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interests. Commerce, properly speaking, is the buying and selling or exchanging of commodities between individuals or communities. Commercial is an adjective which signifies pertaining to, or relating to, commerce. Perhaps it might not have been altogether improper had the powers under this title been grouped under the title Commerce. But there is a distinction between commercial facilities and commerce itself. The coining of money affords commercial facilities, though money is not an article of commerce.
1.- TO COIN MONEY.
§ 1. This power is one of the ordinary prerogatives of sovereignty. It is exercised for the purpose of securing a proper circulation of genuine instead of base coin in commercial transactions. In order to insure its purity and uniformity of value, the coining of money is placed exclusively under the supervision of the Federal Government. Money is the common standard by which the value of all articles of merchandise and real estate is measured or determined. Were it left to the States to coin money, there would be no uniformity in the standard of value; depending, as it would, on State lines and boundaries.
§ 2. There are several advantages arising from uniformity in value of the money of the country; and these could not be secured were the power to coin it distributed among an indefinite number of States. The Continental Congress was empowered by the Articles of Confederation to exercise “ the sole and exclusive right and power of regulating the alloy and value of coin struck by their own authority or by that of the States." But the country suffered great inconvenience for want of uniformity of coinage among the States. The advantages arising from placing this power exclusively in the hands of Congress are, 1st. The facilitation of exchanges at home and abroad. 20. The encouragement and stimulus which it imparts to com
3d. The barrier which it erects against embarrassments arising from
undue and forced scarcity. Ath. It insures uniformity of value, as it insures uniformity of
alloy. $ 3. The total coinage of money in this country, from 1849 to
1867, was eight hundred and seventy-four millions of dollars. This embraces nearly the entire period since the gold-fields of California came into the possession of the United States. Coin is manufactured at a place called “the Mint.” The Mint is located in the city of Philadelphia, having branches in New York, San Francisco, and Denver.
2. – TO REGULATE THE VALUE OF DOMESTIC COIN. § 4. This is a power conferred on Congress expressly by the Con stitution, although it is implied in the power to coin money. This is especially for the purpose of securing entire uniformity of value, in order that it may pass from hand to hand in business transactions ; obviating the necessity of a test being applied to each piece of money in each commercial transaction. Every piece of money is stamped in such a manner as to indicate its precise value.
3. - FOREIGN COIN.
§ 5. There was no provision in the Articles of Confederation for fixing the value of foreign coin. In the Constitution, this power is given to Congress. Without the power to regulate the value of foreign coin, it would be difficult to regulate the value of domestic coin.
$ 6. Were it not for this power, different States, might attach different values to the same piece of foreign coin. Massachusetts might call a piece of English money, known as a sovereign, five dollars; and New York, four dollars. A citizen of Massachusetts owing a citizen of New York five thousand dollars, to be paid in Boston, could compel the latter to accept a thousand sovereigns in payment, on which the citizen of New York would lose a thousand dollars if he used the
at home § 7. This would unsettle the value of our own coin as between those two States, and so in all other States where these discrimi. nations prevailed. Five thousand dollars American gold would be worth much less in New York than in Massachusetts.
Not only so, but foreign coin would cease to possess any fixed and definito value by which to determine the value of other things, and, in unsettiing their value, would unsettle itself. In short, foreign coin
would become an article of commerce the same
as any other commodity. It would soon be the same with American coin.
We see, therefore, that the power to regulate the value of foreign coin properly belongs with the power to coin money, and regulate its value, in order to prevent endlesss confusion, as well as the most serious embarrassments to the commercial interests of the country.
4.- WEIGHTS AND MEASURES.
§ 8. The power to fix the standard of weights and measures was doubtless given, says Judge Story, '“ from like motives of policy, for the sake of uniformity and the convenience of commerce. Hitherto, however, it has remained a dormant power,
many difficulties attendant upon the subject, although it has been repeatedly brought to the attention of Congress in most elaborate reports.
