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except in the performance of acts authorized by the other specific grants of power, according to a strict construction of them; but that, on further reflection and observation, his mind had undergone a change; that his opinion then was, “ that Congress have unlimited power to raise money, and that, in its appropriation, they have a discretionary power, restricted only by the duty to appropriate it to purposes of common defence, and of general, national, not local, or state, benefit;" and this was avowed to be the governing principle through the residue of his administration. The views of the last administration are of such recent date as to render a particular reference to them unnecessary. It is well known that the appropriating power, to the utmost extent which had been claimed for it, in relation to internal improvements, was fully recognized and exercised by it.
This brief reference to known facts will be sufficient to show the difficulty, if not impracticability, of bringing back the operation of the government to the construction of the Constitution set up in 1798, assuming that to be its true reading, in relation to the power under consideration ; thus giving an admonitory proof of the force of implication, and the necessity of guarding the Constitution, with sleepless vigilance, against the authority of precedents which have not the sanction of its most plainly. detined powers; for, although it is the duty of all to look to that sacred instrument, instead of the statute-book, – to repudiate, at all times, encroachments upon its spirit, which are too apt to be effected by the conjuncture of peculiar and facilitating circumstances, it is not less true that the public good and the nature of our political institutions require that individual differences should yield to a well-settled acquiescence of the people and confederated authorities, in particular constructions of the Constitution, on doubtful points. Not to concede this much to the spirit of our institutions would impair their stability, and defeat the objects of the Constitution itself.
The only remaining view which it is my intention to present at this time, involves the expediency of embarking in a system of internal improvement, without a previous amendment of the Constitution, explaining and defining the precise powers of the federal government over it. Assuming the right to appropriate money, to aid in the construction of national works, to be warranted by the contemporaneous and continued exposition of the Constitution, its insufficiency for the successful prosecution of them must be admitted by all candid minds. If we look to usage to define the extent of the right, that will be found so variant, and embracing so much that has been overruled, as to involve the whole subject in great uncertainty, and to render the execution of our respective duties in relation to it replete with difficulty and embarrassment. It is in regard to such works, and the acquisition of additional territory, that the practice obtained its first footing. În most, if not all, other disputed questions of appropriation, the construction of the Constitution may be regarded as unsettled, if the right to apply money, in the enumerated cases, is placed on the ground of usage.
If it be the desire of the people that the agency of the federal government should be confined to the appropriation of money, in aid of such undertakings, in virtue of the state authorities, then the occasion, the manner, and the extent of the appropriations, should be made the subject of constitutional regulation. This is the more necessary, in order that they may be equitable among the several states; promote harmony between sections of the Union and their representatives ; preserve other parts of the Constitution from being undermined by the exercise of doubtful powers, or the too great extension of those which are not so; and protect the whole subject against the deleterious influence of combinations to carry, by concert, measures which, considered by themselves, might meet but little countenance.
That a constitutional adjustment of this power, upon equitable principles, is, in the highest degree, desirable, can scarcely be doubted; nor can it fail to be promoted by every sincere friend to the success of our political institutions. In no government are appeals to the source of power, in cases of real doubt, more suitable than in ours. No good motive can be assigned for the exercise of power by the constituted authorities; while those, for whose benefit it is to be exercised, have not conferred it, and may not be willing to confer it. It would seem to me that an honest application of the conceded powers of the general government to the advancement of the common weal presents a sufficient scope to satisfy a reasonable ambition. The difficulty and supposed impracticability of obtaining an amendment of the Constitution, in this respect, is, I firmly believe, in a great degree, unfounded.
In presenting these opinions, I have spoken with the freedom and candor which I thought the occasion for their expression called for; and now respectfully return the bill which has been under consideration, for your further deliberation and judgment.
ANDREW JACKSON. [General Jackson, in addition to the above, has exercised the veto power on several bills.-- See APPENDIX.]
VIRGINIA RESOLUTIONS OF 1798,
PRONOUNCING THE ALIEN AND SEDITION LAWS TO BE UNCONSTITU
TIONAL, AND DEFINING THE RIGHTS OF THE STATES.
DRAWN BY MR. MADISON.
VIRGINIA HOUSE OF DELEGATES,
FRIDAY, December 21, 1798. Resolved, That the General Assembly of Virginia doth unequivocally express a firm resolution to maintain and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of this state, against every aggression, either foreign or domestic; and that they will support the government of the United States in all measures warranted by the former.
