On the Post-Office Bill. -- On a Motion to authorize the President to choose the Mail Route.

House of Representatives, December 6, 1791.

Mr. SEDGWICK. As to the constitutionality of this delegation, (of power to establish post-roads,) it was admitted by the committee themselves, who brought in the bill; for, if the power was altogether indelegable, no part of it could be delegated; and if a part of it could, he saw no reason why the whole could not. The 2d section was as unconstitutional as the 1st; for it is there said, that "it shall be lawful for the post-master-general to establish such other roads, or post-roads, as to him may seem necessary."

Congress, he observed, are authorized not only to establish post-offices and post-roads, but also to borrow money. But is it understood that Congress are to go, in a body, to borrow every sum that may be requisite? Is it not rather their office to determine the principle on which the business is to be conducted, and then delegate the power of carrying their resolves into execution?

Mr. GERRY observed, that, since the words of the Constitution expressly vested in Congress the power of establishing post-offices and post-roads, and since the establishing of post-roads cannot possibly mean anything else but to point out what roads the post shall follow, the proposed amendment cannot take effect without altering the Constitution. The house could not transfer the power which the Constitution had vested in them. Supposing even they could; still it must be allowed that they, assembled from every quarter of the Union, must collectively possess more of that kind of information which the present subject required, than could be obtained by any executive officer. If it was thought necessary, in the present instance, to transfer the power from their own to other hands, with what degree of propriety could they be said to have undertaken to determine the ports of entry throughout the United States, since the Constitution mentions nothing further on that subject than the power of laying duties, imposts, and excises? According to the arguments now advanced, the legislature might have contented themselves with simply determining the amount of the duties and excises, and left the rest to the executive. But if such conduct would have been improper in that instance, much more so would it appear m the present case; since, on the one hand, there is no provision in Congress that should establish ports of entry, whereas there is no other for the establishment of post-roads.

Mr. B. BOURNE was in favor of the amendment, which he thought both expedient and constitutional. In speaking of post-offices and post-roads, the Constitution, he observed, speaks in general terms, as it does of a mint, excises, &c. In passing the excise law, the house, not thinking themselves possessed of sufficient information, empowered the President to mark out, the districts and surveys; and if they had a right to delegate such power to the executive, the further delegation of the power of marking out the roads for the conveyance of the mail could hardly be thought dangerous. The Constitution meant no more than that Congress should {426} possess the exclusive right of doing that by themselves, or by any other person, which amounts to the same thing: the business he thought much more likely to be well executed by the President, or the postmaster-general, than by Congress.


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