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Speech in Congress:

Internal Improvements.

Compensation in Inequalites.

denied, that these thirteen States are a little more interested in improvements on that great river than are the remaining seventeen. These instances of the navy, and the Mississippi river show clearly that there is something of local advantage in the most general objects. But the converse is also true. Nothing is so local as not to be of some general benefit. Take, for instance, the Illinois and Michigan canal. Considered apart from its effects, it is perfectly local. Every inch of it is within the State of Illinois. That canal was first opened for business last April. In a very few days we were all gratified to learn, among other things, that sugar had been carried from New Orleans, through the canal, to Buffalo, in New York. This sugar took this route, doubtless, because it was cheaper than the old route. Supposing the benefit in the reduction of the cost of carriage to be shared between seller and buyer, the result is, that the New Orleans merchant sold his sugar a little dearer, and the people of Buffalo sweetened their coffee a little cheaper than before; a benefit resulting from the canal, not to Illinois, where the canal is, but to Louisiana and New York, where the canal is not. In other transactions Illinois will, of course, have her share, and perhaps the larger share too, in the benefits of the canal; but the instance of the sugar clearly shows that the benefits of an improvement are by no means confined to the particular locality of the improvement itself.

“The just conclusion from all this is, that if the nation refuse to make improvements of the more general kind, because their benefits may be somewhat local, a State may, for the same reason, refuse to make an improvement of a local kind, because its benefits may be somewhat general. A State may well say to the Nation : 'If you will do nothing for me, I will do nothing for you.' Thus it is seen, that if this argument of inequality' is sufficient anywhere, it is sufficient everywhere, and puts an end to improvements altogether. I hope and believe, that if both the Nation and the States

Speech in Congress.

Internal Improvements.

Coal better than Abstractions.

would, in faith, in their respective spheres, do what they could in the way of improvements, what of inequality might be produced in one place might be compensated in another, and that the sum of the whole might not be very unequal. But suppose, after all, there should be some degree of inequality : inequality is certainly never to be embraced for its own sake; but is every good thing to be discarded which may be inseparably connected with some degree of it? If so, we must discard all government. This Capitol is built at the public expense, for the public benefit; but does any one doubt that it is of some peculiar local advantage to the property holders and business people of Washington ? Shall we remove it for this reason ? And if so, where shall we set it down, and be free from the difficulty? To make sure of our object shall we locate it nowhere, and leave Congress hereafter to hold its sessions as the loafer lodged, 'in spots about?' I make no special allusion to the present President when I say, there are few stronger cases in this world of 'burden to the many, and benefit to the few'-of inequality --than the Presidency itself is by some thought to be. An honest laborer digs coal at about seventy cents a day, while the President digs abstractions at about seventy dollars a day. The coal is clearly worth more than the abstractions, and yet what a monstrous inequality in the prices ! Does the President, for this reason, propose to abolish the Presidency? He does not, and he ought not. The true rule, in determining to embrace or reject any thing, is not whether it have any evil in it, but whether it have more of evil than of good. There are few things wholly evil or wholly good. almost every thing, especially of government policy, is an inseparable compound of the two; so that our best judgment of the preponderance between them is continually demanded. On this principle, the President, his friends, and the world generally, act on most subjects. Why not apply it, then,

Speech in Congress.

Internal Improvements.

Chancellor Kent's Commentaries.

upon this question ? Why, as to improvements, magnify the evil, and stoutly refuse to see any good in them?

“Mr. Chairman, on the third position of the message (the Constitutional question) I have not much to say. Being the man I am, and speaking when I do, I feel that in any attempt at an original, Constitutional argument, I should not be, and ought not to be, listened to patiently. The ablest and the best of men have gone over the whole ground long ago. I shall attempt but little more than a brief notice of what some of them have said. In relation to Mr. Jefferson's views, I read from Mr. Polk's veto message :

"President Jefferson, in his message to Congress in 1806, recommended an amendment of the Constitution, with a view to apply an anticipated surplus in the treasury 'to the great purposes of the public education, roads, rivers, canals, and such other objects of public improvements as it may be thought proper to add to the Constitutional enumeration of the Federal powers.' And he adds: 'I suppose an amendment to the Constitution, by consent of the States, necessary, because the objects now recommended are not among those enumerated in the Constitution, and to which it permits the public moneys to be applied.' In 1825, he repeated, in his published letters, the opinion that no such power had been conferred upon Congress.'

