« AnteriorContinuar »
addition to the dangers to the constitution springing from the sources I have stated, there has been one which was perhaps greater than all. I allude to the materials which this subject has afforded for sinister appeals to selfish feelings, and the opinion heretofore so extensively entertained of its adapt. ation to the purposes of personal ambition. With such stimulants, it is not surprising that the acts and pretensions of the federal government, in this behalf should sometimes have been carried to an alarming extent. The questions which have arisen upon this subject have related— 1st To the power of making internal improvements within the limits of a state, with the right of territorial jurisdiction, sufficient at least for their preservation and use. 2d. To the right of appropriating money in aid of such works when carried on by a state, or by a company in virtue of state authority, surrendering the claim of jurisdiction; and, . 3d. To the propriety of appropriations for improvements of a particular class, viz., for light-houses, beacons, buoys, public piers, and for the removal of sand-bars, sawyers, and other temporary and partial impediments in our navigable rivers and harbors. The claims of power for the general government upon each of these points certainly present matter of the deepest interest. The first is, however, of much the greatest importance, inasmuch as, in addition to the dangers of unequal and improvident expenditures of public moneys, common to all, there is superadded to that the conflicting jurisdictions of the respective governments. Federal jurisdiction, at least to the extent I have stated, has been justly regarded by its advocates as necessarily appurtenant to the power in question, if that exists by the constitution. That the most injurious conflicts would unavoidably arise between the respective jurisdictions of the state and federal governments, in the absence of a constitutional provision marking out their respective boundaries, cannot be doubted, The local advantages to be obtained would induce the states to overlook in the beginning the dangers and difficulties to which they might ultimately be exposed. The powers exercised by the federal government would soon be regarded with jealousy by the state authorities, and originating, as they must, from implication or assumption, it would be impossible to affix to them certain and safe limits. Opportunities and templations to the assumption of power incompatible with state sovereignty, would be increased, and those barriers which resist the tendency of our system toward consolidation, greatly weakened. The officers and agents of the general government might not always have the discretion to abstain from intermeddling with state concerns; and if they did, they would not always escape the suspicion of having done so. Collisions and consequent irritations would spring up; that harmony which should ever exist between the general government and each member of the confederacy, would be frequently interrupted; a spirit of contention would be engendered; and the dangers of division greatly multiplied. Yet we all know that, notwithstanding these grave objections, this dangerous doctrine was at one time, apparently, proceeding to its final establishment with fearful rapidity. The desire to embark the federal government in works of internal improvement, prevailed, in the highest degree, during the first session of the first Congress that I had the honor to meet in my present situation. When the bill authorizing a subscription on the part of the United States for stock in the Maysville and Lexington Turnpike Com
pany, passed the two Houses, there had been reported by the committees on internal improvements, bills containing appropriations for such objects, exclusive of those for the Cumberland road, and for harbors and lighthouses, to the amount of about one hundred and six millions of dollars In this amount was included authority to the secretary of the treasury to subscribe for the stock of different companies to a great extent, and the residue was principally for the direct construction of roads by this government. In addition to these projects, which have been presented to the two houses under the sanction and recomiendation of their respective committees on internal improvements, there were then still pending before the committees, and in memorials to Congress, presented, but not referred, different projects for works of a similar character, the expense of which cannot be estimated with certainty, but must have exceeded one hundred millions of dollars.
Regarding the bill authorizing a subscription to the stock of the Mays ville and Lexington Turnpike Company as the entering wedge of a system which, however weak at first, might soon become strong enough to rive the bands of the Union asunder; and believing that, if its passage was acquiesced in by the executive and the people, there would no longer be any limitation upon the authority of the general governinent in respect to the appropriation of money for such objects, I deemed it an imperative duty 10 withhold from it the executive approval. Although, from the obviously local character of that work, I might well have contented myself with a refusal to approve the bill upon that ground, yet, sensible of the vital importance of the subject, and anxious that my views and opinions in regard to the whole matter should be fully understood by Congress
, and by my constituents, I felt it my duty to go farther. I therefore embraced that early oceasion to apprize Congress that, in my opinion, the constitution did not confer upon it the power to authorize the construction of ordinary roads and canals within the limits of a state, and to say, respectfully, that no bill admitting such a power, could receive my official sanction. "I did so in the confident expectation that the speedy settlement of the public mind upon the whole subject would be greatly facilitated by the difference between the two Houses and myself, and that the harmonious action of the several departments of the federal government in regard to it would be ultimately secured.
