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THE LAWS.OF A PUBLIC NATURE;
WITH A COPIOUS INDEX.
FEBRUARY 18, 1790.]
(H. OF R.
the amendment he supported. Gentlemen had We however find a case was cited yesterday, insisted, that although the principle of it might by an honorable member from Virginia (Mr. be right anii proper, yet the execution of the Madison) in which they made a provision as to scheme was altogether impracticable. They debtors, similar to the one now under consihad also contended, that the adoption of such a deration. If precedent is, therefore, to influproposition would be a violation of those rules ence, we have one from the nation whose public which, as to contracts, ought to be held sacred, faith has been above all others extolled. But and also of the constitution under which the it had been observed by an honorable member Government was then acting; that it would be from New York (Mr. LAWRENCE) that the predisapproved of, even by the persons for whose cedent then cited was not applicable, because, benefit the provision was intended.
said the gentleman, the British Parliament and He observed, that those who admitted the Congress are bodies very different as to power; propriety of the measure, as to principle, could the former is omnipotent and unlimited as to not be jastified in their opposition, upon the objects of legislation; the latter is not so, but ground of inpracticability. That the honor restricted and confined by the Constitution, able mover of the amendment had, in the course which controls their power; that the British of yesterday's debate, suggested expedients Parliament can therefore do many acts consiswhich would, in his opinion, remove the greater tent with their powers, which Congress cannot. part of the objections which ingenuity had urg. This observation does by no means diminish the ed in that respect. That some particular cases, force of the precedent; because although Conperhaps, might exist, for which special provi- gress possess not power, as to all objects of legission would be requisite. However, as that lation, so extensive as the British Parliament, gentleman had declared his belief in the prac- yet, as to objects within their power, they are as ticability of the system, such was his confidence omnipotent as that Parliament. It will not be in the sincerity and abilities of the person who denied, that a provision, respecting public cremade the declaration, that he was not disposed dit, is one of those objects; with regard, thereto believe the reverse without giving an oppor- fore, to the subject under debate, there can be tunity of proof, or until some trial was made. no difference between the two budies as to omIt had been also observed, that the proposed nipotence. project is violative of the rules which, in con- It had been remarked by another member tracts, should ever be preserved; but how, he from New York (Mr. BENSON) that the adopasked, could gentlemen reconcile this objection tion of the amendment would be improper, beto the plan which they advocated? Would it cause it was unsolicited by those whom it was not operate with equal force to condemn that, designed to benefit; and because there was reaas well as every other, which had been contem- son to believe it would meet with their disapplated: The argument, by proving too much, probation. ought, therefore, to have no influence upon the The gentleman had informed us of a resolve question. It had also been mentioned, that the of the Cincinnati of this State, disavowing the plan in controversy was a violation of the Consti- plan, and cited their proceedings as evidence to tution, which every member had taken an oath to prove this disapprobation. In reply to this, he support: This observation, he observed, might would not then inquire how proper it would be be made in terrorem, but could have little for the committee, in their decision, to be inweight, if the words of the Constitution, in this fluenced by any act of the Cincinnati, or other respect, were attended to; these are, "all society, but he believed, if the history of the debts contracted, and engagements entered in proceedings alluded to was fully known, nothing to, before the adoption of the constitution, shall could be inferred from it to effect that gentlebe as valid against the United States under this man's purpose. That he had, since the publiConstitution as under the Confederation.” That cation of their resolve, been informed, that the the words debts and engagements, here ex- meeting of the society, at the time it passed, pressed, would comprehend as well the residue was not a full one; that such a resolve was unstill due to the officers, soldiers, and other ori- expected, by many, until proposed; and that it ginal creditors, as the claims of the present passed without debate, and, as it were, sub siholders of alienated certificates; and that if the lentio; that he had since been informed, several Constitution created any obligation concerning of the body disapproved of the resolve, and beJebts, it had equal force with respect to every lieved, that if a full meeting was had, a different description of creditors. But he apprehended determination would be the result. He had that the Constitution did not, by the words ex conceived that the worthy members composing pressed, place any debts alluded to in a situa- that body, had too much experience of their own tion different from that in which they were pre- sufferings, to be opposed to a provision in favor vious to its adoption.
of those creditors for whom the compensation Great stress had been laid upon the practice was intended, and could not think that such a of other pations. It had been frequently assert- provision would be disapproved of by a society ed, that the measure proposed was without a pre- of the kind in any of the States. cedent in any country. It had been repeatedly It had, upon this occasion, been asserted, that recommended to us to imitate the British Parlia- public opinion should have little influence on ment, as to measures touching public credit. the conduct of Legislatures. But, notwith