Post-Offices and Post-Roads.
House of Representatives, January 3, 1792.
On a motion of Mr. FITZSIMONS, to allow stage proprietors, who transport the mail, to carry passengers also, it was argued --
That clause of the Constitution which empowers the federal government to establish post-offices and post-roads, cannot (it was said) be understood to extend farther than the conveyance of intelligence, which is the proper subject of the post-office establishment: it gives no power to send men and baggage by post. The state governments have always possessed the power of stopping or taxing passengers. That power they have never given up; and the proposition now made to wrest it from them might be viewed as an attempt to lay the state legislatures prostrate at the feet of the general government, and will give a shock to every state in the Union.
If, by the Construction of that clause of the Constitution which authorizes Congress to make all laws necessary for carrying into execution the several powers vested in them, they should establish the proposed regulations for the conveyance of the mail, they may proceed farther, and so regulate the post-roads as to prevent passengers from travelling on them; they may say what weights shall be carried on those roads, and what seasons of the year; they may remove every thing that stands in the way; they may level buildings to the ground, under the pretence of making more convenient roads; they may abolish tolls and turnpikes; they may, where an established ferry has been kept for a hundred years past in the most convenient place for crossing a river, give the post-rider authority to set up a new one beside it, and ruin the old establishment; they may say, that the person who carries the mail shall participate in every privilege that is now exclusively enjoyed by any man or body of men; -- and allege, as a reason for these encroachments, that they are only necessary encouragements to carry the mail of the United States: in short, the ingenuity of man cannot devise any new proposition so strange and inconsistent, as not to be reducible within the pale of the Constitution, by such a mode of construction. If this were once admitted, the Constitution would be a useless and dead letter; and it would be to no purpose that the states, in convention assembled, had framed that instrument, to guide the steps of Congress. As well might they at once have said, "There shall be a Congress who shall have full power and authority to make all laws which to their wisdom will seem meet and proper."