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Speech in Congress. Internal Improvements
“Mr. Chairman, for the purpose of reviewing this message in the least possible time, as well as for the sake of distinctness, I have analyzed its arguments as well as I could, and reduced them to the propositions I have stated. I have now examined them in detail. I wish to detain the committee only a little while longer, with some general remarks on the subject of improvements. That the subject is a difficult one, can not be denied. Still, it is no more difficult in Congress than in the State legislatures, in the counties or in the smallest municipal districts which everywhere exist. All can recur to instances of this difficulty in the case of county roads, bridges, and the like. One man is offended because a road passes over his land; and another is offended because it does not pass over his; one is dissatisfied because the bridge, for which he is taxed, crosses the river on a different road from that which leads from his house to town; another can not bear that the county should get in debt for these same roads and bridges; while not a few struggle hard to have roads located over their lands, and then stoutly refuse to let them be opened, until they are first paid the damages. Even between the different wards and streets of towns and cities, we find this same wrangling and difficulty. Now, these are no other than the very difficulties against which, and out of which, the President constructs his objections of ‘inequalty,’ ‘speculation,” and ‘crushing the Treasury.” There is but a single alternative about them—they are sufficient, or they are not. If sufficient, they are sufficient out of Congress as well as in it, and there is the end. We must reject them as insufficient, or lie down and do nothing by any authority. Then, difficulty though there be, let us meet and overcome it
‘Attempt the end, and never stand to doubt;
“Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way. The tendency to undue expan
Speech in Congress. Internal Improvements. Walue of Statistics.
sion is unquestionably the chief difficulty. How to do something, and still not to do too much, is the desideratum. Let each contribute his mite in the way of suggestion. The late Silas Wright, in a letter to the Chicago Convention, contributed his, which was worth something; and I now contribute mine, which may be worth nothing. At all events, it will mislead nobody, and therefore will do no harm. I would not borrow money. I am against an overwhelming, crushing system. Suppose that at each session, Congress shall first determine how much money can, for that year, be spared for improvements; then apportion that sum to the most important objects. So far all is easy; but how shall we determine which are the most important 7 On this question comes the collision of interests. I shall be slow to acknowledge that your harbor or your river is more important than mine, and vice versa. To clear this difficulty, let us have that same statistical information which the gentleman from Ohio [Mr. Winton] suggested at the beginning of this session. In that information we shall have a stern, unbending basis of facts— a basis in nowise subject to whim, caprice, or local interest. The pre-limited amount of means will save us from doing too much, and the statistics will save us from doing what we do in wrong places. Adopt and adhere to this course, and, it seems to me, the difficulty is cleared. “One of the gentlemen from South Carolina (Mr. Rhett) very much deprecates these statistics. He particularly objects, as I understand him, to counting all the pigs and chickens in the land. I do not perceive much force in the objection. It is true, that if every thing be enumerated, a portion of such statistics may not be very useful to this object. Such products of the country as are to be consumed where they are produced, need no roads and rivers, no means of transportation, and have no very proper connection with this subject. The surplus, that which is produced in one place to be consumed in another; the capacity of each locality
Speech in Congress. Presidency and General Politics. The Veto Power.
for producing a greater surplus; the natural means of transportation, and their susceptibility of improvement; the hindrances, delays, and losses of life and property during transportation, and the causes of each, would be among the most valuable statistics in this connection. From these it would readily appear where a given amount of expenditure would do the most good. These statistics might be equally accessible, as they would be equally useful, to both the Nation and the States. In this way, and by these means, let the nation take hold of the larger works, and the States the smaller ones; and thus, working in a meeting direction, discreetly, but steadily and firmly, what is made unequal in one place may be equalized in another, extravagance avoided, and the whole country put on that career of prosperity, which shall correspond with its extent of territory, its natural resources, and the intelligence and enterprise of its people.”
SPEECH ON THE PRESIDENCY AND GENERAL POLITICS. (Delivered in the House, July 27, 1848.) GENERAL TAYLOR AND THE WETO POWER.
