« PreviousContinue »
from the very first assembling of Congress, and by the very men who framed the Constitution, that the regulation of commerce comprehended such measures as were necessary for its support, its improvement, its advancement; and justified such expenditures as Piers, Beacons, and Lighthouses, and the clearing out of harbours required. Instances of this sort, in the application of the general revenues, have been frequent, from the commencement of the government. As the same power, precisely, exists in relation to internal as to external trade, it was not easy to see why like expenditures might not be justified, when made on internal objects. The vast regions of the West are penetrated by rivers, to which those of Europe are but as rills and brooks. But the navigation of these noble streams, washing, as they do, the margin of one third of the States of the Union, was obstructed by obstacles, capable of being removed, and yet not likely to be removed, but by the power of the general government. Was this a justifiable object of expenditure from the national treasury? Without hesitation, I have thought it was. A vast chain of lakes, if it be not more proper to call them a succession of inland seas, stretches into the deep interior of this northern part of the continent, as if kindly placed there by Providence to break the continuity of the land, and afford the easier and readier intercourse of water conveyance.—But these vast lakes required, also, harbours, and lights, and breakwaters? And were these lawful objects of national legislation? To me, certainly, they have appeared to be such, as clearly as if they were on the Atlantic border.
In most of the new States of the West, the United States are yet proprietors of vast bodies of land. Through some of these States, and sometimes through these same public lands, the local authorities have prepared to carry expensive canals, for the general benefit of the country. Some of these undertakings have been attended with great expense, have subjected the States, where enterprising spirit has begun and carried them on, to large debts, and heavy taxation. The lands of the United States being exempted from all taxation, of course bear no part of this burden. Looking to the United States, therefore, as a great landed proprietor, essentially benefited by these improvements, I have felt no difficulty in voting for the appropriation of parts of these lands, as a reasonable contribution by the United States to these general objects.
Most of the subjects to which I have referred, are much less local, in their influence, and importance, than they might seem. The breakwater in the Delaware, useful to Philadelphia, is useful also to all the ship-owners in the United States, and indeed to all interested in commerce, especially that great branch, the coast wise commerce. If the mouths of the southern rivers be deepened and improved, the neighbouring cities are benefited, but so also are the ships which visit them; and if the Mississippi and Ohio be rendered more safe for navigation, the great markets of consumption along their shores are the more readily and cheaply approached by the products of the Factories and the Fisheries of New England.
It is my opinion, Mr. President, that the present government cannot be maintained but by administering it on principles as wide and broad as the country over which it extends. I mean, of course, no
extension of the powers which it confers; but I speak of the spirit with which those powers should be exercised. If there be any doubts, whether so many republics, covering so great a portion of the globe, can be long held together under this Constitution, there is no doubt in my judgment, of the impossibility of so holding them together by any narrow, contracted, local, or selfish system of legislation. To render the Constitution perpetual, (which God grant it may be) it is necessary that its benefits should be practically felt, by all parts of the country, and all interests in the country. The East and the West, the North and the South, must all see their own welfare protected and advanced by it. While the eastern frontier is defended by fortifications, its harbours improved, and commerce defended by a naval force, it is right and just that the region beyond the Alleghany should receive fair consideration and equal attention, in any object of public improvement, interesting to itself, and within the proper power of the government. These, sir, are, in brief, the general views by which I have been governed, on questions of this kind; and I trust they are such as this meeting does not disapprove.
