« ZurückWeiter »
gislature is produced, either that representing the People, or that representing the States. His power, therefore, of a qualified negative, being founded upon the supposition, that he truly represents all the interests and opinions of the Union, introduces a useful element, to check any preponderating interest of any section, in a particular meas. ure. It does not, like an absolute negative, suspend legislation, but it merely refers the subject back, for a more deliberate review of the Senate and House. If two thirds of each branch still concur in favor of the measure, it becomes a law. Thus, a thorough revision of the measure is guarantied; and, at the same time, the deliberate wishes of the States, and of the people, cannot be disobeyed. If two thirds of each branch do not dissent from the President's opinion, the natural inference is, that the measure is not so far beyond all reasonable objections, that it ought ordinarily to prevail. The negative of the President was undoubtedly designed by the Constitution to be applied only on extraordinary occasions and exigencies; and if it were to be applied to the common course of legislation, it might be fraught with great public mischiefs, and weak. en, if not overthrow, the just power of legislation by Congress, since it may be presumed, that it can rarely happen, in a country, having such a diversity of interests, and pursuits, and opinions, as ours, that a clear majority of two thirds of each House can be obtained against the known wishes, and natural influence of the Executive department. On the other hand, if Congress should ofter. be driven, by the frequent use of it, to pass laws, in opposition to the President's negative, it would gradually introduce a disregard of his opinions, and a hostile opposition to his authority. Such a state of things would, certainly, in every view, be most inconvenient and undesirable. The evil, however, could scarcely be of a very long continuance ; for, if the President should abuse his power, (as certainly he sometimes may,) the people have the proper remedies in their own hands, and can compel him to relinquish office at no distant period.
§ 151. But the qualified negative is not left wholly without restraint. The President must promptly exer:
cise in, within ten days, excluding Sunday ; otherwise, the bill becomes a law. And, on the other hand, Congress are deprived of the power of preventing its due exercise by a hasty adjournment within the ten days, so as to leave the President without susficient time for due deliberation If a qualified negative is to be allowed at all, it would seem thus to be as much restrained, as the public good can require, or, at least, as much, as its proper exercise can justify.
§ 152. The remaining clause provides a like regulation in regard to orders, resolutions, and votes, to which the concurrence of both Houses is necessary.
It is,“Every order, resolution, or vote, to which the concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary, (except on a question of adjournment,) shall be presented to the President of the United States ; and, before the same shall take effect, shall be approved by him, or, being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the rules and limitations prescribed in the case of a bill.” If this provision had not been made, Congress, by adopting the form of an order, or resolution, or vote, instead of a bill, might have effectually defeated the President's negative in many important portions of legislation. The reason of the exception as to adjournments, is, that this power is peculiarly fit to be acted upon by Congress, according to their own discretion ; and, therefore, it is, (as we have seen,) by a preceding clause, vested in both Houses, and devolves on the President, only in cases of their disagreement.
$ 153. We have now completed the review of the structure and organization of the legislative department ; and, it has been shown, that it is admirably adapted for a wholesome and upright exercise of the powers confided to it. All the checks, which human ingenuity has been able to devise, or at least all, which, with reference to our habits, our institutions, and our diversities of local interests, seem practicable. to give perfect operation to the machinery, to adjust its movements, to prevent its eccentricities, and to balance its forces; all these have
been introduced, with singular skill, ingenuity, and wis. dom, into the arrangements. Yet, after all, the fabric may fall; for the work of man is perishable. Nay, it must fall, if there be not that vital spirit in the people, which can alone nourish, sustain, and direct, all its move. ments. If ever the day shall arrive, in which the best talents, and the best virtues shall be driven from of fice, by intrigue, or corruption, by the denunciations of the press, or by the persecutions of party factions, legislation will cease to be national. It will be wise by accident, and bad by system.
Powers of Congress.— Taxation.
