which had arisen in the West, with the appropriate measure of relief; because they felt it due to their own characters, and the characters of their New England predecessors in this Government, to act towards the new States in the spirit of a liberal, patronizing, magnanimous policy. So much, sir, for the cause why; and I hope that by this time, sir, the honorable gentleman is satisfied; if not, I do not know when, or how, or why, he ever will be.
Having recurred to these two important measures, in answer to the gentleman’s inquiries, I must now beg permission to go back to a period yet something earlier, for the purpose of still further showing how much, or rather how little, reason there is for the gentleman’s insinuation, that political hopes or fears, or party associations, were the grounds of these New England votes. And after what has been said, I hope it may be forgiven me, if I allude to some political opinions and votes of my own, of very little public importance, certainly, but which, from the time at which they were given and expressed, may pass for good witnesses on this occasion.
This Government, Mr. President, from its origin to the peace of 1815, had been too much engrossed with various other important concerns, to be able to turn its thoughts inward, and look to the development of its vast internal resources. In the early part of President Washington’s administration, it was fully occupied with organizing the Government, providing for the public debt, defending the frontiers, and maintaining domestic peace. Before the termination of that administration, the fires of the French Revolution blazed forth, as from a new-opened volcano, and the whole breadth of the ocean did not entirely secure us from its effects. The smoke and the cinders reached us, though not the burning lava. Difficult and agitating questions, embarrassing to Government, and dividing public opinion, sprung out of the new state of our foreign relations, and were succeeded by others, and yet again by others, equally embarrassing, and equally exciting division and discord, through the long series of twenty years; till they finally issued in the war with England. Down to the close of that war, no distinct, marked, and deliberate attention had been given, or could have been given, to the internal condition of the country, its capacities of improvement, or the constitutional power of the Government, in regard to objects connected with such improvement.
The peace, Mr. President, brought about an entirely new, and a most interesting state of things: it opened to us other prospects, and suggested other duties. We ourselves were changed, and the whole world was changed. The pacification of Europe, after June, 1815, assumed a firm and permanent aspect. The nations evidently manifested that they were disposed for peace. Some agitation of the waves might be expected, even after the storm had subsided, but the tendency was, strongly and rapidly, towards settled repose.
It so happened, sir, that I was, at that time, a member of Congress, and like others, naturally turned my attention to the contemplation of the newly altered condition of the country, and of the world. It appeared plainly enough to me, as well as to wiser and more experienced men, that the policy of the Government would necessarily take a start in a new direction: because, new directions would necessarily be given to the pursuits and occupations of the people. We had pushed our commerce far and fast, under the advantage of a neutral flag. But there were now no longer flags, either neutral or belligerent. The harvest of neutrality had been great, but we had gathered it all. With the peace of Europe, it was obvious there would spring up in her circle of nations, a revived and invigorated spirit of trade, and a new activity in all the business and objects of civilized life. Hereafter, our commercial gains were to be earned only by success, in a close and intense competition. Other nations would produce for themselves, and carry for themselves, and manufacture for themselves, to the full extent of their abilities. The crops of our plains would no longer sustain European armies, nor our ships longer supply those whom war had rendered unable to supply themselves. It was obvious, that, under these circumstances, the country would begin to survey itself, and to estimate its own capacity of improvement. And this improvement—how was it to be accomplished, and who was to accomplish it? We were ten or twelve millions of people, spread over almost half a world. We were twenty-four States, some stretching along the same sea-board, some along the same line of inland frontier, and others on opposite banks of the same vast rivers. Two considerations at once presented themselves, in looking at this state of things, with great force. One was, that that great branch of improvement, which consisted in furnishing new facilities of intercourse, necessarily ran into different States, in every leading instance, and would benefit the citizens of all such States. No one State, therefore, in such cases, would assume the whole expense, nor was the co-operation of several States to be expected. Take the instance of the Delaware Breakwater. It will cost several millions of money. Would Pennsylvania alone have ever constructed it? Certainly never, while this Union lasts, because it is not for her sole benefit. Would Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, have united to accomplish it, at their joint expense? Certainly not, for the same reason. It could not be done, therefore, but by the General Government. The same may be said of the large inland undertakings, except that, in them, Government, instead of bearing the whole expense, co-operates with others who bear a part. The other consideration is, that the United States have the means. They enjoy all the revenues derived from commerce, and the States have no abundant and easy sources of public income. The custom-houses fill the general treasury, while the States have scanty resources, except by resort to heavy direct taxes.
Under this view of things, I thought it necessary to settle, at least for myself, some definite notions, with respect to the powers of the Government, in regard to internal affairs. It may not savor too much of self-commendation to remark, that, with this object, I considered the Constitution, its judicial construction, its cotemporaneous exposition, and the whole history of the legislation of Congress under it; and I arrived at the conclusion that Government had power to accomplish sundry objects, or aid in their accomplishment, which are now commonly spoken of as InternalImprovements. That conclusion, sir, may have been right, or it may have been wrong. I am not about to argue the grounds of it at large. I say only, that it was adopted and acted on even so early as in 1816. Yes, Mr. President, I made up my opinion, and determined on my intended course of political conduct, on these subjects, in the Fourteenth Congress, in 1816. And now, Mr. President, I have further to say, that I made up these opinions, and entered on this course of political conduct, Teucro duce. Yes, sir, I pursued, in all this, a South Carolina track. On the doctrines of Internal Improvement, South Carolina, as she was then represented in the other House, set forth, in 1816, under a fresh and leading breeze, and I was among the followers. But if my leader sees new lights, and turns a sharp corner, unless I see new lights also, I keep straight on in the same path. I repeat, that leading gentlemen from South Carolina were first and foremost in behalf of the doctrines of Internal Improvements, when those doctrines first came to be considered and acted upon in Congress. The debate on the Bank question, on the Tariff of 1816, and on the Direct Tax, will show who was who, and what was what, at that time. The Tariff of 1816, one of the plain cases of oppression and usurpation, from which, if the Government does not recede, individual States may justly secede from the Government, is, sir, in truth, a South Carolina Tariff,