Puslapio vaizdai

Speech in Congress.

Internal Improvements.

nowhere intimates when the President expects the war to terminate. At its beginning, General Scott was, by this same President driven into disfavor, if not disgrace, for intimating that peace could not be conquered in less than three or four months. But now at the end of about twenty months, during which time our arms have given us the most splendid successes-every department, and every part, land and water, officers and privates, regulars and volunteers, doing all that men could do, and hundreds of things which it had ever before been thought that men could not do; after all this, this same President gives us a long message without showing us that as to the end, he has himself even an imaginary conception. As I have before said, he knows not where he is. He is a bewildered, confounded, and miserably-perplexed

God grant he may be able to show that there is not something about his conscience more painful than all his mental perplexity.



(In Committee of the Whole House, June 20, 1848.)

Mr. Lincoln said :

" MR. CHAIRMAN :-) wish at all times in no way to practice any fraud upon the House or the Committee, and I also desire to do nothing which may be very disagreeable to any of the members. I therefore state, in advance, that my object in taking the floor is to make a speech on the general subject of internal improvements; and if I am out of order in doing so, I give the Chair an opportunity of so deciding, and I will take my seat.”

The Chair.—“I will not undertake to anticipate what the gentleman may say on the subject of internal improvements. He will, therefore, proceed in his remarks, and if any question of order shall be made, the Chair will then decide it.”

Speech in Congress.

Internal Improvements.

Mr. Lincoln.—“At an early day of this session the President sent to us what may properly be termed an internal improvement veto message. The late Democratic Convention which sat at Baltimore, and which nominated General Cass for the Presidency, adopted a set of resolutions, now called the Democratic platform, among which is one in these words :

"That the Constitution does not confer upon the General Government the power to commence and carry on a general system of internal improvements.'

General Cass, in his letter accepting the nomination, holds this language :

"I have carefully read the resolutions of the Democratic National Convention, laying down the platform of our political faith, and I adhere to them as firmly as I approve them cordially.'

“ These things, taken together, show that the question of internal improvements is now more distinctly madebas become more intense, than at any former period. It can no longer be avoided. The veto message and the Baltimore resolution I understand to be, in substance, the same thing; the latter being the more general statement, of which the former is the amplification—the bill of particulars. While I know there are many Democrats, on this floor and elsewhere, who disapprove that message, I understand that all who shall vote for General Cass will thereafter be considered as having approved it, as having indorsed all its doctrines. I suppose all, or nearly all, the Democrats will vote for him. Many of them will do so, not because they like his position on this question, but because they prefer him, being wrong in this, to another, whom they consider further wrong on other questions. In this way the internal improvement Democrats are to be, by a sort of forced consent, carried over, and arrayed against themselves on this measure of policy. General Cass, once elected, will not trouble himself to make a

Speech in Congress.

Internal Improvements.

President's Position Repudiated.

Constitutional argument, or, perhaps, any argument at all, when he shall veto a river or harbor bill. He will consider it a sufficient answer to all Democratic murmurs, to point to Mr. Polk's message, and to the “Democratic platform.” This being the case, the question of improvements is verging to a final crisis ; and the friends of the policy must now battle, and battle manfully, or surrender all. In this view, humble as I am, I wish to review, and contest as well as I may, the general positions of this veto message. When I say general positions, I mean to exclude from consideration so much as relates to the present embarrassed state of the Treasury, in consequence of the Mexican war.

"Those general positions are: That internal improvements ought not to be made by the General Government:

“1. Because they would overwhelm the treasury

“ 2. Because, while their burdens would be general, their benefits would be local and partial, involving an obnoxious inequality;

“3. Because they would be unconstitutional ;

" 4. Because the States may do enough by the levy and collection of tonnage duties ; or, if not,

5. That the Constitution may be amended.

“Do nothing at all, lest you do something wrong,' is the sum of these positions is the sum of this message ; and this, with the exception of what is said about Constitutionality, applying as forcibly to making improvements by State authority as by the national authority. So that we must abandon the improvements of the country altogether, by any and every authority, or we must resist and repudiate the doctrines of this message. Let us attempt the latter.

“ The first position is, that a system of internal improvement would overwhelm the treasury.

That, in such a system, there is a tendency to undue expansion, is not to be denied. Such tendency is founded in the nature of the subject. A member of Congress will prefer

Speech in Congress.

President's Position Repudiated.

voting for a bill which contains an appropriation for his district, to voting for one which does not; and when a bill shall be expanded till every district shall be provided for, that it will be too greatly expanded is obvious. But is this any more true in Congress than in a State Legislature? If a member of Congress must have an appropriation for his district, so a member of a Legislature must have one for his county ; and if one will overwhelm the national treasury, so the other will overwhelm the State treasury. Go where we will, the difficulty is the same. Allow it to drive us from the halls of Congress, and it will just as easily drive us from the State Legislatures. Let us, then, grapple with it, and test its strength. Let us, judging of the future by the past, ascertain whether there may not be, in the discretion of Congress, a sufficient power to limit and restrain this expansive tendency within reasonable and proper bounds. The President himself values the evidence of the past. He tells us that at a certain point of our history, more than two hundred millions of dollars had been applied for, to make improvements, and this he does to prove that the treasury would be overwhelmed by such a system. Why did he not tell us how much was granted? Would not that have been better evidence ? Let us turn to it, and see what it proves. In the message, the President tells us that during the four succeeding years, embraced by the administration of Presi dent Adams, the power not only to appropriate money, but to apply it, under the direction and authority of the General Government, as well to the construction of roads as to the improvement of harbors and rivers, was fully asserted and exercised.'

"This, then, was the period of greatest enormity. These, if any, must have been the days of the two hundred millions. And how much do you suppose was really expended for improvements during those four years? Two hundred millions ? One hundred ? Fifty ? Ten ? Five ? No, sir, less than two

Speech in Congress.

Internal Improvements.

millions. As shown by authentic documents, the expenditures on improvements during 1825, 1826, 1827 and 1828, amounted to $1,879,627 01. These four years were the period of Mr. Adams' administration, nearly, and substantially. This fact shows that wben the power to make improvements was 'fully asserted and exercised,' the Congress did keep within reasonable limits; and what has been done it seems to me, can be done again.

“Now for the second position of the message, namely, that the burdens of improvements would be general, while their benefits would be local and partial, involving an obnoxious inequality. That there is some degree of truth in this position I shall not deny. No commercial object of Government patronage can be so exclusively general, as not to be of some peculiar local advantage; but on the other hand, nothing is so local as not to be of some general advantage. The navy, as I understand it, was established, and is maintained, at a great annual expense, partly to be ready for war, when war shall come, but partly also, and perhaps chiefly, for the protection of our commerce on the high seas. This latter object is, for all I can see, in principle, the same as internal improvenents. The driving a pirate from the track of commerce un the broad ocean, and the removing a snag from its more narrow path in the Mississippi river, can not, I think, be distinguished in principle. Each is done to save life and property, and for nothing else. The navy, then, is the most general in its benefits of all this class of objects; and yet even the navy is of some peculiar advantage to Charleston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston, beyond what it is to the interior towns of Illinois. The next most general object I can think of, would be improvements on the Mississippi river and its tributaries. They touch thirteen of our States--Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Now, I suppose it will not be

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