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under their respective responsibilities to their constituents and the laws. If however the power be, from its very nature, thus
extensive, its exercise must of course be governed by principles • of sound policy, and it would be improper that the general go
vernment should execute of its own direct agency, any work that is not of general utility. But the national character is not to be judged of by the extent, the quality, or the location of the work, it will be ascertained by the exercise of sound discretion, and determined by the influence of enlightened views. The question of its being confined within a single, or extended to various states, has no bearing upon the nationality of its character. The canal of New-York is perhaps more important in a national point of view, than any other internal improvement that has ever been proposed or executed in the United States, while the Hudson and the Delaware canal, which lies partly in two states, and touches a third, is purely local. Nor do we hesitate to say, that the little cut of two miles, from Toomer's sound to Cape Fear river, being a part of the great line of navigation parallel to the coast, is as national as the general improvement of the Mississippi, which traverses the whole breadth of the Union, and unites climes of the most varied temperature, the snows of almost polar regions to the perpetual verdure of the tropics.
But the agency of the general government in internal improvement ought not to stop at works whose design and utility is strictly national; the benefit of the parts constitutes the benefit of the whole, and a paternal government will foster all praiseworthy objects of enterprise, however small may be the sphere of their influence. Here, however, the general government cannot in good policy act directly, but its resources ought not the less to be applicable to objects of real and obvious utility. The example of the state of New-York points out a mode by which the general wealth may be safely and beneficially applied to promote undertakings limited in their local influence. The Hudson and Delaware canal, intrusted to a chartered company by the states of New York and Pennsylvania, was in danger of being arrested for want of funds; the legislature of the former state forthwith loaned its credit to the company for a sum sufficient to complete its works, and took for its security a pledge of the whole. This course, which in this single instance secured the execution of a great and valuable work, might be safely taken as a general principle of action, and the Federal Government might, in all cases, when states or authorized associations of individuals shall have executed or provided for the execution of a certain proportion, not less than the half, of any public work, lend to them its credit, or its funds, for the purpose of executing the remainder, upon a pledge of the revenue of the whole. The sagacity of individual speculators, or the intelligence of legislatures, intimately acquainted with the circumstances of the enterprise, might be, in all cases, safely relied upon to shield the government from loss.
The same principle might perhaps be applied to roads, but the danger of loss and improper application becomes much greater in this case. It almost always happens, that the whole cost of roads is amply defrayed by the improvement of the value of the country through which they pass, and landholders might often safely venture the loss of a large proportion of the expenditure upon a road, in order to induce the government to bear a share. Roads too, where they are actually needed, almost always return a compensation sufficiently direct to induce their construction without the aid of government, and their benefits are more strictly local. The very infancy of our settlements will call for the formation of roads, and their quality will be improve ed with the growth of population. The great mails of the Union may require in some few cases the formation of roads, but it may be almost assumed, that when other circumstances do not determine their construction, the mail will be light and the necessity for roads less. The selection which has been made of the seat of our general government, has rendered routes which would not otherwise have been constructed, absolutely necessary, if that city be taken as the central point whence all the mail roads are to diverge. These routes are in no wise necessary to the commerce or communications of the country, except so far as a fictitious want is created by the location of the general post-office. Still it might not be an unwise provision for the general government, to loan on the pledge of the tolls, to aid in the construction of turnpike roads, some definite portion of their cost. In this event, the residue of the expense of construction would fall upon the state, or the district in which the road is situated, but the investment will be far less safe than upon canals or rail-roads.
It is a question which has been much agitated, whether it be better to perform public works at the cost of the public, or commit them to associations of individuals. In those countries where capital is superabundant, and more than suffices for the ordinary demands of trade, the question becomes one of expediency alone. If the undertaking be one that promises a fair remuneration, individuals can always be found ready and willing to embark in it. It then becomes the simple question, whether it be wise to intrust the interests of internal commerce to companies who have no other interest than that of obtaining the largest returns for the investment. The example of England is urged in favour of the latter course ; and it has, no doubt, in that country, been eminently successful. France, too, after having for centuries held to the other method, has, within a few years, endeavoured to follow the example of England. Still, however, it may be
doubted whether this be the preferable plan, even in these cases. Were a government manfully to determine that its resources should be directed to its own improvement, and were it to adopt a general and well organized system, it is clear that the results would be far more beneficial to the general prosperity, than any number of isolated projects intrusted to individuals. But the governments in Europe have, in the first place, the necessity, real or imaginary, of keeping up large standing armies, and moreover the cost of their courts and governments is so enormous, as to swallow up the funds that might be far better employed in adding to the general wealth. To diminish the military force, is in some cases dangerous, by exposing a nation to foreign aggression; in others, the security of the rulers would be impaired by lessening the means by which an oppressed and discontented people are kept in awe; while in all, the administration has an interest in keeping up the pomp and luxury, the places and sinecures, which seem the necessary accompaniments of regal state. How far the late change in France may relieve that country, and by setting an example of simplicity in her rulers, relieve the rest of Europe from the cost of courts and pensioners, we have yet to see; but there appears little prospect that the nations of that continent can soon dispense with the service of large standing armies. Still, the expenditure of large sums upon internal improvement is not absolutely incompatible with either prodigious luxury or the maintenance of vast standing armies. Thus the luxurious and military reign of Louis XIV. saw the execution of the canal of Languedoc, and the perpetual war that attended the rule of Napoleon, witnessed the construction of more works of public utility than had illustrated the whole line of Bourbon kings. Yet, under such circumstances, a government will view the means of internal commercial communication as merely secondary, when compared with preparations for defence or luxurious enjoyment; and while that is the case, it will be wise to encourage individuals to undertake what a government either cannot or will not perform. The objection next occurs, that there is thus created a body of influential men, whose interests are to a certain degree in opposition to those of the public, and whose privileges, in order to be valuable, must take the form of exclusive monopolies. In our own country no such reasons apply for committing public works to private hands. Few of our states possess any great superabundance of commercial capital; in others, where public works are most urgently demanded, the circumstances of new settlement exact more than all the funds the private resources or credit of individuals can bring into action, and employ them to greater profit than any public work. Hence the capital to execute any great design must be extrinsic, and private resources or
pledges cannot procure it, Great as is the comparative wealth of . the city and state of New York, its canals would not have been executed within the next half century, had the government intrusted them to chartered companies, instead of taking them into its own hands, and pledging the credit and resources of the state to secure the loans it required to complete them.
