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Roy Wenk Red.
all such infamous acts committed on the high seas as constitute offenses against the United States or other nations. For instance, Congress under this power has declared the slave trade to be piracy. By the high seas is meant all tide-waters below low-water mark.
(3) Powers Essential to a General Federal Government. 92. Commerce.-The subjects which we have just been discussing are indispensable to the very existence of a national government, while those which we are now to consider are almost equally necessary for the proper working of a government like ours. Perhaps the chief cause of the failure of the Articles of Confederation (1781-1789) was the absence of any general power over commerce. Instead of the commerce of one nation, it was found that there was a commerce of thirteen different States, each State filled with jealousy of its neighbors and striving to make as much as possible at the expense of the others. Therefore, when it came to the time of forming a new Constitution, there was but one opinion as to the necessity of giving Congress control over all commerce with foreign nations, over commerce between two or more States, and that with the Indian tribes.1
This power over commerce includes the power to regulate navigation and intercourse on the high seas, on the great lakes and navigable rivers of the country, transportation and intercourse by railroads or canals between different States. It may include such things as providing for the construction of bridges over navigable rivers between States, and for the dredging and improving of harbors or navigable rivers, or as regulating communication by telegraph between States. These powers "keep pace with the progress of the country, and adapt themselves to the new developments of times and circum1 U. S. Const., Art. I., Sect. 8, Par. 3.
stances. They extend from the horse with its rider to the stage-coach, from the sailing vessel to the steamboat, from the coach and the steamboat to the railroad, and from the railroad to the telegraph, as these new agencies are successively brought into use to meet the demands of increasing population and wealth. They were intended for the government of the business to which they relate, at all times and under all circumstances."
In order to make this power of Congress more complete, the States are expressly forbidden, unless by consent of Congress, to levy any duty on imports or exports, or to lay any duty of tonnage. Tonnage means a duty on vessels, measured by their carrying capacity. At the same time, Congress is forbidden to give any preference to one State over others in its commercial regulations, or to tax articles exported from any State. Furthermore, the commerce or trade which is carried on wholly within one State is entirely under the control of the State itself, and cannot be regulated by any action of Congress.
In the exercise of its power over commerce between States, Congress in 1887 passed the Interstate Commerce Act. This law provides for the appointment of five commissioners, whose duty it is to supervise such railway and other transportation companies as have lines crossing two or more States.
93. The Postal Service. It is essential to the convenience of the people of the whole country that the means of communication and correspondence with all parts of the Union should be under one general system. This power is therefore given to Congress, and includes the creation of mail routes, the opening of post roads, the regulation of the transmission of mail matter by horse, 1 The Supreme Court of the United States.
2 U. S. Const., Art. I., Sect. 10, Par. 2.
3 U. S. Const., Art. I., Sect. 9, Par. 5, 6.
stage, steamship, or railroad, the payment of salaries of postmasters and clerks, and all that goes to make up the vast postal system of the country. Correspondence by telegraph and telephone might legally come under the control of Congress.
94. Territories.-Congress is given full power to make laws concerning the territory belonging to the nation and not yet formed into States. The original territory, ceded by the States to the Union, lying between the Alleghany Mountains and the Mississippi River, and all the territory since acquired by treaty or purchase, comes under this exclusive control of Congress. Congress has, nevertheless, organized this territory into districts of convenient size, known, for lack of a better name, as "Territories." To each of these Territories it ordinarily gives, practically, rights of self-government. The government usually established consists of a Legislature elected by the people of the Territory, and of a Governor and judges appointed by the President, with the assent of the Senate. In this way, the people themselves make most of their own laws. Congress, however, has complete control whenever it chooses to exercise it.
The people of the Territories do not have the national political rights possessed by the people of the States. They cannot vote for the President or for members of Congress. They are ordinarily allowed to send a delegate to Washington, who has a seat in the House of Representatives, but no vote. But as soon as the Territory has become a State, it and its people have equal rights and privileges with the other States and their people.
95. The Admission of New States.-The power of admitting new States into the Union is given to Con
1 U. S. Const., Art. I., Sect. 8, Par. 7.
2 U. S. Const., Art. IV., Sect. 3, Par. 2.
gress. It is provided, however, that no new State shall be formed within the jurisdiction of another State. And likewise, no State shall be formed by the junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of Congress.1
No entirely uniform plan of admitting States has been observed. The most common plan is as follows: When a Territory has a sufficient population, a memorial is sent to Congress, praying for permission to form a State Constitution and for admission into the Union. Congress, if it agrees to this petition, passes an Act called "An Enabling Act," authorizing the inhabitants to form a Constitution. A convention is held for this purpose, and the Constitution when formed and adopted is presented to Congress for approval. If Congress perceives no objectionable features in the Constitution, it passes an Act admitting the State into the Union.
The Constitution promises that the United States will guarantee to every State a republican form of government, and will protect every State against invasion and domestic violence.2
(4) Miscellaneous Powers.
There are several other subjects over which Congress is given greater or less control for the sake of having the laws uniform throughout the Union. These are the subjects of bankruptcy, weights and measures, copyrights and patents, and a few others.
96. Bankruptcy.-By its power over bankruptcy, Congress may, if it chooses, pass uniform laws by which "insolvent debtors" may settle their affairs and be able to
1 U. S. Const., Art. IV., Sect. 3, Par. 1.
2 U. S. Const., Art. IV., Sect. 4.
3 U. S. Const., Art. I., Sect. 8, Par. 4.
begin business anew. "A bankrupt law is intended for the benefit of both creditors and debtors. It benefits the creditors by securing among them an equitable distribution of the property of the debtor. It benefits the debtor by releasing him from hopeless insolvency, and giving him an opportunity again to engage in business."
If there is no general law of Congress in force, the States are free to legislate on the subject. Congress has, at different times, passed three uniform bankrupt laws: the first in 1800, repealed in 1803; the second in 1841, repealed in 1843; the third in 1867, repealed in 1878.
97. Weights and Measures.-Congress has never fully carried out its power to fix the standard of weights and measures.' It has adopted the brass troy pound weight, procured from London, as the standard troy pound of the mint of the United States. It also ordered to be made a standard series of weights corresponding to this, from the hundredth part of a grain to twenty-five pounds. It also adopted the English standard lengths of the foot, yard, fathom, and rod. Our coins are established on the decimal system; and in 1866 Congress "legalized,” but did not "adopt," the metric system of weights and
98. Copyrights and Patents.-The Constitution gives Congress power "to promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing, for limited times, to authors and inventors, the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."2 Under this power, exclusive copyrights are granted for a term of years to the authors, inventors, designers, or proprietors of books, pictures, maps, charts, prints, statues, models, etc., with exclusive right to make, use, and sell new inventions.
1U. S. Const., Art. I., Sect. 8, Par. 5. 2 U. S. Const., Art. I., Sect. 8, Par. 8.