Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising the Leading Debates and Incidents of the Second Session of the Eighteenth Congress Page: 76
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APPENDIX— To Gales & Seaton's Begister.
18th Congress, (
2d Session. <
On Internal Improvements.
[H. of R.
jnents." This bill proposes to authorize the President
of the United States to borrow, on the best terms he can,
any sums of money, not exceeding, in the whole, ten
millions of dollars; which sums are to be borrowed at
such times as may be necessary for the purposes con-
tained in the second section of the bill, and to be re-
deemable at the end of years.
The second section authorizes the Secretary of the
Treasury to make subscriptions, on the part of the
United States, in such companies for internal improve-
ments, as may be incorporated by the respective states,
and as Congress may approve from time to time.
The third section contains a provision, that each state
may, under certain restrictions, purchase the stock sub-
scribed in such state, and take a transfer of the same
from the Secretary of (lie Treasury.
The fourth section directs the Secretary of the Trea-
sury, as long" as any stock belongs to the United States,
to receive the dividends on the same, and to vote for
the officers of each company, according to the shares
The committee have directed their attention, mainly,
to such considerations of the subject as may lead to the
actual execution of internal improvements.
The construction of the Federal Government, as a
general head, and the existence of many states as sepa-
rate parts of the whole, create obstacles against the
execution of many important works, but none, it is be-
lieved, which may not be overcome, and, in a manner,
that will be reconcileable to the pretensions of the
As to the objects of improvements, whether they be-
long to the General Government or to a state, the exe-
cution of then) will be, in a degree, beneficial to the
whole. An object of improvement may be entirely
within a state, and still be of a Federal character, as a
road to a fortification. The object may embrace parts
of two states, as a bridge over a river, that divides the
two states; yet the stales may erect the bridge, if Con-
gress gives its consent, otherwise, any agreement or
compact between the states will not be binding; in
such a case, Congress could either give consent,
or cause the bridge to be erected by the United
States, if it was necessary to answer any national
purpose; Or it might be erected by a company incor-
porated by the two states. If the object of improve-
ment has a wide range, and is to pass through many
states, there the General Government can act alone, as
in the case of the improvements of the Ohio and Missis-
sippi rivers. These improvements cannot be distinguish-
ed from any other of the same importance, that passes
through a number of states.
It is unnecessary, at the present, to make any effort
to ascertain where the true line on this subject lies,
between the General and State Governments; Congress
must decide on each case as it arises, and it is believed
that there never can be any collision. Congress will
never be disposed to act without the co-operation of the
states, except in a national work, passing through differ-
ent stales, and where the states through which it passes
are not interested in a degree sufficient to induce them
to undertake the perfection of the work, or any con-
siderable part of it ; such cases, in the opinion of the
committee, may be considered as of the first national
class, and cannot ba included in any general and speci-
fic systems; for, although the mountains, streams, and
the variety of our climate and soil will not change, still
it would be rash to adopt a system designating- where
roads, canals, and bridges, should be located, ten or
twenty years hence ; each case must depend on the
course of trade, and the circumstances that may exist, at
the moment it is to be carried into execution.
The committee, however, are of opinon, that there is
a secondary class of cases, on which the General Govern-
ment and the states can act conjointly by the subscrip-
ted!! of stock on the part of the United States, in compa-
nies incorporated in the respective states, for internal
The plan proposed by the bill, after much reflection,
has been deemed to be the most judicious of any that
can be devised. It is a plan of encouragement, and in
its operation, will not interfere with objects of the first
class. It will excite the states to incorporate companies
for such objects as will be, in a degree, national, and
sufficiently so as to induce Congress to countenance
them; it leaves Congress to decide in each case, when
presented upon its own circumstances and merits.
Congress, on all occasions, is to act for the good
of the whole; and there must be many instances where
the public interest of the Union will require larger
expenditures in one portion of the country than in an-
States, which have important natural advantages for
improvements, will not be willing to yield them to the
General Government, although they may stand in need
of its aid in the beginning—for instance, Pennsylvania,
from her interest and pride, never could be disposed to
permit the contemplated canal from the Stisquehannah
to Pittsburg, to go into any other hands than her own.
This plan contains the advantage of receiving aid from
the General Government, while it retains to the states
the right of purchasing the interest of the United States
Congress can act, in any case, after receiving the ne-
cessary information, without waiting for information from
The ob ject of introducing the bill this session, is to
lay the subject generally before the public; it is not de-
signed to act on it until the next session of Congress,
when its details, if the principles of the bill are sanc-
tioned, can be revised and improved.
The committee cannot conceive how the General Go-
vernment can aid in the internal improvements of the
country, in most cases, with greater propriety than by
subscriptions to companies incorporated by the respec-
tive states. Congress will have the opinion of the Unit-
ed States' Engineers, who will make the necessary sur-
veys, plans, and estimates; and it will have the opinion
of a state in each case, and of intelligent stockholders as
to the importance and probable profits of each work;
and, finally, Congress will exercise its own judgment on
the utility and national character of the work. The
prosecution of the works, besides, will be conducted by
interested individuals, with less expense and delay than
perhaps it could be done by the public.
As Congress will probably make other expenditures
in specific cases, from time to time, the sum is here li-
mited to ten millions of dollars; yet, Congress can adopt
the principle that no subscription shall be made to any
incorporated company, until a certain proportion of the
estimated expense shall have been subscribed for, either
by the state or individuals; and this may augment the
actual expenditures for public improvements to more
than double the sum mentioned in the bill. Several of
the stales have executed many important works, and,
with a judicious management from ihe General Govern-
ment, a great deal more may be anticipated on their parts.
The aid of the General Government will seldom be
required in the construction of roads. The roads which
will be necessary for the accommodation of the states,
will, in most cases, answer the purposes of the General
Government. Attention will, perhaps, have to be paid
to parts of leading mail routes where the interest of the
states is not sufficient to induce them to keep such parts
in good repair. In the late report of the Secretary of
War, the extension of the Cumberland road from Wheel-
ing to St. I.ouis, and the construction of a durable road
from tlie seat of Government to New Orleans, are con-
sidered as objects of national importance.
By the report of the Postmaster General, of the 15th
December, 1824, it appears that the route on which the
j mail is carried from the Seat of Government to New
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Gales, Joseph, 1761-1841. Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising the Leading Debates and Incidents of the Second Session of the Eighteenth Congress, book, 1825; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc30752/m1/452/: accessed January 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.