Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

number of votes, was the choice to be referred to the house of representatives. The same course throughout was to be pursued in the choice of a vice president, except, that in case on the first canvass there should be a choice of a president, and none of a vice president, the latter officer should be chosen by the senate from the highest two on the list. The resolution was accompanied by an able report, portraying at greåt length the evils incident to the present mode, and answering objections which might be supposed to exist against the one proposed.

In the house of representatives, ten or twelve resolutions were introduced by as many different members, on the subject of amendments of the constititution, relating to the presidential election, all professing to pursue the same object, but much diversified in character. One was in principle the same as Mr. Benton's. Another attempted to restore the original provisions of the constitution. The whole subject was referred to a committee of twenty-four, one from each state, who after many fruitless efforts, found it impossible to agree upon any mode, and asked to be discharged. This unsuccessful attempt to amend the constitution, in a point universally agreed to be defective, evinces the extreme difficulty with which any alterations in that instrument can be effected.

Judiciary bill. In the house of representatives, Mr. Webster, from the judiciary committee, reported a bill for establishing three new judiciary circuits in the west, and southwest. In those sections, the judges of the district courts had hitherto been invested with the power of holding circuit courts, with the same jurisdiction as those courts in the other states, when holden by a judge of the supreme court, associated with the district judge. This anomaly in the judiciary, to the disadvantage of the west, was remedied by the proposed bill. Its principles were generally approved. Its details occasioned considerable discussion. Having passed the house, it was amended in the senate by altering the arrangement of the new circuits, and the two houses not being able to agree, the bill, notwithstanding its acknowledged importance, failed.

Internal improvements. The congress of 1823-4, made provision for taking surveys and estimates for roads and canals, embracing a system of internal improvement upon an extended scale. Three objects deemed of primary importance had been atended to. - One, a national road from the seat of government to New Orleans. Three routs were

examined, denominated the eastern, middle, and western ; the first passing through the principal cities in the southern states ; the second, along the base of the Allegany; and the third, crossing the mountains and descending the valley of the Mississippi. The distance on the middle rout, which is stated to be something the shortest, is eleven hundred and six miles. The second important object, the first indeed in a national view, was the uniting the waters of the west with those of the Atlantic by a canal communication, commencing on the Potomac in the district of Columbia, and extending to the Ohio. The third, was the opening of an inland water communication, from the Atlantic to the gulf of St. Lawrence, by improving the navigation of Connecticut river, extending a canal from its head waters to lake Memphrémagog on the borders of Canada, and relying on the Canadian authorities to extend it to the St. Lawrence.

The utility of these and other objects of internal improvement in a national view is unquestioned; their importance for commercial, political, and military purposes cannot be doubted. Every road or canal, facilitating the intercourse between the east and the west, is an armor of defense and a bond of union, economical, permanent, and indissoluble. In a pecuniary view, every dollar judiciously expended on this object, is a profitable investment to the treasury. The United States are the proprietors of the soil, much of it indeed subject to an Indian title, which is held in little esti. mation, of the vast and inconceivable quantity of one thousand million of acres of land, all lying to the westward of the city of Washington. As a whole it may be denomi. nated salubrious and fertile, and possessing advantages for the support of human life, equal to any tract of the same extent on the globe. This tract is in market, for the benefit of the treasury of the United States. The purchasers are from the east, who must pass the Allegany to view and occupy the territory. Any operation which facilitates this passage, and brings the land more to the view of purchasers, enhances its value. One of the first objects of a judicious landholder, possessing the territory of the United States west of the Allegany, would be a canal from the Chesapeake to the Ohio.

The impost, the great source of American revenue, is derived from the consumption of foreign articles : this again depends on the facility with which the consumer can obtain them. The population west of the Allegany, nearly balances, and will soon exceed that of the east; their consumption of dutiable goods is necessarily small, so long as the supply is dependent on a tedious and expensive land transportation. A safe and cheap water communication between the east and the west, will have a powerful and rapidly increasing effect on the customs.

The general government is the only power which can or ought to accomplish these objects; that only has the means; to that the states have surrendered their most important and productive sources of revenue; and that only can direct the operations with beneficial effect. The public debt is nearly extinguished, and in considering future important objects is hardly to be taken into the account. After the period of its extinction, there will be nothing to which the great and increasing revenue can be profitably employed but to objects of internal improvement. The permanent means of defense, viz. fortifications and a navy, have been brought to that state of perfection as to put at rest all fears of invasion and aggressive war. A large unappropriated revenue affords powerful inducements to wars of ambition and aggrandizement, to which all experience proves republics are equally prone as monarchies.

