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ence and benefit of the public. It was only when the public convenience rendered such a course necessary, that he would give the power to the legislature to resume these charters of privileges. When a franchise is resumed, when a charter was repealed, compensation must follow; a very adequate and ample compensation inust be provided by law. That was done every day. Compensation must be made in some form or way. The amendment he would submit would embrace that object. Now when that was done--when the commonwealth of Pennsylvania made due and adequate compensation for property taken, whether it was in the form of a farm, or in the peculiar privileges of a bank, he wished to know what constitutional provision was violated ?
He desired 10 know wliat contract and what vested right was violated? He would contend that no contract was violated, because the citizen held his property expressly on the condition that he should surrender it for an adequate compensation, when the public good required it. No man's rights were violated, because they were held on this condition.
What, he asked, was to restrain the legislature from taking possession of these rights, when the public good required that they should be surrendered, the proprietor receiving a proper compensation in lieu thereof?
He fully admitted that vested rights were sacred; and no man in this convention had a more sincere regard for them, and a greater desire that they should be respected, than he had. He would do nothing that had the remotest tendency to impair vested rights.
But, let us examine what they are. Some gentlemen here had said that the granting of a charter was a contract, and that it could not be broken without the assent of the party to whom it was given. Let gentlemen (continued Mr. W.) examine what constitutes a contract; and then let them say, if they could, that a contract entered into with the state does not necessarily possess this inherent quality—that is, the right of the commonwealth to take back what she has granted, on making a suitable compensation for so doing. That compensation may be a mere return of compensation, or bonus; or, it may be more or less. A compensation, however, in money, must be made. And, when that is made what contract is violated ? I deny that any contract is violated, because it is made with the express condition that it must be surrendered, if deemed necessary, to the state. A man's rights are subject to all the conditions expressed in the contract, or bond. They are subject, moreover, to that ever control. ing, and ever present condition, the right of the legislature to remove whatever they have granterl, when public necessity requires it.
I beg leave to refer to the same case from which I have already cited some views bearing on this subject. In page 220, Judge Baldwin says:
" It is a settled principle of American jurisprudence, that the transcendant powers of
parliament devolved on the people of the several states by the revolution, 4 Wheat. 651; 8 Wheat. 584 ; 2 Peters, 656; it necessarily follows, that the only restraint on their legislative power, is that imposed by their own, or the constitution of the United States, 2 Peters, 410, 414. That of New Jersey contains no bill of rights, or any other restriction on the legislative power, than the twenty-second article, which has been referred to ; of course its action is uncontroiled, if the right of trial by jury is
preserved inviolate in the cases contemplated by the constitution. It is silent on the subject now before us, for an obvious reason, it is an incident to the sovereignty of every government, that it may take private property for public use; of the necessity or expediency of which, the government must judge, but the obligation to make just compensation is concomitant with the right. Vatt. 112; Ruth. 43; Burl. 150; Puff. 829; Gro. 333.
" Though the divesting of vested rights of property, is no violation per se of the constitution of the United States, 2 Peters, 412, 413; yet when those rights are vested by a contract, its obligation cannot be impaired by a state law, 6 Cranch. 137; 7 Cranch. 164; 9 Cranch. 45; 4 Wheat. 625. In this case the complainant by his contract of purchase, authorized by the law of the state, comes so far within this protection, that his property cannot be transferred to the defendants without his consent, by mere legislative power. To make such transfer valid, it must be an appropriation to a public use, in virtue of the inherent sovereignty of the states, which calries with it the obligation to make compensation.
“ When this is done, no contract is impaired, as all persons hold their property subject to requisitions for public service, it is protected only against arbitrary seizure, not when it is taken or appropriated by public right for public use; compensation must indeed be made, but no particular mode is prescribed by which its annount shall be ascertained.
It is a principle of Magna Charta, recognized in all the states, that no man shall be disseized or dispossessed of his property without due process of law, or legal process, or the judgment of a jury; 2 Co. Just. 45; but if either mode is pursued, the principle is unimpaired. A law which authorizes the appropriation of property to public use, and prescribes a mode of proceeding by which compensation shall be ascertained and made, is not obnoxious to Magna Charia, or its construction in England or this State."
