« AnteriorContinuar »
I have admitted, that, if the constitution were to be considered as the creature of the state governments, it might be modified, interpreted, or construed, according to their pleasure. But, even in that case, it would be necessary that they should agree. One, alone, could not interpret it conclusively; one, alone, could not construe it; one, alone, could not modify it. Yet the gentleman's doctrine is, that Carolina, alone, may construe and interpret that compact which equally binds all, and gives equal rights to all.
So then, sir, even supposing the constitution to be a compact between the states, the gentleman's doctrine, nevertheless, is not maintainable; because, first, the general government is not a party to that compact, but a government established by it, and vested by it with the powers of trying and deciding doubtful questions; and, secondly, because, if the constitution be regarded as a compact, not one state only, but all the states, are parties to that compact, and one can have no right to fix upon it her own peculiar construction.
So much, sir, for the argument, even if the premises of the gen-' tleman were granted, or could be proved. But, sir, the gentleman has fulled to maintain his leading proposition. He has not shown, it cannot be shown, that the constitution is a compact between state governments. The constitution itself, in its very front, refutes that ideat it declares that it is ordained and established by the people of the United States. So far from saying that it is established by the governments of the several states, it does not even say that it is established by the people of the ureral states; but it pronounces that it is established by the people of the United States, in the aggregate. The gentleman says, it must mean no more than the people of the several states. Doubtless, the people of the several states, taken collectively, constitute the people of the United States; but it is in this, their collective capacity, it is as all tHte people of the United States, that they establish the constitution. So they declare; and words cannot be plainer than the words used.
When the gentleman says the constitution is a compact between the states, he uses language exactly applicable to the old confederation. He speaks as if he were in Congress before 1789. He describes fully that old state of things then existing. The confederation was, in strictness, a compact; the states, as states, were parties to it. We had no oilier general government. But that was found insufficient, and inadequate to the public exigencies. The people were not satisfied with it, and undertook to establish a better. They undertook to form a general government, which should stand on a new basis—not a confederacy, not a league, not a compact between states, but a constitution; a popular government, founded in popular election, directly responsible to the people themselves, and divided into branches, with prescribed limits of power, and prescribed duties. They ordained such a government; they gave it the name of a constitution, and therein they established a distribution of powers between this, their general government, and their several state governments. Wheu they shall become dissatisfied with this distribution, they can alter it. Their own power over their own instrument remains. But until they shall alter it, it must stand as their will, and is equally binding on the general government and on the states.
The gentleman, sir, finds analogy where I see none. He likens it to the case of a treaty, in which, there being no common superior, each party must interpret for itself, under its own obligation of good faith. But this is not a treaty, but a constitution of government, with powers to execute itself, and fulfil its duties.
I admit, sir, that this government is a government of checks and balances; that is, the House of Representatives is a check on the Senate, and the Senate is a check on the House, and the President a check on both. But I cannot comprehend him, or, if I do, I totally differ from him, when he applies the notion of checks and balances to the interference of different governments. He argues, that if we transgress, each state, as a state, has a right to check us. Does he admit the converse of the proposition, that we have a right to check the states? The gentleman's doctrines would give us a ^strange jumble of authorities and powers, instead of governments of separate and defined powers. It is the part of wisdom, I think, to avoid this; and to keep the general government and the state governments, each in its proper sphere, avoiding, as carefully as possible, every kind of interference.
Finally, sir, the honorable gentleman says, that the states will only interfere, by their power, to preserve the constitution. They will not destroy it—they will not impair it—they will only save, they will only preserve, they will only strengthen it! Ah! sir, this is but the old story. All regulated governments, all free governments, have been broken up by similar disinterested and well disposed interference! It is the common pretence. But I take leave of the subject.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, ON THE APPLICATION FOR THE ERECTION OF A BREAKWATER AT NANTUCKET. 1S2S.
