Imagens das páginas

nated in a conviction, that the incorporation of a bank was a measure authorized by the constitution, and the bill passed into a law.

This same question came before the Supreme Court of the United States, in 1819, in the case of M°Culloch v. The State of Maryland,a in reference to the new bank of the United States, which was incorporated in 1816, and upon which the legislature of Maryland had imposed a tax. Notwithstanding the question arising on the construction of the powers of Congress had been settled, so far as an act of Congress could settle it, in 1791, and again in 1816, it was thought worthy of a renewed discussion in that case. The Chief Justice, in delivering the opinion of the court, observed, that the question could scarcely be considered as an open one, after the principle had been so early introduced and recognised by many successive legislatures, and had been acted upon by the judicial department, as a law of undoubted obligation. He admitted that it belonged to the Supreme Court alone, to make a final decision in the case, and that the question involved a consideration of the constitution in its most interesting and vital

parts. It was admitted, that the government of the United States was one of enumerated powers, and that it could exercise only the powers granted to it; but though limited in its powers, it was supreme within its sphere of action. It was the government of the people of the United States, and emanated from them. Its powers were delegated by all, and it represented all, and acted for all. In respect to those subjects on which it can act, it must necessarily bind its component parts; and this was the express language of the constitution, when it declared that the constitution, and the laws made in pursuance thereof, were the supreme law of the land, and required all the officers of the state governments to take an oath of fidelity to it. There was nothing

a 4 Wheaton, 316.

in the constitution which excluded incidental or implied powers. The articles of the confederation gave nothing to the United States but what was expressly granted; but the new constitution dropped the word expressly, and left the question, whether a particular power was granted, to depend on a fair construction of the whole instrument. No constitution can contain an accurate detail of all the subdivisions of its powers, and of all the means by which they might be carried into execution. It would render it too prolix. Its nature requires that only the great outlines should be marked, and its important objects designated, and all the minor ingredients left to be deduced from the nature of those objects. The sword and the purse, all the external relations, and no inconsiderable portion of the industry of the nation, were intrusted to the general government; and a government intrusted with such ample powers, on the due execution of which the happiness and prosperity of the nation vitally depended, must also be intrusted with ample means for their execution. Unless the words imperiously require it, we ought not to adopt a construction which would impute to the framers of the constitution, when granting great powers for the public good, the intention of impeding their exercise, by withholding a choice of means.

The powers given to the government imply the ordinary means of execution; and the government, in all sound reason and fair interpretation, must have the choice of the means which it deems the most convenient and appropriate to the execution of the power. The power of creating a corporation, though appertaining to sovereignty, was not a great, substantive, and independent power, but merely a means by which other objects were accomplished; in like manner, as no seminary of learning is instituted in order to be incorporated, but the corporate charter is conferred to subserve the purposes of education. The power of creating a corporation is never used for its own sake, but for the purpose of eflecting something else. It is nothing but ordinary means to attain some public and useful end. The constituion has not left the right of Congress to employ the necessary means for the execution of its powers to general reasoning. It is expressly authorized to employ such means; and necessary means, in the sense of the constitution, does not import an absolute physical necessity, so strong that one thing cannot exist without the other.

It stands for any means calculated to produce the end. The word necessary admits of all degrees of comparison. A thing may be necessary, or very necessary, or absolutely and indispensably necessary. The word is used in various senses, and in its construction, the subject, the context, the intention, are all to be taken into view. The powers of the government were given for the welfare of the nation. They were intraved to endure for ages to come, and to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs. To prescribe the specific means by which governmont should in all future time execute its power, and to confine the choice of means to such narrow limits as should not leave it in the power of Congress to adopt any which might be appropriate and conducive to the end, would be most unwise and pernicious, because it would be an attempt to provide by immutable rules for exigencies, which, if foreseen at all, must have been seen dimly, and would deprive the legislature of the capacity to avail itself of experience, or to exercise its reason, and accommodate its legislation to circumstances.

If the end be legitimate, and within the scope of the constitution, all means which are appropriate, and plainly adapted to this end, and which are not prohibited, are lawful; and a corporation was a means not less usual, nor of higher dignity, nor more requiring a particular specification, than other means. A national bank was a convenient, a useful, and essential instrument, in the prosecution of the fiscal operations of the government. It was clearly an appropriate measure; and wbile the Supreme Court declared it to be within its power and its duty, to maintain that an act of Congress exceeding its power was not the law of the land, yet if a law was not prohibited by the constitution, and was really calculated to effect an object intrusted to the government, the court did not pretend to the power to inquire into the degree of its necessity. That would be passing the line which circumscribes the judicial department, and be treading on legislative ground.

The court, therefore, decided, that the law creating the Bank of the United States, was one made in pursuance of the constitution; and that the branches of the national bank, proceeding from the same stock, and being conducive to the complete accomplishment of the object, were equally constitutional.

The Supreme Court were afterwards led in some degree to review this decisinn, in the case of Osborn v. The United States Bank, and they there admitted that Congress could not create a corporation for its own sake, or for private purposes. The whole opinion of the court, in the case or M Culloch v. The State of Maryland, was founded on, and sustained by, the idea, that the bank was an instrument which was necessary and proper for carrying into effect the powers vested in the government. It was created for national purposes only, though it was undoubtedly capable of transacting private as well as public business; and while it was the great instrument by which the fiscal operations of the government were effected, it was also trading with individuals for its own advantage. The bank, on any rational calculation, could not effect its object, unless it was endowed with the faculty of lending and dealing in money. This faculty was necessary to render the bank competent to the purposes of government, and, therefore, it was constitutionally and rightfully engrasted on the institution.

(3.) The construction of the powers of Congress relative to taxation, was brought before the Supreme Court, in 1796, in the case of Hylton v. The United States. By the act of

Rules for taxition.

a 9 Wheaton, 859, 860.

6 3 Dallas, 171,

5th June, 1794, Congress laid a duty upon carriages for the conveyance of persons, and the question was, whether this was a direct tax, within the meaning of the constitution. If it was not a direct tax, it was admitted to be rightly laid, under that part of the constitution which declares that all duties, imposts, and excises, shall be uniform throughout the United States; but if it was a direct tax, it was not constitutionally laid, for it must then be laid according to the census, under that part of the constitution which declares that direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states, according to numbers. The Circuit Court in Virginia was divided in opinion on the question, but, on appeal to the Supreme Court, it was decided, that the tax on carriages was not a direct tax, within the letter or meaning of the constitution, and was therefore constitutionally laid.

The question was deemed of very great importance, and was elaborately argued.' It was held, that a general power was given to Congress to lay and collect taxes of every kind or nature, without any restraint. They had plenary power over every species of taxable property, except exports. But there were two rules prescribed for their government, the rule of uniformity, and the rule of apportionment. Three kinds of taxes, viz. duties, imposts, and excises, were to be laid by the first rule; and capitation, and other direct taxes, by the second rule. If there were any other species of taxes, as the court seemed to suppose there might be, that were not direct, and not included within the words duties, imposts, or excises, they were to be laid by the rule of uniformity or not, as Congress should think proper and reasonable.

The constitution contemplated no taxes as direct taxes, but such as Congress could lay in proportion to the census; and the rule of apportionment could not reasonably apply to a tax on carriages, nor could the tax on carriages be laid by that rule, without very great inequality and injustice. If two states, equal in census, were each to pay 80,000 dollars, by a tax on carriages of eight dollars on every Curriage,

« AnteriorContinuar »