general system of improvement, and whose good effects must of necessity be very limited. In the best view of these appropriations, the abuses to which they lead far exceed the good which they are capable of promoting. They may be resorted to as artful expedients to shift upon the government the losses of unsuccessful private speculation, and thus, by ministering to personal ambition and self-aggrandizement, tend to sap the foundations of public virtue, and taint the administration of the government with a demoralizing influence.

In the other view of the subject, and the only remaining one which it is my intention to present at this time, is involved the expediency of embarking in a system of internal improvement without a previous amendment of the constitution, explaining and defining the precise powers of the federal government over it. Assuming the right to appropriate money to aid in the construction of national works to be warranted by the contemporaneous and continued exposition of the constitution, its insufficiency for the successful prosecution of them must be admitted by all candid minds. If we look to usage to define the extent of the right, that will be found so variant, and embracing so much that has been overruled, as to involve the whole subject in great uncertainty, and to render the execution of our respective duties in relation to it replete with difficulty and embarrassment. It is in regard such works, and the acquisition of additional territory, that the practice obtained its first footing. In most, if not all other disputed questions of appropriation, the construction of the constitution may be regarded as unsettled, if the right to apply money, in the enumerated cases, is placed on the ground of usage.

This subject has been of much, and, I may add, painful reflection to me. It has bearings that are well calculated to exert a powerful influence upon our hitherto prosperous system of government, and which, on some accounts, may even excite despondency in the breast of an American citizen. I will not detain you with professions of zeal in the cause of internal improvements. If to be their friend is a virtue which deserves commendation, our country is blessed with an abundance of it; for I do not suppose there is an intelligent citizen who does not wish to see them flourish.

But though all are their friends, but few, I trust, are unmindful of the means by which they should be promoted; none certainly are so degenerate as to desire their success at the cost of that sacred instrument, with the preservation of which is indissolubly bound our country's hopes. If different impressions are entertained in any quarter; if it is expected that the people of this country, reckless of their constitutional obligation, will prefer their local interest to the principles of the Union, such expectations will in the end be disappointed; or, if it be not so, then indeed has. the world but little to hope from the example of a free government. When an honest observance of constitutional compacts cannot be obtained from communities like ours, it need not be anticipated elsewhere; and the cause in which there has been so much martyrdom, and from which so much was expected by the friends of liberty, may be abandoned, and the degrading truth, that man is unfit for self-government, admitted. And this will be the case, if expediency be made the rule of construction in interpreting the constitution. Power, in no government, could desire a better shield for the insidious advances with which it is ever ready to break up the checks that are designed to restrain its action.

But I do not entertain such gloomy apprehensions. If it be the wish of the people that the construction of roads and canals should be conducted by the federal government, it is not only highly expedient, but indispensably necessary, that a previous amendment of the constitution, delegating the necessary power, and defining and restricting its exercise with reference to the sovereignty of the states, should be made. Without it, nothing extensively useful can be effected. The right to exercise as much jurisdiction as is necessary to preserve the works, and to raise funds by the collection of tolls to keep them in repair, cannot be dispensed with. The Cumberland road should be an instructive admonition of the consequences of acting without this right. Year after year, contests are witnessed, growing out of efforts to obtain the necessary appropriations for completing and repairing this useful work. Whilst one Congress may claim and exercise the power, a succeeding one may deny it; and this fluctuation of opinion

must be unavoidably fatal to any scheme which, from its extent, would promote the interests and elevate the character of the country. The experience of the past has shown that the opinion of Congress is subject to such fluctuations.