In regard to most of the great objects of internal improvement, individual states have neitheir the means, nor sufficient interest to accomplish them. The great canal, con. necting the waters of the Mississippi valley with the Atlantic, can never be accomplished by the states through which it passes, or those for which it is designed to open a communication. The contemplated national road from the seat of government to the great emporium of the southwest, though absolutely necessary for the safe transportation of the mails, and for the purpose of connecting that section of the union with the head; and though of great utility to the states through which it passes ; if ever made must be by the agency of the general government. The same principle applies, though perhaps not with equal force, to the other great objects of internal improvement. Public opinion unquestionably calls for a liberal system on this subject; and the only real question is, whether it can be done without an amend. ment of the constitution, expressly authorizing the measure. This appears to be one of those undefined objects, to which the framers of the constitution, under the head of “providing for the general welfare, authorized the application of the public funds. Jealousies that some sections of the union would get more than their proper share of the benefits, and that combinations might be formed by means of which the

moneys would be improperly distributed, have led to a proposition to apportion to the several states, the funds applicable to internal improvement according to their population, to be expended under the direction of the state authorities. A proposition, however well designed, is one which, in its operation, would defeat the whole object. Very few roads and canals, which are of sufficient public importance to require the aid of the general government, are bounded by the limits of a single state. Nearly all would require the concurrent operations of several. From a diversity of interests and views entertained by the several states to be affected, such a concurrence could not be expected. Important national channels of communication would require to be opened through small states in which they would themselves feel little interest, and to which their portion of the funds would be altogether inadequate. Connecting the waters of New York bay, for instance, with the Delaware, and those again with the Chesapeake, by canals across the states of New Jersey and Delaware, are objects in which those small states have comparatively little interest, and would never be accomplished by their proportion of the funds.

The question as to the constitutional powers of congress on this subject, has been frequently and fully discussed, and repeatedly decided in the affirmative by large majorities in -both houses, against the opinions of presidents Madison and Monroe. These decisions seemed to have put the question at rest until the accession of Mr. Adams to the presidency. The administration of 1825 were known to be zealous friends of internal improvement. Much of Mr. Clay's celebrity rested on this basis. The opposition denounced the mea. sure as unjust, partial, infringing on state rights, and unconstitutional. They derived great strength and support from the resolutions of several state legislatures in the south, declaring in unqualified and severe terms, that objects of internal improvement were not within the constitutional powers of congress; and that they were in violation of the jurisdiction, and territorial rights of the states within which they were attempted.

Though the subject of internal improvements afforded much opportunity for opposition to come out against the administration, the Panama mission was the great rallying point. The part which Mr. Clay had always taken in relation to the southern republics, added much to the zeal with which the mission was opposed. The propriety of the measure being judged of by the state of things at the time the

[ocr errors]

invitation was accepted, and not by subsequent events, it affords little ground to impeach the wisdom of the executive.

Report of committee on reducing executive patronage. The great master-piece of electioneering policy appeared in the report of a select committee of the senate, to whom was referred a resolution introduced by Mr. Macon, “to inquire into the expediency of reducing executive patronage." The report was presented to the senate on the 4th of May, just at the close of the session, and the very unusual number of 6,000 copies ordered to be printed for distribution. Its object seemed to be, to show that republics have a natural and unavoidable tendency to degenerate into monarchies, or the rule of a single person, under whatever name the government or its administrator may be designated ; that this tendency arises principally from executive patronage ; that in the American system, the president has under his control the whole host of officers, and persons who in any way receive emolument from the public treasury; that they again act upon a circle, more or less enlarged, of friends and dependents; to which is to be added, an army of expectants. The operations of this great engine, the committee apprehend, to be entirely directed by the president, and sufficiently powerful to govern the state and federal elections, and to assimilate them to the rotten boroughs, and the corrupt and tumultuous proceedings of the British system. The practice of selecting the principal executive officers from the halls of congress, the committee reprobate in unqualified terms, as tending to destroy the independence of the national legislature, and render them the mere registers of the executive will.

The vast power and patronage lodged in a single person, they apprehend, not only may, but certainly will be perverted to the most pernicious purposes. The president, they say, will dismiss faithful public servants, for no other reason but their preference of another man to administer the government, and in order to give him an opportunity to reward his friends. He will secure his influence in congress, by holding up to the view of the most aspiring and influential members, the highest offices in his gift. The committee, indeed, in many of their remarks, seem to have had in 1826 a prophetic view of the events of 1829-30.

They illustrate their subject by a number of extracts from what is denominated the blue book, being a list of all the persons receiving emolument from the treasury of the

« ZurückWeiter »