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legislative powers granted by the Constitution are exercised by Congress. The Constitution gives a list of the legislative powers which it grants to Congress. But while the Constitution thus enumerates the subjects in regard to which Congress may make laws, it also gives Congress permission to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying out its enumerated powers. And Congress, as the legislative department, being the part of the governmental machinery which sets all other parts in operation, has power to make all laws which shall be necessary for the carrying out of any of the powers granted to any other department of the government.
All this means that the framers of the Constitution were aiming to build a government which should be supplied with machinery and powers sufficient for the purposes of a great nation. They intended, by the lee-way they gave to Congress, that no obstacle should be placed in the way of the successful progress of the national government. At the same time, by enumerating the powers, they intended to give to the national government no more powers than should be sufficient for its objects; and they intended, as the Constitution says, to leave all other powers with the States or with the people.
We shall now proceed to consider the matters concerning which Congress is authorized to make laws.
82. General Description of the Powers of Congress. 77. Federal and State Legislation.-We shall see that the list of powers given to Congress is a comparatively short one; that the powers seem to be few in number. But, in considering these powers, we must remember, in the first place, that there are forty odd other legislative bodies in the United States—the State Legislatures, not to mention the several Territorial Legislatures—which are engaged in making laws for the people. It is to be remembered, in the second place, that it is not the laws of Congress so much as the laws of our own State Legislature which most closely touch us individually, and which provide for our protection in the daily transactions of life. And, in the third place, while these powers of Congress may seem few in number, they are so broad and general in character, and relate to questions of so far-reaching importance, that they are really sufficient for the purposes of the national government.
1 U. S. Const., Art. I., Sect. 1. 2 U. S. Const., Art. I., Sect. 8. 3 U. S. Const., Art. I., Sect. 8. Par. 18. 4U. S. Const., Amend. X.
Most of these powers are indispensable for a complete and efficient government; but some few are given to Congress simply because it is more convenient to have them exercised by that body than by the separate States.
78. Classification of the Powers of Congress.Now, there are several aspects under which Congress, as the law-making body of the nation, may be regarded with reference to the powers conferred upon it. In the first place, in order to establish and maintain an independent government, it was necessary to provide means for the support of the government itself; therefore, it was given the power to levy taxes. It was equally necessary to give it the power to determine who should be members of the nation; therefore, it was given power to pass naturalization laws. It was also necessary, in this same view, to give it the power to coin and borrow money, and to punish the counterfeiting of money. Likewise, and for the same reason, it was necessary to give it the power to establish federal courts.
Then, in the next place, in its international aspect, as the government which was to place the American Union in the great family of nations, and as the only power that could be recognized by foreign governments, it was necessary that it should be given control over war and the military and naval forces.
Then, thirdly, as the general government of the nation, it was necessary that it should have control of matters of general concern, such as commerce and the postal service. And so, too, it was essential that the federal government should be given temporary control over such territory as was the common property of the Union, and over all territory that might be acquired by treaty, cession, or conquest. And while this territory or public domain should, in accordance with the republican principles of self-government, and so soon as the size of population justified it, be divided up and placed in all respects on an equality with the States of the Union, it was yet essential that the terms and conditions of the admission of such new States should be determined by Congress.
These would complete the questions that would essentially belong to the federal or national government. But there are two matters, that of bankruptcy and that of weights and measures, which, for the general business interests of the country, it was thought ought to be placed under the control of Congress. And, also, for the encouragement of inventive genius and literary aspiration, and that authors and inventors might be uniformly protected throughout the United States in their writings and inventions, Congress was given control over copyrights and patents. Furthermore, that there might be a seat of government which would be beyond the reach of any possible State jealousy or interference, provision was made for the acquisition of necessary territory for this purpose, and Congress was given complete control over it.
We shall now briefly discuss these various topics which are placed under the control of Congress.
§ 3. The Powers Enumerated: (1) Powers Essential to an
Independent Self-Existence. 79. Taxes.—The power to tax is the very source of life of a government, for if it did not have the means of getting an income there would be no possibility of its continued existence. Every necessary means of obtaining such an income by means of taxation is given to the federal government. This income must be raised for the purpose of paying the debts of the United States, and providing for the common defense and general welfare."
This power is exercised through Congress. Congress may raise its revenue by taxes on goods brought into the country from foreign countries (imposts or customs duties); by taxes on individual inhabitants (capitation or poll taxes), and by taxes on land; by taxes on the production or use of goods within the country (excises, or, generally speaking, internal taxes). In levying capitation and
” land taxes, which are known as direct taxes—all other forms of taxes being indirect taxes—it is required that they shall be apportioned among the States in proportion to their population. And in regard to duties, imposts, and excises, it is required that they shall be uniform throughout the United States." One species of tax Congress is forbidden to resort to, it being expressly said that no tax shall be laid on articles exported from any State (export duties).
80. Citizenship and Naturalization. The Constitution provides that all persons born or naturalized in the
1U. S. Const., Art. I., Sect. 8, Par. 1. 2 U. S. Const., Art. I., Sect. 8, Par. 1. 3 U. S. Const., Art. I., Sect. 9, Par. 4. 4 U. S. Const., Art. I., Sect. 8, Par. 1. 5 U. S. Const., Art. I., Sect. 9, Par. 5.
United States and subject to its jurisdiction shall be citizens of the United States and of the State in which they reside. Full and formal citizenship can only be given by the federal Constitution or by a federal law in accordance with the Constitution. By means of "naturalization,"
“ the exclusive control of which is given to Congress, the Constitution enables “aliens,” or foreigners residing in the United States, to become citizens. A foreigner who thus becomes, under the laws of Congress, a citizen of the United States is a "naturalized citizen," and acquires all the rights and privileges of a native born citizen except the ability to become President."
81. Money.-Congress is given the power to borrow money on the credit of the United States;$ to coin money and regulate its value and the value of foreign coin;" and to provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States."
82. The power to borrow money is to some extent supplementary to the power to levy taxes. They are both for the purpose of obtaining an income, one in the regular and usual course of things, the other in consequence of some crisis in which the usual methods fail. The customary way to obtain loans is to issue “bonds" of the government. These bonds are promises to pay the sum specified on their face at a given time and with interest at given rates. These bonds are then sold to the persons who will pay the highest prices for them. If the “credit” of the government is good, they will be bought at par, or even at a premium. If the credit is not good, they will be bought at a greater or less discount.
1U. S. Const., Amend. XIV., Sect. 1.