That this Assembly most solemnly declares a warm attachment to the union of the states, to maintain which it pledges its powers; and that, for this end, it is their duty to watch over and oppose every infraction of those principles which constitute the only basis of that union, because a faithful observance of them can alone secure its existence and the public happiness.
That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the federal government as resulting from the compact to which the states are parties, as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting that compact, as no further valid than they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact ; and that, in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the states, who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose, for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining, within their respective limits, the authorities, rights, and liberties, appertaining to them.
That the General Assembly doth also express its deep regret, that a spirit has, in sundry instances, been manifested by the federal government to enlarge its powers by forced constructions of the constitutional charter which defines them; and that indications have appeared of a design to expound certain general phrases (which, having been copied from the very limited grant of powers in the former Articles of Confederation, were the less liable to be misconstrued) so as to destroy the meaning and effect of the particular enumeration which necessarily explains and limits the general phrases, and so as to consolidate the states, by degrees, into one sovereignty, the obvious tendency and inevitable result of which would be, to transform the present republican system of the United States into an absolute, or, at best, a mixed monarchy.
That the General Assembly doth particularly PROTEST against the palpable and alarming infractions of the Constitution, in the two late cases of the "Alien and Sedition Acts," passed at the last session of Congress; the first of which exercises a power nowhere delegated to the federal government, and which, by uniting legislative and judicial powers to those of executive, subverts the general principles of free government, as well as the particular organization and positive provisions of the Federal Constitution; and the other of which acts exercises, in like manner, a power not delegated by the Constitution, but, on the contrary, expressly and positively forbidden by one of the amendments thereto, - a power which,
more than any other, ought to produce universal alarm, because it is levelled against the right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication among the people thereon, which has ever been justly deemed the only effectual guardian of every other right.
That this state having, by its Convention, which ratified the Federal Constitution, expressly declared that, among other essential rights, "the liberty of conscience and the press cannot be cancelled, abridged, restrained, or modified, by any authority of the United States," and from its extreme anxiety to guard these rights from every possible attack of sophistry and ambition, having, with other states, recommended an amendment for that purpose, which amendment was, in due time, annexed to the Constitution, it would mark a reproachful inconsistency, and criminal degeneracy, if an indifference were now shown to the most palpable violation of one of the rights thus declared and secured, and to the estab lishment of a precedent which may be fatal to the other.
That the good people of this commonwealth, having ever felt, and continuing to feel, the most sincere affection for their brethren of the other states; the truest anxiety for establishing and perpetuating the union of all; and the most scrupulous fidelity to that Constitution, which is the pledge of mutual friendship, and the instrument of mutual happiness, ihe General Assembly doth solemnly appeal to the like dispositions in the other states, in confidence that they will concur with this commonwealth in declaring, as it does hereby declare, that the acts aforesaid are unconstitutional; and that the necessary and proper measures will be taken by each for coöperating with this state, in maintaining unimpaired the author. ities, rights, and liberties, reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
That the governor be desired to transmit a copy of the foreging resolutions to the executive authority of each of the other states, with a request that the same may be communicated to the legislature thereof, and that a copy be furnished to each of the senators and representatives representing this state in the Congress of the United States.
JOHN STEWART. 1798, December 24. Agreed to by the Senate.
H. BROOKE. A true copy from the original deposited in the office of the General Assembly.
JOHN STEWART, Keeper of Rolls.
EXTRACTS FROM THE ADDRESS TO THE PEOPLE,
WHICH ACCOMPANIED THE FOREGOING RESOLUTIONS.
Fellow-citizens : Unwilling to shrink from our representative responsibilities, conscious of the purity of our motives, but acknowledging your right to supervise our conduct, we invite your serious attention to the emergency which dictated the subjoined resolutions. Whilst we disdain to alarm you by ill-founded jealousies, we recommend an investigation guided by the coolness of wisdom, and a decision bottomed on firmness, but tempered with moderation. VOL. IV.
It would be perfidious in those intrusted with the GUARDIANSHIP OF THE STATE SOVEREIGNTY, and acting under the solemn obligation of the following oath, —“I do swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States," not to warn you of encroachments, which, though clothed with the pretext of necessity, or disguised by arguments of expediency, may yet establish precedents which may ultimately devote a generous and unsuspicious people to all the consequences of usurped power.
Encroachments springing from a government WHOSE ORGANI. ZATION CANNOT BE MAINTAINED WITHOUT THE COOPERATION OF THE STATES, furnish the strongest excitements upon the state legislatures to watchfulness, and impose upon them the strongest obligation TO PRESERVE UNIMPAIRED THE LINE OF PARTITION.
