West. These are the ordinary characteristics of nearly all political minorities; but the minority with which we contend, from the peculiar difficulties of their position, and deeming themselves like deposed monarchs, deprived wrongfully of power, by mere brute force, are extraordinarily licentious. They seem to feel the maxim, that any warsare is justifiable against rebels; hence their principles, (if principles that may be called which principle has none,) permit them, (since they cannot rule,) to derive
* Published June 9, 1835. Addressed to the Democratic Electors of the 17th Congres
sional District of New York.