“Mr. SPEAKER :—Our Democratic friends seem to be in great distress because they think our candidate for the Presidency don't suit us. Most of them can not find out that General Taylor has any principles at all ; some, however, have discovered that he has one, but that that one is entirely wrong. This one principle is his position on the veto power. The gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Stanton) who has just taken his seat, indeed, has said there is very little if any dif. ference on this question between General Taylor and all the Presidents; and he seems to think it sufficient detraction from General Taylor's position on it, that it has nothing new in it But all others whom I have heard speak assail it furiously
A new member from Kentucky (Mr. Clarke) of very consid
Speech in Congress. The Weto Power. Jefferson’s Views.
erable ability, was in particular concern about it. He thought it altogether novel and unprecedented for a President, or a Presidential candidate, to think of approving bills whose Constitutionality may not be entirely clear to his own mind. He thinks the ark of our safety is gone, unless Presidents shall always veto such bills as, in their judgment, may be of doubtful Constitutionality. However clear Congress may be of their authority to pass any particular act, the gentleman from Kentucky thinks the President must veto it if he has doubts about it. Now I have neither time nor inclination to argue with the gentleman on the veto power as an original question; but I wish to show that General Taylor, and not he, agrees with the earliest statesmen on this question. When the bill chartering the first Bank of the United States passed Congress, its Constitutionality was questioned; Mr. Madison, then in the House of Representatives, as well as others, had opposed it on that ground. General Washington, as Presi-. dent, was called on to approve or reject it. He sought and obtained, on the Constitutional question, the separate written opinions of Jefferson, Hamilton, and Edmund Randolph, they then being respectively Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, and Attorney General. Hamilton's opinion was for the power; while Randolph's and Jefferson's were both against it. Mr. Jefferson, in his letter dated February 15th, 1791, after giving his opinion decidedly against the Constitutionality of that bill, closed with the paragraph which I now read : “It must be admitted, however, that unless the President's mind, on a view of every thing which is urged for and against this bill, is tolerably clear that it is unauthorized by the Constitution; if the pro and the con hang so even as to balance his judgment, a just respect for the wisdom of the Legislature would naturally decide the balance in favor of their opinion; it is chiefly for cases where they are clearly
Speech in Congress. - The Veto Power. Gen. Taylor's Views.
misled by error, ambition, or interest, that the Constitution has placed a check in the negative of the President.” “General Taylor's opinion, as expressed in his Allison letter, is as I now read : “‘The power given by the veto is a high conservative power; but, in my opinion, should never be exercised, except in cases of clear violation of the Constitution, or manifest haste and want of consideration by Congress. “It is here seen that, in Mr. Jefferson's opinion, if, on the Constitutionality of any given bill, the President doubts, he is not to veto it, as the gentleman from Kentucky would have him to do, but is to defer to Congress and approve it. And if we compare the opinions of Jefferson and Taylor, as expressed in these paragraphs, we shall find them more exactly alike than we can often find any two expressions having any literal difference. None but interested fault-finders, can discover any substantial variation. “But gentlemen on the other side are unanimously' agreed that Gen. Taylor has no other principle. They are in utter darkness as to his opinions on any of the questions of policy which occupy the public attention. But is there any doubt as to what he will do on the prominent question, if elected ? Not the least. It is not possible to know what he will or would do in every imaginable case; because many questions have passed away, and others doubtless will arise which none of us have yet thought of; but on the prominent questions of currency, tariff, internal improvements, and Wilmot proviso, General Taylor's course is at least as well defined as is General Cass's. Why, in their eagerness to get at General Taylor, several Democratic members here have desired to know whether, in case of his election, a bankrupt law is to be established. Can they tell us General Cass's opinion on this question ? (Some member answered, “He is against it.') Aye, how do you know he is There is nothing about it in the platform, nor elsewhere, that I have seen. If the gentle