Article 1, Section 8, Clause 2

Document 10

Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution 2:§ 1051


§ 1051. The next, is the power of congress "to borrow money on the credit of the United States." This power seems indispensable to the sovereignty and existence of a national government. Even under the confederation this power was expressly delegated. The remark is unquestionably just, that it is a power inseparably connected with that of raising a revenue, and with the duty of protection, which that power imposes upon the general government. Though in times of profound peace it may not be ordinarily necessary to anticipate the revenues of a state; yet the experience of all nations must convince us, that the burthen and expenses of one year, in time of war, may more than equal the ordinary revenue of ten years. Hence, a debt is almost unavoidable, when a nation is plunged into a state of war. The least burthensome mode of contracting a debt is by a loan. Indeed, this recourse becomes the more necessary, because the ordinary duties upon importations are subject to great diminution and fluctuations in times of war; and a resort to direct taxes for the whole supply would, under such circumstances, become oppressive and ruinous to the agricultural interests of the country. Even in times of peace exigencies may occur, which render a loan the most facile, economical, and ready means of supply, either to meet expenses, or to avert calamities, or to save the country from an undue depression of its staple productions. The government of the United States has, on several occasions in times of profound peace, obtained large loans, among which a striking illustration of the economy and convenience of such arrangements will be found in the creation of stock on the purchase of Louisiana. The power to borrow money by the United States cannot (as has been already seen) in any way be controlled, or interfered with by the states. The granting of the power is incompatible with any restraining or controlling power; and the declaration of supremacy in the constitution is a declaration, that no such restraining or controlling power shall be exercised.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 2, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 2, Document 10
The University of Chicago Press

Story, Joseph. Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States. 3 vols. Boston, 1833.

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