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The expansive development of federal activities has not been so destructive of personal liberty or of the general welfare as the opponents of the Constitution apprehended. But it has by no means proven an unmixed blessing, and if the range of political authority be ultimately covered into the central system, the results may fully justify the assertion of Thucydides that "it is impossible for a democracy to govern an empire.”
The men who formed and those who expounded and construed the Constitution have been united in the assertion that the integrity of the states is as essential to the union as the integrity of the union is to the states. Chief Justice Chase declared the indestructibility of each to be essential to the perpetuation of both. Mr. Hamilton declared the state governments to be a leading principle, and could never lose the whole of their powers until the whole people of America were robbed of their liberties. And James Wilson expressed the same view with equal emphasis.
Yet in his eulogy of Justice Wilson in 1906, President Roosevelt boldly asserted the possession by the federal government of many powers not explicitly granted, nor yet expressly reserved from it by the Constitution. Later, his great secretary, Mr. Root, defending the position of his chief, declared it to be the right and the duty of the general government, when required by the public interest, to exercise those powers belonging to the states which the latter might neglect or disregard. This novel doctrine of a twilight zone provoked an acute controversy, yet so transient that it scarcely interrupted the steady advance of federal activities. Distinctions between the powers of states and nation, of course, continue and are frequently emphasized by courts and Congresses, but the assertion recently made that Congress has become the judge of the character and the scope of its legislative powers, and the law of the land is that which it sees fit to enact, is the blant expression of an obvious fact.
These invasions of state authority have followed the two methods of Constitutional amendment and of legislation. Both are stretches of federal power, although the former have been effectuated under the orderly processes of the federal Constitution, while the latter claim sanction under the shield of implied
powers, or of the more recent doctrine of inherent authority. But generally speaking they are alike inconsistent with the original scheme of a dual government respectively exercising general and local powers, each distinct from, yet each complementing the other.
To enumerate all legislative encroachments would be a difticult task. It will suffice to remind you that the federal government among other activities, through its multiplying bureaus and commissions, now exercises jurisdiction over all the waters of the country, navigable or otherwise, determines the manner of their diversion and the development of their hydroelectric energies, largely controls all commerce within as among the states, regulates business and manufacturing concerns, determines the age of the workmen to be employed in manufacturing industries, regulates their sanitation, has charge of the public health, directs the development of agriculture and the conditions of labor, undertakes to promote and if possible to create markets for farm products, limits or prohibits issues of securities by many private corporations and enterprises, creates private corporations by special enactment, has constructed and will eventually operate a vast merchant marine, has become the most extensive landlord in the world, prescribing its own laws for its tenantry, and wholly independent of the states wherein its domains are located, enforces public virtue by resolving prostitution into a subject of commerce, directs and finances the construction of highways with no concern as to their utility for post roads, assumes to guard and enforce the morals and habits of the people, prescribes regulations for and imposes licenses upon the medical profession, investigates and prescribes terms of adjustment of local industrial controversies, has assumed control over the functions of maternity, constantly encroaches upon the domain of the state police power, and has extended the jurisdiction of its courts over the entire domain of human controversy. It will soon assume the task of general education.
These and other innovations have been made upon the initiative or with the encouragement of the people. Their primary motive has been to limit commercial activities supposedly menacing the
rights of the individual, to escape the burden of expense accompanying the exercise of state prerogatives or to promote the liberal local expenditure of federal money. Shirking responsibilities requiring outlay by shifting both to broader shoulders, and obtaining public money for local consumption, have prompted states to submit if not to welcome encroachments upon their powers, to neglect their duties and to ignore consequences. The fiction that the obligations will be cheerfully borne by the larger authority at its own expense, and that undue results will be carefully provided against by that authority is a pleasing one, but it betrays a declining estimate of the essential virtues of local self-government. Relief from civic responsibility weakens the spirit of loyalty to the home government, and tends to visualize it as subordinate to the greater one, functioning by its direction and acting by its authority. The fact that the cost of local administration is an ever increasing quantity, reflected in the annual tax bill, notwithstanding the extension of federal activities, provokez angry remonstrance from the citizen but does not seem to arouse the need for his return to the old-fashioned policy of control and of close attention to home affairs. It rather stimulates him to greater activities for increasing appropriations by the powers at Washington. More roads, more policing, more sanitation, more extensions of authority and more money from the national government accentuate his efforts, the states frequently joining in the clamor for much of the new legislation. When the citizen and his local government albeit unconsciously cooperate in urging the Congress to become the chief custodian of the sovereign power, their representatives heed the request and the work of centralization goes on. The states continue to function and will doubtless do so indefinitely. But their lines of distinction are becoming more illegible as Washington becomes more and more the universal capital and county seat. They are by no means moribund, and I trust they may never become so, but the presence of the federal government in their midst, emphasized by its ever expanding penal code, and visualized by its increasing array of inspectors, collectors, commissions and bureaucratic headquarters, daily reminds us that federal extension or duplication of local administration is an expanding process.
