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plication, and the necessity of guarding the constitution with sleepless vigilance against the authority of precedents which have not the sanction of its most plainly-defined powers. For, although it is the duty of all to look to that sacred instrument, instead of the statute-book; to repudiate, at all times, encroachments upon its spirit, which are too apt to be effected by the conjuncture of peculiar and facilitating circumstances; it is not less true that the public good and the nature of our political institutions require that individual differences should yield to a well-settled acquiescence of the people and confederated authorities, in particular constructions of the constitution on doubtful points. Not to concede this much to the spirit of our institutions, would impair their stability, and defeat the objects of the constitution itself.
The bill before me does not call for a more definite opinion upon the particular circumstances which will warrant appropriations of money by Congress, to aid works of internal improvement; for, although the extension of the power to apply money beyond that of carrying into effect the object for which it is appropriated, has, as we have seen, been long claimed and exercised by the federal government, yet such grants have always been professedly under the control of the general principle, that the works which might be thus aided, should be “of a general, not local; national, not state character." A disregard of this distinction would of necessity lead to the subversion of the federal system. That even this is an unsafe one, arbitrary in its nature, and liable consequently to great abuses, is too obvious to require the confirmation of experience. It is, however, sufficiently definitive and imperative to my mind to forbid my approbation of any bill having the character of the one under consideration. I have given to its provisions all the reflection demanded by a just regard for the interests of those of our fellowcitizens who have desired its passage, and by the respect which is due to a coördinate branch of the government; but I am not able to view it in any other light than as a measure of purely local character; or, if it can be considered national, that no further distinction between the appropriate duties of the general and state governments
need be attempted; for there can be no local interest that may not with equal propriety be denominated national. It has no connection with any established system of improvements; is exclusively within the limits of a state, starting at a point on the Ohio River, and running out sixty miles to an interior town; and even so far as the state is interested, conferring partial, instead of general advantages.
Considering the magnitude and importance of the power, and the embarrassments to which, from the very nature of the thing, its exercise must necessarily be subjected, the real friends of internal improvement ought not to be willing to confide it to accident and chance. What is properly national in its character or otherwise, is an inquiry which is often difficult of solution. The appropriations of one year, for an object which is considered national, may be rendered nugatory by the refusal of a succeeding Congress to continue the work, on the ground that it is local. No aid can be derived from the intervention of corporations. The question regards the character of the work, not that of those by whom it is to be accomplished. Notwithstanding the union of the government with the corporation, by whose immediate agency any work of internal improvement is carried on, the inquiry will still remain, Is it national, and conducive to the benefit of the whole, or local, and operating only to the advantage of a portion of the Union?
But, although I might not feel it to be my official duty to interpose the executive veto to the passage of a bill appropriating money for the construction of such works as are authorized by the states, and are national in their character, I do not wish to be understood as expressing an opinion that it is expedient, at this time, for the general government to embark in a system of this kind; and, anxious that my constituents should be possessed of my views on this as well as on all other subjects which they have committed to my discretion, I shall state them frankly and briefly. Besides many minor considerations, there are two prominent views of the subject which I think are well entitled to your serious attention, and will, I hope, be maturely weighed by the people.
From the official communication submitted to you, it appears that, if no adverse or unforeseen contingency happens in our foreign relations, and no unusual diversion be made of the funds set apart for the payment of the national debt, we may look with confidence to its entire extinguishment in the short period of four years. The extent to which this pleasing anticipation is dependent upon the policy which may be pursued in relation to measures of the character of the one now under consideration, must be obvious to all, and equally so that the events of the present session are well calculated to awaken public solicitude upon the subject. By the statement from the treasury department, and those from the clerks of the Senate and House of Representatives, herewith submitted, it appears that the bills which have passed into laws, and those which, in all probability, will pass before the adjournment of Congress, anticipate appropriations which, with ordinary expenditures for the support of government, will exceed considerably the amount in the treasury for the year 1830. Thus, whilst we are diminishing the revenues by a reduction of the duties on tea, coffee, and cocoa, the appropriations for internal improvement are increasing beyond the available means in the treasury; and if to this calculation be added the amounts contained in bills which are pending before the two houses, it may be safely affirmed that ten millions of dollars would not make up the excess over the treasury receipts, unless the payment of the national debt be postponed, and the means now pledged to that object applied to those enumerated in these bills. Without a well-regulated system of internal improvement, this exhausting mode of appropriation is not likely to be avoided, and the plainconsequence must be, either a continuance of the national debt, or a resort to additional taxes.