"I introduce this, not to controvert, just now, the Consti tutional opinion, but to show, that on the question of expediency, Mr. Jefferson's opinion was against the present President—that this opinion of Mr. Jefferson, in one branch at least, is, in the hands of Mr. Polk, like McFingal's gun:

""Bears wide and kicks the owner over.'

'But, to the Constitutional question. In 1826, Chancellor Kent first published his Commentaries on American Law. He devoted a portion of one of the lectures to the question of the authority of Congress to appropriate public moneys for

Speech in Congress.

Internal Improvements.

Justice Story's Commentaries.

internal improvements. He mentions that the question had never been brought under judicial consideration, and proceeds to give a brief summary of the discussions it had undergone between the legislative and executive branches of the Government. He shows that the legislative branch had usually been for, and the executive against, the power, till the period of Mr. J. Q. Adams' administration; at which point he considers the executive influence as withdrawn from opposition, and added to the support of the power. In 1844, the Chancelor published a new edition of his Commentaries, in which he adds some notes of what had transpired on the question since 1826. I have not time to read the original text, or the notes, but the whole may be found on page 267, and the two or three following pages of the first volume of the edition of 1844. As what Chancellor Kent seems to consider the sum of the whole, I read from one of the notes :

"Mr. Justice Story, in his Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, vol. 2, page 429-440, and again, page 519-538, has stated at large the arguments for and against the proposition that Congress have a Constitutional authority to lay taxes, and to apply the power to regulate commerce, as a means directly to encourage and protect domestic manufactures; and, without giving any opinion of his own on the contested doctrine, he has left the reader to draw his own conclusion. I should think, however, from the arguments as stated, that every mind which has taken no part in the discussions, and felt no prejudice or territorial bias on either side of the question, would deem the arguments in favor of the Congressional power vastly superior.'

It will be seen, that in this extract, the power to make improvements is not directly mentioned; but by examining the context, both of Kent and of Story, it will appear that the power mentioned in the extract and the power to make improvements, are regarded as identical. It is not to be denied that many great and good men have been against the

Speech in Congress.

Internal Improvements.

Tonnage Duties.

power; but it is insisted that quite as many, as great, and as good, have been for it; and it is shown that, on a full survey of the whole, Chancelor Kent was of opinion that the arguments of the latter were vastly superior. This is but the opinion of a man ; but who was that man? He was one of the ablest and most learned lawyers of his age, or of any other age. It is no disparagement to Mr. Polk, nor, indeed, to any one who devotes much time to politics, to be placed far behind Chancelor Kent as a lawyer. His attitude was most favorable to correct conclusions. He wrote coolly and in retirement. He was struggling to rear a durable monument of fame; and he well knew that truth and thoroughly sound reasoning were the only sure foundations. Can the party opinion of a party President, on a law question, as this purely is, be at all compared or set in opposition to that of such a man, in such an attitude as Chancelor Kent ?

“This Constitutional question will probably never be better settled than it is, until it shall pass under judicial consideration ; but I do think that no man who is clear on this question of expediency need feel his conscience much pricked

upon this.

Mr. Chairman, the President seems to think that enough may be done in the way of improvements, by means of tonnage duties, under State authority, with the consent of the General Government. Now, I suppose this matter of tonnage duties is well enough in its own sphere. I suppose it may be efficient, and perhaps sufficient, to make slight improvements and repairs in harbors already in use, and not much out of repair. But if I have any correct general idea of it, it must be wholly inefficient for any generally beneficent purposes of improvement. I know very little, or rather nothing at all, of the practical matter of levying and collecting tonnage duties; but I suppose one of its principles must be, to lay a duty, for the improvement of any particular harbor, upon the tonnag coming into that harbor. To do otherwise

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