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cause, of the slow progress of all government improvements, consists in the fact that the appropriation for any one object is usually too small to be of material service. It may be sufficient for the commencement of the work, but before it can be completed, or even so far advanced as to withstand the effects of storms, and floods, and the elements, the appropriation is exhausted, and a large portion of the work swept away before funds can be obtained for finishing it, or even protecting that which has been done. The ruinous consequences of these small appropriations are well understood and seriously deprecated, but they arise from the necessity of the case, and constitute some of the evils inseparable from the policy. All experience proves that the numberless items of a river and harbor, or internal improvement bill, can not pass, each by itself, and upon its own merits, and that the friends of particular works will not allow appropriations to be made for the completion of others which are supposed to be of paramount importance unless theirs are embraced in the same bill. Each member seems to think the work in his own district to be of the sternest necessity and highest importance, and hence feels constrained to give his own the preference, or to defeat any bill which does not include it. The result is a legislative omnibus, in which all manner of objects are crowded together indiscriminately; and as there never is and never can be money enough in the treasury to make adequate appropriations for the whole, and as the bill can not pass unless each has something, of course the amount for each item must be reduced so low as to make it of little or no service, and thus render the whole bill almost a total loss. In this manner a large portion of our people have been kept in a state of suspense and anxiety for more than half a century, with their hopes always excited and their expectations never realized.
I repeat that the policy heretofore pursued has proved worse than a failure. If we expect to provide facilities and securities for our navigating interests, we must adopt a system commensurate with our wants-one which will be just and equal in its operations upon lake, river, and ocean, wherever the water is navigable, fresh or salt, tide or no tide-a system which will not depend for its success upon the dubious and fluctuating issues of political campaigns and Congressional combinations—one which will be certain, uniform, and unvarying in its results. I know of no system better calculated to accomplish these objects than that which commanded the approbation of the founders of the republic, was successively adopted on various occasions since that period, and directly referred to in the message of the President. It is evidently the system contemplated by the framers of the Constitution when they incorporated into that instrument the clause in relation to tonnage duties by the states with the assent of Congress. The debates show that this provision was inserted for the express purpose of enabling the states to levy duties of tonnage to make harbor and other improvements for the benefit of navigation. It was objected that the power to regulate commerce having already been vested exclusively in Congress, the jurisdiction of the states over harbor and river improvements, without the consent or supervision of the federal government, might be so exercised as to conflict with the Congressional regulations in respect to commerce. In order to avoid this objection, and at the same time reserve to the states the power of making the necessary improvements, consistent with such rules as should be prescribed by Congress for the regulation of commerce, the provision was modified and adopted in the form in which we now find it in the Constitution, to wit: "no state shall lay duties of tonnage except by the consent of Congress." It is evident from the debates that the framers of the Constitution looked to tonnage duties as the source from which funds were to be derived for improvements in navigation. The only diversity of opinion among them arose upon the point whether those duties should be levied and the works constructed by the federal government
or under state authority. These doubts were solved by the clause quoted, providing, in effect, that while the power was reserved to the states, it should not be exercised except by the consent of Congress, in order that the local legislation for the improvement of navigation might not conflict with the general enactments for the regulation of commerce. Yet the first Congress which assembled under the Constitution commenced that series of contradictory and partial enactments which has continued to the present time, and proven the fruitful source of conflict and dissension.
The first of these acts provided that all expenses for the support of lighthouses, beacons, buoys, and public piers, should be paid out of the national treasury, on the condition that the states in which the same should be situated respectively should cede to the United States the said works, "together with the lands and tenements thereunto belonging, and together with the jurisdiction of the same." A few months afterward the same Congress passed an act consenting that the States of Rhode Island, Maryland, and Georgia might levy tonnage duties for the purpose of improving certain harbors and rivers within their respective limits. This contradictory legislation upon a subject of great national importance, although commenced by the first Congress, and frequently suspended and renewed at uncertain and irregular periods, seems never to have been entirely abandoned. While appropriations from the national treasury have been partial and irregular-sometimes granted and at others withheld-stimulating hopes only to be succeeded by disappointments, tonnage duties have also been collected by the consent of Congress, at various times and for limited periods, in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and perhaps other states. Indeed, there has never been a time, since the declaration of Independence, when tonnage duties have not been collected under state authority for the improvement of rivers or harbors, or both. The last act giving the consent of Congress to the collection of these duties was passed for the benefit of the port of Baltimore in 1850, and will not expire until 1861.
