Open main menu

Page:Register of debates in congress, v6.djvu/76

This page needs to be proofread.


construed to affirm or admit a power in Congress, on their own authority, to make Roads or Canals, within any of the States of the Union.” The yeas and nays were taken on this proviso, and the honorable member voted in the negative! The proviso failed.

A motion was then made to add this proviso, viz:

“Provided, That the faith of the United States is hereby pledged, that no money shall ever be expended for Roads or Canals, except it shall be among the several States, and in the same proportion as direct taxes are laid and assessed by the provisions of the Constitution.”

The honorable member voted against this proviso, also, and it failed. The bill was then put on its passage, and the honorable member voted for it, and it passed, and became a law.

Now, it strikes me, sir, that there is no maintaining these votes, but upon the power of Internal Improvement, in its broadest sense. In truth, these bills for surveys and estimates have always been considered as test questions—they show who is for and who against Internal Improvement. This law itself went the whole length, and assumed the full and complete power. The gentleman’s votes sustained that power, in every form in which the various propositions to amend presented it. He went for the entire and unrestrained authority, without consulting the States, and without agreeing to any proportionate distribution. And now suffer me to remind you, Mr. President, that it is this very same power, thus sanctioned, in every form, by the gentleman’s own opinion, that is so plain and manifest a usurpation, that the State of South Carolina is supposed to be justified in refusing submission to any laws carrying the power into effect. Truly, sir, is not this a little too hard? May we not crave some mercy, under favor and protection of the gentleman’s own authority? Admitting that a road, or a canal, must be written down flat usurpation as ever was committed, may we find no mitigation in our respect for his place, and his vote, as one that knows the law?

The Tariff, which South Carolina had an efficient hand in establishing, in 1816, and this asserted power of Internal Improvement, advanced by her in the same year, and, as we have seen, approved and sanctioned by her Representatives in 1824, these two measures are the great grounds on which she is now thought to be justified in breaking up the Union, if she sees fit to break it up!

I may now safely say, I think, that we have had the authority of leading and distinguished gentlemen from South Carolina, in support of the doctrine of Internal Improvement. I repeat, that, up to 1824, I, for one, followed South Carolina; but, when that star, in its ascension, veered off, in an unexpected direction, I relied on its light no longer. [Here the Vice President said: Does the Chair understand the gentleman from Massachusetts to say that the person now occupying the Chair of the Senate has changed his opinions on the subject of Internal Improvements?] From nothing ever said to me, Sir, have I had reason to know of any change in the opinions of the person filling the Chair of the Senate. If such change has taken place, I regret it. I speak generally of the State of South Carolina. Individuals, we know there are, who hold opinions favorable to the power. An application for its exercise, in behalf of a public work in South Carolina itself, is now pending, I believe, in the other House, presented by members from that State.

I have thus, sir, perhaps, not without some tediousness of detail, shown that if I am in error, on the subjects of Internal Improvement, how, and in what company, I fell into that error. If I am wrong, it is apparent who misled me.

I go to other remarks of the honorable member, and I have to complain, of an entire misapprehension of what I said on the subject of the national debt, though I can hardly perceive how any one could misunderstand me. What I said was, not that I wished to put off the payment of the debt, but, on the contrary, that I had always voted for every measure for its reduction, as uniformly as the gentleman himself. He seems to claim the exclusive merit of a disposition to reduce the public charge. I do not allow it to him. As a debt, I was, I am for paying it, because it is a charge on our finances, and on the industry of the country. But I observed, that I thought I perceived a morbid fervor on that subject—an excessive anxiety to pay off the debt, not so much because it is a debt simply, as because, while it lasts, it furnishes one objection to disunion. It is a tie of common interest, while it lasts. I did not impute such motives to the honorable member himself, but that there is such a feeling in existence, I have not a particle of doubt. The most I said was, that if one effect of the debt was to strengthen our Union, that effect itself was not regretted by me, however much others might regret it. The gentleman has not seen how to reply to this, otherwise than by supposing me to have advanced the doctrine that a national debt is a national blessing. Others, I must hope, will find less difficulty in understanding me. I distinctly and pointedly cautioned the honorable member not to understand me as expressing an opinion favorable to the continuance of the debt. I repeated this caution, and repeated it more than once; but it was thrown away.

On yet another point, I was still more unaccountably misunderstood. The gentleman had harangued against “consolidation.” I told him, in reply, that there was one kind of consolidation to which I was attached, and that was, the consolidation of our union; and that this was precisely that consolidation to which I feared others were not attached. That such consolidation was the very end of the constitution—the leading object, as they had informed us themselves, which its framers had kept in view. I turned to their communication, and read their very words—“the consolidation of the Union”—and expressed my devotion to this sort of consolidation. I said, in terms, that I wished not, in the slightest degree, to augment the powers of this Government; that my object was to preserve, not to enlarge; and that by consolidating the Union, I understood no more than the strengthening of the Union, and perpetuating it. Having been thus explicit; having thus read from the printed book, the precise words which I adopted, as expressing my own sentiments, it passes comprehension, how any man could understand me as contending for an extension of the powers of the Government, or for consolidation, in that odious sense, in which it means an accumulation in the Federal Government, of the powers properly belonging to the States.

I repeat, sir, that in adopting the sentiment of the framers of the Constitution, I read their language audibly, and word for word; and I pointed out the distinction, just as fully as I have now done, between the consolidation of the Union and that other obnoxious consolidation which I disclaimed. And yet the honorable member misunderstood me. The gentlemen had said that he wished for no fixed revenue—not a shilling. If, by a word, he could convert the Capitol into gold, he would not do it. Why all this fear of revenue? Why, sir, because, as the gentleman told us, it tends to consolidation. Now, this can mean neither more nor less than that a common revenue is a common interest, and that all common interests tend to hold the Union of the States together. I confess I like that tendency; if the gentleman dislikes it, he is right in deprecating a shilling’s fixed revenue. So much, sir, for consolidation.

As well as I recollect the course of his remarks, the honorable gentlemen next recurred to the subject of the Tariff. He did not doubt the word must be of unpleasant sound to me, and proceeded, with an effort, neither new, nor attended with new success, to involve me and my votes in inconsistency and contradiction. I am happy the honorable gentleman has furnished me an opportunity of a timely