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cases of great urgency may arise, in which the suspen sion may be indispensable for the preservation of the lib. erties of the country against traitors and rebels.
§ 225. The next clause is, “No bill of attainder, or ex post facto law, shall be passed.” A bill of attainder, in its technical sense, is an act passed by the legislature, convicting a person of some crime, for which it inflicts upon him, without any trial, the punishment of death. If it inflicts a milder punishment, it is usually called a bill of pains and penalties. Such acts are in the highest degree objectionable, and tyrannical, since they deprive the party of any regular trial by jury, and deprive him of his life, liberty, and property, without any legal proof of his guilt. In a republican government, such a proceeding is utterly inconsistent with first principles. It would be despotism in its worst form, by arming a popular Legislature with the power to destroy, at its will, the most virtuous and valuable citizens of the state.
§ 226. To the same class, belong ex post facto laws, that is, (in a literal interpretation of the phrase,) laws made after the act is done. In a general sense, all ret rospective laws are ex post facto ; but the phrase is here used to designate laws to punish, as public offences, acts, which, at the time when they were done, were lawful, or were not public crimes, or, if crimes, which were not liable to so severe a punishment. It requires no reasoning to establish the wisdom of a prohibition, which puts a fixed restraint upon such harsh legislation. In truth, the existence of such a power in a legislature is utterly incompatible with all just notions of the true ends and objects of a republican government.
§ 227. The next clause (not already commented on) is, “No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law. And a regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time.” The object of this clause is, to secure regularity, punctuality, fidelity, and responsibility, in the keepng and disbursement of the public money. No money can be drawn from the treasury by any officer, unless under appropriations made by some act of Congress As ail the taxes raised from the people, as well as the revexues arising from other sources, are to be applied to the discharge of the expenses, and debts, and other engage ments of the government, it is highly proper, that Con gress should possess the
power to decide, how and when ilny money should be applied for these purposes. If it were otherwise, the Executive would possess an unbounded power over the public purse of the nation; and might apply all its snonied resources at his pleasure. The power to control and direct the appropriations, constitutes a most useful and salutary check upon profusion and extravagance, as well as upon corrupt influence and public peculation. In arbitrary governments, the prince levies what money he pleases from his subjects, disposes of it, as he thinks proper, and is beyond responsibility or reproof. It is wise, in a republic, to interpose every restraint, by which the public treasure, the common fund of all, should be applied, with unshrinking honesty, to such objects, as legitimately belong to the common defence, and the general welfare. Congress is made the guardian of this treasure ; and, to make their responsibility complete and perfect, a regular account of the receipts and expenditures is required to be published, that the people may know, what money is expended, for what purposes, and by what authority.
$ 228. The next clause is, “No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States ; and no person, holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state." A perfect equality
of rights, privileges, and rank, being contemplated by the Constitution among all citizens, there is a manifest propriety in prohibiting Congress from creating any titles of nobility. The other prohibition, as to presents, emoluments, offices, and titles from foreign governments, besides aiding the same general object, subserves a more important policy, founded on the just jealousy of foreign corruption and undue influence exerted upon our national officers. It 13
seeks to destroy, in their origin, all the blandishments from Coreign favors, and foreign titles, and all the temptations to a departure from official duty by receiving foreign rewards and emoluments. No officer of the United States can without guilt wear honors borrowed from foreign sovereigns, or touch for personal profit any foreign treasure.
Prohibitions on the States.
$ 229. Such are the prohibitions upon the govem ment of the United States. And we next proceed to the prohibitions upon the States, which are not less important in themselves, or less necessary to the security of the Union. They are contained in the tenth section of the first article.
$ 230. The first clause is, “No State shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation ; grant letters of marque or reprisal; coin money ; emit bills of credit ; make any thing but gold or silver coin á tender in payment of debts ; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts; or grant any title of nobility.”
$ 231. The prohibition against a State's entering into any treaty, alliance, or confederation, is indispensable to the preservation of the rights and powers of the National Government. A State might otherwise enter into engagements with foreign governments, utterly subversive of the policy of the National Government, or injurious to the rights and interests of the other States. One State might enter into a treaty or alliance with France, and another with England, and another with Spain, and another with Russia,-each in its general objects inconsistent with the other; and thus, the seeds of discord might be spread over the whole Union.
$ 232. The prohibition to “grant letters of marque and reprisal” stands on the same ground. This power
would hazard the peace of the Union by subjecting it to the passions, resentments, or policy of a single State. If any State might issue letters of marque or reprisal at its own mere pleasure, it might at once involve the whole Union in a public war; or bring on retaliatory measures by the foreign government, which might cripple the commerce, or destroy the vital interests of other States. The prohibition is, therefore, essential to the public safety
$ 233. The prohibition to " coin money” is necessary to our domestic interests. The existence of the power in the States would defeat the salutary objects intended, by confiding the like power to the National Government. It would have a tendency to introduce a base and varia ble currency, perpetually liable to frauds, and embarrass ing to the commercial intercourse of the States.
$ 234. The prohibition to “emit bills of credit.”-Bills of credit are a well-known denomination of papei money, issued by the Colonies before the Revolution, and afterwards by the States, in a most profuse degree. "hese bills of credit had no adequate funds appropriated to redeem them; and though on their face they were often declared payable in gold and silver, they were in fact never so paid. The consequence was, that they became the common currency of the country, in a constantly depreciating state, ruinous to the commerce and credit
, and disgraceful to the good faith of the country. The evils of the system were of a most aggravated nature, and could not be cured, except by an entire prohibition of any future issues of paper money. And, indeed, the prohibition to coin money would be utterly nugatory, if the States might still issue a paper curre
for the same purpose.
§ 235. But the inquiry here naturally occurs ; What is tno true meaning of the phrase “ bills of credit” in the Constitution ? In its enlarged, and perhaps in its literal sense, it may comprehend any instrument, by which a State engages to pay money at a future day, (and, of course, for which it obtains a present credit ;) and thus it would include a certificate given for money borrowed
But the language of the Constitution itself, and the 101schiof to be prevented, which we know from the history of our country, equally linit the interpretation of the
The word “ emit” is never employed in de scribing those contracts, by which a State binds itself to pay money at a future day for services actually received, or for money borrowed for present use. Nor are instruments, executed for such purposes, in common language denominated “ bills of credit." To emit bills of credit, conveys to the mind the idea of issuing paper, intended to circulate through the community for ordinary purposes, as money, which paper is redeemable at a future day. This is the sense, in which the terms of the Constitution have been generally understood. The phrase (as we have seen) was well known, and generally used to indicate the paper currency, issued by the States during their colonial dependence. During the war of our Revolution, the paper currency issued by Congress was constantly denominated, in the acts of that body, bills of credit ; and the like appellation was applied to similar currency issued by the States. The phrase had thus acquired a determinate and appropriate meaning. At the time of the adoption of the Constitution, bills of credit were universally understood to signify a paper medium intended to circulate between individuals, and between government and individuals, for the ordinary purposes of society. Such a medium has always been liable to considerable fluctuation. Its value is continually changing ; and these changes, often great and sudden, expose individuals to immense losses, are the sources of ruinous speculations, and destroy all proper confidence between man and man. In no country, more than our own, had these truths been felt in all their force. In none, had more intense suffering, or more wide-spreading ruin accompanied the system. It was, therefore, the object of the prohibition to cut up the whole mischief by the roots, because it had been deeply felt throughout all the States, and had deeply affected the prosperity of all
. The object of the prohibition was not to prohibit the thing, when it bore a particular name ; but to prohibit the