This is the doctrine in relation to private property. Will any gentleman on this floor, state the distinction clearly and satisfactorily, between private property and that kind of property which a stockholder of the United States Bank has, in the charter of that institution? tleman tell me that it is but property? What have they acquired from the commonwealth, but a right to do certain acts with their own property? And is there any distinction between the principle to which I have alluded, as applicable to private property, and such a franchise or right as the stockholders have in the Bank of the United States ? I apprehend that no distinction can be shown, and that the principle applies to all species of rights and property, which a citizen may acquire and hold under a contract with his government.
Then, sir, is I have been disposed to concede for the purpose of the argument, that a charter be a contract-if, as the gentlemen will have it, it be a contract, although much may be said against that view of the subject--if this be a contract and the rights be vested—it is still subject to this condition-that is to say, to the right of the commonwealth to resume whatever was granted at any time when the public necessity might require it, and upon providing a proper compensation. Is there any thing in the case of the Dartmouth college, to conflict with this view of the subject? I know of nothing. And, if not, is there any other case repor
Will any gen
ted which is applicable to it? I will not undertake to say, surrounded as I am, on every side, by judges and lawyers of far more experience than myself, that there is not another case, but I do say, that I have never been able to find, and that I have never seen, a case, in which the principle I have defended here, was regarded in any view inconsistent with that which I have expressed.
Here then, let me say, that to my mind, there seems to be nothing in the federal constitution lo prevent the repeal of the charter in question, because, the contracts to which inviolability is guarantied by that instrament, do not comprehend this charter ; but if they do, then I insist that such contracts made with a sovereign, bound at all times to retain and use the powers, necessary to the welfare of the people, are attended insepa. rably by the implied condition, that that sovereign may resume the grant when the great object of government—the welfare of the peoplerequires the resumption. This condition must enter into, and qualify the contract, or it will be subversive of the first principles of our government, and in derogation of popular rights, and therefore void. And if this condition do pertain to, and qualify the contract, then it may be annulled by its own adınission, and a repeal, so far from violating, would be consonant to the contract. Of course, compensation must be made, and when it is, the right to repeal is perfect, and there is no ground of complaint, because, the repeal is according to the stipulation of the parties.
On what other principle is the state justified, for taking the lands and personal property of the citizen for public use, stipulating such compensation as its own sense of justice, or the tribunals of its own creation may prescribe? He has bought his property, perhaps of the state, and paid ihe price demanded, and received a charter, which should be as sacred as any human transaction. He has, perhaps, expended years of his labor on the property so purchased, and taught his children to expect it as their future inheritance. Yet this may be taken from him, and all the associated hopes disappointed, and he obliged to be content with such a pecuniary equivalent, as the state is pleased to give.
Still, no vested rights are violated, no obligations of the contract impaired, and the citizen must acquiesce in uncomplaining silence. Why? Because, the state has only done that, which it was agreed she might do, in a particular contingency. Because, she is to provide for the welfare of the whole people, and her contract cannot stand in the way of this great primary object-the citizen knew, or was bound to know, it could not, and when he made the bargain, it was his business to remember, that it must be controled and expounded on these principles.
Now, sir, I call on gentlemen to show me the foundation in any sound principle, for the distinction which is attempted to be made in favor of this bank. What is there in the spirit or letter of our constitutions, that clothes such an artificial, soulless being, with immunities which you deny to the free citizens of this commonwealth? What is the peculiarity which makes the bank's title to an incorporeal hereditament granted them by the state, so absolute and indefeasible, while our titles to corporeal things, have to yield to the demands of the public !
I believe sir, the distinction exists only in imagination, and has no foundation in reason or law, even if the bank claims to exist by contract.
If it will plead a contract let it be content to stand on the same footing with the republicans of the commonwealth, in respect, to their acquired rights. Against its assuming or holding any higher or exclusive grounds, I enter my most emphatic protest. Many reasons concur why it should not be admitted to the dignified equality which the argument concedes to it. Its immense power, its avarice, its distance from popular influences, its aristocratic tendencies and its anti American sympathies, are circumstances which admonish us to preserve a more rigid and vigalent control over it, than we extend to the concerns and interests of citizens. But above all things, we should never admit that we can strip the citizen of all he possesses for the general good, but cannot, whatever be the emergency, touch this corporation.
