Veto Message

May 19, 1856

To the Senate of the United States:

I return herewith to the Senate, in which it originated, a bill entitled "An act making an appropriation for deepening the channel over the St. Clair flats, in the State of Michigan," and submit it for reconsideration, because it is, in my judgment liable to the objections to the prosecution of internal improvements by the General Government which have already been presented by me in previous communications to Congress.

In considering this bill under the restriction that the power of Congress to construct a work of internal improvement is limited to cases in which the work is manifestly needful and proper for the execution of some one or more of the powers expressly delegated to the General Government, I have not been able to find for the proposed expenditure any such relation, unless it be to the power to provide for the common defense and to maintain an army and navy. But a careful examination of the subject, with the aid of information officially received since me last annual message was communicated to Congress, has convinced me that the expenditure of the sum proposed would serve no valuable purpose as contributing to the common defense, because all which could be effected by it would be to afford a channel of 12 feet depth and of so temporary a character that unless the work was done immediately before the necessity for its use should arise it could not be relied on for the vessels of even the small draft the passage of which it would permit.

Under existing circumstances, therefore, it can not be considered as a necessary means for the common defense, and is subject to those objections which apply to other works designed to facilitate commerce and contribute to the convenience and local prosperity of those more immediately concerned--an object not to be constitutionally and justly attained by the taxation of the people of the whole country.


Franklin Pierce, Veto Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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