If it be the desire of the people that the agency of the federal government should be confined to the appropriation of money in aid of such undertakings, in virtue of state authorities, then the occasion, the manner, and the extent of the appropriations, should be made the subject of constitutional regulation. This is the more necessary, in order that they may be equitable among the several states; promote harmony between different sections of the Union and their representatives; preserve other parts of the constitution from being undermined by the exercise of doubtful powers, or the too great extension of those which are not so; and protect the whole subject against the deleterious influence of combinations to carry by concert, measures which, considered by themselves, might meet but little Countenance. That a constitutional adjustment of this power upon equitable principles is in the highest degree desirable, can scarcely be doubted; nor can it fail to be promoted by every sincere friend to the success of our political institutions. In no government are appeals to the source of power, in cases of real doubt, more suitable than in ours. No good motive can be assigned for the exercise of power by the constituted authorities, while those for whose benefit it is to be exercised have not conferred it, and may not be willing to confer it. It would seem to me that an honest application of the conceded powers of the general government to the advancement of the common weal, presents a sufficient scope to satisfy a reasonable ambition. The difficulty and supposed impracticability of obtaining an amendment of the constitution in this respect, is, I firmly believe, in a great degree unfounded. The time has never yet been when the patriotism and intelligence of the American people were not fully equal to the greatest exigency; and it never will, when the subject, calling forth their interposition is plainly presented to them. To do so with the questions involved in this bill, and to urge them to an early, zealous, and full consideration of

their deep importance, is in my estimation among the highest of our duties.

A supposed connection between appropriations for internal improvement and the system of protecting duties, growing out of the anxieties of those more immediately interested in their success, has given rise to suggestions which it is proper I should notice on this occasion. My opinions on these subjects have never been concealed from those who had a right to know them. Those which I have entertained on the latter have frequently placed me in opposition to individuals, as well as communities, whose claims upon my friendship and gratitude are of the strongest character; but I trust there has been nothing in my public life which has exposed me to the suspicion of being thought capable of sacrificing my views of duty to private considerations, however strong they may have been, or deep the regrets which they are capable of exciting.

As long as the encouragement of domestic manufactures is directed to national ends, it shall receive from me a temperate but steady support. There is no necessary connection between it and the system of appropriations. On the contrary, it appears to me that the supposition of their dependence upon each other is calculated to excite the prejudices of the public against both. The former is sustained on the grounds of its consistency with the letter and spirit of the constitution, of its origin being traced to the assent of all the parties to the original compact, and of its having the support and approbation of a majority of the people; on which account it is at least entitled to a fair experiment. The suggestions to which I have alluded, refer to a forced continuance of the national debt, by means of large appropriations, as a substitute for the security which the system derives from the principles on which it has hitherto been sustained. Such a course would certainly indicate either an unreasonable distrust of the people, or a consciousness that the system does not possess sufficient soundness for its support, if left to their voluntary choice and its own merits. Those who suppose that any policy thus founded can be long upheld in this country, have looked upon its history with eyes

very different from mine. This policy, like every other, must abide the will of the people, who will not be likely to allow any device, however specious, to conceal its character and tendency.

In presenting these opinions, I have spoken with the freedom and candor which I thought the occasion for their expression called for; and now respectfully return the bill which has been under consideration, for your further deliberation and judgment.

JULY 10, 1832.

To the Senate:

THE bill to "modify and continue" the act entitled "An act to incorporate the subscribers to the Bank of the United States," was presented to me on the 4th of July instant. Having considered it with that solemn regard to the principles of the constitution which the day was calculated to inspire, and come to the conclusion that it ought not to become a law, I herewith return it to the Senate, in which it originated, with my objections.

A Bank of the Unit States is in many respects convenient for the government and useful to the people. Entertaining this opinion, and deeply impressed with the belief that some of the powers and privileges possessed by the existing bank are unauthorized by the constitution, subversive of the rights of the states, and dangerous to the liberties of the people, I felt it my duty, at an early period of my administration, to call the attention of Congress to the practicability of organizing an institution combining all its advantages, and obviating these objections. I sincerely regret, that in the act before me, I can perceive none of those modifications of the bank charter which are necessary, in my opinion, to make it compatible with justice, with sound policy, or with the constitution of our country.

The present corporate body, denominated the President,

« ForrigeFortsett »