I would not trespass farther upon your attention, if I did not feel it my duty to say a few words on the condition of public affairs under another aspect. We are on the eve of a new election for President; and the manner in which the existing administration is attacked might lead a stranger to suppose, that the Chief Magistrate had committed some flagrant offence against the country, threatened to overturn its liberties, or establish a military usurpation. On a former occasion I have, in this place, expressed my opinion of the principle, upon which the opposition to the administration is founded; without any reference whatever to the person who stands as its apparent head, and who is intended by it to be placed in the chief executive chair. I think that principle exceedingly dangerous and alarming, inasmuch as it does not profess to found opposition to the government on the measures of government, but to rest it on other causes, and those mostly personal. There is a combination, or association, of persons holding the most opposite opinions, both on the constitutional powers of the government, and on the leading measures of public concern, and uniting in little, or in nothing, except the will to dislodge power from the hands in which the country has placed it. There has been no leading measure of the government, with perhaps a single exception, which has not been strenuously maintained by many, or by some of those, who co-operate, altogether, nevertheless, in pursuit of the object which I have mentioned. This is but one of . many proofs that the opposition does not rest in the principle of disapprobation of the measures of government. Many other evidences of the same truth, might be adduced easily. A remarkable one is, that while one ground of objection to the administration is urged in one place, its precise opposite is pressed in another. Pennsylvania and South Carolina, for example, are not treated with the same reasons for a change of administration; but with flatly contradictory reasons. In one, the administration is represented as bent on a particular system, oppressive to that State, and which must ultimately ruin it; and for that reason there ought to be a change. In the other, that system, instead of being ruinous, is salutary, is necessary,
is indispensable. But the administration is but half in earnest in supporting it, and for that reason there ought to be a change.
Reflecting men have always supposed, that if there were a weak point in the Federal Constitution, it was in the provision for the exercise of the Executive power. And this, perhaps, may be considered as rendered more delicate and difficult, by the great augmentation of the number of the States. We must expect that there will often be, as there was on the last election, several candidates for the Presidency. All but one, of course, must be disappointed; and if the friends of all such, however otherwise divided, are immediately to unite, and to make common cause against him who is elected, lit
tle is ever to be expected but embarrassment and confusion.-The · love of office will, ere long, triumph over the love of country; and
party and faction usurp the place of wisdom and patriotism. If the contest for the executive power is thus to be renewed every four years; if it is to be conducted as the present has been conducted; and if every election is to be immediately followed, as the last was followed, by a prompt union of all whose friends are not chosen, against him who is, there is, in my judgment, danger, great danger, that this great experiment of confederated government may fail, and that even those of us, who are not among the youngest, may behold its catastrophe.
It cannot have escaped the notice of any gentleman present, that in the course of the controversy, pains have been taken to affect the character and the success of the present chief magistrate, by exciting odium towards that part of the country in which he was born and to which he belongs. Sneers, contumely, reproach, everything that gentlemen could say, and many things which gentlemen could not say, have been uttered against New England. -I am sure, sir, every true son of New England must receive such things, when they come from sources which ought to be considered respectable, with a feeling of just indignation; and when proceeding from elsewhere, with contempt. If there be one among ourselves, who can be induced, by any motives, to join in this cry against New England, he disgraces the New England mother who bore him, the New England father who bred and nurtured him, and the New England atmosphere which first supplied respiration to those lungs now so unworthily employed in uttering calumnies against his country. Persons, not known till yesterday, and having little chance of being remembered beyond to-morrow, have affected to draw a distinction between the Patriot States and the States of New England; assigning the last to the present President, and the rest to his rival. I do not wonder, sir, at the indignation and scorn which I perceive the recital of this injustice produces here. Nothing else was to be expected. Faneuil Hall is not a place where one is expected to hear with indifference that New England is not to be counted among the Patriot States. The Patriot States! What State was it, sir, that was patriotic when patriotism cost something? Where but in New England, did the great drama of the revolution open? Where, but on the soil of Massachusetts, was the first blood poured out, in the cause of Liberty and Independence? Where, sooner than here, where earlier than within the walls which now surround us, was patriotism found, when
to be patriotic was to endanger houses and homes, and wives and children, and to be ready also, to pay for the reputation of patriotism, by the sacrifice of blood and of life?
