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allude to another one of the great improvements in our new Constitution, which is a clause prohibiting Congress from appropriating any money from the Treasury except by a two-thirds vote, unless it be for some object which the Executive may say is necessary to carry on the Government.
When it is thus asked for and estimated, he continued, the majority may appropriate. This was a new feature.
Our fathers had guarded the assessment of taxes by insisting that representation and taxation should go together. This was inherited from the mother country-England. It was one of the principles upon which the Revolution had been fought. Our fathers also provided in the old Constitution that all appropriation bills should originate in the Representative branch of Congress; but our new Constitution went a step further, and guarded not only the pockets of the people, but also the public money, after it was taken from their pockets.
He alluded to the difficulties and embarrassments which seemed to surround the question of a peaceful solution of the controversy with the old Government. How can it be done? is perplexing many minds. The President seems to think that he can not recognize our independence, nor can he, with and by the advice of the Senate, do so. The Constitution makes no such provision. A general convention of all the States has been suggested by some. Without proposing to solve the difficulty, he barely made the following suggestions:
That as the admission of States by Congress under the Constitution was an act of legislation, and in the nature of a contract or compact between the States admitted and the others admitting, why should not this contract or compact be regarded as of like character with all other civil contracts-liable to be rescinded by mutual agreement of both parties? The seceding States have rescinded it on their part. Why can not the whole question be settled, if the North desire peace, simply by the Congress, in both branches, with the concurrence of the President, giving their consent to the separation, and a recognition of our independence? This he merely offered as a suggestion, as one of the ways in which it might be done with much less violence to constructions of the Constitution than many other acts of that Government. [Applause.] The difficulty has to be solved in some way or otherthis may be regarded as a fixed fact.
Several other points were alluded to by Mr. S., particularly as to
the policy of the new Government toward foreign nations and our commercial relations with them. Free trade, as far as practicable, would be the policy of this Government. No higher duties would be imposed on foreign importation than would be necessary to support the Government upon the strictest economy.
In olden times the olive branch was considered the emblem of peace. We will send to the nations of the earth another and far more potential emblem of the same-the COTTON PLANT. The present duties were levied with a view of meeting the present necessities and exigencies, in preparation for war, if need be; but if we had peace--and he hoped we might-and trade should resume its proper course, a duty of ten per cent. upon foreign importations, it was thought, might be sufficient to meet the expenditures of the Government. If some articles should be left on the free list, as they now are, such as breadstuffs, etc., then, of course, duties upon others would have to be higher-but in no event to an extent to embarrass trade and commerce. He concluded in an earnest appeal for union and harmony, on the part of all the people, in support of the common cause, in which we are all enlisted, and upon the issues of which such great consequences depend.
If, said he, we are true to ourselves, true to our cause, true to our destiny, true to our high mission, in presenting to the world the highest type of civilization ever exhibited by man, there will be found in our lexicon no such word as Fail.
Mr. Stephens took his seat amid a burst of enthusiasm and applause such as the Atheneum has never displayed within its walls within "the recollection of the oldest inhabitant."