Moreover, the national government intrudes its authority far beyond the limitations formerly circumscribing it. Its absorption of domestic functions does not mean their more vigorous, efficient or economical administration. It tends rather to the substitution of government regulation for individual responsibility. Indeed the citizen is inclined to confound federal jurisdiction with federal guardianship, and to require that it shall assume his responsibilities and obligations, correct his misfortunes, discharge his duties, cancel his debts, supply his needs, and guarantee the success of his business pursuits.
Nor is it extravagant to affirm that modern federal legislation concerning subjects within the scope of its constitutional powers, and particularly regarding taxation and appropriations of the public revenues, has unduly responded to sectional, political and class considerations. It has also developed other sinister tendencies, easily discernible in many of the bills now before the Congress. It has abandoned the ancient doctrine that revenue shall be devoted to the public needs, and that taxes can be levied for public purposes only. Passing the imposition of the tariff duties and the laying of embargoes for private benefit, one needs only to examine some dispositions hitherto made of the public funds to realize this truth. “ Federal aid” has become the beacon of private need and enterprise, the end and aim of localities and associations. Pensions without discrimination between the disabled and the well-to-do, funds for improving rivers too shallow to float a log, and for deepening harbors innocent of ships and sails, appropriations for reclamation projects fantastic in character, and patently barren of results, for teaching farmers the mysteries of agriculture, including the weaning of calves and the making of cottage cheese, vast sums for the extermination of vermin, bugs, worms and lice which flourish and multiply as their amounts increase, millions for nitrate plants, navy yards and army posts, and yet millions more for highways to gridiron the country in all directions and everywhere, and still other millions for public buildings wherever demanded, are now to be supplemented by the grant of billions to the ex-service men and women of the recent war, the subordination of the resources and the administration of the Federal Reserve banks to the exigencies of speculation, agriculture and labor, the proposed creation of a national corporation capitalized from the Treasury for the purchase and storage of surplus commodities unable to find an immediate market, with scores of smaller appropriations for as many questionable subjects of smaller concern which largely swell the aggregate.
The climax is reached by a bill recently introduced in the Senate, entitled “A bill to establish an honest money system where the medium of exchange will give equal benefit to every American citizen, and wherein the credit of the government shall be used for the benefit of all the people instead of banking corporations; to reduce the rate of interest of loans, encourage agriculture, the ownership of homes and for other purposes.” This creates another bureau having power to issue or loan into circulation for value an adequate volume of lawful money with which to do the business of the country.” Everything it issues shall be legal tender, and all other methods or agencies of issue are prohibited. This shall be loaned to whoever wants it, having securities recited in the bill at 4 per cent per annum, payable within 30 years. The volume in normal times "shall be regulated by the average price level of the necessities of life," whatever that may mean. When prices are inflated the sky would seem to be the limit. It converts every post-office in the country into a loan agency, while “any discrimination in favor of gold against the lawful money or any combination in restraint of its free and unobstructed circulation” becomes a conspiracy punished by imprisonment for not less than 10 years. A conviction for the offense does not seem to be essential to the imposition of the penalty.
This bill may not pass at the present session, but it is the offspring of a league of formidable proportions and will therefore command consideration. It is, moreover, the logical sequence of a policy which seems based upon the Tittlebat Titmouse declaration of “ Everything for everybody.”
On the other hand, statutes especially favoring and recognizing distinctive portions of our citizenship have become a feature of congressional action. Revenue is raised as extensively as possible by levies imposed upon specific interests and resources frankly