I pass to another subject. The bill of rights which forms a part of our constitution secures to the people the right of self-government, and recog. nizes their power to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may
Can the state legislature make a contract in restraint of this right? Is it not just as true now, as it was before the recharter of the United States bank, that the people of Pennsylvania may so alter their government as to declare that no bank whatever shall exist ? Unless it be so, we have erected a power greater than ourselves. But if it be so, what application has the provision of the federal constitution in regard to contracts, to this case? Does that provision restrain the states from altering and abolishing their internal institutions ? If it does, it seems to me it is inconsistent with our own bill of rights, which affords ample authority for the proposition I contend for. And the bill of rights contemplates changes of government when the safety, happiness and welfare of the people require them. How much rather should mere laws be subject to change when the same reasons justify it. Why sir, some gentlemen have objected strongly to any constitutional provision relative to banks, becanse it would be too permanent. They tell us that every thing around us is changeable and changing, and that they prefer leaving it to the legielature to adopt measures to every new circumstance and condition of the people, and they argue thai the representatives of the people should not be restrained by a constitutional provision from making such wholesome and necessary alterations relative to banks, as from time to time may become necessary. Why then should not those representatives have power to remodel the United States Bank, when the exegency comes ? I propose to place in the constitution, the assertion that they have the power. I do not propose to confer it, for they already possess it, but only to say they possess it, so that when necessity demands ils exercise, it may be prudently and properly employed without any dispute about its existence. This is the whole scope of my amendment,
[After a few more observations from Mr. W. the Chairman interrupted him, and stated the hour had expired. Mr. W. then took his seat.]
Mr. MEREDI PI* rose and said :
Mr. Chairman, I should not have spoken on a question which I took to have been long since definitely settled, but for the fact that the gentleman from Luzerne, (Mr. Woodward) has made this an occasion for a general assault upon certain resolutions on the inviolability of contracts, which wese passed by a very large majority of this body, at Harrisburg, and which, I had myself the honor of moving. We had heard from the gentleman from Luzerne, (Mr. Woodward) as we are in the habit of hearing from that gentleman, the most formidable argument to be expected, in support of the doctrines held by his political friends in this body, and if his argument be satisfactorily refuted, it will scarcely be necessary to notice any other
that side. I could not but congratulate myself, when I found the gentleman from Luzerne turning from the discussion of the great principles here involved, to vent certain hypercriticisms upon the resolutions before mentioned He is not much given to small disquisitions on supposed verbal inaccuracies, and I am sure would not have entered on them, if he had telt his usual confidence in the strength of his more important positions.
His objections to the wording of the resolutions are two-fold :
1. That the second resolution declares that a charter granted by act of assembly, is a contract with the parties to whom that grant is made, but does not state who is the other party to that contract.
2. That the same resolution declares that a charter duly granted to a private corporation is a contract, and then proceeds to declare that if such charter be unduly granted, &c., that is, (says the gentleman) “ if a charter duly granted, de unduly granted."
As to the first objection, I shall only say that the parties to a grant are the grantor and grantee, and if the grant is a contract, the grantor and grantee are necessarily the parties to it. A grant made by act of assembly, is a grant by the commonwealth, in the most solemn and authentic form-and the grantees being one party to the contract, spoken of in the resolution, the commonwealth is necessarily the other.
As 10 the second objection, I would observe that the phrase “such charter," does not refer to the phrase " duly granted” but to the kind of charter, viz: a charter to a private corporation.
I will not do so much injustice to the gentleman from Luzerne, as to suppose that he was even in doubt, of the meaning of the resolution, and I will only add that a very moderate acquaintance with the idioms and grammatical construction of our language, is sufficient to reform his opinions to its phraseology.
He, Mr. M., intended to condense all he had to say, so as to come within the hour prescribed by the rule. He considered it to be his duty to enter his protest, if no other gentleman did so, against the proposition. which had been introduced by the gentleman from Luzerne, (Mr. Woodward.) He, Mr. M., had listened with peculiar pleasure, on this as on former occasions, to the legal argument which had been presented by the gentleman from Northampton, (Mr. Porter.)
* See page 70.