The acquiescence of the states, under infractions of the federal compact, would either beget a speedy consolidation, by precipitating the state governments into impotency and contempt, or prepare the way for a revoJution, by a repetition of these infractions until the people are aroused to appear in the majesty of their strength. It is to avoid these calamities that we exhibit to the people the momentous question, whether the Constitution of the United States shall yield to a construction which defies every restraint, and overwhelms the best hopes of republicanism.
Exhortations to disregard domestic usurpation, until foreign danger I shall have passed, is an artifice which may be forever used; because the
possessors of power, who are the advocates for its extension, can ever create national embarrassments, to be successively employed to soothe the people into sleep, whilst that power is swelling, silently, secretly, and fatally. Of the same character are insinuations of a foreign influence, which seize upon a laudable enthusiasm against danger from abroad, and distort it by an unnatural application, so as to blind your eyes against danger at home.
The Sedikon Act presents a scene which was never expected by the early friends of the Constitution. It was then admitted that the state sovereignties were only diminished by powers specifically enumerated, or necessary to carry the specified powers into effect. Now, federal authority is deduced from implication; and from the existence of state law, it is inferred that Congress possess a similar power of legislation; whence Congress will be endowed with a power of legislation in all cases whatsoever, and the states will be stripped of every right reserved, by the concurrent claims of a paramount legislature.
The Sedition Act is the offspring of these tremendous pretensions, which inflict a death-wound on the sovereignty of the states.
For the honor of American understanding, we will not believe that the people have been allured into the adoption of the Constitution by an affectation of defining powers, whilst the preamble would admit a construcrion which would erect the will of Congress into a power paramount in all cases, and therefore limited in none. On the contrary, it is evident that the objects for which the Constitution was formed were deemed attainable only by a particular enumeration and specification of each power granted to the federal government; reserving all others to the people, or to the states. And yet it is in vain we search for any specified power embracing the right of legislation against the freedom of the press.
Had the states been despoiled of their sovereignty by the generality of
the preamble, and had the federal government been endowed with whatever they should judge to be instrumental towards the union, justice, tranquillity, common defence, general welfare, and the preservation of liberty, nothing could have been more frivolous than an enumeration of powers.
All the preceding arguments, arising from a deficiency of constitutional power in Congress, apply to the Alien Act; and this act is liable to other objections peculiar to itself. If a suspicion that aliens are dangerous, constitutes the justification of that power exercised over them by Congress, then a similar suspicion will justify the exercise of a similar power over natives; because there is nothing in the Constitution distinguishing between the power of a state to permit the residence of natives and aliens. It is, therefore, a right originally possessed, and never surrendered, by the respective states, and which is rendered dear and valuable to Virginia, because it is assailed through the bosom of the Constitution, and because her peculiar situation renders the easy admission of artisans and laborers an interest of vast importance.
But this bill contains other features, still more alarming and dangerous. It dispenses with the trial by jury; it violates the judicial system ; it confounds legislative, executive, and judicial powers; it punishes without trial; and it bestows upon the President despotic power over a numerous class of men. Are such measures consistent with our constitutional principles? And will an accumulation of power so extensive in the hands of the executive, over aliens, secure to natives the blessings of republican liberty?
If measures can mould governments, and if an uncontrolled power of construction is surrendered to those who administer them, their progress may be easily foreseen, and their end easily foretold. A lover of monarchy, who opens the treasures of corruption by distributing emolument among devoted partisans, may at the same time be approaching his object and deluding the people with professions of republicanism. He may confound monarchy and republicanism, by the art of definition. He may varnish over the dexterity which ambition never fails to display, with the pliancy of language, the seduction of expediency, or the prejudices of the times; and he may come at length to avow, that so extensive a territory as that of the United States can only be governed by the energies of monarchy; that it cannot be defended, except by standing armies; and that it cannot be united, except by consolidation.
Measures have already been adopted which may lead to these consequences. They consist
In fiscal systems and arrangements, which keep a host of commercial and wealthy individuals imbodied, and obedient io the mandates of the treasury; —
In armies and navies, which will, on the one hand, enlist the tendency of man to pay homage to his fellow-creature who can feed or honor him ; and on the other, employ the principle of fear, by punishing imaginary insurrections, under the pretext of preventive justice;
In swarms of officers, civil and military, who can inculcate political tenets tending to consolidation and monarchy, both by indulgences and severities, and can act as spies over the free exercise of human reason;
In restraining the freedom of the press, and investing the executive with legislative, executive, and judicial powers, over a numerous body of men;