On the 8th of March, 182S, the Howe of Representatives passed a Bill entitled " An Act \ appropriations for Internal laipruvemeins."—This Bill contained np|*onriations for 'objects; among which were the further continuance of the Cumberland road, the val of obstructions to navigation, and the erection of piera at the moutlis of several rivera running into Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, the improvement of the navigation of the Keaoehec River, below II alio well, and for a Lighthouse, on the Brandy wine more, in the Bary of Delaware.
There wan also in the Bill the followmg claose. "For defraying the expenses inridentml to wt+kinr exammations and «urrry$, under the act of the thirtieth of April eighteen kmmdred and twenty'four, thirty thoutand dollars."—When the Bill mme to the Senate, it waa reform! to the Committee of Finance, who reported, among other amendments, the following.—" Strike oal, after the word expenses, in the above claose, all that follows, and insert other words, so as that the whole claose, when amended as proposed, should reaal thus—" For defraying the expenses of completing examinations and surveys, already tommenred and unfinished, under the act of the thirtieth of April 1824, thirty thousand dollara, provided, that no part of this auin shall be expelled upon any other ciuaainations and
Oa this amendment to the hill of the Hooar, the Sennte m committee of the whole waa arsanOy divided, and the amendment was carried, by the rusting vote of the Vice PrrsioVnt. Tbe House disagreed to the amendment and returned tie bill to the Senate, where it waa again referred to the Committee of Finance, and the chairman of that committee, (Mr. Smith of Maryland.) on Fridav, the second of Slay, again reported tbe bill and amendment, with the followmg remarks and motion:
M In reportin« to the Senate tlie disagreement of the Hoose of Representatives to the third and fifth amendments of the Senate to the bill making appropriations for internal iroproveniawts, and reicrred to tle Committee on Finance, I desire to state—
M That the opinion of tie committee on the propriety of the amendments, remains unchanged; bat as the item to whirji the third and principal amendment relates is incorporated ia the bill providing for other nbjerm, deemed of immediate urgency and great importance to the public service, vthioli mi^lit le material I) preiudiced, and finally defeated at this late period of the iieswion, b\ ndlirrmg to the amendment, and prolonging the disagreement between the rwo Houses: they do not desire to incur those risks, or to produce the delay incident to a renewed and protracted discussion.
•• Fmm these considerations, I report the bill to the Senate; and now move that the Senate recede from their amendments, and concur in the disagreement of the House of Representativea."
On this motion to recede from theaiMmuWnt,disr«tr«ion arose, in which Mr. Webster took. part.
The Act of April 30th, 1824, referred to Id the bill, and in the amendment, ia in the following words.
"An Act to procure the necessary Surveys, Plane, and Estimates, upon the subject of Roads and Canals.
"Sect. 1. Be it enacted, &c. that the President of too United States is hereby authorised to cause the necessary surveys, plans, and estimates, to be made, of the routes of such Roods and Canals as he may deem of national importance, in a commercial or military point of view, or necessary for the transportation of the Mail; designating, in the case of each canal, what parts may be made capable of sloop navigation. The surveys, plans, and estimates, for each, when completed, to be laid before Congress.
"Sect. 2. And be it further enacted, that, to carry into effect the objects of this act, the President be, and he is hereby authorised, to employ two or more skilful civil engineers, and such officers of die corps of engineers, or who may be detailed to do duty widi that corps, as be may think proper; and die sum of thirty thousand dollars be, and the same is hereliy appropriated, to be paid out of any moneys in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated."
In tin: following years, 1825, 1826, and 1827, appropriations had been made, for the further execution of the powers conferred on the President by this law.
At the session of 1827-28, a petition was pending before both Houses of Congress ft* the erection of a Breakwater at Nantucket, in regard to which a survey had been made, by the Engineer Department, the preceding summer.
The amendment, proposed by the Senate to the bill from tire House, was regarded by the friends of internal improvement, as hostile to that whole system. For this reason, an'! ua this ground, as well as others, it was opposed. Air. Webster's speech, delivered oathis occasion, has never been printed, as far as the publishers of this volume can learn. They have obtained, however, die Reporter's notes, from which the following sketch is made. They have felt the more desiroos of adding this speech, diough in a very imperfect Ions, to their collection, from the interesting facts which it affords, relative to the Nannirket whaie fishery; for which, we are requested to say, the author was chiefly indebted to the Honjrable Mr. Burnell, of Nantucket, a member of the Senate of Massachusetts.
Mr. Webster said, the true question before the Senate, was, as ho had stated before, whether the law of April 182'1 should be effectually repealed, and all further proceedings under it stayed. That law would not execute itself. Without appropriations tocarry on its purpose and effect, it must be a dead letter. It is now proposed to declare, that nothing shall be appropriated to any surveys, except those already begun. In other words, that the whole system of internal improvements shall be arrested, and stop where it is. I do not, Mr. President, say that this is an unfair object. Those who denv to the government the power of making internal improvements, and we know there are such, naturally wish to restrain the exercise of the power, and prevent it altogether. On this question, public men divide; and the general opinion of the community must ultimatelv settle it, one way or the other.
The law of 1821 was passed to avoid the necessity of particularizing, by law, every survey which should be made by the authority of the government. It referred the subject of these preliminary surveys, within certain defined limits and restrictions, to thc executive. From that time the work has gone on, in that manner, u«der annual appropriations. This amendment is an act of hostihtv aimed at the whole system. It goes on grounds which lie against all such measures, under all circumstances. It was not his intention. Mr. Webster said, to go far into the general subject at present
It was well known that the Idea of aiding in works of internal improvement, wax seriously brought forward in Mr. Gallatin's Report in 1809. Events, occurring in the five or six following years, withdrew attention from the subject, but it was revived, with new zeal, and under new auspices, after the peace.
He had himself, Mr. Webster said, been in favor of exercising the power, from the first time he came into Congress, and his opinion waii not altered. He saw evidently now existing, a spirit of hostility to these undertakings by government, and as he had already said, it must be ultunately decided by the people themselves.
He should not have troubled the Senate on this occasion, but for a single occurrence. The honorable member from South Carolina, (Mr. Smith,) in opposing the whole system, had commented on some of the plans and projects, for which the aid of government was now solicited. Among others, he alluded to the improvements contemplated near Nantucket, by a Breakwater. The honorable member seemed to think very lightly of this, both with regard to its practicability and its importance. He (Mr. W.) professed to know no more of the former than the surveys had taught him, but he was well informed by competent judges, that the latter was not likely to be overrated. A vast commerce passes through the sound between the Island of Nantucket and the continent. 11' an artificial harbour be necessary for the accommodation and safety of this commerce, the estimated expense is not out of proportion to the magnitude of the object. The gentleman from South Carolina had said, that near two millions of dollars had been expended on the Cumberland road. He (Mr W.) did not mean to underrate the value of that great line of communication and transportation, but if we look to the amount of transportation through the sound, we shall find it very far surpassing that of the road. A vast coasting trade plies through this sound, which is a sort of defile, a narrow passage, obstructed with rocks and shoals, and deficient in convenient and safe harbours. The anchoring of a floating light vessel in the sound, had furnished the means of ascertainmg the number of vessels which passed through it annually; and perhaps some members will be surprised to hear, that that number does not fall short of 16,000. Nantucket itself, said Mr. W. is a very striking and peculiar portion of the national interest. There is a population of eight or nine thousand persons, living here in the sea, adding largely every year to the amount of national wealth by tho boldest and most persevering industry. Thev have been twice reduced to the very verge of ruin, and yet have recovered by new efforts and untiring toil. In 1775, when Mr. Burke, in his speech in the house of commons, on the resolutions for conciliation with the American Colonies, alluded, in such terms of eulogy, to the Nantucket whale fishery, there wero 150 ships engaged in that trade, and spread over every quarter of the ocean. There were employed upwards of two thousand men. They were even then "found among the tumbling mountains of ice, and penetrating into the deepest frozen recesses of Hudson's Bay and Davis's Straits. Again, they pierced into the opposite region of polar cold, and were at the antipodes engaged under the frozen serpent of the South. Places which seemed too remote, and