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nate. At its beginning, General Scott was, by this same President, driven into disfavor, if not disgrace, for intimating that peace could not be conquered in less than three or four months. But now, at the end of twenty months, during which time our arms have given us the most splendid successes—every department, and every part, land and water, officers and pri vates, regulars and volunteers, doing all that men could do, and hundreds of things which it had ever before been thought that man could not do; after all this, this same President gives us a long message without showing us that, as to the end, he has himself even an imaginary conception. As I have before said, he knows not where he is. He is a bewildered, confounded, and miserably perplexed man. God grant he may be able to show there is not something about his conscience more painful than all his mental perplexity!
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
June 20th, 1848.
IN Committee of the Whole on the state of the Union, on the Civil and Diplomatic Appropriation Bill,
Mr. LINCOLN said:
MR. CHAIRMAN: I wish at all times and in no way to practise any fraud upon the House or the Committee, and I also desire to do nothing which may be very disagreeable to any of the members. I therefore state, in advance, that my object in taking the floor is to make a speech on the general subject of internal improvements, and if I am out of order in doing so, I give the Chair an opportunity of so deciding, and I will take my seat.
THE CHAIR: I will not undertake to anticipate what the gertleman may say on the subject of internal improvements. He will, therefore, proceed in his remarks, and if any question of order shall be made, the Chair will then decide it.
Mr. LINCOLN: At an early day of this session the President sent us what may be properly called an internal-improvement veto message. The late Democratic Convention which sat at Baltimore, and which nominated Gen. Cass for the Presidency, adopted a set of resolutions, now called the Democratic platform, among which is one in these words:
"That the Constitution does not confer upon the general government the power to commence and carry on a general system of internal improvements."
General Cass, in his letter accepting the nomination, adds this language:
“I have carefully read the resolutions of the Democratic National Convention, laying down the platform of our political faith, and I adhere to them as firmly as I approve them cordially."
These things, taken together, show that the question of internal improvements is now more distinctly made has become more intense, than at any former period. It can no longer be avoided. The veto message and the Baltimore resolutions I understand to be, in substance, the same thing; the latter being the mere general statement, of which the former is the amplification—the bill of particulars. While I know there are many Democrats, on this floor and elsewhere, who disapprove that message, I understand that all who shall vote for. Gen. Cass will thereafter be counted as having approved it, as having endorsed all its doctrines. I suppose all, or nearly all, the Democrats will vote for him. Many of them will do so, not because they like his position on this question, but because they prefer him, being wrong in this, to another whom they consider further wrong on other questions. In this way the internal improvement Democrats are to be, by a sort of forced consent carried over, and arrayed against themselves on this measure of policy. General Cass, once elected, will not trouble himself to make a constitutional argument, or, perhaps, any argument at all, when he shall veto a river or harbor bill. He will consider it a sufficient answer to all Democratic murmurs, to point to Mr. Polk's message and the "Democratic platform." This being the case, the question of improvements is very near a final crisis; and the friends of the policy must now battle, and battle manfully, or surrender all. In this view, humble as I am, I wish to review, and con
test, as well I may, the general positions of this veto message. When I say general positions, I mean to exclude from consideration so much as relate to the present embarrassed state of the treasury, in consequence of the Mexican war.
Those general positions are: That internal improvements ought not to be made by the general government.
1. Because they would overwhelm the treasury.
2. Because while their burdens would be general, their benefits would be local and partial, involving an obnoxious inequality; and
3. Because they would be unconstitutional.
4. Because the States may do enough by the levy and collection of tonnage duties; or, if not,
5. That the Constitution may be amended.
"Do nothing at all, lest you do something wrong,” is the sum of these positions-is the sum of this message-and this, with the exception of what is said about constitutionality, applying as forcibly to making improvements by State authority, as by the national authority. So that we must abandon the improvements of the country altogether, by any and every authority, or we must resist and repudiate the doctrines of the message. Let us attempt the latter.
The first position is, that a system of internal improvement would overwhelm the treasury.
