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spirit of equality which pervades our system of government, and the United States are, therefore, prohibited to grant them. The states, likewise, in their individual character, as we shall see hereafter, are equally prohibited to grant any title of nobility.
218. Officers of the United States are forbidden to accept, without the consent of Congress, any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state, lest foreign governments should in that manner unduly influence our affairs. When presents are sent to the President, as they sometimes are from foreign princes, they are usually deposited in the public offices—it not being thought courteous to decline them.
POWERS DENIED TO THE STATES.
219. Having now considered the restrictions which the Constitution imposes upon Congress, we next proceed to consider the restrictions which are imposed upon the states.
Prohibition as to Treaties, déc.
220. The first is, that no state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ez post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, or grant any title of nobility.
221. It will be observed that several of these restrictions are among the number of those which we have already enumerated as being imposed on Congress: such, for example, as the prohibition to pass any bill of attainder, ea post facto law, or to confer any title of nobility. But for the most part, the powers which are here denied to the states may be exercised by Congress.
222. It is obvious that if the states were at liberty to make treaties, or form alliances and confederations, there would be no harmony or uniformity in our relations abroad, and no stability or independence at home. The separate states might form conflicting treaties and alliances, and enter into such engagements as would give foreign powers an opportunity to interfere and exercise a control in our affairs. The treaty-making power, therefore, is denied to the states, and confided to the government of the Union.
Letters of Marque and Reprisal.
223. Though letters of marque and reprisal are sometimes granted in peace, as a means of redress, and not as a measure of hostility, yet they are usually the precursor of war whether so intended or not. Hence it would be most unwise to put it in the power of a single state to involve the whole country in hostilities, by adopting a measure which would be likely to incur them.
Coinage. 224. The power to coin money is denied to the states, and confided exclusively to Congress, in order to secure a uniform currency in place of coins of various forms and weights, which otherwise might be put in circulation. It has been said, and truly, that if the states could coin money and regulate its value, then there might be as many different currencies as states. Yet the same practical consequence follows from the power which the states exercise of authorizing the circulation of bank paper as currency. A uniform metallic currency is secured by giving to Congress the exclusive authority to coin money and regulate its value; but there is no such uniformity in the paper currency of the states, which is the actual and well-nigh universal substitute for coin. The paper currency of the states, however, under recent legislation, has almost entirely given way to the circulation of the national banks. It has been supposed that the taxing power of Congress was confined to the purpose of raising revenue; yet in aid of the circulation of the national banks, the state banks have well-nigh been taxed out of existence, and this too under acts of Congress passed avowedly for the purpose. The constitutionality of this taxation too has been sustained by the Supreme Court of the Dnited States. The force of the decision, however, is much impaired by the fact that it was the decision of a divided court.
Bills of Credit. 225. Bills of credit, which the states are prohibited to emit, are bills issued by a state on the faith of the state, and intended to circulate through the community in the ordinary business of life as money. Bonds or obligations, therefore, issued by or on behalf of a state, binding it to pay money at a future day, for purchases which it has made, or for services received, or for money borrowed, are not bills of credit within the meaning of the Constitution. Neither are the bills issued by banks which a state incorporates, though the state may be a stockholder in such banks, or even the exclusive owner of the stock. But if the bills were issued on the credit of the state, in Nead of the credit of the funds of the bank, it would be otherwise.
226. Though the states authorize the issue of paper money, they are prohibited to make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts. During the Revolutionary War and subsequently, attempts were frequently made to maintain the credit of paper money, by making it a tender in payment of debts—the result being gross wrong and injustice to creditors. Instances were not wanting where the debtor had received gold and silver, and yet was enabled to pay his debt with paper money, which was so depreciated as to be nearly worthless. It was to prevent the possibility of such grievances that the states were inhibited to make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts.