« PreviousContinue »
the Government should be paid in the legal coin, in notes of the Bank of the United States, or in notes of banks that paid coin on demand. That was the operation of the law of 1816, rendered absolutely necessary by the existing state of things.
The gentleman from Connecticut inquired whether the omission to use the powers of Congress necessarily increased that of the Executive. He would put a poser to the gentleman. The President himself admitted that it was the appropriate duty of Congress to take the public treasure into its hands, and appoint agents to take care of it. The gentleman himself must admit this, for he supposed that he did not go the lengths of the Senator from Tennessee in being willing that things should remain as they were. Then, if it was their duty to take care of the national treasure, and they did not do it, it would go into the hands of the Executive. Was not the custody of the national treasure power? and if they neglected to use this power, did they not auginent the power of the Executive ?
Nothing could be more appropriate for a historian, than to review the doctrines which had been advanced with regard to Executive power, and the means by which it was sought to increase it. The President himself first advanced the doctrine, and it had been repeated there, that the President of the United States was the sole representative of the People of the United States. Did the Constitution make him so? Did the Constitution acknowledge any other representative of the People than the members of the other House ? But it had been found extremely convenient to those who wished to increase the President's power to give him this title. This claim of the President reminded him of a remark he heard made many years ago by a member of the House of Representatives. That gentleman had voted against the first Bank of the United States, and had changed his mind, and was about to vote for the second. If, said the gentleman, the People have given us the power to make a bank, we can do it; and if they have not, we are the representatives of the People, and can take the power.
And this was the doctrine applied to the President as the peculiar representative of the People. The Constitution gave him a modicum of power, and he, claiming the lion's part, took all the rest. This was the result of that overwhelming personal popularity which led men to disregard all the ancient maxims of the founders of this Government, and to yield up all power into the hands of one man. They could not now even quote the doctrines of Mr. Jefferson without being scouted, and they could not resist any power claimed by the Executive, however arbitrary, but must yield up every thing to him by one universal confidence, because he was the representative of the People.
After further remarks by Mr. NILES,
Mr. WEBSTER observed that it was the best course, when a gentleman replied to another, to use his very words as far as bis recollection permitted him. He had noticed, on other occasions, that the Senator from Connecticut gave his own language as that of the gentleman he was replying to, put his own construction upon it, and then replied to this man of straw. He hoped that the gentleman would, when he quoted him in future, use his exact language, and not put into his mouth words that he did not use. tleman, in speaking of the President, used the term representative of the People, precisely in the meaning of the term as applied to a member of the House of Representatives. Now, it was impossible to believe in any idea of power pertaining to the President in this character. But he would remind the Senator that the President himself in more than one communication had claimed this character and power. It would be found in the protest that he is the only single representative of the People. Sir, this is the very essence of consolidation, and in the worst of hands. Do we not all know that the People have not one representative? Do we not know that the States are divided into congressional districts, each of which elects a representative, and that the States themselves are represented by two members on that floor? Do we not all know that it was carefully avoided by the framers of the Constitution to give him any such power at all? He admitted that the President, in reference to his popularity merely, was called, with great propriety, the representative of the People; but in other respects, he was no more so than was the President of the old Congress. There was another false doctrine that was worth noticing, and that was, that every thing that had been done by the President had been approved of by the People, because they reëlected him.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, ON THE BILL TO AU
THORIZE THE PURCHASE, ON THE PART OF THE UNITED STATES, OF THE PRIVATE STOCK IN THE LOUISVILLE AND PORTLAND CANAL. MAY 25, 1836.
Mr. WEBSTER addressed the Senate as follows:
MR. PRESIDENT: I regret the warmth with which my friend from Ohio, (Mr. Ewing,) and my friend from Louisiana, (Mr. PORTER,) have spoken on this occasion. But while I regret it, I can hardly say I blame it. They have expressed disappointment, and, I think, they may well feel disappointment. I confess, Sir, I feel disappointment, also. Looking to the magnitude of this object; looking to its highly interesting character to the West ; looking to the great concern which our Western friends have manifested for its success, I feel, myself, not only disappointment, but, in some degree, mortification at the result of the vote which has now been taken. That vote, if it stands, must be decisive of the success of the measure.
No doubt, Sir, it is altogether vain to pass this bill, unless it contain such provisions as will induce the stockholders in the corporation to part with their interests.
In the first place, Sir, why do we hear so much reproach and denunciation against the members of this corporation ? Have they not hazarded their property in an undertaking of great importance and utility to the country? Has not Congress itself encouraged their enterprise, by taking a part of the stock on account of the Government? Are we not ourselves shareholders in this company ? Their tolls, it is said, are large; that is true; but, then, not only did they run all the risks usually attending such enterprises, but, even with their large tolls, all their receipts, up to this hour, by no means give an increase on their capital equal to the ordinary interest of money in that part of the country.