That in such a system there is a tendency to undue expansion, is not to be denied. Such tendency is found in the nature of the subject. A member of Congress will prefer voting for a bill which contains an appropriation for his district, to voting for one which does not; and when a bill shall be expanded till every district is provided for, that it will be too greatly expanded is obvious. But is this any more true in Congress than in a State legislature? If a member of Congress must have an appropriation for his district, so a member of a legislature must have one for his county; and if one will overwhelm the national treasury, so the others will overwhelm the State treasury. Go where we will, the difficulty is the same. Allow it to drive us from the halls of Congress, and it will just as easily drive us from the State legislatures. Let us, then, grapple with it, and test its strength. Let us, judging the future by the past, ascertain whether there may not be, in the discretion of Congress, a sufficient power to limit and re
strain this expansive tendency within reasonable and proper bounds. The President himself values the evidence of the past. He tells us, that at a certain point of our history, more than two hundred millions of dollars had been applied for, to make improvements; and this he does to prove that the treasury would be overwhelmed by such a system. Why did he not tell us how much was granted? Would not that have been better evidence? Let us turn to it, and see what it proves. In the Message the President tells us, that "during the four succeeding years, embraced by the administration of President Adams, the power not only to appropriate money, but to apply it, under the direction and authority of the general government, as well to the construction of roads as to the improvement of rivers and harbors, was fully asserted and exercised." This, then, was the period of greatest enormity. These, if any, must be the days of the two hundred millions. And how much do you suppose was really expended for improvements during that four years? Two hundred millions? One hundred? Fifty? Ten? Five? No, sir; less than two milAs shown by authentic documents, the expenditures on improvements during 1825, 1826, 1827, and 1828, amounted to $1,879,000 01. These four years were the period of Mr. Adams's administration, nearly and substantially. This fact shows, that when the power to make improvements was "fully maintained and exercised," the Congresses did keep within reasonable limits; and what has been done, it seems to me, can be done again.
Now for the second position of the Message, namely, that the burdens of the improvements would be general, vrhile their benefits would be local and partial, involving an obnoxious inequality. That there is some degree of truth in this position I will not deny. No commercial object of government patronage can be so exclusively general as not to be of some peculiar local advantage; but, on the other hand, nothing is so local as not to be of some general advantage. The navy, as I understand it, was established, and is maintained at a great annual expense, partly to be ready for war, when war shall come, but partly, also, and perhaps chiefly, for the protection of our commerce on the high seas. The latter object is, as far as I can see, in principle, the same as internal improvements. The driving of a pirate from the track of commerce, on the broad ocean, and
the removing of a snag from its more narrow path in the Mississippi river, cannot, I think, be distinguished in principle. Each is done to save life and property, and for nothing else. The navy, then, is the most general in its benefits of all this class of objects; and yet the navy is of some peculiar advantage to Charleston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New-York, and Boston, beyond what it is to the interior towns of Illinois. The next most general object I can think of, would be the improvement of the Mississippi river and its tributaries. They touch thirteen of our States-Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Now, I suppose it will not be denied, that these thirteen States are a little more interested in improvements on that great river than the remaining seventeen. These instances of the navy and the Mississippi river, show clearly that there is something of local advantage in the most general objects. But the converse is true. Nothing is so local as not be of some general benefit. Take, for instance, the Illinois and Michigan canal—considered apart from its effects, it is perfectly local; every inch of it is within the State of Illinois. That canal was first opened for business last April. In a very few days we were all gratified to learn, among other things, that sugar had been carried through the canal from New-Orleans to Buffalo, in New-York. This sugar took this route, doubtless, because it was cheaper than the old route. Supposing the benefit in the reduction of the cost of carriage to be shared between the buyer and seller, the result is, that the New-Orleans merchant sold his sugar a little dearer, and the people of Buffalo sweetened their coffee a little cheaper than before-a benefit resulting from the canal, not to Illinois where the canal is, but to Louisiana and NewYork, where it is not. In other transactions Illinois will, of course, have her share, and perhaps the larger share too, in the benefits of the canal; but the instance of the sugar clearly shows, that the benefits of an improvement are, by no means, confined to the locality of the improvement itself.
The just conclusion from all this is, that if the nation refuse to make improvements of the more general kind, because their benefits may be somewhat local, a State may, for the same reason, refuse to make an improvement of a local kind, because its benefits may be somewhat general. A State may