Article 1, Section 8, Clause 6

[Volume 3, Page 13]

Document 2

St. George Tucker, Blackstone's Commentaries 1:App. 262--64


This power seems to be a natural incident to two others, of which we have before taken notice: the power of borrowing money on the credit of the United States, and that of coining money, and regulating the value thereof.

But congress appear to have extended the interpretation of this article much further than it might have been supposed it would bear: and possibly much further than the framers of the constitution intended. I allude to the act of 5 cong. c. 78, to punish frauds committed on the bank of the United States, which inflicts the penalty of fine and imprisonment, for forging or counterfeiting any bill or note, issued by order of the president, directors and company of the bank of the United States.

The right of congress to establish this company or corporation, with exclusive privileges, was warmly contested when the bill for establishing the bank was introduced into congress. 1 cong. 3 sess. c. 10. The same congress had at their first session agreed to an amendment of the constitution, declaring, that the powers not delegated to the United States, by the constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people. The advocates for the bill were challenged to produce the clause in the constitution which gave congress power to erect a bank. It nevertheless passed both houses. The president of the United States hesitated; it is said that he consulted his constitutional advisers upon the subject. That two of them were of opinion the bill was unconstitutional. It nevertheless, received his assent on the last day, that the constitution allowed him to deliberate upon it. Had he turned to the journals of the convention (as on another occasion,) it has been confidently said, he would there have seen, that the proposition to authorise congress to establish a bank, had been made in convention and rejected: of this, he can not be supposed to have been ignorant, as he presided in the convention, when it happened; the journals of that body were then a secret, and in his keeping. If it was proper to resort to those journals to give a proper interpretation to the constitution in one instance, it surely was equally proper in the other; and if the rejection of one proposition in that body, was a sufficient reason for rejecting the same, when made by either house of congress, it seems difficult to assign a reason why the other should not have been treated in the same manner.

If it were, in fact, an unconstitutional exercise of power in congress to pass a law establishing the bank, nothing can manifest the impropriety of over-stepping the limits of the constitution, more than the act which we have just noticed. It shows that the most unauthorised acts of government may be drawn into precedents to justify other unwarrantable usurpations.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 3, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 6, Document 2
The University of Chicago Press

Tucker, St. George. Blackstone's Commentaries: With Notes of Reference to the Constitution and Laws of the Federal Government of the United States and of the Commonwealth of Virginia. 5 vols. Philadelphia, 1803. Reprint. South Hackensack, N.J.: Rothman Reprints, 1969.

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