legislature, which either prevents it from speaking, or addresses itself to its wisdom to induce delay, its assent is to be implied — binding and inflexible. It is the lawgiver of the master to the vassal; an unconditional answer is claimed forthwith, and delay, postponement, or incapacity to answer, produces an implied assent, which is ever after irrevocable.

Many of the state elections have already taken place, without any knowledge on the part of the people, that such a question was to come up. The representatives may desire a submission of the question to their constituents preparatory to final action upon it, but this high privilege is denied; whatever may be the motives and views entertained by the representatives of the people to induce delay, their assent is to be presumed, and is ever afterward binding, unless their dissent shall be unconditionally expressed at their first session after the passage of this bill into a law.

They may by formal resolution declare the question of assent or dissent to be undecided and postponed, and yet, in opposition to their express declaration to the contrary, their assent is to be implied. Cases innumerable might be cited to manifest the irrationality of such an inference. Let one or two in addition suffice — the popular branch of the legislature may express the dissent by a unanimous vote, and its resolution may be defeated by the vote of the Senate; and yet the assent is to be implied. Both branches of the legislature may concur in a resolution of decided dissent, and yet the governor may exert the veto power conferred on him by the state constitution, and their legislative action be defeated; and yet the assent of the legislative authority is implied, and the directors of this contemplated institution are authorized to establish a branch or branches in such state, whenever they may find it conducive to the interest of the stockholders to do so; and having once established it, they can under no circumstances withdraw it, except by an act of Congress.

The state may afterward protest against any such unjust inference — but its authority is gone. Its assent is implied by its failure or inability to act at its first session, and its voice can never afterward be heard. To inferences so violent, and, as they seem to' me, irrational, I cannot yield

my consent.

No court of justice would or could sanction them, without reversing all that is established in judicial proceedings, by introducing presumptions at variance to the fact, and inferences at the expense of reason. A state in a condition of duress would be presumed to speak, as an individual manacled and imprisoned might be presumed to be in the enjoyment of freedom. Far better to say to the states boldly and frankly - Congress wills, and submission is demanded.

It may be said that the directors may not establish branches under such circumstances; but this is a question of power, and this bill invests them with full power to do so. If the legislature of New York, or Pennsylvania, or any other state, should be found in such condition as I have supposed, could there be any security furnished against such a step on the part of the directors ? Nay, is it not fairly to be presumed that this proviso was introduced for the sole purpose of meeting the contingency referred to ? Why else should it have been introduced ?

And I would submit to the Senate, whether it can be believed, that any state would be likely to sit quietly down, under such a state of things? In a great measure of public interest their patriotism may be successfully appealed to; but to infer their assent from circumstances at war with such inference, I cannot but regard as calculated to excite a feeling at fatal enmity with the peace and harmony of the country. I must therefore regard this clause as asserting the power to be in Congress to establish offices of discount in a state, not only without its assent, but against its dissent; and so regarding it, I cannot sanction it.

On general principles, the right in Congress to prescribe terms to any state, implies a superiority of power and control, deprives the transaction of all pretence to the compact between them, and terminates, as we have seen, in the total abrogation of freedom and action on the part of the states. But fourth ; the state may express, after the most solemn form of legislation, its dissent, which may from time to time thereafter be repeated, in full view of its own interest, which can never be separated from the wise and beneficent operations of this government; and yet Congress may, by virtue of the last proviso, overrule its law, and upon grounds which, to such state, will appear

to rest on a constructive necessity and propriety, and nothing more.

I regard the bill as asserting for Congress the right to incorporate a United States Bank, with power and right to establish offices of discount and deposit in th several states of this Union, with or without their consent a principle to which I have always heretofore been opposed, and which can never obtain my sanction. And waiving all other considerations growing out of its other provisions, I return it to the house in which it originated with these my objections to its approval.


SEPTEMBER 9, 1841.
To the House of Representatives of the United States :

It is with extreme regret that I feel myself constrained, by the duty faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States, and to the best of my ability “to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States,” to return to that house in which it originated the bill “ to provide for the better collection, safe-keeping, and disbursement of the public revenue by means of a corporation to be styled the Fiscal Corporation of the United States," with my written objections.