Not farther to refer to her revolutionary merits, it may be truly said that New England did her part, and more than her part, in the establishment of the present government, and in giving effect to the measures and the policy of the first President. Where, sir, did the measures of Washington find the most active friends, and the firmest support?-Where are the general principles of his policy most widely spread, and most deeply seated? - If, in subsequent periods, different opinions have been held, by different portions of her people, New England has, nevertheless, been always obedient to the laws, even when she most severely felt their pressure, and most conscientiously doubted, or disbelieved their propriety. Every great and permanent institution of the country, intended for defence, or for improvement, has met her support. And if we look to recent measures, on subjects highly interesting to the community, and especially some portions of it, we see proofs of the same steady and liberal policy. It may be said, with entire truth, and it ought to be said, and ought to be known, that no one measure for internal improvement has been carried through Congress, or could have been carried, but by the aid of New England votes. It is for those most deeply interested in subjects of that sort to consider in season, how far the continuance of the same aid is necessary for the further prosecution of the same objects. From the interference of the general government in making roads and canals, New England has as little to hope or expect as any part of the country. She has hitherto supported them, upon principle, and from a sincere disposition to extend the blessings and the beneficence of the government. And, sir, I confidently believe that those most concerned in the success of these measures, feel towards her respect and friendship. They feel that she has acted fairly and liberally, wholly uninfluenced by selfish or sinister motives. Those, therefore, who have seen, or thought they saw, an object to be attained by exciting dislike and odium towards New England, are not likely to find quite so favorable an audience as they have expected. It will not go for quite so much as wished, to the disadvantage of the President, that he is a native of Massachusetts. Nothing is wanting, but that we, ourselves, should entertain a proper feeling on this subject, and act with a just regard to our own rights and our own duties. If I could collect around me the whole population of New England, or if I could cause my voice to be heard over all her green hills, or along every one of her pleasant streams, in the exercise of true filial affection, I would say to her, in the language of the great master of the maxims of life and conduct.
- This above all,-To thine own self be true
ways, Thou canst not then be false to any man,” Mr. President,- I have delayed you too long. I beg to repeat my thanks for the kindness which has been manifested towards me, by my fellow citizens, and to conclude by reciprocating their good wishes.
The City of Boston. Prosperity to all her interests, and happiness to all her citizens...
IN THE CASE, THE TRUSTEES OF DARTMOUTH COLLEGE vs. WIL
LIAM H. WOODWARD, BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES, ON THE 10th DAY OF MARCH, 1818.
[ The action, The Trustces of Dartmouth College vs. Williain H. Woodward, was commenced at the Court of Common Pleas, Grafton County, State of New Hampshire, February Term, 1817. The declaration was Trover for the Books of Record, original Charter, common Seal and other corporate property of the College. The conversion was alleged to have been made on the 7th day of October, 1816. The proper pleas were filed, and by consent, the cause was carried directly to the Superior Court, by Appeal, and entered May Term 1817. The general issue was pleaded by the defendant and joined by the plaintiffs. The facts in the case were then agreed upon, by the parties, and drawn up in the form of a Special Verdict, reciting the Charter of the College and the acts of the Legislature of the State, passed June and December 1816, by which the said Corporation of Dartmouth College was enlarged and improved and the said Charter amended.
The question made in the case was, whether those acts of the Legislature were valid and binding upon the Corporation, without their acceptance or assent, and not repugnant to the Constitution of the United States. If so, the verdict found for the defendant; otherwise, it found for the plaintiffs.
The cause was continued to the September Term of the Court in Rockingham County, where it was argued; and at the November Term of the same year, in Grafton County, the opinion of the Court was delivered by Chief Justice Richardson, in favor of the validity and constitutionality of the acts of the Legislature; and judgment was accordingly entered for the defendant on the Special Verdict.
Thereupon a Writ of Error was sued out by the original plaintiffs to remove the cause to the Supreme Court of the United States; where it was entered at the Term of the Court holden at Washington on the first Monday of February, A. D. 1818.
The cause came on for argument on the 10th day of March 1818, before all the judges. It was argued by Mr. Webster and Mr. Hopkinson for the plaintiffs in error, and by Mr. Holmes and the Attorney General for the defendant in error.
At the Term of the Court holden February 1819, the opinion of the judges was deliver. ed, declaring the acts of the Legislature unconstitutional and invalid, and reversing the judgment of the State Court.]
ARGUMENT OF MR. WEBSTER FOR PLAINTIFFS IN ERROR. The general question is, whether the acts of the 27th of June, and of the 18th and 26th of December, 1816, are valid and binding on the rights of the plaintiffs, without their acceptance or assent,
The charter of 1769 created and established a corporation, to consist of twelve persons, and no more; to be called the “Trustees of Dartmouth College." The preamble to the charter recites, that it is granted on the application and request of the Rev. Eleazer