« AnteriorContinuar »
ing on the internal rights of legislation, was absolutely 11comprehensible. Ir. this case, as in some other cases, the Articles of Confederation inconsiderately endeavored to accomplish impossibilities; to reconcile a partial sovereignty in the Union, with complete sovereignty in the States ; to subvert a mathematical axiom, by taking away a part, and letting the whole remain. The Constitution has wisely disembarrassed the power of these two limitations ; and has thus given to Congress, as the only safe and proper depositary, the exclusive power, which belonged to the Crown in the ante-revolutionary times ; a power indispensable to the peace of the States, and to the just preservation of the rights and territory of the Indians
Naturalization, Bankruptcy, and Coinage of Money.
ġ 174. The next power of Congress is, “ to establish → uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the States.” The power of naturalization is, with great propriety, confided to Congress, since, if left to the States, they might naturalize foreigners upon very different, and even upon opposite systems; and, as the citizens of all the States have common privileges in all, it would thus be in the power of any one State to defeat the wholesome policy of all the others in regard to this most important subject. Congress alone can have power to pass uniform laws, obligatory on all the States; and thus to adopt a system, which shall secure all of them against any dangerous results from the indiscriminate admission of foreigners to the right of citizenship upon their first landing on our shores. And, accordingly, this power is exclusive in Congress.
§ 175. The power to pass bankrupt laws is equally important, and proper to be intrusted to Congress, although it is greatly to be regretted, that it has not, excepi or a very brief period, been acted upon by Congress. Bankrupt and insolvent laws, when properly framed, have two great objects in view ; first, to secure to honest but unfortunate debtors a discharge from debts, which they are unable to pay, and thus to enable them to begin anew in the career of industry, without the discouraging fear, that it will be wholly useless ; secondly, to secure to creditors a full surrender, and equal participation, of and in the effects of their debtors, when they have become bankrupt, or failed in business. On the one hand, such laws relieve the debtor from perpetual bondage to his creditors, in the shape, either of an unlimited imprisonment for his debts, or of an absolute right to appropriate all his future earnings. The latter course obviously destroys all encouragement to future enterprise and industry, on the part of the debtor ; the former is, if possible, more harsh, severe, and indefensible ; for it makes poverty, in itself sufficiently oppressive, the cause or occasion of penalties and punishments.
§ 176. It is obvious, that no single State is competent to pass a uniform system of bankruptcy, which shall operate throughout all of them. It can have no power to discharge debts, contracted in other States ; or to bind creditors in other States. And it is hardly within the range of probability, that the same system should be universally adopted, and persevered in permanently, by all the States. In fact, before, as well as since the adoption of the Constitution, the States have had very different systems on the subject, exhibiting a policy as various and sometimes as opposite, as could well be imagined. The future will, in all human probability, be, as the past. And the utter inability of any State to discharge contracts made within its own territorial limits, before the passage of its own laws, or to discharge any debts whatever, contracted in other States, or due to the citizens thereof, must perpetually embarrass commercial dealings, discourage industry, and diminish private credit and confidence. The remedy is in the hands of Congress. It has been given for wise ends, and has hitherto been strangely left without any efficient operation.
§ 177. The next power of Congress is, to “coin mon
ey, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coins, and fix the standard of weights and measures." The objec. of the power over the coinage and currency of the country is, to produce uniformity in the value of money throughout the Union, and thus to save us from the embarrassments of a perpetually fluctuating and variable currency. If each State might coin money, as it pleased, there would be no security for any uniform coinage, or any uniform standard of value; and a great deal of base and false coin, would constantly be thrown into the market. The evils from this cause are abundantly felt among the small principalities of continental Europe. The power to fix the standard of weights and measures is a matter of great public convenience, although it has hitherto remained in a great measure dormant. The introduction of the decima. mode of calculation, in dollars and cents, instead of the old and awkward system of pounds, shillings, and pence, has been found of great public convenience, although it was at first somewhat unpopular. A similar system in weights and measures has been thought by many statesmen to have advantages equally great and universal. At all events, the power is safe in the hands of Congress, and may hereafter be acted upon, whenever either our foreign, or our domestic intercourse, shall imperiously require a new system.
$ 178. The next power of Congress is, “to provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities, and current coin of the United States.” This is a natural, and, in a just view, an indispensable appendage to the power to borrow money, and to coin money. Without it, there would be no adequate means for the General Government to punish frauds or forgeries, detrimental to its own interests, and subversive of public and proto confidence.
CHAPTER XVIII. Post Office and Post Roads.—Patents for Inventions.
$ 179. The next power of Congress, is “to establishi post offices, and post roads." This power is peculiarly appropriate to the National Government, and would be at once unwieldy, dilatory, and irregular in the hands of the States, from the utter impracticability of adopting an uniform system of regulations for the whole continent, and from the inequality of the burdens, and benefits of any local system, among the several States, in proportion to their own expenditures. Under the auspices of the General Government, the post office has already become one of the most beneficent, and useful of our national establishments. It circulates intelligence, of a commercial, political, literary, and private nature, with incredible speed and regularity. It thus administers, in a very high degree, to the comfort, the interests, and the necessities of persons in every rank and station of life. It is not less effective, as an instruinent of the government ; enabling it, in times of peace and war, to send its orders, execute its measures, transmit its funds, and regulate its operations, with a promptitude and certainty, which are of incalculaple importance, in point of economy, as well as of energy. The rapidity of its movements has been, in a general view, doubled within the last twenty years; and there were, at the close of the year 1838, twelve thousand five hundred and fifty-three post offices in the United States; and mails then travelled, in various directions and on various routes, more than one hundred and thirty-four thousand miles. The net amount of postage, in the same year, amounted to little short of three millions of dollars. It seems wholly unnecessary to vindicate the grant of a power, which has been thus demonstrated to be of the highest value to all the people of the Union.
$ 180. The next power of Congress is, “ to promote the progress of science, and the useful arts, by securing, for limited times, to authors, and inventors, the exclusive right to their respective writings, and discoveries.” The utility of this power has never been questioned. Indeed, if authors, or inventors, are to have any real property or interest in their writings, or discoveries, it is manifest, that the power of protection must be given to, and admin. istered by, the General Government. A copy-right, or patent, granted by a single State, might be violated with impunity by every other; and, indeed, adverse titles might at the same time be set up in different States to the same thing, each of which, according to the laws of the State, in which it originated, might be equally valid. No class of men are more meritorious, or are better entitled to public patronage, than authors and inventors. They have rarely obtained, as the histories of their lives sufficiently establish, any due encouragement and reward for their ingenuity and public spirit. They have often languished in poverty, and died in neglect, while the world has derived immense wealth from their labors, and science and the arts have reaped unbounded advantages from their discoveries. They have but too often possessed a barren fame, and seen the fruits of their genius gathered by those, who have not blushed to purloin, what they have been unable to create. It is, indeed, but a poor reward, to secure to authors and inventors, for a limited period, only, an exclusive title to that, which is, in the noblest sense, their own property ; and to require it ever afterwards to be dedicated to the public. But, such as the provision is, it is impossible to doubt its justice, or its policy, so far as it aims at their protection and encouragement.
$ 181. The power, in its terms, is confined to authors and inventors ; and cannot be extended to the introducers of any new works or inventions. This has been thought, by some persons of high distinction, to be a defect in the Constitution. But perhaps the policy of further extending the right is questionable ; and, at all events, the restriction has not hitherto operated as any discouragement of science or the arts. It has been doubted, whether Congress has authority to decide the fact, that a person is an author or