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from their inability to procure bail, were confined in prison. If, said Mr. Clay, the circumstances attending this transaction be correctly stated, it becomes an imperious duty in the house to institute the inquiry contemplated by the amendment which I have proposed. That this was an extraordinary case, was demonstrated by the fact of the general sensation which it had excited on the subject, in the place where it had occurred. Filled, as that respectable and populous city is, with men who differ widely on political topics, and entertaining various views of public affairs, but one sentiment prevailed on this subject, which was favorable to the persons thus arraigned. With regard to the conduct of the court on this occasion, he would say nothing. The respect which, whilst he had a seat on this floor, he should always show to every branch of the government, the respect he entertained for the honorable judge who had presided, forbade him from pronouncing the decision of that court to have been unwarranted by law. But he felt himself perfectly sustained in saying, that if the proceeding was warranted by the existing law, it was the imperious duty of congress to alter the law in this respect. For what, he asked, was the neutral obli. gation which one nation owed to another engaged in war? The essence of it is this; that the belligerent means of the neutral shall not be employed in the war in favor of either of the parties. That is the whole of the obligation of a third party in a war between two others; it certainly does not require of one nation to restrain the belligerent means of other nations. If those nations choose to permit their means to be employed in behalf of either party, it is their business to look to it, and not ours. Let the conduct of the persons prosecuted be regarded in the most unfavorable light; let it be considered as the passage of troops through our country, and there was nothing in our neutral obligations forbidding it. The passage of troops through a neutral country, according to his impressions, was a question depending on the particular interest, quiet, or repose, of the country traversed, and might be granted or refused at its discretion, without in any degree affecting the obligations of the neutral to either of the parties engaged in the controversy. But, surely, this was not a case of the passage of troops; the persons apprehended not being in sufficient number, nor organized or equipped in such manner, as, under any construction, to constitute a military corps. On this case he would detain the house no longer, he said; for he was satisfied they could not but agree with him, if the law justified the proceeding that had taken place, that law ought to be immediately amended. Other cases had occurred, in which it appeared to him it became the congress to interpose its authority. Persons sailing under the flag of the provinces had been arraigned in our courts, and tried for piracy; in one case, after having been arraigned, tried, and acquitted of piracy, the same individuals, on the instigation of a Spanish officer or agent, had been again arraigned for the same offence. The gentleman from Massachusetts would correct him if he was wrong, for the case had occurred in the town of Boston. We admit the flag of these colonies into our ports; we profess to be neutral; but if our laws pronounce, that the moment the property and persons under that flag enter our ports, they shall be seized, the one claimed by the Spanish minister or consul as the property of Spain, and the other prosecuted as pirates, that law ought to be altered, if we mean to perform our neutral professions. I have brought the subject before this house thus promptly, because I trust that in this house the cause will find justice; thai, however treated elsewhere, on this foor will be found a guardian interest attending to our performance of the just obligations of neutrality. Hitherto, he said, whatever might have been our intentions, our acts had been all on the other side. From the proclamation of 1815, issued to terminate an expedition supposed to be organizing in Louisiana, an expedition only in the mind of Chevalier de Onis, down to the late act — whether the measure was a proper one or not, he did not say; his confidence in the executive led him to suppose it was adopted on sufficient grounds — down to the order for suppressing, as it was called, the establishments at Amelia Island and Galveston - all the acts of the government had been on one side; they all bore against the colonies, against the cause in which the patriots of South America were arduously engaged. It became us, he said, to look to the other side, honestly intending neutrality, as he believed we did. Let us recollect the condition of the patriots; no minister here to spur on our government, as was said in an interesting, and, it appeared to him, a very candid work, recently published in this country, respecting the progress of the South American revolution ; no minister here to be rewarded by noble honors, in consequence of the influence he is supposed to possess with the American government. No; their unfortunate case was what ours had been, in the years 1778 and 1779; their ministers, like our Franklins and Jays at that day, were skulking about Europe, imploring inexorable legitimacy for one kind look - some aid to terminate a war afflicting to humanity. Nay, their situation was worse than ours; for we had one great and magnanimous ally to recognize us, but no nation had stepped forward to acknowledge any of these provinces. Such disparity between the parties, demanded a just attention to the interests of the party which was unrepresented; and if the facts which he had mentioned, and others which had come to his knowledge, were correct, they loudly demanded the interposition of congress. He trusted the house would give the subject their attention, and show that here, in this place, the obligations of neutrality would be strictly regarded in respect to South America.
(Mr. Sergeant, of Philadelphia, said the statement made by Mr. Clay was substantially correct, and, after a few other remarks by the same gentleman, the amendment moved by Mr. Clay was agreed to, without opposition.]
ON INTERNAL IMPROVEMENT.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, MARCH 13, 1818.
[The bill making appropriations for purposes of internal improvement, which passed congress in 1817, having been vetoed by president Madison, on the last day of his term, March third, 1817; his successor, Mr. Monroe, in his first message to congress, declared his sentiments on the subject, concurring with Mr. Madison in the opinion that the power of making internal improvements was not vested in congress. Three national executives having decided against the constitutionality of the power, a great effort was made by the friends of the system, to obtain a contrary and favorable expression by congress, A resolution was offered in the house of representatives, declaring that congress had power, under the constitution, to appropriate money for the construction of military roads, post roads, and canals. On this interesting occa. sion, the resolution being under discussion in committee of the whole, Mr. Clay made the following speech, in vindication of the constitutionality of internal improvements by the national government, in which views he was sustained by the house, in the adoption of the resolution, by a vote of ninety to seventy-five. This triumph in the face of a new and popular administration, may be considered one of the most splendid events in parliamentary history.]
