صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

to myself the possibility that such a project can ever find its way into the head or heart of any man, or set of men, whom this nation may select as the depositories of its power; but I am quite sure that an attempt to insert such a project in a commercial treaty, or in any other treaty, or in any other mode, could work no other effect than the destruction of those who should venture to be parties to it, no matter whether a President, Senate, or a whole Congress. Many extreme cases have been put for illustration in this debate; and this is one of them; and I take the occasion which it offers to mention, that to argue from extreme cases is seldom logical, and upon a question of interpretation, never so. We can only bring back the means of delusion, if we wander into the regions of fiction, and explore the wilds of bare possibility in search of rules for real life and actual ordinary cases. By arguing from the possible abuse of power against the use or existence of it, you may and must come to the conclusion, that there ought not be, and is not, any government in this country, or in the world. Disorganization and anarchy are the sole consequences that can be deduced from such reasoning. Who is it that may not abuse the power that has been confided to him? May not we, as well as the other branches of the government? And, if we may, does not the argument from extreme cases prove that we ought to have no power, and that we have no power? And does it not, therefore, after having served

for an instant the purposes of this bill, turn short upon and condemn its whole theory, which attributes to us, not merely the power which is our own, but inordinate power, to be gained only by wresting it from others? Our constitutional and moral security against the abuses of the power of the executive government have already been explained. I will only add, that a great and manifest abuse of the delegated authority to make treaties would create no obligation any where. If ever it should occur, as I confidently believe it never will, the evil must find its corrective in the wisdom and firmness, not of this body only, but of the whole body of the people co-operating with it. It is, after all, in the people, upon whose Atlantean shoulders our whole republican system reposes, that you must expect that recuperative power, that redeeming and regenerating spirit, by which the constitution is to be purified and redintegrated when extravagant abuse has cankered it.

In addition to the example of a treaty of peace which I have just been considering, let me put another, of which none of us can question the reality. The President may exercise the power of pardoning, save only in the case of impeachments. The power of pardoning is not communicated by words more precise or comprehensive than the power to make treaties. But to what does it amount? Is not every pardon, pro hac vice, a repeal of the penal law against which it gives protection? Does it not ride over the law, resist its

command, and extinguish its effect? Does it not even control the combined force of judicature and legislation? Yet, have we ever heard that your legislative rights were an exception out of the prerogative of mercy? Who has ever pretended that this faculty cannot, if regularly exerted, wrestle with the strongest of your statutes? I may be told, that the pardoning power necessarily imports a control over the penal code, if it be exercised in the form of a pardon. I answer, the power to make treaties equally imports a power to put out of the way such parts of the civil code as interfere with its operation, if that power be exerted in the form of a treaty. There is no difference in their essence. You legislate, in both cases, subject to the power. And this instance furnishes another answer, as I have already intimated, to the predictions of abuse, with which, on this occasion, it has been endeavoured to appal us. The pardoning power is in the President alone. He is not even checked by the necessity of Senatorial concurrence. He may by his single fiat extract the sting from your proudest enactmentsand save from their vengeance a convicted offender.

Sir, you have my general notions upon the bill before you. They have no claim to novelty. I imbibed them from some of the heroes and sages who survived the storm of that contest to which America was summoned in her cradle. I imbibed them from the father of his country. My under

standing approved them, with the full concurrence of my heart, when I was much younger than I am now; and I feel no disposition to discard them now that age and feebleness are about to overtake me. I could say more-much more—upon this high question; but I want health and strength. It is, perhaps, fortunate for the House that I do; as it prevents me from fatiguing them as much as I fatigue myself.

No. VI.

ARGUMENT ON THE RIGHT OF THE STATES TO TAX THE NATIONAL BANK.

After the exordium,* which the reader will find in the First Part of this work, Mr. Pinkney proceeded to inquire whether the act of Congress establishing the Bank was repugnant to the Constitution. In order to determine this question, he contrasted the nature and organization of the old Confederation and the na tional constitution by which it had been superseded. The former was a mere federative league; nothing more than a species of alliance offensive and defensive between the States, such as there had been many examples of in the history of the world. It had no power of coercion but by arms. Its fundamental prin ciple was a scheme of legislation for states or communities in their political capacities. This was its great and radical vice, which the new constitution was intended to reform. This last was a project of general discretionary superintendence. It was formed upon the reverse of the principle of the Confederacy. It carried its agency to the persons of the citizens: it provided for direct legislation upon the people, precisely as in the State governments. But the change intended to be produced by the new constitution consisted much less in the addition of new powers to the Union, than in the invigoration of the original powers. The power of regulating commerce was, indeed, a new power. But the powers relating to war and peace, fleets and armies, treaties and finance, with the other more considerable powers, were all

* See Part First, p. 161.

« السابقةمتابعة »