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since to obtain from Congress a general Bankrupt Law, but, in consequence of a disagreement upon the details, none has been passed. The several states have frequently passed Insolvent Laws; but as another part of the Constitution, of which we shall speak hereafter, renders all acts impairing the obligation of contracts void, there has been much doubt as to the constitutionality and effect of these laws.

155. The Supreme Court have now determined, by a series of decisions, the following points :1

1st. That State Insolvent Laws cannot discharge the obligation of antecedent contracts;

2d. That the power of Congress to pass Bankrupt Laws is not an exclusive grant; it may, therefore, be exercised within constitutional limits by the states;

3d. That a state may pass valid laws discharging the person of the debtor and his after-acquired property from debts contracted after the passing such law;

4th. That such a discharge is valid only between the citizens of the state by which the law was passed;

5th. That the Insolvent Law of one state does not discharge the debtor from debts which he has incurred in another state.

§ 156. 5th Clause. To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures.

§ 157. The power conferred by this paragraph has been long and efficiently exercised, so that the American coinage has supplied much of the currency of the country, and holds a high rank among foreign nations. The Mint of the United States is an office, with the proper officers, created by Congress in 1792,2 and has been in operation ever since. Every person may bring gold and silver to the mint to be coined, and if it

4 Wheaton's R. 122; 12 Wheaton's R. 273. April, 1792.

2 Act of

is of the standard value, is assayed and coined free of expense; but if below the standard, enough is retained to pay the expense of coinage. The coinage of the United States is entirely decimal, and, therefore, in practice, more convenient than that of any other nation. Thus, the Spanish milled dollar is taken as the unit, and all smaller coin is in tenth parts of that, and all gold coin in tens above; as the dime is the tenth part of a dollar, and the eagle ten dollars.

§ 158. 6th Clause. To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;

Congress have exercised this power by making the crime of counterfeiting a felony, punishable by imprisonment, fine, &c. This power is consequential to the preceding, that of coining money and regulating its value.

§ 159. 7th Clause. To establish Post-offices and Post-roads;

The establishment of Post-offices and Post-roads has existed since, and before, the organization of the present government. Being a branch of public administration co-existent with commerce, social intercourse, and the diffusion of knowledge, it has grown with the increase of the general prosperity, and has become, from small beginnings, an immense and complicated machinery. In 1830, the number of Post-offices was 9000, and the number of miles in Post-roads more than 120,000; and this number is constantly increasing.

§ 160. To establish Post-roads and Post-offices, means simply to make any given road a post-route, and appoint in any given place a postmaster. The routes are established by act of Congress, but it is the duty of the postmaster-general to appoint postmasters at all such places as he may judge best, and expedite the mail as

1 Act of April, 1806.

frequently, on established routes, as the public interest may require.

161. The power to establish Post-offices and Post-roads being given, the consequential powers necessary to carry it into execution are likewise given; as, for example, the power to secure the safety and speedy transportation of the mail. Congress have accordingly made the robbery of the mail a felony, and prohibited, under high penalties, the obstruction of the mail. Under this act the Supreme Court have decided, that even a stolen horse, found in the mail stage, could not be seized, and that the driver could not be arrested on civil process in such a way as to obstruct the mail.


it was subsequently decided, that this was not to be carried so far as to endanger the public peace by interfering with criminal process. Thus, a felon may be arrested in the mail stage, or the driver, if he had committed murder.

§ 162. Under the power to establish Post-roads has arisen the question of Internal Improvements. Though much agitated, it is not settled, and I shall give here merely the different authorities upon the subject, whether Legislative, Executive, or Judicial.

§ 163. 1st. Of the Legislative opinions upon the subject. By the Act of March 3d, 1803, Congress concluded a compact with the state of Ohio, by which three per cent. of all the moneys derived from the sale of public lands within the state of Ohio were reserved for the construction of roads within that state. The consideration was, that the lands of the United States in that state should not be taxed. Whether by inadvertence or intention, this act clearly acknowledged the power of the general government to make Internal Improvements; for the appropriation was made by the

1 Act of April, 1810. Rep. 390.

23 Hall's Law Journal. 3 1 Peters

United States, and the funds were derived from the property of the United States. It could be no objection to this reasoning that the work was to be done by the state; for it is an established principle, that "he who acts by another, acts by himself." Neither is it an argument to say there was a consideration; for, “what one cannot do directly he cannot do indirectly." This was so understood by Congress, for in several subsequent acts they authorized the construction of roads within the North-west Territory.

§ 164. The next step taken by Congress1 was the construction of the Cumberland Road. This road was commenced in 1806, and in a few years finished from Cumberland, on the Potomac, to Wheeling, on the Ohio. In 1820, Congress resumed the construction from Wheeling westward, and it is now in progress through the western states. This work was undertaken on the ground of the compact with Ohio. By the terms of a compact made between that state and the United States, five per cent. of all the moneys arising from the sale of public lands within that state were to be applied to the making of roads "leading from the navigable waters of the Atlantic to the Ohio." This, however, falls within the same principles already stated, in reference to the three per cent. fund; and as the sum drawn from the reserved funds was soon greatly exceeded, the work has since been conducted simply on the ground of internal improvement.

§ 165. The next act2 was the opening of the road from Athens, in Georgia, to New-Orleans, and from Nashville to Natchez. In 1809, the Canal of Caronde let3 was extended to the Mississippi by the general government.

§ 166. In 1811, Congress directed the survey and

Act of March, 1806: of February, 1809.

2 Act of April, 1806. 4 Act. of December, 1811.

3 Act

making of two roads, one from the Rapids of the Maumee to the Western Reserve, and another from Sandusky to the Greenville Line.

§ 167. By several successive acts in 1812, 1816, 1817, and 1818, Congress confirmed their former decisions, by making surveys of, and authorizing the construction of roads; till it would seem that, practically, there was no doubt in the National Legislature upon the subject. The matter has, however, been several times tested by the interposition of the Executive Veto.

§ 168. A bill to set apart a portion of the bank bonus and dividends for the purpose of Internal Improvement was passed in 1817, and returned by Mr. Madison, who denied the power of Congress to construct roads and canals, or improve water-courses. The House of Representatives, however, re-affirmed their power by a vote of sixty to fifty-six.

§ 169. At the succeeding session, Mr. Monroe, in his message, also denied the constitutional power of Congress to make internal improvements. The House soon after passed a resolution, ninety to seventy-five, declaring that Congress, under the Constitution, had power to construct roads and improve water-courses.

§ 170. From this period Internal Improvement seemed the settled policy of the government for several years. In 1822, Mr. Monroe, indeed, interposed his veto on the bill providing for the Collection of Tolls on the Cumberland road; but, the objection was not to the power of making roads, but to the Collection of Tolls upon it, as being inconsistent with the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the soil. This, however, was not deemed an impediment to the construction of public works, for Congress immediately took measures to organize a system of surveys and reports, in relation to such roads and canals as the public interest might require; and in April, 1824, what is called the Survey Bill became a law. It appropriated $30,000 for the purpose of making sur

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