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and the power should be considered as exclusively vested in Congress, so far, and so far only, as the nature of the power requires. And he insisted, that the nature of the case, and of the power, did imperiously require, that such important authority as that of granting monopolies of trade and navigation, should not be considered as still retained by the States.
It is apparent, from the prohibitions on the power of the States, that the general concurrent power was not supposed to be left with them. And the exception, out of these prohibitions, of the inspection laws, proves this still more clearly. Which most concerns the commerce of this country, that New York and Virginia should have an uncontrolled power to establish their inspection for flour and tobacco, or that they should have an uncontrolled power of granting either a monopoly of trade in their own ports, or a monopoly of navigation over all the waters leading to those ports? Yet, the argument on the other side must be, that, although the constitution has sedulously guarded and limited the first of these powers, it has left the last wholly unlimited and uncontrolled.
But, although much had been said, in the discussion on former occasions, about this supposed concurrent power in the States, he found great difficulty in understanding what was meant by it. It was generally qualified, by saying, that it was a power, by which the States could pass laws on the subjects of commercial regulation, which would be valid, until Congress should pass other laws controlling them, or inconsistent with them, and that then the State laws must yield. What sort of concurrent powers were these, which could not exist together? Indeed, the very reading of the clause in the constitution must put to flight this notion of a general concurrent power. The constitution was formed for all the States; and Congress was to have power to regulate commerce. Now, what is the import of this, but that Congress is to give the rule-to establish the system—to exercise the control over the subject? And, can more than one power, in cases of this sort, give the rule, establish the system, or exercise the control? As it is not contended that the power of Congress is to be exercised by a supervision of State legislation; and, as it is clear, that Congress is to give the general rule, he contended, that this power of giving the general rule was transferred, by the constitution, from the States to Congress, to be exercised as that body might see fit. And, consequently, that all those high exercises of power, which might be considered as giving the rule, or establishing the system, in regard to great commercial interests, were necessarily left with Congress alone. Of this character he considered monopolies of trade or navigation; embargoes; the system of navigation laws; the countervailing laws, as against foreign states; and other important enactments respecting our connexion with such states. It appeared to him a most reasonable construction, to say, that in these respects, the power of Congress is exclusive, from the nature of the power. If it be not so, where is the limit, or who shall fix a boundary for the exercise of the power of the States? Can a State grant a monopoly of trade? Can New York shut her ports to all but her own citizens? Can she refuse admission to ships of particular nations? The argument on the other side is, and must be, that she might do all these things, until Congress should revoke her enactments. And this is called concurrent legislation. What confusion such notions lead to, is obvious enough. A power in the States to do anything, and everything, in regard to commerce, till Congress shall undo it, would suppose a state of things, at least as bad as that which existed before the present constitution. It is the true wisdom of these governments to keep their action as distinct as possible. The general government should not seek to operate where the States can operate with more advantage to the community; nor should the States encroach on ground, which the public good, as well as the constitution, refers to the exclusive control of Congress.
If the present state of things—these laws of New York, the laws of Connecticut, and the laws of New Jersey, had been all presented, in the convention of New York, 'to the eminent person whose name is on this record, and who acted, on that occasion, so important a part; if he had been told, that, after all he had said in favor of the new government, and of its salutary effects on commercial regulations, the time should yet come, when the North River would be shut up by a monopoly from New York; the Sound interdicted by a penal law of Connecticut; repriscis authorised by New Jersey, against citizens of New York; and when one could not cross a ferry, without transbipment; does any one suppose he would have admitted all this, as compatible with the government which he was recommending?
This doctrine of a general concurrent power in the States, is insidious and dangerous. If it be admitted, no one can say where it will stop. The States may legislate, it is said, wherever Congress has not made a plenary exercise of its power. But who is to judge whether Congress has made this plenary exercise of power? Congress has acted on this power; it has done all that it deemed wise; and are the States now to do whatever Congress has left undone? Congress makes such rules as, in its judgment, the case requires; and those rules, whatever they are, constitute the system,
All useful regulation does not consist in restraint; and that which Congress sees fit to leave free, is a part of its regulation, as much as the rest.
He thought the practice under the constitution sufficiently evinced, that this portion of the commercial power was exclusive in Congress. When, before this instance, have the States granted monopolies? When, until now, have they interfered with the navigation of the country? The pilot laws, the health laws, or quarantine laws, and various regulations of that class, which have been recognised by Congress, are no arguments to prove, even if they are to be called commercial regulations, (which they are not,) that other regulations, more directly and strictly commercial, are not solely within the power of Congress. There was a singular fallacy, as he bunbly ventured to think, in the argument of very learned and most respectable persons, on this subject. That argument alleges, that the States have a concurrent power with Congress, of regulating commerce; and its proof of this position is, that the States have, without any question of their right, passed acts respecting turnpike
roads, toll bridges, and ferries. These are declared to be acts of commercial regulation, affecting not only the interior commerce of the State itself, but also commerce between different States. Therefore, as all these are commercial regulations, and are yet acknowledged to be rightfully established by the States, it follows, as is supposed, that the States must have a concurrent power to regulate commerce.
