American Eloquence, Volume 1 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 227 pages of information about American Eloquence, Volume 1.
construction, the Constitution remains defined and limited, according to the plain intent and meaning of its framers; by the construction of the committee, all limitation is lost, and it may be extended over the different actions of life as speculative politicians may think fit.  What has a greater tendency to fit men for insurrection and resistance to government than dissolute, immoral habits, at once destroying love of order, and dissipating the fortune which gives an interest in society?  The doctrine that Congress can punish any act which has a tendency to hinder the execution of the laws, as well as acts which do hinder it, will, therefore, clearly entitle them to assume a general guardianship over the morals of the people of the United States.  Again, nothing can have a greater tendency to ensure obedience to law, and nothing can be more likely to check every propensity to resistance to government, than virtuous and wise education; therefore Congress must have power to subject all the youth of the United States to a certain system of education.  It would be very easy to connect every sort of authority used by any government with the well-being of the General Government, and with as much reason as the committee had for their opinion, to assign the power to Congress, although the consequence must be the prostration of the State governments.

But enough has been said to show the necessity of adhering to the common meaning of the word “necessary” in the clause under consideration, which is, that the power to be assumed must be one without which some one of the enumerated powers cannot exist or be maintained.  It cannot escape notice, however, that the doctrine contended for, that the Administration must be protected against writings which are likely to bring it into contempt, as tending to opposition, will apply with more force to truth than falsehood.  It cannot be denied that the discovery of maladministration will bring more lasting discredit on the government of a country than the same charges would if untrue.  This is not an alarm founded merely on construction, for the governments which have exercised control over the press have carried it the whole length.  This is notoriously the law of England, whence this system has been drawn; for there truth and falsehood are alike subject to punishment, if the publication brings contempt on the officers of government.

The law has been current by the fair pretence of punishing nothing but falsehood, and by holding out to the accused the liberty of proving the truth of the writing; but it was from the first apprehended, and it seems now to be adjudged (the doctrine has certainly been asserted on this floor), that matters of opinion, arising on notorious facts, come under the law.  If this is the case, where is the advantage of the law requiring that the writing should be false before a man shall be liable to punishment, or of his having the liberty of proving the truth of his writing?  Of the truth

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American Eloquence, Volume 1 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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