Although many of the states, with a laudable zeal, and under the influence of an enlightened policy, are successively applying their separate efforts to works of this character, the desire to enlist the aid of the general government in the construction of such as, from their nature, ought to devolve upon it, and to which the means of the individual states are inadequate, is both rational and pa
triotic; and if that desire is not gratified now, it does not follow that it never will be. The general intelligence and public spirit of the American people furnish a sure guaranty, that, at the proper time, this policy will be made to prevail under circumstances more auspicious to its successful prosecution than those which now exist. But, great as this object undoubtedly is, it is not the only one which demands the fostering care of the government. The preservation and success of the republican principle rests with us. To elevate its character, and extend its influence, rank among our most important duties; and the best means to accomplish this desirable end, are those which will rivet the attachment of our citizens to the government of their choice, by the comparative lightness of their public burdens, and by the attraction which the superior success of its operations will present to the admiration and respect of the world. Through the favor of an overruling and indulgent Providence, our country is blessed with general prosperity, and our citizens exempted from the pressure of taxation which other less favored portions of the human family are obliged to bear; yet it is true that many of the taxes collected from our citizens, through the medium of imposts, have, for a considerable period, been onerous. In many particulars, these taxes have borne severely upon the laboring and less prosperous classes of the community, being imposed on the necessaries of life, and this, too, in cases where the burden was not relieved by the consciousness that it would ultimately contribute to make us independent of foreign nations for articles of prime necessity, by the encouragement of their growth and manufacture at home. They have been cheerfully borne, because they were thought to be necessary to the support of government, and the payment of the debts unavoidably incurred in the acquisition and maintenance of our national rights and liberties. But have we a right to calculate on the same cheerful acquiescence, when it is known that the necessity for their continuance would cease, were it not for irregular, improvident, and unequal appropriations of the public funds? Will not the people demand, as they have a right to do, such a prudent system of expenditure as will
pay the debts of the Union, and authorize the reduction of every tax to as low a point as the wise observance of the necessity to protect that portion of our manufactures and labor, whose prosperity is essential to our national safety and independence, will allow? When the national debt is paid, the duties upon those articles which we do not raise may be repealed with safety, and still leave, I trust, without oppression to any section of the country, an accumulating surplus fund, which may be beneficially applied to some well-digested system of improvement.
Under this view, the question, as to the manner in which the federal government can, or ought to embark in the construction of roads and canals, and the extent to which it may impose burdens on the people for these purposes, may be presented on its own merits, free of all disguise, and of every embarrassment except such as may arise from the constitution itself. Assuming these suggestions to be correct, will not our citizens require the observance of a course by which they can be effected? Ought they not to require it? With the best disposition to aid, as far as I can conscientiously, in the furtherance of works of internal improvement, my opinion is, that the soundest views of national policy, at this time, point to such a course. Besides the avoidance of an evil influence upon the local concerns of the country, how solid is the advantage which the government will reap from it in the elevation of its character! How gratifying the effect of presenting to the world the sublime spectacle of a republic, of more than twelve millions of happy people, in the fiftyfourth year of her existence after having passed through two protracted wars, the one for the acquisition, and the other for the maintenance of liberty-free from debt, and with all her immense resources unfettered! What a salutary influence would not such an exhibition exercise upon the cause of liberal principles and free government throughout the world! Would we not ourselves find in its effect an additional guaranty that our political institutions will be transmitted to the most remote posterity without decay? A course of policy destined to witness events like these, cannot be benefited by a legislation which tolerates a scramble for appropriations that have no relation to any