So far, at least, as it regards this branch of the subject, my best hopes have been realized. Nearly four years have elapsed, and several sessions of Congress have intervened, and no attempt within my recollection has been made to induce Congress to exercise ihis power. The applications for the construction of roads and canals, which were formerly multiplied upon your files, are no longer presented; and we have good reason to infer that the current of public sentiment has become so decided against the pretension as effectually to discourage its re-assertion. So thinking, I derive the greatest satisfaction from the conviction that thus much at least has been secured upon this important and embarrassing subject.
From attempts to appropriate the national funds to objects which are confessedly of a local character, we cannot, I trust, have anything farther to apprehend. My views in regard to the expediency of making appropriations for works which are claimed to be of a national character, and prosecuted under state authority, assuming that Congress have the right to do
so, were stated in my annual message to Congress in 1830, and also in that containing my objections to the Maysville road bill. So thoroughly convinced am I that no such appropriations ought to be made by Congress, until a suitable constitutional provision is made upon the subject, and so essential do I regard the point to the highest interests of our country, that I could not consider myself as discharging my duty to my constituents in giving the executive sanction to any bill containing such an appropriation. If the people of the United States desire that the public treasury shall be resorted to for the means to prosecute such works, they will concur in an amendment of the constitution, prescribing a rule by which the national character of the works is to be tested, and by which the greatest practicable equality of benefits may be secured to each member of the confederacy. The effects of such a regulation would be most salutary in preventing unprofitable expenditures, in securing our legislation from the pernicious consequences of a scramble for the favors of government, and in repressing the spirit of discontent which must inevitably arise from an unequal distribution of treasures which belong alike to all. There is another class of appropriations for what may be called, without impropriety, internal improvements, which have always been regarded as standing upon different grounds from those to which I have referred. I allude to such as have for their object the improvement of our harbors, the removal of partial and temporary obstructions in our navigable rivers, for the facility and security of our foreign commerce. The grounds upon which I distinguished appropriations of this character from others have already been stated to Congress. I will now only add that, at the first session of Congress under the new constitution, it was provided by law, that all expenses which should accrue from and after the 15th day of August, 1789, in the necessary support and maintenance and repairs of all jo houses, beacons, buoys and public piers, erected, placed or sunk, before the passage of the act, within any bay, inlet, harbor, or port of the United States, for rendering the navigation thereof easy and safe, should be destayed out of the treasury of the United States; and farther, that it be the duty of the secretary of the treasury to provide by contracts, with the approbation of the President, for rebuilding when necessary and keeping in good repair the light houses, beacons, buoys, and public piers, in the several states, and for furnishing them with supplies. Appropriations for similar objects have been continued from that time to the present without interruption or dispute. As a natural consequence of the increase and extension of our foreign commerce, ports of entry and delivery have been multiplied and established, not only upon our seaboard, but in the interior of the country, upon our lakes and navigable rivers. The convenience and safety of this commerce have led to the gradual extension of these expenditures; to the erection of light houses, the placing, planting and sinking of buoys, beacons and piers, and to the removal of partial and temporary obstructions in our navigable rivers, and the harbors upon our great lakes, as well as on the seaboard. Although I have expressed to Congress my apprehension that these expenditures have sometimes been extravagant and disproportionale to the advantages to be derived from them, I have not felt it to be my duty to refuse my assent to bills containing them, and have contented myself to follow, in this respect, in the footsteps of all my predecessors. Sensible, however, from experience and observation, of the great abuses to which the unrestricted exercise of this authority by Congress was exposed, I have
prescribed a limitation for the government of my own conduct, by which expenditures of this character are confined to places below the ports of entry or delivery established by law. I am very sensible that this restriction is not as satisfactory as could be desiied, and that much embarrassment may be caused to the executive department in its execution, by appropriations for remote and not well-understood objects. But as neither my own reflections, nor the lights which I may properly derive from other sources, have supplied me with a better, I shall continue to apply my best exertions to a faithful application of the rule upon which it is founded. I sincerely regret that I could not give my assent to the bill entitled “ an act to improve the navigation of the Wabash river;" but I could not have done so without receding from the ground which I have, upon the fullest consideration, taken upon this subject, and of which Congress has been heretofore apprized, and without throwing the subject again open to abuses which no good citizen, entertaining my opinions, could desire.