In my message sent to the Senate on the 16th day of August last, returning the bill “to incorporate the subscribers to the Fiscal Bank of the United States," I distinctly declared that “my own opinion has been uniformly proclaimed to be against the exercise of the power of Congress to create a national bank, to operate per se over the Union ;” and entertaining that opinion, my main objection to that bill was based upon the highest moral and religious obligations of conscience and the constitution.

I readily admit, that, whilst the qualified Veto with which the chief magistrate is invested, should be regarded, and was intended by the wise men who made it a part of the constitution, as a great conservative principle

of our system, without the exercise of which, on important occasions, a mere representative majority might urge the government, in its legislation, beyond the limits fixed by its framers, or might exert its just powers too hastily or oppressively, yet it is a power which ought to be most cautiously exerted, and perhaps never, except in a case eminently involving the public interest, or one in which the oath of the President, acting under his convictions, both mental and moral, imperiously requires its exercise. In such a case, he has no alternative. He must either exert the negative power intrusted to him by the constitution chiefly for its own preservation, protection, and defence, or commit an act of gross moral turpitude. Mere regard to the will of a majority, must not, in a constitutional republic like ours, control this sacred and solemn duty of a sworn officer. The constitution itself I regard and cherish as the imbodied and written will of the whole

people of the United States. It is their fixed and fundamental law, which they unanimously prescribe to the public functionaries, their mere trustees and servants. This their will, and the law which they have given us as the rule of our action, has no guard, no guaranty of preservation, protection, and defence, but the oaths which it prescribes to public officers, the sanctity with which they shall religiously observe those oaths, and the patriotism with which the people shall shield it by their own sovereignty, which has made the constitution supreme. It must be exerted against the will of a mere representative majority, or not at all. It is alone in pursuance of that will that any measure can ever reach the President; and to say, because a majority in Congress have passed a bill, the President should therefore sanction it, is to abrogate the power altogether, and to render its insertion in the constitution a work of absolute supererogation. The duty is to guard the fundamental will of the people themselves from — in this case I admit unintentional change or infraction by a majority in Congress; and in that light alone do I regard the constitutional duty which I now most reluctantly discharge.

Is this bill, now presented for my approval, such a bill as I have already declared could not receive my sanction? Is it such a bill as calls for the exercise of the negative

power under the constitution? Does it violate the consti tution by creating a national bank to operate per se over the Union ? Its title, in the first place, describes its general character. It is “An act to provide for the better collection, safe-keeping, and disbursement of the public revenue by means of a corporation, to be styled the Fiscal Corporation of the United States.” In style, then, it is plainly national in its character. Its powers, functions, and duties, are those pertaining to the collecting, keeping, and disbursing the public revenue. The means by which these are to be exerted, is a corporation, to be styled the Fiscal Corporation of the United States. It is a corporation created by the Congress of the United States, in its character of a national legislature for the whole Union, to perform the fiscal purposes, meet the fiscal wants and exigencies, supply the fiscal uses, and exert the fiscal agencies of the treasury of the United States. Such is its own description of itself. Do its provisions contradict its own title? They do not. It is true, that by its first section it provides that it shall be established in the District of Columbia, but the amount of its capital — the manner in which its stock is to be subscribed for and held — the persons and bodies corporate and politic by whom its stock may be held — the appointment of its directors, and their powers

and duties — its fundamental articles, especially that to establish agencies in any part of the Union - the corporate powers and business of such agencies the

prohibition of Congress to establish any other corporation, with similar powers, for twenty years, with express reservation, in the same clause, to modify or create any bank for the District of Columbia so that the aggregate capital shall not exceed five millions — without enumerating other features which are equally distinctive and characteristic clearly show that it cannot be regarded as other than a Bank of the United States, with powers seemingly more limited than have heretofore been granted by such an institution. It operates per se over the Union, by virtue of the unaided, and, in my view, assumed authority of Congress as a national legislature, as distinguished from a bank created by Congress for the District of Columbia, as the local legislature of the District. Every United States

« ForrigeFortsett »