I have been anxious to catch the eye of the chairman for a few moments, to reply to some of the observations which have fallen from various gentlemen. I am aware that, in doing this, I risk the loss of what is of the utmost value the kind favor of the house, wearied as its patience is, by this prolonged debate. But when I feel what a deep interest the union at large, and particularly that quarter of it whence I come, has, in the decision of the present question, I cannot omit any opportunity of earnestly urging upon the house the propriety of retaining the important power which this question involves. It will be recollected, that if unfortunately there should be a majority both against the abstract proposition asserting the power, and against its practical execution, the power is for ever
the question is put at rest, so long as the constitution remains as it is; and with respect to any amendment, in this particular, I confess I utterly despair. It will be borne in mind, that the bill which passed congress on this subject, at the last session, was rejected by the late president of the United States; that at the commencement of the present session, the president communicated his clear opinion, after every effort to come to a different conclusion, that congress does not possess the power contended for, and called upon us to take up the subject, in the
shape of an amendment to the constitution; and, moreover, that the predecessor of the present and late presidents, has also intimated his opinion, that congress does not possess the power. With the great weight and authority of the opinions of these distinguished men against the power, and with the fact, solemnly entered upon the record, that this house, after a deliberate review of the ground taken by it at the last session, has decided against the existence of it, (if such, fatally, shall be the decision,) the power, I repeat, is gone-gone for ever, unless restored by an amendment of the constitution. With regard to the practicability of obtaining such an amendment, I think it altogether out of the question. Two different descriptions of persons, entertaining sentiments directly opposed, will unite and defeat such an amendment; one embracing those who believe that the constitution, fairly interpreted, already conveys the power; and the other, those who think that congress has not and ought not to have it. As a large portion of congress, and probably a majority, believes the power to exist, it must be evident, if I am right in supposing that any considerable number of that majority would vote against an amendment which they do not believe necessary, that any attempt to amend would fail. Considering, as I do, the existence of the power as of the first importance, not merely to the preservation of the union of the states, paramount as that consideration ever should be over all others, but to the prosperity of every great interest of the country, agriculture, manufactures, commerce, in peace and in war, it becomes us solemnly, and deliberately, and anxiously, to examine the constitution, and not to surrender it, if fairly to be collected from a just interpretation of that instrument.
With regard to the alarm sought to be created, as to the nature of the power, by bringing up the old theme of state rights,' I would observe, that if the illustrious persons just referred to are against us in the construction of the constitution, they are on our side as to the harmless and beneficial character of the power. For it is not to be conceived, that each of them would have recoinmended an amendment to the constitution, if they believed that the possession of such a power, by the general government, would be detrimental, much less dangerous, to the independence and liberties of the states. What real ground is there for this alarm? Gentlemen have not condescended to show how the subversion of the rights of the states is to follow from the exercise of the power of internal improvements by the general government. We contend for the power to make roads and canals, to distribute the intelligence, force, and productions of the country, through all its parts; and for such jurisdiction only over them, as is necessary to their preservation from wanton injury and from gradual decay. Suppose such a power is sustained and in full operation; imagine it to extend to every canal made, or proposed to be made, and to every post-road; how inconsiderable and insignificant is the power in a political point of view, limited as it is, with regard to place and to purpose, when contrasted with the great mass of powers retained by the state sovereignties ! What a small subtraction from the mass! Even upon these roads and canals, the state governments, according to our principles, will still exercise jurisdiction over every possible case arising upon them, whether of crime or of contract, or any other human transaction, except only what immediately affects their existence and preservation. Thus defined, thus limited, and stripped of all factitious causes of alarm, I will appeal to the candor of gentlemen to say, if the power really presents any thing frightful in it? With respect to post-roads, our adversaries admit the right of way in the general government. There have been, however, on this question, some instances of conflict, but they have passed away without any serious difficulty. Connecticut, if I have been rightly informed, disputed, at one period, the right of passage of the mail on the Sabbath. The general government persisted in the exercise of the right, and Connecticut herself, and every body else, have acquiesced in it.
The gentleman from Virginia (Mr. H. Nelson) has contended, that I do not adhere, in the principles of construction which I apply to the constitution, to the republican doctrines of 1793, of which that gentleman would have us believe he is the constant disciple. Let me call the attention of the committee to the celebrated state paper to which we both refer for our principles in this respect a paper which, although I have not seen it for sixteen years, (until the gentleman had the politeness to furnish me with it during this debate,) made such an impression on my mind, that I shall never forget the satisfaction with which I perused it. I find that I have used, without having been aware of it, when I formerly addressed the committee, almost the same identical language employed by Mr. Madison in that paper. It will be recollected, that I claimed no right to exercise any power under the constitution, unless such power was expressly granted, or necessary and proper to carry into effect some granted power. I have not sought to derive power
. from the clause which authorizes congress to appropriate money. I have been contented with endeavoring to show, that according to the doctrines of 1799, and according to the most rigid interpretation which any one will put upon the instrument, it is expressly given in one case, and fairly deducible in others.
[Here Mr. Clay read sundry passages from Mr. Madison's report to the Virginia legislature, in an answer to the resolutions of several states, concerning the alien and sedition laws, showing that there were no powers in the generai government but what were granted; and that, whenever a power was claimed to be exercised by it, such power must be shown to be granted, or to be necessary and proper to carry into effect one of the specified powers.I