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Progress of Internal Improvement. Act of 1824. - Opposition
to System. — Course of Discussion. — President's Opinion. Orleans and Buffalo road bill. - Survey bill. - Discussion concerning same. — Conditional approval. — Maysville road bill ; Rejected - Discussion on Message. - Washington turnpike bill; Rejected. - Louisville Canal and Light-house bills ; Retained. Harbor bill.
PREVIOUS to the accession of and May 1st, 1802, a law was Mr Jefferson to the Presidency, passed, making appropriations for the necessities of the country and opening roads in the Northwest the demands upon the public territory. This was the first aptreasury growing out of the debts propriation made by Congress for of the revolution, and the organ- such a purpose, and during Mr ization of the government, had Jefferson's administration, it was prevented the application of any followed up, by acts making appart of the public revenue to the propriations for roads from Nashpurposes of internal improvement. ville to Natches, from Georgia to No question was made as to the New Orleans, and other roads powers of the General Govern- within the limits of States, bement to make such application, sides appropriations for the Cumbecause more urgent demands berland road, and for roads withupon its attention had prevented in the State of Ohio, under the the agitation of such a question. act of March 3d, 1803, appropri
The finances of the country ating 3 per cent of the proceeds then began to wear a more pro- of the public lands in that State, mising aspect and a surplus in the for the purposes of internal imtreasury left the Government at provement. A survey of the liberty to attend to other demands, coast was also authorized and besides those of primary neces- $50,000 appropriated for that sity.
object. The difficulty of access to the A report was also made to the great western wilderness from the Senate by Mr Gallatin, in answer want of roads soon forced itself to a resolution moved by Mr upon the attention of Congress, J. Q. Adams, in 1807, which
gave a general view of the sub
In this opinion the President ject and presented a digested and differed from his cabinet, and alsystematic plan for the improve- though his veto was sustained by ment of the country.
an additonal message, settling Under that administration, the forth at length his reasons for his policy of internal improvement opinion, it is to be presumed that by the General Government, may he subsequently changed his be considered as having been com- views of the question, as the obmenced, and it was thenceforward jects contemplated by the acts of prosecuted with more or less ac- April 30th, 1824, (to which he tivity according to the state of the assented) are at variance with the public finances.
strict construction of the powers During Mr Madison's adminis- of Congress contended for in his tration, the appropriations for this veto message. purpose were increased, and by This act, which appropriated the act of May 11th, 1812, a $30,000 for the necessary surveys, survey was authorized of the plans and estimates of such roads main post road from Robinstown and canals as were deemed by in Maine, to St Mary's in Geor- the President of national impor
tance; and also authorized the While Mr Monroe was at the employment of the engineer corps head of the Government, these in that service, was justly regarded appropriations were still further as the deliberate adoption of a augmented, and surveys were system of internal improvement. ordered of the interior rivers, and It was indeed only an initiatory roads were opened by the author- step; but the direction to lay the ity of Congress — all indicating estimates before Congress, plainly the growing prosperity of the indicated, that it was the intention nation and the increasing attention of the Govornment to act effiof the government to this subject. ciently, and that in the belief of A check was indeed given to the Congress the time had arrived, policy by the veto, which Mr when he resources of the country Monroe in 1822, put upon the could not be more advantagebill authorizing the collection ously employed than in improving of tolls, for the preservation and the channels of communication repair of the Cumberland road. between different portions of the This veto was founded on an Union. The engineer corps was opinion, that Congress had not accordingly ordered upon that a complete right of jurisdiction service, and Mr Adams, when he and sovereignty over the soil for assumed the office of chief magthe purposes of internal improve- istrate, intimated his determinament, which he considered as tion to give effect so far as feli distinct from the power to make within the sphere of the Execuappropriations for that end, with tive Department, to the recomthe consent of the States, through mendation of Congress; and also which the road or canal should an entire conviction of the expass.
pediency of the policy and the
constitutionality of the power and as one of the necessary means
. This frank exposition of his to construct roads and canals for views removed a difficulty, which the transportation of troops and had prevented many appropria- munitions ; 4th, from the power tions during the preceding ad- to lay taxes to pay the debts and ministration, and Congress took provide for the common defence into immediate consideration those and general welfare of the United plans of internal improvement, States; 5th, from the power to
, that were deemed of the most pass all laws necessary to carry immediate importance.
into effect its constitutional powers, During that administration, ac- and 6th, from the power to make cordingly, more appropriations all needsul rules respecting the were made for that purpose, and public territory. a greater impulse was given by As in most constitutional disthe Government to the internal cussions, both parties were fixed improvement of the country, than in their own conclusions, and alin all the preceding administra- though those who denied the tions. It was indeed one of its power were invariably overruled distinguishing characteristics, and in Congress, they were no less contributed in no small degree to clamorous in protesting against awaken the hostility, which was its exercise as one of the striking waged against it, from its organic proofs of the tendency of the zation.
Federal Government to corrupThe Representatives from the tion and consolidation. Southern States, excepting South The question of the expediency Carolina, had generally evinced of exercising such a power by great repugnance to the exercise Congress was also strongly quesof this power on the part of the tioned, and it was predicted that General Government, as one not it would be productive of dis enauthorized by the Constitution. sions and improper combinations All power vested in that Govern- in the legislature ; great extravament, they argued, must be either gance in the expenditure of specifically granted by the Con- public moneys; accumulation of stitution, or incidental to some power in the Federal Governpower specifically granted. No inent, which would render the power to make internal improve- State Governments mere depenment was to be found among the dencies upon its generosity or specified powers, nor was it in- caprice, and that it would place at cidental to any of those powers. its command a host of contractors,
Those who maintained that the engineers, toll gatherers and supower existed in the General perintendents, who would exerGovernment contended, that it cise a control in the local elections was derived 1st, from the power incompatible with the indepento establish post roads; 2d, from dence of the State Governments. the power to regulate commerce On the other hand, the necesbetween the States; 3d, from the sity of these improvements; the power to make and carry on war, inability of the State Governments
or of private associations to exe- tions for roads and canals were cute them; and their tendency not only in favor of the system of
1 to strengthen the bonds of union surveys as established by the act were eloquently pourtrayed; and of 1824, but also in favor of subit was aptly replied that any argu- scriptions to the stock of private ment drawn from the danger to canal companies and of approprithe independence of the State ations for roads within the limits Governments, or of dissensions or of particular States. This heimproper combinations in Con- terodoxy was overlooked, or ingress, or of extravagant expendi- dulging in the hope, that the contures on account of appropria- stitutional principles of that cantions of this character, was just as didate were not yet definitely applicable to the system of fortif- settled, or that as the representacations or to any appropriations tive of a reforming party, he for local objects undeniably within might be induced to make them the jurisdiction of the General more conformable to their own Government.
political creed, the Southern States That the subject matter of and those of the same party in legislation, if within the constitu- the north yielded him their most tional power of Congress, mustardent support, undaunted by the
, , be left to its discretion, and how fact, that he was represented in ever much that discretion might the Western and Middle States as be abused, its abuse did not ef- the friend of internal improvefect the constitutional question ment and that these votes were which necessarily depended upon appealed to as conclusive evidence reasons of a different kind. The of his sentiments. His inaugural remedy for an abuse of power message gave no indication of any was vested in the people, and a change of opinion, but simply sufficient check would be found in advanced the oracular proposition the periodical elections to prevent that internal improvement and the all tendency to extravagance or diffusion of knowledge, so far as corruption in the exercise of a they can be promoted by the conpower so indispensable to the pros- stitutional acts of the Federal perity of the country.
Government are of high imporWhile this discussion as to the tance. In the message at the expediency and constitutionality opening of Congress, he first manof the power was renewed with ifested an unwillingness to the exunusual animation, during Mr ercise of this power by Congress; Adams' administration, the oppo- but his recommendation of an nents of internal improvement apportionment of the surplus seemed to have forgotten, that revenue among the States, as a the opposing candidate to the in- substitute for internal improvecumbent had evinced, while in the ment by the Federal Government Senate of the United States was scarcely regarded as a meaquite as latitudinarian opinions on sure seriously contemplated. this disputed point. His votes on As the session advanced, howcertain bills' making appropria- ever, the divisions on the passage of certain bills authorizing inter- The motion to adjourn thus nal improvements began to indi- asked was accordingly negatived, cate, that no support of these 78 yeas, 111 nays, and the next bills could be expected from the day upon motion of Mr Spencer more confidential friends of the of New York, the House deterExecutive and that the cause of mined to reconsider the bill, 99 internal improvement would be yeas, 91 nays. As it was not left chiefly to the care of the op- intended to press the passage of position. Many however who the bill, a motion was then made, were classed among the supporters that it lie on the table, and carof the administration were staunch ried, 94 yeas, 88 nays. advocates of internal inprove- The discussion was again rement and so vitally important did newed upon the consideration of they deem the assertion of the the bill, making appropriation for powers of Congress on this ques- examinations and surveys. This tion, that in one instance, after the bill was taken up in the House on rejection of a bill of this charac- the 25th of March, when on moter by too strong a vote to hope tion of Mr McDuffie, the House for its final passage, they voted resolved itself into Committee of in favor of its reconsideration to the whole on the state of the prevent any inference being drawn Union, and took up the bill makas to the motive which influenced ing appropriations for examinatheir votes. This occurred in the tions and surveys, &c, viz: House of Representatives in re- For defraying the expenses inference to a bill brought forward cidental to making examinations early in the session to construct and surveys for national works a national road from Buffalo to under the act of 30th April, 1824, New Orleans.
and also for arrearages on account After much discussion concern- of surveys in 1826, 1827, and ing this bill
, on the 14th of April, 1828, 30,000 dollars ; the previous question was called For completing the Cumberfor, and the House decided by a land Road from Zanesville to vote of 88 yeas, 150 nays, that it Columbus, 91,000 dollars; should not be read a third time. For continuing the road from
Mr P. P. Barbour then rose Detroit to Fort Gratiot, 7,000 and congratulating the House on dollars ; this decision, observed that it had For continuing the road from achieved glory enough for one Detroit to Saganaw Bay, 7,000 day and moved an adjournment. dollars; This observation offended many For continuing the road from who voted against the bill, as it Detroit to Chicago, 8,000 dolseemed to place its rejection up- lars; on the ground of its being con- For completing the road from sidered unconstitutional, whereas Pensacola to St Augustine, 10,000 their votes were given simply in dollars; reference to the expediency of For completing the survey and making this particular road. estimate of a canal to connect the