§ 154. We next come to the consideration of the legislative powers conferred on Congress, which are contained in the eighth section of the first article. The first clause is,—~ The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States. But all duties, imposts, and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.”
What is the true interpretation of this clause, has been matter of considerable controversy ; that is to say, whether the words, “ Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises,” constitute a distinct clause and confer a substantive independent power ; and the words, “to pay the debts, and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States,” constitute another, distinct clause, and substantive and independent power; or, whether these latter words are a dependent clause, merely qualifying the former clause, and so the whole to be read together, as if the words stood thus,-“Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises,” in order to pay the public debts, and to provide for the common defence and
general welfare;" that is to say, Congress shall have pow er to lay taxes, &c., for the purpose of paying the public debts, and providing for the common defence and general
If the former be the true interpretation, then it s obvious, that the powers of the National Government, under color of the authority of the clause to provide for the common defence and general welfare, would be
prac. tically unlimited. If the latter be the true interpretation, then the words properly amount to a limitation or qualification of the power of taxation ; so that no taxes can be laid by Congress, except to pay the debts, and to provide for the common defence and general welfare. The latter seems theomore just and solid interpretation of the words, and most confortable to the true spirit and objects of the instrumento
5153. The necessity of the power of taxation, to the vigorous action of the National Government, would seem to be self-evident. The want of it, was one of the principal defects under the Confederation. A National Government, without the power of providing for its own expenditures, charged with public burdens and duties, and yet deprived of adequate means to sustain and perform them, would soon become wholly inert and imbecile. It would be almost as absurd, as to bind a man immovably to the earth, and yet at the same time to require him to walk abroad. If, then, there is to be a real, effective National Government, there must be a power of taxation given to it, adequate to its wants, its objects, and its duties. The only proper remaining inquiry would be, whether the power of taxation should be limited to particular specified objects and sources, or whether the power should be general and unlimited. It is obvious, that if limited to particular objects and sources, those objects and sources might be exhausted, or might become utterly inadeequate to the public wants, or might be taxed to an extent, which would be ruinous to particular employments and interests. Thus, for example, if the power were limited to mere taxes on commerce, and the nation should be engaged in war, or should otherwise be involved in heavy expenditures in the course of unfortunate
events, the very attempt to defray the national expenditures, and supply the national wants, by taxes on commerce, might amount to an utter annihilation of all its value, and be equivalent to a total prohibition of all foreign trade.
The same would be equally true, if the power of taxation were limited exclusively to lands, or to the products of agriculture, or manufactures, or to taxes on particular articles, such as wheat, corn, cotton, flour, rice, or domestic animals. The power of taxation, on the other hand, if general and unrestricted, will leave to Congress a free choice, from time to time, to select such articles for taxation as shall be most productive, and least burdensome, and thus to supply the public wants, without endangering the interests, or depressing the products, of every section of the Country. For these reasons, the power has been given in unlimited terms; and the wisdom of the provision will scarcely now be called in question, by any considerate mind.
Si56. The words used, are, “taxes, duties, imposts, and excises.” In a general sense, all contributions, imposed by the Government upon individuals for the service of the State, are taxes, by whatever name they may called. In this sense, they are usually divided into two classes ;-direct taxes, under which head are included taxes on land, and other real estate, and poll, or capitation taxes, or taxes on the polls or persons of individuals; indirect taxes, under which head are classed those, which are levied only upon articles of consumption, and, of course, of which every person pays only so much, as he consumes of the articles. The word "s duties,” is often used as synonymous with taxes; but is more often used as synonymous with “customs,” which are taxes levied upon goods and merchandise, which are exported or imported. In this sense, duties are equivalent to“ imposts,” although the latter word is often restrained to duties on goods and merchandise, which are imported from abroad. “Excises,” is a word, generally used in contradistinction to “imposts,” in its restricted sense ; and is applied to internal or inland impositions, levied sometimes upon the Donsuinption of a commodity, sometimes upon the retail