Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

1821.

Cohens

Virginia,

all the States. But although the jurisdiction over the District is of a different and more extensive character, yet it is not so circumscribed that it may not incidentally affect the States, although exerted for a local purpose, as it is called. Such is sometimes the delusive effect of single words and phrases, that the position, that in legislating for the District of Columbia, Congress is a local legislature, for local purposes, and therefore cannot affect the States by its laws, has almost become an aphorism with indolent or prejudiced inquirers. But in what sense can that be called a local government which proceeds from the whole body of the nation ? And how can that be termed a local object, which is closely and inseparably connected with the general interest of the whole people of the Union ? As well might it be asserted that Congress acted as a local legislature, when it established offices for the sale of lands in the western States, or fortifications at particular points on the

It will not be pretended that the first establishment of the seat of government in this District, was an act done by Congress in its character of a local legislature, and for local purposes. How then can the subsequent acts for the improvement and embellishment of the City be so regarded ? The act of May 6th, 1796, authorized the commissioners for erecting the public buildings to borrow money for that purpose. Would it have been competent for the legislatures of the States to have impeded this loan by punishing their citizens for subscribing to this stock ? And could the States prohibit the sale of the City lots within their territory, and thus ar

sea-coast.

1821.

Cohens

V. Virginia

rest the improvement of the City ? And if they could not, is it not because what Congress in the legitimate exercise of its powers has made it lawful to sell, the States cannot make it unlawful to buy? Let us test by these considerations the question before the Court: and let us distinguish between Congress legislating for the municipal government of the City, and Congress, in its national character, providing the means of adding necessary public improvements to the national capital. Congress has itself made this distinction. When a regulation for the mere internal police of the City is to be made, it is done by the Corporation, or some other inferior agent, without the interference of the President of the United States. But, when an alteration of the plan of the City, or a public improvement affecting the whole of the City in a national point of view, is to be made, it is uniformly subjected to the control of the President. So here the specific purpose in view, and for which the lottery was authorized by the President, was, the establishment of a City Hall, a necessary consequence of the establishment of the City, which last was also a necessary consequence of the establishment of the seat of government.

March 5th.

The opinion of the Court was delivered by Mr. Chief Justice MARSHALL.

This case was stated in the opinion given on the motion for dismissing the writ of error for want of jurisdiction in the Court. It now comes on to be decided on the question whether the Borough Court of Norfolk, in overruling the defence set up under

1821.

Cohens

the act of Congress, has misconstrued that act. It
is in these words:
“ The said Corporation shall have full power to

Virginia. authorize the drawing of lotteries for effecting any important improvement in the City, which the ordinary funds or revenue thereof will not accomplish: Provided, that the sum to be raised in each year shall not exceed the amount of 10,000 dollars : And provided, also, that the object for which the money is intended to be raised shall be first submitted to the President of the United States, and shall be approved of by him."

Two questions arise on this act.

1st. Does it purport to authorize the Corporation to force the sale of these lottery tickets in States where such sales may be prohibited by law? If it does,

2d. Is the law constitutional ?

If the first question be answered in the affirmative, it will become necessary to consider the second. If it should be answered in the negative, it will be unnecessary, and consequently improper, to pursue any inquiries, which would then be merely speculative, respecting the power of Congress in the case.

In inquiring into the extent of the power granted Congress, em to the Corporation of Washington, we must first ex- Eorporation of amine the words of the grant. We find in them no Washington to expression which looks beyond the limits of the City. drawing of lot. The powers granted are all of them local in their na- purport, and ture, and all of them such as would, in the common ize the corpo course of things, if not necessarily, be exercised the sale of the

Vol. VI.

The act of

was not intend.

56

1821.

Cohens

V. Virginia. tickets in such lotteries in States

State laws.

within the city. The subject on which Congress was employed when framing this act was a local subject; it was not the establishment of a lottery,

but the formation of a separate body for the maWhere nagement of the internal affairs of the City, for its such sale

is proba internal government, for its police. Congress must the

have considered itself as delegating to this corporate body powers for these objects, and for these objects solely. In delegating these powers, therefore, it seems reasonable to suppose that the mind of the legislature was directed to the City alone, to the action of the being they were creating within the City, and not to any extra-territorial operations. In describing the

powers of such a being, no words of limitation need be used. They are limited by the subject. But, if it be intended to give its acts a binding efficacy beyond the natural limits of its power, and within the jurisdiction of a distinct power, we should expect to find, in the language of the incorporating act, some words indicating such intention.

Without such words, we cannot suppose that Congress designed to give to the acts of the Corporation any other effect, beyond its limits, than attends every act having the sanction of local law, when

any thing depends upon it which is to be transacted elsewhere.

If this would be the reasonable construction of corporate powers generally, it is more especially proper in a case where an attempt is made so to exercise those powers as to control and limit the penal laws of a State. This is an operation which was not,

1821.

Cohens

V. Virginia

we think, in the contemplation of the legislature, while incorporating the City of Washington.

To interfere with the penal laws of a State, where they are not levelled against the legitimate powers of the Union, but have for their sole object the internal government of the country, is a very serious measure, which Congress cannot be supposed to adopt lightly, or inconsiderately. The motives for it must be serious and weighty. It would be taken deliberately, and the intention would be clearly and unequivocally expressed.

An act, such as that under consideration, ought not, we think, to be so construed as to imply this intention, unless its provisions were such as to render the construction inevitable.

We do not think it essential to the corporate power in question, that it should be exercised out of the City. Could the lottery be drawn in any State of the Union ? Does the corporate power to authorize the drawing of a lottery imply a power to authorize its being drawn without the jurisdiction of a Corporation, in a place where it may be prohibited by law ? This, we think, would scarcely be asserted. And what clear legal distinction can be taken between a power to draw a lottery in a place where it is prohibited by law, and a power to establish an office for the sale of tickets in a place where it is prohibited by law ? It may be urged, that the place where the lottery is drawn is of no importance to the Corporation, and therefore the act need not be so construed as to give power over the place, but that the right to sell tickets throughout the United

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »