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In relation to any personal hostility between him and Mr. Adams, he denied its existence. As public functionaries, they had been much connected. Associated in the negotiations for peace, the subject of the free navigation of the Mississippi for British subjects to pass from their colonies near its head waters to the ocean, on the one hand; and the privilege of taking fish on the British North American coast by citizens of the United States on the other, incidentally came under discussion with the British commissioners. Mr. Adams, as was to be expected, attached more consequence to the fisheries than did Mr. Clay; and the reverse. As rival candidates for the presidency, they had indulged no personal animosities, and neither they nor their friends had assailed their private characters. Having both held conspicuous stations in the government, they had harmonized in the great topics of American policy, and wherein they differed on minor subjects, it was characterized with the candor of gentlemen, and not with the rancor of party. Mr. Clay justified his vote for Mr. Adams, on the ground of his superior talents and long experience in the great concerns of the American nation. Mr. Adams vindicated his nomination of Mr. Clay to the office of secretary of state, as well because his abilities eminently qualified him for the station, as that his residence in the west gave him peculiar claims.
These views of the Adams administration, on the subject of the presidential canvass and its results, were circulated throughout the United States, with equal assiduity with those of their opponents. But it is an evil, incident to a free press, that truth and falsehood are spread with equal ease, and nearly equal success in periodical publications. This engine holds a controlling power over the elections. Four fifths of the electors read and form their opinions from the newspapers; and those who do not read them, take their stand from those who do. The great mass of readers see only one side, the few who read both do it with a view of finding something to support their party, rather than of investigating truth. In relation to the circula tion of falsehoods, the antidote is by no means concurrent or co-extensive with the poison. By these means a great portion of the American people were led to believe, that their wishes had been contravened in the choice of a chief magistrate, by a corrupt bargain between the first two officers in the government. The denials and refutations, though entirely satisfactory to a large portion of the commu
nity, seldom reached the ears of those who had been made familiar with the charges. Party spirit, at first very much confined to the disappointed who expected offices under General Jackson, and those who held them under Mr. Adams, gradually diffused itself among the great mass of people. Every movement adapted itself with the regularity and skill of the most experienced generalship, to another
First meeting of the nineteenth congress. The first session of the nineteenth congress was looked to with much interest. It commenced on the 5th of December, 1825. The house of representatives organized itself by the choice of Mr. Taylor, of New York, speaker, on the second ballot. The opposing candidates were Mr. Campbell of Ohio, and M'Lane of Delaware.
Message. The president's message, communicated on the 6th, was sought with eagerness, as indicative of the course of policy to be pursued by his administration. It presented a favorable aspect of the general concerns of the nation, foreign and domestic. Congress were informed, that the subject of the British colonial trade remained unadjusted, and the claims on France and other Europeon powers, for spoliations unsatisfied. The principal subjects recommended to the consideration of the national legislature, were, an entire abolition of discriminating tonnage duties, as to the vessels of all nations, who would reciprocate the principle; a revision of the judiciary system; a bankrupt law; the establishment of an observatory; a national university; internal improvements on an extended scale; voyages of discovery; a uniform standard of weights and 'measures; and a review of the patent law with a view of extending its provisions. In the end the message suggests that some of the objects may not be within the provisions of the constitution; but recommends a liberal construction of that instrument, to adapt it to the present condition and wants of the nation.
Liberal construction of the constitution. Both the general and state governments exist by virtue of written constitutions, emanating from the people; the object of which has been to confer on the former, all powers relating to general national concerns, and on the latter, every thing of a local, municipal, and domestic character, both to be exercised in such manner, as to secure the rights, and promote the happiness of the whole. The great difficulty in the system has been to mark the boundaries of each, so as to
prevent conflicting claims. The message declares the federal constitution to be a charter of limited powers; the position is no less true of the state constitutions; each are limited by the general nature of their respective objects, and each requiring a liberal and extended construction to effectuate these objects. The national compact, formed in the infancy of the republic, could not be expected, in its specific provisions, to meet the exigencies of an extended empire in its maturity. In vain do we look in that instrument for any clauses, expressly authorizing the making of roads and canals, improving harbors, and the navigation of rivers, establishing corporations, purchasing libraries, bestowing money for charitable purposes, and least of all can be found in the constitution, any powers authorizing the general government to purchase additional territories, beyond the national boundaries, and incorporating them into new states as constituent parts of the union. Yet all these, and other equally extra-constitutional acts, have been done and sanctioned by the legislative, executive, and judiciary authorities, acting under the obligations of an oath, to support the constitution. The people have ratified these acts by the repeated re-elections of the agents by whom they have been accomplished.
