Page images

studies, and whose taste might have been expected to improve much by subsequent discipline. Had he recovered his health under the glowing sky of Italy, what might not have been expected of his ripened genius ten years hence?

We might have dwelt upon his faults-some peculiarities might even have been ridiculed with success, but we had no disposition to do so after a candid and attentive perusal of the whole work.

ART. VII.-1. Message from the President of the United States, transmitting the information in relation to expenditures incident or relating to Internal Improvements, for the years 1824–1825. (April 3, 1826.) Washington. 1826.

2. Letter from the Secretary of War, transmitting information respecting the surveys of Roads and Canals, and of their relative importance. (February 19, 1827.) Washington. 1827.

3. Documents accompanying the President's Message to Congress at the commencement of the first Session of the Twentieth Congress. (December 4, 1827.) Washington. 1827.

4. Letter from the Secretary of War, transmitting the information and in relation to the amount deemed necessary in the execution and completion of each work of Internal Improvement specified in the Report made on the 4th of March, 1828. (April 29, 1828.) Washington. 1828.

5. Speech of the Hon. William Smith, of South-Carolina, in the Senate of the United States, on the bill making appropriation for Internal Improvements, delivered on the 11th of April, 1828. Washington, printed-Charleston, re-printed, 1828.

THERE are three subjects pressing upon the public attention and feelings with an increasing power, threatening even to prostrate the fair fabric of our hopes and of our prosperity, and to obscure the lustre of that example which the United States were expected to exhibit for the instruction of mankind. It is remarkable, but it will not appear extraordinary to those who study carefully, the history and condition, and local peculiari

ties of our country, that these sources of disquietude have all arisen from that improvident, we might truly say, unpropitious extension of the powers of the government, which we have had already too much reason to deprecate, which times to come may have so many causes to deplore. The framers of the Constitution gave to their new system, openly and unequivocally, all the powers which they supposed necessary to secure the safety, and ensure the welfare of the country-they gave wisely and they gave liberally. They knew also the peculiar circumstances of the several States-their various habits and domestic establishments, the difficulty, nay, the impossibility of uniting them in one consolidated government, and they prudently withbeld some prerogatives. But amidst the vague and accidental expressions of an instrument, generally guarded in its phraseology, later times have culled some latent meanings, and statesmen have been found, rash or heedless enough, to call into exercise these ambiguous powers, and to put in jeopardy the happiness of the people, rather than forego the advantages which these prerogatives would afford to the administrators of the government.

The Union was formed by compromise, by mutual concession, by a sense of mutual benefit. It must be preserved by discretion, by forbearance, by a regard to the mutual wants and feelings of the different members of the confederacy. It is not by requiring unconditional submission to every arbitrary exercise of disputed jurisdiction, it is not by raising the cry of treason, the common watchword of despotic governments, against all who oppose encroachment, bnt by exercising with moderation the authority actually placed in its hands, and by forbearing to press its doubtful claims on a reluctant people, that a government will continue to preserve harmony and good order among its citizens. How much more prudent and wise would it be to obtain as an amendment to the Constitution, any powers which may be considered necessary or even beneficial, than to assume them on the strength of a doubtful construction and against the opinions of a very large portion, even if that portion should be a minority of the citizens of the United States.

The three subjects to which we alluded, at the commencement of this article, are the Tariff, the system of Internal Improvements, and the Slave Question. On the first, if for a time postponed, we have much to say-we hope the good sense

Majestatem minuere, est aliquid de republicà, cum potestatem non habeas, administrare.-Cic. d. Inventione, lib. ii. c. 18. According, therefore, to this accurate definition of Cicero, it is he who enacts an unconstitutional law, not he who resists it, that commits treason.

of our countrymen will terminate the controversies to which it has given rise. For let it be disguised as it may-let it be clothed with ambiguities, covered with verbiage, it is neither more nor less than an assumption by the government, of power to regulate the distribution of labour and of wealth throughout our country, and to apply the property of one portion of our citizens to encourage and reward the idle, or wasteful, or speculative projects of another. On the last, it is sufficient to remark, that it is one which has not been submitted to the Congress of the United States, and in which it will not be permitted to interfere. Our observations in the following pages shall be confined to the doctrine of internal improvements, that part of our practical system, which, on its present principles, is most liable to abuse, and yet most readily admitting of correction; that "threatening ill" which, if the statesmen of our country could again unite in a cordial and equitable spirit, might easily be removed from among the causes that must act injuriously on the harmony of the Union.