Now, what was the inevitable consequence of this mode of reasoning? Does it not admit the power of Congress, at once, upon all these minor objects of legislation? If all these be regulations of commerce, within the meaning of the constitution, then, certainly, Congress having a concurrent power to regulate commerce, may establish ferries, turnpikes, bridges, &c. and provide for all this detail of interior legislation. To sustain the interference of the State, in a high concern of maritime commerce, the argument adopts a principle which acknowledges the right of Congress, over a vast scope of internal legislation, which no one has heretofore supposed to be within its powers. But this is not all; for it is admitted, that when Congress and the States have power to legislate over the same subject, the power of Congress, when exercised, controls or extinguishes the State power; and, therefore, the consequence would seem to follow, from the argument, that all State legislation, over such subjects as have been mentioned, is, at all times, liable to the superior power of Congress; a consequence, which no one would admit for a moment. The truth was, he thought, that all these things were, in their general character, rather regulations of police than of commerce, in the constitutional understanding of that term, A road, indeed, might be a matter of great commercial concern. In many cases it is so; and when it is so, he thought there was no doubt of the power of Congress to make it. But, generally speaking, roads, and bridges, and ferries, though, of course, they affect commerce and intercourse, do not obtain that importance and elevation, as to be deemed commercial regulations. A reasonable construction must be given to the constitution; and such construction is as necessary to the just power of the States, as to the authority of Congress. Quarantine laws, for example, may be considered as affecting commerce; yet they are, in their nature, health laros. In England, we speak of the power of regulating commerce, as in Parliament, or the King, as arbiter of commerce; yet the city of London enacts health laws. Would any one infer from that circumstance, that the city of London had concurrent power with Parliament or the Crown to regulate commerce? or, that it might grant a monoply of the navigation of the Thames? While a health law is reasonable, it is a health law; but if, under color of it, enactments should be made for other purposes, such enactments might be void.
In the discussion in the New York Courts, no small reliance was placed on the law of that State prohibiting the importation of slaves, as an example of a commercial regulation, enacted by State authority. That law may or may not be constitutional aad valid. It has been referred to generally, but its particular provisions have not been stated. When they are more clearly seen, its character may be better determined.
Now, it must be remembered, that this grant is made as an exercise of sovereign political power. It is not an inspection law, nor a health law, nor passed by any derivative authority; it is professedly an act of sovereign power. Of course, there is no limit to the power, to be derived from the purpose for which it is exercised. If exercised for one purpose, it may be also for another. No one can inquire into the molires which influence sovereign authority. It is enough, that such power manifests its will. The motive alleged in this case is, to remunerate the grantees for a benefit conferred by them on the public. But there is no necessary connexion between that benefit and this mode of rewarding it;, and if the State could grant this monopoly for that purpose, it could also grant it for any other purpose. It could make the grant for money; and so make the monopoly of navigation over those waters a direct source of revenue. When this monopoly shall expire, in 1838, the State may continue it, for any pecuniary consideration which the holders may see fit to offer, and the State to receive.
If the State may grant this monopoly, it may also grant another, for other descriptions of vessels; for instance, for all sloops.
If it can grant these exclusive privileges to a few, it may grant them to many; that is, it may grant them to all its own citizens, to the exclusion of everybody else.
But the waters of New York are no more the subject of exclusive grants by that State, than the waters of other States are subjects of such grants by those other States. Virginia may well exercise, over the entrance of the Chesapeake, all the power that New York can exercise over the bay of New York, and the waters on the shore. The Chesapeake, therefore, upon the principle of these laws, may be the subject of State monopoly; and so may the bay of Massachusetts. But this is not all. It requires no greater power, to grant a monopoly of trade, than a monopoly of navigation. Of course, New York, if these acts can be maintained, may give an exclusive right of entry of vessels into her ports. And the other States may do the same. These are not extreme cases. We have only to suppose that other States should do what New York has already done, and that the power should be carried to its full extent,
To all this, there is no answer to be given except this, that the concurrent power of the States, concurrent though it be, is yet subordinate to the legislation of Congress; and that, therefore, Congress may, when it pleases, annul the State legislation; but, until it does so annul it, the State legislation is valid and effectual. What is there to recommend a construction which leads to a result like this? Here would be a perpetual hostility; one Legislature enacting laws, till another Legislature should repeal them; one sovereign power giving the rule, till another sovereign power should abrogate it; and all this under the idea of concurrent legislation!
But further; under this concorrent power, the State does that which Congress cannot do; that is, it gives preferences to the citizens of some States over those of others. I do not mean here the advantages conferred by the grant on the grantees; but the disadranlages to which it subjects all the other citizens of New York. To impose