« AnteriorContinua »
mination of this barbarous traffic. Before the time arrived, the interdiction was prospectively enacted by Congress, and it took effect in time to afford an example to civilized Europe of abol. ishing a species of commerce which had been the opprobrium of modern policy. This interdiction was followed up by denouncing the foreign slavetrade as piracy, and rendering it punishable with death when pursued by our own citizens; and, by the late treaty with Great Britain, we have stipulated to co-operate with her, by means of our navy, to suppress it more effectually. But still the blot remains; for, though the toleration granted by the Constitution was confined to the states “then existing,” yet Congress has refused to imitate the example of their predecessors under the Confederation, who prohibited slavery in the territories ceded by the elder states for the common benefit, by a similar restriction upon the new states created in them; it has abstained from suppressing the domestic slave-trade, or “the migration of such persons as any of the states then existing should think proper to admit,” which was not exempted from the power of regulating commerce among the states for any longer period than the foreign slave-trade was tolerated as an exception to the power of regulating commerce with foreign nations. Nor has it listened to the numerous petitions for abolishing slavery and the slave-trade in the territories under its exclusive jurisdiction, and especially in the District of Columbia, the seat of the National Government, the residence of the representatives of the foreign sovereigns, and the resort of strangers and visiters from all quarters of the globe. Yet the evil is not beyond cure. A remedy, slow but sure, has been for some years, and still is, in operation. Those of the original states which bounded on others from which slavery is excluded, have been compelled to abandon slave labour, from its inability to compete successfully with the labour of freemen. Every year increases the efficiency of this remedy, and the sphere of its operation. Unfortunately, however, the crisis has been retarded by the untoward and rash interference of those empirical zealots, who claim to be the exclusive friends and infallible advocates of emancipation, who, with the blindness of ignorance, the virulence of bigotry, and madness of fanaticism, denounce every man or woman who refuses or hesitates to unite in their measures, or adopt their narrow dogmas. Nevertheless, before many years expire, the natural influence of benevolence, of mildness, and of Christian forbearance and moderation, will advance in geometrical progression, until the foul blot on our national escutcheon shall be removed, rather by the hand of Providence than by any act or co-operation of our own.
“ Deus, hæc fortasse benigna,
Reducit in sedem, vice."
LECTURE IX. ON THE POWERS VESTED IN THE FEDERAL GOVERN
MENT FOR MAINTAINING HARMONY AMONG THE STATES.
The authority vested in the General Government to provide for the maintenance of harmony and proper intercourse among the states, comprises the third
class of powers enumerated in the Constitution. Under this head might be included the particular restraints on the authority of the states, and certain powers vested in the judicial department; but the former are reserved for a distinct head of consideration, and the latter have already been reviewed in our examination of the structure and organization of the government.
The remaining powers comprehended in this description are,
First. To regulate commerce among the several states, and with the Indian tribes. · Second. To establish postoffices and postroads.
Third. To coin money, and regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin ; to fix the standard of weights and measures.
Fourth. To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States.
Fifth. To prescribe by general laws the manner in which the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of one state shall be proved, and the effect they shall have in another.
Sixth. To establish uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies; and,
Seventh. To establish a uniform rule on the subject of naturalization throughout the United States.
1. The power to regulate commerce among the states had been clearly pointed out, by experience under the Confederation, to be essential to the General Government. Without this supplemental provision, indeed, the primary and indispensable power of regulating foreign commerce would have been incomplete and ineffectual, if not altogether nugatory. A very material object of the power was to secure those states which import and export through other states
from unjust contributions levied on them by the late ter. It was foreseen that, if the several states were left at liberty to regulate their mutual commerce, means would be discovered or devised to load articles of produce and merchandise, in their transit, with duties that would eventually fall on the growers or manufacturers of the one, and the consumers of the other. Such practices had prevailed, and it was justly apprehended that their continuance would nourish increasing animosities, and not improbably terminate in serious interruptions of the public tranquillity.
In the important case referred to in the last lecture, the whole doctrine relative to the construction of this part of the Constitution was largely and deliberately discussed, and definitively and satisfactorily settled. It was declared on that occasion, that the power to regulate commerce among the states did not extend to that commerce which is completely internal; and that, comprehensive as are the terms in which it is conferred, the power in question is, nevertheless, restricted to that commerce which concerns more states than one. Those terms would hardly have been selected to indicate the completely interior traffic of as state, because they are not apt terms for that purpose ; and the enumeration of the particular classes of commerce to which the power was to extend would not have been made, had the intention been to extend the power to commerce of every description. The specification itself presupposes something not specified, and from the language and subject of the clause, it would seem that the exclusively internal commerce of a state is not comprehended. The genius and character of the whole government, indeed, evince that its action is to be applied to all the external concerns of the nation, and to those
internal concerns which affect the states generally, but not to those which are completely within a particular state, which do not affect other states, and with which it is not necessary to interfere for the purpose of executing any of the general powers of the Federal Government.
The completely internal commerce, therefore, of every state is reserved for the state itself. But as the power of Congress in regulating foreign commerce does not stop at the jurisdictional lines of the states, and would be a very useless power if it did not pass those limits, it is, if possible, clearer that the power to regulate commerce among the states is not limited by state boundaries. For not only do waters communicating with the ocean penetrate into the interior of the country, and pass in their course through several states, but in many cases—in the signal instance of the Western Lakes—there are waters in and upon the boundaries of several states, which are not navigable to the sea for the purposes of foreign commerce, while they furnish means of commercial intercourse between those states, and, consequently, afford occasions to Congress for the exercise of the power in question. This power must be exercised wherever the subject exists, and if the means of commercial intercourse among the states exist within a state-if a coasting voyage may commence or terminate within a state-then the power of Congress to regulate commerce among the several states may be exercised within a state.
The states either join each other, in which case they are separated by a mathematical line, or they are remote from each other, in which case other states lie between them. How, then, it has been asked, is commercial intercourse between them to be conducted ? A trading expedition between two adjoining states