To adapt the constitution of 1787 to the exigencies of the nation for a century to come, recourse must be had either to an amendment as often as a new case occurs, or to a construction extended far beyond the ordinary import of its terms. The former alternative, in a widely extended empire, and among a people jealous of each other, and possessing different and conflicting interests, would be often impracticable, and always inconvenient. Besides, it would destroy the beautiful simplicity of the original, and render its provisions complex and unintelligible. These considerations, operating in unison with that natural propensity ever to be found as well in individual as corporate bodies, to an extended construction of their own powers, have uniformly led to the latter alternative. Some expressions, of a general import, seem to warrant the constituted authorities in doing what they may deem to be for the public good, without looking for a special delegation of the power in the instrument under which they act. In the preamble the people say, that one object of their entering into this compact is "to promote the general welfare." They expressly delegate to congress the "power to lay and collect taxes and imposts," among other things "to provide for the general welfare," and they finally clothe
them with authority to make all laws necessary and proper to carry into execution the specific powers with which they are invested. In these general expressions the framers of the constitution say to those who shall thereafter administer it, "We cannot foresee or define all the specific objects on which it will be necessary for you to legislate. You must therefore do what, in your opinion, the public good or the general welfare requires, trusting to the good sense of your constituents for their approbation." And in the end they say, "If in any particular this instrument shall be radically defective, we have provided a way for its amend
Such were the prevailing views entertained by a majority of the national legislature of the nature of the instrument under which they were assembled, at the commencement of the first session of the 19th congress; though on numerous occasions the alarm that the constitution was in danger did not fail to be sounded.
Discriminating duties. In the senate, Mr. Lloyd, from the committee of commerce, made an able and luminous report on the subject of an entire abolition of the discriminating tonnage duties. The act making a difference of ninety-four cents a ton in the duties imposed on foreign and American vessels, entering the ports of the United States from foreign places, and an additional duty on their cargoes, was passed at the commencement of the government, for the express purpose of bringing into operation and protecting the navigation of the states against foreign competition. By that act, a foreign vessel of two hundred tons, making a voyage to the United States, and laden with a cargo of ten thousand dollars value, paid an excess of duties over an American vessel of the same size, and performing the same voyage, of eleven hundred and eighty-eight dollars. This regulation occasioned a sectional difference in the congress of 1791, similar in principle to the tariff of 1828. The southern interest, possessing little navigation, and bulky staples for exportation, considered it as a tax upon their industry for the benefit of the north; as their produce must arrive at foreign markets, charged with alien tonnage. The act, however, operated with a force almost magical, and in a short period created a mercantile, marine, and home competition, reducing freights much below what they were before the passing of the act. From a concise historical view of the operations of the act, and of the present state of American navigation, Mr. Lloyd clearly showed, that the
former had fully answered its design, and that the latter was able to compete on equal terms with that of any other nation. And in the spirit of an enlightened and liberal statesman, recommended an offer to the commercial world, to place American and foreign vessels on an equal footing. For this purpose a bill was introduced by the committee and passed with little debate, providing that the vessels of any foreign power, who should reciprocate the principle, should be admitted into the ports of the United States without paying any other or higher duties of any description, than what American vessels under similar circumstances were liable to pay; and treaties were made in the following summer with Denmark and Colombia on this basis.
Amendments of the constitution. The circumstances attending the presidential election in the two instances in which it had terminated in the house of representatives, made it evident that the frequent occurrence of such an event ought, if possible, to be avoided. In the senate, Mr. Benton, from a committee to whom the subject had been referred, reported a resolution for an amendment of the constitution, the leading features of which were, that each state should divide itself into as many electoral districts as they were entitled to members in both houses of congress; that the qualified voters should meet in each district at a specified time in the month of August, in the year 1828, and every fourth year thereafter, and give their votes for president, and vice president of the United States; the person having the greatest number of votes in the district, should be considered as having the electoral vote of that district, which should be counted one in the ultimate canvass. That congress should be in session on the second Monday of October, in the year 1828, and every fourth year thereafter, at which session the vote of each electoral district should be returned to the president of the senate, and counted, and the result made known. In case any person had a majority of the electoral votes, he was to be declared president for the next term. If no person had such a majority, the names of the highest two on the list were to be returned to the districts, and the voters again to meet at a given time in the month of the succeeding December, and give their suffrages for one of the two candidates. The electoral votes of each district were again to be returned to the president of the senate, counted, and the result declared in the same manner as on the first canvass; and only in the romote contingency of the two candidates on the second canvass, having an equal