December 6, 1832: Veto Message of Internal Improvement Legislation
~~To the House of Representatives:
In addition to the general views I have heretofore expressed to Congress on the subject of internal improvement, it is my duty to advert to it again in stating my objections to the bill entitled "An act for the improvement of certain harbors and the navigation of certain rivers," which was not received a sufficient time before the close of the last session to enable me to examine it before the adjournment.
Having maturely considered that bill within the time allowed me by the Constitution, and being convinced that some of its provisions conflict with the rule adopted for my guide on this subject of legislation, I have been compelled to withhold from it my signature, and it has therefore failed to become a law.
To facilitate as far as I can the intelligent action of Congress upon the subjects embraced in this bill, I transmit herewith a report from the Engineer Department, distinguishing, as far as the information within its possession would enable it, between those appropriations which do and those which do not conflict with the rules by which my conduct in this respect has hitherto been governed. By that report it will be seen that there is a class of appropriations in the bill for the improvement of streams that are not navigable, that are not channels of commerce, and that do not pertain to the harbors or ports of entry designated by law, or have any ascertained connection with the usual establishments for the security of commerce, external or internal.
It is obvious that such appropriations involve the sanction of a principle that concedes to the General Government an unlimited power over the subject of internal improvements, and that I could not, therefore, approve a bill containing them without receding from the positions taken in my veto of the Maysville road bill, and afterwards in my annual message of December 6, 1830.
It is to be regretted that the rules by which the classification of the improvements in this bill has been made by the Engineer Department are not more definite and certain, and that embarrassments may not always be avoided by the observance of them, but as neither my own reflection nor the lights derived from other sources have furnished me with a better guide, I shall continue to apply my best exertions to their application and enforcement. In thus employing my best faculties to exercise the power with which I am invested to avoid evils and to effect the greatest attainable good for our common country I feel that I may trust to your cordial cooperation, and the experience of the past leaves me no room to doubt the liberal indulgence and favorable consideration of those for whom we act.
The grounds upon which I have given my assent to appropriations for the construction of lighthouses, beacons, buoys, public piers, and the removal of sand bars, sawyers, and other temporary or partial impediments in our navigable rivers and harbors, and with which many of the provisions of this bill correspond, have been so fully stated that I trust a repetition of them is unnecessary. Had there been incorporated in the bill no provisions for works of a different description, depending on principles which extend the power of making appropriations to every object which the discretion of the Government may select, and losing sight of the distinctions between national and local character which I had stated would be my future guide on the subject, I should have cheerfully signed the bill.