When a state thus enters into a system of internal improvement, the mere returns in money become a very secondary object. It is sufficient, that the completion of the public works shall add to the value of individual property as much as they themselves cost, and the state is no loser ; if, in addition, they pay the interest of the cost, the whole expenditure becomes clear profit. In the case of the New-York canals, many times their cost has been added to the productive capital of the state ; and the amount of tolls is such, that there can be no doubt, that so soon as the canal can be declared absolutely finished, they must far more than defray the interest of its cost. A degree of deception, probably necessary to carry a fluctuating population into a great expenditure, has been continued long after the reasons have ceased to exist. Works and additions that ought to have been included in the estimates of the cost, are thrown into the account of annual repairs, and the mere maintenance appears to absorb a large part of the income. Were it now to be frankly declared, that many parts were executed in such haste as to be merely temporary substitutes for permanent works, and that many important and essential structures and accessories were included neither in the original plan nor estimates, the matter would be placed in its true light, and even if the cost of these additions be defrayed out of the income, the items of essential additions and of mere maintenance would be separated ; and if the actual cost of the canal should appear greatly enhanced, its nett income would be at once seen to be abundant. Such a course would necessarily demand an examination like that which the celebrated Vauban made of the canal of Languedoc, at a time when its very existence appeared to be threatened by the cost of its maintenance, and the works which such an examination would point out as necessary, being undertaken as parts of the general scheme, and not as temporary expedients, growing out of accidents and casual circumstances, would be less costly than they now are.
A government need not fear to contract debt for works which are certain to be of public utility. The paradox that a national debt is a national blessing, has been indeed refuted by the masterly argument of Dr. Hamilton; and it is now no longer doubted, that all debt, growing out of wars or other' unproductive expenditure, is the absolute loss of so much capital to the nation. But when the debt is contracted in order to be expend
ed in creating a permanent and productive capital in public works, no loss can take place in any direction. The whole of the profits made by workmen, contractors, and all the different classes of traders through which the expenditure circulates, is so much addition to the general riches; the land through which the work passes is raised in value far more than the cost of the enterprise, and every diminution in the cost of transportation, adds to the capital of the country.
In our republic, the sole question seems now to be, whether the general or state governments shall be the organs for the execution of public works. Practice seems to have vested in the state governments the right of granting privileges to associations of individuals, and of undertaking on their own account all the different forms by which inland communication is facilitated. Yet it is reasonably doubted, whether the general government have not a concurrent right to engage in constructions of the kind, even when local in their position, if they conduce to the general prosperity. Without entering into the constitutional question, we shall content ourselves with stating, that when, by a compact such as our Union, the duties of sovereignty are divided between central and local jurisdictions, it appears to be demanded by justice, that the power which derives the greatest pecuniary benefit from the compact, shall contribute to all objects of public usefulness in proportion to its advantages under the compact. To the general government have been surrendered, by the states, all the great and easily productive sources of revenue; hence the general government ought to bear the greater share of all those improvements whose value is to be tested by another criterion than that of a direct pecuniary nature. Many such undertakings there are, which the present state of our country demands almost imperatively, that private individuals will not, and state governments dare not, engage in, because they afford no certainty of speedy returns for the sums they must cost. Of those of most obvious interest, a list has been given in another place, and it is possible that others might be discovered upon a close investigation. We cannot but hope, that the feeling which once existed, and the · liberal construction of the constitution that at one time seemed to prevail, will again resume their ascendency in the councils of the nation, and lead to such a wise and judicious application of the superabundant resources of the country, to works of internal improvement, as will conduce to the wealth, the power, and the honour of the American nation.