Thus it will be seen that the proposition to pass a general law giving the consent of Congress to the imposition of tonnage duties according to a uniform rule, and upon equal terms in all the states and Territories of the Union, does not contemplate the introduction of a new principle into our legislation upon this subject. It only proposes to convert a partial and fluctuating policy into a permanent and efficient system.
If this proposition should receive the sanction of Congress, and be carried into successful operation by the states, it would withdraw river and harbor improvements from the perils of the political arena, and commit them to the fostering care of the local authorities, with a steady and unceasing source of revenue for their prosecution. The system would be plain, direct, and simple in respect to harbor improvements. Each town and city would have charge of the improvement of its own harbor, and would be authorized to tax its own commerce to the extent necessary for its construction. The money could be applied to no other object than the improvement of the harbor, and no higher duties could be levied than were necessary for that purpose. There would seem to be no danger of the power being abused; for, in addition to the restrictions, limitations, and conditions which should be embraced in the laws conferring the consent of Congress, self-interest will furnish adequate and ample assurances and motives for the faithful execution of the trusts. If any town whose harbor needs improvement should fail to impose the duties and make the necessary works, such neglect would inevitably tend to drive the commerce to some rival port, which would use all the means in its power to render its harbor safe and commodious, and afford all necessary protection and facilities to navigation and trade. If, on the other
hand, any place should attempt to impose higher duties than will be absolutely necessary for the construction of the requisite improvements, this line of policy, to the extent of the excess, would have the same deleterious effects upon its prosperity. The same injurious influences would result from errors and blunders in the plan of the work, or from extravagance and corruption in the expenditure of the money. Hence each locality, and every citizen and person interested therein, would have a direct and personal interest in the adoption of a wise plan, and in securing strict economy and entire fidelity in the expenditure of the money. While upon the rivers the plan of operations would not be so direct and simple as in the improvement of harbors, yet even there it is not perceived that any serious inconvenience or obstacle would arise to the success of the system. It would be necessary that the law, which shall grant the consent of Congress to the imposition of the duties, shall also give a like consent in conformity with the same provision of the Constitution, that where the river to be improved shall form the boundary of, or be situated in two or more states, such states may enter into compacts with each other, by which they may, under their joint authority, levy the duties and improve the navigation.
In this manner Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey could enter into a compact for the improvement of the Delaware River, by which each would appoint one commissioner, and the three commissioners constitute a board, which would levy the duties, prescribe the mode of their collection, devise the plan of the improvement, and superintend the expenditure of the money. The six states bordering on the Ohio River, in like manner, could each appoint a commissioner, and the six constitute a board for the improvement of the navigation of that river from Pittsburg to the Mississippi. The same plan could be applied to the Mississippi, by which the nine states bordering upon that stream could each appoint one commissioner, and the nine form a board for the removal of snags and other obstructions in the channel from the Falls of St. Anthony to the Gulf of Mexico. There seems to be no difficulty, therefore, in the execution of the plan where the water-course lies in two or more states, or forms the boundary thereof in whole or in part; and where the river is entirely within the limits of any one state, like the Illinois or Alabama, it may be improved in such manner as the Legislature may prescribe, subject only to such conditions and limitations as may be contained in the act of Congress giving its consent. All the necessities and difficulties upon this subject seem to have been foreseen and provided for in the same clause of the Constitution, wherein it is declared, in effect, that, with the consent of Congress, tonnage duties may be levied for the improvement of rivers and harbors, and that the several states may enter into compacts with each other for that purpose whenever it shall become necessary, subject only to such rules as Congress shall prescribe for the regulation of commerce.