In a former article in this journal, we have spoken of the constitutional right to exercise this prerogative. When we find every great defender of this power placing it on a different basis, deriving it from a different source, nothing can be more strong than the conviction that it is derived from construction— not from a distinct and specific grant. When on the other hand, we notice how clear and definite are the expressions of the Constitution whenever it was intended to grant power; that every proposition made in the Convention to include, expressly, objects of this nature among the prerogatives granted to the government, was uniformly rejected; and, that the authors of the Constitution repeatedly and invariably declared that no power was granted or intended to be granted, which was not openly expressed. It seems impossible to deny that this construction of the Constitution is an assumption of authority not intended to be granted by those who framed that instrument, not supposed to be granted by those who adopted it. If these witnesses are not to be received and credited, in vain shall we hope to set any limit to the constructive claims of the government, unless by such means as every patriot would wish to avoid, as no citizeu can look to without recoiling from the unwelcome prospect. How striking is the language of the great Roman orator, when in one of his pleadings, as if uttering words of wisdom for our instruction, he eloquently exclaims-" Quod lex, quod senatusconsultum, quod magistratus edictum, quod fœdus aut pactio,

* Vol. i. p. 291.

quod (ut ad privatas res redeam) testamentum; quæ judicia aut stipulationes, aut pacti et conventi formula non infirmari aut convelli potest, si ad verba rem deflectere velimus; consilium autem eorum qui scripserunt et rationem et auctoritatem, relinquamus ?"

The government has passed on in its course, and the opinions, the reasons, and the authority of those who established this covenant, have been abandoned. Substance has given way to form, words have been rendered paramount to intentions, and the principles of the compact have been essentially altered and broken in upon, if not totally subverted. It is in vain to conceal the fact, our Constitution is becoming a dead letter; and excepting as to the times, places, and manner of holding elections, and the qualification of electors, which have been fortunately left to the superintendence and control of the State Legislatures; and the very few, and (if we except the restriction imposed on the States) very unimportant points which have been positively interdicted, we know not what restraints are considered as now existing or imposed on the operation of the government, and of its tribunals. Every year power is added to power, precedent heaped upon precedent, and the outposts and bulwarks of the Constitution, around which, some twenty or thirty years ago, such stormy, and, for a time, such successful contests were maintained, have been swept away by the slow, but unceasing tide of encroachment.

If we had leisure and materials to take an historical review of the practice of our government on every occasion where internal improvements or subjects connected with them were introduced, it would open a wide field for observation and reflection. There would be discovered the strong bias and operation, not of party but of sectional principles; the continued prevalence of a spirit which forever vigilant, forever careful of sectional interests, has succeeded in locating every establishment of the government, navy yards, armories, military schools, &c. to the north of the Potomac, or on its borders. No advantage of this nature, however small, was overlooked-while the members from the Southern States, with the careless liberality which belongs to their character were contented, so the government went on prosperously, to forego all local advantages. Hence, while navy yards were established at so many points, and at such short intervals from Norfolk to Portsmouth, no one was located along the long line of southern coast. Since the acquisition of Florida, the increasing commerce of the Mississippi, and the increasing influence of the Western States, have compelled the government to VOL. II. NO. 4. 60

pay some attention to this subject, and a navy yard has been commenced at Pensacola; but Port Royal, which, from all we know and can learn, is at least equal to Pensacola in all respects, superior in the advantages which a great rise of the tide affords, has always been in our possession and always neglected. If not equal in depth of water on the bar to some of our northern harbours, it yet sheltered, during the siege of Charleston in 1780, the ships of the line which convoyed the British army to Carolina, and we doubt whether the Dutch ever built a ship of war which might not have entered that inlet-and whatever may be the declining fortunes of Holland at the present day, history attests that on the ocean they have never been an inexpert, nor contemptible adversary. Even now, the coast from Norfolk to Pensacola, on which there is no public establishment where vessels can be sheltered, provisioned or repaired, exceeds fourteen hundred miles; and the heavy materials for ship-building are all transported at a great expense, from seven hundred to one thousand miles, to avoid the necessity of building near the places where they are collected.

It seemed, indeed, as if the Southern States were considered unsuitable for any national establishment, and all must, of necessity, be located at the North-yet, while the habits of the government, if we may use the expression, were economical, these partialities were unnoticed, or only excited some occasional murmurs. But these times have passed away-the doctrines and feelings of the government have undergone an entire revolution since it has been discovered, that internal improvements could be smuggled in through the post-office, or as a commercial regulation, or along a military road, or in some guise or other, or that a majority of Congress was determined, at all events, to have them introduced, because, according to the commentary of that learned casuist Lord Peter, on a similar occasion, if they were not included in the provisions of the Constitution "totidem

This inlet has been lately surveyed by the orders of the Naval Department. We know not the result of this examination, but in 1798, it was, at the request of the inhabitants of Beaufort, carefully examined and sounded by two skilful seamen, who had, for many years, been commanders of vessels in the merchant service. They found on the bar, at low tide, twenty one and a half feet of water. The tides, on this part of our coast, never rise, we believe, less than six feet with any wind with which a heavy vessel can enter our harbours; on spring tides, or with eastwardly winds, the rise of the tide is generally from seven to ten feet. We know not why all of our vessels need be built on one model, even if that model has some advantages, or that on a coast like our's, where, for more than a thousand miles, the entrance into our harbours is difficult-that all the advantages of shelter and refreshment should be sacrificed or abandoned to the one advantage of sailing somewhat closer on a wind.

« PreviousContinue »