Home The Abutment Pillar Classical Liberty Unconstitutionality of the Laws of Congress Prohibiting Mails
Unconstitutionality of the Laws of Congress Prohibiting Mails
Monday, 23 November 2009 23:57

Of the following propositions, almost any one of them is sufficient, I apprehend, to prove the iinconsiiuitionaliiy of all laws prohibiting private mails.

1. The Constitution of the United States (Art. 1, Sec. 8) declares thai " the Congress shall have power to establish post-offices and post roads."

These words contain the whole grant, and therefore express the eitcnt of the authority granted to Congress. They dijinc the power, and the power is limited by the definition. The power of Congress, then, is simply to " establish post-offices and post roads," of thur own—not to interfere with those established by olhers. "f~

2. The constitution expresses, neither in terms, nor by necessary iiuplication, any prohibition upon the c'siablishmuiit of mails, post-offices and post roads, by the states or individuals.

3. The constitution expresses, neither in terms, nor by necessary implication, any surrender, on the pan of the people, of their own natural riyhts to establish mails, post-offices, or post roads, at pleasure.

4. The simple grant of an authority, whether to an individual or a government, to do a particular act, gives the grantee no authority to forbid others to do acts of the same kind. It gives him no authority at all. relative 10 the acts of oti ers, unless the acts of others would be incompatible, or in conflict, or collision, with the act he is authorized to do. It docs not authorize him to consider mere competition and rivalry as conflict, collision, or incompatibility.

This doctrine fully admits that Congress " have power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper fur carrying into execution their own power of establishing post-offices and post roads." But, then, it asserts that every law they pass, must, in order to be constitutional, be a direct, positive, affirmative step in actual " execution " of their own power. It must, in some way, contribute, affirmatively, to the establishment of their own mails. But the suppression of private mails is tiut an act at all in " execution " of the power " lo establish " others. If Congress were to suppress all
private mails, they would not thereby have done the first act in "execution"
of the power given them by tho constitution, to establish mails. The entire
work of executing* their power of establishing mails, would still remain to be

This doctrine also tally admits the absolute authority of Congress over
whatever mails they do establish. It admits their right to forbid any resistance
being offered to their progress, and to prohibit and punish depredations upun
them. Dut it, at the same lime, usserls lliat the power of Congress is con-
fined exclusively to the establishment, management, transportation and pro-
tection of their own mails.

5. It cannot be said to be necessary to prohibit competition, in order to obtain funds for establishing the government mail—because Congress, in order to carry out this power, as well as others, are authorized, if necessary, " to lay and collect' taxes, duties, imposts and excises,"—and this is the only compulsory mode, mentioned in the constitution, foi providing for the support of any department of the government. They are under no more constitutional constraint to make the post-office support itself, than to make the army, the navy, the Judiciary, or the Executive, support itself.*

6. The power given tu Congress, is simply to " establish post-offices and post roads " of their own, not lo forbid similar establishments by the slates or people.

The power " to establish post-offices and post roads " of their own, and the power tu forbid competition, are, in their nature, distinct powers—the former not at all implying the latter—any more than the power, on the part of Congress, to borrow money, implies a power to forbid the people and stales to come into market and bid for money in competition with Congress. Congress could probably borrow money much more advantageously, if they could prohibit the people from coming into the market and bidding for ii in competition with them. -But the advantage to be derived by Congress from such a prohibition upon the people, would not authorize them to resort to it, even though the people were to offer so high a rale of interest, that Congress could not borrow a dollar in competition wilh them. Congress must abide

* There is not even a propriety in making the post-office support itself, any more than in making any other department of the government support it»elf. An impnr taut portion of the expenses of the department are incurred for public objects—Mich as the transmission of official correspondence, the private correspondence of official men, and of tons, and hundred!) of tons, of political documents. If the government are bound to provide for all these things, it should be done at the general charge, mid not by the partial and unequal mode of levying double or triple charges upon the private correspondence of individuals. If Congress cannot carry tlie letters of individuals as cheaply as individuals would do it, there is no propriety in their carrying them at all. The correspondence of private individuals, which is now sent through the public mails, could probablv, on an average, be sent through private mails, for one third of the present expense. The overplus, demanded by the government, is an extortion for which there is no justification.

the compeliiion of the people in borrowing money, be the result what it may. And they must abide the same competition in the business of carrying letters ; and for the same reason, viz:—because no power has been granted them to prohibit the competition.

7. The power granied to Congress, on the subject of mails, is, botli in its terms, and in its nature, additional to, not destructive of, the pre-existing rights of the stales, and the natural rights of the people.

The object of the grant to Congress undoubtedly was to enable the government, in the first place, to provide for its own wants, and then to contribute, incidentally, as far as it might, to the convenience of the people. But the grant conlains no evidence of any intention to prohibit the slates or people from using such means as they had, so far as those means might be adequate to their wanls. Any other doctrine than this would imply that the people were made for the benefit of the department, and not the department for the benefit of the people.

8. In matters of government, the people are principals, and the government mere agenls. Add it is only as the servanls and agents of the people, that Congress can " establish post-offices and post roads." Now it is perfectly clear that a principal, by simply authorizing an agent to carry on a particular business in bis name, gives ihe agent no promise that he, (ihe principal,) will not also himself personally carry on business of the same kind. He plainly surrenders no right to carry on ihe same kind of business at pleasure. And the agent has no claim even to be consulted, as to whether his principal shall set up a rival establishment to the one that is cntrusled to the agent. The whole authority of the agent is limited simply to ihe management of the establishment confided to him.

9. It is a natural right of men to labor for each other for hire. This right is involved in the right to acquire property ; a right which is guarantied by most of the stale constilulions, and not forbidden by the national constitution. No law which forbids the exercise of ibis right in a particular case, can be constitutional, unless a clear authority be shown for it in the constitution. No authority is shown for prohibiting the labor of carrying letters.

10. If there were any doubts as to the legal construction of the authorily given lo Congress, lhat doubt would have to be decided in favor of the largest liberty, and the natural rights of individuals, because our governments, state and national, profess lo be founded on the acknowledgment of men's natural rights, and lo be designed to secure ilicm ; and any thing ambiguous must be decided in conformity with this principle.

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