It only remains for me to notice some of the objections which have been urged to this system. It has been said that tonnage duties are taxes upon the commerce of the country, which must be paid in the end by the consumers of the articles bearing the burden. I do not feel disposed to question the soundness of this proposition. I presume the same is true of all the duties, tolls, and charges upon all public works, whether constructed by government or individuals. The State of New York derives a revenue of more than two millions of dollars a year from her canals. Of course this is a tax upon the commerce of the country, and is borne by those who are interested in and benefited by it. This tax is a blessing or a burden, dependent upon the fact whether it has the effect to diminish or increase the cost of transportation. If we could not have enjoyed the benefit of the canal without the payment of the tolls, and if, by its construction and the payment, the cost of transportation has been reduced to one tenth the sum which we would have been
compelled to have paid without it, who would not be willing to make a still further contribution to the security and facilities of navigation, if thereby the price of freights are to be reduced in a still greater ratio? The tolls upon our own canal are a tax upon commerce, yet we cheerfully submit to the payment for the reason that they were indispensable to the construction of a great work, which has had the effect to reduce the cost of transportation between the Lakes and the Mississippi far below what it would have been if the canal had not been made. All the charges on the fourteen thousand miles of railroad now in operation in the different states of this Union are just so many taxes upon commerce and travel, yet we do not repudiate the whole railroad system on that account, nor object to the payment of such reasonable charges as are necessary to defray the expenses of constructing and operating them. But it may be said that if all the railroads and canals were built with funds from the national treasury, and were then thrown open to the uses of commerce and travel free of charge, the rates of transportation would be less than they now are. It may be that the rates of transportation would be less, but would our taxes be reduced thereby? No matter who is intrusted with the construction of the works, somebody must foot the bill. If the federal government undertake to make railroads and canals, and river and harbor improvements, somebody must pay the expenses. In order to meet this enlarged expenditure, it would be necessary to augment the revenue by increased taxes upon the commerce of the country. The whole volume of revenue which now fills and overflows the national treasury, with the exception of the small item resulting from the sales of public lands, is derived from a system of taxes imposed upon commerce and collected through the machinery of the customhouses. No matter, therefore, whether these works are made by the federal government, or by stimulating and combining local and individual enterprise under state authority; in any event, they remain a tax upon commerce to the extent of the expenditure.
That system which will insure the construction of the improvements upon the best plan and at the smallest cost will prove the least oppressive to the tax-payer and the most useful to commerce. It requires no argument to prove-for every day's experience teaches us-that public works of every description can be made at a much smaller cost by private enterprise, or by the local authorities directly interested in the improvement, than when constructed by the federal government. Hence, inasmuch as the expenses of constructing river and harbor improvements must, under either plan, be defrayed by a tax upon commerce in the first instance, and finally upon the whole people interested in that commerce, I am of the opinion that the burdens would be less under this system referred to in the message than by appropriations from the federal treasury. Those who seem not to have understood the difference have attempted to excite prejudice against this plan for the improvement of navigations by comparing it to the burdens imposed upon the navigation of the Rhine, the Elbe, the Oder, and other rivers running through the German states. The people residing upon these rivers did not complain that they were required to pay duties for the improvement of their navigation. Such was not the fact. No duties were imposed for any such purpose. No improvements in the navigation were ever made or contemplated by those who exacted the tolls. Taxes were extorted from the navigating interest by the petty sovereigns through whose dominions the rivers run, for the purpose of defraying the expenses of the pomp, and ceremonies, and follies of vicious and corrupt courts. The complaint was, that grievous and unnecessary burdens were imposed on navigation without expending any portion of the money for its protection and improvement. Their complaints were just. They should have protested, if they had lived under a government where the voice of the people could be heard, against the payment of
any more or higher tolls than were necessary for the improvement of the navigation, and have insisted that the funds collected should be applied to that purpose and none other. In short, a plan similar to the one now proposed would have been a full and complete redress of all their grievances upon this subject.
In conclusion, I will state that my object in addressing you this communication is to invite your special attention to so much of the President's Message as relates to river and harbor improvements, with the view that when the Legislature shall assemble, either in special or general session, the subject may be distinctly submitted to their consideration for such action as the great interests of commerce may demand.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your friend and fellow-citizen, S. A. DOUGLAS.
JOEL A. MATTESON, Governor of the State of Illinois.
THE ILLINOIS CENTRAL RAILROAD GRANT.
In 1843 Mr. Douglas entered Congress, and for over seven years he supported and struggled to obtain that magnificent grant of land which led to the construction of the Illinois Central Railroad, and eventually to the establishment of the grand web of railroads which is now spread out all over the Northwestern States. The construction of a great railroad from the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers through the state to a point on the Illinois River, and thence north to Galena, had for many years been one of the leading topics in Illinois. It was regarded then and very justly as the one great thing needed to develop the resources of the state, and attract to its fruitful soil the tide of emigration. When the Internal Improvement System broke down so irretrievably in the state, the attention of the people was directed to Congress and to the public lands as the only reliable resources from whence the necessary aid to construct the desired work could be expected.
When Mr. Douglas entered Congress there was in existence in Illinois a company possessing certain rights to construct a railroad from Cairo to the north. This company was generally known as the "Cairo Company;" it had petitioned Congress for permission to enter as pre-emptions a certain quantity of land along the line of the proposed road. The title of the company was the "Great Western Railway Company." A Mr. Holbrook was the active operator in its affairs.
In the Senate, at the session of '43,-'4, a bill was introduced and reported upon favorably, granting to Holbrook's company the right of way through the public lands for a railway, and entitling them to enter as pre-emptors the public lands along the route, they to pay the government eventually one