I rely upon the intelligence and candor of my fellow citizens, in whose liberal indulgence I have already so largely participated, for a correct appreciation of my motives in interposing, as I have done, on this, and other occasions, checks to a course of legislation which, without, in the slightest degree, calling in question the motives of others, I consider as sanctioning improper and unconstitutional expenditures of public treasure.
I am not hostile to internal improvements, and wish to see them extended to every part of the country. But I am fully persuaded, if they are not commenced in a proper manner, confined to proper objects, and conducted under an authority generally conceded to be rightful, that a successful prosecution of them cannot be reasonably expected. The attempt will meet with resistance where it might otherwise receive support; and instead of strengthening the bonds of our confederacy, it will only multiply and aggravate the causes of disunion.
SEVENTH ANNUAL MESSAGE.'
DECEMBER 2, 1835.
Fellow Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives :
In discharge of my official duty, the task again devolves upon me of communicating with a new Congress. The reflection that the representa: tion of the Union has been recently renewed, and that the constitutional term of its service will expire with my own, heightens the solicitude with which I shall attempt to lay before it the state of our national concerns, and the devout hope which I cherish that its labors to improve them may
be crowned with success.
You are assembled at a period of profound interest to the American patriot. The unexampled growth and prosperity of our country having given us a rank in the scale of nations which removes all apprehension of danger to our integrity and independence from external foes, the career of freedom is before us, with an earnest of the past that, if true to ourselves
, there can be no formidable obstacle in the future to its peaceful and upin. terrupted pursuit. Yet, in proportion to the disappearance of those appreþensions which attended our weakness, as once contrasted with the power
of some of the states of the old world, should we now be solicitous as to those which belong to the conviction that it is to our own conduct we must look for the preservation of those causes on which depend the excellence and the duration of our happy system of government. In the example of other systems founded on the will of the people, we trace to internal dissension the influences which have so often blasted the hopes of the friends of freedom. The social elements, which were strong and successful when united against external danger, failed in the more difficult task of properly adjusting their own internal organization, and thus gave way the great principle of self-government. Let us trust that this admonition will never be forgotten by the government or the people of the United States; and that the testimony which our experience thus far holds out to the great human family, of the practicability and the blessings of free government, will be confirmed in all time to come. We have but to look at the state of our agriculture, manufactures, and commerce, and the unexampled increase of our population, to feel the magnitude of the trust committed to us. Never, in any former period of our history, have we had greater reason than we now have, to be thankful to Divine Providence for the blessings of health and general prosperity. Every branch of labor we see crowned with the most abundant rewards; in every element of national resources and wealth, and of individual comsort, we witness the most rapid and solid improvements. With no inter. ruptions of this pleasing prospect at home, which will not yield to the spirit of harmony and good-will that so strikingly pervades the mass of the people in every quarter, amidst all the diversity of interest and pursuits to which they are attached; and with no cause of solicitude in regard to our external affairs, which will not, it is hoped, disappear before the principles of simple justice and forbearance that mark our intercourse with foreign powers, we have ..". reason to feel proud of our beloved country, The general state of our foreign relations has not materially changed since my last annual message. In the settlement of the question of the northeastern boundary, little progress has been made. Great Britain has declined acceding to the proposition of the United States, presented in accordance with the resolution of the Senate, unless certain preliminary conditions were admitted, which I deemed incompatible with a satisfactory and rightful adjustment of the controversy. Waiting for some distinct proposal from the government of Great Britain, which has been invited, I can only repeat the expression of my confidence, that with the strong mutual disposition which I believe exists, to make a just arrangement, this perplexing question can be settled with a due regard to the well-founded pretensions and pacific policy of all the parties to it. Events are frequently occurring on the northeastern frontier, of a character to impress upon all the necessity of a speedy and definitive termination of the dispute. This consideration, added to the desire common to both, to relieve the liberal and friendly relations so happily existing between the two countries from all embarrassment, will, no doubt, have its just influence upon both. Our diplomatic intercourse with Portugal has been renewed, and it is expected that the claims of our citizens, partially paid, will be fully satisfied as soon as the condition of the queen's government will permit the proper attention to the subject of them. That government has, I am happy to inform you, manifested a determination to act upon the liberal principles