Sunday, August 22, 2010

Canals, Corporations and College

Lance Banning points out yet another interesting detail about the constitutional convention. On Friday September 14, 1787, James Madison endorsed Benjamin Franklin's motion to grant Congress the power to "cut[] canals" and proposed to add powers to charter corporations and establish a university:
Docr. Franklin moved to add after the words “post roads” Art 〈I〉 Sect. 8. “a power to provide for cutting canals where deemed necessary”

Mr Wilson 2ded. the motion

Mr Sherman objected. The expence in such cases will fall on the U— States, and the benefit accrue to the places where the canals may be cut.

Mr Wilson. Instead of being an expence to the U. S. they may be made a source of revenue.

Mr. Madison suggested an enlargement of the motion into a power “to grant charters of incorporation where the interest of the U. S. might require & the legislative provisions of individual States may be incompetent”. His primary object was however to secure an easy communication between the States which the free intercourse now to be opened, seemed to call for— The political obstacles being removed, a removal of the natural ones as far as possible ought to follow. Mr. Randolph 2ded. the proposition.

Mr King thought the power unnecessary.

Mr Wilson. It is necessary to prevent a State from obstructing the general welfare.

Mr King— The States will be prejudiced and divided into parties by it— In Philada. & New York, It will be referred to the establishment of a Bank, which has been a subject of contention in those Cities. In other places it will be referred to mercantile monopolies.

Mr. Wilson mentioned the importance of facilitating by canals, the communication with the Western Settlements— As to Banks he did not think with Mr. King that the power in that point of view would excite the prejudices & parties apprehended. As to mercantile monopolies they are already included in the power to regulate trade.

Col: Mason was for limiting the power to the single case of Canals. He was afraid of monopolies of every sort, which he did not think were by any means already implied by the Constitution as supposed by Mr. Wilson.

The motion being so modified as to admit a distinct question specifying & limited to the case of canals.

N— H— no— Mas. no. Ct. no— N— J— no— Pa ay. Del. no— Md. no. Va. ay. N— C— no— S— C. no— Geo. ay. [Ayes — 3; noes — 8.]

The other part fell of course, as including the power rejected.

Mr. Madison & Mr. Pinkney then moved to insert in the list of powers vested in Congress a power — “to establish an University, in which no preferences or distinctions should be allowed on account of religion.”

Mr Wilson supported the motion

Mr Govr Morris. It is not necessary. The exclusive power at the Seat of Government, will reach the object.

On the question

N. H. no— Mas. no. Cont. divd. Dr. Johnson ay— Mr. Sherman no. N. J— no. Pa ay. Del. no. Md. no. Va. ay. N— C— ay— S— C— ay. Geo— no. [Ayes — 4; noes — 6; divided — 1.]

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