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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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4014. INTERNAL IMPROVEMENTS, Veto of Bill for.—

An act for internal improvement,
after passing both Houses, was
negatived by the President. The act was
founded, avowedly, on the principle that the
phrase in the Constitution which authorizes
Congress “to lay taxes, to pay the debts and
provide for the general welfare”, was an extension
of the powers specifically enumerated
to whatever would promote the general welfare;
and this, you know, was the federal doctrine.
Whereas, our tenet ever was, and, indeed, it
is almost the only landmark which now
divides the federalists from the republicans,
that Congress had not unlimited powers to
provide for the general welfare, but were restrained
to those specifically enumerated; and
that, as it was never meant they should provide
for that welfare but by the exercise of
the enumerated powers, so it could not have
been meant they should raise money for purposes
which the enumeration did not place
under their action; consequently, that the
specification of powers is a limitation of the
purposes for which they may raise money. I
think the passage and rejection of this bill a
fortunate incident. Every State will certainly
concede the power; and this will be a national
confirmation of the grounds of appeal to
them, and will settle forever the meaning of
this phrase, which, by a mere grammatical
quibble, has countenanced the General Government
in a claim of universal power. For
in the phrase, “to lay taxes, to pay the
debts and provide for the general welfare”,
it is a mere question of syntax, whether the
two last infinitives are governed by the first
or are distinct and coordinate powers; a question
unequivocally decided by the exact definition
of powers immediately following. It
is fortunate for another reason, as the States,
in conceding the power, will modify it, either
by requiring the Federal ratio of expense in
each State, or otherwise, so as to secure us
against its partial exercise. Without this
caution, intrigue, negotiation, and the barter
of votes might become as habitual in Congress,
as they are in those Legislatures which
have the appointment of officers, and which,
with us, is called “logging”, the term of
the farmers for their exchanges of aid in rolling
together the logs of their newly-cleared
To Albert Gallatin. Washington ed. vii, 78. Ford ed., x, 91.
(M. 1817)