There appears to me very great injustice in speaking of their tolls as “fines” and “penalties, and unjust impositions; or of their charter, as an odious monopoly. Who called it so, or who so thought of it, when it was granted to them? Who, but they, were willing to undertake the work — to advance the money, and to run the
risks and chances of failure? Who then blamed, reproached, or denounced the enterprising individuals who hazarded their money in a project to make a canal round the falls of the Ohio ? Who then spoke of their tolls as impositions, fines, and penalties ? Nobody, Sir. Then, all was encouragement and cheering onward. The cry was then, Go on, run the hazard, try the experiment, let our vessels and boats have a passage round this obstruction; make an effort to overcome this great obstacle. If you fail, the loss, indeed, will be yours; but if you succeed, all the world will agree that you ought to be fairly and fully remunerated for the risk and expenditure of capital.
Sir, we are bound in all justice and fairness to respect the legal rights of these corporators. For one, I not only respect their legal rights, but I honor their enterprise, I commend their perseverance, and I think they deserve well of the community.
But, nevertheless, Sir, I am for making this navigation free. If there were no canal, I should be for making one, or for other modes of removing the obstructions in the river. As there is a canal, now the subject of private ownership and private property, I am for buying it out, and opening it, toll free, to all who navigate the river. In my opinion, this work is of importance enough to demand the attention of Government. To be sure it is but a canal, and a canal round the falls of a river ; but that river is the Ohio. It is one of those vast streams which form a part of the great water communication of the West. It is one of those running seas which bear on their bosom the riches of Western commerce. It is a river; but, to the uses of man, to the purposes of trade, to the great objects of communication, it is one of those rivers which has the character of an ocean. Indeed, when one looks at the map, and glances his eye on all these rivers, he sees at once water enough to constitute or to fill an ocean, pouring from different, distant, and numerous sources, and flowing many thousand miles, in various channels, with breadth and depth of water in each, sufficient for all the purposes of rapid communication and extensive trade. And if, in any portion of these inland seas, we find obstructions which the hand of man can remové, who can say that such removal is not an object worthy all the attention of Government ?
Whoever, Mr. President, would do his duty, and his whole duty, in the councils of this Government, must look upon the country as it is, in its whole length and breadth. He must comprehend it in its vast extent, its novel character, its sudden development, its amazing progress, confounding all calculation, and almost overwhelming the imagination. Our rivers are not the rivers of the European world. We have not to deal with the Trent, the Thames, and the Severn. With us, at least in this part of our country, navigation from the sea does not stop where the tide stops. Our ports and harbors are not at the mouths of rivers only, or at the head of the tides of the sea. Hundreds of miles, nay, thousands of miles, beyond the point where the tides of the ocean are felt, deep waters spread out, and capacious harbors open themselves, to the reception of a vast and increasing navigation.
To be sure, Sir, this is a work of internal improvement; but it is not, on that account, either the less constitutional, or the less important. Sir, I have taken a part in this great struggle for internal improvement from the beginning, and I shall hold out to the end. Whoever may follow, or whoever may ily, I shall go straight forward for all those constitutional powers, and for all that liberal policy, which I have heretofore supported.
I remember, Sir, and, indeed, a very short memory might retain the recollection, when the first appropriations for harbors on the great lakes were carried through this body, not without the utmost difficulty, and against the most determined opposition. I remember when Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and Lake Michigan were likely to be condemned to a continuance in the state in which Nature and the Indian tribes had left them, with no proof upon their shores of the policy of a civilized state, no harbors for the shelter of a hundred vessels, no light-house even to point out to the inland mariner the dangers of his course. I remember even when the harbor of Buffalo was looked upon as a thing either unimportant in itself, or, if not unimportant, yet shut out from the care and the aid of Congress by a constitutional interdiction of works of internal improvement. But, Sir, in this case, as in others, the doctrine of internal improvement has established itself by its own necessity, its own obvious and consessed utility, and the benefits which it has already so widely conferred. So it will be, I have no doubt, in the case before us. We shall wonder hereafter who could doubt the propriety of setting free the navigation of the Ohio, and shall wonder that it was delayed even so long.
Mr. President, on the question of constitutional power, I entertain not a particle of doubt. How is it, let me ask, that we appropriate money for harbors, piers, and breakwaters on the sea-coast? Where do we find power for this ? Certainly no where, where we cannot find equal power to pass this bill. The same clause covers such appropriations, inland as well as on the sea-coast, or else it covers neither. We have foreign commerce, and we have internal commerce; and the power, and the duty, also, of regulating, protecting, aiding, and fostering both is given in the same words. For one, therefore, Sir, I look to the magnitude of the object, and not to its locality. I ask not whether it be east or west of the mountains. There are no Alleghanies in my politics.
I care not whether it be an improvement on the shore of the sea, or on the shore of one of these mighty rivers, so much like a sea,