$ 9.“ Until Congress shall fix a standard, the understanding seems to be that the States possess the power to fix their own weights and measures ; or, at least, the existing standards at the adoption of the Constitution remain in full force. Under the Confederation, Congress possessed the like exclusive power.”' But the exercise of the power was neglected.
5.- BANKRUPT LAWS.
§ 10. The power to pass or establish uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies is classed here as among the commercial interests of the government. The author had some doubt, at first, about the propriety of placing it here ; but on looking closely at the objects of this power, the origin and history of bankrupt laws in other countries, the views entertained by the fathers of the Constitution, a single paragraph in "The Federalist," and the commentaries of that profound jurist, Judge Story, all doubts that it is commercial vanish.
$ 11. The power to pass laws on the subject of bankruptcies originally belonged to the States, as one of their prerogatives of sovereignty. Of course, laws passed on this subject by the States would lack uniformity, and consequently, in many instances, would
work great injustice. A law of this character is regarded as indis pensable to the commercial interests of the country. § 12. A bankrupt is one who owes more than he can pay.
The objects of the law are twofold :
First, to enable creditors to secure an appropriation of all the property of a debtor who fails to pay his debts; allowing the courts, in such cases, to give the debtor a complete discharge from all indebtedness. Second, to relieve unfortunate debtors from their debts, and from liability to imprisonment, on their own application and surrender of all their property.
§ 13. An insolvent law must not be confounded with a bankrupt law. An insolvent law simply relieves from a liability to imprisonment for debt, on the surrender of the debtor's property to the creditors : it does not discharge the indebtedness itself. In such cases, the future property of the debtor may be seized for his debts, and appropriated to their payment. On the contrary, a discharge under a bankrupt law annihilates the debts themselves, and the creditors have no further claims.
§ 14. Insolvent laws were in existence forty or fifty years ago in many of the States, when imprisonment for debt was almost or quite universal throughout the country ; but they were State laws. In several of the States, they are still in operation. Under the power to pass uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies, a bankrupt law was passed in 1800, but repealed in 1803; another was passed in 1841, but repealed a year or two afterwards ; a third, passed in 1867, remained in force for about ten years and was then repealed.
§ 15. The Supreme Court of the United States bas decided that insolvent laws passed by the States are constitutional, but that bankrupt laws passed by the States are not constitutional ; because such laws impair the obligation of contracts. Congress alone bag this
ART. IV. - PENALTIES.
1. To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting,
1st. The securities of the United States.
2. To define piracies and felonies committed on the high
seas, and offenses against the law of nations. 3. Also to provide for punishing these crimes. 35. 4. To declare the punishment of treason. 70.
$ 1. The power to punish, or to prescribe the punishment as it is here to be understood, for counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States, is a necessity growing out of the power of Congress to coin money and to regulate its value. The temptation to counterfeiting is very great; holding out the hope, as it does, of great rewards for comparatively little labor.
$ 2. Men of mechanical genius and skill, but wanting integrity, are to be found in every community, who are willing to take the risks of detection and punishment; hoping, however, to escape both. The finest artistic ingenuity is often prostituted to this purpose, and too often with success. Counterfeiting consists in making imitations of coin, bank-bills, or other securities, approaching so near to a likeness of the originals as to deceive a person of but ordinary expa. rience.
§ 3. Without the power to tach severe penalties to crimes of this class, the securities and coin of the United States would soon become comparatively worthless ; the country would be filled with spurious bills, bonds, and coin; and it would not be long before money would cease to be a medium of exchange among the masses, who are unskilled in detecting the base from the genuine.
2. - PIRACIES AND FELONIES ON THE HIGH SEAS.
$ 4. Congress is vested with power to define and punish piracies and felonies when committed on the high seas. A felony committed on the high seas is not necessarily an act of piracy. By common law, piracy can not be committed on land, unless it be on an island of the sea.
Sir William Blackstone defines piracy at common law to consist in committing those acts of robbery and depredation on the high seas, which, if committed on land, would amount to felony